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.
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.”
Our drive from Santiago to Viña del Mar was beautiful. Stunning would be the apt word to describe its scenic splendor. And en route when we stopped at a vineyard named House of Morande, now just known as House, I got my first experience of visiting a vineyard cum restaurant. I tasted wines. Had a sumptuous Chilean meal.
It was heady. Just off a long flight, the tiredness of the journey hadn’t worn out yet. The first experience of being in a country that sits on a “ring of fire” and is no stranger to earthquakes and temblors! The contrast between the previous day’s and night experience to this serene and spectacular scenery that unfolded before me as we drove down the highway, and finally at House, was what the doctor ordered.
As I strolled through rows of white roses and walked in the shade of the trees and over the green grass, I forgot the anxiety and fear of earthquakes. They didn’t exist in this serenity and peace and calm.
I breathed deep and for the first time saw Chile through eyes that only saw it as it was sans the quakes – beautiful! The food helped to buffer that thought. Delicious cuisine was served and I enjoyed whatever I had ordered. They made it to my specifications without compromising the basic recipe and flavors too much.
I left House in a different frame of mind. One that was willing to stay and face the challenges if only to get to know this beautiful place a little more.
My eyes were pinned to the spectacular landscapes that whizzed past us. At times so splendid that caused a sharp intake of breath. Maybe, I was reacting more strongly appreciative because I had not envisioned so much of scenic splendor. I had allowed my mind to focus on one thing and the fear it brought thus tagging the country as awful, scary, not where I want to visit.
And then my son said, “That’s nothing. You’re going to see something even better. Your first glimpse of Viña del Mar and the majestic Pacific.”
I was quiet. My eyes staring straight ahead as we crested an incline… my jaw dropped at the sight.
The photos I’ve clicked were in a hurry as we were moving fast, and my phone wasn’t a very sophisticated one. They are not doing a mite of justice to the scene that unfolded before me.
My jaw dropped, my eyes opened wide, and all I could say was, “OMGod!”
“The city is a bit further ahead, you’ll glimpse it soon.”
So here I was in the city I would be living in for an unknown period of time, and with the information that Chile sits on a thousand volcanos! Exaggeration? Perhaps.
That’s how I entered a place where I was destined to experience the scariest and most fascinating experiences. Where I would meet some of the most lovely people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. From where I would eventually take off to India in three months only to return three years later. I lived there for four years and have indelible memories. Most of which are among the best ones of my life.
But my world was going to rumble and shake in a few days! Seven days into my ‘discovery’ of Viña del Mar, I had the horrific experience of getting to know the real deal – the TERREMOTO! The big one, a terribly strong quake was waiting to happen. Read about it here: Chile Diary – 5 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)
The 2010 Chile earthquake (Spanish: Terremoto del 27F) occurred off the coast of central Chile on Saturday, 27 February at 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC), having a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale, with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes.
The fallout of this acquaintance with el gran terremoto was that my condition deteriorated with all the anxiety and tension I carried with me 24×7. My pain increased. I couldn’t walk even the short distances that I could earlier. And worse, I felt I was an added burden on my son at this time because of the increased difficulty in walking, sitting, standing for long or bending. I couldn’t stay in the apartment as it was on the sixth floor and running down six flights of stairs during a strong aftershock or worse another quake was not recommended in my condition. Besides, there were small cracks in my bathroom walls and the door frame of my bedroom door had been damaged and was lopsided, the door wouldn’t close. Just looking at it and the cracks in the wall set my mind racing and conjuring up images of it collapsing with me stuck inside.
So it was a gypsy life for me. I was shifting from place to place. First to a hotel room on the ground floor, then to the Company Guesthouse, then a house in another town. You can read the interesting details in my Chile Diaries.
Long story short, When things quietened down, I asked to return to home country. And soon I was back in India vowing never to return to this country. And since Canada was never on my radar even then that’s how I saw my future. This was 2010. I accepted that I would live alone, safe or unsafe, in this booming, modern city that was growing and developing fast in the NCR – a place not so far from Delhi.
Once again I settled into my former life, but this time I took up a job as a checker for exam papers for ESL exams. Life took shape with routine. My treatment, a new one, was beginning to show results slowly. I thought I had done right in coming back and now the kids would realize why it was better for me to stay put.
“For I know the plans I have for you,”declaresthe LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29: 11-12 (NIV)
And once again, I was wrong! Three years later, I was on a plane to Chile!
My DIL’s brother who lived in Canada was getting married. Their parents lived in the same city I lived in, so the wedding would be held there. She was coming to India. The plan was that they’d kill two birds with one stone. I had to dispose of things that could be sold or then given away. She would help me with the last bit of packing and accompany me back to Chile. It wasn’t the long circuitous route, this time, and with a companion the journey would be more comfortable for me. Which it was.
I lived in Viña for four years. I wouldn’t say I got “used to the EQs”, but I could handle myself better than before. I lived a good life – made friends, learned a smattering of Spanish so I could go out on my own, and I made some lovely memories which I still cherish. At one point, I expected to be here longer or even permanently. My son and DIL were planning to buy a house there. That would mean ‘settling’ in Chile.
But the original plan was already in motion. My DIL’s only brother was settled in Canada. And my son’s only sibling was settled in Canada too! I guess you’ve got the drift of this information.
There were many pros and cons discussed about settling in Chile. And there was one con that dwarfed all the rest. DISTANCE. This country was so far away from India where our families lived. It would be difficult for either side to visit, add to that the financial considerations of the journey. It was expensive.
The two of them decided to move to Canada. By default, I would be a part of this shift to Canada if at all it happened. Things were still not decided. In the meantime, I wanted to visit my son in Canada and meet my three grandkids, especially the new baby and the second one who I hadn’t seen. My ticket was booked for the summer that was some months away.
Then my son filled in the forms for their move and submitted them. It would take time for all the processes etc., and even then one couldn’t be sure of the outcome, so I was to return to Chile in six months.
When I flew out and landed in Toronto, little did I know that my fate was sealed… the original plan of my life had come full circle decades later. I never got to go back. They were to come here early the next year.
