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!

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!

Battlefield of The Mind- inner conversation with I, Me, Myself

I don’t know about you, but I spend time choosing what I’m going to wear… even if it’s only for my daily walk. I guess many would be doing the same or not… that’s not important. But as an example of “choosing” something for ourselves to feel good, confident, and comfortable, I think it is a very good one.

I look in the mirror, see myself in the clothes, accessories, and cosmetics I’ve picked to wear that day, and feel great; ready to take on the day; accomplish my goals. My self-confidence gets a boost. My morale is high. So what did I do to feel that way?
I CHOSE what I’d wear.

Choosing to ‘choose’ your thoughts acts the same way. But how can I “choose” my thoughts? you might say. “They just pop into my head”. Well, you can. Just as you may say an emphatic “NO” to something in your wardrobe or jewelry box. Or a shade of lipstick… anything that doesn’t fit right with how you want to feel.

Don’t we choose our attire according to where we are going? We choose according to the occasion. Or according to the weather. No matter how much we like some dress, jewelry, or footwear, we know that it wouldn’t be right for certain events or occasions or the weather, and select accordingly. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable or ill at ease.

Think about an examination.

Think about an interview.

How do we prep ourselves? Do we allow thoughts of failure to set the stage beforehand? Or do we go in with confident thoughts? With hope for a good result. And if we don’t get through as well as expected, do we give up and allow morose, depressing thoughts to put a roadblock in our way? Mostly the answer is NO! So what have we done… chosen to replace those thoughts.

That’s how our thoughts must be selected. Changing our thoughts will keep us from getting derailed from our purpose and aim. It will keep us on track.

It’s something you can do if you are sure you want to feel good… better than allowing your current thoughts to keep you in the doldrums. It will not be as simple or as easy as pushing away a dress or a pair of earrings or shoes, but it isn’t that hard either.

That doesn’t mean you stick your head in the sand and not face things. It means you face it boldly. Life comes with ups and downs; the road may, at times, be undulating, curving, and twisting; filled with potholes, and dirt tracks. But they are roads you can get through. The ride may be bumpy, slower than you’d like, but you’re going ahead.

Don’t host a pity party for yourself. Avoid people who encourage you to wallow in self-pity. Pity parties make one’s mind a morass. It sucks you in and keeps you bogged down. Select the right environment. It enables you to get into the right mindset with the right thoughts and replaces the ones that are pulling you down.

You will have to make the CHOICE of taking things in your stride with a constructive mindset, and choosing how you respond to the challenges. Are you going to choose to complain, moan, groan, and kill your spirit or are you going to choose better? Are you going to play the victim by allowing depressive thoughts to lower your morale? Make you feel like a helpless victim?

The choice is ours! Make the right choices with what you dwell on in your mind. The mind is the battlefield… 

Select your thoughts carefully and you will grow stronger with each right, constructive, productive, positive thought you choose.

Acknowledge your feelings whatever they are – sad, deflated, depressed, alone, anxious; accept the struggle. Then choose how you are going to deal with it and control your thoughts from spiraling into an abyss.
Thoughts are very powerful, filter yours. Keep the flame of hope going.

Visualize a better scenario; something that isn’t a fantasy but attainable, workable. Focus on the goal. What is it you want to achieve? If one road gets blocked, don’t give up and allow morose defeatist thoughts take over. Check to see if you are on the right track. Pursue your goal with diligence and faith.

Put your trust in a higher authority: GOD. Pray, believe, and move ahead. Select your thoughts. Focus on them. Gain strength from them. Choose right. Choose wise.




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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Zach-in-the-box – very short stories

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“Please Mama, don’t send me to school,” pleaded Zachariah.

“Zach, honey, I understand how you feel, but Grandma’s school is only up to Grade three. You’ve passed Grade three, remember?” said his mother patiently. This wasn’t the first time they were having this conversation.

It had been difficult for Zacharia to settle into the new school, and the repercussions were felt at home too. Zach was dyslexic and found it hard to keep up with the rest of the class. The impatience of teachers and sniggers of classmates didn’t help either. But a few months later, Zach stopped complaining much to the relief of his parents and ‘Gramma’.

“Oh no, Mrs. Sethi’s class,” sighed Zach as he took out his English Reader. Mrs. Sethi didn’t seem to understand Zach’s problem and would constantly intone, ‘Concentrate Zach, concentrate. You’re never going to learn if you don’t c-o-n-c-e-n-t-r-a-t-e!’

“No problem, I have my box” he whispered to calm his nerves. “I didn’t have to lug my box to Gramma’s school, though. How I loved going to that school.”

Then he got into his box just as Mrs. Sethi entered the class. Zach felt secure inside his box. He found it a a bit dark but that didn’t bother him much. It was better than trying to concentrate all the time.

