Tiny Conversations – Does he miss me?

Some years ago, when Aly, the eldest of my grandkids was about two and a half years old, on a video call she asked me about her grandpa.

Aly – Dadi, do I have a grandpa?

“Yes, you do?”

Aly – Where is he then?

“He’s not here now,” I said, wondering if she had already learned that he had died long ago.

Aly – I know, she said, with wisdom beyond her years shining from her eyes.

“So you know he isn’t here with us, and you know why, yes?”

Aly – Yes, he is in heaven.

“Yes, sweetie. Your grandpa is in heaven.” I was relieved.

Aly – Does he know about me?

“I’m sure he does.”

Aly – Can he see me?

“I believe he can whenever he peeks through the clouds.”

Aly – (Beaming a bright smile) Does he love me?

“Oh, my dear, you cannot imagine how much he loves you. He adores you.”

Aly – (She’s glowing by now) Dadi, does he miss me?

I choked on my words as tears threatened to spill out and said, “Trust me sweetie, he misses you very, very much.”

Her little heart found a lot of comfort in that assurance. She flashed her angelic smile and settled into the couch more comfortably, content in the knowledge that her grandpa knew about her; loved her; missed her.

Sometimes it’s so much better to sugarcoat a bitter pill.

PS: Down the road, in the present time, she’s eleven and asked me about him and wanted me to tell her how he died, how I felt, and how her father and his brother took it.

This time, I didn’t sugarcoat the pill. She was ready to hear about pain and loss.

The Absence Of Presence

Sometimes, it’s your presence and not your company that matters more to someone! That does not mean they don’t appreciate or need your company, it’s just that your presence means a lot more. I realized this very late in life.

Normally, one thought that if you asked someone to stay: be around, it meant you wanted their company. You wanted to chat or perhaps wanted them to help out with something, unless you had given a specific reason. And if you didn’t engage in chitchat or gossip, didn’t give them a big chunk of your undivided attention, they’d feel redundant, dejected, disappointed and would want to leave. You’d be labeled boring, thoughtless, crazy or any such epithet that really didn’t apply. They couldn’t understand why someone would want them to hang around for nothing.

Through all my childhood years and youth, I never did want anyone’s “presence” to that extent. I was happy if I had a sibling or parent around, not to keep me “company,” but because I was scared to be alone. If I wasn’t afraid, it wouldn’t matter whether they were home or not as long as their absence was brief.

But just wanting to see them or know they were around because their absence created a vacuum; that was never a reason.

After I married, my husband would be out on tours twice or thrice a month, and each trip would be between 3-4 days. So I was by myself a lot. I welcomed the alone time. That might sound strange to some. The thing is I was a bookworm. I loved to bury myself in a book whenever I found the time. TV and the gadgets we engage with these days didn’t exist until the early 1980s in our part of the world. So, with the hubs away, I’d have uninterrupted reading sessions. No guests dropping in. No visits to anyone’s place (he was the more social one)! No need to cook three times a day either!

Then, along came the kids. Schedules changed and I took up a job when the younger started preschool. My day’s agenda was jampacked and I had little or no time to indulge in reading. As the boys grew and would be out for games at school or with their friends, and their father on his tours, I relished their absence!! I felt light and reveled in the sense of ‘freedom’ I had to put my legs up and just be – quiet and still. Listen to the sound of silence and allow it to seep into the pores of my skin. I’d relax as I couldn’t with the presence of the three men. I didn’t feel the weight of their expectations on my shoulders.

Not that they were demanding. Far from that. It was my own expectations from myself for them – does that make sense? I had set the bar way too high for myself as a wife and a mom. I’d be constantly on my toes, except for my scheduled short breaks, doing something or the other so they wouldn’t be bothered by little things.

Even though I had a maid to see to the cleaning, laundry, dishes; the dhobi to see to the washing of linen and thick or heavy garments as well as ironing, and a gardener who came in weekly or bi-weekly, as required, I still had a lot on my hands. I had to do a little of all the hired helps’ work too! That was me. And I kept the cooking – three meals a day – entirely as my domain.

As a teacher, in those days, we had anything from 38-45 kids in a class and there were times when I’ve had a bit more students than that. So, I had a lot of checking work coming home with me: notebooks with homework! Classwork notebooks I’d check during free periods in school. Our system back then was demanding. We had to give HW on a regular basis and check the work in time with corrections and remarks/notes where necessary. There was classwork too. All written work in class had to be checked in time. Both classwork and homework notebooks had to be kept up-to-date with corrections.