I have many questions in my mind. I often wonder:
-if I had changed my decision on that day and said “yes” to my adoption would it have changed the entire course of my life? Or would my life been ditto with just a change in my nationality, and the addition of foster parents?
-Would I have three college/university degrees? Two Bachelor degrees (one in Education), and a Master’s degree? Considering the high cost of a college/university education abroad, I doubt it.
-Would I have opted for a teaching profession? Most certainly not.
-Would I have become a widow so young? I will never know. It could have been in the original blueprint or it could have been the result of my own choice.
Here’s where the possible scenarios end.
The only thing that made my life so difficult with challenges and obstacles, popping up every now and then, was the tragedy of losing my husband so early.
If I dare to draw parallels with the assumption that I would be widowed early no matter who I married, even if I had come to Canada earlier, there’s one thing I’m certain about… my financial difficulties wouldn’t be as humongous as they were in India. The system here is so good with allowances the government gives for children, free school education etc.
As for family support, I am a hundred percent positive Lily and John would have been there all the way. They had loved me even before I or my parents had been aware of it. They had already envisioned me as a part of their family. Their love and parental support, although that of foster parents, would not have failed me. If anything, it would have grown.
I also know whether I got three degrees or not, I would have qualified in some professional field. Who knows, I might have even taken up one of the top three options I had presented to my parents who were horrified and promptly shot them down. So what were those choices?
In chronological order of preference:
International Tourism – Organizer cum Guide
I don’t think the Walkers would have objected to all of these for the reasons my father did! There was a world of difference at that time between Indian parents and western ones.
However, I do feel if I had to land up here eventually, it would have certainly been much better earlier than it is for me now as a senior citizen. A new place, new experiences are best experienced when one is a bit younger than I am and in better health. Without a social circle life becomes monotonous. Time hangs heavy. Making new connections socially isn’t so easy in a new country. Not working in a place doesn’t help either. One doesn’t meet many people and getting to meet like-minded people is left to chance. That I am an introverted extrovert doesn’t help. The introvert has strong likes and dislikes and the extrovert doesn’t get the better of a clash sometimes.
To sum up, the original blueprint gave me a taste of foreign travel that I wanted to experience as a tourist guide and organizer of trips. And also the first-hand experience of the flipside of international travel, especially long flights with more than two layovers. It also gave me a closer look at an air hostess’s job on long International flights. Different people with different cultures and mindsets, with various needs… all have to be served with patience and a pleasant disposition if not a smile!
It made me realize that I wasn’t cut out for these professions. The third option was third for a reason. I liked drama only as a hobby… something on the side that I could dabble in on and off.
So somewhere, the life map I created by my choices and the original plan for my life gave me, in the right proportions, what I desired as an experience, as an adventure, but not as a mainstay; as a profession or career. And it led me to be a teacher. A profession I never ever WANTED to enter. But it was exactly what I NEEDED.
This was the profession that helped me and my sons. I worked in private schools that were among the best in whichever city we lived in. I had no problems with admission for my sons nor difficulty in paying the fees. In retrospect, I can say that my life went off course from the original plan in many ways, and it brought hardships in its wake until I, without knowing it, veered back to the original blueprint.
What lies ahead I do not know. I pray for guidance and wisdom in making the right choices. But this I know, He keeps me in the palm of his hand. He’ll bring me on course if I veer off.
Many years back, around 1987-88, I realized, I was better known as Viny’s mom, around the neighborhood we had moved to in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Later on, at the school where I taught and in which both my kids studied, I was addressed as “Joy Ma’am” in class but identified as Ranjit and Vineet’s mother. I found it amusing and people often commented on how I had lost my identity to my two little rascals!
It was all in good humor and taken as such. But, in later years, it ceased to be a humorous comment. Losing one’s identity when one got married etc. etc. became an ego issue and people assertively professed – “I have my own identity.” “I am ME.”
I didn’t quite get how a humorous quip like that became a serious issue. Even if someone had meant it seriously, it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit.
Putting this into a simple, everyday situation, I believe each family and home rejoices in the worthy achievements of its children because they do contribute to them in many ways. Yes, I feel blessed, proud, grateful, and honored to be known as R & V’s mom. And I am further blessed to be known as this one’s grandmother or that one’s grandmother; that’s who I am to five lovely children.
So, years later, when someone said that I had now lost my identity to my grandkids, I wasn’t surprised. She went on to lament about how women had to lose their “identity” but men continued to be who they are. I didn’t bother to contradict her and let her be happy in her misery.
I don’t lose my identity if people recognize me as someone’s mother or grandmother or daughter just as a tree doesn’t lose its identity if it doesn’t bear fruit. Good fruit or bad, little fruit or an abundance… It owns its identity even though it may not be recognized by some.
I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me — they, and the love and loyalty I give them form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.~Veronica Roth
A changed surname didn’t rob me of my identity… of who I was. My inherent qualities, values remained. I didn’t become a stranger to myself. I was who I was before the name changed or the kids were born. The changes that came in added new roles and relationships; it taught me new things and helped me develop and grow in practical knowledge and in wisdom. Through it all, I was the same person; I didn’t lose ‘me’.
As a family, we connect to each other with love and bonding. How I conducted my relationship in this fold, in relation to the others, and my own values and beliefs formed my identity. This stretched to form my identity in my extended family; my husband’s family. But I didn’t lose my identity at all.
So, when I got married changing my surname didn’t present any issue at all. I didn’t feel isolated or cut off from my parents and roots, or different in my skin or have personality changes just because I had a new surname.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The other, the reverse of losing one’s identity, was gaining an illogical one! At our time, people discredited parents whose kids turned out as rotten apples. One cannot generalize these things. Worthy parents have unworthy children and vice versa. Most of us know someone or the other who are outstanding human beings in every way, but whose kid turns out just the opposite. And the other way round too.
I do not accept that one’s identity or worthiness, for that matter, is established only by the quality of one’s offspring or the other way round. And as for identity, I am someone’s daughter, wife, mother, sister, daughter-in-law, and grandma. I am all those even as I am my unique self. Each role I play has a unique part of me.
