Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Stranger's Grief

Life can get complicated, the more you try to simplify it. When we bought our own flat, we indulged ourselves somewhat, with a beautiful black glass cooktop and chimney, pretty new tiles etc.. There was a longish gap between the installation of the kitchen equipment, and our actual move, so I actually couldn't light the stove once we did move, because I thought that the electric chimney and  electric gas ignition had a single switch, while they actually had two! (The spouse came to the rescue!) Then we discovered that a couple of the burners were malfunctioning, so a company representative came and set it right. I also felt that the burners were way too hot even at the lowest setting. I couldn't leave the milk to simmer without it boiling over, and most dry vegetables, especially bhindi, would invariably burn. This fellow, the CR for short, however, said that it couldn't be changed, much to my chagrin.

I bumbled along for almost a month, putting another pan under the pan I was cooking bhindi in, and getting used to the Hot Hob's moodiness. And learning to switch on the sleek black electric chimney,which promises to clean itself. I had all intentions of either buying new heavy bottom cookware, or buying a couple of handle-less tawas to use under my existing pans. Airing this intention on a visit to the younger son proved fruitful: he said that if not the hob company, the gas company technician would definitely be able to modify the burner settings. The gas company representative came , but advised us to call the hob company, as the equipment was new and its warranty status should not be jeopardized by having an outsider meddle with it.. And so yet another complaint was registered, and I was happy to learn that the young man who had originally installed the cooktop would be coming to rectify it. He had seemed competent, and was courteous and pleasant. 

He came in this week, and very quickly changed the settings of the three smaller burners. He was very apologetic about not being able to attend to our earlier problem, but said that he had been going through a difficult time. I asked him if he would like to talk about it, and it was as though a dam had burst. He told me that his six month old niece had died in hospital after a brief illness. This young man, in his early twenties, younger that my youngest child, was devastated by this loss. His sister had had a difficult pregnancy, and he had brought her to the city from her marital village. This young man, her husband, and their friends and colleagues, had all pampered her during her pregnancy, and had shared her joy in her beautiful little baby daughter. (She had delivered via C-section). I remembered the pain of losing my infant grand-niece, at two and a half months, and the gloom that had encompassed us all. I told him about the loss of my nephew to Covid. We had a long conversation. Perhaps he was late for his next assignment. It didn't matter. Two people who didn't know each other at all had connected in a kitchen. There's more grief in the world than we can imagine. Let us be kind to one another...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Still Blogging

Well, not regularly.Not the way I used to, when blogging was young, and Facebook was merely nascent.

But, Of This and That has been around for fourteen years now, off and n and has enriched my life in unimaginable ways. 

There has been a lot going on in our lives in the past month, most notably our shifting into our own apartment, both of us well into our sixties. (Thereby hang several tales). So I am celebrating this blog's fourteenth birthday a day late, with several excerpts from my Facebook posts. I hope to get back to regular programming soon.

I had decided to take a day off from my unpacking/settling the house activities, and went for a walk after many days. We had just finished with breakfast and lunch preparations were underway, when there was an almighty crash from the balcony. The black and white pot with the hibiscus with variegated leaves had smashed onto the floor. I found an empty pot and replanted it, tied the remaining pots to the balcony railing, and swept up the mess.

No rest for the wicked. 🙁
25th August 2021

Remembering my brother
Using the stemmed glasses
He gave us on his last visit
For this morning's orange juice.
Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj
Have been hard these past many years
And losing my oldest (cousin) brother
Last year to Covid was very painful,
As was the tragic loss of my nephew.
But, as always, we owe it to the living
To celebrate them,
those who are with us still,
as long as time is with us...
24th August 2021

The infinite grace of rain that comes a few days after you have transported all your worldly goods, many in cardboard cartons.
Yeh sansaar kaagad ki pudiya
Boond padey ghul jaana hai
Sant Kabir

Small triumphs of the day:
We ate lunch at an uncluttered,full sized dining table, after a week of using one third to a half of it!
I found, after intense searching, the small suitcase which contained some really important things. It had been stuffed inside the guestroom bed drawer, and it was a very tight fit. I extricated it after an intense struggle.
I am learning to cook on the new hob. I still find the flame to be hotter than I am used to, hence...
I also find myself instinctively looking for things in the places they were in the old flat! Some of those places are in my former landlord's furniture, so I am doomed to waste a lot of time.
Defeating the many cartons one by one! It's a great adventure, and an exhausting one!
19th August 2021

I was hanging out the laundry when I saw water droplets falling from above,
And I looked out and witnessed the gentlest , briefest shower ever,
What Ma'am used to call the 'quality of mercy' rain.
(It's bright and sunny now).
It looked like a benediction.
I hope it was.

