The Runaways!

Bunny In The Cupboard

There is never a dull day when there are kids in the house. There’s always some surprise waiting around the corner. But I’d never encountered any surprises in the kitchen. It’s not a place they frequent unless they are hungry. But with the two younger grandkids, when they were 2 yrs and 3++, I’ve had some lovely discoveries. While we were hunting high and low for some “lost” things upstairs in the bedrooms, family room, and even the dining room, the ‘lost ones’ were up to mischief in the kitchen!

This is what I love about photographs. They dredge up memories and it’s lovely to relive those moments. And if the pics remind you of things like this, it’s so wonderful.

We searched high and low for Myra’s “Bunny bedroom shoes.” We didn’t find them and neither could she. Needless to say, she was quite upset. The next day, I found them cozy and snug on one of the shelves in the (everyday) crockery cupboard. She had no memory of putting it there herself. So we had to agree with her version of how they landed up hobnobbing with the china plates and bowls. “I think they were lost and walked into the cupboard by mistake.”

Reaching Out!

And another day, I walked into the kitchen to see a little glove reaching for an orange. Keen to hear the owner’s explanation, I asked her how it got there or was she trying to reach the oranges, which were out of her reach, using a glove.

“No. Not me Dadi,” she quipped, “it is Zara’s glove! See!”

“I see it, baby. It’s not you at all,” I agreed.

“I told you. Not me,” she beamed.

I enjoyed all five of my little ones to the hilt. And as time passes, the conversations change, and other things draw their time and attention.

They are grown since then… There’s a pre-teen, three eight-year-olds, and the littlest is just five. The conversations have changed. But the love, happiness, and caring just keep growing. They add so much joy and laughter to my days.

Amusement at the Amusement Park

A memory from a few years back popped up when I and the twins were talking about understanding dog “language”! And they were trying to fit words to different barks, grunts, groans, growls, and whines… it was fun and I had tears running down my face as we rolled with laughter. I recalled having posted in WP something about a dog and its owner at an amusement park we had visited about three or four years back. Sharing it here as the memory brings a smile and a chuckle back again.

“We’re going to an Amusement Park this Saturday,” piped the twins.

“Where?

“On an island.”

“An island?”

“Yes. It’s not too far. We’ll be taking a ferry ride.”

“Okaay… How do you have an island with no sea around?”

“It’s a river island.”

Clicked this from the ferry as we approached the Amusement park at Centre Island.

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Satisfied with this info, I wondered what I’d do at the amusement park. To see me on a normal day, of which, thankfully, I have many in the continuum of ‘good’, ‘not-so-good’, ‘better’ days, you’d wonder why I was skeptical about the amount I’d have to walk and the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the outing.

Well, my condition is quite unpredictable. I could be walking, bending, and doing things normally… and then, just like that, I’d be laid down with a lumbar disc issue which would leave me unable to walk, sit up or even turn myself on my side in bed; not to mention, the excruciating pain. And then, not to be left behind, are a cervical disc and knees that like to surprise me now and then. So every action, even though I am careful, can trigger terrible consequences. Although I am careful, things can go wrong with the most simple turn or bend I make.

So, I decided I’d be the official photographer and resort to people watching to keep occupied and humored. I wasn’t disappointed. One encounter with a young couple and a grandma with her little grandson makes me laugh even now.

I was sitting on a bench and eating nachos while the rest were doing the rounds of a few rides that they had still to go on. A young, Indian couple with a cute little dog, a 5-month-old pup, sat on the bench behind me. I picked up a conversation about the pup. Soon, a granny, whose grandson was crying sought the pup as a good diversion for the little boy; it worked. He stopped crying and she swapped stories with the couple about their respective pets. I returned to my nachos.

Just as I lost interest in their conversation, the grandma turned to leave, her purpose in speaking to them being achieved. The pup began yapping at her as she walked away and she turned and waved to it. It wagged its tail. Then she turned to leave again and it yapped. This drew my attention back to them and I eavesdropped on the conversation that followed. I admit I’m glad I did… I was getting bored!

The young man apologized for his pup’s incessant barking and thought he should explain it like this:

“He doesn’t want you to go. He wants to talk to you.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” she said, graciously but eager to move on. However, the young man was not done yet. So she lingered a while longer as he continued.

“But he can’t talk, you see,” he explained, as if he were imparting some unknown fact, “that is why he is barking.”

‘She knows that silly!’ my mind said. I was enjoying this little scene that was playing out before me.

“It seems he likes you and doesn’t want you to go. So sorry,” the young man continued. And tried to pacify the pup that was getting shriller and more agitated.

I wondered, ‘why are you going on and on playing interpreter? It’s a dog. It’s barking. Period!’

“Yes,” chipped in his companion, grinning broadly, “he can’t talk our language, no? So he’s talking in his language.” I thought she was done, but she wasn’t.

“We can understand his language,” she said with a broad grin, nodding her head from side to side, “but everyone can’t understand, you see. So don’t mind that he’s barking at you. He’s actually liking you.”

