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.

Picnics in the car or in the trunk!

We get rare occasions to drive out with the kids and let them release a lot of pent up energy plus fill up on fresh air, and get some reprieve for ourselves before we burst a blood vessel! So last weekend, we had to pick up some essentials from Sussex that weren’t available in our city. The forthcoming drive coincided with a pleasant, sunny day, so we decided that the family could go along. It would be a long drive through beautiful scenery on either side of the highway. 

It sure was a relaxing drive over wide, uncrowded, and partly undulating roads. We could keep the windows partially open to let in the fresh, cool breeze and no one felt sick. Thankfully. There are two of us who have motion sickness. We were driving too fast for me to take pics along the highway. Neither could we stop en route for me to snap any memories. So I missed that bit. 

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We picked up what we needed and then decided to eat lunch. So we picked up food from the drive-thru at Tims and McDonalds; found ourselves a spot in the parking, and had a picnic in the car. There were these pretty picnic tables and benches right there but using them was out of the question. The three girls were super thrilled with this new spate of picnics in the car. 

And then, it was time to get back.

We settled down. Seat belts checked for the kids. All fine. Let’s go.

The car wouldn’t start. The battery was down. Shoot!

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It was early evening still. A search for help got us a guy who said he’d come down and boost the battery. The three young ones were the only ones thrilled about the stuck situation. They decided to play treasure Hunt (of all things) inside the car. Well, they managed to do a good job of hiding stuff and locating them. My woolen cap, pockets, handbag, nooks and crannies in the car… wherever they could hide an LOL, or a lil troll toy person, they hid it. If we were worried about how to keep them entertained, we needn’t have bothered.

Relief!

The man arrived in thirty minutes, and in less than five got the car going! We were back on the highway with three happy and spent girls. They were quiet (relief again!) and whatever small talk was made was little and low. They hummed and sang a bit with the radio, then the younger two dozed off.

Picnic in the trunk 

Before I started on this one, I wondered what to say – trunk, boot, or dickey. What I would be referring to happens to be called by different names in English in different countries. It would be a ‘trunk’ in North America; a ‘boot’ in England; and a ‘dickey’ in India. North America won the toss, so trunk it is.

The weekend before our Sussex drive, we had a fine evening at the nature trail park. This time, since it was planned, we had packed sandwiches and chips and picked up tea from Tims. Here, in the wide, open spaces, the girls could get out of the car and stretch their legs. They were not expecting a picnic so were very glad we had packed one.

It was cold with a chill breeze blowing. The sunshine was intermittent with large clouds obscuring the sun. Their father laid out some covers in the trunk and the three scrambled in with a lot of excitement. A picnic in the trunk was a new one for them. 

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I sipped my tea leaning against the car and watched the gulls sauntering about totally unafraid and unconcerned with the five unobtrusive humans. Or perhaps they didn’t hover above and around us because we weren’t feeding them! Then, one of them came gliding down, wings outstretched and landed a few feet away. It drew my attention as soon as it touched down.

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It landed on one wheel.. that translates to leg! Oh, dear! Whatever happened to its other leg, I wondered aloud. “They stand on one leg like cranes,” said my son nonchalantly. “No”, they don’t. Or do they? I haven’t seen any standing on one leg!” I was curious. 

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I sipped my tea and kept my eye on the one-legged gull. Just when I was sure it’s leg must have got tangled in something and broken off or worse it must have been bitten off by some predatory creature, it put down its other leg briefly, not quite putting it flat to hold the weight of its body. It swayed a bit. A minute or less and the leg went up again. It didn’t come down for the next fifteen minutes. My watch had provided me with an answer; it was injured. “I hope your leg gets well gull!”

We go out occasionally where we can get fresh air and maintain social distance too. But it’s not the same as before. We are forever alert and careful… no touching anything that’s around… no benches, railings, even tree trunks or leaves, and flowers. Not even the grass. Making sure to keep hands off our faces. Do we succeed all the time? No! Sometimes, by force of habit, unknowingly we touch the eyes, or cheek or… only to jump to alertness and wonder, if our hands had touched something it shouldn’t have before. There are these moments that lead to a small prayer.

It appears that we are slowly but surely getting into the groove of living with restrictions of a different kind. Of fears of a different kind. Of anxieties of a different kind. When will things go back to the normal we knew? Or is this going to be the new normal? To be honest, I am not going bonkers thinking about it. I have settled into a routine, more or less, and the WFH situation is not new for me. If there is one thing that I am concerned about and pray for, it is that we are well and safe. That is my prayer for the world too!

