Monday, 23 May 2016

Silence and Solitude..

Been trying to find some answers in life. Why is acceptance so difficult and people/situations so complicated. Surviving on my daily dose of solitude and trying to listen to the voices inside my head. Guess if things can not be changed, only should gracefully learn to let go.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A snail-mail project and a million questions!

I've always felt there is something sacred in a piece of paper that travels the earth from hand to hand, head to head, heart to heart.” 
Robert Michael Pyle
Sky Time in Gray's River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place

My past few posts have been dedicated to my zillion pastimes during six months long maternity leave and the importance of doing nothing once in a while. The initial days were all  about getting used to two kids in the house and their innumerable demands on mom's energy and time. After a while, however, life begins to follow a pattern and one is somewhat able to reflect on small acts of kindness and gestures of affection shown by family and friends which make life truly worth living. Given mine and A's mechanical home-office-home routine and our tendency to remain caught up in inanities of everyday life, often people/things that deserve heartfelt gratitude and need to be acknowledged go unreciprocated and after considerable time has elapsed, one is rather ashamed of expressing the same (with such delay) anymore.

Over the past few years, as me and A lived in separate cities (for a long time even separate states), life had become a constant effort to spend time together and many important things slipped past unnoticed and unacknowledged- whether it was our best friends' getting married and then having their first kids, or shifting out of places without saying thanks to the people who constantly supported us. Therefore, this time when we had the opportunity and the time, we decided to let all the fabulous people in our life know how much they mean to us. While my original intention was to make a handcrafted card for each recipient, it took no time to figure out that (given my zillion other preoccupations and being 'full-time' Mom to two tiny kids) the thank-you-card-idea would once again become an item on our wishlist only. Therefore, I decided to get two of my watercolors printed in the form of thank you cards (Thank God,for once the internet printing company delivered to a place like Pratapgarh) and shoot them immediately to our 'magic circle' of friends.However, getting everyone's postal address seemed to be a task in itself and I SMSed/Facebooked/Whatsapped everyone to send us their address please.

The most interesting part of the story is the variety of questions and responses that followed my request for postal address:

  • Majority of people enquired if we intend to visit them soon and much as I feel delighted with the idea, I had to politely convey my answer in a negative.
  • The other set was hopeful that am planning an event (to celebrate something) and perhaps intend to send an invite. For one, while postal invites are still the norm in our part of the country, Me and A did not even send our wedding cards to begin with and rely completely on paperless invitations till date!
  • Yet another interesting set had two subsets of its own. This comprised two people we are extremely open with and who wanted the full story before they would fish out their address. While one of them felt that only somebody as crazy as me could come up with this (and gladly complied), the other plainly refused to accept any Thank-Yous from me whatsoever.
  • Then there was yet another (largely international) set who cited 'operational difficulties' in receiving anything by post (like nobody at home to receive, shifting homes in the interim etc). Considering the difficulties at their end, I could never bring it upon myself to incur international postage charges without being sure if the post will ever even reach them.
  • Lastly, there were dear friends who chose to never respond to my request.
While it shouldn't be a surprise that (prima facie) the idea of receiving anything by post is rather difficult to digest,I was equally charmed by the responses to my request for people's home address (and hence this blog post!). However, for all the trouble that it is, as a dear friend warmly conveyed 'it struck the deepest chords of the Heart'. It was heartening to note that the post still works (and much faster now!) and most people were touched by the simple surprise. There are also a dozen cards still left to be sent for a multiplicity of reasons and I hope they too serve their intended purpose. Much as I have created a story out of the entire exercise, there is no judgement involved in doing so. Some of the dearest people in our lives couldn't be sent any card and as one of them remarked, they perhaps do not even need any. Yet, to each one of them, we owe tons of our happiness and gratitude.While the card could barely contain a few words, to most, I wish I could write tons and tell them how life would not have been the same without them.

Generally, people who are good at writing letters have no need to write letters. They've got plenty of life to lead inside their own context.” 
― Haruki Murakami, 
A Wild Sheep Chase

Doors of perception!

“We lose keys and we find keys and we get new keys. We just have to find the ones that unlock the right doors. Sometimes, we have keys, but we don’t know what door they fit. That can be the hardest part, putting the right key in the right door.” 
Dan Groat, Monarchs and Mendicants

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Of Few Poems and Amaltas..

Sometimes there is not much to write by way of a 'post' but a recurrent thing/theme/object also wouldn't allow one to find peace until one gets it out of one's mind. Come summers, and as its time for the Laburnum flowering, no matter where I am, a surfeit of 'Amaltas' memories start playing in my head. 

The memories go far back to our school days when we would come home on sizzling afternoons and the streets of Delhi would be paved with either the 'gold' of Amaltas or the 'crimson' of Gulmohar. As years passed, the daily 'struggles' and far more 'important' things crowded the mind space and one no longer even spared a thought of the same. And yet, today, nearly two decades years later, staying in a district where I have managed to come across just one Amaltas no matter how hard I try to find, I pine for my hometown and its 'streets of gold'. 

