Monday, May 9, 2016

The Bald Facts aka Balaji's Blessing

                                               

Shaven heads mean different things to different people, different cultures. In North India, at least, babies' heads are shaved for their 'mundan' ceremony. Sons often shave their heads as part of the mourning rituals for their fathers. Buddhist monks and nuns have shaven heads. In the milieu in which I grew up, it was rare to see a woman with her head shaved. Persis Khambatta's beautiful bald head in Star Trek :The Motion Picture (1979) made a huge splash in our world. Sinead O'Connor was another bald woman whom I was vaguely aware of.

Over the years, though, the frequency of my sighting of female bald heads has increased.

In the mid-nineties we moved down South, to a different city and a life which seemed quite different from the familiar patterns of our life in Lucknow. With the SRE's new position in the organisation, our attendance at large, official parties became more frequent. At one such party, I encountered a petite, elegant woman of indeterminate age, with a shaven head. She had gone to Tirupati and had had her head shaved there, much to the chagrin of her husband. We had a great conversation about all kinds of things, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and her company. A few months later there was yet another, bigger party. I saw an elderly woman with short grey hair, whom I simply could not place. She seemed so familiar, but for the life of me I just could not place her. As soon as my head touched my pillow that night, I suddenly realized that it was my erstwhile bald friend!!! I was terribly abashed and annoyed with myself for a) not recognizing her and b) missing out on some lively, stimulating conversation. Our next encounter was at a friend's home. As soon as I saw she entered the room, I went up to her and profusely apologized to her for not recognizing her with her hair!!!

In the interim I found more bald women in my life. A college friend who also had her head shaved in Tirupati, a school friend who had lost her hair due to chemotherapy for breast cancer, other friends who were cancer survivors. These were the two standard reasons for their bald heads.

Although it may seem as though I'm going off at a complete tangent, my critique of the NCR's female morning walkers is germane to this narration. Even when we lived here some fifteen years ago, they seemed to be a notoriously unfriendly bunch, and even now, their general demeanour is blinkered, and eye contact is to be avoided at all costs. Some months ago I discovered a kindred soul, who actually looked me in the eye and smiled at me on our second or third encounter. It helped that she reminded me of a young friend of our family, with dark curly hair and a wide smile. Over the last few months my walk timings had become very erratic, and I hadn't seen this lady for a while, although I had seen her husband walking alone a couple of times. About a fortnight ago I see a slight, bald figure, approaching me with a smile, and I realize that it is my formerly dark haired 'acquaintance', with whom I have never yet exchanged a word. I instinctively ask her, 'All well?', and that marks the beginning of our friendship. Like me, she was also most irritated by the general unfriendliness of the walking community in our neighourhood, and was happy to find a kindred spirit. She had gone to Tirupati and had had her head shaved there. Thanks to what we now  think of as the blessings of Balaji, we are both delighted with our brand new friendship: something neither of us expected to find in our sixties. We are now happy, regular walkers who are actually walking an extra round or two when we have the time, delighted to find that we have so much in common!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One year ago today



One year ago today was a Sunday.

(This is a leap year, or else today would have been a Monday).

It was the last day our weekly satsang was held at Mr. H's home,
He had retired, and had to vacate his centrally located government accommodation with a sprawling garden, after 10-12 years of hosting our particular satsang.
After we moved back to the NCR, it became our almost weekly meeting place, my sister's and mine.

It was, perhaps, also a way of reliving our childhood and youth, when we often went with our parents to the satsang on Sundays, in a different location, but nonetheless an inextricable part of our Sundays.

Although the RE is not interested in attending our satsang, he usually drives me there, then sits in the car with his newspaper, iPad, book, mobile phone, keeping himself busy for the hour or so that I'm inside. I am truly grateful to him for this. We sometimes venture further afield, sometimes go straight home. ( I sometimes hire a driver for the morning, if the RE's not available).

On this final Sunday, my cousin and his family were visiting us from out of town. They decided to come too, which was wonderful. We'd planned to go to Dilli Haat afterwards, have lunch out, and then go home. My sister was often an insistent host, so we thought we'd visit her if she insisted, or else go on our merry way.

There was a poignancy to that morning's service. It was the end of an era. The new location was miles away, in East Delhi, and many regulars would not be able to go there.

My sister and I would always sit together in chairs in the verandah, as our creaky knees no longer let us sit comfortably on the floor. That was the day I noticed how beautiful and dark her eyelashes were. I even asked her if she'd used kohl, but she said that she never did.

We chatted for a few minutes after the service, and I hugged her and moved towards the car. She seemed a little tired that day, and wasn't her usual insistent self. ( I recall a time I had to go several kilometers out of my way to go and see the spring flowers in her garden. I'm so glad I did).
My cousin and his family spent a few moments chatting with her, and then joined us.

