Tiny Conversations – no colors for a widow

When I was widowed, we lived in a very conservative and restrictive society in a rather backward province at the time. So things were pretty bad for me with my sort of disregard for their stifling conventions that made no sense to me.

It was a society that took away the colors from a widow’s life, literally and figuratively too. Any kind of fun and enjoyment was banned for her. Dressing up was absolutely forbidden – no jewelry either. As if that weren’t enough, society had decreed that these unfortunate women could only wear certain colors – specifically, a dull, dark maroon and a dull greenish-blue. This identified them as widows. It horrified me that such rules were imposed on them. Imagine wearing clothes that put a tag on you WIDOW for everyone’s information! As if they hadn’t suffered enough. And for what purpose? It wasn’t their fault that fate had dealt them such a blow!

I recall a social acquaintance of mine, one who is a non-practicing, lawyer, telling me why the women of their society “willingly” accepted these social norms. She tried to explain it to me by quoting her widowed mother:

“My mother accepted it because she believed, ‘Once a husband dies, there is no color left in life. Life becomes totally colorless.‘ This is why it is okay for them to wear these colors and not wear jewelry nor participate in festivals and entertainment of any kind.”

“Oh, really?” I interrupted her with undisguised sarcasm. “What about the men, the widowers?”

“What about them,” she countered. “They are men. These things don’t apply to them They can carry on their lives.”

“Exactly my point – Why doesn’t it apply to them? Why does everyone start looking out for a wife for the widower, but push the widow into deeper misery? Why do they strip her of her dignity and self-respect? Why do they want to kill her spirit? Why make them like living corpses that way?”

“That’s how it’s been for years and that’s how it will remain. Who can stop it? At least it is better than Sati.”

“If the practice of Sati (burning the wife alive on the funeral pyre of the husband) can be stopped and declared a crime, this can be too. All it takes is the decision to fight against it. All it needs is one strong person to stand against it.”

“That’s what you think. We women don’t think so.”

“How many young widows have you asked about how they feel and what they think about this, with the assurance of confidentiality and secrecy?”

“I don’t need to ask anyone,” she was riled and het up. “This is our ‘rivaaz’. Our culture. And our society will follow it.”

“And are women in this ‘rivaaz’ consulted? Are they even represented when rules are made and imposed on them by ‘society’?

“It is a male dominated society. The women will never be consulted.”

“Not for long. Take my word. Change is coming. The winds are changing direction. But I’m keen to know, will you accept and support the change when it comes? You yourself have broken the boundaries of your social culture, you went against all that your society deemed wrong. Didn’t you? You are living your life on your terms. Will you be brow beaten if, god forbid, diktats such as these are imposed on you?”

She preferred to let silence speak for her. And the silence spoke louder than her words.

The Original Blue Print – Part III

Continuing from The Original Blue Print Part I The Original Blueprint – Part -1 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com) and Part II The Original Blueprint – Part 11 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

Our drive from Santiago to Viña del Mar was beautiful. Stunning would be the apt word to describe its scenic splendor. And en route when we stopped at a vineyard named House of Morande, now just known as House, I got my first experience of visiting a vineyard cum restaurant. I tasted wines. Had a sumptuous Chilean meal.

It was heady. Just off a long flight, the tiredness of the journey hadn’t worn out yet. The first experience of being in a country that sits on a “ring of fire” and is no stranger to earthquakes and temblors! The contrast between the previous day’s and night experience to this serene and spectacular scenery that unfolded before me as we drove down the highway, and finally at House, was what the doctor ordered.

As I strolled through rows of white roses and walked in the shade of the trees and over the green grass, I forgot the anxiety and fear of earthquakes. They didn’t exist in this serenity and peace and calm.

I breathed deep and for the first time saw Chile through eyes that only saw it as it was sans the quakes – beautiful! The food helped to buffer that thought. Delicious cuisine was served and I enjoyed whatever I had ordered. They made it to my specifications without compromising the basic recipe and flavors too much.

I left House in a different frame of mind. One that was willing to stay and face the challenges if only to get to know this beautiful place a little more.

My eyes were pinned to the spectacular landscapes that whizzed past us. At times so splendid that caused a sharp intake of breath. Maybe, I was reacting more strongly appreciative because I had not envisioned so much of scenic splendor. I had allowed my mind to focus on one thing and the fear it brought thus tagging the country as awful, scary, not where I want to visit.

And then my son said, “That’s nothing. You’re going to see something even better. Your first glimpse of Viña del Mar and the majestic Pacific.”

I was quiet. My eyes staring straight ahead as we crested an incline… my jaw dropped at the sight.

The photos I’ve clicked were in a hurry as we were moving fast, and my phone wasn’t a very sophisticated one. They are not doing a mite of justice to the scene that unfolded before me.

My jaw dropped, my eyes opened wide, and all I could say was, “OMGod!”

“The city is a bit further ahead, you’ll glimpse it soon.”

So here I was in the city I would be living in for an unknown period of time, and with the information that Chile sits on a thousand volcanos! Exaggeration? Perhaps.

That’s how I entered a place where I was destined to experience the scariest and most fascinating experiences. Where I would meet some of the most lovely people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. From where I would eventually take off to India in three months only to return three years later. I lived there for four years and have indelible memories. Most of which are among the best ones of my life.

But my world was going to rumble and shake in a few days! Seven days into my ‘discovery’ of Viña del Mar, I had the horrific experience of getting to know the real deal – the TERREMOTO! The big one, a terribly strong quake was waiting to happen. Read about it here: Chile Diary – 5 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

The 2010 Chile earthquake (SpanishTerremoto del 27F[5]) occurred off the coast of central Chile on Saturday, 27 February at 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC), having a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale, with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes.

The fallout of this acquaintance with el gran terremoto was that my condition deteriorated with all the anxiety and tension I carried with me 24×7. My pain increased. I couldn’t walk even the short distances that I could earlier. And worse, I felt I was an added burden on my son at this time because of the increased difficulty in walking, sitting, standing for long or bending. I couldn’t stay in the apartment as it was on the sixth floor and running down six flights of stairs during a strong aftershock or worse another quake was not recommended in my condition. Besides, there were small cracks in my bathroom walls and the door frame of my bedroom door had been damaged and was lopsided, the door wouldn’t close. Just looking at it and the cracks in the wall set my mind racing and conjuring up images of it collapsing with me stuck inside.

So it was a gypsy life for me. I was shifting from place to place. First to a hotel room on the ground floor, then to the Company Guesthouse, then a house in another town. You can read the interesting details in my Chile Diaries.

Long story short, When things quietened down, I asked to return to home country. And soon I was back in India vowing never to return to this country. And since Canada was never on my radar even then that’s how I saw my future. This was 2010. I accepted that I would live alone, safe or unsafe, in this booming, modern city that was growing and developing fast in the NCR – a place not so far from Delhi.

Once again I settled into my former life, but this time I took up a job as a checker for exam papers for ESL exams. Life took shape with routine. My treatment, a new one, was beginning to show results slowly. I thought I had done right in coming back and now the kids would realize why it was better for me to stay put.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29: 11-12 (NIV)

And once again, I was wrong! Three years later, I was on a plane to Chile!

My DIL’s brother who lived in Canada was getting married. Their parents lived in the same city I lived in, so the wedding would be held there. She was coming to India. The plan was that they’d kill two birds with one stone. I had to dispose of things that could be sold or then given away. She would help me with the last bit of packing and accompany me back to Chile. It wasn’t the long circuitous route, this time, and with a companion the journey would be more comfortable for me. Which it was.

I lived in Viña for four years. I wouldn’t say I got “used to the EQs”, but I could handle myself better than before. I lived a good life – made friends, learned a smattering of Spanish so I could go out on my own, and I made some lovely memories which I still cherish. At one point, I expected to be here longer or even permanently. My son and DIL were planning to buy a house there. That would mean ‘settling’ in Chile.