The smile on the lady’s face was no longer amiable and a glazed look replaced the warm one. I could see that she wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Were they daft or did they presume she was daft? She opted to say nothing.

She nodded her head briskly and walked away with a quicker step dreading, I suppose, that he’d drag the inane conversation further.

I was indeed at the Amusement Park and I’d had a quiet laughter ride with no risk of injury!

Standing Out – Snow white

This tree has its own identity and beauty. It’s different from all the ones around it and that is what makes it stand out from the crowd! It makes it more beautiful. In a swirl of shades of green, it’s a swathe of swaying white. Standing out and outstanding!

A closer view of it below. I have no idea what tree it is. I saw it while on my walk. It looked amazing!

Just three little words – I love you.

“The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.”

~Richter Jean Paul

I lugged the picnic basket up the little hillock. It was a bit heavy and big for a puny six-year-old, but that didn’t matter. After all, it contained our “victory treat.” I just managed to keep up with my brother and father, who were carrying our prized kite and the paraphernalia that goes with kite-flying. My father had clubbed a picnic along with this kite-flying event. I was flushed with excitement. We were going to “finish off” all our contenders that day with our daddy-of-all-kites. It was “biiig”!

It was a beauty with reinforced string, called ‘Manja,’ painstakingly made by dad. Why all this trouble? Why not just buy a kite and string as usual? This was in response to our lament that we never “got the better of the others.” We usually got cut off (literally) and would trudge back home disappointed that we didn’t even get to enjoy just flying our kite for a longer time.

Looking back, it was indeed a day to remember. A victory crafted for us by Daddy.

I was six years old then, but six-plus decades later, the memory is as fresh as ever. There are myriad memories painted on the canvas of my childhood about the fun things he did with us and mostly all to do with activities outdoors. And many more that taught me and molded me; gave me the strength to push on; determination and perseverance to “never say die” when the going got tough. To know what to pursue – wise choices. He inspired me and instilled in me the importance of never giving up hope.

The youngest of four children, my younger brother came much later, I wasn’t docile nor girly and tried to copy my elder brother and his friends. This aggravated my mother especially since my other siblings were docile and quiet. It didn’t help that my father had a big hand in my bold pursuits. She’d lecture him too about it pointing out that the stories he regaled us with were a bad influence on me. Of course, he didn’t see how it could be so, and kept me hooked!

The tales of his boyhood rivaled Tom Sawyer’s and fired my imagination almost to the point of setting out to explore the world at the ripe old age of eight (mum set that right!); getting into scrapes with bullies who picked on my brother; creeping through the underbelly of a rail cum road bridge, on a narrow metal plank, over the backwaters of the Arabian Sea below, until I was a good way over the waters.

Here I would sit to cheer my brother who had gone ahead; had jumped from the plank and grabbed the side iron railing supports, positioned himself securely, and thrown down his fishing line and hook. We were ambitious kids trying to catch a whale (even a baby one would do!) with a fishing line made of thick twine and a ‘big’ fishing hook. Big as in bigger than the ones we used to catch fish closer to the shore.

Or getting pumped up by a bunch of our friends to jump across a duck pond after some of my friends’ brothers, a couple of older girls, and my own brother too, jumped over and convinced me it was easy and doable. So, I did. And landed…

…with a splash in the middle of the pond. The ducks flew out quacking wildly at me for disturbing their peace while the humans clapped and laughed at my expense. As appeasement, my brother didn’t find it worth the fun after we got home and he had to face the music. And, I had my laughs and song and dance as he scowled.

Or then becoming the ‘test’ parachute jumper for my brother and his friends (once again!). The dare was to jump off a ledge that was nine-ten feet above the ground. They knew the only way they could get me to do tough or daring things, I knew I shouldn’t do, was to say that girls were too weak and scared cats and couldn’t do anything. I found it hard to ignore their dare. I mean, I was just a little girl who was fiercely defiant of any boy putting me down because I was a girl.

This dare came about after I and my brother showed them a parachute we had made out of an old tablecloth. It drew a lot of praise but there’s always one person who has to poke a hole into your balloon.

“All that’s fine. But does it work?” piped up one kid.

“Yup,” quipped my brother in defense.

“Show us,” retorted the other.

My brother looked at me. He had made me try the parachute, that was the truth. But where and from what height? I had jumped from a tall laundry basket… we had those tall wooden ones where you threw in the dirty clothes from the top of a wooden box with a lid and no bottom. It was open below and sat on a lower box with cane trellis work sides offering air through the holes to the clothes collecting below. The lower airy container had a door from where one pulled out the laundry for wash. The clothes on top would fall in and take their place. Yeah, so having successfully tested the parachute, from a height of say five feet, and qualifying as an experienced parachuter, I became the default test jumper.

Now, from where was I going to jump here? They decided that the best place would be the ledge protruding over a window. This would have been about 9-10 feet above the ground… and the ground was a concrete side path running along the wall. I was scared to death.

Jumping off a laundry basket and jumping off a ledge that high with a parachute made of a tablecloth! No way I was going to do that. I was just a seven-year-old, and a small build girl.

