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.

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!

Domestic Goddess! She’s all that and more – Very Short Stories

“Hurry up darling, give me a fresh towel, please.”

“In a minute Raj. Here you are honey,” she smiles and turns to go back to the kitchen and anxious raised eyebrows replace the smile. She hastens to check on an omelette getting cooked in the pan.

“Did I lower the heat?” she mumbles to herself. “I better run!” She quickens her pace and as she enters the kitchen, she hears her son calling out to her. She’s needed again! A quick check. The omelette is fine.

“Mom! Are you listening? I can’t find my socks. I told you not to tidy my room.”

She opens her mouth to retort – ‘Take a deep breath before you answer,’ says her heart just in time.

“Okay, Kirit, I’ll remember if you remember to tidy it yourself. Your socks are in the second drawer on the left-hand side,” she said on the go and was just in time to take the omelette out of the fry-pan, before it burned, and place it on a plate. The filling, the filling.. quick!.

‘Now for the filling that “gets folded in after and not cooked”, she is amused, and flicker of a smile plays on her lips. She stretches her hand to pick up the grated cheese…Raj didn’t like the cheese as a filling cooked inside. He liked it folded in a hot-off-the-pan omelette; three-fourths-melted; a filling “not cooked”. She grabs the cheese…

“Sweetheart, Where’s the blue tie? The one with the diagonal stripes.”

The cheese can wait. Run baby. Run.

“It’s right here Raj with all the ties,” she says holding back her exasperation. She makes a dash for the door.

“While you’re at it, please keep a fresh handkerchief out too,” grinned her husband.

“Sure Hon.” She takes out a hanky and makes good her escape.

Back in the kitchen, she moves like a whirlwind getting packed lunch and breakfast ready for the family. Omelette and hot buttered toasts for Raj. Banana pancakes and milk for Kirit. Lunch packets for both. Green tea and a cheese-marmalade sandwich for herself.

“Darling, I’m running late today, could you hurry up and give me my breakfast,” said Raj as he sat down at the table and opened the newspaper.

“Hi Mom, can I skip cornflakes, today?”

“No! What’s the big deal? You’re a growing boy and you need proper nourishment.”

“That’s the big deal. Can I have an omelette too?”

“NO!

“But why not?”

“Just in case you have forgotten, you have a working mom. That’s why!”

“So…?”

“So I don’t have the time to whip up an egg and…”

“Chill Mom,” Kirit interrupted, grinning. “I don’t want an egg. I’ve had my cornflakes anyway,” he laughs impishly. She gives him a whack with her napkin, which he dodges and runs off to the bus stop.

“Darling, just listen to this.”

“I can’t sweetheart, I need to hurry too.”

“Babes, you’re going to end up getting sick if you stress this way. Relax.”

“Yeah. I’ll do that Hon.” She zips off to change into her office clothes.

“Hey, you didn’t even kiss me,” she hears him calling out.

“If you can wait fifteen minutes, you’ll get it,” she calls back.

She hears the door close and the car starts up. She’s dressed and dashes off to the stop where the office cab picks her up every day. After a few minutes, she realizes the cab isn’t coming. A quick call to the office confirms her worst fear. She looks at her watch, she’s five minutes late and has missed her cab. The time had changed for pickup. How did she forget!

‘Got to get a cab,’ she thinks and begins to walk. The cab stand is a good ten minutes walk.

“You’re late Neera,” said her senior colleague, in surprise.

“I’m sorry! I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she smiles, managing to be apologetic and charming!

“Hurry Neera, we have to be in the Conference Hall in ten minutes.

“I’ll be right there, you get going.”

She brushes her hair. Checks her lipstick. Picks up her laptop and a few notes she had scribbled on the way. As she walks to the conference hall she feels a nervous tension building up. She has to make a presentation for a very important client. It was a big deal and clinching the deal meant a lot for the company.

Her mobile phone rings.