Add to that the class tests, quarterly exams, half-yearly exams, and then, the big one – Finals. If you were a language teacher, you’d have a bigger load to check. Two exams so two big bundles of papers to go through: Language and Literature. Each was a separate exam. Now add to that, that I was teaching language & literature to three classes. All at different levels – 8-10. Saying that I had my hands full is an understatement. Add to that the extra work if you were a Class Teacher as well! And I was both. There were the marksheets to be made. Shown to the Principal to decide if any child deserved some ‘grace’ marks to pass. Then the report cards to be filled in. Remarks for each child.

Did I mention that these were all handwritten? We weren’t digital then.

All this to say, I had a lot on my plate jobwise, and I raised the bar of my own performance level at home too because – well, because that’s who I was then. None of my wonderful men at home thrust that on me. So, I never missed anyone’s presence. I enjoyed their absence. But with time, I realized, while I relished the alone, quiet time I got with them gone, the boys found it difficult if I were to go for a meeting or something during a holiday. They missed my presence!

I’d have done all that I had to do so they wouldn’t have to do anything. Everything would be the same as usual, except, my presence. And that’s what they missed. They wanted to know that I was around in the house. They wanted to see me there even if I was busy with domestic chores or sitting and and drinking my tea in the garden, or just sitting around. And if they had to go out for whatever reason, even to meet a friend in the neighborhood, they wanted to be assured that I’d be at home when they returned. They wanted that reassurance whether they hung around at home or not. They missed my ‘presence’.

I couldn’t understand this, and sometimes, when the hubs would grumble about a teachers’ meeting on a Saturday or, if necessary, on a school holiday, I’d counter with the argument that his tours also kept him away most times during my holidays or offs.

“It’s different,” he’d respond.

“How is it different?”

“You don’t miss us the way we miss you,” he shot back.

“Nice argument! Haha! I’m flattered but not convinced. It stinks of bias and disguised male chauvinism.”

“Whatever. The home is not the same when you’re not in. You are the Queen of this Queendom.”

This word he’d coined, queendom, always made me smile. I’d smile, flattered mightily. But not fully comprehending what they missed.

And then, his time ran out. Was 39 yrs any age to go? The angels came and he travelled on a one-way ticket into the blue.

In the years that followed, I finally learned what it was to ‘miss someone’s presence.’ Not what they did for you. Not how they helped you personally. Not the tangibles and physical help – what I missed was his presence. There was a huge vacuum in my life.

His presence, even when he was on tour, had always remained with me in spirit. It was this physical and spiritual connection that created the presence for me. The connection of two souls. With his physical presence gone, there was an empty space. It was saudade – a permanent absence of physical presence.

I realized that earlier, the temporary absence of one person, for a few days in the month, did not manifest in any kind of longing or the feeling of absence because I knew, at the back of my mind, he was very present in my life: in flesh and blood. But, I needed more space to just be. Quiet. Silent. Be with me. Me needs my exclusive presence too. In fact, the wait, on the day he’d be back, was a delicious anticipation that would reach the heights of joy when I’d see him enter the gate.

It only hit me much later that, for me, his physical presence was huge, but it was also one I took for granted. The support I got from him through his love, actions, strength, and consideration, filled in the vacuum of his physical absence. It remained a spiritual presence… emotional presence… one so strong in thoughts that it didn’t leave an empty space. Besides, the few days would pass off so soon and he would be back well before that sort of longing and missing happened.

The finality of death is awful. Heavy. Painful. Debilitating. Crippling. And for the first time I understood what saudade meant in the true sense.

What missing the “presence” physical, and of the spirit and soul meant: an eternity of absence. Knowing there was no returning ever. I could stare at the gate, waiting for his tour taxi, and the clang of the gate all in vain. That’s when I felt the tremendous weight of loss – in body and spirit.

That’s when I realized that actually, the relief I looked forward to, when I was alone, was my own need to fulfil some of my own desires (of quietude and solitude) and time to pursue my personal hobbies. It overshadowed the absence that I might have felt and helped me keep my equilibrium in an overcrowded daily agenda. And also, in an unobtrusive way, helped me to do things independently without expecting help in domestic chores, and kept me organized, disciplined, and emotionally strong.

Now, I’m living with SAUDADE – the constant feeling of the ABSENCE of PRESENCE. A particular presence in my life. An empty space that nothing and no one can ever fill.

I can be surrounded by family: my dear sons and grandkids or even extended family. I could enjoy their company to the hilt, but it only heightens the longing for that one presence that can never be replaced. I’d wish he were there. Of how much he’d enjoy it.

It is immense love and great grief. Love that cannot be shown or expressed. And grief that has no shoulder to lay its head on. No place to go. No person. No presence.

