A Modern Day Sir Raleigh

It was in Viña del Mar that my love for gazing out of the window; an entire wall of big windows became a regular routine. The windows faced a tree-lined street and situated at the corner of crossroads, on the second floor, provided a vantage point to look down on people and things happening on a street that was not a crowded one. My advantage – I watched unobserved. The heavily leafed trees screened me! 

freddy-do-iM72_Apx868-unsplash

I watched people; how they walked; how they conversed as a couple or in a group. I noticed their expressions. And at times, I just gazed at a world moving on the sidewalks and on the road. Everyone was going somewhere while I sat and watched. Even the everyday, mundane activities of strangers interested me. And then, one day, I saw something that was sweet, heartwarming, and totally unexpected. This was as unexpected as the time I saw the woman on the street at night. You can read about it here: A Midnight Watch in Viña del Mar

Let me start at the very beginning. The much needed and awaited rain was welcome in all ways but one; it played villain to my daily walks. With water-logged streets even with a medium shower, it was not appealing to take a walk. So I’d spend some pleasant hours sitting by my bedroom window, intermittently burying my head in a book or gazing at the streets below.

There’s always something or the other that catches my attention and that day too, I witnessed, what to me was a combination of everything that spelled romantic. It was cute, sweet, chivalrous; unimaginable, sort of adventurous, and daring in a way…well, given the drizzle, cold winds, dark sky…all these combined to make for a great Bollywood song setting! There, I said it at the risk of sounding dotty!

Our apartment was at the corner. So where I stood at the window, I was above one of the zebra crossings. The corners, where the four roads joined, would get flooded during a heavy shower. As I sat gazing emptily into space, a movement in the periphery of my eye caught my attention.

A girl, maybe seventeen or eighteen, slender build, was contemplating crossing the ‘Red Sea’ in a rather comical manner. Clutching her open umbrella, she would stretch out her leg and attempt to leap across, except, she never made it because she never thrust herself forward. She kept hopping in place. Each time she made up her mind to jump, she’d lose confidence and abort, ending up doing a jig. Then I realized there was another spectator to this unintended pantomime.

A youth, possibly in his twenties, was across the street on the Norte side and was so amused by what was going on, he had forgotten to cross over, to the side the girl was on, which is where he was headed. I guess he was as intrigued as I was, and also keen to know how she would finally cross. Both of us watched her; I from my perch on the second level, and he right across from her. But she was oblivious to everything.

Finally, she decided that her open umbrella was hampering her long jump over the muddy water, and she closed it. If it meant getting wet, so be it, is what I presumed she thought. Contrary to her belief, however, it lowered her confidence even more. Now, she hesitated to even stretch out her leg and hop. That’s when I saw the young man make a snap decision. He splashed his way across the street and was by her side in the blink of an eye. She reared back surprised.

There was a brief conversation. She seemed not to like something and gave a negative nod. He was convincing apparently because a minute later, she took hold of her umbrella from the middle and the next thing I knew, she was riding piggyback with her arms wrapped around the youngster’s shoulders. He sploshed his way through the muddied water with his precious load and deposited her safely, relatively dry shoes and all, on the other side. Then, he happily made his way back to the corner where he’d picked her up and carried on, on his way. 

I saw a Bollywood in that. I saw a hero and a heroine… two strangers at a crossroad… will they meet again? If not would she relate this to her children and grandchildren? Would he? Obviously, this wasn’t something they had done or would do normally! Was fate at play here?

“Oh, it’s the rain,” I mumbled to myself. I find rain romantic and its pitter-patter calls out to me! So here I was drawing pictures and stories about two people who were blissfully unaware that they were being woven into a typical Bollywood film. Can you blame me for being silly?!

I belong to another generation, and century, and it was so cute and sweet, and romantic. It warmed the cockles of this woman’s heart as she sat in her seat by the window on a cold, rainy day.

 

 

 

Chile Diary – 16

The Native Returns

Friday, 9th April 2010

It’s a cold, cold day today! For me, it’s winter even though the Chilean calendar says it’s still Autumn. A chill wind started to blow last night and it was mucho frio. I had hoped for a sunny day as I have promised to put mehndi on Gabriela’s hands. The cold has got to my back and one spot, on the right, is acting up. I’m resting it out and hopefully, I’ll be able to keep my side of the promise.

Gabriela is a pretty, young and vivacious waitress at Manchester. She knows a bit of English so we talk whenever she has a moment to spare. Yesterday, she learned that I was from India and got all excited about henna art. Her grandfather is Arabic and he has given her some henna.

I’m not sure about the quality of the henna powder nor do I know how to apply mehndi (henna) with a wooden pen. That’s how the Arabs do it. In India, we use a cone filled with the mehndi paste which makes it easier to make the intricate designs.

Anyway, I’ve asked her to make a paste with the henna using a bit of water, lemon juice, and sugar. We use eucalyptus oil too while applying mehndi. But, Eucalyptus oil or any other essential oil is out of the question for her. In all probability, it won’t be available or then too expensive.

But it all depends on my back.

Last night, Ranjit found a beautiful apartment. It’s on 4 Norte, very central to the shopping areas and the spot where the office cab picks them up. The most important thing is it is on the first level. Second, it is bigger in area than the present one, which is spacious, and it falls cheaper too. Since I won’t be here when they move into the new place, I plan on seeing it before I leave. But one has to fix an appointment with the property dealer first.  So now, it rests on the dealer and the landlord.

On another note, on Sunday, we have an invitation from my friend Roxanna. They’re having an ‘asado’ (aka barbecue) at home and we have been invited too. I’m looking forward to that. I’ll tell you about it when we get back.

12th April, Monday, 2010

IMG_9067

Our gracious hostess…

The morning dawned grey and cold but the sun has put his hat on and is out now. Our lunch was fun even though it wasn’t an asado, as planned. I’m sure the joy would have doubled if I knew the language. I could have enjoyed the jokes more. Jokes can be made and understood better if not translated. A lot of the humor is lost in translation.

There were only two people who knew English; Gabriel and Raphael. Later in the evening, Gonzalo joined us. He also knows English. But there wasn’t much conversation because he walloped his food and got into the Table Tennis fray! Still, it was enjoyable. Roxanna is such a warm hostess and there was nothing left wanting in her hospitality.