I hope, when this difficult time has passed, I can look back on these memories with joy and thank God for bringing us through it safe and sound.

When Normal Changes

My notes on Good Friday!

A lot has changed since Good Friday 2019 and today.

The kind of change we have never experienced before.

No church services, and it’s been that way for a long time.

No Holy Communion,

no church community gatherings for coffee after the service on Sundays!

A big part of our weekend routine and custom has been changed by a virus.

A virus that has descended on us out of the blue and struck us with fear, anxiety, and dread.

But, it has also opened our eyes to many things and set us thinking.

Introspecting on our past, our deeds, and greed as a human race;

our failings and our disregard for better sense and judgment. 

We turned away from God, and now we return to His mercy seat and beg for His grace and mercy.

My prayer for all – May God’s blessings be upon us and save us.

TTSP (this too shall pass).

May we come out of this wiser, humbler, kinder, more generous, and more considerate of others, and the earth.

Life is a gift. We cannot take it for granted.

The only similarity that day was… snow!

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The only similarity, of sorts, between Good Friday last year and this year:

We were heavily snowed under last year.  And this year, it snowed too, but unlike the previous year, it was a light snowfall. 

Thursday night, I was surprised to see it snowing when I peeked out the window.

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It didn’t appear heavy and I expected it to end before morning.

But it didn’t.

It was snowing in the morning too!

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The feeling of Spring; the grass beginning to turn green again, the weather warming up, has taken a step back.

It looked more like winter than Spring. 

I felt the cold, dark gloom of a Good Friday, ages ago.

The lockdown and social distancing irked more than it does daily and exacerbated the pall of gloom that had descended on me.

But hope springs, ever renewed.

Holy Saturday brought out the sun.

And then…

Easter dawned! Bright and beautiful.

Hallelujah!

The churches are empty, but so is the tomb!

I rest my hopes and prayers on Him,

who defeated death.

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

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A street in Viña.

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

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

 

A Better Morning

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

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

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

What a contrast!

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

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

A Proverb

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

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

Do I have a teachable spirit?

Do I walk in humility?

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

A Mare’s Snort!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chile Diary – 16

The Native Returns

Friday, 9th April 2010

It’s a cold, cold day today! For me, it’s winter even though the Chilean calendar says it’s still Autumn. A chill wind started to blow last night and it was mucho frio. I had hoped for a sunny day as I have promised to put mehndi on Gabriela’s hands. The cold has got to my back and one spot, on the right, is acting up. I’m resting it out and hopefully, I’ll be able to keep my side of the promise.

Gabriela is a pretty, young and vivacious waitress at Manchester. She knows a bit of English so we talk whenever she has a moment to spare. Yesterday, she learned that I was from India and got all excited about henna art. Her grandfather is Arabic and he has given her some henna.

I’m not sure about the quality of the henna powder nor do I know how to apply mehndi (henna) with a wooden pen. That’s how the Arabs do it. In India, we use a cone filled with the mehndi paste which makes it easier to make the intricate designs.

Anyway, I’ve asked her to make a paste with the henna using a bit of water, lemon juice, and sugar. We use eucalyptus oil too while applying mehndi. But, Eucalyptus oil or any other essential oil is out of the question for her. In all probability, it won’t be available or then too expensive.

But it all depends on my back.

Last night, Ranjit found a beautiful apartment. It’s on 4 Norte, very central to the shopping areas and the spot where the office cab picks them up. The most important thing is it is on the first level. Second, it is bigger in area than the present one, which is spacious, and it falls cheaper too. Since I won’t be here when they move into the new place, I plan on seeing it before I leave. But one has to fix an appointment with the property dealer first.  So now, it rests on the dealer and the landlord.

On another note, on Sunday, we have an invitation from my friend Roxanna. They’re having an ‘asado’ (aka barbecue) at home and we have been invited too. I’m looking forward to that. I’ll tell you about it when we get back.

12th April, Monday, 2010

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Our gracious hostess…

The morning dawned grey and cold but the sun has put his hat on and is out now. Our lunch was fun even though it wasn’t an asado, as planned. I’m sure the joy would have doubled if I knew the language. I could have enjoyed the jokes more. Jokes can be made and understood better if not translated. A lot of the humor is lost in translation.

There were only two people who knew English; Gabriel and Raphael. Later in the evening, Gonzalo joined us. He also knows English. But there wasn’t much conversation because he walloped his food and got into the Table Tennis fray! Still, it was enjoyable. Roxanna is such a warm hostess and there was nothing left wanting in her hospitality.