‘I become stupid when I concentrate,’ he mused. ‘Why can’t people understand that? Mrs. Sethi thinks I’ll become clever if I improve my concentration. But I won’t! I don’t understand a word I read when I get all strained and tensed up. Concentrating makes the words jump up and down. It makes me stupid.’

“Zachariah!” Mrs. Sethi’s voice pierced his reverie. Zach jumped out of his box, startling the teacher and the students.

“Yes, ma’am,” he almost shouted.

“Did you find the Learning Tips we discussed helpful?”

“Yes, ma’am, very helpful. I’ll follow your advice,” Zach said nodding his head vigorously . “I’ll try not to disappoint you,” he added, wondering what she had discussed.

“Good!” she smiled, leaving Zach to go back into his box.

How many minutes to go? he wondered. He began to count… one…two… three…four…

Zach was eagerly waiting for the next two classes Art and PT (Physical Training). He enjoyed co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. He liked theatre workshops and Yoga… five… six… seven… eight…

Mrs. Singh never tells me to concentrate when I draw. She’s nicer than Mrs. Sethi, and prettier too! Mr. Basil is cool. He really helps me with my cricket and tennis. Ms. Dolly’s class is fun… nine… ten…eleven… twelve… The bell rang!

“Whoopee!” shouted Zach as he sprang out of his box, startling Mrs. Sethi once again.

“Zachariah! Don’t you dare do that again,” she warned him.

The teachers who understood Zach went on to become his mentors and helped him to develop his confidence. That meant, he couldn’t jump into his box whenever he wanted to. To say it was very difficult for Zach to not get into his box would be an understatement. But with their support, patience, and encouragement, he began to stay out of the box for longer periods.

They taught him that if he wanted to control his life, he would have to control his fears, and his thinking. He’d have to learn to be confident about himself. They guided him and helped him. He followed their advice to think, speak, and act as he wished to be, and then, he would be that which he wished to be. He learned to compete with himself; learning from his mistakes rather than running from them. He built himself into a concentrated dynamo of energy. He began to explore and discover new truths and their value to him. His creative imagination soared and his thoughts and emotions found expression on canvas.

The fear of failure often arose but he never allowed it to settle in. It remained a fleeting thought that didn’t take hold. It couldn’t dominate his competitive spirit. He was moving on and ahead in his life. Confident. Stronger. Doing things that he loved doing. Out of his box!

Zachariah became a movie star. A star who was recognized and acclaimed for his intense performances. So when he had had his fill of being under the spotlight as a brilliant actor, he decided to foray into the sphere of production and direction. Needless to say, his fans and friends and colleagues in the industry had great expectations. His first film, produced and directed by him was released following big hype by the media.

Zach was on tenterhooks when he arrived for the premier of his first directorial venture. He needn’t have worried. No one was disappointed. The audiences loved it. The critics praised it, and Zach himself was more than satisfied with it.

Stars On Earth, his film, was the story of a nine-year-old boy’s trials and his indomitable spirit as he dealt with dyslexia. The movie swept the box-office and garnered all the major awards that year.

Zach had sprung yet another surprise!

PS: This is pure fiction. The only facts are: that I wrote this based on my experiences of having a dyslexic student in one of my classes. Things he shared with me in the private chats I had with him to understand his problems in class. And also with input from one of my nieces who is borderline dyslexic. Both have done well for themselves in life.

This story was first published many years back on whisperingleaves.blogspot.com where I used to blog.

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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!

Ma Mingalar, Padmini, Peggy – the hidden story

INTRODUCTION…

Ever since I was a little girl and heard about Ma Mingalar (I’m not sure if it was Mingalar or Mingala!), Padmini, and Peggy, I’ve been intrigued by the story that crosses over the borders of two countries; India and Burma, now known as Myanmar. How did these three people get along with each other? Did they even know each other well? Perhaps, though each lived individually, all in one house! Intriguing, I must say.

Before I go any further, let me remind you, my mind has been weaving tales in and around these three ever since I was introduced to them at the age of seven. I still wonder about these girls who grew into women together. There wasn’t much divulged to me then, but whatever was, fascinated me and still does to this day. I wish I could find someone who would tell me more; someone who knew the truth.

In the meantime, I spin my tale around the existing facts, as they were told to me by my mother. I do not hold myself to speak only of facts because I must build the story based on my premises and surmises. I’ve tried to be logical and rational in my imaginings, but if you (someone who really knew her, and I mean the truth about her) find it preposterous, just stop reading…and give me the honest facts with proof. I’m not going to stop writing this. It’s too haunting and I have to get it out of my system. Hopefully, it will give me some inner peace.