IMG_9066

And it was a sumptuous meal… finger-licking good!

The food was made by her and the menu was: Mango sour (a pisco drink with mango juice) and freshly baked queso-olive empanadas for starters. The meal consisted: Baked pineapple chicken in a cheesy sauce, Beef pot roast, whole fried potatoes, fresh salad, Chilean pan (bread) washed down with a choice of wines, Sprite or orange juice. Dessert was a choice of three ice creams. This delectable fare was served in the patio which opens onto the lawn. Great ambiance too!

Post lunch, the boys got into table tennis matches as we, the girls, watched and cheered. Roxanna kept up a steady supply of cold drinks and iced water. Our wonderful lunch ended on a high note of joie de vivre on Sunday.

IMG_9069

IMG_9068

Prime seats for the TT match…:D

Back at the apartment, the high notes mellowed as Ranjit and Manu got into their usual routine: phone, serials, movies mode which made any kind of conversation unwelcome. So I watched some TV, then occupied myself with turkey (pavo) empanadas.

This entailed cooking the ground turkey which would be the filling in the empanadas. I kneaded and rolled my way through the dough and folded and sealed the filling in the empanadas. Then I wrapped them in cling wrap and stored them in the freezer; When needed, heat some oil and fry.

We were to go back to the GH, but Manu went to bed so I decided to stay the night at the apartment. Good decision; I get the advantage of the net!

Tomorrow morning, I make one last visit to Roxanna’s place. She has, so sweetly, offered to color my hair before I leave. Honestly, no one has ever offered to do it even when I wasn’t able to go to the salon due to my back problems. I feel so nice and blessed with her friendship. That’s it for now.

This brings me to the end of my Chile Diary.

I fly out on the 14th of April. I know I’ll miss this beautiful city. Despite the constant fears of tremors and quakes I experienced, I’ll miss the “como estas?  and “Estoy bien!”

 

Glossary: 

Mehndi…….. Henna is called mehndi in India. It is applied in intricate designs on the hands, feet and even as temporary tattoos these days. Applying mehndi is a custom on many festivals and an important tradition of Indian marriages where the bride’s arms, hands, feet, and calves (at times) are covered with finely executed patterns.

boy-2758833_640

Chile Diary – 15

Wooden sculpture in the lobby of Delicias Del Mar

The beautiful array of wooden sculptures in the lobby of Delicias Del Mar

Easter Week and Farewell Parties

6th April, Tuesday 2010

It’s been a while since I wrote anything… anything at all.

Almost the entire Easter week went away in suspense. I was to leave Chile on the 3rd, then the 9th as I mentioned in one of my previous posts. Till Thursday evening, we were hoping though still not sure about my ticket. Then, they told us it couldn’t happen. Now, I’m looking at this weekend, probably, Saturday as my day of departure. So I wasn’t in the mood to recount much.

On Wednesday Manu and I did some shopping. Nothing much because I could hardly walk or stand. It wasn’t a pleasant spree for me and I love shopping! So you can imagine how I felt. We visited just one shop and that speaks for itself. I just couldn’t carry my weight, literally.

Thursday, Ranjit had an off day, half of which he spent seeing to some of his pending work. In the afternoon, we went to Lider to buy some things like essence and peppers that I wanted to take back with me.

From here, we went to the mall across the street. It’s called Marina Arauco. I checked out a few things I liked and noted that down. Then we went to Ruby Tuesday for lunch.  Fortunately, they have wi-fi so I could check my mail also.

I had a sumptuous meal starting with Thai Phoon Camarones (breaded shrimps, Thai style) followed by Loaded Potato and a Fresh Salad. I washed this down with a fresh Strawberry Lemonade.

While we were here, there was a tremor (5+), but I didn’t feel a thing. I was blissfully oblivious to everything except the laptop and my blog and writing. Actually, I was feeling quite happy and calm, so I suppose it numbed my senses!

From here, we retraced our way back to where I had found a couple of things I wanted to buy; picked them up and returned home. I had enjoyed this day thoroughly.

Ranjit and Manu had planned a farewell dinner and they had invited Roxanna and her family too. I rested at the guesthouse to be better inclined, physically and mentally, to handle the evening.

24376_380818166481_7049110_n

The lovely restaurant and delicious food we enjoyed at Oda Pacifico. And more than that the company of good friends.

Ranjit had left the choice of the restaurant to Roxanna. She led us to Valparaiso. A few yards from Pablo Neruda’s house stands a sea-food restaurant called Oda Pacifico. This was our destination.

I have to admit, I was disappointed by what I saw. and so were Manu and Ranjit. It was a nondescript building, poor facade, and resembled one of the humble dwellings around it.

“Yeh toh dhaba hai,” I whispered to Manu.

“I know,” she whispered back.

We would call it a dhaba in India. A dhaba is a wayside eating place. It’s simple and very basic. Usually, these places are set up along highways and are frequented by travelers and truck drivers.

But, I hasten to add, many dhabas have earned a name and permanent customers because of their excellent food. We ourselves would make a stop at one such place on the highway when we traveled from Delhi to Chandigarh. However, knowing Roxanna, I couldn’t bring myself to accept that this was her best but gave her the benefit by telling myself that the food was probably out-of-the-world kind.

The manager welcomed us and led us through the pub at the front, past the kitchen and pantry, and what we found at the end of this tour took our breath away. There before us spread out in all its splendor was a restaurant with a splendid view of the city and the Port below. Awesome! 

Everything then on was fabulous. We thanked my friend Roxanna profusely for her excellent choice. The food by Chilean standards was indeed great. But the dessert outdid every ‘dulce’ experience we’d had till then. It was 1.00 a.m by the time we got home. Thursday was a resounding success and one of the rare days I have enjoyed so much in Viña del Mar.

I had invited Rekha and her family for lunch. Rekha and her husband were visiting their son who is the big boss in the company Ranjit works for. Since both Ranjit and Manu declined my offer of help, in any form, I was left to my own devices, which weren’t many. But being me and finding an ample number of bananas, enough sugar, and vanilla at my disposal in the 3 Poniente guesthouse, I got cracking.