Each time I think of Amaltas, my most stirring memory is that of my dear friend (and hostel mate KC) leaving JNU and two of us setting out early on the day of her departure to take as many pics as possible of our beautiful campus. Today when I look back at those pics, nearly all of them seem to present a yellow splurge in the backdrop. If I am lucky enough to find, I would add to this blog post a pic (of the same tree of gold growing inside our Godavari hostel) that I happened to capture during my last visit (which in turn has precious memories of its own). Though a lot of water has passed under the bridge since we left our alma mater, a few things are caught in a time warp. Am sure each of us who carry a bit of JNU in our hearts, will always also carry a bit of this gold.

Years later as life took me to the arid Bundelkhand where summers meant a challenging time of misery, droughts and fires, and the landscape turned dreary into the color of dust, it was once again only a few trees (Amaltas, Gulmohar, Palash and Mahua) which would provide succor to the eyes and the soul alike. Needless, my 'gilted' memories are the only thing I carried along as I waved goodbye to Bundelkhand twice!

Leaving Delhi almost a decade back (and living in multiple places before I could settle and call Lucknow my home), once again my eyes are invariably drawn to Amaltas in bloom anywhere on the streets of Lucknow. Yet a particular favorite of mine is a feeble Amaltas near the Loreto crossing that I saw everyday on my way to the State Secretariat. It doesn't remain in bloom for long nor there is anything special associated with the same and yet I couldn't help making it a part of my art journal and writing a few lines about it.

There was this lovely yellow tree
Everyday it seemed to be greeting me
On my way to the work
My own little happiness quirk 
 (14 May, 2015)

As I shared my art journal entry (sans the poem) with friends and family, long stories flowed in (not to mention a century of 'likes')! Of particular mention are the two poems I received. Not just that these poems need to be shared, the memories would no longer be complete without them.

अमलतास / गुलज़ार

खिड़की पिछवाड़े को खुलती तो नज़र आता था
वो अमलतास का इक पेड़, ज़रा दूर, अकेला-सा खड़ा था
शाखें पंखों की तरह खोले हुए
एक परिन्दे की तरह
बरगलाते थे उसे रोज़ परिन्दे आकर
सब सुनाते थे वि परवाज़ के क़िस्से उसको
और दिखाते थे उसे उड़ के, क़लाबाज़ियाँ खा के
बदलियाँ छू के बताते थे, मज़े ठंडी हवा के!
आंधी का हाथ पकड़ कर शायद
उसने कल उड़ने की कोशिश की थी
औंधे मुँह बीच-सड़क आके गिरा है!!

The Laburnum Top/ Ted Hughes 

The Laburnum Top is silent, quite still
in the afternoon yellow September sunlight,
A few leaves yellowing, all its seeds fallen
Till the goldfinch comes, with a twitching chirrup
A suddeness, a startlement,at a branch end
Then sleek as a lizard, and alert and abrupt,
She enters the thickness,and a machine starts up
Of chitterings, and of tremor of wings,and trillings -
The whole tree trembles and thrills
It is the engine of her family.
She stokes it full, then flirts out to a branch-end
Showing her barred face identity mask
Then with eerie delicate whistle-chirrup whisperings
She launches away, towards the infinite
And the laburnum subsides to empty

There are a number of people who have stood by us in life's journey and who have left an indelible imprint on our lives. Incidentally, many of them already know of my 'Amaltas love' and were not surprised to receive a-middle-of-the-year-no-rhyme-or-reason 'Thank You' card that carried a pic of (you guessed it) AMALTAS! 

However, the story doesn't end here. I came to know, my 'yellow fever' has truly caught on, when,(living far away from my loved ones,) one morning I unexpectedly received  the adjoining pic and realized sometimes no words need to be said.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Losing Ronnie and Finding Rudolph!

Dear N,

It will probably be years before you are able to decipher the true reason for narrating this story but as your Mom I have been meaning to write this for you for long and no matter how late you ask me about this, this memory will always be my amongst my hardest lessons in life and  a parable I will probably reflect upon often.

When you were barely six months old, my favorite boss (Uncle A) and his wife (Aunt S) returned from their sabbatical in London and amongst several things, brought along a stuffed puppy for you. As Aunt S still vividly recounts she picked it for you during the Christmas week sales in anticipation of your imminent arrival into our lives. It was not the only stuffed toy you had and definitely not your first one, but from an early age you took a liking for it. When you would need to cuddle something to sleep with, we would give you the same pup and soon it became your inseparable companion who even traveled with us on long journeys to distant places. As you learnt to speak, we taught you to call it Ronnie (because it wore a leather name tag which mentioned the same).Each time we would visit your either set of grandparents, I would fear that if Ronnie got left behind, how will I ever calm you and procure it back.