Ma Mingalar… 

I’m not sure whether the name was Ma ‘Mingalar’ or Ma ‘Mingala’.  I can only remember being corrected when I repeated the name as one whole – Mamingala. I was told that it was said as two separate words. I faintly recall being checked for the ending too – ‘r’ or ‘a’. I can’t recall which one had to stay and which did not! Anyway, to move forward, Ma Mingalar was the granddaughter of U Ba Doon, a prominent member of a political party in Burma. I asked for the parents’ names but never got that information and not much else. It was a sketchy biodata. This was one of the main reasons for me to suspect that something or possibly everything was not quite right in Ma Mingalar’s world.

Ma Mingalar’s mother’s name was kept secret but her beauty was extolled. It seems she was extremely beautiful and had a complexion like porcelain. Her hair was very long and black and fell like a cascade to her calves; when it was not bundled up into a bun on her head. She lived a lavish and luxurious life, waited on hand and foot. She loved her cigarettes, which she smoked in slender holders, and chocolates were never far from her. There would always be a box kept within arm’s reach.

Besides her hair, she had captivating eyes and an oval face. She had doe-eyes that slanted, and her eyelids were ringed with long curling lashes. She loved jewelry and had a large collection of diamonds and Noga rubies. Not much was divulged about her father except that he was a diamond and ruby merchant who came to India for business. Ma Mingalar was born in the Madras hospital in the city of Madras, now known as Chennai. I think it was renamed: Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital much, much later.

Ma Mingalar’s story ends soon, with her mother abandoning her. Her mother left her in the care of the Matron of the hospital, who she knew. Whether theirs was a patient-nurse relationship or they were friends before Ma Mingalar was born is not clear. But the Matron, a Mrs. D’Sylva, took the abandoned baby under her wing. Initially, the baby was in the nursery and taken care of by the staff.

“But why would she abandon her baby? It’s cruel!” I exploded.

The reason, I was told, was that the mother found the baby dark-skinned. So what? Why would that matter? It did to the mother, it seems. This seemed so untrue because, in fact, Ma Mingalar was fair, as the story goes. Perhaps not the same skin tone and texture as her mother but definitely fair-skinned. I would protest at this and remark at the frivolity of the reason.

However, later on, as I grew and learned a bit more about her, many reasons for the given ‘Reason’ popped into my head. My speculations were logical but cannot be substantiated.

Padmini…

They called Padmini a very lucky baby. No, she had no near-death situations preceding her birth nor any infections or disease that she had overcome. She was a small, little bundle lying in the nursery with all the other new-born babies, and looked much like them, except she was the fairest of the lot.

So what separated her from the other babies that she was tagged ‘lucky’? It was a distinguished visitor who came to see her almost every other day. The lady would be accompanied by her woman attendant. She never stayed long but gave generously to the nurses and attendants caring for Padmini. Yes, she had christened the baby Padmini! This lady was of very high status – the Maharani of a place nearby ruled by her husband, the King. How she got to know about this baby and why she was so concerned about her is a mystery. She loved the baby so much that she wanted to adopt her, and she conveyed this to Matron D’Sylva.

“Your Highness, I love the child too. Besides, her mother left her in my care. Please don’t take her away.” Mrs. D’Sylva was distraught.

“Think over it. I will not insist if it means so much to you. But give it a thought. She is my child already, my little Padmini,” she said looking lovingly at the child who lay oblivious of the manner in which her fate lay in the balance… between a life in the palace with a Maharani and a not so opulent but very comfortable life with a Matron.

Mrs. D’Sylva, the Matron, looked at the Maharani as she made her regal exit. She was worried. Baby Padmini slept peacefully.

Padmini’s fate was decided. The Matron took her home!

She was a well-to-do lady of ample means. Her husband was a doctor, and they owned a big bungalow with a lot of land sprawling all around it. She had grown-up children of her own but she did not believe that Padmini would have a secure and happy life in the palace. So she adopted her. The Maharani would be the only one who’d care for Padmini she thought; and who knew the ways of the palace and royalty. Their whims and fancies were as changeable and unpredictable as the weather. And here ends Padmini’s story.

I was curious about the queen who’d visit her. But although her visits were spoken about, I was made to believe that no one knew why she came or why she named the child or even why she wanted to adopt her. I never did believe that!

Peggy…

“I don’t want to go to boarding school,” wailed Peggy as her mother petted and consoled her. She was older now and her mother wanted to send her to Goodwills Boarding School in Bangalore. Once again she repeated all the pros of a residential school, hoping that Peggy would calm down.