But the original plan was already in motion. My DIL’s only brother was settled in Canada. And my son’s only sibling was settled in Canada too! I guess you’ve got the drift of this information.

There were many pros and cons discussed about settling in Chile. And there was one con that dwarfed all the rest. DISTANCE. This country was so far away from India where our families lived. It would be difficult for either side to visit, add to that the financial considerations of the journey. It was expensive.

The two of them decided to move to Canada. By default, I would be a part of this shift to Canada if at all it happened. Things were still not decided. In the meantime, I wanted to visit my son in Canada and meet my three grandkids, especially the new baby and the second one who I hadn’t seen. My ticket was booked for the summer that was some months away.

Then my son filled in the forms for their move and submitted them. It would take time for all the processes etc., and even then one couldn’t be sure of the outcome, so I was to return to Chile in six months.

When I flew out and landed in Toronto, little did I know that my fate was sealed… the original plan of my life had come full circle decades later. I never got to go back. They were to come here early the next year.

I have many questions in my mind. I often wonder:

-if I had changed my decision on that day and said “yes” to my adoption would it have changed the entire course of my life? Or would my life been ditto with just a change in my nationality, and the addition of foster parents?

-Would I have three college/university degrees? Two Bachelor degrees (one in Education), and a Master’s degree? Considering the high cost of a college/university education abroad, I doubt it.

-Would I have opted for a teaching profession? Most certainly not.

-Would I have become a widow so young? I will never know. It could have been in the original blueprint or it could have been the result of my own choice.

Here’s where the possible scenarios end.

The only thing that made my life so difficult with challenges and obstacles, popping up every now and then, was the tragedy of losing my husband so early.

If I dare to draw parallels with the assumption that I would be widowed early no matter who I married, even if I had come to Canada earlier, there’s one thing I’m certain about… my financial difficulties wouldn’t be as humongous as they were in India. The system here is so good with allowances the government gives for children, free school education etc.

As for family support, I am a hundred percent positive Lily and John would have been there all the way. They had loved me even before I or my parents had been aware of it. They had already envisioned me as a part of their family. Their love and parental support, although that of foster parents, would not have failed me. If anything, it would have grown.

So in truth, though I do not know how my life would have turned out as a “Walker,” I know this, it would have been a better journey. Especially my schooling years. Read about these terribly difficult years here: And I Call Them My Angels in Disguise-Part I – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

I also know whether I got three degrees or not, I would have qualified in some professional field. Who knows, I might have even taken up one of the top three options I had presented to my parents who were horrified and promptly shot them down. So what were those choices?

In chronological order of preference:

  1. Air Hostess
  2. International Tourism – Organizer cum Guide
  3. Theatre Artiste

I don’t think the Walkers would have objected to all of these for the reasons my father did! There was a world of difference at that time between Indian parents and western ones.

However, I do feel if I had to land up here eventually, it would have certainly been much better earlier than it is for me now as a senior citizen. A new place, new experiences are best experienced when one is a bit younger than I am and in better health. Without a social circle life becomes monotonous. Time hangs heavy. Making new connections socially isn’t so easy in a new country. Not working in a place doesn’t help either. One doesn’t meet many people and getting to meet like-minded people is left to chance. That I am an introverted extrovert doesn’t help. The introvert has strong likes and dislikes and the extrovert doesn’t get the better of a clash sometimes.

To sum up, the original blueprint gave me a taste of foreign travel that I wanted to experience as a tourist guide and organizer of trips. And also the first-hand experience of the flipside of international travel, especially long flights with more than two layovers. It also gave me a closer look at an air hostess’s job on long International flights. Different people with different cultures and mindsets, with various needs… all have to be served with patience and a pleasant disposition if not a smile!

It made me realize that I wasn’t cut out for these professions. The third option was third for a reason. I liked drama only as a hobby… something on the side that I could dabble in on and off.

So somewhere, the life map I created by my choices and the original plan for my life gave me, in the right proportions, what I desired as an experience, as an adventure, but not as a mainstay; as a profession or career. And it led me to be a teacher. A profession I never ever WANTED to enter. But it was exactly what I NEEDED.

This was the profession that helped me and my sons. I worked in private schools that were among the best in whichever city we lived in. I had no problems with admission for my sons nor difficulty in paying the fees. In retrospect, I can say that my life went off course from the original plan in many ways, and it brought hardships in its wake until I, without knowing it, veered back to the original blueprint.

What lies ahead I do not know. I pray for guidance and wisdom in making the right choices. But this I know, He keeps me in the palm of his hand. He’ll bring me on course if I veer off.

The Original Blueprint – Part 11

My younger son and his wife were working, from India, for a company in Canada when they got to know the company was hiring more people for vacancies in Canada. So two others, who were also working with them from India, decided to apply for these posts. The company agreed to give them the jobs and that’s how the first step was laid. I was glad for them but still, at the time, I had no inclination to travel here. Not even for a holiday! Life carried on for me the way it was and I was settled in sailing on even keel. I never expected things were going to be stirred up, disturbing the calm. A big, unpleasant surprise was coming up.

My elder son came to me one day, excited. “I’ve been transferred to the Chile office,” he said.

“Wow,” I responded equally excited. Then my brow furrowed in ignorance and the worry that comes with it for a mother. He had pronounced the name the right way, Cheelay, and I hadn’t heard of this country.

“Where’s Cheelay?” I enunciated laying emphasis on each syllable.

“In South America.”

“Oh! That’s not quite like North America, right?”

“No. It’s more Latino. The language is Spanish. It’s a small country. And even smaller if you compare it with ours!”

“How are you going to manage with Spanish?”

We only knew a few words one picked up from songs and movies… words like – gracias, adios, amigo, hasta mañana, muchacho, hacienda, vaya con dios… and such. Now, I wasn’t too thrilled with the foreign posting.

“I don’t have to bother about it at the workplace ma. It’s English at work. And I’ll learn the local language.”

I nodded in agreement. It was similar to a posting anywhere inside India, apart from the spoken language at home (for us it was English) one had to learn a smattering of the local lingo to carry on with daily life. I recalled how we, as kids, living in Cochin (now known as Kochi) knew a bit of Malayalam. My mother knew Malayalam and Tamil because she was born and brought up in the south, in a city called Madras (now known as Chennai) and she had studied in a boarding school in Bangalore (now known as Bengaluru). She picked up some Marathi and “Bombaiya” Hindi when we were in Bombay (Mumbai) and Punjabi and Hindi when we moved North. I learned Hindi and Punjabi in Delhi and Punjab. And later, in Rajasthan, I picked up a bit of Marwari to get along with the maids and vegetable shopping. So this wouldn’t be any different apart from the vast distance.

I had no intention or desire to go to Chile either. Apart from the vast distance one had to travel… hours and hours in the plane and hours at airports on stopovers, if one took a cheaper option that took you on a circuitous route… I was in no mood to learn another language to get by.

But the original blueprint of my life was already set into motion. In fact, now when I look back, I see how the events in my life were taking me according to the plan.

My elder son was engaged at the time of this transfer and we preponed the wedding date as he wouldn’t be able to get back so soon for the wedding which was scheduled four months later. His fiancée worked in the same company as him. He left in August 2009 after they got married. Now both my sons had left. However, this time I had my daughter-in-law staying with me.

If I thought my son would come back in a year’s time because his wife was here, once again, I was reminded that life doesn’t always go even keel, for long, it has more twists and turns and adventure. Within months of his working there a vacancy for a job, ideally suited to his wife’s work profile, came up at Chile. She applied, online interviews were conducted. She bagged the post.

She left to join her husband and her new job in Chile.

My son was worried about me living alone. Apart from the security concerns, he was also worried about my physical limitations due to osteoarthritis and some troublesome discs that restricted movements and could also lay me down, bedridden.

About six months later, I was in Chile too! A place I knew vaguely existed at the back of my mind. A country about which I had zero curiosity and didn’t Google to learn more about it.