My earlier plan was to make Caramel-Bananas and serve it with scoops of vanilla ice cream. But Ranjit rejected it because vanilla ice cream, he said, wasn’t available here.

I didn’t believe him. Vanilla beans are cultivated in Central America and South America so how could Chile not have an ice cream of the same flavor! Well, perhaps truth turns out stranger at times, I thought. Nevertheless, I made the dessert at the guesthouse despite Ranjit’s admonishings… long story short, he bought the vanilla ice cream!

Once I was on the roll with what makes me happiest; cooking and feeding, there was no stopping me. I bamboozled my way between the two cooks (Manu & Ranjit) and made sour-sweet green chili relish (khatti-meethi hari mirch) as a side to compliment the delicious main dishes these two were conjuring up. This relish is made with the big, fat green chili and not with the small ones.

Lunch was finger-licking delicious. The superb butter chicken Ranjit made was the star dish. Their other offerings were: mixed vegetable, dal fry, pudina chutney, raita. There were chapatis, zeera rice, and not to forget the khatti-meethi mirch. The dessert wrapped it up with a flourish.

Everyone’s palates were titillated enough by the delicious aromas and this worked up ravenous appetites. We had great conversations too along with our meal. Another very pleasant day went by. Saturday was an easy day. We ate Friday’s dinner for lunch and still had a lot left over.

But Lady Luck was on our side. At the Food Court, later in the evening, we found a willing party for Friday’s left-overs: A few Indian youngsters who work at the same place as Ranjit. Boy! Were we relieved!

Easter morning. I was up early, fresh and keen to go out in the day, perhaps to visit one of the churches and say a prayer. It didn’t happen. We stayed in and I nibbled on some marzipans, jujubes, and Easter Eggs made of chocolate… dark and white.

24376_380818181481_7870453_n

My first walk on the beach that lay five minutes away from the guesthouse.

In the evening, I pestered Ranjit to take me to the beach so I could, at least, say I’d been on the beach. Can you beat it; the beach has been lying there, five minutes from my door since the day I came to the guesthouse on 3 Poniente y 10 Norte, and I hadn’t been there to even gaze at it!

Anyway, we went. We clicked some pics. Peeked into the feria stalls. Bought these giant rolls of cotton candy most of which I got on my face, hair, and clothes than in my mouth. I needed water to wash that sticky mess off but found none. I washed it off with soda! Yes, ‘agua con gas’ as plain water ‘agua sin gas’ isn’t available on the beach. It was a funny experience for me and I laughed instead of getting irritated or frustrated.

feria

This was before we ate cotton candy!

We even bought ‘palmyras,’ a ‘mathi’ like thing which even tasted like a sweet mathi. Palmyras are made of refined flour. They’re rolled out into seven-inch roundels and fried. Then they are sweetened with palm syrup.

By now, it was time for dinner and we drove around looking for parking space near the restaurant we wanted to go to. Finally, we found a spot and it just happened to be in front of a showroom that was still open for business. Shopping is therapeutic and can always lift one’s spirit… provided the shopping’s done for you! And so it was.

The showroom was selling Patagonia Argentina Woollens. Talk about a good day… this was it. I’m sure I was tired when I walked in but quite the uplifted one when I walked out.

26894_401939734928_3214459_n

Our dinner at Delicias Del Mar added the cherry. We were absolutely ready for home as Monday loomed large after a long weekend.

 

Glossary: 

Dulce………………………………………….sweet/dessert

Dal……………..Lentil made with spices and a typical seasoning.

Khatti-meethi……………………………sour-sweet

Hari mirch………………………………..green chili

Raita………………………………………….whipped yogurt mixed with anything one chooses to add. Could be cucumber, boiled potatoes or just onions and tomatoes, even fruit. With a sprinkle of salt and some Indian seasoning.

Mathi………………………………………..a crisp fried savory made of white flour. Sweet ones are made on particular festivals  

Chapati…………………………………….tortilla kind of Indian flatbread made of whole wheat flour.   

Pudina chutney………………………Fresh mint ground into a chutney along with onions, ginger, garlic, green chili, tomatoes or lemon juice or aamchoor (dry mango powder) for a mild tanginess, and salt.

boy-2758833_640

 

Chile Diary – 14

12657214_10153872634519929_9079214030669544339_o Quintay

Quintay is a little village in Central Chile. Easily reached for a day trip from Santiago or Valparaiso.

As I draw closer to the last chapters of my Chile Diary, I feel a kind of sadness. I enjoyed going down memory lane, remembering and reliving the events as they unfolded with each letter I typed.

I recall with clarity how anxious I was with the developments and crisis that caught us unawares when I had to return to India. So come with me as I carry on the story.

 

26th March 2010

Boarding Pass to the Rescue.

 Yesterday was a cold, foggy day. Back in the guesthouse, I curled up on my bed. I was hungry and cold and waiting eagerly for dinner. But home-cooked dinner wasn’t on the menu.

We went out for Chinese.

Awful!

So we decided to move from our barely eaten Chinese meal and go for an Italian one. We went to Fellini.

Yummilicious! I had a dish called Camarones al pil-pil which I washed down with sips of Pisco-sour. Pisco, I’m told, is a Chilean drink which the Peruvians claim as theirs. A highly disputable claim according to the Chileans.

It tasted like a wine but isn’t a wine. I like it. The drink, however, is strong; a bit too strong for a teetotaller like me. It’s made from grapes which I suppose accounts for the wine-like flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal which I couldn’t finish, Pisco included! So the shrimp was packed as a takeaway. The Pisco was wasted.

I must tell you how the Camarones al Pil-Pil is made… or how I think it’s made. A lot of olive oil is heated up. A lot of garlic is chopped. The garlic along with a big red chili (whole) is tossed into the hot oil which is on simmer. Immediately after this, the shelled and washed shrimps follow. The oil is taken off the fire/stove.