Peggy was an adopted child. Her foster mother had brought her home one day. Her much older half-sisters were shocked by this kind deed of hers. It was a bit extreme. So, Peggy was accepted as one of their mother’s whimsical, philanthropic gestures. One they would have to live with and tolerate. Although they weren’t mean to her or anything of that sort, there was no bonding either. They were so much older than her. I have no information about her foster father’s reaction. I guess he was okay with it or there would have been something added to the telling of the tale. All I learned was that he was a doctor and he was in Quetta when the big earthquake occurred in 1935. According to what I was told, he died there.

Boarding school was the best option under the circumstances as Peggy was growing up and beginning to notice and resent the way she was isolated from the older children in the house. So, finally, she was packed off to Bangalore with promises of frequent visits. She found that her stay at school was not as bad as she had expected it to be. She had a headmistress named Ms. Roper. The girls would often pronounce it as “rope her” for laughs!

The day came when Peggy passed out of school and returned home. Her mother had selected a college for her and had even registered her name, but Peggy had other plans. She was going to join the WRINS – Women’s Royal Indian Navy Service. Her mother was shocked.

“What are you going to do there Peggy?”

“Work, of course,” answered Peggy matter-of-factly.

“Yes, that’s clear to me, young lady. But what do you intend to work as? You go to college and then join the Force.”

“No. I don’t want to go to college. I’ve already applied for a secretarial course with Pittmans. I’ll be a stenographer!” 

“Do you know how much they pay stenos? You silly girl, you’ll spend more in a month than they’ll pay you in two.”

Peggy stood her ground. She was as stubborn as the proverbial mule.

Peggy D’Sylva joined the Navy. She moved to Bombay now known as Mumbai. Along with her went Ma Mingalar and Padmini. She never left them behind. Over the years you could see the traces of each personality getting bolder in their influence over Peggy.

Ma Mingalar was a snob and very fastidious. She was also stubborn, wanted a lot of attention, and was self-absorbed. She was fashionable and loved to dress well. She liked jewelry too. Her favorite haunt was The Taj Mahal Hotel. This is where she would go for breakfast, many a time, or even when she wanted a cup of coffee. She’d take along a couple of newfound friends too! It wasn’t a hotel she could afford on her salary. But her mother sent her an ample allowance every month. Her mother knew her love for the good life. This was Ma Mingalar’s strongest phase.

Padmini was very much a South Indian though she didn’t look South Indian. She had a distinct southern accent; gestures and expressions too. She’d tell everyone she was a Tamilian, and look directly at them defying them to disagree. No one dared to, even though they’d carry big question marks in their eyes. Padmini could pass off as a Burmese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, or any such race but certainly not a Tamilian!

The food she’d eat or serve would be South Indian fare and she’d discard her airs and discard cutlery to dig into rice with her hands. Padmini’s influence grew stronger than Ma Mingalar’s over the years. She even decided the people Peggy should befriend. Needs no saying, all were from South India. She even decided that Peggy should wear the Indian uniform (a sari) when she joined the WRINS (Women’s Royal Indian Navy).

Padmini was defiant. She was rigid and had a smoldering temper. She could be mean and even unscrupulous on rare occasions. Padmini was also a doomsday prophet. She was negative or suspicious about everything. She would find faults before praising. She would even find a tiny spot on a pristine white wall to reject it!

Peggy was the jovial, giggly, Anglo-Indian girl. Her foster parents were of Portuguese descent and their way of living was westernized. She’d be free with her expressions and speak only English and treat every other language with disdain, barring Tamil and Malayalam (both South Indian languages) and she was especially critical of Hindi and Punjabi, both North Indian languages. She’d inform everyone that her mother tongue was English! Some of the everyday terms she’d use were typically Anglo-Indian ones which you’d hear only in those homes. 

The food would be South Indian preparations or continental or Chinese or Goan dishes. Peggy could be shy and took offense easily. She loved to sing and write poetry. Peggy could be quite immature, at times, and even as a grown woman she would compete with women much younger than her or be envious of them. Often considering them as adversaries when they didn’t even have the tiniest thought about competition in their minds.

As life took them on a roller-coaster ride, the first casualty was Ma Mingalar. I was sad to see her go. She was the one who added a bit of style and spice to Peggy’s life. Padmini held on tenaciously. I think Peggy liked her a lot. But down the years she succumbed to ill health. Padmini departed leaving behind Peggy. 

When Peggy died, she died alone.

The only real part of the story had gone taking with her all the secrets of her birth and parentage.

My mother had left me to figure it out if I could. The three-in-one tale of Ma Mingalar, Padmini, and Peggy.

I have theories about my mother’s birth and parentage, but these are not based on proof. I’m sure each one of you who knew her will draw your own conclusions from existing facts if you have any. And I say that because I know, she never divulged any details to anyone for the simple reason that no one asked. No one was interested in her life to the point that they’d pester her with questions and facts, except my father, I suppose. I was the only one as curious as ever and wanted to know more.