In the winter of 2015, your Dad got transferred out and as it was nearly time for P to come to us, you and me had no option but to continue staying all by ourselves in Lucknow. Each afternoon, I would send you to the park outside and you would spend hours playing with your toys and ball in the sun. Needless to mention Ronnie always accompanied you. I still clearly remember that afternoon as I was putting you to sleep after lunch and you started crying for Ronnie. As we began to search your pram, your room and gradually the entire house, it became clear that Ronnie never came back with you that day.

While I managed to put you to sleep somehow, I myself could not find any peace. Not just that Ronnie was exorbitantly priced and pretty difficult to buy anywhere in India (and I learnt it only when we lost it and I mounted an internet search to find a replacement for you), I could not come to terms with the loss myself. As you continued to cry (for days afterwards), I felt miserable and helpless, for being unable to save you from the pain of losing Ronnie. Sometimes, my instinct would tell me to request one of our several friends living abroad to help me find a replacement. It took your dad a good amount of time to explain to me that it was okay and you will gradually get over it. 

When you read this story years afterwards, you will perhaps not find it to be such a big deal at all. But at that point of time in my life, it was. May be I was emotionally fragile (at that stage) and tried my best to keep you happy (while you missed Dad) with my limited energies and alone-time with you. For a while, I even turned selfish and would have done anything to restore Ronnie to you. But something kept me from doing so. I slowly began to realize that no matter how much I may try to protect you in life, you would sometimes get hurt (both physically and emotionally) and agonize over it for days afterwards. While I will always tell you to get over it soon, the hurt will take its own time to heal. You will devise your own mechanisms to deal with pain/loss and hopefully, emerge stronger in the process. And with all the resources and comforts at my command, I would not be able to prevent any of it from happening to you. Much as my parents loved me and still do, they could do nothing about the pain it entailed as I grew into a Mum of two.

Now, it would shortly be six months since Ronnie went back to live with his Mom (that's the story everybody in the family has to repeat). While it was difficult for you initially, over time, you not just brought Monkey and (a Pink) Ronnie to accompany you everywhere, Nanna even bought you a Rabbit you now love. And the biggest surprise of all, Masha brought you an elk from Finland and we decided to name it Rudolph (after Santa's reindeer). While you are unable to pronounce Rudolph even though you are three, Rudolph is clearly the current favorite and am sure Ronnie is already a distant memory to you.

Each time you lose something as precious as Ronnie, I hope you will remember there's always another (pink) Ronnie, Monkey and Rabbit waiting to be discovered. And just when you least expect, you might get Rudolph. Even if you had Ronnie now, am sure life would not have been much different and you would not be willing to change one bit of it for anything. In the process of writing this to you, I am also reminding myself of the lesson I have learnt both as a parent and as an individual.

With lifelong concern and my heart,

Monday, 2 May 2016

A page from the everyday life of an about to be 33 year old!

“I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.” 

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

As March Madness makes way for 'May Mellowness', and friends and family grant a lifelong extension to my license to be mad, for the first time since school I find something to look forward to each day and for the first time 'everyday' seems more interesting than some 'special' days. While there a million thoughts running through my mind and at least half a dozen blog posts (which require dedicated writing time) traipse half-baked through my imagination, I earnestly wish I could freeze a slice of my time and relish it at a later stage in life. While time travel remains a distinct improbability at the moment, I could always mark this great time of my life with chosen reference points which will be my memory aids in days to come. If I were to present a cross-section of my daily activities, this is what it would look like:

  • Enjoying- Summers in Pratapgarh (I know its 43 degrees outside!) and long evening walks 
  • Listening to- MTV India Unplugged (all seasons)
  • Loving- my disconnect (not yet freedom) from cellphone/Whatsapp/Facebook..
  • Learning- to drive around and observe the beauty/architecture of country homes
  • Feasting (my eyes) on- Gulmohars in full bloom and Mahua leaves which appear red in sunlight
  • Relishing- home-cooked 'Litti-Chokha' (typical meal of this part of the country) 
  • Playing- Two Dots (my meditation)
  • (Night time) Reading- David Levithan (all books), Murakami (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)
  • Organizing-Craft Supplies/ Digital files/ Photographs
  • Clicking- Parakeets and Hornbills and Hoopoes flitting about in the fields in the evening
  • Dreading- Return to office in July and managing two kids by myself
  • Hosting- People over lunch/tea and serving meals they do not expect in Pratapgarh (We never host dinners because its kids' sleeping time)
  • Sending- love and wishes in the form of self designed cards to dear friends all over
  • Hoping- to complete my Tapestry of Dreams before younger one turns one
  • Reflecting upon- being emotional and instinctive (and its fall outs) (As Murakami says, "Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent.")
  • Smiling- over the little things my kids do and amazed at God's kindness.
  • Thanking- Everyone and Everything that has made all of the above possible