My identity is embellished by such references and it endorses the fact that our tree has grown and branched out, reaching for The Light; the most important and magical thing a tree needs to nurture and enrich its roots and fruit. I am blessed abundantly and may you also be gladdened when you “lose” your identity to your children!
I wonder how many like to write journals and how many also like to pick one up at random and read an entry written years back, perhaps. Well, I do. I like it because first of all, I don’t remember many of my thoughts or observations I made, maybe even a few months back, and reading old entries is often an enjoyable, at times enlightening, and often entertaining activity. But what I value most is the way I can track my growth through the years. The changes I’ve made. The ways I’ve adapted to the tough times; there were changes, many changes. If I’ve learned through my ups and downs… through my mistakes.
Here’s one 8-year-old entry which is a mixed bag of “wonder’ moments!
Sunday, July 31, 2011… This Sunday morning, I saw a middle-aged couple on their balcony. The man was sitting and reading the paper while his wife colored his hair. Their retriever was watching the whole process too. I wonder… would this man do the same for his wife? Color her hair while she sits and reads the paper in their balcony?
I observed the pigeons that live in the nooks of the apartment blocks all around us. They sure are lovey-dovey couples! But it’s the doves that symbolize love and peace, not the gawky pigeon. I wonder…
Why don’t I like Sundays and why do I look forward to Mondays? I’m not in a regular job, so why should weekdays or weekends make any difference to me. I #wonder…
My maid loves Hindi soaps. She goes all googly eyes and flapping ears if one is playing on the TV. I don’t care for them, at least most of them, yet, I switch on a particular soap. Now, why do I do that? I wonder…
Tell me to fill in a form, any form, and I get an anxiety attack! I’ve filled N number of forms; just two recently, but the stress stays. Now, why does that happen to me? I wonder…
I’m terrified of lizards… house lizards aka gecko. We have a lot of them in all sizes, crawling up and down the walls, overhead on the ceilings, hiding behind things and jumping out when startled, giving me a near heart attack! I don’t recall any frightening incident concerning them or any such thing. But I even get nightmares, at times, with lizards in them! Makes me wonder why…
I love to sing in the kitchen while I’m engrossed with cooking. One hears of bathroom singers but I wonder why no one mentions kitchen singers.
I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone. Most of my loneliest moments have been those when I had people around me. I wonder why…
I was with a group of teachers (women) recently, and they were all talking at the same time. It was a cacophony of voices and I wondered who was listening to whom and if anyone caught what was being said as strings of sentences flew across each other.
All of a sudden, one of them looked at ‘quiet’ me and said apologetically, “We’re teachers you know, we can’t stay quiet for long and neither can we sit still for long. It’s the bane of the job.”
To which I replied, “I’ve taught for over twenty-two years, I’ve never suffered the ‘bane of the job.’ I wonder why not.“
I go out for meals alone, I shop alone, I travel alone, I live alone… but I can’t watch a movie alone in a cinema hall! I keep wondering why…
When people ask me what I do the whole day at home… I start to wonder…
I’ve been walking, religiously, for half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening. Is the lard gonna melt? Don’t even suggest that I walk longer. (My condition limits me to this time at present) Then I remember how it would take me 10-12 painful minutes to walk even 15-20 steps and by then I’d be drained and could do no more. I take heart at my progress and #wonder at God’s #goodness towards me.
There are moments when words seem inadequate, so I employ tears. I’m moved to tears with joy. I’m moved to tears by anger. I’m moved to tears by beautiful music, songs or poetry. I cry when someone I know cries. My eyes get wet reading sad stories and the tears flow when I laugh! Why do my tears have to speak when I’m pretty articulate? I wonder…
During the day, I rarely miss company but when evening falls, especially at evening tea, I would love to have good company. I wonder about these evening blues.
I needed some passport snaps, which meant I’d have to go to the photographer; which also meant, I’d have to call a cab; which meant I’d be paying more for the cab than for ten copies of my PP pictures. On the advice of someone, I went to a small photography shop in the market near my place. It was called Light Of Life (LOL). Yes, they had that included, in parenthesis, on the signboard! My pics were clicked but they said I would get them in the evening. They also said I’d have to pay in advance, I did, and went home thrilled that I had saved money.
I forgot about the pics by evening! When I went to pick up the pictures, the next day, the shop wasn’t there. Well, the structure was there, but the business wasn’t. They had shut down overnight and vamoosed! Well, LOL! I’m laughing out loud!! I wonder why…
I used to have an elephant’s memory (that’s how a good memory is referred to) but now I just have its body and there’s nothing to wonder about that… I’m actually smiling, you know. I’ve finally found something I don’t have to wonder about today, and I can wrap up this piece and look forward to a great week!
There’s something about shoes: new shoes in particular! I’m hopelessly in love with them.
I remember, when I was a little girl, I went to bed with my new shoes every time a new pair came home. I would push my little hands into each shoe and gently rub the smooth soles on my cheeks; I’d kiss them and cuddle them and wake up in the middle of the night to make sure they hadn’t walked away or worse, I hadn’t crushed them under me! But that craziness was short-lived; it all ended when I turned eight. The passion didn’t die, but I no longer cuddled, kissed or went to bed with them.
There’s something about the leathery smell of brand new shoes!
There’s something about walking barefoot on dew-drenched grass!Nothing could be more refreshing.
I loved an early morning walk, on the lawn in the front of the house, before the fresh dew drops evaporated. And I’d walk barefoot. Fortunately, I had lawns in whichever house I lived in. Sometimes the lawns were small, but the grass was always lovely; springy, green and well trimmed.
In my country, it is believed that doing this is not only relaxing but also good for the eyes. Well, I don’t subscribe to the eyesight thing but endorse the relaxing bit.
There’s something about the combination of dew, green grass, and early mornings!
There’s something about sitting on a rock with your feet in a running mountain stream!
During my stay in the northern hilly regions in India, I had the opportunity to indulge my feet this way. At one picnic spot, the stream I dipped my feet in had tiny fish that swam around and between my feet and splayed toes and it tickled. Not enough to make me burst out laughing or make me uncomfortable; it was relaxing like a massage! Though I do confess, initially, I was worried they’d nip off flesh but that didn’t happen. Another confession, I prefer just clear water without the company of those little hosts!