I had been doing that for years; trying to complete the jigsaw puzzle. But it remains incomplete. I kept asking my mother for the truth but she wouldn’t tell me more than what she’d already told me. She didn’t tell much to anyone. My pestering exasperated her so much that I got scraps of the truth which I have presented here.

However, I know for a fact that the Maharani part was true. My mother had picked up the courage once, to visit her when we were in Madras for a short holiday because Daddy was there on Ty Duty and he thought we’d enjoy the break so took us along. At that time the Maharani was the Raj Mata or Rani Ma (queen-mother), the king had passed away and her son was the King. But mummy’s courage slipped away right outside the gates of the queen mother’s palace.

She sat in the car and gazed at the gates but lacked the will to go in… she longed to go but hesitation held her back. I asked her if she thought they wouldn’t know her.

Her reply was quick, sure, and confident, “She will remember me.”

“Even after so many years?”

“Yes,” was her firm reply.

“Then let’s go in,” I said excitedly opening the door.

“What’s the use? What difference will it make?” 

Though I was only seven then, I still remember the look on her face. She sat back in the seat, her eyes still on those big gates. There was a gamut of emotions reflected there… longing, sadness, regret, resignation, and the futility of trying to reconnect. Then she asked the driver to drive on.

I know which kingdom too, but I shall not speak it because as mummy said, “What’s the use?”

I understand now why she wouldn’t tell me more. What I can recall of that day when she was so close to taking me to the source of the truth was her pain. Probably, it hurt her too much, or the resentment and anger hadn’t died and she couldn’t reconcile herself to the abandonment.

My heart has always been heavy with her concealed pain. I wish she had spoken about it and released the agony thus saving herself the pain, and she could’ve owned her true identity and lived her life as the person she knew she was.

PS: Daddy had described her mother to me. Mrs. D’Sylva, her foster mother, had shown him a photograph of her. Daddy also tried to find out more about her grandfather and had made a trip to Rangoon. But he was advised not to pursue the matter and to go back. According to him there seemed to be a veiled threat under that seemingly mild advice. He even told me that my elder sister resembled my mother’s real mother quite a bit.

Gratitude & Appreciation – attitudes to develop

Can one learn how to be happy? Yes, you can. Now, many would find that difficult to believe. But being happy is something you can manage to do with practice. By being mindful. By being aware of your THOUGHTS. By channeling your ATTITUDE and your ACTIONS.

Our thoughts develop our attitudes and our attitude governs our actions. In other words, if you harbor thoughts of resentment or envy, anger or bitterness, you will focus on acting upon it in the same way. It could be in the manner you speak or behave or in the way you react to a person or situation. On the contrary, if you concentrate your thoughts on achieving a goal, being successful in achieving it, this will drive your thoughts towards productive activity.

Your attitude changes as do your actions. If you focus on the negatives that will become your attitude – a depressive, pessimistic manner in which you go through life. You lose your joy. ‘Being happy’ for you, then, is almost like finding El Dorado… an impossible feat.

“As you think so shall you become.”

First, a thought. It’s our thoughts that lay the foundation for our behavior – what we do, how we do it, and how we speak. Our minds are filled with negative and positive thoughts. There are layers upon layers of thoughts. Positive and negative.

At times it’s like a monkey swinging from branch to branch trying to connect the dots into a pattern it perceives. From one thought to another and even straying at a tangent!

Sometimes, an old journal or events stir up thoughts on your past circumstances and current situations. Your thoughts trigger different emotions, which set the stage for your feelings and focus. This would be okay, provided they aren’t pulling you down or tearing you apart.

Unproductive thoughts should be checked before they get a hold of you. It is challenging to do this. But it is the training and discipline you need to train your mind to filter out such thoughts and motivate you to move towards constructive thoughts.

So how do you harness your mind?

BE AWARE

Be aware of your feelings: Upbeat, sad, angry, resentful, envious, anxious, defeated… and you’ll be aware of your thoughts. What is the chatter going on in your brain? What’s it doing to you? Is it constructive? Is it stealing your joy and peace of mind? Is it destructive and negative? Are there dark, dreary, depressing thoughts? There are many ways you can be aware of your thoughts. Some use deep breathing, some recommend yoga exercises, deep meditation, and so on.

I did not have the time nor the inclination to do these things. But, I did want to control my thoughts. I was not in a good place with the curve balls life was throwing my way. I wanted to regain my equilibrium and stop those negative, unwholesome thoughts from ruining my health. So, I found a simple way of taking charge.