The shrimp is allowed to sit in the oil for a while so they get cooked. The shrimp used in this preparation are a size smaller than medium. It is served in a bowl with oil et al. That’s what I deducted from what was served and eaten. Ranjit endorsed it. I plan to make different kinds of ‘al pil-pil’… chicken, fish, cauliflower etc.

Hitches & Glitches

A new development in my ticket bookings highlighted what I already firmly believe; God is watching out for me. The travel agent called very early in the morning to say that there was a hitch as the records in Brazil showed that I hadn’t boarded the LAN flight to Santiago. The implication being that I stayed in Brazil illegally and when and how did I go to Chile!

This is where God showed His hand.

It was providence that my intuition (read God’s prompting) prompted me to keep my boarding passes. I can recall how I pondered over throwing away the boarding passes. Something strange, considering such things are discarded as soon as one has reached one’s destination. But this time, I gave in to my inner voice and kept the boarding passes, though, I admit, I felt stupid retaining them.

However, after I heard from the travel agent about this new development, I don’t feel silly at all! We sent a scanned copy of the pass to the travel agent. I pray things are smoothened out and I have no trouble getting a return ticket.

As of now, I have no idea when I’ll be leaving. They’re trying for the 9th of April. Let’s see.

No, 9th April isn’t my day either. After a lot of running around, LAN finally accepted the fault was at their office in Brazil, as their office at destination Chile had indeed registered me on the particular plane, and they agreed to issue my ticket. You’d think that was the end of the matter. You’d be wrong.

I had hardly heaved a sigh of relief when the next news arrived deflating me. The SA airlines declined to issue a ticket from Sao Paulo onwards quoting the same reason – I hadn’t left Sao Paulo! I believe, the GRS is a system of booking tickets common to all airlines worldwide, and the failure of the machine to register my boarding became an issue again.

For some reason, my trip to Chile has become a test of faith for me. It’s the first time I’m traveling abroad alone, and so much is happening.

I quote Psalm 91 and Psalm 121 with trust and faith that my Lord never sleeps and He’ll keep me safe and secure through the entire journey back to New Delhi. I’m physically worn out. Tired, I hum an old melodious but lonesome song…

Koi humdum na raha, Koi sahara na raha,

Hum kisike na rahe, koi humara na raha.

(I have no soulmate, nor do I have any support.

I belong to no one and no one belongs to me.)

Kya bataoon main kahan, yuhi chala jaata hun,

Jo mujhe raah dikhaye wohi taara na raha.

(How do I tell where I wander aimlessly,

the guiding star that showed me the way is no more.)

 

boy-2758833_640

 

Chile Diary – 13

10456134_10152504748044929_6977004491885724331_n

The lights along the Valparaiso shore as seen from Viña del Mar

Today, I’ll take you back to the 21st of March 2010 as I move on with the Chile Diary in part- 13.

Flight

Last night as I lay on my bed trying to rest out an abominable headache, I felt a tremor. I was so exhausted and fed-up with the situation that, instead of jumping out of bed and making a dash for the front door, I just got up, sat down and said to myself, “kis, kis se bhagein? Kab tak bhagein? Kis ke pas bhagein?

I was very tired.

The mobile phone rang. I knew it would be Ranjit. He asked me if I had changed into my pajamas. I hadn’t. We were going out for dinner! We went to a place called ‘Wok and Roll’. I wondered if this name was born out of some imagination or lack of it. It did aspire to make the most of punning. The restaurant served Thai and Japanese food.

I was content with appetizers so my meal comprised of two different chicken satays. One, supposed to be Thai was served with a peanut sauce that was not what we were used to having. It was a kind of yellow curry with a few peanuts tossed in. The Japanese one was good. The other dish was shrimp tempura that looked great but turned out to be oily and thick with batter. But, all in all, it was a great dinner. Through the course of the dinner, I was wondering why Manu was having dinner with us when she was dressed and ready for a ‘girls night out’. So I asked.

They told me that she would be joining her friends a little later. It was already midnight by then, but not wanting to be too inquisitive, I quietly speculated on how late “a little later” was. As we waited for the cab to come, I gathered proffered information.

The girls would first go to a discotheque, shake a leg then try their luck at the casino. The discos here began filling up after midnight and the casino opened after 1.00 am! I realized I was out of sync, totally, with the life of youngsters. At our time discotheques closed at midnight and as for casinos; we read about them, we saw them in movies, but we didn’t visit any because there were no casinos to go to!! The hour struck and they dropped me home.

During the week that followed, I made Pollo Pulao (chicken pulao) and Salsa de tomate cocida con cilantro y cebolla (tamatar kuchumbar) for my Chilean friends; Roxanna and her family. They enjoyed it.

They found the arroz (rice) I had used deliciously different. I had used a good quality basmati rice. The rice eaten in Chile is of a thicker grain, starchy and different in flavor. It came as a big surprise to them that I had bought the rice at Lider, a supermarket here.

I decided to give them a taste of a dessert, I thought they’d like – Caramel Banana. I must mention here that this dessert is my own concoction conjured up way back in the 1980s. This is one dessert that has always found favor with everyone barring those who don’t like bananas. So it goes without saying, it was a finger-licking hit. The recipe was asked for and willingly given. Three cheers for the chef!

And as I pat my back, I plan on making some sweet ‘gujiyas’ and ground beef ‘samosas’ for them over this weekend. Both of these are similar to their empanadas. Of course, they don’t have sweet empanadas like our gujiyas, though. 

 

The house hunting continues.

We’ve been looking around for apartments on the first level and in the process have seen some very nice ones on the fourth level. It seems the local folk have vacated the higher floors and moved to the lower floors, so it is difficult to find one for ourselves. Let’s hope we get one if not on the first then on the second, at least.

This constant state of fear and my physical problems are fraying my nerves. I read about the earthquakes but given my experiences of earthquakes in India… the most frightening of which was 4. something; this exposure to such intense, terrifying and frequent tremors and quakes is fraying my nerves threadbare. I’ve been wanting to leave and go back to India.

12484856_10153804950769929_2929212125378642006_o

Rocio, the friendly, homeless dog abandoned by his owners years ago. He had many two-legged friends who cared for him. There are many like him on the streets of Viña. But all aren’t as friendly as he is.