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And it was a sumptuous meal… finger-licking good!

The food was made by her and the menu was: Mango sour (a pisco drink with mango juice) and freshly baked queso-olive empanadas for starters. The meal consisted: Baked pineapple chicken in a cheesy sauce, Beef pot roast, whole fried potatoes, fresh salad, Chilean pan (bread) washed down with a choice of wines, Sprite or orange juice. Dessert was a choice of three ice creams. This delectable fare was served in the patio which opens onto the lawn. Great ambiance too!

Post lunch, the boys got into table tennis matches as we, the girls, watched and cheered. Roxanna kept up a steady supply of cold drinks and iced water. Our wonderful lunch ended on a high note of joie de vivre on Sunday.

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Prime seats for the TT match…:D

Back at the apartment, the high notes mellowed as Ranjit and Manu got into their usual routine: phone, serials, movies mode which made any kind of conversation unwelcome. So I watched some TV, then occupied myself with turkey (pavo) empanadas.

This entailed cooking the ground turkey which would be the filling in the empanadas. I kneaded and rolled my way through the dough and folded and sealed the filling in the empanadas. Then I wrapped them in cling wrap and stored them in the freezer; When needed, heat some oil and fry.

We were to go back to the GH, but Manu went to bed so I decided to stay the night at the apartment. Good decision; I get the advantage of the net!

Tomorrow morning, I make one last visit to Roxanna’s place. She has, so sweetly, offered to color my hair before I leave. Honestly, no one has ever offered to do it even when I wasn’t able to go to the salon due to my back problems. I feel so nice and blessed with her friendship. That’s it for now.

This brings me to the end of my Chile Diary.

I fly out on the 14th of April. I know I’ll miss this beautiful city. Despite the constant fears of tremors and quakes I experienced, I’ll miss the “como estas?  and “Estoy bien!”

 

Glossary: 

Mehndi…….. Henna is called mehndi in India. It is applied in intricate designs on the hands, feet and even as temporary tattoos these days. Applying mehndi is a custom on many festivals and an important tradition of Indian marriages where the bride’s arms, hands, feet, and calves (at times) are covered with finely executed patterns.

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Chile Diary – 15

Wooden sculpture in the lobby of Delicias Del Mar

The beautiful array of wooden sculptures in the lobby of Delicias Del Mar

Easter Week and Farewell Parties

6th April, Tuesday 2010

It’s been a while since I wrote anything… anything at all.

Almost the entire Easter week went away in suspense. I was to leave Chile on the 3rd, then the 9th as I mentioned in one of my previous posts. Till Thursday evening, we were hoping though still not sure about my ticket. Then, they told us it couldn’t happen. Now, I’m looking at this weekend, probably, Saturday as my day of departure. So I wasn’t in the mood to recount much.

On Wednesday Manu and I did some shopping. Nothing much because I could hardly walk or stand. It wasn’t a pleasant spree for me and I love shopping! So you can imagine how I felt. We visited just one shop and that speaks for itself. I just couldn’t carry my weight, literally.

Thursday, Ranjit had an off day, half of which he spent seeing to some of his pending work. In the afternoon, we went to Lider to buy some things like essence and peppers that I wanted to take back with me.

From here, we went to the mall across the street. It’s called Marina Arauco. I checked out a few things I liked and noted that down. Then we went to Ruby Tuesday for lunch.  Fortunately, they have wi-fi so I could check my mail also.

I had a sumptuous meal starting with Thai Phoon Camarones (breaded shrimps, Thai style) followed by Loaded Potato and a Fresh Salad. I washed this down with a fresh Strawberry Lemonade.

While we were here, there was a tremor (5+), but I didn’t feel a thing. I was blissfully oblivious to everything except the laptop and my blog and writing. Actually, I was feeling quite happy and calm, so I suppose it numbed my senses!

From here, we retraced our way back to where I had found a couple of things I wanted to buy; picked them up and returned home. I had enjoyed this day thoroughly.

Ranjit and Manu had planned a farewell dinner and they had invited Roxanna and her family too. I rested at the guesthouse to be better inclined, physically and mentally, to handle the evening.

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The lovely restaurant and delicious food we enjoyed at Oda Pacifico. And more than that the company of good friends.

Ranjit had left the choice of the restaurant to Roxanna. She led us to Valparaiso. A few yards from Pablo Neruda’s house stands a sea-food restaurant called Oda Pacifico. This was our destination.