Each time I found myself in any kind of frame of mind that was upsetting, I’d press my thumb and pointer of both hands together with the other three fingers outstretched. This was the action that made me aware that I had an unbridled horse running amuck in my head. And I would, consciously, identify it, rein it in and change the dialogue. It wasn’t an easy thing to do when I began. My brain was obstinate. The victim feeling wasn’t willing to loosen its hold. So I memorized some verses, like these, that I’d repeat out loud.

“Refrain from anger, and turn from wrath; do not fret – it tends only to evil.”-Psalm 37:8 (NIV)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”-Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

Or, I’d sing any of my favorite songs, that I enjoyed, to raise my spirits. Some were peppy Bollywood film numbers, while some were country songs from my youth. It began to work. This simple action of pressing the thumb and pointers of both hands were signals to stop and take notice of the inner conversations, and it works wonders for me. You can adopt any way that works for you.

TAKE CONTROL

When I tried to visualize the word control, the word ‘harness‘ popped up with visuals of two horses: one free of any kind of restriction…

And the other of a horse with restrictions: controlled and guided.

Each one represented the kind of thoughts that run through our minds. Some have a free run and create havoc. They have free rein and take us on a rollercoaster ride. That is because we allow them to and then we cannot rein them in and they drag us wherever they’re going. The other one depicted how controlled and guided thoughts can go the way we want them to – moving ahead in a healthy and productive manner.

INTROSPECT

Whenever you feel burdened, anxious, worried, down in the dumps, sit down and take a break to introspect about the reason for your plight.

Why should we introspect?

Introspection is the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. In Psychology, the process of introspection relies on the observation of one’s mental state, while in a spiritual context, it may refer to the examination of one’s soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and self-discovery and is contrasted with self-observation. (Wikipedia)

How do we introspect?

The usual approach in introspection is to ask, why we’re thinking what we are, why we’re feeling the way we do. However, the ‘why’ questions can mislead us at times. According to a study conducted by a British university, a group of students had to write why they felt the way they did about their grading. The result showed that they were depressed immediately afterward as compared to the control group of students. Asking them why they felt the way they did had made them focus on their problem and place blame instead of moving forward productively.

So if not ‘WHY‘ then what?

Yes, exactly so… WHAT!

WHAT can I do to BE Happy

There are things that MAKE you happy. There are people who Make you happy with their presence. Are you among those people who make YOU happy?

You may not always have those ‘happiness’ boosters with or around you. You may have just YOU to make you happy. And if your life is going around those hairpin bends and your head is in a spin, how do you maintain your inner peace and joy? YOU have to divert your thoughts. You’ll need to direct your thoughts to the Gratitude Drive.

Appreciation and gratefulness take your focus off the empty spaces of lack (of material things) and the ‘why me?’ victim mentality. It brings you to a place of thankfulness for what you have, and you begin to value them as blessings. Ask yourself, “What if I didn’t have even this?”

During this pandemic, especially in the first year and a half, many people lost their jobs. Two members of my family lost their jobs too. They have children. There were expenses, including house rent (they didn’t have their own house then) and all the other bills. It was a worrying time. Companies and businesses were going through a rough patch, and they were firing rather than hiring! At a point, savings had ebbed to an almost rock-bottom low.

A job came along for one of them. It was well below his qualifications and pay grade. Disappointment and lots of pondering followed. But that was the point of gratitude: A job had come up. What other offer did he have? None. What if he passed this one and another offer didn’t come up? Here was a job at a time when people were losing theirs. It was lower than their expectations, but it was a blessing. A stream in the desert! What could be better: a barren dry desert or a stream in the desert?

He applied. He got the post. If they had looked for what was lacking, in position and status and pay grade, and not applied for it, they would have remained miserable and the quality of their home life would have suffered too. Later in the year, he got another opening. A job that was still not requisite with his qualifications and pay grade, BUT, it was much better than the current stopgap job he had in both position and pay grade. He applied and by the grace of the almighty, secured it. Short of a year, he got a promotion. Blessings flow when you send up gratitude and appreciation.

Months passed, and the other one got a job offer! And this one was requisite to her qualifications and pay grade! A big moment of appreciation and gratefulness, indeed. But… there’s always a BUT. It was a six-month contractual job! What if they didn’t renew and extend the contract? Would she be able to get another job? She’d have to start job hunting once again. Here was a sea in the desert! Maybe just for six months. But what were they looking at for the next six months if she focused on the limited time? What weighed more, the gain or the loss, if she didn’t accept the job offer? The answers weren’t heartening. Deep gratitude flowed freely and washed away the fears. She took it and trusted the Lord to provide in the future too. And He did! And how! Beyond expectations.