It’s about clear, cool water washing over your feet and through your toes as you wiggle them… and about blue skies and white clouds… it’s about rustling leaves, languid sunrays, silence, and vast open spaces.
Yes, there’s something about feet, running water and the mountains!
There’s something about sunsets! It just shuts me up… no words to break the magic spell it casts.
Vibrant changing colors, darkness creeping in, on cue, as daylight gently slips away… poetic, romantic, stirring. I love sunsets and would rather watch the sun setting than look at the sun rising. I love the promise the sinking sun gives me of another day as it drops out of sight with ‘Hasta mañana’, a reminder that tomorrow is another day. This fills me with gratefulness so deep that my heart sings praises to God.
There’s something about watching a sunset. The sun sliding behind a mountain range or sinking into the sea… or retiring behind a concrete jungle… there’s nothing as grand and majestic yet so peaceful!
There’s something about shopping at Christmas time!
It’s exhilarating! The hustle-bustle, lights, decorations, beckoning window displays and sales give me a high. And though it’s as warm, cheerful and friendly as it is frantic and exasperating, it is sheer fun!
What is it about Christmas shopping that makes me more generous than I am? I think it is a combination of many things; the greatest being the birth of Jesus. Add to it… carols, mid-night service (in India), freezing cold, heaters, radiators, woollies. Not to forget the big appetites that find satisfaction in gormandizing at family get-togethers.
Yes, there’s something about this time of the year that softens hearts, mellows spirits, brightens the days, and opens pockets! This last one many might regret at leisure!
There’s something about old photo albums! Old photographs and warm memories.
I could go through old albums and look at photographs for hours. Each one sparks a memory and I relive beautiful, funny, touching and sweet moments. There’s something in the way it connects the past and the present… family, friends, and moments.
There’s something about old songs!They’re like old albums and photographs; you don’t tire of them.
Most of the new ones, even of my time, never survive beyond a season; and there are those golden oldies which have come down the ages. These songs that became hits in their time, both western and Indian songs, are still hummable, singable, and played on the new digital devices of the time. Many of their tunes have been copied and set to new lyrics! These are everlasting melodies not the ‘hear’ today and gone tomorrow’ kind of songs.
There’s something about old photograph albums and old songs that’s magical.
There’s something about living with all this technology!
I can’t imagine life without – the internet, Wi-Fi, mobile phones, laptops, computers, social networks… There’s something about these things… They’re addictive.
I experimented with leaving my mobile phone home. It felt good… great, in fact, as I told myself, ‘See, girl, you aren’t addicted to or dependent on the phone, and you aren’t nervous, anxious, or lost without it.’
Yes, for the first thirty minutes! Then on, I was all that and more.
What if I get a disc problem?
What if my knee acts up and I can’t walk?
What if this and what if that happens… there were the most ridiculous things spinning around my head and my wild imaginings kept me on tenterhooks and I didn’t enjoy a minute of my outing alone. How did I become so dependent on these gadgets and thingummies?
I grew up in an era that had the ubiquitous black phone sitting on a table in the corner. It couldn’t go around with me, but I remembered all the phone numbers of family and close friends. I remembered the addresses and house numbers of people we knew. I wasn’t bothered, unnecessarily, when we were out about how we’d reach our family or get help in an emergency. The kids went to school and I had no way of tracking them.
I was not anxious or unduly worried the way I am today without my mobile phone or a laptop or iPad.
I realized that I cannot remember anyone’s phone numbers. I even forget my own! Years of not having to memorize these things like addresses and phone numbers has weakened my memory. I am dependent on my phone to get me whoever I want at a click! I don’t remember routes either…why should I? Just follow the GPS.
Yes, there’s something about these luxuries; they make you dependent.
There’s something about life and living!
There’s a lot to say about a life of helping, sharing, caring, loving and forgiving. There’s a lot to say about life itself. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor or if your challenges are great and life is tough. Whether you have family or friends to fall back on or they are conspicuous by their absence… there’s a common thread that keeps us going. None wants to stop living. Life is something we don’t want to give up and wouldn’t if it were up to us. We want more and more of it and are willing to go through life even when the going gets tough.
Another one from my journals written on Thursday, June 9, 2011. As I read it, I realized that things are more or less the same, if not worse, when it comes to the impatience of the younger generation towards their predecessors. Though people of an older generation have advanced in their learning and application of new technical skills, and they’re better than they were in 2011, a majority will still not be at par with the existing skills of youngsters. And if they aren’t, it’s all right.
These seniors have learned to drive today’s modern cars. They’ve learned to navigate their way through crowded roads; roads more crowded with vehicular traffic than they were in their day. They’re keeping up with the constant development of mobile phones with new apps, new technology in photography, communication, and a fast-changing world, in general. Change is not easy. In fact, it is hard for most. Yet, the seniors adapt and adjust to the new.
Do these young ones appreciate the effort senior citizens make? Do they understand that learning new things at an advanced age is more difficult? Could they be more appreciative and patient with the seniors?
It’s the same as it was earlier; the percentage of those who are appreciative of seniors’ efforts to catch up is much lower than that of those who don’t.
And, in case you’re wondering; I’m not yet a ‘senior’! 🙂 But as the previous post suggests, I’ve always held these views about the treatment of our seniors: old parents, grandparents or neighbors in terms of their adjustment problems or learning issues. If you can’t help in any way, don’t berate or act like an arrogant know-all, and definitely, don’t think they are stupid.
The old was once a new invention! The seniors have seen a lot of new inventions and changes. They have changed and moved with the times. But with age, things slow down for many. Instead of being arrogant and uppity with the older generation, help them or better, teach them with patience if they can learn even a little bit. And if they can’t just appreciate them. They’ve got a big experience behind them. (Pic: Matt Artz on Unsplash)
This post was prompted by a forward I found in my inbox. It was an illustration of how a member of the younger generation (a college freshman) perceives the people of the older one as primitive beings.