“Hi Sweets, forgot to tell you, we’ll be having guests over for dinner. Think of some nice Mughlai dishes and let me know what you need to cook up your famous dishes. I’ll get it for you on my way back.”

“Raj,” she says trying hard to keep a cool head. “That’s breaking news! You should have told me earlier. Sorry baby, you know how tied up I am with work. You’re great, you’ll manage very well on your own. Talk to you later, bye!”

She’s at the door of the Conference Room.

She pauses. Takes a deep breath and says, “Here I am Lord! What I am, and what I’m not. Take my natural self and add your ‘SUPER’ to it. I need it today.”

She enters the room with a small smile on her face, exuding utter confidence and calmness, like one who is sure of victory.

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In this ‘challenge’ topic, ‘SUPER’, on FaithWriters.com, I combined the experiences of working wives and mothers who were my colleagues or friends, as shared with me, and a bit of my own too, through the mid-’70s to the early ’90s. Things have changed a lot (for the better) since then on the home front and for the working wife and mom.

This story was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009)

The River – Very Short Stories

This story is fiction loosely based on a true incident. I have woven it around news and true incidents of floods and flash floods that occur at many places during the monsoon season. Read more about it at the end.

The river had always been there. It had been a part of every phase of Nandu’s life. His boyhood was spent cooling off in its cool water during the hot summer afternoons. And of course, the fish which was their daily meal came from the river. The river was their lifeline.

Nandu used to make and sell marigold garlands to the devotees, who thronged the ‘Ghats’. They were people who bathed in the river, believing it would wash away their sins

The river was holy for those who believed. For Nandu, it was an extra buck. The more the people, the more garlands he sold, as these were used in the ritual of offering prayers and other religious rites.

Nandu was an orphan who would have met a watery death in the river if it hadn’t been for ‘Nani’ (Nani is the Hindi word for maternal grandmother). Mary, who was called Nani by all and sundry, wasn’t his relative. She had picked up the abandoned baby from the riverbank. She was the only family he knew. She was poor but had a heart of gold; uneducated but wise. Very early, she taught Nandu the importance of the river in their lives.

He remembered how fascinated and scared he was as a child, when he saw the river in spate for the first time, during a rather heavy monsoon downpour. It swelled and overflowed its banks and the angry swirling water threatened to flood the town.

“Nani, where does the river come from ?”

“From a very big mountain, high up in the Himalayas,” she replied.

“Where does it go ?”

“Very, very far. To the end of the rainbow.”

“What does it do there ?” asked Nandu in wonderment.

“It goes up the rainbow and returns to the mountain.”

“Nani, does the river never end?”

“No, it goes on forever.”

He thought for a while, then turned to Nani again.

“But Nani, why is it so angry?”

“Because you have been very naughty.”

“If I say I’m sorry, will it stop from flooding the town?”

“Well, it’s always good to say you’re sorry,” was her circumspect reply.

“Will it forgive me?”

“That’s for the river to say. I cannot speak for it,” was her gentle reply. “It does what it has to do, goes where it has to go. It is controlled by external powers that often overpower man’s superior and scientific mind.”

“It scares me when it is in fury, like this,” he said. “I fear it will wash me away too. It will carry me away to the rainbow.”

“Don’t worry about that. You weren’t destined to be carried away.” She said that with the confidence that only comes with knowledge.

“How do you know that Nani?!”

“The river takes only those who belong to it,” she replied quietly, “those whose life purpose has been fulfilled. Only they flow to the rainbow.”

Nandu sat quietly, contemplating that information.

Mary’s life revolved around Nandu. Their need for each other arose from a deep-seated pain within, which grew out of rejection and abandonment. Nandu’s adoration and respect for Nani grew as he watched her slog from dawn to dusk, to keep him clothed, fed, and educated. Mary would take up any work she found. Sometimes it would be breaking stones, where a road was being built, or carrying mud and bricks on her head at a construction site. But she was always full of warmth, comfort, and love.