At an early age, in my early forties, ill health made life miserable for me. The doctor I was visiting didn’t make the right diagnosis, so the treatment wasn’t working, and the problem escalated. I went through extreme pain. For a long time I could barely walk, stand, or sit for long. I couldn’t even turn myself from one side to the other on the bed. I had to have back support belt and a cervical collar throughout the day and night. I needed assistance to bathe too.

The physician told me that I had inherited this from my mother. She had had a terrible time. Her back had collapsed completely, and she was bedridden for some years. Her left hand was paralyzed, and her speech was impaired. She could do nothing for herself. She suffered pain and embarrassment because she had to use the bedpan and be cleaned, sponged, and dressed by someone.

I envisaged a similar future for myself, and trust me, it wasn’t a good feeling at all. The first thought that came to my mind was, she had Daddy to care for her. Who do I have? I became a single mom at the age of thirty-six. I had lost my husband to myocardial infarction. Immediately, thoughts sprung up, tumbling over each other. How would I manage? I had two kids. What would happen if I went through the same stage as she had?

God heard my prayers and led me to the right doctor and treatment. And I say led because that’s exactly how I found him and how my journey to recovery began. Read this excerpt from my post: https://theopenwindowweb.wordpress.com/2018/05/10/dont-be-afraid-of-change/

I had all but given up. A frail tendril of hope remained. I had to get out of this hopelessness. I had to change that. If I believed in God, I could not be without hope, faith, and trust. When had I lost that? Something awoke within me. The desire to overcome with God’s help.

I begged the Lord to heal me; to lead me to the right doctor and he did. I found an orthopedic surgeon, not in the big name hospitals I was visiting but in a small clinic. We passed it every day, and I wouldn’t go in even for a small first-aid need! Yes, I was choosy! 

But this day, I did. I made a detour and went in.

The doctor turned out to be the head of the orthopedic department in a big hospital (one of those I hadn’t visited). He was there to check if the camp for free orthopedic consultations was being well publicized. 

I almost missed him. The receptionist and some nurses around the place recommended I meet a certain doctor. For some unearthly reason, I didn’t feel he was the best person to meet. There was something about the name that didn’t sound right… yeah, don’t ask me why because even I don’t know why! 

So, I asked if there was anyone else. A nurse who was quiet all this time spoke up and gave me a name. She said he was a senior doctor and excellent but I should hurry to meet him because he would leave in a few minutes. The name sounded right. All the others advised me against it. But I went to meet him. This was at the fag end of the year 2007. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Long story short.

I began to appreciate that I was forewarned. I could take precautions. I could seek treatments. I had found out the condition before it had deteriorated beyond repair as it had with my mum. Medical science had advanced by leaps and bounds since my mother’s time. There were treatments I could access.

So, though I suffered the excruciating pain of a ruptured disc and a later case of lesions on another disc, I kept thanking God that I had the right diagnosis and the right treatment. What’s more, I had found the right orthopedic doctor I needed. And the biggest prayer of gratitude was that I could receive that treatment. It was a two-year long and expensive treatment, but God provided through the wonderful sons he had blessed me with.

I’ve mentioned all this to emphasize how we need to learn how to appreciate the little things we have and can do and be grateful for them. It keeps us in a positive frame of mind and boosts our physical and mental health. I had to consciously guide my thoughts to this end.

In my life situation as a young widow with a meager income as a teacher, I had every reason, it seemed, to feel life was being very unfair. My mind screamed: widowhood wasn’t my fault. Whatever I was going through wasn’t my fault. I could have given up and become worse. But I just couldn’t ignore the blessings that the Lord was sending my way. His promises kept coming up loud and clear. I saw the way he was providing and protecting us. As did all those who had abandoned us in our tough times. And they wondered. I needed that inner happiness that strengthened my spirit and resolve to go through whatever was happening with gratefulness, faith, and trust.

I knew being grateful in all that was going on was an inside job… my job.

And my happiness could only stem from a source of gratitude and appreciation. And this could only come if I acknowledged the blessings, big and small, that were coming to me. If I woke up to a new day, I gave thanks.

I’ve learned to give thanks for every little thing I have that makes my life better, easier, more comfortable than if I didn’t have it. It could even be a tiny pin or a pinch of salt.

I don’t bury my head in the sand in difficult times of lack or strife. Or complain and lament my fate. I face them from a place of gratitude. The place that strengthens me. That keeps my thoughts from pulling me down. That raises my hope and trust in the Lord. That helps me to take one day at a time trying, trusting, and waiting on His timing.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t stressful and tiring. That doesn’t mean I’m strong through it all and don’t come near the point of giving up.

What it does is give you the strength you need. Gives you the hope, faith, and trust you need. And in my case, gives me the patience I need to endure waiting for the right time in God’s timing… which at times comes later than sooner.