The company booked my ticket too, so I could join my family in Vina. The route was a circuitous one – Delhi-Mumbai-Johannesburg SA – Sao Paulo Brazil – Santiago, Chile – a longer route because it was cheaper! I bore my aching back, lumber disc and cervical disc acting up, and my knees hurting so much, whenever I had to walk, as in through the security check or down the aisle to my seat, or to use the facilities. I was in pain and on wobbly legs. But thankfully, I had wheelchair assistance and didn’t have to walk through those huge airports; five in all. That doesn’t mean I had no problems. The biggest one was when I had to visit the washroom. I would be stuck in my wheelchair without an assistant. The assistant would park me in the waiting area, put my bags near the wheelchair and disappear. There was no way I could walk to the facilities. which were no where near the waiting area. And even if it were near, I couldn’t leave my bags unattended. Dragging my luggage along would have created a medical emergency. It was torturous mentally and physically. Mentally, because I was so worried there would be an incident. Thankfully, that didn’t happen but there were close calls… I would get saved by a couple of minutes!

The layovers, in chronological order – at Mumbai [about 3 hrs. layover]. At Johannesburg [about 4 1/2 -5 hrs. layover]. At Sao Paulo, Brazil [between 2-3 hrs. I think]. Now came the last flight – Sao Paulo to Santiago! It was just the last flight not the last leg of my journey.

From Santiago would begin a road trip to Vina Del Mar. If there was no heavy traffic, we’d be lucky and reach Vina in 1 1/2 hrs. But thoughtfully, my son had booked rooms at a hotel so I could rest. The last segment of my journey would be completed the next day.

After he and his wife had settled me into my room, my son sat me down in the armchair and said that he had to tell me something. When people do this I get the jitters. “Now what?” my mind screamed.

“Ma, we have a lot of quakes and tremors here. So, if you feel your bed rocking don’t panic.”

“Don’t panic! Tremors and quakes are normal everyday routine here! An earthquake happens and I don’t panic? I’m not that brave! I’ve experienced a few in India. And they are scary” I said already feeling quite scared and unsafe.

“Well yes, earthquakes happen in India off and on, not often and not all are very strong. What you might have experienced were like 3.somsthing or 4.something…” I interrupted, “And all were scary as hell! The whole building felt it would collapse.”

“That’s India ma,” he said patiently. “Here the buildings are built to withstand stronger quakes. Even 9.7!”

“How strong are we talking about,” I said with a sense of foreboding.

“Well, over here, a temblor, which is a tremor, would be something that’s less than 5.something. Anything above would be a terremoto, which is an earthquake.”

“You mean, what I experienced in India and almost died of fear were just tremors?! Things they aren’t scared of here? They have quakes that go beyond 7 on the Richter scale? And all of this is an often recurring nightmare and I’m not allowed to panic?”

“Yes.”

“So what exactly are you telling me when you say I shouldn’t panic?”

“I mean don’t run out of your room. Stay here. I’ll come to you if any such thing happens. You might feel slight tremors more than once or twice. No one bothers about these.”

“O Lord! What have I got into? Where have I come?”

“I can understand your anxiety and fear but Ma, honestly, don’t be scared. It is unsettling for someone who isn’t used to it but given some time you will get accustomed to it. The buildings won’t collapse they way they do in India. These can withstand strong quakes.”

Now that I was in the middle of a soup, there was nothing I could do but put on a brave front, while my heart palpitated, my mind conjured up images of fallen buildings and me under a rubble. So I assured him that I would not get out of the room and run down the corridors screaming. But I wasn’t sure if I would keep my word.

Sure enough, the tremors came rolling in. My bed was rattled more than twice. Twice I jumped out of bed. Twice I ran to the door and held it half open. And the third time, I ran down the corridor to their room and knocked on the door. They were sound asleep and didn’t hear the frantic knocks nor feel the building shaking or trembling. Thankfully, I had remembered to take the key card of my room with me. I crept back to my room shaken and scared to death. I didn’t come here to die, I thought miserably. If I don’t die in a building collapse, I’ll die of fright!

Thank god for tiredness. I fell asleep against my will and woke up to the kids knocking on my door. It was time to go down for breakfast.

I had survived the night, the temblors, and I was feeling very hungry. I would tell them about how I disregarded their advice and how I ran down the corridor and knocked on their door real loud, later on. When they’d eaten and would be in a better frame of mind with a great brekkie tucked in, I’d be safe from some admonishing and reminding that I could injure myself too just by running helter-skelter.

We had till noon to check out so they took me out for some retail therapy. That always works. I forgot the tremors until one came up while we were in the mall. Being in a huge building that’s shaking and seeing the escalator sway, even though not too much, triggered the fear again. And trust me, it’s hard to control the panic and keep oneself standing quietly and wait for the tremor to subside. I watched people go about their business calmly. I wondered if I’d ever be able to build that sort of insouciance towards tremors.

You can read more about all the interesting and funny things that happened, in detail, here: Chile Diary – 1

If you haven’t read Part -1 here’s the link: The Original Blueprint – Part -1 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

The third and final part of The Original Blueprint will follow soon.

The Original Blueprint – Part -1

Canada had never been on my list-of-places-to-visit! Though, I did advice a lot of youngsters, including my son, to move to Canada. But I never ever felt inclined to visit here, and living here was not even a possible thought.

Yet, here I am!

Destiny? God’s plan for my life? I guess it’s both. It’s the result of the original blueprint for my life. One that I altered in some places, and the others altered without my consent at some juncture.

I often wonder about my sojourns to two countries that never figured in my travel-hungry dreams and desires. Surprisingly, apart from Canada, USA also didn’t make it to my list! While my friends in college went on about the States I dreamed about countries in Europe. I didn’t realize my Europe dream and, of course, never went to the States. But I came close to it when I ‘lived’ in Chile! A place that wasn’t even on the periphery of my travel thoughts. Though, I must add here, I loved it. The city I lived in and the memories of my stay there are embedded in my heart.

But as I’ve learned, God’s plan for my life will go according to plan despite the detours I make from the path. I will, eventually, do, go, function according to the original plan – sooner or later.

Take my journey at this point in life – I’m in Canada! If I had not rejected an offer to travel to Ireland when I was nine years old; if my mother had not put her foot down (which encouraged me) on the offer of two wonderful Irish missionaries to adopt me, I would have been here decades ago!

The story that convinces me that it is God’s original plan starts in the latter half of the year 1963, in New Delhi.

My parents were members of an evangelical church. The congregation called themselves the ‘Brethren’. The church was in Connaught Place and was called Gospel Hall. It wasn’t a conventional church building. It was in a commercial area and was one of the shops/offices that had been rented for worship.

In those days, Christian missionaries abounded all over India, and we had a fair share of them in Delhi, and in our Gospel Hall as well. Among the ones at Gospel Hall was an Irish couple – John and Lily Walker. They had two sons, Johnston and Earnest.

My parents and the Walkers took to each other and they became friendly outside the fellowship-worshippers church circle. We’d have them over for lunch sometimes and they’d invite us over for a meal sometimes. I enjoyed the company of this missionary family, which I confess was not normal because, even at that young age, I didn’t care much for the many others whom my father had befriended when we were posted in Kerala, South India. They’d come over often and have lunch and tea with us. I recall a picnic or two. One at a beach and one on a house boat! I was younger then but I had a mind of my own. I liked and disliked my parents’ company according to my own judgments for what they were worth!

There were the Phoenixes, the Bones, the Taylors, the McGregors, to name a few.

But the Walkers were different. I played with their younger son, Earnest, who was a year and half older than me, I think. Johnston, the elder one was nice too. He would talk to me and joined his brother and I briefly sometimes.

Lily and John were jovial and easy-going and not the typical uptight Christian missionaries who judged everything we said or did and found it inappropriate according to their thinking. I usually made myself scarce when any of those kinds visited us. They didn’t understand our sense of humor, our cultural dos and don’ts, and they thought they had the God-given right to admonish me!