I have to admit, I was disappointed by what I saw. and so were Manu and Ranjit. It was a nondescript building, poor facade, and resembled one of the humble dwellings around it.

“Yeh toh dhaba hai,” I whispered to Manu.

“I know,” she whispered back.

We would call it a dhaba in India. A dhaba is a wayside eating place. It’s simple and very basic. Usually, these places are set up along highways and are frequented by travelers and truck drivers.

But, I hasten to add, many dhabas have earned a name and permanent customers because of their excellent food. We ourselves would make a stop at one such place on the highway when we traveled from Delhi to Chandigarh. However, knowing Roxanna, I couldn’t bring myself to accept that this was her best but gave her the benefit by telling myself that the food was probably out-of-the-world kind.

The manager welcomed us and led us through the pub at the front, past the kitchen and pantry, and what we found at the end of this tour took our breath away. There before us spread out in all its splendor was a restaurant with a splendid view of the city and the Port below. Awesome! 

Everything then on was fabulous. We thanked my friend Roxanna profusely for her excellent choice. The food by Chilean standards was indeed great. But the dessert outdid every ‘dulce’ experience we’d had till then. It was 1.00 a.m by the time we got home. Thursday was a resounding success and one of the rare days I have enjoyed so much in Viña del Mar.

I had invited Rekha and her family for lunch. Rekha and her husband were visiting their son who is the big boss in the company Ranjit works for. Since both Ranjit and Manu declined my offer of help, in any form, I was left to my own devices, which weren’t many. But being me and finding an ample number of bananas, enough sugar, and vanilla at my disposal in the 3 Poniente guesthouse, I got cracking.

My earlier plan was to make Caramel-Bananas and serve it with scoops of vanilla ice cream. But Ranjit rejected it because vanilla ice cream, he said, wasn’t available here.

I didn’t believe him. Vanilla beans are cultivated in Central America and South America so how could Chile not have an ice cream of the same flavor! Well, perhaps truth turns out stranger at times, I thought. Nevertheless, I made the dessert at the guesthouse despite Ranjit’s admonishings… long story short, he bought the vanilla ice cream!

Once I was on the roll with what makes me happiest; cooking and feeding, there was no stopping me. I bamboozled my way between the two cooks (Manu & Ranjit) and made sour-sweet green chili relish (khatti-meethi hari mirch) as a side to compliment the delicious main dishes these two were conjuring up. This relish is made with the big, fat green chili and not with the small ones.

Lunch was finger-licking delicious. The superb butter chicken Ranjit made was the star dish. Their other offerings were: mixed vegetable, dal fry, pudina chutney, raita. There were chapatis, zeera rice, and not to forget the khatti-meethi mirch. The dessert wrapped it up with a flourish.

Everyone’s palates were titillated enough by the delicious aromas and this worked up ravenous appetites. We had great conversations too along with our meal. Another very pleasant day went by. Saturday was an easy day. We ate Friday’s dinner for lunch and still had a lot left over.

But Lady Luck was on our side. At the Food Court, later in the evening, we found a willing party for Friday’s left-overs: A few Indian youngsters who work at the same place as Ranjit. Boy! Were we relieved!

Easter morning. I was up early, fresh and keen to go out in the day, perhaps to visit one of the churches and say a prayer. It didn’t happen. We stayed in and I nibbled on some marzipans, jujubes, and Easter Eggs made of chocolate… dark and white.

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My first walk on the beach that lay five minutes away from the guesthouse.

In the evening, I pestered Ranjit to take me to the beach so I could, at least, say I’d been on the beach. Can you beat it; the beach has been lying there, five minutes from my door since the day I came to the guesthouse on 3 Poniente y 10 Norte, and I hadn’t been there to even gaze at it!

Anyway, we went. We clicked some pics. Peeked into the feria stalls. Bought these giant rolls of cotton candy most of which I got on my face, hair, and clothes than in my mouth. I needed water to wash that sticky mess off but found none. I washed it off with soda! Yes, ‘agua con gas’ as plain water ‘agua sin gas’ isn’t available on the beach. It was a funny experience for me and I laughed instead of getting irritated or frustrated.

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This was before we ate cotton candy!

We even bought ‘palmyras,’ a ‘mathi’ like thing which even tasted like a sweet mathi. Palmyras are made of refined flour. They’re rolled out into seven-inch roundels and fried. Then they are sweetened with palm syrup.