But it comes. And the timing is always right!

A Room With a View – from window to door

“Through the small tall bathroom window, the December yard is gray and scratchy, the tree calligraphic. -Dave Eggers

Autumn had almost gone leaving behind this “calligraphic” tree. Earlier, I could barely see the birds on its branches for its leaves in Spring. It looks beautiful from my window in all seasons.

I love to have big windows in every room, and until now I’ve been fortunate enough to have grand windows opening to beautiful views. A window with a good view keeps me from feeling claustrophobic in a closed room. But things change with time and moving from country to country and different residences, puts you in rooms with smaller windows, sometimes.  And that’s where, now, I sit or stand and dream or reminisce or capture joy by just aiming and shooting!

These are photos from 2017-18. All I had was an old iPhone 8. No swanky, classy or new camera!

It didn’t dampen my spirit – I love clicking pictures of things that captivate me, engage my attention, revive memories or just… seep into me. I love looking at them later and reliving the moment.

May 28th, 2017, new places, new faces.

“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.   -Denis Waitley

Every morning, I find something or the other that’s click-worthy to me when I look out my window. So I click away. Mostly it’s clouds! My obsession! I might delete most of these photos later for very poor picture quality…yes, even my untrained eye can see a very bad click, lol.

Some days are rainy and grey and the window looks gloomy and there isn’t much I can see outside save for the tears of rain running down my window pane! Back from my school days, teenage years, come the notes of Mary Hopkins’ song, ‘Knock, knock who’s there,’ and I start to sing or hum, and soon slip into another old-time favorite – ‘Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain…’ and another and another. And my day gets set to a very romantic, lyrical note.

But gone away is the Spring, Summer and the Autumn… and the winter is here to stay, at least, for the next few months! We’ve had our first snowfall and I’m grounded! Well, not seriously. 

“People ask me what I do in winter… I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. 

-Rogers Hornsby

The seasons pass by as I watch the changing scenes through my window! Back to the present…in a new region; a new city. Bigger, busier, and bustling.

I miss the previous, comparatively smaller one. I miss my room with a view and my window that opened out to lovely views and open spaces. I hardly stand at my window now, in another place, which is more of a brick jungle. It’s better I don’t; It doesn’t afford me any great scenery through my window… this is not a room with a view.

Neither do my walks with buildings looming on either side of the sidewalk afford any breathing space for a person like me… a city girl, who gets claustrophobic in a concrete jungle if she has to live in it under these conditions!

That’s where my memories, like these, in pictures come to my aid. It helps. And I become grateful for the reminders of big mercies and wonderful moments captured in photographs. This puts me in a mellow mood and points me towards what is there rather than what is not.

And the small mercies are always there if we get ourselves out of the negativity and moaning. Some such ‘small mercies’ are the spacious deck and a lovely green grassy patch and a small garden in the backyard. It affords a lot of openness and fresh air. One can even walk on the grass that stretches from the side gate at the front all the way to the shed that stands way back by the rear fence.

So what if the backyard is bounded by tall fences on three sides.

So what if the double-storey houses outside these fences, on all three sides, block out the open view of the sky, the clouds, the trees, the open spaces.

So what if the only glimpses I get through my window are of cluttered backyards across the road from my room that’s front-facing or worse, a view from the windows and door of the dining room and family room into the interior of homes at the back whose windows stand with curtains undrawn or open blinds.

So what if I don’t have any window in any room, front or back, with a view worth gazing at.

I have something else…

I have a door with a view!

The big glass double door, in the dining room, that replaces the ‘window with a view’ and looks on the backyard and provides a lovely view of grassy greenery and brilliant colors of the season’s blooms. And the little creatures, feathered and furry, who keep me engrossed and amused as they scramble and flit around.

The feathered one that’s busy building a nest under the roof over the deck! And also its mate that hops around the deck pecking at something or the other.

And the ‘outdoors’ black cat, that isn’t ours but is a regular visitor in our backyard. It’s got to know about the nest and threatens the bird by sitting and gazing at it hungrily. Or then decides to be a peeping Tom!

The squirrels that run about and at times sneak into the deck.

It is a fairly spacious backyard. A patch of our own green, open space…flowers and birds. A few pine trees. What if all of these weren’t here?

But they’re here. And that’s something I appreciate. To have this in a big crowded city is in itself a blessing, all realities considered.

I can be miserable and moan and groan about things that are not exactly how I’d want them to be. Or appreciate what is here and be grateful for that good fortune. I can make the most of what is here and enjoy life or mope and make life miserable. I build my own happiness or misery. A window or a door? A room with a view or a room with no worthy view?

The choice is mine… pitiful or powerful?

Period.