Her face was sunburnt and her hands were rough. She was strong. Nandu was in awe of her especially when she got into one of her tempers. Her eyes would blaze and her tongue would lash the recipient of her ire.

One day, Mary came home with Paul, whom she had met at the site where a Christian hospital was being built. Nandu and Paul sat talking late into the night. That day Nandu learned about another river – the river of life that flowed from the Rock of Ages.

Paul began visiting them often. Nandu’s curiosity led him to question and debate all that he was learning about the “great Fisherman”; His life, crucifixion, and resurrection. Day by day he grew in the knowledge and love of Christ. He would read passages from the Bible Paul had gifted him, and listen intently as his new friend explained the mysteries of the Word. Mary watched with immense joy and contentment. Her life’s work would fructify in Nandu and flow like the river, beyond the rainbow to salvation and everlasting life.

One day they gathered at the river and Nandu was baptized by a visiting pastor. That night dark clouds gathered in the sky. There was a mighty crash of thunder as a cloudburst over the town took the people unawares. Before they realized what was happening the deluge engulfed and destroyed everything in its path.

Nandu awoke in a hospital ward. He was disoriented and confused. Paul, sitting on a chair by his bedside, silently watched him.

Nandu shut his eyes and slowly it all came back.

The flash.

The roar.

The deluge.

It wrenched his heart and his body convulsed with bitter sobs. The only vivid memory he had was of Nani being carried away by the devouring water. She didn’t fight or try to save herself. She seemed a part of the river — She was the river, flowing on forever.

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(This was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009) Under the title ‘Beyond The Rainbow’. I’ve edited it a bit and changed its title.

This story was inspired by a true incident where someone I knew, an affluent lady, adopted the girlchild of a laborer she saw while driving down the hilly, undulating roads of the place she lived. The woman was on work as a part of the paid labor working on repairing the hill roads. Her baby girl, about a few months old, was in a hammock made out of cloth and hung from branches of trees stacked up to hold the hammock with its tiny load. She agreed to give up the child who was the youngest one of perhaps 4 or 5 kids! She already had two girls and was only too happy to give this one away. This little girl grew up in her new well-to-do, non-Christian family without any knowledge of her birth parents. She was educated in a prestigious Christian school.

Much later, when she was a young woman, like Nandu in the story, she embraced Christianity. I learned about this last development recently. Another similarity, like Nandu, she lost her mother, my colleague, when she was still a young schoolgirl. It was an untimely death and came as a shock. When this story was written, I never imagined in my wildest thoughts that the little girl my colleague had adopted would turn to Christ since the family followed another religion. So I was quite surprised at how this story merged in some points at the end.

The rest is all fiction.

Tele-Sympathy – Very Short Stories

From the archives: The answering machine, in this story, popped up in my mind when some of my calls were answered with fed-in messages on a couple of answering machines. It popped up as an ideal instrument and provided the answer to the protagonist’s dilemma!

Rrrrrrring Rrrrrrring. Susan waited for the ringing to stop.  She was thoroughly fed-up with the anonymous calls.

The bell rang insistently. She picked up the receiver and waited to hear the mocking and taunting remarks. Susan had retired from her teaching job and settled in this little hill-town, where she intended to start a Bible-School Holiday Resort, for school children. A place where they could come during their summer vacation, for a two-week program.

The concept was to approach the teaching of Christian values and principles with less legalism and preachy methods. She wanted Christian children to learn the practical way of applying God’s word to their lives so that they could enjoy being Christians while they continued to be in right-standing with God. Her friends had volunteered to contribute their cultural, artistic, and musical expertise to enhance the program. However, she wasn’t granted permission to open the resort as the locals opposed the proposition. They thought the resort was a cover to brainwash young minds.

Susan was disappointed. Then the anonymous calls began. Most of them were filled with taunts, jibes, and resentment. Susan was at the end of her tether. She had to do something about this. 

“Use their instrument but to provoke unto love and to good works,” whispered her inner voice.