I had already decided to ask for my date of return to be advanced. So the request was put to the company boss for approval. A day was available: Saturday, 3rd April. I received this news with mixed feelings yesterday.

My stay here, under the present circumstances, is proving to be hard not only on the kids and me but also for Gabriel’s family. They have been playing host to me so graciously for many days. So it provides relief for all that I go back to India.

But for me, the ordeal doesn’t end here.

The happiness of “flight” will diminish when I reach India and another reality hits. I no longer have a home of my own. I will be relying on the hospitality of friends. The only hope that pushes me is, getting my Canadian visa soon. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, I’m planning a trip to the markets on Saturday and Sunday to look for gifts for people back home and some stuff I’d like to carry for myself.

 

Glossary:

Kis, kis se bhagein?……….. How many things will I run from?

Kab tak bhagein? ………….. Till when will I keep running?

Kahan bhagein?  …………… Where do I run to?

Kis ke paas bhagein? …….. To whom do I run to? 

 

boy-2758833_640

 

 

Chile Diary- 12

“I go to sleep alone and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”-Audrey Niffenegger

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve.

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve. The visible volcano is Mocho, the second one Choshuenco isn’t in the frame.

I’m back from my ‘workation’. I was away in my home country visiting friends and family. I did a bit of blogging on the side, whenever I found some spare time. But this story was on hold! I’m back now and trying to catch up with my blogs.

This chapter carries on from the previous one and surprises me. Click the link to read an introduction to the mom’s guests in Chile Diary-11.

The Mom’s Guests

I set up my computer on the dining table and began to write. If I was looking for common sense to guide the mom and her guests, I was disappointed. Common sense was conspicuous by its absence.

They continued to sit around the table and chat in the high-pitched, sing-song tone most Chilean women use. My head was beginning to ache. Just as I thought I should pack shop, the whole jingbang got up and left; mom included.

Hallelujah! I broke into a happy song. It was a premature celebration!

About half an hour later, they trooped in and the women began setting the table for tea. It was past 7.00 p.m. OMGosh! I moaned, not again.

The gossiping, laughing, and chomping went on and on. I glared at them from time to time but it was useless. Their total concentration was in the cake, bread, ham; the paltas (avocado), crackers, butter, and the tea and cold drinks they were walloping as they kept up the steady high-pitched conversation.

By then, my head was throbbing. I held my temples and looked directly at each one. I saw their mouths open and close but I couldn’t hear them talk! It was that bad. It was time for me to get up and leave. I wasn’t in good shape and if I stayed longer, I knew I’d say something and it wouldn’t be anything very nice.

I’m over that rant. It’s over. The day’s ended and with it the mood.

Or is it? The next day didn’t help. Looks like I’m in a mood these past two days! I discovered today that Indian beauticians are way ahead of their Chilean counterparts. Besides, they charge so little for the amount of work they do. I needed to give some attention to my feet so Manu took me to a salon nearby. I got a less than satisfactory pedicure. I’d have paid this amount for more and better quality of work back home.

If it weren’t for my back and knees that prevent me from cleaning my feet thoroughly and cutting my toenails, I’d skip a pedicure in Chile. Thank God, Roxanna colored my hair at her place! I’m glad Manu warned me not to even try the manicure. After the pedicure, I wouldn’t have anyway!

So, thus went my day into the dumps.

No more to write so I’ll wind up. Then what? As usual, I’ll stare at the walls and then lie on my bed and try not to think sad thoughts. For some reason, these words of an old Hindi song pop up in my mind. I’ve written it in the Roman script and I’ve tried to give you the best translation of the song. The lyrics are beautiful though melancholy!

 

“Aye mere dil-e-nadaan,

tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart,

don’t let sorrow worry you,

one day this world will understand your story.)

Armaan bhare dil mein,

zakhmon ko jagah dede,

Bhadke huye sholon ko,

kuch aur hawaa dede.

Banti hai toh ban jaye, yeh zindagi afsana.

(In a heart full of dreams and expectations,

allow a bit of space for hurt and pain.

The embers have burst into flame,

fan them a bit more.

If your life has become a story; let it be so.)

Faryad se kya hasil,

rone se natija kya?

Bekaar hain yeh baatein,

in baaton se hoga kya?

Apna bhi ghari bhar mein,

ban jaata hai begaana.

(Nothing comes from complaining,

and tears bring no results.

These are useless things

and nothing is achieved by it.

In a split second,

even our own become strangers.)

Aye mere dil-e-nadaan, tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart, don’t let sorrow worry you.

One day this world will understand your story.)

 

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” -Hermann Hesse

boy-2758833_640

 

Chile Diary- 11

“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing,” it waits on the right time to act; for the right principles and in the right way.”-Fulton J. Sheen

Chapter 11 brought back the mixed feelings of that time when all plans began to fall apart. Hopelessness enshrouded me and I was at an all-time low. It also brings home the truth that although the plans were right, the timing was not! That’s why I had been not just nervous but “scared” too about moving.

26894_401939729928_2982269_n

The building in the background is where the Company Guesthouse was.

 

The Chile Diary Chapter 11

Hitches and Glitches

I had many apprehensions about coming to live in Chile. I even recall repeating that I was scared. Unfortunately, the people I spoke to think in narrow grooves or are eager for fresh gossip. So everyone, without exception, wanted to know why I was “scared” to live with my son. I had not mentioned my son! The inference was wrong and born of deliberate misinterpretations.

I shook my head and smiled wondering how could they dig for gossip and create mountains out of non-existent mole-hills endlessly; year after year. But many people thrive on malicious, irresponsible natter.

I wanted to answer their queries but I could not understand why I was using such a strong term for my apprehensions. I wasn’t able to put my finger on the reason for my fear.

Why was I scared?

It isn’t in my nature to be scared of traveling to a new, unknown territory. Nervous, perhaps, but frightened? No! It was definitely too strong a word to describe what I was feeling about my pending travel.

I made sure to shoot down the insinuations and gave all the practical reasons I had to feel nervous about.