By now, it was time for dinner and we drove around looking for parking space near the restaurant we wanted to go to. Finally, we found a spot and it just happened to be in front of a showroom that was still open for business. Shopping is therapeutic and can always lift one’s spirit… provided the shopping’s done for you! And so it was.

The showroom was selling Patagonia Argentina Woollens. Talk about a good day… this was it. I’m sure I was tired when I walked in but quite the uplifted one when I walked out.

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Our dinner at Delicias Del Mar added the cherry. We were absolutely ready for home as Monday loomed large after a long weekend.

 

Glossary: 

Dulce………………………………………….sweet/dessert

Dal……………..Lentil made with spices and a typical seasoning.

Khatti-meethi……………………………sour-sweet

Hari mirch………………………………..green chili

Raita………………………………………….whipped yogurt mixed with anything one chooses to add. Could be cucumber, boiled potatoes or just onions and tomatoes, even fruit. With a sprinkle of salt and some Indian seasoning.

Mathi………………………………………..a crisp fried savory made of white flour. Sweet ones are made on particular festivals  

Chapati…………………………………….tortilla kind of Indian flatbread made of whole wheat flour.   

Pudina chutney………………………Fresh mint ground into a chutney along with onions, ginger, garlic, green chili, tomatoes or lemon juice or aamchoor (dry mango powder) for a mild tanginess, and salt.

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Chile Diary – 14

12657214_10153872634519929_9079214030669544339_o Quintay

Quintay is a little village in Central Chile. Easily reached for a day trip from Santiago or Valparaiso.

As I draw closer to the last chapters of my Chile Diary, I feel a kind of sadness. I enjoyed going down memory lane, remembering and reliving the events as they unfolded with each letter I typed.

I recall with clarity how anxious I was with the developments and crisis that caught us unawares when I had to return to India. So come with me as I carry on the story.

 

26th March 2010

Boarding Pass to the Rescue.

 Yesterday was a cold, foggy day. Back in the guesthouse, I curled up on my bed. I was hungry and cold and waiting eagerly for dinner. But home-cooked dinner wasn’t on the menu.

We went out for Chinese.

Awful!

So we decided to move from our barely eaten Chinese meal and go for an Italian one. We went to Fellini.

Yummilicious! I had a dish called Camarones al pil-pil which I washed down with sips of Pisco-sour. Pisco, I’m told, is a Chilean drink which the Peruvians claim as theirs. A highly disputable claim according to the Chileans.

It tasted like a wine but isn’t a wine. I like it. The drink, however, is strong; a bit too strong for a teetotaller like me. It’s made from grapes which I suppose accounts for the wine-like flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal which I couldn’t finish, Pisco included! So the shrimp was packed as a takeaway. The Pisco was wasted.

I must tell you how the Camarones al Pil-Pil is made… or how I think it’s made. A lot of olive oil is heated up. A lot of garlic is chopped. The garlic along with a big red chili (whole) is tossed into the hot oil which is on simmer. Immediately after this, the shelled and washed shrimps follow. The oil is taken off the fire/stove.

The shrimp is allowed to sit in the oil for a while so they get cooked. The shrimp used in this preparation are a size smaller than medium. It is served in a bowl with oil et al. That’s what I deducted from what was served and eaten. Ranjit endorsed it. I plan to make different kinds of ‘al pil-pil’… chicken, fish, cauliflower etc.

Hitches & Glitches

A new development in my ticket bookings highlighted what I already firmly believe; God is watching out for me. The travel agent called very early in the morning to say that there was a hitch as the records in Brazil showed that I hadn’t boarded the LAN flight to Santiago. The implication being that I stayed in Brazil illegally and when and how did I go to Chile!

This is where God showed His hand.

It was providence that my intuition (read God’s prompting) prompted me to keep my boarding passes. I can recall how I pondered over throwing away the boarding passes. Something strange, considering such things are discarded as soon as one has reached one’s destination. But this time, I gave in to my inner voice and kept the boarding passes, though, I admit, I felt stupid retaining them.

However, after I heard from the travel agent about this new development, I don’t feel silly at all! We sent a scanned copy of the pass to the travel agent. I pray things are smoothened out and I have no trouble getting a return ticket.

As of now, I have no idea when I’ll be leaving. They’re trying for the 9th of April. Let’s see.

No, 9th April isn’t my day either. After a lot of running around, LAN finally accepted the fault was at their office in Brazil, as their office at destination Chile had indeed registered me on the particular plane, and they agreed to issue my ticket. You’d think that was the end of the matter. You’d be wrong.