Susan couldn’t understand how God wanted her to use the telephone. She decided to shift her mind away from this unpleasant situation. She called up a friend. No luck just the answering machine. She tried another and then another. Three answering machines later, she decided to go for a walk. 

Oh, God! Help me, she thought, and added as an afterthought,  at least YOU don’t put me on an answering machine! and she laughed. Then abruptly she stopped laughing. 

The answering machine, the answering machine! she whispered.

Without wasting a minute more, she hurried back to the town. A few inquiries, a few calls, and Susan returned home bursting with hope and great expectations. Finally, the answer to her prayers arrived securely packed in a cardboard box. With the help of a linesman working with the Telephone Department, the answering machine was connected and Susan waited.

All the calls were now greeted with a cheery message that said,  “Hi, I’m praying for you. If you have any problems, let me know, I’ll pray for that too. Thanks for calling.”

After a few days, the calls stopped. Was it the calm before the storm or “the peace that passeth all understanding,”  Susan wondered?

And then it came; a call; a prayer request made in a breathless, hushed voice. Others followed. Susan could recognize the voices of her five persistent callers, and she believed they were between twelve and seventeen years old. She had even given them names according to their attitude and tone and language so she could identify her anonymous callers.

Now she learned that Saucy Sue was exasperated with her parents’ constant quarreling, Giggly Gertrude wanted to run away from the orphanage because they sent the kids to work as domestic help during holidays. Stuttering Stewart didn’t like being teased, Arrogant Aaron didn’t believe in an invisible God or that one even existed, and Martyr Marty was always feeling the victim. Long conversations with each other led to a special bond of trust and faith between the two sides. This continued for some years. Susan never tried to find out their true identities.

That was fifteen years ago. And now Susan would meet them for the first time. Their visit coincided with the welcome reception her church had organized for the new pastor. Two happy events. She hurried to church eagerly that Sunday. To her surprise, Susan found Reverend Sushil Simon, the new priest, younger than she had expected.

She delivered her welcome speech and as she returned to her seat, a familiar voice said,  “Thank you, Susan, for such a warm welcome. It’s nice to come home again.”

Susan almost fainted. Arrogant Aaron! She was sure she had heard the voice that had argued incessantly with her about a non-existent God, almost to the point of making her give up.

She stood still. She couldn’t believe her ears. And was sure she wasn’t mistaken. 

“It is you!” She whispered. Later, when the formalities were over, Sushil walked up to her and smiled.

“I’d like you to meet some of the others,” he said. 

He introduced her to the others. All had done well for themselves. Susan looked at Arrogant Aaron (she still couldn’t call him anything else!) with a question in her eyes, which he answered softly, “1 John 4: 12, I finally understood it. Thank you.” (12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.) NIV

Susan couldn’t speak, but her tears spoke volumes, as she led her friends home. There was so much to say, so much to hear.

This was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009).

Things I’ve Learned – a random selection

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

-Wayne Dwyer

So here they are – some of the things that are forefront in my mind.

There is not always comfort in my comfort zone. 

Especially these past almost three years of the pandemic. It’s not a great thing to be locked in for such a long time indoors under restrictions in my home, which is my comfort zone!

(Response: Weigh the options. Choose well. I considered the outcomes… Stay at home and be more protected from the virus. Or break the rules. Open yourself, your family, and friends, to the vicious attack of a killer virus! I chose well.)

Change is a good thing but not always easy!

It’s intimidating. And rises, at times, as an insurmountable mountain. Especially if you have no say in the decisions that are bringing about the changes in your life.

(Response: Face it and you will overcome the initial apprehensions. Things settle in when you are open to working it out for yourself without losing yourself.)

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When I am feeling downhearted chatting or playing games with a child cheers me up every time. (Especially the laughter and giggles of my grandkids.)

pic: joy Clarkson

That it’s not WHAT I have in my life but WHO I have in my life that counts.

(ResponseAnd remember with gratitude- also those who have been a special part of my life, at some point, and have contributed greatly to my learning experience and growth.)

