Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sixty-fifth anniversary

My parents will be celebrating their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow.

I'm trying to imagine them that many years ago.

My father was just over twenty years old, both his sisters were married, his brother was nine years old, and his mother was seriously ill. There was really no one to take care of her. An English surgeon had demanded ten thousand rupees to operate upon her. That kind of money was an impossible sum for either my grandfather or his father-in-law to raise. They could only try to make her as comfortable as possible.

A good daughter-in-law seemed to be a practical solution, although my father had wanted to study further, to establish himself before entering matrimony. They knew my mother's family, and a match was arranged.

My mother was barely fifteen-and-a-half when they got married, sixty-five years ago. At an age when most youngsters are struggling with their tenth grade board exams, she got married and spent several months looking after her mother-in-law till her demise a few months later.

I've known my parents all my life, obviously, but I cannot imagine them at a time when they were not my parents- as a young couple with just one son for nine years, till my sister was born.
They were ahead of their times in wanting to have just two children, but since I was written in the kismet of the Sometimes Resident Engineer, I was the accidental child who had to happen.
And who became the cherished youngest child.

Sixty-five years is a lifetime of memories which now only they share. So many of their seniors, juniors and contemporaries are no more. They have lived a decent, middle-class, simple life, and have cared for and educated us to the best of their ability. They live with me now, my father almost bed-ridden, my frail, delicate mother looking after him with a fierce independence that will not allow me to employ a home-nurse.

My mother usually wears house-coats all the time now- dressing in a saree for an expected visitor is a great effort that she may or may not make. But, despite the gowns, she is still always neat and tidy and looks well groomed. She has become very absent-minded but can laugh about it, keeping her walking stick very carefully, and then forgetting where she's kept it.

My once always well-dressed, dapper father lives in pyjamas and soft, worn out shirts. Each new shirt I get him is worn once and rejected as not being soft enough.

They have plenty of books, lots of music.

What do you get as a gift for people whose lives are, willy-nilly, simplified beyond recognition?

If only I could get for them their good health and independence. Sorry, not possible.

As much loving attention as I can give them- certainly.

Something to eat that they enjoy, which must also be easy to digest- definitely.

Some material object to commemorate this day, so many years ago, which was the beginning of so many lives- of their three children, one of whom has sadly pre-deceased them, and several grandchildren. Yes, but what?

Cards, yes, flowers, yes. A brand new tray and bright new mugs for their morning tea. Tiny chutney bowls for the non-spicy coriander chutney I will make tomorrow. I hope that they like these small gifts, and that they have a bright and sunny day, full of joy and laughter.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My father's atlas

This chain of thought was started by Anamika. I've been tagged by her to write about a material object which holds many memories for me. Of course there are many, but the first one that came to mind was my father's atlas, so I guess that beats my mother's oven, which is what my younger son thought of when I told him about this tag. ( Maybe I'll write about it some other time).
My father bought The Reader's Digest Great World Atlas, (first edition, fourth revise, 1962). We were living in England at the time, I was seven years old, and he had been buying, over the years, some wonderful books from the RD collection. ( I digress, but I remember reading Man of Everest, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Snakepit, and so many other of those condensed books as I grew up).
The Atlas was, to a little seven year old, HUGE. ( It's actually about sixteen inches long and eleven inches wide, and merely an inch thick). My sister and I were utterly fascinated by it- we were only allowed to look at it opened out on the dining table. It started with Planet Earth in the solar system. Then there were amazing views of the globe as though seen from one hundred miles above the surface of the earth- photographs of relief maps showing all geological formations in vivid colour and exotic detail. Then of course were the regular political maps. We used to like finding mythical New Delhi and Bombay on the map, and once we knew that we were returning to India, tracing out the sea route that our ship was to take. (That was one of our best holidays ever- from Tilbury Docks, via Marseille, Gibraltar, Pompeii, Naples, Port Said, Aden- from where my mother bought French chiffon saris for herself and her daughters' trousseaus, while the said daughters were mere children, and, finally, Bombay).
There was much about constellations, population distributions, patterns of climate, the structure of the earth, the oceans, religions, cultivation patterns. Growing up with this atlas was wonderful. As a young child my favourite page was that of the earth's treasures, in which there were pictures of gemstones and the ores they came from. That was a magical, princess-loving, fairy-tale believing kind of age, when emeralds and rubies and platinum were totally fascinating. Onyx and carnelian, topaz and malachite, sapphire and agate, olivine and aquamarine, beautiful words to be savoured and rolled around your tongue!
The atlas was a constant in our lives, along with my father's dictionary and encyclopaedia.
A comfortable source of knowledge in the background of my life.
And of course Life takes you away from the known and the familiar- new locations for work and marriage. Annual visits home, if you're lucky. The Atlas became the repository of large and important documents like university degrees. As time went by, my elder son developed a great fondness for the Atlas, and would assiduously go through it on each visit to his Nanaji's house. And one day he could no longer resist its charms, and wanted to possess it, to take it home with him. I was a little hesitant, but we asked my father if we could 'borrow' his atlas till the next vacation. My father was very kind, and said that we could take it. We bought him a small, school atlas as a ready reference book, and my son triumphantly bore the borrowed atlas home.
He spent many hours poring over it, and of course we never did return it, though we would keep telling my father that it was 'his' atlas and we were mere borrowers. But, for the last few years, though all the kids are away now, both my father and his atlas are resident in my house again so the wheel has turned full circle. Both are now rather old and somewhat tattered at the edges, as it were, but they are still a valuable part of our lives.