Well, I was the youngest kid in the family then, a bit spoiled by Daddy, and I couldn’t take that. So rather than ‘talk back’ I avoided them.

Anyway, to come back to the main part of the story. Lily and John had taken to me too. We, of course, were unaware of the extent to which they had fallen in love with me. They had already decided (before even consulting with my parents) that they wanted to adopt me! That was the reason why they began to spend more time with us. Even at Sunday School or at church, Lily would talk to me, sometimes sit beside me at church, and generally, give me a lot of attention. I loved it because it was free of judgement, criticism, and full of love, caring, and acceptance of my little personality as it was.

None of them, including the boys, ever tried to change or mold my natural self to suit them. I was accepted as I was. I was loved as I was.

We were brought up in an Indo-western environment with the western more pronounced than the Indian. Our etiquette, behavior, and environment at home was more western. So there wasn’t much that was different for me in their home, and I guess they didn’t find much to change in my behavior.

Well, finally their term in India was drawing to its end and they had to make their intention known to my parents. And they did. I was totally in the dark about how my fate was being decided between them.

While all this was going on, a severe case of jaundice laid me down. It was pretty bad because my parents hadn’t realized that it was more than an “ache in the side of my tummy” as I continued playing with the pain. No one noticed that the whites of my eyes had turned yellow until one day, Mummy did. The doctor was worried and hoped that it wasn’t worse than what he had diagnosed.

The result was that the Walkers postponed their return and extended their stay by three months. It took over two months for me to get better, but I was very weak and I had to be under medical supervision for a month more.

My father had put in his papers for an early retirement and wanted to go back to his hometown and get started on building our house. But as I couldn’t travel then, he asked for an extension on our accommodation for another month. So we were in Delhi while he went on ahead to get work started on the house.

Now, the Walkers who were apprised of the developments on our side, came home before Daddy left. As I lay in bed, I could hear them talk, but not clearly enough to get the whole conversation. I gathered bits and pieces and knew that it was something about me. I heard my name mentioned a lot. I heard the word travel. I heard the words “extend our stay.” I tried to put two and two together but couldn’t understand what was the big deal if I couldn’t travel. I presumed they were going to leave me back here with the Walkers and my mother and brother would go with my father to Punjab. I would be staying with these people and join them later when I could travel.

However, I soon learned who was planning to ‘extend’ their stay and why. It all came down to one person’s decision – Mine!

I heard footsteps coming towards my room and I perked up a bit. John and Lily came in and Lily sat on the bed and held my hand. They asked how I was and made some small conversation. Then they asked me if I liked their sons. Did I like their home and was I comfortable whenever I spent the day there. My answer was a big YES and a broad smile to all of these questions. Then came the last one.

“Would you like to come live with us?”

“Okay,” I quipped happily thinking I was right about what I had picked up from their conversation earlier. Then I added, “How long will I stay? The doctor said it could be longer than a month before I can travel.”

They realized I was not on the same page as them. And that my parents hadn’t broached the subject with me.

Gently, both of them told me how much they loved me and how Lily had fallen in love with me from the first day she saw me. How she wanted a daughter and she saw that daughter in me. How her sons also accepted me as a sister if I agreed to be a part of their family.

It was a bomb exploding in my head. I was just a little nine year old going on ten, by then! This was in the beginning of 1965. And I wasn’t strong enough mentally and physically and emotionally to deal with such a big question about the future of my life.

They realized it immediately after they had said what they had to say. To their credit, they very softly and lovingly told me I didn’t have to make my decision immediately. They could wait. But if I could give them some hope, even a 50-50 one about their chances of becoming my foster parents, they could extend their stay by even six months, if need be.

I loved my family. I couldn’t imagine loving someone else as my parents no matter how nice they were or how much I loved them too. No one could replace my Mummy and Daddy! Not even the very nice and loving Lily and John Walker.

“Will you take me with you to Ireland?”

‘Of course. You’ll be my daughter. Wouldn’t you like that?”

“Yes. But when will I see my parents?”

“You can write to them, talk to them over the phone. And you can come back to see them whenever you want. And they can come to see you too. We won’t keep you away from your family in India.”

“Have you spoken to my mummy and daddy? What did they say? Did my Daddy say yes? Did my Mummy say yes?”

The questions came pouring out. I still remember the dread I felt and the slight tremor of excitement at what this meant for me. I was scared to leave all that was familiar and that I loved behind and go with people I barely knew beyond a social relationship. Nevertheless, there was a bit of adventure and excitement at the thought of going on a long journey to another country and living a new life. One I could only imagine from movies and stories I had heard.

The thought that was troubling me was that if both of my parents had agreed to this, I would have to go. I thought I’d have no right to refuse if my parents had agreed. I wouldn’t see them for years maybe and neither my sisters and brother. It made my heart sink. And I was scared too. So far away from my parents whom I trusted and relied on. I had no notion of how I’d be able to bear that. Somewhere, was a flicker of hope that one of them had refused. Somewhere at the back of my mind, subconsciously, I was keeping that as my escape hatch.

I was waiting for their answer. My heart was pounding.

Lily looked at John.

“Your father said he had no objections if we let you keep in touch and allowed you to visit. But he said it all depended on your answer and not his. We could adopt you only if you agreed.” My heart leapt with joy. Daddy had given me the final decision. I wasn’t so scared now.

“And what did Mummy say?”

“She doesn’t want you to come with us. She flatly refused to let us adopt you.”

This made it easier for me to make my decision. Her flat refusal took the burden off me. Deciding to take such a big step, one that I couldn’t fully comprehend. To me it was just like an adventure. Like the ones I’d imagine and dream to come true. This gave me the escape route I was looking for and I made up my mind.

“No. I can’t go with you forever. I can come for a holiday but I want my Mummy and Daddy. My sisters and brother.”

“But your parents will still be your parents. Your sisters and brother will still be your siblings. Think about it. You’ll have bigger opportunities if you come with us. take your time to decide. Though not too long. We cannot extend our stay only to find you won’t be coming back with us. We have to get your travel arrangements done too.”

“Ok. Then please don’t extend your stay. I don’t think I can stay away from my family like this.”

They looked so sad. I felt bad and wondered if I should say yes. My mind was for it. But my heart wasn’t in it at all.

“I’m sure.” I said. “I can’t leave my family.”

Long story short. The Walkers left. Mummy and Lily kept in touch for two or three years via snail mail. We learned that they had migrated to Canada a year or so after they returned to Ireland. And that’s where the Canada connection comes in, in this story. If I had agreed to make them my foster parents, I would have been in Canada decades ago!

So, in the original blueprint, I was destined to come here. I never thought about it. I never hoped for it. It wasn’t an inviting place to even include in my dream list of holidays. But that was then.

This is a beautiful country. And one worth visiting and settling in, if that’s what you want.

But…

I had to go on a circuitous route, before I finally came here. I’ve lost so much in the detours I’ve made. Apart from the material things, I lost peace of mind, a sense of belonging, the company of age-old friends. It isn’t easy to adjust to new environs when you’re older. It isn’t easy to make new friends. It isn’t easy to leave the familiarity of social, cultural, and traditional aspects of one’s life. That being said… This senior isn’t doing too bad all things considered. Not quite there, yet, but getting there!

So how did Canada, the eventual destination, come about?

More about that in the next part.

To Be Continued….

Cutting Down

I was going through a blogger’s post on how she was getting rid of the ‘unnecessary’ clutter in her closets and store. She was recounting how, over the years, her pain and sadness at giving away or discarding things that she was very fond of, attached to and couldn’t give away had died down with each declutter situation. If any pain or regret was left, it was but a mere twinge.

Her post brought back my not-so-dead feelings connected to this. I told her, “I get what you’re saying. I’ve had to give up many things with each move I made.”

My mind went back to our shifts within the country… it wasn’t so bad. The most important things I cherished didn’t get left behind. With movers and packers to move things, the only precious things that got left behind were my friends.