While I haven’t run into many youngsters like the obnoxious one mentioned here, I can safely say, they exist with all their pompous arrogance. I’ve seen it as road rage and disparaging remarks thrown at senior citizens driving on the road. I fully understand that at times they can do things wrong while driving and, at times, cause an accident, but then so can you, my young one. If they’ve still got their driving license they have as much right on the road as you have. At least the traffic authorities deem so!
I have noted the frustration of young drivers honking madly as an old person laboriously crosses the road. I’ve heard and seen enough to wonder from where all this comes. On the brighter side, I have heard and seen a great number of young people being kind, gentle, and patient with their elders. These are the ones you will not find airing their disapproval of the older folk they encounter, outside their families and homes.
Generally, one can say youngsters, these days, are becoming quite impatient and intolerant of older people who have not kept abreast of the times. Having been born in a world where everything has to be super fast, almost instant, they adopt arrogance and condescension with those they perceive as stupid and slow.
They fail to see that the fruits of progress they are enjoying today didn’t happen overnight. These senior citizens have been a part of the process; they have moved through the stages of development. Each has seen an improvement on a previous generation in terms of innovations and discoveries.
As children, we grew up with some new inventions that our parents never knew in their childhood. We also enjoyed improvements on existing devices which made them faster, quicker and more efficient. But I don’t recall being impatient, intolerant or arrogant with senior citizens who hadn’t seen these things at their time.
Instead, we would be keen to explain about new gadgets, and even try to convince them that the new device worked better and was good to use. I know how difficult it was to sell pressure cookers to housewives in small towns back in the tail end of the 50s and early 60s. The general fear being; it would burst! My mom, though a bit apprehensive, went ahead and bought one in 1963, and I thought she was brave!
It was the same when kerosene stoves entered the kitchen to replace coal and firewood. Later on, when they introduced LPG for cooking, it found the same initial resistance. Yet, I wasn’t intolerant with my grandmother who still used firewood and coal to cook and heat the house in winter. In fact, I enjoyed sitting in her kitchen.
Computers are still a #challenge for the older generation in my country. Some have learned or taught themselves the basics so they can surf the net and stay in contact through emails.
However, with the introduction of mobile phones and iPads and such hand-held devices, many more have crossed that line of doubt and fear and ventured into the world of internet and Wi-Fi. Their knowledge might be basic but they know enough to get on and keep in touch with the progress and that includes me too. I’m not a tech person, but I manage. The younger generation is impatient with this too. If you can’t keep pace with them, you’re not worth their time.
The progress in the past two decades has happened at a faster pace than earlier years. This could be a reason why not many who carry the #seniorcitizen tag have been able to catch up with recent developments. I’m sure that is no reason to view them as stupid or inefficient.
They’re not dinosaurs; they are survivors. They are the people who have adopted new ways of living and adapted to more life-changing inventions and developments than you younger people have. But that’s just me. Tell it to an impatient generation that has grown up on #instant gratification.
(Reposting with a few additions and more editing!)
I met Sudha for the first time thirty-three years ago when we moved to a city in the south of Rajasthan. She was our immediate neighbor. On our first meeting, I found she was friendly and a good neighbor; she sent over trays of cold water and snacks on our arrival (it was summer and boiling) and she even offered food which we declined. We were tired from the journey and dusty too as we unloaded the luggage and shifted and pulled furniture, wooden crates, cardboard boxes, and suitcases into their right places.
Her thoughtfulness impressed us; she was so helpful. This wasn’t the usual behavior a newcomer expected. That was our first impression. They say the first impression is the last impression, but my impression of her would change a couple of times before the ‘last’ confirmed the first! She was indeed very helpful when it came to the crunch. But that’s another story which I’ll save up for later.
Sudha was much older than us and according to the prevalent custom, we as younger people would have to address her with respect. That meant, we either called her ‘didi’ (sister) or ‘aunty’ or suffixed a ‘ji’ to her name. Since the kids called her “aunty” she decided how we should address her; so “Sudhaji” it was from then on.
As time went by, I discovered that Sudhaji was a gregarious person and an incorrigible gossip too. So we had to be wary when we chatted with her. She had a knack of getting people to talk, and this is how she knew everything about everyone.
This vast ‘knowledge,’ coupled with her cheerful nature, opened many doors for her. But, she had loose lips; nobody’s secrets stayed safe with her! Besides, after I got to know people, I also realized that she altered her accounts, tempering them with her own feelings and interpretations. Most of her stories weren’t exactly what the person had said or the way they had said it.
However, she had a funny side to her as well. She loved to show off her knowledge of English. In India those days, not many women her age, in Rajasthan especially, had studied in English medium schools so had little or no knowledge of English. Sudhaji was one among these. Now, why would the lack of an English medium education matter so much, you may ask. Well, it was a prestige issue in those days. It brought in social class distinctions. Sudhaji hadn’t studied English, but she wanted to speak the language because it would add to her prestige.
So, she picked up a smattering of the language from listening to people speak or listening to the news in English and reading English newspapers. She picked up words and phrases and peppered her conversation with them. I found this commendable, except for the prestige part. I don’t support that reason for learning.
While I agree that learning English helps in furthering one’s career options, I don’t believe knowing English gets you on a higher rung on the social ladder in any way; just as not knowing it doesn’t lower your prestige! Anyway, I found it a source of much good-humored fun whenever she spoke in English or inserted phrases in her ‘Hinglish’ conversations.
I don’t recall everything she said and wouldn’t want to share many of her blunders but a few that I can, I will share here. I used to tease her about these, and we’d laugh heartily. Yes, I’m going to share some funnies and no, I’m not shaming her in any way, I’m just remembering her and her great sense of humor. Trust me, we laughed at these together as I corrected her.
Fulfilled water tanks & Footballs
There was the day when water was pouring down the drainpipe profusely and it wasn’t even raining. She explained it this way:
“Overhead tank fulfil ho gaya and the football is spoil. Is liye paani outflow ho raha hai.” (What she wanted to say: The overhead water tank is full and the float valve is spoilt so the water is overflowing.)
She saw some pics of my elder sister and exclaimed:
“So much reflections in the face.”
“What reflections do you see and on whose face?” I asked.