Grief, I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

– Jamie Anderson

It is SAUDADE!

Tiny Conversations – Psst! Guess what!

Conversation over the phone…. Finding Love!

“Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.”

~Walter Winchell

“Hi, Joycee!”

“Long time no see, no talk! What’s up?”

“Not much.”

“I know. This pandemic has really made life boring.”

“Umm… well mine bordered on boring even before the pandemic. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. I find things to keep me sane. Could be better, you know, anyway, how’s it going with you?”

“Oh, before this virus thing it was great. Never knew I’d have so much fun in my sixties! I have such a lot of time to indulge in all the activities I had no time for earlier.”

“True that. Though I can’t match your “free” time, I still have more than I used to.”

“I hope I’m not keeping you from something. I should have asked before I called. I forget that you’re a WFH girl.”

“Well, actually, you are. I’m looking for ‘love’ but just can’t find it on the grid.”

“Wow! Seriously?!”

“Yes. But why are you so shocked?”

“Gosh! I never knew you had this daring streak. I mean, you know, society, your society, and family… you know you’re not considered a young woman any more by them… with us, it’s a different story.”

“Hmm… young! That depends on which part of me you are referring to. Well, above the belt, I’m still a kid!! So yes, I am young. hehe. As for society, the so-called friends, and family, what do I say? They’ve said, done, thought of enough things to spice up their sad lives by making up saucy stories in many of which, I am the Shero!! Their minds. Their concoctions… Let them be happy, hehe. I didn’t bother about it then and I did not even try to clarify anything. I let people be happy. Whatever they think, whatever they say, tells me a little bit more about who they really are behind their social masks. Haha!”

“Hehehe… you haven’t changed a bit. Love that. Ok, you carry on with your search. Hope you are lucky. But be careful. No offence, but its a dicey world out there and I know you aren’t that savvy about it as you think you are.”

“Thanks for the advice and no offence taken. But could you enlighten me about the dangers of finding ‘LOVE’ on a grid in Word Search.”

“WHAT!”

“What were you thinking?”

“Exactly like those mongers of gossip and outrageous fiction we were alluding to earlier. Those who “spice up” their lives by conjuring up images and weaving stories around them without solid facts. Hehe, guilty as charged! Imagine, if I were one of those, how this would go round the gossip mill?! I get why you care a hoot for what people THINK. You go HUNT for love… wherever. Just let me know when you find it… couldn’t resist saying that haha! Even this short conversation with you has been so refreshing. Stay the way you are girl.”

“I love hearing a sane voice in the cacophony of judgmental, criticizing, condemning, voices. Stay in touch. You know how I am! Not much of a phone person… as the caller… Muah!”

He Is Risen!

“A man who was completely innocent offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” -Mahatma Gandhi

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“Here is the amazing thing about Easter; the Resurrection Sunday for Christians is this: that Christ in the dying moments on the cross gives us the greatest illustration of forgiveness possible.” – T.D. Jakes

To those who believe and revere the day: Have a blessed and joyous Resurrection/Easter Day!

 

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Thank God It’s Friday – and it’s ‘GOOD’!

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When I was a little girl, I never knew whether to be sad or happy on this day. The visuals and the story of the crucifixion did nothing to convince me it was a day to “rejoice” or to be happy. I was too young to comprehend ‘God’s love’ in connection with ‘sacrificing’ His son for a whole bunch of ‘sinners’ who would happily save a Barrabas and let an innocent, no less God’s son, hang on the cross.

So I would try to tone down my play and general joviality in keeping with the solemnity of death (and worse, a death that I too was somehow responsible for.) I just didn’t get it…any of it!

Then there was the three-hour-long church service I’d go through playing with things my mother would make with her handkerchief to keep me engaged. I loved the kerchief mouse a lot! I made it hop and pounce all over and crawl under benches to retrieve it! And the little kerchief purse came next. And when I’d be exhausted and bored with this, she’d have some snacks and orange juice ready for me, and I’d munch my way through thirty more minutes!

The next thing would be to curl up on the bench with my head in her lap and drop off to sleep. That was the spiritual part of my day.  And that’s how it remained until I turned eight. From the age of ten to fifteen, church-going became a sporadic exercise because we moved to the country and our church was about twenty-two miles away.

It was only after I began going to church regularly, at sixteen, having returned to the city once again, that I began to understand a lot in the service and sermons; things that had gone over my head earlier.