“Well,” said the bull-headed boy, “you’ll be the youngest para-jumper at age seven! That’s a record.”

“Do it, otherwise they’ll make fun of the parachute.” whispered my brother.

“You do it. you’re bigger and taller,” I whispered back.

“You’re lighter and smaller and the parachute will open better with you.”

“The ground is too hard.”

“Remember to keep your knees flexible. Not stiff. Bend them when you land,” was his parting shot.

Long story short. I jumped. I bent my knees. But not before the jarring pain shot through. Thankfully, there was no serious damage. My knees ached for a few days. And I decided that I would no longer get bullied into being their stooge. Jumping off a nine-ten feet high ledge onto a hard concrete floor was not something that made me brave. I felt anything but that.

I suspect Daddy liked the firebrand element in my nature, for he never reprimanded me nor criticized my escapades. But over a period of time, I suspect he found my mother was right and I needed to get involved in other activities. He was getting alarmed. He never pulled me up or checked me, but spoke to me gently. Soon, I was introduced to music, classical Indian dance, drama, drawing, and painting. He began taking us to visit museums and historical monuments, and he encouraged my interest in history and art.

At about this time, he also began talking to me about the values of life and religion. Not as one would with a child but as one would with a teenager or young adult. Needless to say, there was much I didn’t comprehend. This would be the drift of our conversations in the future. A lot was going over my head. I didn’t get it, but some of it stayed with me. I remembered it.

As I grew older, all that had been above my understanding, finally went into my head and my heart. I grew in years and understanding. He was my idol. A signpost on my path.

His Quirks and Failings

I have to tell you about one of his quirks. He loved to sing and even in public, as he walked, much to my mother’s embarrassment. He would burst out into song while walking down a street causing passersby to turn and stare. Oblivious to my mother’s scowl, I’d clap and laugh and join him, if I knew the chorus for those were the songs he sang. I joined him as long as I was a little girl. As I grew older, I’d smile shake my head and let him enjoy himself.

His favorite one was – Trust in the Lord and don’t despair, He is a friend so true. No matter what your troubles are, Jesus will see you through. Sing when the day is bright. Sing through the darkest night. Everyday, all the way. Let us sing, sing, sing.

Then, marriage took me away from my hometown at the age of twenty. And widowhood brought me back. This sudden turn of events unleashed years of turmoil and struggle. I saw many friends’ and relatives’ masks fall off. And my idols (Dad was one of them) topple from their pedestals. Until that time, I had never bothered to observe my father apart from our relationship where I was a pampered daughter and he was my idol. His public image had dwarfed all else – a great orator; a powerful preacher and a storehouse of biblical knowledge.

Until that time, I had never observed the ‘walk’ behind the ‘talk’. It was a painful discovery to learn that he didn’t practice all that he preached. There was a lot of talk but a bit less walk. More preaching than practicing. I’m not saying that he was a hypocrite. It’s just that he, at times, practiced only what was convenient and not too demanding.

Bereft of comfort and support, I found myself falling back on all that he had taught me. My trust and faith in God grew stronger with every onslaught of misfortune. Was it surprising then to find myself singing – “trust in the Lord…” as I wearily lay my head on my pillow? No. It wasn’t. It was my dad again.

My IDOL had toppled from its pedestal, not my DAD.

The man who was my father was just a human with the frailties and faults of humankind. I had made him an idol. He never claimed to be above and beyond the ordinary. He might not have walked the whole talk in his personal life, but he put signposts up for me to follow. Even if I strayed or took a wrong turn trusting in my own judgment, I could always find my way back.

I could face the challenges. I could overcome them. I could walk alone – because I learned to walk in faith, hope, and trust in God from him.

The initial pain of being abandoned by my parents had given way to a deeper understanding and forgiveness. When I look back today, it is with immense gratitude to a parent who gave me a goal and showed me the path to tread.

I’ve come a long way Dad and I want you to know, that I am proud of you. And so grateful for the life lessons you taught me. So appreciative of the time you spent listening to me when I came to you, as a child; a young teenager; a young woman; with a million questions and arguments against things I couldn’t understand and hence wouldn’t accept. You kept your cool with me even though I know you were never very patient with arguments against your word, especially if it came from a source of utter ignorance!

A short time before he died, I had traveled back to my hometown to visit my siblings and dad. And out of the blue, he did something so alien to his nature.

He apologized!

I just stared at him in disbelief. Dumbfounded and not sure I had heard right.

“It’s ok, Daddy,” I mumbled. “It’s past. Gone. It’s absolutely ok.”

He repeated the last line again, looking directly into my astounded, wide eyes – “I truly regret not holding your hand and standing by your side… not staying with you in Rajasthan.”

It helped that he realized much later how he had failed me. And apologized for not being there when I needed him the most. And true to the man he was, there were no ‘because’, ifs or buts sort of reasons or long explanations to justify himself. He didn’t make any excuses. He accepted what he realized was a failing on his part. I was surprised as I didn’t expect it nor did I hold it against him. I had forgiven him a long time back in my heart and told him so again. But he said that he had to say it.

About four months later he died suddenly of a heart attack.

