Tiny Conversations… “Come here. I’m going to Touch you!”

This happened some 6-7 years ago. I lived in Chile then. I had to consult a physician about a mole that was growing on my leg, and it was also indicating inward growth – a kind of plantlike feeling where I felt it had a root.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

At the clinic:

Doc– Buenos Dias, señora!

“Buenos Dias, señor!”

Doc– Cual es el problema? (what is the problem?)

“No sé mucho español. ¿Puedo hablar en inglés? (I don’t know much Spanish. Can I speak in English?)

Doc– Si, Si. No problema. I know leetle, leetle Englich.

“That’s a relief. Thank you so much!”

So, I tell him what my concerns are about the mole on my thigh. He asks me some pertinent questions. Nods his head thoughtfully.

Doc– Ok, I will see it first.

Then he gets up and walks away from the his desk towards a curtained area in one corner of the room.

Doc– Come with me here, señora. You will remove your trouser and I am going to touch you here, in this place.

I almost burst out laughing. The immediate thought that ran through my head was…‘what if I were silly enough not to understand what he meant!’ I’d have gathered my handbag and vamoosed out of the room!

“Ok, señor,” I said instead and followed him into the curtained area.

Examination done. He agreed that there was a downward, rootlike growth. Diagnosis would depend on removing the mole surgically and sending it for biopsy. We walked out and sat at his desk. He had to decide on a date for the surgery. That done, I stood up and thanked him from the depths of my heart.

Doc– So señora, how you like my Englich?

“Awesome, señor doctor!” I said genuinely appreciative. “I am so happy to have found a doctor with whom I could communicate in English.”

The Original Blueprint – Part 11

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

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

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

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

“In South America.”

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

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

“How are you going to manage with Spanish?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Original Blueprint – Part -1

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

Yet, here I am!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Would you like to come live with us?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will you take me with you to Ireland?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lily looked at John.

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

“And what did Mummy say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But…

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

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

More about that in the next part.

To Be Continued….

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I Look Back To Accelerate Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thank you For The Toilets, Mr. Sen

As a girl, I loved traveling in trains. Train journeys were very different those days. The trains ran at a slower speed than they do these days. So when we traveled from the southern tip of India to Punjab in the north, we spent two nights and three days traveling.

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Image by: Alistair on Unsplash

My mother made it feel more like home by hanging up our nightsuits in the bathroom. Oh, yes, we had our own ensuite bathroom with our 1st Class compartment coach. There would be a bucket and mug in the bathroom so one could bathe. The compartment would be entirely ours.

There were no passages running through (as they have these days) so there was no movement between compartments. Each coach was a separate one and so it was spacious accommodation and very comfortable for a long journey. Besides, we had all the privacy we needed as if we were at home. Of course, we didn’t have the luxury of food being served to us in our compartment en route nor tea/coffee for that matter! So apart from the packed eats mummy would carry, we’d buy things from vendors at stations we stopped at.

Tea and coffee vendors and some savory snack vendors would come right up to our door. Tea/coffee would be filled in our thermos flasks so they stayed hot and mum and dad could have their cuppas as we chugged along. Mum would make sure she bought boiling hot milk for us which would also go into a flask. You won’t believe this, but she would carry Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate or Ovaltine so we kids could have our hot drink!

However, not all train journeys were as comfortable as the ones we knew. There was a time when trains in India didn’t have toilets. The toilet facilities were available only at railway stations. I can only imagine how difficult it could be in a situation where someone needed to use one en route!

Here’s an account of how big a problem it was. It’s a letter complaining about the lack of facilities on the train and a detailed account of the embarrassment the gentleman endured because of it. It is an article that was published in the newspaper. I posted in my journal blog about eight years ago and was delighted to find it as I went through old entries.

 

A Traveller’s travails

Okhil Babu’s letter to the Railway Department (in the early 1900s)

Following is an actual complaint made by Okhil Chandra Sen in, shall we say, ‘Hinglish’. It is hilarious in expression and language employed, but that was no impediment to the consequent, productive result.

 

“I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with ‘lotah’ in one hand and ‘dhoti’ in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station. This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report to papers.”

 

Okhil Chandra Sen wrote this letter to the Sahibganj Divisional Railway Office in 1909. It is on display at the Railway Museum in New Delhi. It was reproduced under the caption, Travellers’ Tales in the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Any guesses why this letter is of historic value?

It led to the introduction of toilets in Indian trains!!

Three cheers for Okhil Babu… hip…hip…hurray!