I didn’t get it. The pic was clear and in fact, it was clicked by a professional photographer. She promptly replied looking surprised that I didn’t know about it.
“Tumhe nahin pata?So much reflections in the face. Pata chalta hai you are sisters.” (What she said: Don’t you know it? So much reflections in the face. Anyone would know you are sisters.)
I got it! Finally. She was talking about resemblance!
The funniest one was when she had to go somewhere and would miss the milkman and asked me to take the milk from him.
“Doodhwala se hamare liye please doodh le lena. Mujhe criminal mein jaana hai.” (What she said: Please take milk for us too from the milkman. I have to go to a criminal.)
I was lost; she had to meet a criminal?! No, something was wrong.
“Are you going to the court, Sudhaji?
“No. Court aaj bandh hai, it’s a holiday.” (The court is closed today. It’s a holiday.)
“Don’t tell me you’re going to a criminal in the jail!” I exclaimed.
“Nahin, jail mein nahin. Yeh criminal is in….” ( No, not in the jail. This criminal is in…)
She named a place.
Now my interest was piqued, I couldn’t let go.
“Who is this person? And why are you meeting him?
“Arre, woh humare door ke rishtedar hain. Hum milne nahin ja rahe hain (and she laughs) respect dene ja rahe hain; criminal hai!”(What she said: Oh, he’s a distant relation. And we aren’t going to meet him (she laughs) we’re going to pay our respect; it’s a criminal!)
She ended with a tone that said… that’s what one does, don’t you know that!
“Okay! But I don’t understand. Why would you want to “respect” a criminal?”
She burst into laughter again. And I was wondering what was so funny in my questions.
“Kya ho gaya, lagta hai tumhe samajh nahin aaya. Kisi ke death par criminal mein respect dena hota hai na. Tumhare community mein bhi aisa karte hain.”(What she said: What’s wrong with you? Looks like you don’t understand! When someone dies, you go to pay your respect at their criminal. You do the same in your community too.)
I burst out laughing. Now it was her turn to look at me as if I had gone crazy. In between bursts of laughter, when I caught my breath, I told her the difference between a criminal and a funeral. She joined me and we had a hearty laugh.
The Who & the Crew
When they were trying to get their son into college:
“Percentage best nahin hai. So, by who and by crew, hamein admission karwana hai.”(What she said: His percentage isn’t good enough. So, we’ll have to get him admitted by who or by crew.)
I told her it was ‘by hook or by crook’. It took some time explaining the hook and the crook to her.
Proudy woman & Impotent man
About a member of her kitty party group: “She’s very proudy. Uske husband ka promotion hua hai, ab woh bahut impotent man hai aur she is hawa mein flying.”(What she said: She is very proudy woman. And now that her husband has got a promotion and become an impotent man, she is flying high in the air.)
She didn’t know what the joke was about until I told her what impotent meant. But she didn’t think ‘proud’ was the word… so “proudy” remained in her lexicon.
I all but rolled on the floor the day she tried a new recipe and announced how her new dish came out: “Mera project sexfully ho gaya. Everybody happy.” ( What she said: My project was sexfully completed. Everybody was happy.) I had to teach her how to pronounce ‘successfully.’
Time & Age
When she got confused with telling the time and telling the age:
Pointing to a picture of her son who was two and a half at the time the photograph was clicked she said:
“Half past two tha jab picture khinchi thi.”(What she said:(It was a half past two when this picture was clicked. )
I wondered why she was referring to the time and asked her how she could recall the time of day so long back and why was the time so important.
“Time toh nahin pata. I don’t remember. Par tum kyun pooch rahi ho?”( What she said: I don’t know what time it was… But why are you asking?)
I pointed out that she had mentioned it was half-past two when the picture was clicked. Now it was her turn to laugh.
“Maine time thodi na bataya. Maine age bataya. Time kisko yaad hai!” (What she said: I didn’t mention the time. I was telling you about his age in this picture. Who remembers what time it was clicked!)
She got to know the difference in telling the time and someone’s age.
No one could say it the way Sudhaji could. She was so entertaining. She had become friendly over the years and realized that I didn’t share personal matters that didn’t concern her, so rarely probed for information. I welcomed her company.
My efforts to stop her from murdering English met with uproarious laughter. She didn’t care a hoot about her mistakes; it was enough that she was using English words and phrases to season her conversation.
According to her, most of the women in her circle were not even at her level of “proficientcy” so it didn’t make any difference and the dubious prestige of “knewing” English remained intact.
I told her that I would quote her funnies and she laughed and said I could do so as long as it wasn’t to people who knew her; that would tarnish her “im-age” (pronounced as two separate words!). So she continued murdering English with impunity! Here, though it’s an open page, she’s safe. You don’t know her and she doesn’t know you! But my spell check and editor know and my post is underlined in red!
I bring you another one from my journals. This incident also centers in the period of war with Pakistan in 1965. Refer: My Sister Makes A Wish!
We were well into a full-fledged war with Pakistan. And placed where we were; close to an important main road and the railway line that was coming under fire. It was unnerving. Take a seat and come with me to a town in Punjab.
It was all about location. We were between two prime targets, the GT Road and the railway line, both of which were the main transit lines for military equipment, troops etc. to reach the northern borders where the fighting was fiercely on. And as mentioned in my earlier post, we weren’t too far from the Air Force base.
For some time we were sitting ducks for stray bombs that missed the target. I didn’t know whether I should applaud or cry… a miss was good for the country but bad for us! Then the bombs began to fall farther away from us but closer to the targets. Fortunately, none caused any major damage.
But this story is not about the fighting. It’s about another side of a war.
One house away from ours lived an elderly couple. The gentleman was known by his sobriquet, Mr. Major. I never learned what his real name was. In fact, I wonder if anyone even remembered it. He liked to be called Major which wasn’t his name, but his rank in the Salvation Army! I’m not sure if anyone ever ‘retires’ from the SA, but he was no longer an active member.
He and his wife, a soft-spoken little lady, lived a quiet life in a small house. They had a patch of green in the front, where they grew flowers and a vegetable patch behind, where he grew amazingly huge snake gourds among other vegetables.