But the biggest “cutting” I had to do was when I moved to another country! That’s when some things I was loath to part with were either given away or left behind in (supposedly) safe keeping… the family albums and hundreds of loose photographs stored carefully, some personal items I loved and didn’t want to lose. But the albums and pictures…These were the memories of my entire life. I couldn’t take them with me. It hurt like mad. I consoled myself with the thought that I’d return and take them with me.

Little did I know that I wouldn’t see them again. Not because I didn’t return but because the people who had taken it in safe-keeping didn’t have them anymore. They weren’t even kind enough to tell me where or what had become of those things.

When I had just begun to accept the loss and look at it pragmatically rather than emotionally, I had to move again from Chile…

…to another country.

Now, more of the little I had, needed to be cut down further. It didn’t hurt so bad this time. Though, I admit, I was sad. Today, I think about it with a tinge of sadness, when my grand kids ask me about things I could have shown them. I sense an emptiness, but nothing that weighs too heavy on me. I’m still to get to that place where I don’t even feel that little twinge of regret or pain. I’ll get there!

Right now, I am at a place where I am numb inside. I have come to see myself as a gypsy…traveler… literally. While I think my situation of wheels- on-my-feet is ended and I will stay put, I have a nagging fear that whispers, “What if…?” My heart skips a beat. No, no more. I want to put up my caravan and stay. I can not take any more of cutting down.

It’s not about the material things so much now as it is about the intangibles… the memories, the places that hold significance in my life… the peace I might have found reading, writing, or just sipping my tea as I gazed out the window in a particular cafe. The familiar faces and the familiarity of surroundings. The daily walk routes, and the smiles or ‘hellos’ of fellow walkers I pass by more often. The sounds, sights and the flora and fauna that surround my dwelling and that I’ve got used to now.

I’m at a point where I am like a pendulum; swinging at the behest of time. I am slowly resigning myself to God’s will and my destiny which he holds in his hands.

In cutting down and clearing out the material things I had attached myself to, I have learned (not so painlessly) that I was also clearing out unnecessary attachment and value to a lot of replaceable stuff. Except for my photographs, now, I don’t think much of the other things. I am grateful for that freedom from attachment to replaceable material goods.

In retrospect, while I might have lost many material things… some of material value too… I have gathered experiences, insights, memories, connections that are of more value to me and my wellbeing. I have not just gone through it, I have grown through it.

It will take a bit more time for me to say, in all honesty, that the cutting down through the years doesn’t hurt me or sadden me at all any more. There are a few more itty-bitty cobwebs stuck in the corners of my mind! I’m getting there, that’s all I can say.

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I Look Back To Accelerate Forward

Some years, back I wrote a story where one of my characters was traveling through life with his eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror. I had referred to it as a character flaw because the man looked back to dwell on the negative aspects and developed a cynical approach to life.

Later on, I saw this in another perspective. Looking back is not a flaw, if one reviews the past with a positive attitude; with the intention of making changes in the present where changes are required; altering attitudes where alteration is needed, and learning from past experiences.

I’ve been driving on the highway of life with an eye on the rear-view mirror! But not so long back, my hindsight went further back than my personal experiences, thanks to a Bible story I was telling my grandchildren. We were reading about the exodus from Egypt. The children were aghast at the 40 year journey across a desert. One of them, the 5-yr-old, exclaimed that she never wanted to go to Egypt or anywhere across a desert as she’d be an old woman by the time she reached her destination! The elder one informed her that she needn’t “walk” across she could fly… and the discussion veered to, “Where was the Promised Land? Was it so far away that it took them 40 years to reach there?”

So, the focus settled on the length of the journey. “Why did it take so long for them to reach?” “Is it actually that far to reach?” “How long were their breaks?” “How could they break journey for years in one spot?”

After referring to some expert commentary on the topic, and keeping their young years in mind, I informed them that it should have been just an 11-day-journey to Canaan. But it took them longer because they began grumbling, rebelling against the rules, regretting leaving Egypt, not believing God, making statues of other gods to worship. They were ungrateful and disobedient. They didn’t trust God who was guiding them and providing for them along the journey. They became afraid. In other words, they kept going around the same mountain of worries, anxiety, dissatisfaction, infighting, rebellion, ungratefulness, complaining…So they stayed ‘settled’ in one camp after the other longer than they should have.

That explanation was enough for them. It seemed to explain and answer all their questions. But it spoke to me too, in connection with the way I felt, on my first trip to Chile, in 2010. It explained a lot about how I had stemmed my joy, increased my woes and made life more difficult for me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

It was a constructive and enlightening lesson. I suppose, any lesson that can get you out of a desert, faster and happier, in less than forty years of going around the same mountain has got to be a great one.

So how did an eleven-day journey stretch to forty years? I will attempt to summarize the main points in a layperson’s terms. According to the account as recorded in the Bible, the Israelites were an ungrateful, complaining lot. The moment a bit of problems or trouble arose, they’d begin the blame game, and in-fighting and grumbling would ensue. They would not listen to the leaders nor comply with the rules. This resulted in a breakdown of the law and order system.

During the tedious journey, it was apparent things would be hard. They were traveling through the wilderness. and the climate would have been harsh and there would have been a lack of basic necessities. And definitely, even depletion of resources. In all of this, they were so focused on their problems that they became blind to the presence of God, who was constantly guiding them, providing for them, and protecting them.

When at one point, they were without food and near starvation, He provided “manna” from heaven. Initially, they rejoiced that they had something to fill their bellies and sustain them. Then, when their hunger was satiated and they regained their strength, they began to complain that ‘manna’ was a poor substitute for the food they were used to eating in Egypt. They even began to lament their shortsightedness in following Moses. They preferred to be slaves in Egypt than to bear the hardships of an eleven-day journey.

Their attitude brought up delays in their movement and progress not only slowed down but it also came to a standstill at times. Thus, what they couldn’t bear for eleven days they bore for forty years! There are many examples of similar attitudes along the arduous journey. Without going into the philosophy and scriptural implications, let me come back to the point that is related to the lessons I learned along the way.

Going to Chile was a literal uprooting for me, from the place that had been my home for my entire life. It spelled the closing of a chapter in my life and the opening of a new one filled with uncertainty in terms of the future. It also took me out of my comfort zone; comfort of not only familiarity but also of creature comforts and the small luxuries I was used to. In a way, it was a takeoff on the exodus from Egypt. It was my lone departure to an unknown future. My sojourn would take me on a longer route with layovers at Johannesburg in South Africa, Sao Paulo in Brazil, and finally to Santiago in Chile, from where I’d have a road trip to Viña del Mar.

Not a frequent flyer, and that too a “lone” one this time, with mobility issues, to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I took the flight with complete assistance, wheelchair etc., and honestly, looking back today, I will have to admit it was almost hassle-free. I got through all the formalities aided by airline attendants. Yet, when I had long waits for flights, sitting in a wheelchair cramped, tired, and feeling a certain amount of discomfort and pain, I’d begin to moan and groan a bit to myself.

Fortunately, I had the “complain and remain” and the “go round the mountain” quotes getting me back to a more appreciative attitude. I could hardly walk by the time I landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil but I was thankful that I could sit up and also shuffle down the aisle to my seat. What’s more, I actually thanked God that I could use the toilet without assistance. Just the thought of it continues to keep me grateful.

Barely seven days in Viña del Mar, and the big earthquake rocked my world. The strongest ones I’d experienced and which had shaken me up in India had been between 3.something to 4.something! This one was like doomsday for me. Viña del Mar is in the Valparaiso region, so we felt it strong.

Refer Wikipedia: {The 2010 Chile earthquake ( Terremoto del 27F) occurred off the coast of central Chile on Saturday, 27 February at 03:34 local time, having a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes.}

Since I had to move from our apartment on the sixth floor to a safer place due to my inability to climb down so many stairs to evacuate during the following aftershocks, measuring between 5-7 on the Richter scale, that kept tumbling in at short intervals after the big one. I had to stay somewhere that would be convenient to move out if required during a stronger aftershock or another earthquake. It took three shifts from a hotel accommodation to a friend’s place and finally to the company guesthouse.