Edited to add: I'd like to pass on this tag to the Mad Momma, Choxbox, Kiran, Yashodhara and Tharini. Write about a material object which holds many memories for you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

To Dipali, one year ago!

This tag is from Chandni. A letter from the person I am today to the person I was a year ago. Given that I'm getting on in years and am quite scatterbrained, it is a little daunting, but I SHALL TRY!

Dear Dipali of January 2007,
You do not, obviously, know what I know. Given that you are no spring chicken, and that there are really no major changes expected for a laid-back, middle aged person like you, you are actually in for a surprise. When you rang in 2007 at the Tollygunje Club with the (visiting) younger son, the Sometimes Resident Corporate Type and his colleagues and their families, you had no clue about the new identity which was lying in wait for you, as the year progressed. Or about your travels over the year. 2007 was far more eventful than you ever imagined it could be.
You had been reading blogs for quite some time, and had even met Lalita, on what was your first blind date ever! You had even commented on a few blogs, and had many people telling you to start your own. Kiran kindly invited you to do a guest post, which you did. You had been part of a very exciting community, as a commenter, and then went on to acquire a brand new identity as a blogger. It took till the end of August to do that, but by then you had already made many wonderful friends who were rooting for you, and who are all to be blamed for Encouraging the Dinosaur! By year end you had also met Surabhi, Sunayana, the Mad Momma, Rimi, and several of their family members. You also felt strongly connected to many others, who, though yet unmet, are most definitely friends. You also realised that this brave new world has its fair share of vermin, sad to say.
You also travelled. After decades. Does travel broaden the mind? Maybe, maybe not. In your case it helped further broaden ze bod, what with wonderful meals lovingly served by family and friends. You also managed to converse with Choxbox while in England, and meet Neha after several years. Besides, of course, some wonderful non-blogging friends. Yes, they actually do exist!
You metamorphosed into a blog-addict. Yet one more reason for your children's amusement, particularly that of the older son. Despite all the teasing, they do miss your blog, if there's a long gap between posts.
One year ago you certainly did not know that the Sometimes Resident Engineer would, from a long time wannabe golfer, become an actual golfer. And a Sunday poet. Who wishes you to post his poems on your blog.
One year ago you did not know that indigestion could actually give you a royal pain in the butt. Or that you would actually be scared out of your wits by an episode of vertigo. Or that Kolkata hosted the amazing Dover Lane music conference, and that the Sometimes Resident Spouse would happily escort you to late night and all night concerts. And actually get interested in the magical world of Hindustani classical music!
Life continues magical, humdrum, routine and astonishing, all at the same time. Enjoy your life and be thankful for whatever is.
I think you are like a fine wine, improving as you age!
Keep up the good work.
Lots of love,
Dipali at the beginning of 2008!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Some much needed wisdom!

I must have first read this about forty years ago, and have loved it ever since.
I thought it was a good time to share this with you. ( The bold part is my doing).


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

And the award goes to.....

To me, from Sue. Modest bow and a big thank you, Sue. It's been great reading your blog, meeting you, V, and The Bhablet, and being involved, however marginally, with Blank Noise. Thanks for being a part of my life, and letting me be a part of yours. I'm hoping to see more of you in this almost brand new year, once you're through with 'The Proof' and moving house..... it goes on. Despite the busy-ness of life, we'll catch up sooner or later!

Part of the fun of these awards is being able to pass them on to other bloggers.
I'm delighted to bestow this award upon the following, in no particular order:

Lalita: the grammar Nazi, the undisputed queen of cryptic crossword puzzles, a fine poet and my very first blogging friend. Reading her has been great, meeting her has been wonderful!
We must meet soon, Lali, it's been a while.

Kiran: I haven't met her yet, but I certainly feel that I know her and her family. Her tremendous warmth, compassion, amazing self-deprecating humor and her total openness about her life have made her a friend I cherish deeply. And of course we definitely will meet some day.

Yashodhara, with her accounts of the whacky Vijay , the delightful little Peanut (who can ever forget the father-daughter duet in Raga Potteshwari?), and other assorted characters who people their lives, has me rolling on the floor laughing, most times I read her. She also taught me how to link posts. She is , willy-nilly, part of my family. We will eventually meet, somewhere, sometime.

Space Bar: A published poet and a Winnie-the-Pooh aficionada, I love reading whatever she writes. Which is with great sensitivity, erudition, and a whacky sense of humour.
We need you to read your poetry in Kolkata, Space Bar. Any excuse to meet you!

Surabhi: I love reading her blog. I've enjoyed meeting her, George and beautiful little Sanah at the screening of her film here. This girl has a wonderful way with words and images: she posts terrific photos as well. I'd love to see more of you, Sur. I'm so glad you're blogging again.

There are lots of wonderful people out there whom I know and love to read, who have already received this award from someone else, so I'm not re-awarding them. You know who you are, and that you are, through your blog, a valuable part of many lives. Definitely of mine.
Blogging buddies rock!