I had hardly heaved a sigh of relief when the next news arrived deflating me. The SA airlines declined to issue a ticket from Sao Paulo onwards quoting the same reason – I hadn’t left Sao Paulo! I believe, the GRS is a system of booking tickets common to all airlines worldwide, and the failure of the machine to register my boarding became an issue again.

For some reason, my trip to Chile has become a test of faith for me. It’s the first time I’m traveling abroad alone, and so much is happening.

I quote Psalm 91 and Psalm 121 with trust and faith that my Lord never sleeps and He’ll keep me safe and secure through the entire journey back to New Delhi. I’m physically worn out. Tired, I hum an old melodious but lonesome song…

Koi humdum na raha, Koi sahara na raha,

Hum kisike na rahe, koi humara na raha.

(I have no soulmate, nor do I have any support.

I belong to no one and no one belongs to me.)

Kya bataoon main kahan, yuhi chala jaata hun,

Jo mujhe raah dikhaye wohi taara na raha.

(How do I tell where I wander aimlessly,

the guiding star that showed me the way is no more.)

 

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Chile Diary – 13

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The lights along the Valparaiso shore as seen from Viña del Mar

Today, I’ll take you back to the 21st of March 2010 as I move on with the Chile Diary in part- 13.

Flight

Last night as I lay on my bed trying to rest out an abominable headache, I felt a tremor. I was so exhausted and fed-up with the situation that, instead of jumping out of bed and making a dash for the front door, I just got up, sat down and said to myself, “kis, kis se bhagein? Kab tak bhagein? Kis ke pas bhagein?

I was very tired.

The mobile phone rang. I knew it would be Ranjit. He asked me if I had changed into my pajamas. I hadn’t. We were going out for dinner! We went to a place called ‘Wok and Roll’. I wondered if this name was born out of some imagination or lack of it. It did aspire to make the most of punning. The restaurant served Thai and Japanese food.

I was content with appetizers so my meal comprised of two different chicken satays. One, supposed to be Thai was served with a peanut sauce that was not what we were used to having. It was a kind of yellow curry with a few peanuts tossed in. The Japanese one was good. The other dish was shrimp tempura that looked great but turned out to be oily and thick with batter. But, all in all, it was a great dinner. Through the course of the dinner, I was wondering why Manu was having dinner with us when she was dressed and ready for a ‘girls night out’. So I asked.

They told me that she would be joining her friends a little later. It was already midnight by then, but not wanting to be too inquisitive, I quietly speculated on how late “a little later” was. As we waited for the cab to come, I gathered proffered information.

The girls would first go to a discotheque, shake a leg then try their luck at the casino. The discos here began filling up after midnight and the casino opened after 1.00 am! I realized I was out of sync, totally, with the life of youngsters. At our time discotheques closed at midnight and as for casinos; we read about them, we saw them in movies, but we didn’t visit any because there were no casinos to go to!! The hour struck and they dropped me home.

During the week that followed, I made Pollo Pulao (chicken pulao) and Salsa de tomate cocida con cilantro y cebolla (tamatar kuchumbar) for my Chilean friends; Roxanna and her family. They enjoyed it.

They found the arroz (rice) I had used deliciously different. I had used a good quality basmati rice. The rice eaten in Chile is of a thicker grain, starchy and different in flavor. It came as a big surprise to them that I had bought the rice at Lider, a supermarket here.

I decided to give them a taste of a dessert, I thought they’d like – Caramel Banana. I must mention here that this dessert is my own concoction conjured up way back in the 1980s. This is one dessert that has always found favor with everyone barring those who don’t like bananas. So it goes without saying, it was a finger-licking hit. The recipe was asked for and willingly given. Three cheers for the chef!

And as I pat my back, I plan on making some sweet ‘gujiyas’ and ground beef ‘samosas’ for them over this weekend. Both of these are similar to their empanadas. Of course, they don’t have sweet empanadas like our gujiyas, though. 

 

The house hunting continues.

We’ve been looking around for apartments on the first level and in the process have seen some very nice ones on the fourth level. It seems the local folk have vacated the higher floors and moved to the lower floors, so it is difficult to find one for ourselves. Let’s hope we get one if not on the first then on the second, at least.

This constant state of fear and my physical problems are fraying my nerves. I read about the earthquakes but given my experiences of earthquakes in India… the most frightening of which was 4. something; this exposure to such intense, terrifying and frequent tremors and quakes is fraying my nerves threadbare. I’ve been wanting to leave and go back to India.