That was the last time I met my sister.

She passed away suddenly less than a month later. We spoke on the phone a few times, even a few hours before she died. It still feels unreal.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

A very special day

So many loves throughout this life,
loves both given and loves received
Loves in the past, some long forgotten,
Many gone from this world, 
some merely lost to me.
Perhaps more love than I ever deserved
has come my way, truly blessing me.

And then there's this new love
who has overtaken our lives
whose name(s) we chant day in and day out
the spouse and I, crazy Dadi and Dadu
Far away though we may be, 
convinced that our thoughts get through
the miles that separate us......

So full of joy today, willing to shout out
to the world, be of good cheer, 
may joy abound everywhere, 
let the world forget it's myriad woes
just for a day
as we celebrate our little grandchild's 
second birthday!





Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Owning half the year

Life was simple then,
summer months were
no big deal for us,
no particular events
made them ours.
But from Independence Day,
(my mother's birthday),
to Republic Day,
my parents' anniversary,
each month
'belonged' to us.
August, mummy's birthday
September, sister's,
October, brother's
November, mine,
and December Daddy's,
and their January anniversary.

Of course I've added
many more dates and months to this list,
but my original family calendar
feels so empty now.




Sunday, January 24, 2016

Her voice, my voice.....

When you speak
your own voice
comes from inside you
the sound waves you generate
traverse both  internal and external paths,
impinging on your eardrums in distinct ways,
the voice you hear and the voice others hear
two different entities.

It's only a good recording
that helps you know
how you sound to others.

Recording the toddler's antics
on my phone camera,
I found myself
laughing aloud,
singing  along with the music,
and talking to her
or about her
in my late sister's voice.

After all these years of
thinking myself as
so different from my sister
Sounding like her
is now a comfort.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mommy House

Mommy House
was what my daughters asked for,
whenever they came over,
after the toddler had left.
Enough Dadi House now,
We miss the feel of home
and the toddler isn't here
but we are,
so make it nice again
for yourselves,
and your visiting
nearby children.

Me being me,
the colour scheme queen,
was inspired today
by the freezing cold
to do up the living room
and dining room
in warm, flame colours,
a welcome change
from the cool teal blues.
The maid had a day off
so the floors are dirty,
but after today's
yoga class,
breakfast making
dishwashing session,
and the big change
it doesn't really matter-
please excuse!



Let me share Mommy House, and Mommy herself in her winter headgear, (looking most squaw-like,
I know) with you, dear readers!






Thursday, January 14, 2016

The unbearable strangeness of home
























This rented flat
has charmed me, again and again
(though my heart still wants its 'own' place,
with no original packing materials
stored against a 'final' move.
Though I know that
nothing on this earth is final.
not the earth itself,
nor the people,
nor their houses).

Still charmed by the space,
the sunlight,
the fresh air,
all still present, still appealing,
but now also peopled by memories
of the tiny figure
who hopped and skipped around,
calling out to the pigeons, and her parents
and us, fond grandparents, and the fans,
and her toys ( especially Doggie)
it remains, more or less,
as baby-proofed as it was
ten days ago.

Those artefacts that added
character, personality, and colour
to our home,
I'm aware of their absence,
each one of them that is missing,
hiding in safe spaces.
I think of them stored away, safely,
asking me, softly,
when will we come out again?

The lacquered Japanese music box,
the Turkish bowls,
the ceramic candle holders
the brown and blue glazed jugs
on the sideboard,
the ceraminc Ganesha from Pondicherry
almost abstract, a subtlety ...
The fat turtle from New Mexico
with horsehair burned patterns,
a gift from one son,
brought to us by the other
The antique, timeless clock,
the Dokra musicians,
the lost wax 'people tree',
the many bowls and candles
and photo frames,
I remember them all
and I miss them all,
but I cannot bring myself
to bring them out again.

Not yet.
Not yet.
Not yet.

Life goes on without them,
As it does without
the toddler who left us last week,
who will be a different person
when we meet her next.

We see her in the garden downstairs,
where, like a little puppy,
she held my finger and led me
to where ever she wanted to go.
Holding on to her so that she wouldn't
fall into the ornamental pond,
fascinated by her own reflection!
The swings, the slides, the merry-go-round,
Many little people there,
but not our little person,
Who sat on my lap
in the colony vegetable shop
and ate a (complimentary) banana
after walking what seems like a huge distance
for one of her size!

Who knows when we will see her again,
and how old will she be then,
How much older will we be? 

And yet time cannot, and must not, be frozen.

We will delight in her as she grows,
our precious grandchild,
waiting for the day when Skype
and phones make sense to her,
until we meet again.
Our home still feels strange, though.
And so empty.......