Now, many of my non-Christians friends or acquaintances ask me why we call it “Good Friday” when our Lord was so cruelly crucified. They listen to the simple explanation and nod their heads as if they understand, but I can see the confusion in their eyes. Their next question is, “Then why doesn’t He just punish everyone? He’s been doing that too!”

I’m can’t get into a deeper discussion. I’m not sound in Bible studies to elaborate the deeper, spiritual meanings. I’m not so learned in scripture.

They just don’t get it.

For me – It’s enormous! This love and sacrifice… and often I wonder – “How?”

I don’t see myself or the human race worthy of such a huge sacrifice. God’s own son sent to die on a cross for my sins! I’m just zapped by the ginormous love God has for us, rather unworthy humans! Every year, come Good Friday, it comes into greater focus – this love divine, this love sublime.

Thank God we have a Good Friday!

 

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Crown or Crucify

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There is something about the cross that compels us to make a choice, either for him or against him. You can’t find a middle ground when it comes to Christ, even though at times we try to. (Fr. Sunny John O. Carm. )

 

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A Winter Wonderland -Picture Speak

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”- Lewis Carroll

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Nainital, in Uttarakhand, India. I’ve lived and worked here and have lovely memories of this hill town.

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A visit To A Home On A Parcela

 

A ‘parcela’ means a large plot of land in the suburbs or outskirts of a city. They’re usually very big plots….going into acres of land. Back home, they’re called ‘farm houses’ even though there’s no real farm or farming happening on the land.

This was the first time I was visiting one which was private; the family lives there. Many such places are either rented out during vacations to tourists or then they’ve been commercialized as party venues with a crew of party planners who do everything for you. So, this was a first for me and I loved the place that was nestled in the lap of nature, so to say, and our hosts were gracious people.

Here are a few pictures that’ll take you on a tour around the house; no inside pics…it is a private residence! Even so, I’d like to add, the interiors were done up beautifully and tastefully.

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We drive up to the house (parking)

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Our hostess walks us along the driveway to the entrance….but we stop on the way to pluck a type of maracuja off the tree, and proceed to taste the fruit before we go ahead…no fruit gets fresher than this – fresh, off the tree, and sun-ripened fruit!

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One of the dogs accompanies us to the door.

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The part of the casa that opens out onto spreading green foliage – garden, tall trees…awesome place!

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Looking out at the far boundaries of the property, from the terrace.

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View on the left…

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Terrace sit-out…loved it!

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The outdoor barbecue area with picnic table and benches.

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The pool was so inviting!

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We come down to walk around and feel the beauty of nature envelope us.

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The patio…

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Patio…

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This little one was the cutest of the three dogs and was aware of it!

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Rows of fabulous white roses.

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I couldn’t help clicking this!

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The Maracuja tree that stopped us in our tracks and got us eating the (unforbidden) fruit! That yellow submarine shaped thing hanging behind the flowers is a kind of maracuja.

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That’s what we were munching on…bright, orangey flesh, full of little seeds!

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Walking down a path lined with white rose bushes to see the vegetable patch and nursery.

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A closer look at the lovely barbecue area…

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I had a moment of fright and panic on the patio where I was relaxing with my legs stretched out…you don’t see it? A lizard! And I’m terrified of these creepy crawlies… :O

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But my attraction to natural beauty got the better of me…I picked up courage and myself…crept fairly close and clicked a pic of this gorgeously coloured creature….(but I still remain terrified of lizards!)

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The three musketeers…one, the German Shepherd, doesn’t belong to the family, but you’d never know! He spends his entire day here and retires to his own home and family at night!

In retrospect, though I love the countryside (I’ve lived in one such place, back home) and at the time, as I was soaking in nature’s delightful ambiance; the peace and quiet…was so inviting and encompassing that I wanted to stay there forever, I know I can’t do that. I love the countryside, the wide open spaces, the tranquility – but I’m a city girl at heart. No, I don’t have a hectic social life and a nightlife on the town is non-existent. But I do prefer to live in a city and take frequent trips to relax in the quieter areas of the place…a get-away place! I’d feel pretty isolated if I were to live forever in a house on a parcela, however beautiful, attractive, and comfortable it was.

 

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Picture Speak – By The Sea

“Look at that sea, girls, all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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“A fragrant breeze wandered up from the quiet sea, trailed along the beach, and drifted back to the sea again, wondering where to go next. On a mad impulse, it went up to the beach again. It drifted back to sea.” –Douglas Adams

Picture Speak

It was six in the evening. The sun was lower on the horizon. The moon, all three-fourths of it was up in the sky. Caught between the palm trees in the park…

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“Agua…mucha agua,” say two little voices in total awe.

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A few steps the other way…the moon is like a pearl entwined!

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