Two biggish triumphs today: made tea on the new gas stove which I couldn't light yesterday because I didn't realize that the electric chimney and electric ignition gas hob had two separate switches. The spouse came home and figured it out. I guess I will keep him after all!
And the washing machine is washing its first load here. Now to locate the clothes pegs!
18th August 2021

Today's small triumph: flattening the cartons as they are emptied, slowly and steadily!
I might even have a functional kitchen soon.
Boseji has been helping, bless him!
(Raga Multani, Sanjeev Abhyankar).
17th August 2021

We spent Independence Day moving to our own flat.
Same bed, same air conditioner, same layout presently occupied by several cartons.
Maneesha Taneja came over with a delicious dinner, and with plates, at my request, because I had no clue where my plates were. It was a triumph finding a glass from which to drink water, because the final packing was totally rushed, with no labelling. The fridge was taking time to actually cool things, so no cold water. It's fine now.
I woke up before five this morning, and have tried to unpack some of the kitchen cartons as quietly as possible. I found the electric kettle and we have had teabag tea with lemon.
I feel that I am finding new triumphs and challenges all the time!
16th August 2021

Settling in! Watered.

14th August 2021

The first living occupants of our new apartment in transit!
I hope they adjust to their new home, with sunshine in the afternoon, instead of early morning.

13th August 2021

The packers are here.
Moving to the adjoining building over the next couple of days.
Seeking all good wishes for a successful move with both worldly goods and sanity intact!
11th August 2021

Our home is occupied by two sexagenarian geniuses, who, after triumphantly bearing home Boseji, couldn't locate the connecting power cord!
(Neither the cord nor the remote are ever taken to the service centre).
The obvious places were the CD drawers and the bookshelf. Nada. Many unlikely places were also checked. This is a house with many many drawers and cabinets. Nada. Senior genius seemed to remember leaving the cord in the power strip, but was unable to locate it last night. After worry-sleeping all night, the junior genius, aka moi, went to the site. Plugs were pulled out of the power strip, attempting to follow them to source: i.e. which wire belongs to which device. As of now, our entertainment systems sit on a wrought iron and glass trolley, with a black table top perched vertically behind it to conceal the wires from the TV, VCD player (which seems dead), UPS, broadband device TataSky set top box, and Amazon Firestick. It is hard to trace plug to device. One wire was wrapped around the power strip, and seemed buried under the edge of the table top. Raised it a wee bit, and voila! It was actually Boseji's power cord! Yippee.
Oh what a tangled web we weave...
With power cords that do deceive!
Now to choose something good to listen to.
4th August 2021

Waiting for Boseji to be discharged!
Service centre (and hospital) admission and discharge procedures seem to be equally tedious.
Boseji is almost 14 years old now.
Has displayed hazaar nakhras over the years.
And has delighted my soul with exquisite sound quality.
Be well and stay well, please.
3rd August 2021

A Yellow Plastic Screw

This little plastic screw
had been kept very carefully
In a little Chinese teapot
on top of the crockery cabinet
Part of a building set
We had given to a little boy,
My nephew's son,
On his last visit to our home
In December 2015.
(My older grandchild wasn't yet two,
The little boy a year and a half older).
We met after that,
At my granddaughter's
fourth birthday party,
And every year
At my sister's barsi,
The remembrance prayers
on her death anniversary
Little did we know that
That barsi, April 2019,
Would be the last time
We ever met my nephew.
The lockdown kept us apart,
Life kept us busy,
And then Covid snatched away
My nephew, the little boy's father.
And the screw,
that little yellow screw,
Is impossible for me
To throw away, or to keep:
The memory of
A once complete family.

31st July, 2021

Kamikaze kabootar
The balcony fan was on
to facilitate laundry drying.
Sudden strange sound
The spouse reports
Blood and gore and feathers
I cannot bear to look...
The corpse is removed.
Annoying though they are,
These pestiferous pigeons
I do not wish such a gory end
To any living creature.

26th July, 2021

Twice it flew up,
The shiny, dark, tiny sunbird
Up to the seventh floor
Hovering under the balcony tap
Slender beak inside, hopeful.
This good citizen opened
the tap a tiny bit,
A single drop taking its time
To fall to the floor below.
I didn't see the sunbird again
But two fat pigeons came and drank
The few drops they could find.