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Rocio, the friendly, homeless dog abandoned by his owners years ago. He had many two-legged friends who cared for him. There are many like him on the streets of Viña. But all aren’t as friendly as he is.

I had already decided to ask for my date of return to be advanced. So the request was put to the company boss for approval. A day was available: Saturday, 3rd April. I received this news with mixed feelings yesterday.

My stay here, under the present circumstances, is proving to be hard not only on the kids and me but also for Gabriel’s family. They have been playing host to me so graciously for many days. So it provides relief for all that I go back to India.

But for me, the ordeal doesn’t end here.

The happiness of “flight” will diminish when I reach India and another reality hits. I no longer have a home of my own. I will be relying on the hospitality of friends. The only hope that pushes me is, getting my Canadian visa soon. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, I’m planning a trip to the markets on Saturday and Sunday to look for gifts for people back home and some stuff I’d like to carry for myself.

 

Glossary:

Kis, kis se bhagein?……….. How many things will I run from?

Kab tak bhagein? ………….. Till when will I keep running?

Kahan bhagein?  …………… Where do I run to?

Kis ke paas bhagein? …….. To whom do I run to? 

 

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Chile Diary- 12

“I go to sleep alone and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”-Audrey Niffenegger

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve.

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve. The visible volcano is Mocho, the second one Choshuenco isn’t in the frame.

I’m back from my ‘workation’. I was away in my home country visiting friends and family. I did a bit of blogging on the side, whenever I found some spare time. But this story was on hold! I’m back now and trying to catch up with my blogs.

This chapter carries on from the previous one and surprises me. Click the link to read an introduction to the mom’s guests in Chile Diary-11.

The Mom’s Guests

I set up my computer on the dining table and began to write. If I was looking for common sense to guide the mom and her guests, I was disappointed. Common sense was conspicuous by its absence.

They continued to sit around the table and chat in the high-pitched, sing-song tone most Chilean women use. My head was beginning to ache. Just as I thought I should pack shop, the whole jingbang got up and left; mom included.

Hallelujah! I broke into a happy song. It was a premature celebration!

About half an hour later, they trooped in and the women began setting the table for tea. It was past 7.00 p.m. OMGosh! I moaned, not again.

The gossiping, laughing, and chomping went on and on. I glared at them from time to time but it was useless. Their total concentration was in the cake, bread, ham; the paltas (avocado), crackers, butter, and the tea and cold drinks they were walloping as they kept up the steady high-pitched conversation.

By then, my head was throbbing. I held my temples and looked directly at each one. I saw their mouths open and close but I couldn’t hear them talk! It was that bad. It was time for me to get up and leave. I wasn’t in good shape and if I stayed longer, I knew I’d say something and it wouldn’t be anything very nice.

I’m over that rant. It’s over. The day’s ended and with it the mood.

Or is it? The next day didn’t help. Looks like I’m in a mood these past two days! I discovered today that Indian beauticians are way ahead of their Chilean counterparts. Besides, they charge so little for the amount of work they do. I needed to give some attention to my feet so Manu took me to a salon nearby. I got a less than satisfactory pedicure. I’d have paid this amount for more and better quality of work back home.

If it weren’t for my back and knees that prevent me from cleaning my feet thoroughly and cutting my toenails, I’d skip a pedicure in Chile. Thank God, Roxanna colored my hair at her place! I’m glad Manu warned me not to even try the manicure. After the pedicure, I wouldn’t have anyway!

So, thus went my day into the dumps.

No more to write so I’ll wind up. Then what? As usual, I’ll stare at the walls and then lie on my bed and try not to think sad thoughts. For some reason, these words of an old Hindi song pop up in my mind. I’ve written it in the Roman script and I’ve tried to give you the best translation of the song. The lyrics are beautiful though melancholy!

 

“Aye mere dil-e-nadaan,

tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart,

don’t let sorrow worry you,

one day this world will understand your story.)

Armaan bhare dil mein,

zakhmon ko jagah dede,

Bhadke huye sholon ko,

kuch aur hawaa dede.

Banti hai toh ban jaye, yeh zindagi afsana.

(In a heart full of dreams and expectations,

allow a bit of space for hurt and pain.

The embers have burst into flame,

fan them a bit more.

If your life has become a story; let it be so.)

Faryad se kya hasil,

rone se natija kya?

Bekaar hain yeh baatein,

in baaton se hoga kya?

Apna bhi ghari bhar mein,

ban jaata hai begaana.

(Nothing comes from complaining,

and tears bring no results.

These are useless things

and nothing is achieved by it.