We never met them socially. However, there were cordial exchanges now and then over their garden hedge and our boundary wall. A vacant plot separated our houses.
When the war broke out, the authorities solicited security measures through citizen awareness and participation. Daddy and Uncle Johnny were a part of this special group. They had to inform the people in our residential area about certain things, like how to observe total blackout, and what the “shoot at sight” order meant. This was when we met him and his wife for the first time.
I remember the day Daddy and Uncle returned from a meeting with the authorities in charge of vigilance, security, law, and order. Both looked serious. Along with a few others, they had been given the authority to challenge suspicious persons and shoot-at-sight, if necessary.
Daddy and uncle had defense service backgrounds, they owned firearms too; including the Carbine; a semi-automatic rifle. So they gave the authority to shoot-at-sight to them.
For the first time, we saw the rifles coming out for a purpose other than ‘shikaar’. It was unnerving. I watched as they checked the rifles and counted the ammunition.
“Will you really shoot a man?” I asked Johnny uncle who had been a gunner on INS Betwa, a Type 41 Leopard-class Frigate; had seen action against the Portuguese in the liberation of Goa, and was a crack-shot in this family that loved shikaar.
“Yes, Bina, if he doesn’t come clean. In war, we shoot the enemy. But you don’t worry your head about it. We’re here and you are safe. Nothing will happen.” He had spoken too soon.
Something did happen.
From then on, Uncle took up position, every night, on the roof of our house with the carbine. Our house had an elevated structure on the roof and this provided a better and farther view of the terrain around us. Sandbags had been placed around as fortification. Daddy patroled the boundary of the two houses; ours and my grandparents’. He carried a 202 rifle. Grandma would also be with him. She refused to get into the trench even when an air attack was on. Except for one occasion (read here)My Sister Makes A Wish!, I never saw either of them in the trench. A few nights passed without incident. Just as I began to relax, it happened.
One night, I heard Uncle loudly challenging someone. I rushed out of the house only to be hastily sent back with stern orders to get inside and stay in and away from the windows and doors. Uncle informed Daddy and Grandma that there was someone in the field behind our house with a lighted cigarette. It was a dark night, and the glow was bright and clearly visible.
He called out a warning. No response.
“If you don’t come out,” he shouted again, “I’m going to shoot.”
There was still no movement or response. As Uncle prepared to shoot, Grandma intervened.
“Wait!” she shouted, “Give him another warning.”
“I’m counting to three, you have been warned.” He began a slow count… “One… two… ”
NO,” bellowed a voice. A dark shadowy figure rose from the field.
“Raise your hands. Who are you?” shouted Daddy, his rifle cocked and ready.
“Get out here, you bloody S&*%#. And keep your hands up,” swore Uncle.
While Daddy kept his rifle aimed at Major, Uncle made his way down from his lookout post on the roof. By the time Major had walked to a few meters from the rear boundary wall of our house, he was down and ready for him.
Major begged and pleaded with both the men who weren’t satisfied with his explanation of what he was doing in the field with a lighted cigarette when it was a blackout. Twice, Uncle lost his cool and raised the rifle. Twice, Grandma asked him to wait and make doubly sure that he was doing the right thing.
Major had said that he had gone to the field to answer the call of nature! This reason fell flat as their house had an attached toilet. He explained this away with the excuse that his wife was in the bathroom and he had an upset tummy. He kept crying and giving all kinds of silly reasons for not answering when challenged. He was lucky that Grandma was there.
If it hadn’t been for her, he would have been shot that night. But he went home alive. Daddy and Uncle were not convinced that he was innocent; Grandma was not convinced that he was guilty. The jury was divided 2:1.
She kept telling her sons that rural folks differ from city people. They react differently, think differently, and this was a unique situation where one couldn’t expect them to fully comprehend the emergency conditions and the implications of their actions. One should not judge them by a city yardstick, she cautioned.
They resumed their positions on the roof and at the rear boundary wall. But Uncle was on high alert. He suspected something was very wrong. The night wore on. All was quiet. Suddenly, gunshots filled the air as bullets whizzed through the air, barely missing Uncle. He was ever alert and retaliated with a few shots. There was a cry of pain; he had hit someone. The attack stopped as suddenly as it had started. There was the sound of feet thudding through the field.
A heavy silence descended. Before anyone could gather their wits, the siren went off and planes zoomed through a night sky that was dotted with red blobs of tracers and the glow of the sporadic anti-aircraft fire. That was a tense night; the biggest concern being, the security of the family.
We had encountered saboteurs!
When had they landed? Where had they landed? Speculation was that it would have been either before Major was spotted in the field or while he was being questioned. Uncle was sure he had hit one of them.
In the morning, a reconnaissance of the place from where the men had fired at us revealed the tracks of four people and signs that someone or something had been dragged. This incident was reported to the police but nothing about Major was mentioned. He had the benefit of the doubt.
As the events of the night were analyzed with police inputs collected from the inspection of the area, it became clear that the saboteurs knew where to shoot. They knew that the more dangerous weapon was on the roof and the lookout provided a better view of the area. Also, the ‘something’ that was dragged was a body. The police had found a bloody trail too. This gave Uncle and Daddy some consolation.
Slowly, some other truths began to trickle in.
We were informed through anonymous sources that Major was a non-smoker and his wife wasn’t at home that night he was caught in the field. In fact, she hadn’t been home since the war broke out. Also, this wasn’t the first time he had gone into the fields with a lighted cigarette. He used different locations. We were shocked to learn that on a previous night, saboteurs had landed quite close to our residential area.
But it was too late. This information was of no use to us. Major had disappeared, and the house remained closed for a long time. They had been private people, and no one knew where their roots lay; family, friends and general information was nil. The police found no clues to their whereabouts.
Grandma felt awful… not because she had saved a traitor, but that her intuition had been so off the mark! Each one had their own takeaways from this incident. She’d keep saying, “How could I have been so wrong in my judgment of character? Mere ko bewakoof bana diya us Major ne aur uski aurat bhi!”
Mine was the intense fear coupled with a sharp sense of adventure. I had clutched my baby brother close while I munched my way through a bottle of dry fruit that my mother had kept in a makeshift shelter in our half-built house. (it was under construction when the war broke out).