The man I had turned to for guidance; the man who made up ditties with my name and sang them joyfully for me; the man whose teachings and guidance had steered me through the years encouraged me and motivated me to carry on when everything seemed to be bearing down on me and life was falling apart; the man who had put up signposts for me along the path had gone on his own journey. And in leaving left me the greatest message, a gift in his apology.

So, I gather all the love, respect, gratitude, appreciation, pride and joy I’ve always held in my heart in being your daughter in these three little words…. I love YOU.

THANK YOU Daddy!

Your Word

Recently, I came across a quote on ‘commitment’ that reminded me of another one I had read many, many years ago, and which has stayed with me since then. The recent one was this:

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

-Unknown

It sounds great, very strong, however, it left me with a feeling of ambiguity. It does not convey the whole message. The stress on caution was missing. In the spur of a moment, caught up by a wave of emotion, we may commit to something without even giving it a second thought. What are we committing to? The reference to “the mood” is ambiguous. The mood could have been anything: frivolous, drunken, even just a dare or vicious, bitter or vengeful. What message is it conveying exactly? To a narrow mind, a narrow perception this message could be misleading. Before we make a commitment; a promise, we must be careful before we give our word.

The message seems to justify any commitment made in any “mood.” While commitments must be kept, it is important to know what we are committing to. Is it violating our value system? Is it going against the law of the land? Is it the right thing?

The value of commitment was written on my heart when I was in grade five. It was the year my father decided to put in his papers and take early retirement from the Navy to devote his time wholly to the “Lord’s Service.” After the formal send-off by his department, he was invited by the Chief of Staff, Admiral B.S. Soman, to a private dinner at his home. My elder sister promptly gave my father her autograph book for the Chief’s autograph. Admiral Soman obliged with more than a signature. He wrote these wonderful words of caution and wisdom:

“There is nothing more valuable than your word, so be careful.”

I read it. I re-read it. I liked it. It sounded profound. I didn’t get it.

It was too profound for my limited intelligence in this area. So, as always, I had to ask Daddy. And, as always, he sat me down and explained it to me, supporting it with simple examples and some biblical references too. I nodded. It all made sense, but I still needed to think more about it. I mulled over it and then so many other matters of change occurred in my life, that I had no time to ponder over such things as my word. But, neither the words nor the lesson was lost on me. I remembered. It was ingrained in my mind. This small sentence with a huge message has stayed with me ever since; nudging me, poking me, stabbing me so many times during the years of growing up. If I thought I had learned it well, I had another thought coming. Some lessons have to be learned and re-learned as long as it takes to get them. Even today, it kicks me hard, especially when I find myself caught in a maddening situation of honoring a commitment foolishly made.

It is better, any day, to say an emphatic ‘No’ (or a mild one!) but a definite NO, rather than lie outright, make lame excuses, or give outrageous, ridiculous reasons to wiggle out of keeping your word on a commitment foolishly and hastily made!

Would you like to be known for the commitments you never kept? Or by the ones that got you into hot water? I guess not. So be careful to whom or to what you give your word.

Your ‘word’ is valuable.

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Farley Defends His Turf -Part 2

The first part of Farley’s adventures, is in a post in which I introduced Farley, the seagull. Read about him here: https://wordpress.com/post/capturedjoyaimshoot.wordpress.com/607

On another day, at Tim’s, I was amused to see how Farley had appropriated that area for himself… his territory, and how he would defend it! I’m glad I could capture it in photos. I do have a short video that I cannot share here.

I espy Farley walking to the garbage bin outside Tim’s. Behind, I see a crow, also eager to forage for food at the same place. Farley hasn’t noticed it yet, or then, chooses to ignore it.

Then he senses movement and knows that the crow is edging into his territory.

He turns around and flies into a rage, literally! The crow is caught unawares and hops away and out of reach.

But Farley isn’t giving up. The crow is certainly intimidated and tries to protect itself. As if it knew it was trespassing.

Once he chases it outside the boundary of his territory, Farley walks back triumphantly to have his lunch. The crow hangs around a little while, not attempting to cross the line but stay at a safe distance. Then it gives up and flies away.

Ever since the pandemic and lockdowns etc. Farley, I’m guessing, gave up eating at his new haunt! Now though this place has opened up, Farley is missing… I miss watching him. Especially how he’d scrape off every bit of mayo that dropped on the sidewalk!

I Saw Farley At Tim’s – Part 1

This was first published on Capturedjoyaimandshoot.wordpress.com, my photoblog.

In over a year of visiting Tim Hortons, almost every day, this was the first time I saw garbage strewn outside. I had just entered and having bought my tea I sat at a seat near the window. I was shocked to see garbage lying on the sidewalk by the parking area right outside the window.

I knew there was a garbage bin outside but there’d never been garbage on the walk. I was wondering who could be so irresponsible and crass as to not put their trash into the bin carefully. That’s when I saw the culprit – a gull! I immediately christened him Farley, the gull who’s always in search of a snack! He walked out from where he was hidden by the wall. I watched him go about opening closed plastic containers and gobbling the food. I noticed Farley ate what was inside a burger and not the bun which it tossed.