The stress and extreme fear, not to mention the constant shifting from one temporary accommodation to another, took its toll. Not being an angel, I did mutter and kick myself, at times regret my hasty decision to travel here. But hindsight and lessons imbibed from it helped me keep looking at the silver lining that had constantly girded the dark clouds filling me with hope, trust and gratefulness to God – for life, suitable and comfortable accommodation provided by friends and my son’s company, and keeping me from injuring myself during these times. We were all safe and there was only minor damage to the apartment.

Such an attitude provided the ability to look for blessings in disguise, and a sojourn that should have spelled a disastrous pattern turned out to be a lesson in itself.

If I had continued to grumble, moan, and groan and pick at fate, God, people, and blame all for my predicament, I wouldn’t have met the amazing people I got to meet. I wouldn’t have made lovely friends there either. The innate goodness of humans would not have manifested itself, and I would have remained ignorant of the goodwill, humaneness, and the indomitable spirit of people that continued to survive even during calamitous situations.

The beauty of this picturesque city would have been lost on me and I would have marked it as “Hell.” Time would have moved painfully slow. But now, I have indelible memories of kindness, thoughtfulness, warmth, and friendship to carry along with me. The most important point is that it has underlined my belief in God and His presence in and around me at all times.

Have you ever rocked yourself in a rocking chair? Where does all that rocking take you? Nowhere! Focusing too much on the problems and difficulties of life is akin to sitting in a rocking chair. You stay stuck in one place no matter how hard you rock, you’re not going forward.

Looking back should not be a “rocking chair” moment. Hindsight should be used to find areas of change or improvement; a gleaning time for lessons. Such an attitude will see you walking ahead a wiser and more cheerful person. Why prolong misery by sticking with it?

My stay over there has given me deeper insights into my soul. I have discovered the various hues of my spirit that mark milestones in my growth as a person. And the three months I stayed there passed as a few days. Much can be accomplished with appreciation, gratitude, and determination. One needs to keep moving onward and looking for those “Kodak” moments and “ha-ha” and “ah-ha” situations. Yes, I found some ‘ha-ha’ humorous situations too, believe me. It seems incongruous in such scenarios, but I did find them and they relieved me of some tension and anxiety.

I’m sure there are many ‘exodus’ kind of stories in our life from which we can learn something… from the negatives and the positives…Life is a journey. We’re all traveling somewhere; towards something…a dream, ambition, destination, destiny… it’s good to look into the rear view mirror sometimes, and review the journey traveled.

I returned to India after three months. The lessons I had begun to learn, impacted me more when I was back on familiar territory. They went deeper into my life and the way I responded or reacted to situations and circumstances. In 2013, I finally moved to Viña del Mar, again. But this time round, I was happy to be there. There were many tremors all in the range of 4-6 almost 4-5 times in a month. And there were stronger ones between 6-7. There was a big one too, an earthquake, when I was alone while the rest of the family was out of the country!

refer Wikipedia: The 2015 Illapel earthquake occurred 46 km (29 mi) offshore from Illapel (Coquimbo region Chile) on September 16 at 19:54:33 (22:54:33 UTC), with a moment magnitude  of 8.3. The initial quake lasted between three and five minutes; it was followed by several aftershocks greater than magnitude six, and two that exceeded 7.0 moment magnitude.

This time, being alone, was the scariest thing, but my faith and trust in God’s help kept me sane though I was trembling.

This time, I was not grumbling, or muttering. My mind was clear and I was thinking calmly. I believe that when you put your trust in God, He will send help when help is needed. And that’s exactly what happened. But that’s another post for another day!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Picnics in the car or in the trunk!

We get rare occasions to drive out with the kids and let them release a lot of pent up energy plus fill up on fresh air, and get some reprieve for ourselves before we burst a blood vessel! So last weekend, we had to pick up some essentials from Sussex that weren’t available in our city. The forthcoming drive coincided with a pleasant, sunny day, so we decided that the family could go along. It would be a long drive through beautiful scenery on either side of the highway. 

It sure was a relaxing drive over wide, uncrowded, and partly undulating roads. We could keep the windows partially open to let in the fresh, cool breeze and no one felt sick. Thankfully. There are two of us who have motion sickness. We were driving too fast for me to take pics along the highway. Neither could we stop en route for me to snap any memories. So I missed that bit. 

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We picked up what we needed and then decided to eat lunch. So we picked up food from the drive-thru at Tims and McDonalds; found ourselves a spot in the parking, and had a picnic in the car. There were these pretty picnic tables and benches right there but using them was out of the question. The three girls were super thrilled with this new spate of picnics in the car. 

And then, it was time to get back.

We settled down. Seat belts checked for the kids. All fine. Let’s go.

The car wouldn’t start. The battery was down. Shoot!

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It was early evening still. A search for help got us a guy who said he’d come down and boost the battery. The three young ones were the only ones thrilled about the stuck situation. They decided to play treasure Hunt (of all things) inside the car. Well, they managed to do a good job of hiding stuff and locating them. My woolen cap, pockets, handbag, nooks and crannies in the car… wherever they could hide an LOL, or a lil troll toy person, they hid it. If we were worried about how to keep them entertained, we needn’t have bothered.

Relief!

The man arrived in thirty minutes, and in less than five got the car going! We were back on the highway with three happy and spent girls. They were quiet (relief again!) and whatever small talk was made was little and low. They hummed and sang a bit with the radio, then the younger two dozed off.

Picnic in the trunk 

Before I started on this one, I wondered what to say – trunk, boot, or dickey. What I would be referring to happens to be called by different names in English in different countries. It would be a ‘trunk’ in North America; a ‘boot’ in England; and a ‘dickey’ in India. North America won the toss, so trunk it is.

The weekend before our Sussex drive, we had a fine evening at the nature trail park. This time, since it was planned, we had packed sandwiches and chips and picked up tea from Tims. Here, in the wide, open spaces, the girls could get out of the car and stretch their legs. They were not expecting a picnic so were very glad we had packed one.

It was cold with a chill breeze blowing. The sunshine was intermittent with large clouds obscuring the sun. Their father laid out some covers in the trunk and the three scrambled in with a lot of excitement. A picnic in the trunk was a new one for them. 

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I sipped my tea leaning against the car and watched the gulls sauntering about totally unafraid and unconcerned with the five unobtrusive humans. Or perhaps they didn’t hover above and around us because we weren’t feeding them! Then, one of them came gliding down, wings outstretched and landed a few feet away. It drew my attention as soon as it touched down.

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It landed on one wheel.. that translates to leg! Oh, dear! Whatever happened to its other leg, I wondered aloud. “They stand on one leg like cranes,” said my son nonchalantly. “No”, they don’t. Or do they? I haven’t seen any standing on one leg!” I was curious. 

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I sipped my tea and kept my eye on the one-legged gull. Just when I was sure it’s leg must have got tangled in something and broken off or worse it must have been bitten off by some predatory creature, it put down its other leg briefly, not quite putting it flat to hold the weight of its body. It swayed a bit. A minute or less and the leg went up again. It didn’t come down for the next fifteen minutes. My watch had provided me with an answer; it was injured. “I hope your leg gets well gull!”

We go out occasionally where we can get fresh air and maintain social distance too. But it’s not the same as before. We are forever alert and careful… no touching anything that’s around… no benches, railings, even tree trunks or leaves, and flowers. Not even the grass. Making sure to keep hands off our faces. Do we succeed all the time? No! Sometimes, by force of habit, unknowingly we touch the eyes, or cheek or… only to jump to alertness and wonder, if our hands had touched something it shouldn’t have before. There are these moments that lead to a small prayer.