My fear manifested itself when I slept, in nightmares. I’d run around wildly shouting things like, “They’re coming… the bombers are coming!” Or “Look… look the sky is full of bombs. They’re falling!” Then, Grandma would catch hold of me and gently take me to her bed, all the while soothing me with soft talk. That always calmed me down. In the morning, I’d have no recollection of it and would not believe that I had done that in the night! 🙂
Holding my brother protectively made me brave; I forgot my own fear. Eating… I don’t know how that helped!!
When a ceasefire was declared, I welcomed it with mixed feelings. A big relief, no doubt, but now, I’d have to go to school!
Bina… Uncle called me by this name. He pronounced ‘i’ with a short vowel sound.
Mere ko bewakoof bana diya us Major ne aur uski aurat bhi!”… The Major and his wife made a fool of me!
GT Road…The Grand Trunk Road (commonly abbreviated to GT Road) is one of South Asia’s oldest and longest major roads. For several centuries, it has linked the eastern and Western regions of the Indian subcontinent, running from Bengal, across north India, into Peshawar in Pakistan. Today, the Grand Trunk remains a continuum that covers a distance of over 2,500 km. Within India, the major portion of the road – the stretch between Kanpur and Kolkata – is known as NH 2 (National Highway 2), the stretch between Kanpur and Delhi is called NH-91, and that between Delhi and Wagah, at the border with Pakistan, is known as NH-1. Between Delhi and Muzaffarnagar is National Highway 58 which further goes to Dehradoon.
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.
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!”
They say, ‘if wishes were horses beggars would ride.’ Not always, I say. Getting a wish sometimes isn’t quite the “beggar’s horse ride.”
My sister made a wish… and she got it! It all started as a game and became a terrifying reality. But I must start at the beginning.
Daddy had decided to put in his papers and take an early, premature retirement. Premature it was; he was only forty-five and had a long way to go. But his heart was set on dedicating his time totally to evangelism.
So in 1965, he left the service and we moved to his hometown in Punjab. He was going home; we were going to Never Land! Of course, the descriptions differed in each of our minds. I am not sure what Never Land signified for my siblings, for me, it was rich in every way: experiences, adventure, fantasy, challenges, and fun.
My eldest sister didn’t fancy it much I guess because as soon as she completed her Senior Cambridge, she came to the “village” from the boarding school in the hills, and dashed off to Delhi to train as a nurse. Daddy wanted her to join the college in Ludhiana and get her Bachelor’s degree. She didn’t want to stay in Punjab. She had mummy’s support and she joined her nurse’s training course in a hospital in the capital city.
This left four of us kids (my younger brother had arrived by then) with Grandpa, Grandma, Mummy, Daddy, the cattle; cow and buffalo, chickens, rabbits and a dog named Tommy; fruit trees, open spaces, and rolling fields around us.
It was a marvelous new life for my elder brother and me because we had no school to attend (the new session and admissions would start in two months), and we spent the whole day exploring the surroundings. Shooting at pigeons and whatever flew or ran or crawled with our catapults!
I don’t remember how my elder sister spent most of her time, but there were rare occasions when she would join us to spend the afternoons in our treetop getaway. We would carry up some books, a few munchies with lemonade, and while away the lazy afternoons swaying gently in our hammocks that were way up the tree! We had to climb up a ladder placed against the trunk of the Tali tree to get to the hammocks.
Looking back, I admit, it was dicey! Climbing from the ladder into a swaying hammock more than eight feet from the ground wasn’t safe. I was barely ten years old then. Anyway, life was different then. Kids played and survived many outdoor games and activities; things parents wouldn’t allow their kids to do now.
To get back to the story, on one such rare day, the three of us were sitting around in the vegetable garden behind our house and sharing our wildest dreams, wishes, and fantasies. As we tried to outdo ourselves in our imaginings; she blurted out that she would love to see two planes right above us in active combat. My brother and I guffawed. We knew she was right off her track because she wasn’t into these sorts of imaginings. She was very ‘girlie-girlie’ and didn’t dream of such stuff. Besides, we were not at war with anyone. However, we agreed that she had indeed outdone us in ‘bizarre’.
Not much later, we heard the roar of planes and looked up. It wasn’t unusual to see these fighter planes in practice sorties, as the Air Force base wasn’t far in airspace terms. There were two Gnats chasing a plane we couldn’t identify. It was bigger than the Gnats. My brother and I were intrigued. By then, they were almost over us and he yelled.
“It’s an attack! Run! That’s a Pakistani plane. Look at the insignia.”
It happened in the twinkling of an eye. Before we could even digest what he was saying. The air was rent with staccato gunshots. I ran and hid behind a Jasmine bush nearby and watched. The other two stood transfixed and watched. There was a dogfight raging in the sky above us.
I can recall the feeling even today. It was all in the extreme… the fear, the excitement, and the amazement. Then, in front of our eyes, the Pakistani plane took a fatal shot and burst into flames. It careened wildly and began a wobbly descent, thankfully, away from ‘our’ airspace and crashed in a field close to where we were.
Our yelling had brought out my uncle who was on one of his breaks between joining ship again. He wouldn’t believe us because by then the plane had gone down, but the trail of black smoke convinced him. He ran out with the others who appeared from nowhere in an instant. We followed; my brother and I.
I was slower and lagged behind. My uncle who was way ahead, saw me coming and stopped me at a distance. All I saw was the plane burning with huge, angry flames, and a mob shouting and yelling curses and abuses at the dead pilot. It was a terrible sight. But not as terrible as what was to follow. We were at war with Pakistan.
I peered at my sister, later that night, when we were huddled in the trench and our town lay trembling as some flak from attacks on the Air Force base and the G.T highway strayed and fell around us. She smiled wanly. I knew she was thinking what I was thinking but I had to say it.
“Couldn’t you wish for something better,” I shouted to be heard through the cotton plugs in her ears.
She wouldn’t reply. Her teeth were clenched on the handkerchief in her mouth. I stuffed mine back into my mouth as Daddy yelled a warning. A bomb exploded two-hundred and fifty meters away.