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Farley loved the mayo! Wherever the mayo fell when he tossed, turned and shook what it was he was eating, he went to each white spot and, literally, scraped as much as he could off the ground!

The people at Tim’s and Wendy’s were informed but before they could attend to the mess, he had his time.

There was a plastic bag that was filled with stuff but the bag was tied tight at the top and the plastic was too strong for him to tear. He tried. And tried. Again. 

He dragged the bag off the sidewalk; pulling it with his beak and making stops to peck at it furiously. It was of no use. The bag didn’t give.

Sea Gull

Finally, he gave up and flew off. He’d had his fill.

The mess was cleared soon after and no one would have even known what Farley had done! 

On second thought, I wondered why gulls had to come into a city and eat fast food. It was food for thought and I came back and Googled it. There were a whole lot of articles about it and quite a few not in favor of the seagulls and their forays into the city. There were reasons that seemed valid. I had a lot on my mind when I went to bed. Well, nothing as grand as a plan to save the world or gulls or… but quite a bit!

Something Of The Marvelous

Continuing from my previous post of pictures taken along the way to and from St. Andrews, see here: https://joyclarkson.wordpress.com/2022/05/06/glorious-pageants/ These are some more clicked in the town. Specifically featuring clouds. But before that, a bit about St. Andrew’s.

St. Andrews is a town in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada. It is sometimes referred to by its unofficial nickname: St. Andrews-By-The-Sea. Despite its proximity to the United States-Canada border, the nearest border crossings are 30 km away at St Stephen or via a ferry service at Deer Island. (source Wikipedia)

St. Andrews proved to be a lovely little town. I enjoyed the day there and even included a bit of shopping – a few trinkets for my granddaughter, made out of “things from the sea.” A shell bracelet and two pendants made from ‘sea glass’. This is different from ‘beach glass.’ Did you know the difference between sea glass and beach glass? I didn’t before I visited the memento shop in this town!

FYI – “Sea glass” is physically and chemically weathered glass found on the beaches along bodies of salt water. These weathering processes produce natural frosted glass.  People collect “Genuine sea glass” as a hobby and it is also used to make jewelry or to make decorative pieces. Sea glass takes 30 to 40 years, and sometimes as much as 100 years to acquire its characteristic texture and shape. Sometimes it is also, colloquially, referred to as “Drift glass” because of the longshore drift process that forms the smooth edges.

“Beach glass” comes from fresh-water and in most cases has a different pH balance, and has a less frosted appearance than sea glass. In practice, the two terms are used interchangeably. (Source Wikipedia)

The sky above us was spectacular with the clouds changing form faster than I could say, Jack Robinson! Just look at it…it’s a gorgeous display!

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“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

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“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour if we only tune in.” – George Washington Carver 

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“Adopt the pace of Nature: her secret is patience.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu

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“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes by the deep sea and music in its roar; I love not man the less, but Nature more.”- Lord Byron

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“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

And that was a beautiful day at St. Andrews. I miss those weekend drives to places around SJ. And I’m glad I had the opportunity to go to these places and have such wonderful pictures to reminiscence at leisure.

Dressing Up Nude Walls

It was one of those lovely sunny days in Summer; a weekend too! So we went down to a fair in the Harbourside area. On our way to the car park, I noticed a group of people excited about something happening down, in the water. They were all gathered by the railings and their conversation was animated, their faces intent as they watched whatever was going on below.

The curious one, as always, in the group, I turned right and walked to see for myself. I found a place among the spectators at the railing and looked down to see what was going on. Had someone drowned? My jaw dropped!

What I saw was amazing.

There was this guy on a tiny paddle board, with all the paraphernalia an artist needed, painting a huge mural on a huge wall. What was astounding was that he didn’t fall off the board, nor did he mispaint a single brush stroke as his board kept bobbing and shifting when he reached up, down, left, or right to create this fabulous picture of a girl almost submerged…whether she was drowning or whether she was just rising out of the sea like a mermaid, I couldn’t say. Her expression could be interpreted as anything according to how you saw it.

During the short time I stood watching, I saw him lose one of the paddles which drifted out of his reach before he could grasp it. So he had to go after it, retrieve it and get back to work again. So let me tell you who this man is and also that he is quite well-known in the artist circle, it seems. Meet Hula aka Sean Yoro.

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The work I saw him doing was this one:

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And here he is getting ready to go after the truant paddle!

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I was so engrossed in watching him I almost missed the artist sitting down on the ground beside me and painting the painter (Hula), in the water, painting too! If I didn’t almost fall over him, I wouldn’t have caught this fantastic scene of- a painter painting a painter painting! {how’s that for alliteration! ;)} Here you are: He’s made a seat for himself on his skateboard… what passion these guys have!

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That’s it for today.

Hasta Mañana. 

This post was first published on capturedjoyaimshoot.wordpress.com

Be Happy

Be happy.

Easy to say; not so easy to be. And that means that it’s possible.

So what makes it so difficult to ‘be happy’?