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

-MAHATMA GANDHI

To accept people the way they are, their natural selves, and appreciate the differences.

(Response: Not always easy but I’ve learned more by appreciating diversity)

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That I should eat what I need to eat and not what I want to eat. Most times, the latter isn’t going to benefit me in any way.

(Response – Decide wisely before ill health forces you to. It took a severe health issue to knock this sense into my head!)

“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.”

-OPRAH WINFREY

That no matter what happens, God never fails.

(Response – Patience. Faith. trust. I just have to WAIT for his TIMING.)

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To accept what comes and do with it the best I can to make it better suited to me.

(Response – an open mind. Something I learned from my experience of living in different countries and, at times, outside my comfort zone.)

That I can allow the tears to roll down every time something beautiful I read or see moves me emotionally. Or when hilarious laughter sets the tear ducts overflowing. I needn’t be embarrassed.

(Response – Don’t bother about what people will think. Be your natural self.)

That I need to walk every day! If the weather doesn’t permit, I just have to walk indoors!

(Response walk along a hallway in the house (if there is one) or in the basement (if it’s done up and large enough to serve the purpose) or then in my room! I’ve actually even walked over a thousand steps in my room, though I must say, it’s not something I like. Put health as a top priority and do what needs to be done.)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

I need to dedicate a fixed time to write. I do write when I have to, but it’s not on any allotted day, or time… no fixed schedule!

(Response – I’ve fixed a schedule and I’m trying my best to stick with it!)

And last but not least…That I can’t afford to spend so much time binging on web series

(Response – Realized why I needed to change this. I have many other things to do instead, like READING! It saves my eyes from stress and keeps them from watering. I need to take care of them. And reading books is good for me mentally too. And there’s an added benefit; I get to have a walk… the library is not too far from our place.)

I learn something new every day – through my own experiences or from reading about others’ lives, struggles, and victories. And also…

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…from listening to and observing other people around me. And most importantly, from my own ups and downs – the struggles and overcoming. The wins and losses. The changes and what they teach me. At work, at home, through interactions with family, friends, neighborhood acquaintances, or even strangers with whom I might have had just brief conversations.

(Response – Observe. Learn. Grow. There’s no age limit or bar, besides it’s good for oneself.)

Across The Bridge – very short stories

From the archives! This one is loosely based on a true story told to me by a colleague. I’ve added some and embellished it with my own imagination.

Anna awoke from her sleep with a start. She sat up in bed. She was drenched in perspiration and her breathing was heavy. The dream was recurring more frequently these days. Teresa was by her side in an instant.

“What is it memsahib” she asked. “Is it the dream?”

“Yes, the same bridge with turbulent waters flowing beneath, and I stood looking longingly at the dreamland on the other side, but was too scared to go across. I was trembling all over.

Pic: Ronaldo de Oliveira. Unsplash

“Don’t worry memsahib,” Teresa said, and gave her a glass of water and tucked her in.

The next day, Anna woke up to exceedingly good news. Rhea, her granddaughter, was coming from Singapore. She had met Rhea for the first time the previous year. She was twenty-three, bright and vivacious. Anna’s son had married and settled in Singapore. She had met her daughter-in-law just once, when Deepak brought his newly wedded wife to meet his family. After that Deepak too was an infrequent visitor.

Anna was ecstatic. She flitted around tidying up her little room and even took extra care in choosing her clothes and doing her hair. Teresa was happy to see her memsahib looking so nice. It had been a long time since Anna had taken interest in herself.

Anna was born into an affluent family. She was the only child and her parents doted on her. Every little wish of hers became their command, till she turned seventeen. Anna fell in love with a boy her parents didn’t approve of, but she stubbornly stood her ground, and they relented quite reluctantly. Anna’s hopes of continuing her college education were cut short when she became pregnant a month after the wedding. By eighteen she was a mother; at twenty-one, she lost both her parents in an accident, and on her twenty-fifth birthday, she became a widow.