In a split second,

even our own become strangers.)

Aye mere dil-e-nadaan, tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart, don’t let sorrow worry you.

One day this world will understand your story.)

 

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” -Hermann Hesse

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Chile Diary- 10

As I read this entry, I realize how awful it was for me; hampered by not only my physical problems but also with my own feelings of not wanting to be a burden on anyone and dependent too, for each little thing.
 

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The beautiful streets of Viña del Mar

The everyday activities we take for granted were either very difficult and painful for me to accomplish or then impossible and not advisable that I even try to do so. I learned this the hard and excruciatingly painful way when I ruptured a disc or developed tears in them.

I would get irritated and often angry with myself. My inability to perform the simple, normal day-to-day things or even walk at a normal pace and for a good distance frustrated me.

My fastest pace was ‘tortoise’ and I had to stop after every 10-15 steps to catch my breath and get relief from the pain. Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis aren’t great companions. I am so grateful and thankful that I am so much better now.

By the grace of God, I found an orthopedic surgeon in 2007 who helped me get back to a normal life. It took a long time, 8 years, for the quality of my life to improve, but it did. And then a doctor of alternative medicine in Chile,  one who prescribed diets and herbal medicines, took it further and all I can say is, “Thank you, Lord, for leading me to them.”

I also understand how difficult it must have been for my son and DIL. I needed assistance in everything and in the kind of situation we were in at this time, it could be trying; very trying.

March 20th, 2010

The Fishbone In The Throat

Yesterday marked one month of my stay to the day. I landed in Santiago on a Friday, the 19th of February. Yesterday was also a Friday. The bonus was… Ranjit had taken leave and we had lunch at SixBar, a restaurant specializing in Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. It’s close-by so we walked down.

It took longer than it should have but I needed to exercise my legs; my body, even if it was a tortoise walk! And I must have looked like one with this rather big lumbar support belt. It has three rods in it and wrapped around my lower back and waist it looked like protective armor!

It was a celebration of sorts. We munched on starters; roasted crunchy maize and salmon tempura as we waited for the camarone (shrimp) tempura to arrive. Delicious! We walloped it down and waited patiently for the main course of roast pork accompanied by ‘terrine papa y chutney de mango’. I enjoyed it with two glasses of fresh ‘pina’ juice.

Terrine papa is a dish made with slices of potato (papa) wrapped in bacon rashers and baked. This is eaten with a mango chutney. Now it was time for dessert.

Ranjit chose one that translated to ‘Volcano of Chocolate’ but changed the order when they informed him that it would take fifteen minutes and opted for the trilogy of chocolate. What no one told him was that this would take twenty minutes!! I asked for a plate of fresh fruits. Boy! That was a meal!

The cab had arrived and was waiting. We drove to Lider, a huge market which would be called a mall in India. It’s a lot like Spencer’s in Gurgaon, only three times the size. The only reason we made the trip was to get my track pants altered and that got done quick enough. We had nothing else to do but window shopping which I couldn’t do much of as my back and legs didn’t hold up and I needed to sit. There was nowhere I could sit so I leaned against a pillar and waited for Ranjit to finish his window shopping. Then it was back to the guesthouse.

I was tired and lay down. Ranjit, promptly went off to sleep. The rest of the evening went off dozing and waking till I got quite fed-up with staring at the ceiling and walls.

It was 10.30 pm when Manu walked in with the dinner she had prepared at the apartment. We ate. We talked a bit. At about midnight, she felt like eating ice cream. Since it meant a long walk, for me, to 5 Norte, I was obviously not included in the midnight jaunt. But I was too nervous to be left alone at the guesthouse for two reasons; first, I wasn’t sleepy and with no TV or internet, I had nothing to take my mind off tremors and quakes. The second, the other mom ( Mauricio’s) wasn’t in and I didn’t want to be alone.

This didn’t please one, evidently, so I suggested they drop me at Manchester where I could drink some coffee, plug-in the laptop and check my mail and chat with some friends. This didn’t please the other!

Anyway, with no alternative being decided on, I was hovering in the living room wondering how I was going to deal with the situation when both of them herded me out of the house. I tagged along.

To cut a long story short, I couldn’t walk the distance. Manu was upset, and I can understand that. She walked yards ahead in a silent protest. Ranjit had to bear the brunt indirectly while I felt as unwanted as a fishbone in the throat. I don’t blame either for feeling the way they felt about me at that moment.

The day ended on a sour note and it doesn’t make me happy because I know it was I and not my son who was the irritant.

 

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