From my own little trials as a girl and bigger struggles as a woman, I’ve learned that most of the barriers were external factors and my own perspective of them and how they would affect me.

Conditioning? To a great extent, yes.

What Will People Think?

Growing up in a home with mixed cultures was confusing at times. Add to that my mother’s own confused cultural upbringing. She was born a Burmese, raised in a westernized family with Portuguese origins who had settled in southern India. She studied in a British-run boarding school. There was a big South Indian influence of friends and the surrounding community too. 

There was a lot of freedom at her home in contrast to the strict Christian discipline at school and she tried to balance her culture with that of her South Indian friends, to fit in. Then, she’d bounce back to her Anglo-Indian culture at home to fit in. As I said… a big mix up.

So we had this mix of Punjabi-Anglo-South Indian-Conventional Christian environment at home. However, she came with her own “What will people think” attitude. It seemed that everything she told us we should do or not do was based on pleasing an invisible group of people.

It didn’t bother me because I couldn’t see the “people” who would approve or disapprove. But, it stayed stuck in my mind. And when I ran into the people who thought they had a right to judge all that I did and said or thought, it kicked in with force. Their opinions seemed to be important. 

We kids developed our personalities in this very interesting multi-cultural environment. I found it easier to be happy because adjusting, I suppose, was easier for me. But it was not so for the rest of us.

I liked both my parents’ westernized ways and some of my father’s Punjabiness. My mother’s South Indianess, I left most of it to her, except for the food! I liked her SI preparations which she’d adjust a bit to suit my palate.

So I was a happy child.

Burden or Challenge?

With all the adjustments and difficulties, I was able to find things to do, learn, observe… things that made me happy. Challenges that brought out the best in me. That doesn’t mean I was this forever bubbly, smiling, laughing kid or teenager. I had my moments… even meltdowns. But what worked was that I knew only I could make myself ‘be happy.’

I didn’t rely on anyone, anything, or situation to change according to my wants; no she/he should not say or do this or that. Or blaming someone or something for making me feel unhappy. I guess a lot of it came naturally or then maybe because I was the fourth child, the baby of the family until I was ten. And also because I was influenced greatly by my father who gave me pep talks and examples of people, including himself, who had maintained a positive attitude in the face of grave difficulties, and had overcome them with a good attitude.

Being happy is an inside job. It starts in you; with you!

From being overly concerned about “what will they think” to “what they think about me is their problem, not mine,” has been a very long, tough, but enlightening journey.  This, however, was just one of the hurdles.

What were the others?

Big Changes In Life

Life was always full of transfers. In the Armed Forces, people get posted out often. In India, this means a lot of changes. Every state we moved to would have a different language, food, customs, and traditions. Besides, I would be leaving my friend circle and all that was familiar behind. But we adjusted to the changes because socially we had no changes. Academically, we’d have some problems because we’d have to learn a second language which would be the local language. But shifting home never shattered me or caused any negative impact until the last big move.

I was in my tenth year. It was a period of shattering change, especially at this age. Though I dealt with the physical shifts and the resulting changes, mainly the loss of friends due to the move.

This was a move to an absolutely alien environment! Going to a place that was a one-horse town in Punjab, in the mid-sixties, was a nightmare for us. Daddy assured us all would be fine, and Mummy didn’t put up much resistance either! Or perhaps, she did but to no avail.

I knew we would not have the basic amenities we were used to; the proper bathrooms, running water in taps, and neighbors not so different from us and who we could speak with, in a common language. I did not know the language of the region, I looked different from the other kids, and spoke with a different accent from the locals. 

I came to realize my horrifying reality at my grandma’s place: dry sanitation toilets, no proper bathrooms with running water in taps! There was a hand pump in the bathroom! No English medium schools nearby; the closest was eighteen miles away. I had to learn how to wash and iron my own clothes…and yes, washing anything, crockery, dishes, clothes hands, face… and a bath… was done with water pumped from the hand pump! This was fun for a while but on a regular basis, it wasn’t camping fun, it was our daily challenge.

We had no domestic help as mummy didn’t approve of any who came for the job. I know this might sound like the rant of a rich, spoiled child, but I assure you it isn’t. We were anything but “rich” as defined by society. To understand why this is a normal rant of any Indian family, in our day and in the present, you’ll have to know the Indian society and how it works. With a huge population, and a large number of people illiterate or with a meager education, many women work as domestic help. They are aplenty and their services are affordable.

We are used to having domestic help.

As kids, it became difficult to adjust to many things. We didn’t understand country life. We were city kids.

However, these weren’t the things that pulled me down. I got over the initial shock. These were the challenges I enjoyed. I was quick to learn and loved the newness of a lifestyle so different from any I’d known. What caused some damage was facing discrimination and biases.

Low Self Esteem

Mine went so low, it was around my ankles.

What made me feel less than came from the attitudes of some of our relatives from my father’s side, and from religious prejudices in society. This was new for me and I wasn’t aware that such things existed. No one had prepared me for this. In those days a ten-year-old wasn’t as knowledgeable as one today would be. I heard things like:

“Your nose is so flat. It’s a slave’s nose. We have sharp noses, we’re a higher class.” And this from an uncle; my father’s youngest brother!