According to the custom of her in-laws’ community, she was forbidden to wear bright colors or jewelry, and she could not participate in any celebrations. And according to superstition, she was considered unlucky. Her husband dying on her birthday made things worse. There was talk about it being a punishment for this ‘interfaith’ marriage. “Manhoos” (bad luck) was what they branded her. She was shifted to two small rooms in the outhouse attached to the servant’s quarters. However, Deepak, her son, was made to stay in the main house and was brought up by his uncle.

This was when Anna realized her folly in not paying heed to her parents’ objections to her marriage outside their religion and culture. Deepak grew apart from his mother and the chasm widened when he was sent to study abroad. If it hadn’t been for Teresa, Anna would have landed up in an asylum. Teresa had been sent to her by her parents, to look after Deepak. But God had other plans and Teresa became Anna’s caregiver.

Anna couldn’t forgive her in-laws for what they had done. She was angry and thought God had given up on her too. The only person she met or spoke to was Teresa. Sometimes someone from the house would come to meet her, but she wouldn’t talk to them. Soon even these visits stopped. Then Rhea came into her life like a bright ray of sunshine. Whenever she came on business trips, she visited her and she’d spend most of her time with Anna whom she called Dadi (father’s mother). She was pained to see how Anna had been treated by the other relatives and couldn’t understand why her father did not take his mother out of this pathetic living condition. She had left with promises that she would do something if no one else did.

Anna kept looking at the clock on the wall. Time was dragging its feet! She was annoyed. She was excited. She was waiting eagerly for her beloved granddaughter. What if she didn’t show up?

The sound of a car, a honk, followed by the sound of footsteps, perked her up.

“Dadi, I’m back,” announced Rhea hugging Anna tightly. Wasting no time in further chit chat or pleasantries, she turned to Teresa, “Pack up Dadi’s things. Oh, and yours too,” she added.

“Why missy baby?” asked Teresa.

“Because you are coming to live with me too. I’ve joined a firm here and shifted base and I’m taking my darling Dadi with me.”

There was hardly anything to pack so it wasn’t long before they were in the car and speeding along to their new home. Anna closed her eyes and relaxed. And once again she was at the bridge, but this time she was not alone. Boldly she put her hand into her Maker’s hand and crossed the bridge.

“Dadi, wake up. We’ve arrived.”

Anna opened her eyes and smiled, Yes my child we have indeed, she said. What’s that line you quoted the last time you were here?

“If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you,” repeated Rhea.

“Ah, a wise head on such young shoulders,” and she kissed Rhea tenderly.

Joy Clarkson

(This was first published on FaithWriters.com in a series of stories between 2006-2009)

Three’s A Crowd – Cagha with a bell.

I think I’m missing the flora and fauna of my surroundings in NB. I miss the crows that would often alight on the trees behind my room and the ones that frequented the big one outside the dining room window. So, I hopped over to my photoblog to view some pics I’d clicked through my window. I liked these ones and the refreshed childhood memory of my pet crow Cagha. A crow that I didn’t call my pet because it was caged. But a crow that flew free and wild but visited me and responded to my call if it were ever in the vicinity. I am sharing this post I’d written much earlier for my Photoblog.

Through my window, I watched a scene played out within seconds between 8.21 am and 8.22 am, on the branches of a tree. At 8.21, I observed a single crow land on a branch. Quick on its tail came the second one. That’s when I decided to click them.

I hurried but by then, I saw the third fly in and perch by them. I clicked furiously and before I knew it the third whizzed off. The other two continued in silent companionship for a while and then made for wherever their heart desired. Somehow I found some humor here and also nostalgia.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd,’ I thought. My mind going back to #Cagha… my ‘Cagha with a ghungroo’! A ghungaroo is a small dancer’s bell. A number of these are either stitched to a panel of cloth or strung on a cord which is then fastened around a dancer’s ankle.