I was closing home in India. Everything I had worked for and built laboriously and lovingly through the years was gone. I would have no home to return to. No place to call my own. I had left myself bereft of all options. Wasn’t that a scary situation? It certainly did sound like one to some who agreed while others directed their minds elsewhere. But here’s the thing… I still wasn’t sure if this was the reason why I was scared!

One month later, with the benefit of hindsight, I realized it must have been intuition. (You can read about it here.) I had been begging Ranjit to let me stay in India for three or four months more. I wasn’t comfortable with the haste. There were many questions that were either not being answered to my satisfaction or answered too soon.

Four weeks later, of which three I’ve spent being in a refugee status, stressed and in nervous tension, I know why I was positively scared to come here. I’m isolated; physically, emotionally, spiritually… I cannot get through to my own.

But, surprisingly, the Chileans can feel my anxiety. They have been warm and supportive. Friends and strangers alike have extended encouraging moral support. Yet, Chile has been scary and terrifying in spite of the warmth and help extended by the hospitable people in Viña del Mar.

I want to fly out to Canada where my other son lives! That had been a part of my travel plans. In fact, I wanted to stay back longer in India to apply for my visa.

The latest information that was conveyed to me yesterday was that I wouldn’t be able to go to Canada from here. My return ticket had been booked by the company. So if I did not use it, my son would have to bear the cost of the same! He asked if the destination could be changed to Canada. They said it couldn’t.

Both my boys were okay with that thinking they would get my visa and I could meet my first and only grandchild in Canada. So bearing the cost of the cancellation didn’t seem to matter.

Before they conveyed their decision to the company, we found out that a particular document, necessary for my Canadian visa, was in the vernacular. We had to translate it in English and get it notarized by a government-certified notary. As luck would have it, I hadn’t submitted my visa application, yet. Thank God for that!

Getting a document translated from Hindi to English in Chile would have been impossible. At least now, I can think of returning to India! I’ll present my documents to the embassy there.

Many important details were not checked earlier making things difficult not only for me but the others too! I was to come here to settle for good as a dependent. Now, my son finds out that will not be possible as birth certificates of both mother and child must prove the biological relationship. This means that both the certificates must have the child’s name too.

Well, at the time of my birth and that of my sons, birth certificates did not carry the name of the child. Children, in India, were named formally only after a month or two. So it would mention a girl child or boy child born to so-and-so at such-and-such place, on such-and-such date and time. And this is how ours were too!

I’m sure I’ve made my point clear about my intuition of “scary” situations turning up with all the haste. I remember telling my son that they were “jumping to X, Y, Z before going through A, B, C.” Well, short-sightedness has taken its toll.

Granted the earthquake of this magnitude could not have been anticipated, but the quakes and tremors situation is constant. Problems coming up concerning me being left alone almost all the time should have been anticipated. The problem of language and communication should have been considered. My need for entertainment and company is real and should have been thought about. That I’d be a part of their outings, if not all the time, then quite often until I settled in properly was also an obvious given; a situation that should have been anticipated. These are predictable situations. Previous knowledge grants that this isn’t the best place to leave me alone at this time.

That’s the mood Saturday sees me in; despondent and disappointed. But one must go with the flow… always. I’m in God’s hands and though I might feel let down at times, that’s not the permanent attitude. My sons are trying to do the best they can and I appreciate all that they are doing. It’s just that they are too headstrong to listen to reason at times. I still have hope. God will show us the way where there seems to be no way… it’s only ten past one in the afternoon. I have a long day ahead of me!

That’s me venting and I’m done.

Early morning, Ranjit and I went to see the house on 15 Norte. It is beautiful. The houses here are on a rocky hill and made in the terraced style where the houses are built along the slope of the hill and do not rise up in one perpendicular block. So it seems to be a hill of jutting terraces and the terrace gardens add to the beauty.

Although it is smaller than the present apartment, it is well-planned to provide sufficient space for a neat living-dining room, a small but adequately-planned kitchen, two bedrooms, bathrooms, and a good-sized walk-in wardrobe. They have selected the furniture with taste keeping the limited space in mind. The best part of the house is the terrace in front. Location is also great; sea-facing, the view is simply amazing. But there are some hitches.

Like most rented apartments in this area, the apartment is on rent for only ten months; from March to December. This means another change of house at the end of the year. That’s the minor snag.

The major issue is, it’s on the 4th level. Being built on an incline, each level has more steps and more flights of stairs than the previous one, according to the floor they’re on; less on level one and more added as you progress to the higher levels. So this one is ruled out.

Back in the guesthouse, the other mom staying here was trying to ask me something. The only word I could comprehend was “problema.” 

What now, I thought while I threw up my hands and shook my head and smiled a helpless smile, hoping she’d understand that the only problem was that I couldn’t get a word of what she was saying.

She caught on and indicated that I should wait until she got her son, Mauricio, on the phone. Now I was sure she had a major problem and was keen to know if it involved me.

As it turned out, she was getting her friends over for lunch and wanted to know if that would be a problem for me. And, if necessary, she would call off the lunch. How considerate and kind of her to make that offer!

I told her son that since I was, at the time of speaking, a permanent fixture at the dining table, I’d be the problem to his mother and her friends. And since I was in the mood to write, I had no time limits. I could close shop in ten minutes or continue till the evening. So, if the group could carry on around me, it was fine with me. This brought an overly demonstrative response of gratitude from the mom who hugged and kissed me profusely!

Anyway, neither of us had to bother about it. The Indian group, comprising us, had a lunch of rajma-chawal and after a short nap left to pick up my track pants and buy some stuff for the house. The other mom’s guests hadn’t arrived until then! That’s when I learned that lunch ‘parties’ in Chile started very late… late afternoon; actually early evening! By the time I returned to the guesthouse at six in the evening the guests were leaving. What a relief!

I thought it had worked out fine for all concerned. But that was the forethought. Once again I have to remind you that ‘relief’ isn’t a long-term companion in Chile. I walked into the apartment to find there were still more people in the house and although I hoped against hope they would leave, they didn’t. 🙂 

But I didn’t mind that… much! (Read more about that here Chile Diary-12)

 

Glossary

Rajma…………… Rajma is red kidney beans. It’s cooked with spices and tomatoes to make a thick gravy dish which is usually eaten with rice.