It appears that we are slowly but surely getting into the groove of living with restrictions of a different kind. Of fears of a different kind. Of anxieties of a different kind. When will things go back to the normal we knew? Or is this going to be the new normal? To be honest, I am not going bonkers thinking about it. I have settled into a routine, more or less, and the WFH situation is not new for me. If there is one thing that I am concerned about and pray for, it is that we are well and safe. That is my prayer for the world too!

I hope, when this difficult time has passed, I can look back on these memories with joy and thank God for bringing us through it safe and sound.

Grey Matters

Grey is the dominant color of winter these days. I wake up to grey mornings and peek through the curtains, desperate to see a chink in the clouds and a stray, struggling ray of sunshine yellow pushing its way through.

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I have nothing against the color grey. It makes up a large part of my winter wardrobe!  I also like the grey of rainy days. But when it gets cold and grey, I’d rather have yellow, red, salmon, orange… anything but grey. That being said, I must add I like winter rains; the drizzles as well as the downpours… I seem to be contradicting myself. But it’s not a contradiction, I just can’t stand the dip in temperature. But both go hand in hand here… with droplets becoming ‘ice rain’; it’s something I’m still not used to after over two years in this country.

There’s something about rain and me. Perhaps, it’s not only me… I find it romantic. These days that translates to #nostalgia. So here, in my little room, I’m all by myself and I play old numbers, gaze at the changing shades of grey outside, hoping for the sunshine tomorrow.

Gone are my days of walks in the rain. I loved that. Or frolicking under a downpour on the rooftop (terrace) of our house, drenching myself under the first shower of the monsoon season. Gone. Gone. Gone. So, I keep myself happy with cooking rainy day foods! Yes, you heard that right… rainy day foods.

We have many such assorted foods for wet, cold, and dull days that cheer up a sagging spirit. I guess there is a way that leads from the tummy to the heart after all, and it doesn’t apply only to the male species!

More days locked in due to inclement weather leads to me dreaming. I have a #dream, an #aspiration. I intend to pursue it, but right now, I’ve barely done half the spadework and I’m already #intimidated. Needless to ask why. It’s my boogeyman – technical and internetwork! They always bare their fangs and send me scuttling into a corner. However, I’ve decided not to give up.

That sounds so good… but braver than I feel, by the way! Still, I’m going to go through with it, my physical limitations and circumstances notwithstanding, even if it takes me some years. At times like these, I wish elves didn’t just dwell in fairy tales and were available at the drop of a sigh!

It surprises me how the #yearnings and #wishes pile up in direct proportion to the years I notch up on my birthdays and the amount of grey I have in my hair! Right now, I wish I were closer to my native land and all my friends, relations, and things familiar. Two decades ago, I’d not be so bothered about distances. Not for want of love but because the distance would not rise as an insurmountable obstacle.

There is more I don’t take for granted today than I did earlier. Times and people have changed and things are no longer as they used to be. I have learned more in the past decade. I take more trips down memory lane than I ever have, but I don’t dwell there.

The present may not be all that I’d dreamed of or hoped for, but what I have is far more than my expectations, given the tragedies, circumstances, and difficult times that have come my way. I’d rather live in it and learn new things and move on. And while I’m on my way, I might as well kick my heels and do a song and dance even if it’s only in my mind.

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The besieged sun rays!

On a lighter note, among all the new things I learn, I sometimes stumble upon newfangled words like “pizzled”. I learned that it describes, quite aptly, a situation which leaves one ‘#puzzled’ and ‘#pissed off’.

In other words, #confused and #annoyed. 

It seems that everyone has a #word #mint at their disposal. If the word gains currency, it will soon find its way into a dictionary. That’s language – dynamic and ever-evolving. Though, I’d rather say I am #confoyed if I had to coin a new word to describe how I felt in a similar situation.

I’d like to hear of some more of these new compound words. 

With this quote ringing in my ears, I sign off for today.

“You can’t beat a person who never gives up.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chair and I

“Our ‘convenience culture’ translates into too-available entertainment options, fast food, sedentary transportation, and the like. The fact is, if you want to eat right and live a healthy lifestyle, you have to work at it.”~Bruce Broussard

I’m reminded of one of those rather cheesy riddles/questions we used to throw around for fun as teenagers. It went this way:

Q. What did one chair say to the other?

A. Yonder comes another bum!”

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Fast forward to the present. When one chair says to the other, “Yonder comes another bum,” you better take it literally! We are on our derrieres more often these days and for longer periods. Kudos to the health freaks that jog, run, walk, swim, and go gymming regularly, but though they are in greater numbers today than a decade ago, they are still a minority.

I was just “another bum” until seven years back. I was so #sedentary that I could grow roots, branches, moss and all, together. Yes, I grew, you know, I grew, and grew, like Alice but unlike her, I grew horizontally and found that it wasn’t only the mirror that was getting smaller; so were my clothes, and a few arm-chairs too.

I had reached this stage because of a deficiency that affected my bones and caused severe lumbar and cervical disc problems. The wrong diagnosis and the wrong treatment made it worse. My mother had suffered from it, and she was bedridden for a long time until she died. I expected to go down the same way.

Every time I decided to exercise or go out for a #walk, the pain in my bones sent me back to the chair. What I needed was a stronger will and the conviction that exercises (certain ones) would help me immensely. I had to believe that; bear the pain, and start with ‘baby steps’ literally. But skeptic me would not budge.

“What if you can’t do what you once did, like run and jump up and down? You can walk, which is also good for your mind and mental attitude. You can do simpler exercises, like getting up and down from a chair without using your hands. You can stay fairly flexible. The most important thing is to not become sedentary.”~Richard Simmons

The stronger the doubts became, the more beached I got… a beached whale! The doctor persisted tirelessly in goading me to lift myself out of defeat, depression, and that chair. Nothing worked. As fate would have it, a shift to Chile brought about the much-needed push. It took an #earthquake (literally!) to rock the chair I had permanently lodged myself in. Read about it here: 

 This was a really massive earthquake 

Measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, it rocked and rolled not just the city but my life as well. We had to evacuate and we were on the 6th level; there were a lot of stairs to go down and out of the building. Then the walk to a safer place. I could barely walk. This spoke to me.

The doc had said that I could “walk” myself out of a bad situation if I tried. So if I could pull myself out of that chair, I should go for it… I should, at the least, try it both physically and mentally too!

Finally, reality had hit hard and I got up and walked out of that chair in my head. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a quick fix. It took a long time, a very long time and some more tremors and earthquakes before I started with 5-7 steps which would take more minutes than the steps I took. That was as much as my initial ‘walks’ were.

But this time around, I gritted my teeth; I bore the pain, pushed myself, and was encouraged by the extra step or steps I would take from day to day… one laborious step at a time. Finally, the day came when I was counting a thousand steps! It is hard to explain the elation. The “I did it!” jubilation.

“When you stimulate your body, your brains come alive in ways you can’t stimulate in a sedentary position.”~Twyla Tharp

Today, I’m addicted to my daily walks. I count my steps and clock my time; I’m counting my steps to a healthier me. I’ve realized the importance of doing my physio exercises, as the Ortho advised, and I’ve seen the huge benefits. Exercises and my walks in the fresh outdoors have added benefits of de-stressing the mind, stimulating the digestive system, and giving me a ‘feel good’ feeling within. And I’m the better for it.

The chair and I are still friends, however, I would like to spend less time in it, but alas! My work demands that I sit on a chair in front of a laptop for hours on weekdays. That being said, I’m less of a “bum” and it has stopped being my #crutch.

“Health is wealth” is an old adage. I didn’t realize the literal, hard truth behind it until I lost health and with it a lot of wealth. I see many young people at the Orthopedic’s with lumbar, cervical problems. Modern life has made us sedentary and that’s a mild way of putting it. In truth, comparatively speaking, it has made us want everything to be easy, quick and readily available. In the bargain, we’re becoming lazy and unhealthy. Everything is instant gratification… we want easy and fast.