I was looking for some quotes about crows and found quite a few; poems, quotes, sayings. There are so many things written about crows and not all complimentary or kind. Its black color and lack of any aesthetic features, its nature – predatory, all seem to go against it.

Back in my country, crows don’t come under such strong discrimination. At least, I’m not aware of it. In fact, superstition says, if a crow sits on the roof shingles, patio, verandah, garden or branch of a tree in close proximity to the house, faces your property, caws away to glory, it means you’ll be having guests, usually, unexpected ones!

When I was a little child, and we lived in the Southern part of the country, locals believed that eating crow’s meat would cure whooping cough! I cannot vouch for this cure but it remained a popular belief.

To me, crows were sneaky snatchers. I’ve had sandwiches and other eatables plucked out of my hand many a time. But as a child and an adult, my attitude towards them has never been one of hatred or dislike.

In fact, as a little girl, I found them interesting. I associated them with the occult, magic, and other sinister activities and since I loved reading about witches, ghosts, and everything scary, yes, they had my attention; crows were intriguing. This anecdote from my childhood will illustrate this better.

CAGHA my pet crow –

We lived on a Naval base in the South on a manmade island in the backwaters. Flocks or should that be a murder of crows flocked to our big front garden daily because I and my brother would feed them with crumbs or anything we could snitch from the store. I would call out “Aaa, Aaa,” {”come, come”} with an outstretched arm, goodies in my cupped hand {that’s also how, sometimes, my food would get snatched out of my other hand! ;)}.

One day, a young crow landed plonk in the middle of the spacious front verandah where I sat astride the balustrade eating and feeding the crows as usual. My elder brother picked the bird to inspect what was wrong because it was hobbling, and couldn’t fly either. Someone had clipped a few of its wing feathers haphazardly and injured one leg.

We swung into action. It was so exciting. We yelled for Mummy. She always knew what to do when we were stumped! Especially with wounds, cuts, bruises, or illness. She’d come up with some home remedy that would work winders.

Sometime later, Mummy, with the cook’s help smeared turmeric and some kind of oil, coconut or mustard, I’m not sure, on the wound and bandaged it. They put the poor thing in a cage that had once housed a parrot that escaped. I removed a small brass ‘gunghroo’ from my ankle bells {Indian dancers wear them around their ankles} and tied it around the neck loose enough so it wouldn’t choke, and tight enough so the bell wouldn’t fall off.

We nursed Cagha, that’s what I named the crow, back to health. The wing feathers grew back a bit and it would hop and make short flights around the room until one day, Cagha flew out the door and perched itself on the balustrade of the front balcony. There was a sudden shout of joyful cawing from a few fellow crows gathered outside; in the garden and the tree outside the wall.

Cagha cawed, spread his wings and joined the tribe. I was sad, lost and alone.

Many days passed and Cagha never returned. Mummy consoled me saying that the season had changed and the crows would be back after a few months. Still, I would ritually make my calls for Cagha every day from the front verandah. I have always been the ever hopeful, persevering one!

She was wrong. 

Cagha returned after two weeks or so.

He flew down to where I was, bigger and stronger, with the ghunghroo jangling around the neck. Words can’t describe my joy! Our twosome companionship carried on a few months and then, Cagha disappeared.

Later that year, I spotted him, the jangling bell giving him away. He was in the branches of the tree outside. I called to him. No response. I gave up.

Then I heard a flutter of wings, a caw and there was Cagha. He flew in like the wind, perched near me for a split second, and took off. Not alone, but with the other one on the tree. He had forged his own twosome – COMPANY. I made it a CROWD!

“Goodbye Cagha,” I whispered softly.

My seven-year-old heart was broken!

Years later in my teens another pet, the wild and free kind, a chipmunk named ‘Chippy,’ conveyed the same message to me with a tiny nip on my palm! It didn’t break my heart, but it took me by surprise!

Tiny Conversations – Gloating, Glowing & Loved!