Chawal………… rice.

boy-2758833_640

 

 

 

 

Glossary 

Rajma-chawal………….Rajma is red kidney beans cooked with spices and tomatoes to make a thick gravy which is usually eaten with rice (Chawal)

Chile Diary- 10

As I read this entry, I realize how awful it was for me; hampered by not only my physical problems but also with my own feelings of not wanting to be a burden on anyone and dependent too, for each little thing.
 

12484856_10153804950769929_2929212125378642006_o

The beautiful streets of Viña del Mar

The everyday activities we take for granted were either very difficult and painful for me to accomplish or then impossible and not advisable that I even try to do so. I learned this the hard and excruciatingly painful way when I ruptured a disc or developed tears in them.

I would get irritated and often angry with myself. My inability to perform the simple, normal day-to-day things or even walk at a normal pace and for a good distance frustrated me.

My fastest pace was ‘tortoise’ and I had to stop after every 10-15 steps to catch my breath and get relief from the pain. Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis aren’t great companions. I am so grateful and thankful that I am so much better now.

By the grace of God, I found an orthopedic surgeon in 2007 who helped me get back to a normal life. It took a long time, 8 years, for the quality of my life to improve, but it did. And then a doctor of alternative medicine in Chile,  one who prescribed diets and herbal medicines, took it further and all I can say is, “Thank you, Lord, for leading me to them.”

I also understand how difficult it must have been for my son and DIL. I needed assistance in everything and in the kind of situation we were in at this time, it could be trying; very trying.

March 20th, 2010

The Fishbone In The Throat

Yesterday marked one month of my stay to the day. I landed in Santiago on a Friday, the 19th of February. Yesterday was also a Friday. The bonus was… Ranjit had taken leave and we had lunch at SixBar, a restaurant specializing in Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. It’s close-by so we walked down.

It took longer than it should have but I needed to exercise my legs; my body, even if it was a tortoise walk! And I must have looked like one with this rather big lumbar support belt. It has three rods in it and wrapped around my lower back and waist it looked like protective armor!

It was a celebration of sorts. We munched on starters; roasted crunchy maize and salmon tempura as we waited for the camarone (shrimp) tempura to arrive. Delicious! We walloped it down and waited patiently for the main course of roast pork accompanied by ‘terrine papa y chutney de mango’. I enjoyed it with two glasses of fresh ‘pina’ juice.

Terrine papa is a dish made with slices of potato (papa) wrapped in bacon rashers and baked. This is eaten with a mango chutney. Now it was time for dessert.

Ranjit chose one that translated to ‘Volcano of Chocolate’ but changed the order when they informed him that it would take fifteen minutes and opted for the trilogy of chocolate. What no one told him was that this would take twenty minutes!! I asked for a plate of fresh fruits. Boy! That was a meal!

The cab had arrived and was waiting. We drove to Lider, a huge market which would be called a mall in India. It’s a lot like Spencer’s in Gurgaon, only three times the size. The only reason we made the trip was to get my track pants altered and that got done quick enough. We had nothing else to do but window shopping which I couldn’t do much of as my back and legs didn’t hold up and I needed to sit. There was nowhere I could sit so I leaned against a pillar and waited for Ranjit to finish his window shopping. Then it was back to the guesthouse.

I was tired and lay down. Ranjit, promptly went off to sleep. The rest of the evening went off dozing and waking till I got quite fed-up with staring at the ceiling and walls.

It was 10.30 pm when Manu walked in with the dinner she had prepared at the apartment. We ate. We talked a bit. At about midnight, she felt like eating ice cream. Since it meant a long walk, for me, to 5 Norte, I was obviously not included in the midnight jaunt. But I was too nervous to be left alone at the guesthouse for two reasons; first, I wasn’t sleepy and with no TV or internet, I had nothing to take my mind off tremors and quakes. The second, the other mom ( Mauricio’s) wasn’t in and I didn’t want to be alone.

This didn’t please one, evidently, so I suggested they drop me at Manchester where I could drink some coffee, plug-in the laptop and check my mail and chat with some friends. This didn’t please the other!

Anyway, with no alternative being decided on, I was hovering in the living room wondering how I was going to deal with the situation when both of them herded me out of the house. I tagged along.

To cut a long story short, I couldn’t walk the distance. Manu was upset, and I can understand that. She walked yards ahead in a silent protest. Ranjit had to bear the brunt indirectly while I felt as unwanted as a fishbone in the throat. I don’t blame either for feeling the way they felt about me at that moment.

The day ended on a sour note and it doesn’t make me happy because I know it was I and not my son who was the irritant.

 

boy-2758833_640

 

 

 

 

Chile Diary – 9

Moving on to the next chapter of my Chile Diary. I’m still in the Segura’s casa… but it’s another day and another experience. One that highlights how gracious and beautiful this family is; especially Roxana.

IMG_0218

The serenity, calm and beauty of a sunset… contrasted with the constant fear that nagged at the back of my mind…

18th March 2010

‘Dying’ To Feel Great

I didn’t write here yesterday so will update today. First, I must declare, I had a hot shower in my minuscule shower cubicle! It was getting impossible to bear the itching and abominable dandruff that was growing on my scalp.

My precious hair was already in trauma and falling by the hundreds every minute. For me, not washing my hair every alternate day makes not only my head itchy but also me to feel dirty. So while Ranjit was still around at the guesthouse, I hurriedly shampooed and showered. My eternal fear is that I’ll be in a quandary if the house shakes when I’m in the shower.

But here, the problem doubles as the bathroom isn’t connected with the bedroom and is also too small for me to dress inside. Anyway, I managed and that’s one major accomplishment for me.

I thought I’d repeat the performance this morning but woe is me, I woke up too late for anything but a quick wash and change of clothes. I had barely rinsed my teacup when I saw Gabriel’s white car drive up to the gate.

Yesterday also brought me help to color my hair and trim it too!

A couple of days back, I just happened to enquire if Roxana knew a place where I could provide the hair color I had brought and get my hair dyed. I added that I also needed a trim. She beamed at me with a broad smile and said she’d do both for me!

“You will”? I enquired apprehensively, stressing on the pronoun.