Kids at school were no better.

“Your eyes are so small. Can you see properly?”

“Are you a scheduled caste? An untouchable?”

“If you are a Christian, you must be of low caste. My mother says so”

“No, I don’t want anything from your tiffin box. My mother told me not to eat your food because you eat all sorts of things. But you can share mine.”

“You aren’t a Punjabi. You speak English at home.”

I had never faced such queries and statements. But then, this was rural Punjab in the 60s!. I’d lived in cities and had never faced such prejudices and biases. All of a sudden, mummy’s “what will people think” made those invisible people real.

It was hard to not be affected by these almost daily taunts. My mother was no help in this matter, she told me not to listen to them… How? They were there all around me!

So, I spoke to my father. He helped me.

“There are all kinds of people in this world.” he said, “All have their own opinions. You can hear it with one ear and pass it out through the other. Don’t dwell on it. They are ignorant if they speak this way. Make friends with those who want to be friends and accept you for who you are. If you have even one good friend, you’re good. Numbers don’t count here. Don’t try to argue or defend yourself when they say these things. You’re there to get an education, yes? Well, this is a part of your education. Focus on learning, in the classroom and out of it.”

So I focused on my studies. I did well. I participated in cultural activities and sports and won many prizes and certificates of merit. 

Was I happy through all that? Yes. I never wanted to miss school even though it was a harrowing experience to get to school. And that was a major challenge.

The Long Bicycle Ride

In the first three years,, I and my brother, made that journey of 18 miles (36 miles to and fro) on a bicycle. Yes, two on one bicycle! I sat on the carrier that Indian bicycles had fixed above the back wheel. Given the extreme climate in the north, summers were blistering and winters were freezing, our journey was cruel to our bodies. Our cycle route took us along the highway and then, a shortcut, on a dirt road along a canal. Wide-open spaces and fields; it was burning hot in summer and freezing in winter!

The scorching summer sun would burn my skin. The freezing cold would numb my toes and fingers and the tip of my nose! There were days when we’d have icicles on our eyelashes and eyebrows by the time we reached school. This went on for 3 long years. Grade 5 to Grade 7.

Did I hate school?

Did I make a fuss to go to school?

Did I fare badly at studies?

Negative to all those questions!

I still wanted to go to school and I was active in my studies, cultural programs, sports, and athletics. I had happiness within me that made me happy.

I was growing up fast. Learning new lessons faster.

My antidote: Self-Compassion.

I saw myself through my eyes – warts and all; the good and the ugly. I saw myself as human as the next person. I acknowledged and accepted my strengths and my weaknesses. I liked who I was… a normal human being. A person who had nothing to do with physical appearances but sought to be kind, considerate, faithful, loyal, disciplined, hard-working, positive, caring, thoughtful…and forgiving.

Yes, I saw me for who I was and that was uplifting. My self-esteem went up. No, it isn’t narcissism. I wasn’t comparing myself to others and feeling superior. Neither did the rude comments bother me so much. However, getting to that point of acceptance took longer than it appears in these few sentences.

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I Don’t Want To Be Alone – Fear of being alone

I had left behind my friends. Here in this isolated existence, there was no way I was going to have friends in our neighborhood. The place I could make friends was at school. But they were judgmental, harshly so.

Following Daddy’s advice, I jumped into curricular and co-curricular activities, all of which I enjoyed. I was happy at school, and being basically friendly by nature, I did not reciprocate their initial feelings toward me. In time, the walls came down. 

I made friends.

I was on friendly terms with the whole class (the jibes had stopped), but I had just one good friend! And it took me from grade 5 to grade 9 to make that one good friend. Up until that year, I had classroom friends… class camaraderie and loyalty, that’s all.

Often, the fear of being alone drives us into less than ideal friendships. I preferred to be friends with someone who shared, if not all, some of my interests. A person who had the right attitude and looked towards sharing and learning, uplifting and also giving constructive criticism.

When Janaki V. and I clicked, I was content to have that one friend. I owe a lot to her for helping me to learn Hindi to the point where I liked the language. Decades later, I became a drama artist with AIR (All India Radio) for Hindi plays. The credit partly goes to her and more greatly to my Hindi teacher Mr. Mohanlal Kakkar.

It’s better to not have a friend than collect a bunch of girls who care tuppence about your friendship. I follow that principle to date. Many friendships, but a few faithful friends.

To Be Happy, Be Happy

So how did I ‘be’ happy?

I was a girl growing up amid all these harrowing experiences, yet, I was happy. I was doing well in my studies. I participated and won prizes and medals in sports and athletics. I participated in school plays and cultural activities. My teachers liked me. I was a happy person in school and back at home too. At the time I didn’t do anything consciously, I wouldn’t know the first thing about what to do or how one engineered happiness!

But as I look back, I realize, I was following what my father taught me to do, instinctively. I just did it.

I Took Charge 

Only I could make myself unhappy. So what did I have to do to keep myself happy? Take charge of my own happiness. That I did following Daddy’s advice that people would behave the way they were brought up. The way they were taught, the things they were taught, or according to their experiences outside their comfort area. This molded them.