The biggest change that came about when I became a grandparent was the way I’d allow relaxations on rules on more occasions than I did as a mother with my children. And I’d join in the huge fun they’d have because of it. I also noticed that while I loved my sons and still do to the moon and back, with the grandkids it’s difficult to explain how my love surpasses that! I was proud of my boys’ achievements back in the day and in the present too. But with these little ones, I’m ecstatic and over the moon and gloat (shamelessly!). It doesn’t matter if someone might not be so pleased to hear about what they did and how proud they make me. I crow! (shamelessly!)

So here’s a warning: This is a gloating, proud grandma posting!

I like to keep a Word Search booklet with me. It keeps me happily occupied when I’ve done all that I had to do or when I need to take a break from something or the other! For a few days Amaara, the older twin ( by a few minutes) had been watching me. The twins were 7 yrs old then.

Amu: “Dada, why aren’t you doing your word search? Are you tired of it?”

No! I’ve finished the whole book. I need to buy another one. And with all the restrictions and warnings, I don’t go to crowded places myself.

Amu: “Then why don’t you ask mama or papa to get it for you?”

No… I don’t want to bother anyone. Besides, I prefer to buy my things myself. I like to pick and choose what I want. Someone else will not know exactly what I want.

Amu: “Oh! Yes, they won’t know. And if they get something you don’t like, you won’t use it. It will go waste.”

Exactly my point! It will be a waste of money as well. That would be worse.

Amu: “Oh, Dada! she said with the most loving and adoring look.”

She left my room after a bit of chit chat. Later, that afternoon, Miraaya, the younger one, came excitedly into my room with a broad grin on her face.

Mia: “Dada, Dada! Guess what! Amu has a surprise for you!”

She sure had the biggest, sweetest, and most loving surprise for me. My little sweetheart had made a Word Search booklet for me.

Amu:“Dada, see what I made for you. You don’t have to go out. Now you can do your word cross puzzles!”

But I don’t do cross word, baby. I prefer the quicker and easier word search. It leaves me more time for other things.

Amu: Makes a funny, disappointed face. “I made a big mistake. I forgot the name of the activity and wrote Word Cross Puzzle instead.”

She gave me the stapled 3-page booklet with a cocktail of emotions. On her face and particularly in her eyes, I could see the great waves of love, kindness, caring, thoughtfulness, and they engulfed me. What a special bonding we have!

Here is the little booklet Amu made for me so lovingly.

The mix-up in the title she was sorry about.

And I was quite impressed, one day, when the younger twin, Miraaya, brought back this Math feedback she gave to her teacher in class.

I went through the three points she had mentioned and thought back some decades, to the time I was a 7+! I’d have never been able to write with such clarity about what I wanted more from my Math lessons. And in any case, I wasn’t doing what they are learning now in Math class! At seven we weren’t talking “strategies”! And even if I could express myself so well in writing, I wouldn’t have written a positive ‘feedback’ about Math. I never liked math! LOL

I am so glad she likes Math so much. And I’m so blessed to be able to experience these little day-to-day activities. Being a grand parent is such a beautiful part of life. I’m fortunate to be able to be a part of all my grandkids’ daily life. I learn so much when I talk to them; play games with them; when they share their thoughts with me or ask me numerous questions.

Well, if you’ve reached this far – Thank You! I appreciate it 🙂

I Took My Cats Out

When they (my twin granddaughters) were about 2 yrs or so I, along with their Nanny, would go out for walks with them. There was a phase when they loved face painting. However, they had never asked for a face paint before a walk. This day, they insisted they wanted to become cats and that we should take them as they were – Cats ‘Meow’!

On the way, they came across a lamp post and decided to sing and enact Hickory Dickory Dock… No amount of coaxing could dissuade them from performing their ‘action song’ using the lamp post as a Grandfather Clock! Much to our amusement (and that of the passersby), they went through the whole act and I decided I’d better click pics and preserve not just the memory but also the fun and laughter I experienced with them. Today, I’m so glad I did.