“Aha! me,” she said assuringly.

Javier, who was sitting and listening to our exchange must have heard the doubt in my voice because he informed me that his mother was trained. She was a professional.

“Wow!” I thought to myself, things are getting better.

So yesterday saw me with my L’Oreal dark brown hair color which I had purchased in India; a freshly shampooed head of long hair and more happiness than I ever thought I’d possibly feel for a hair color and a trim! 

The color was applied as I multi-tasked; watched TV and also cut out raffle slips (900 of them) for the big Avon raffle today. Roxanna informed me that the color would be left for 15 minutes before washing. I was a bit worried about that. 40 to 45 minutes is the time they kept it on my head in India.

I was quiet for a while. Then I thought that it made no sense to zip my lip and let all the work she was doing go in vain. So I told her it would have to be on for forty to forty-five minutes. Going by the size of her widened eyes, I knew she was pretty shocked.

“Your hair will fall out,” she exclaimed.

“No, it won’t. It hasn’t till now. Indian hair needs more time I think,” I smiled.

She wasn’t convinced.

As she went on with the coloring process, I decided to check out the application information hoping that the application time was mentioned. Hallelujah! It was. I showed her the printed pamphlet. She saw the numeral 45 (minutes) and only then did she believe me. My relief was immense as I relaxed. 

The alarm signaled washing time and I was led to the bathroom. But due to my lumbar problems, I couldn’t bend over the tub, so Gelda, the nana, washed and shampooed my hair in the kitchen sink! Roxanna who had gone out for a while returned and trimmed off about three inches of my hair. It felt so nice. I think it was extremely kind of her to accommodate me in this manner. There are angels all around me.

Yesterday, I also brought some kaju katli (a sweet made out of crushed cashew nuts and milk) for them. Manu’s people in India had given it to someone from the company who was there on a business trip.

Photo curtesy Internet

As expected, the ‘vark’ (very, very fine foil made of pure silver) which decorates all Indian mithai, made them wary of eating it. It took a bit of explaining and a lot of convincing to get them to eat it.

The internet provided immediate information about cashew nuts, the main ingredient used in the preparation of the sweet.

As for me, I ate more kaju katli than I normally would in one go back home. Mithai (Indian sweets), even our favorite ones, would be lying in the refrigerator so long that eventually, it would go to Lolita before it became unfit for consumption.

I suppose just as “absence makes the heart grow fonder”… scarcity makes the taste buds water. Ha! Now that’s an original one from my pen.

On another note; I was surprised to hear there was quite a strong tremor last night. I was feeling unusually tired and sleepy so after Ranjit and Manu had dinner with me and went back to the apartment for some time, I dropped off. The phone woke me up. It was Ranjit calling to ask if I was alright.

He didn’t enlighten me when it became apparent that I had no knowledge of the tremor. I promptly went back to sleep. Even though I woke up late this morning, I’m still feeling tired. I’ll wind up my typing and take a break after I wrap up this chapter. The good news on the house-hunting front is that there is a visit scheduled for Saturday to check out a place on 15 Norte. Let’s see if it’s good.

Martina, the cat, was extra loving towards me today and even wanted to climb up on the table and inspect the laptop. That’s it for today. Cervical vertebras or more aptly the cervical discs are acting up. Need to stop.

boy-2758833_640

 

 

 

 

Chile Diary – 8

Today’s post, from my journal, brings in the lady who I mentioned in an earlier chapter; Mauricio’s mother. Her house was badly damaged in the big quake and with tremors rolling in at short intervals daily, it wasn’t safe for her to continue staying in the house. So, she shifted into the company guesthouse too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mauricio’s Mom

Last night we got to sit down and talk with Mauricio and his mom, the other people who shifted into the guesthouse. Since Mauricio knows English, he played translator and we were able to carry on a conversation with his mother. As it turned out she has a fascination for India and, surprisingly, was well-informed about our country.

She had a lot of questions about our customs, various religions, attire, indigenous spices used in our food, Hinduism; the river Ganga, the status of women with an emphasis on the girl-child, and even about historical monuments (especially the Taj Mahal), and political figures like Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Answering her queries was very interesting for me as it took me back to my teaching days. I surprised myself with my ability to recall, with accuracy, many historical facts, folklore, customs of various communities, religious ceremonies etc.

There was a lot of exchange of information as she told us quite a bit about Germany, where she had lived for some years, and also about Moroccan customs she had learned about from a close friend who was a Moroccan. We had a lot to laugh about too and were generally enjoying ourselves when it happened.

I was the first to feel the swaying of the building. Seeing the panic on my face, Mauricio sprang up and took my hand. Ranjit had already taken my other hand. This prevented me from jumping up and running. It was a tremor. This was different. It carried on slowly for about 30 seconds in a slow swaying motion. Not again, I thought.

We sat it out. With four people around me, it wasn’t so scary. We thought it had been a small one but as it turned out, it was a 6.9 rocker with its epicenter in Concepcion. However, it broke the convivial mood and signaled the end of all conversation. We retired for the night.

I woke up late and felt tired. I barely had time to drink my tea when Gabriel arrived to take me to his house for the day and I had to rush without my breakfast. I wrote a bit, talked a bit to Roxanna. We were able to understand each other quite well through signs and a few words we understood. I rested in the early evening as I watched the latter half of Martian Child starring Russell Crowe. Roxanna had gone on a business call to Valparaiso.

26894_401939014928_52938_n

Yes, after a short break, I’m back at the keyboard. It’s 7.45 p.m and I’m here trying to capture the moment. But, I’m unable to find the spark. I feel drained. The evening signals a wan picture for me. It’s back to the guesthouse and I’ll sit alone while Ranjit and Manu see to things at the apartment. The laptop would have gone with them, not that it matters so much as there’s no internet in the guesthouse! They’ll bring dinner at about 10.30 or so.

Under the circumstances, I’m holding on pretty well, considering the food timings going awry, lack of sleep, complete disruption of my daily routine and suppressed longings for home, family conversations and my own bed and bathroom! Kudos girl, you’re doing great. It doesn’t matter what the others think or don’t think… Just keep the faith.

 

boy-2758833_640