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Glossary:

Lota………. is a small (usually spherical) water vessel of brass, copper or plastic used in parts of South Asia for personal hygiene (Wikipedia)

Dhoti……… it is a traditional garment worn by men in certain regions in India. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth wrapped around the waist and knotted. It covers the lower part of the body including the legs.

 

 

 

 

A Better Morning. A Proverb. And A Mare’s Snort!

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A street in Viña.

It’s a cold day… it snowed in the night and was snowing when I awoke. But now it’s stopped and I’m feeling the cold. My thoughts, as they tend to, travel back and forth to better memories of places or incidents; times that could take my mind off the cold by warming my heart. So, I read through my journal.

This entry brought a smile as it ended. I do recall that day.

 

A Better Morning

Well, it’s usually a good morning every day for me. So, I thought I should qualify that by a degree and add “Better” instead to the morning. Chilean mornings are different. The house is quiet, in fact, the whole world around our block and a couple of blocks away too are blissfully silent. Not even a squawk from the gulls. Probably, there are no gulls anyway.

How different from the mornings I experienced in a bustling city in India! The world there woke up before daybreak! At least the moms or women did, I presume, as I didn’t see many men hitting the kitchen to rustle up breakfast for the school-going kids or themselves at that hour.

I mean no offense nor a barb intended for the husbands. It’s just how it usually is in India. And with the waking would come the sound of a grand welcome ushering in a new day; the kitchen band struck discordant notes: clangs, bangs, whirs of a mixie and whistles of a pressure cooker.

What a contrast!

Here, in my room where I’m all by myself, it is certainly a quiet morning. I’m as quiet as a mouse. The only sound that you can hear is me shuffling about, the wooden floor squeaks under my weight (which is great!), and there’s the click of the bathroom door shutting; running water and the occasional thud/clang of me or a pan falling! Otherwise, as I said, I’m as quiet as a mouse. Is my tongue in my cheek?

In truth, I haven’t fallen down and I hope I’m not speaking too soon. But in my haste to get my hot cup of ginger tea… well, accidents do happen! You can’t hold me for that, can you? I don’t expect an answer. It’s plain rhetoric.

A Proverb

At my Prayer Breakfast, I got a verse from Proverbs for meditation. I was listening to the lesson: A Teachable Spirit. The verse says: “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool.”~Proverbs 17:10 (NKJV)

Think about it. I had a lot on my plate as I mulled over the verse and attempted to plumb the depths of its meaning and the application in life.

Do I have a teachable spirit?

Do I walk in humility?

In all honesty, I’m not there yet, but I’m on the way. This tells me I’m not a lost cause. For today, that gives me hope and as I said, it’s a better morning… however, my tea got cold!

A Mare’s Snort!

I went to buy some vegetables yesterday. I walked down to the store not far from our place. I was halfway there when I saw a group of young women coming my way. One, in particular, caught my attention as she stared at me and tried to hide a snicker. I’m not very observant but since I was getting a snicker, I gave her a look-over too and passed by.

Nothing about her drew any thought; good or bad, funny or ugly in my mind. As we passed each other, I heard a loud snort of laughter… the kind that goes haw-haw-snort, haw-haw-snort! It reminded me of a horse… or a mare in this case… of Sandra Bullock in one of her movies where she plays this character who snorted when she was actually laughing!

I smiled and that led to silent tummy-shaking laughter. I’m glad she gave me a funny moment rather than a nasty one.

I knew what she was laughing at. First, I had on very loose trousers and a very loose sweater! And I walked awkwardly. Loose clothes so I could accommodate double layers to keep me warm. Also, so I could conceal the bulky waist support with rods in it and the knee support around my right knee. Add to that the collar I had for my neck. I am obese and I walk awkwardly with pain.

Although not justified, I can understand how some young people are insensitive to alien sights. And I must have qualified as one; a foreign face, ill-fitting clothes, and an awkward gait. But, a spoonful of humor helps the untasteful go down, if I may misquote a line from Julie Andrews song in The Sound Of Music.

Since I started writing, the weather has changed. The sun has put his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray! The sun has put his hat on and is coming out today. On that kiddish note, I sign out. It’s a Better Morning already!

Five years later, as I read this account on a cold day, my spirits are uplifted. I recall how it was for me then. Today, I’m not obese. I don’t have to wear my waist support with its rods, or my knee support and the collar daily. I’m not in constant pain. And though I know I’ll never be free of osteoarthritis; it’ll worsen with age, I’m filled with gratitude, praise, and worship for my present state of good health and mobility.

The sun hasn’t “put his hat on” and it’s still cold… but it is already a Better Morning!

“Every time you find humor in a difficult situation, you WIN!”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

 

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Chile Diary – 13

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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.

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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? 

 

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