10th July, 2021

Garaj baras pyaasi darti par
Phir paani de Maula
Chidiyon ko daane
Bachchon ko gud dhaani de, Maula
Nida Fazli, once again, in his exquisite, profound simplicity.
And then I think of my woodpecking kabootar.
The other day it was pecking on the plaster, on the wall outside my kitchen.
That door and that wall are probably a source of moisture for the pigeons, since that area is washed every morning.
When I was writing down this poem, I first wrote 'Chidiyon ko paani', instead of daane.
I feel sorry for all thirsty creatures, but my compassion still doesn't run to encouraging the pooping pigeons.
It has rained, yesterday and today.
Less pigeon guilt!
3rd July, 2021

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Summer 2021

 Temperature : 43 degrees C

(Nearly 110 F)
Intense summer heat
Laundry baking,
Quickly crisp
Running hot water
In the kitchen tap
Fridge working overtime
Fruit, luscious, varied
Air conditioned rooms
Just bearable

30th June

And some lines about that summer fruit!
Achchi sangat baith kar sangi badley roop
Jaisey mil kar aam sey meethi ho gayee dhoop
Nida Fazli
Loosely translated:
Good companions can transform you
The way sunshine becomes sweet in the company of mangoes

1st July

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Book Review: The Marvelous Mirza Girls


This is a book of many treasures, but ultimately a book about love. Love of many kinds, let me add, besides the romantic, which is also beautifully depicted here. It is not an easy book to describe, since it deals with a multiplicity of events and contexts, all adding up to a richly detailed narrative.

Noreen and her mother Ruby are exceptionally close. Her father has walked out on the marriage even before Noreen was born. Ruby's older sister, Noreen's beloved Sonia Khala, has died a year ago, and Noreen is still trying to come to terms with her loss. Grief and loss are described with great empathy.  Ruby's own relationship with her elderly parents, especially her mother, can be turbulent. When Ruby's employers want her to go to India for a year, our brand new high school graduate Noreen decides to take a gap year and accompany her mother. Sonia Khala, besides being a pathologist and a bass guitarist, was also very devout, and was fascinated by India, sharing with Noreen stories about Delhi that her own grandmother had told her. Visiting some of the places she had wanted to visit, like the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, would be a kind of pilgrimage for Noreen.

When Ruby and Noreen reach New Delhi, they discover a city with air so polluted that breathing itself is hazardous. Their very first purchase is of three air purifiers for the apartment they have rented. Noreen is pleasantly surprised to find that they have a cook cum cleaner coming in six days a week, a luxury unimaginable at home. 

While Ruby gets busy with her work, Noreen finds a friend in Kabir, the son of a friend of a friend of her godfather, Adi Uncle, Ruby's best friend, and, perhaps, a surrogate father figure. (Noreen's actual encounter with her father and his second wife, some years earlier, is beyond surreal). The author, throughout the book, explores familial relationships with great sensitivity and deep insights, including the particular issues faced by migrants to the West and their often inevitable clashes with their offspring. 

Kabir takes Noreen to a Delhi that is perhaps unfamiliar to many of its denizens. They first visit the ruins of Ferozeshah Kotla, where, motivated by Kabir, Noreen leaves a letter for the jinn, in which she actually manages to write, for the first time since losing her aunt, and expresses her feelings for her aunt, her grieving family, and herself. She is deeply affected by the place and its particular atmosphere of longing, grief, and unfulfilled dreams. There are subsequent visits to Nizamuddin, Tughlaqabad, and Jahanpanah, and other places, all beautifully described, all part of Noreen's personal growth, her budding romance with Kabir, and her personal pilgrimage. Some of it is so deeply spiritual that you cannot help but be intensely moved. 

Owing to visa issues, the mother and daughter only have three months in India, which scuttles many of their travel plans. However, they do make a little social niche for themselves, exploring the world of art and artists, and making friends. The topical Me Too movement features, along with its impact on the families of the "Me Too-ed."

The mood of the city is captured in all its beauty and ugliness. The rising communal tensions and the  awareness of gender violence are  harsh realities that Noreen has to contend with.

Although the book is fast paced and written with a light touch, and some delightful humour, I found myself often floored by the sheer wisdom I encountered.

Yes, Noreen is an outsider to Delhi, and her perspective is definitely very Western. Her eye is critical , yet not unkind. In her own words, I read somewhere that for each thing that is true about India, the opposite is also true. I'd add that for each thing you may not like about India, you will find something to like as much. or more.....When you return to America, your lungs may be grateful, but your heart will be incredibly sad.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Morning Musing

Two pugs and an apso
Walking together,
Leashes held by one man,
Presumably housemates.
Do the pugs know
That the apso looks different?
Does the apso feel
That the pugs are different.
I think not and hope not:
All one species,
Despite the differences.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Digestive dirge

Yesterday evening

Made pakodas

Ate pakodas

(Delicious pakodas)

In the watches

Of the night


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Tea Time, Summer of '21

Bed tea is the tea                                                                                

That you sometimes                                                            


Share with your bed.


Fridge unwell

Awaiting treatment

Milk unwell

Bed tea sad,

Bad tea.