“Barry L. Jacobs and colleagues from the neuroscience program at Princeton University showed that when mice ran every day on an exercise wheel, they developed more brain cells and they learned faster than sedentary controls. I believe in mice.”~Bernd Heinrich

If due to various reasons, running is not possible and highly unadvisable, as for me, the next best thing is walking! The main point is to do some form of exercise.

Fitness and Food

The other important thing is diet. This cannot be emphasized enough.

How does this combo tie-in with staying healthier? Well, both; what you eat and how you exercise are important in the larger picture. Just exercising without eating a healthy, balanced diet according to your needs, would not do much. And it applies vice versa too! I have benefitted more by following a restricted diet that is suited to my condition in tandem with recommended exercises.

However… the times they are a-changing.

There was a time when food meant fresh food cooked daily. Most people, I’ve met and spoken to, eat pre-cooked food bought at the super-stores, or canned stuff. They justify this by saying that they don’t have the time or that they don’t like to cook or anything that lets them off the cooking routine. The day has the same twenty-four hours for everyone, but time management is not the same for everyone… that’s got to be learned along with organization, which helps immensely.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”~Jim Rohn

I’m not just saying that because it’s the thing to say. I’ve done it, with two jobs going. As a single, working mom, with no one to whom I could delegate jobs, it was tough but possible. However, if I didn’t manage my time and didn’t #organize things at home, it would have become impossible. I could even do fast and easy meals without compromising on fresh, healthy, and delicious meals, three times a day, with the other domestic tasks done in time.

How?

With time management & Organization.

I kept things simple. I had a simple, manageable, to-do plan for everything (even menus!). I divided them into holidays and weekend to-dos and weekday ones. This made it manageable and sustainable for a long period. It meant I could manage my time better, and it brought in routine. Though my weekdays were hectic with no time to indulge in any activity that sounded like “hobby” or “leisure,” it left enough time at the weekends; to relax and enjoy meeting friends and family or just sitting and reading or watching my fav shows.

The other thing is – Food – daily diet – cooking it!

Home-cooked Meals

“Cooking and baking is both physical and mental therapy.” ~Mary Berry

Balanced diets, freshly cooked home food and exercise involve time and work. So, if ever you don’t get time to exercise, a day or two, your work in the kitchen will stand in fine. Better than no exercise at all! But don’t make it a habit… nothing can substitute a good walk. 

Everyone has 24 hours in their day. How you use those hours and how much you accomplish depends on how you plan your schedule, both, work (if you are a working woman) and your home chores. That means #discipline is important. You can draw up N-number of schedules and plans, but if you do not keep to it, it’s a sheer waste of time.

“Don’t we do enough work at our desks and don’t we deserve ‘easy and fast’, especially at home?”

Yes, you do work hard. Yes, you do deserve rest but would you want it even if it means compromises? I guess you’ll make the right choice here. 

If your answer to that is “no compromise on exercise and fresh-cooked home meals,” you’re a part of the moving-toward-a-healthier-life minority, Yay!

But if it is a “Yes”…Hmm… can’t blame the chair for its #sarcastic #humor! 

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Running Away

After all, it’s one thing to be running away when someone’s chasing you. It’s entirely another to be running alone.”~Jennifer E. Smith

Daddy was a restless boy. He had an overactive #imagination and was forever up to some prank or making an endeavor to live out his dreams. This was one side of the dreamer, poet, artist, and fun-loving boy. However, buried, not far beneath, in his soul, smoldered a terrible #temper; perhaps an accumulation of all the unspent energy and also the frustrations he had. He was impetuous and reacted, often, very irrationally when in a rage. Usually, it meant beating up someone or being destructive in some way. Though, to him, it wasn’t destructive at all; it was justice. Either righting a wrong or defending one who’d been wronged.

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One day, when he couldn’t get his way with his mother and couldn’t convince her to see things his way, he decided to run away from home. He must have been about thirteen or fourteen then. They lived in a small town where my grandfather was a teacher in the Government School. Daddy didn’t have any money nor did he have a plan in mind. So when his temper cooled down and he realized that running away from home wasn’t the wisest thing to do, he was already quite far away from home.

“Running away was easy; not knowing what to do next was the hard part.”~Glenda Millard

#Hunger and #fear weren’t making things any better. He kept walking and sat down only when his legs couldn’t hold up any longer. He was sitting near a watermelon rehri (cart) and one can only imagine how much his mouth must have watered and his tummy growled for a bite. He was #miserable and wanted to go home, but being #arrogant, he did not know how he’d face not only the beating he was bound to get but also the humiliation of defeat. He found it harder to say, “Sorry,” and accept his fault than sit out his hunger and fatigue.

At one point, he did come close to giving up and going back. It was Summer and the Punjab summers are extremely harsh. Perhaps he would have swallowed his pride and turned homewards but someone approached him. It was a eunuch.

On any other day, he wouldn’t have responded nor entertained conversation with this person. This day wasn’t any other day. Daddy didn’t bother to dwell on the social stigmas that surrounded eunuchs; it was a relief to have someone #sympathetic talk to him. He spilled out his story and didn’t feel ashamed to cry. The eunuch consoled him and gave him slices of watermelon which he walloped down.

With his hunger and thirst satiated, he expressed his desire to return home, worried now that his mother who loved him very much would be sick with worry and crying. But the eunuch talked him out of it. Daddy reluctantly acquiesced to what he said more from a sense of #gratitude than #conviction. So he quietly went along and they reached Karnal, a town very far from Daddy’s home. Here he was made comfortable in the eunuch’s shack and told to rest as it had been a tiring journey. The eunuch went off to earn his living singing and dancing dressed as a woman.

Back in Daddy’s hometown, his parents were stirring up search parties. Everyone known to anyone in the family was out looking for him. The news of Daddy’s disappearance reached Melzhar Gilani, who later went on to become a Judge, and he swung into action. Fortunately, his contacts proved to be excellent detectives and Daddy’s whereabouts were traced to Karnal. Before the day was through Uncle Melzhar went down to Karnal himself and rescued Daddy from the eunuch. Uncle Melzhar Gilani belonged to an influential and rich family, and it was enough to warn the eunuch not to try and come anywhere near Daddy again.

Contrary to Daddy’s fears, he was received with tears of joy and relief. 

“Questions from earlier circle like buzzards. Am I running away or moving forward?”~Doug Cooper

One would think he had learned his lesson; he had in a way, but it wasn’t that running away wasn’t the solution. About four years later, he ran away again. This time, however, he knew where he was going and what the purpose of his mission was, and he carried some money with him. It seems that the lesson he had learned was that running away was fine if one had a destination, plan, and a constructive purpose for it.

I fancied the #adventure and thrill attached to such stories, but I could never be fully convinced that this was the right way to achieve one’s goals. There are other ways, which perhaps might mean #confrontation, but they serve to guide you and also provide you with other viewpoints and better #options.

Maybe, that’s why, though I dreamed of running away as a 6-7-year-old, and even kept a few of my valuables bundled in a handkerchief, tied to a stick a la vagabond, I never did want to ever leave home that way! This is the humorous side of my take away as a child.

Very early in life, I learned where to draw the line and also to distinguish which fantasies could be realities and which only made for good play-acting and dreaming.

Daddy didn’t advocate running away as a means to an end. His mistakes were youthful ones, made in haste and perhaps regretted bitterly in quiet moments. He never admitted it openly, but I can safely draw this conclusion from the way he guided me with lessons on #perseverance, #determination and going through rather than around. His main stress always lay on getting a sound education as the way to achieve one’s goals.

In the final analysis, Daddy had learned some valuable lessons from his #shenanigans and he passed these on to me. What I marvel at is the way he taught me; by recounting tales of his successes and mistakes. He never hid his escapades and neither did he conceal the negative outcomes. He blamed no one for the adverse consequences of his actions and gave credit, where due, for his achievements.

He neither denounced his actions nor praised them. He left it for me to work out. I had questions which he never fended, answering each honestly. I had to seek my own ‘Truth,’ he only showed me the way to the ultimate truth. From him, I have learned to live my life with courage and a firm belief in God.