I realized, the difference in my experiences here was that most of the kids in school were locals who had not been out of their small towns. I was a rare species, so to say! It made me laugh, and I learned how to take things with the proverbial pinch of salt. I did things I liked and which made me happy. As long as I wasn’t hurting anyone in my activities, I cared less for what they thought.

I Kept A Positive Attitude

“Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.”~Dale Carnegie

“Never say die” was my father’s oft-repeated phrase. I took it to heart, and I never forgot that giving up was never a first option or even the last. There were moments when I’d want to just throw in the towel and say, “That’s it! I’m done.” But I never really could do that. It went against the grain.

The bicycle rides to school ended when I was in the 7th grade. Due to certain unexpected circumstances, I couldn’t continue going to school on a bicycle. So, I was sent to the city for a year in the 8th grade and then, I returned for Grade 9.

I started going to school on the local bus. I had to change buses in a town called Mullanpur, mid-way, to catch the other bus that would drop me off in front of my school. To reach in time, I’d have to catch the first bus which left at 5.45 am from our town!

You can imagine how, from the age of 10 years, I had to wake up at 5.00 a.m every day. Even during the biking days, I had to wake up that early. We didn’t have 5-day weeks then. Our weekdays were 6-day weeks! Just one holiday to rest on Sunday.

There were those horrifying days when the bus would be overcrowded and I’d be pawed or have hands brush me as I’d try to get off at my stop. I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hit the person or persons hard enough to break their bones. But, all I did was get off the bus, wait for the next, and get on with my studies. I’d self-talk myself into a positive attitude. I’d say good things for me could only come with hard work, perseverance, and if I gave up, what would I be looking at?

These bus rides went on for three interminably long years until we moved to the capital city of Punjab, never to return to this town again.

keep moving forward

Have A Goal

I believe the reason why I was able to keep going was that I had a sure answer to ‘WHY’ I had to surmount the hurdles and roadblocks. I knew nothing about goal-setting and stuff like that. But I did have a goal. An aim. EDUCATION.

It was very important to me that I get an education. I valued the life lessons I got from my father and grandma and teachers like Mr. Mohanlal Kakkar and Mrs. Jolly, and the academic ones too. This was a challenge, and because I had a strong reason, it kept the motivation high. I knew the only way to reach my goal was to deal with whatever would get in the way of achieving it.

Be Helpful

This is another important point. Some people are eager to help, but they expect favors in return. It’s good to be helpful provided you offer help without expecting anything in return.

Helping someone with the expectation of return favors is not being helpful. It doesn’t contribute to your happiness. This is just a bargaining chip in the guise of helpfulness. It can not make you truly happy because it is selfish.

The attitude of being helpful has come to me from my parents. Both of them were helpful,  helpful to the point where people often took undue advantage of their helpful nature. I was that way too until I realized that letting people take unfair advantage of my help was not a part of ‘being helpful.’

I had to learn how to say a big, emphatic “NO” to such people. It’s ok to do so. It’s the only way you can counter their selfishness and be happy deep inside. That spring of joy fills when you lend a helping hand to someone in genuine need.

Prayerfulness & Meditation

Start your day off right with God. The day is always better when you’ve talked to Him first. It gives you the assurance that whatever the circumstances, God is there to help and guide you. If He brings you to it, He’ll take you through it. Keep Him first.

This has been my mantra. From a young age, I’ve leaned on prayer. Needless to say, once again, Daddy was my font of wisdom in this too. To date, I rely on both – prayer and meditation on a daily basis.

These days, since I don’t go to work anymore, I have a Prayer Breakfast! Yes, it’s a solo affair in the morning. I listen to a message, say a prayer, and as I partake of food for my soul, I partake of food for my body too!

Maintain a Grateful Heart & Appreciate the Simple Joys of Life

“Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.”~Jim Rohn

One thing I am eternally grateful for is that I have a grateful heart. It’s not something I can take credit for. I was born that way. If credit is due, once again, it’s mostly because of Dad’s pep talks. He and I talked a lot. Right from a young age, he was my go-to person when I needed understanding, comfort, or encouragement. It’s the only reason I survived those early days of my education in Punjab.

I was grateful I had an English medium school to attend. So I survived the hardships.

I was glad I had a comfortable home to live in. There was no lack of anything inside our house that Daddy built within a year of our moving to his hometown. Once inside the gate, it was a haven. All my struggles and tiredness of the day would fall off at the first step inside.

I was thankful for parents and my sisters and brothers.

I was grateful for the big garden, my favorite tree where I’d perch on a branch and read a book…the little chipmunk I raised, the wildfowl chick I rescued, the chickens we reared… the flora and fauna all around me…for my grandma who told me wonderful things and from whom I learned many things.

Yes, I was grateful for every little and big thing in my life.

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The troubles existed, but gratitude towered above it, and with the simple joys of my life, gratefulness dwarfed the difficulties. I was able to surmount the hurdles I faced.

To be happy you gotta BE happy.