Last December's writing challenge
Breathe In, Breathe Out
I want him to keep breathing. My favourite uncle, my late father’s first cousin, is in hospital for the past few days, with breathing issues. He’s over ninety. Only God knows how many breaths he has left, or any of us has left, for that matter. But I want him to keep breathing, to be there for me to visit and talk to, to share books with, to have his appreciation for my attempts at poetry and prose. Erudite, affectionate, compassionate, one of the most loving people I have ever had the good fortune to know. My pre-emptive grief is totally self-centred, I know, but that is what it is. Please get well, Uncle.
Daddy couldn’t get a bed in the hospital, and so we made sure he could breathe at home, with a nebulizer and oxygen cylinder. (He had had full time attendants for some months now, ever since my mother had fractured her hip). My mother had had a stroke, and was back home from the hospital with a tube through her nostril, immobile, silent, but holding tight with her good right hand, her eyes trying to follow me when I left the room. In her final few days, though, her stertorous, rasping breath was distressing to hear. I wasn’t at home, though, when she breathed her last: I was in the car, on a potholed lane not far from home, coming home after meeting a dear friend, when my sister called and told me that she was no more.
Daddy, in his final days, used to drink buttermilk and orange juice from small, single serve cartons, un-chilled, with a straw. His attendant was reluctant to leave his side, but I insisted that she go and have her dinner. Daddy asked for juice, and then for buttermilk, which I gave him. The woman came back to her post. I was changing for the night when she knocked at my bedroom door, in tears, telling me that he had left us. I still wonder, more than twelve years later, if he had needed that final sustenance for his last few breaths, or for the transition to another world, or was he merely completing his quota of earthly nutrition?
When my older son and his family came to stay in Delhi for most of 2018, one of the first things they had to do was purchase several air purifiers, given the horrific levels of air pollution that year. One was permanently kept at our house, for when our older granddaughter stayed over. Last winter, on the younger son’s insistence, I got the air purifier serviced and had the filter replaced. After two nights of use, it indicated that the filter needed cleaning. I tried washing it, but it didn’t work. I gave up. Winter is here again, and our son is trying his best to get his recalcitrant parents to get the air purifier serviced and use it. Will inertia win, or will common sense prevail?
5th December 2022
500 word piece telling us the news of the world in the tone of a favorite author.
The news of the world today remains a farrago of disasters, demises, disappointments, with a smattering of honorificabilitudinitatibus.
Let me commence with the exemplary achievement of an intrepid six year old boy of Indian origin, Om Madan Garg. He became the youngest Singaporean to reach Everest Base Camp, after trekking for 65 km, over a period of ten days, accompanied by his progenitors.
According to the Secret Service in Washington, Chinese hackers have successfully appropriated millions of dollars of Covid relief funds. In the meantime, China has further eased its extremely stringent anti-virus controls, in the wake of increasing public protests, subsequent to a conflagration in late November, in which at least ten people shed their mortal coil.
The Oxford Dictionary chose, through an online poll, ‘goblin mode’ as word of the year. It is defined as ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations’. This term was first seen on Twitter in 2009, and gained popularity in 2022 as people around the globe emerged uncertainly from pandemic lockdowns.
Russia has renewed its air strikes against Ukraine, plunging parts of the country into freezing darkness. Kyiv claims that its air defences have limited the damage. The G7 countries have capped the price of Russian seaborne crude oil in order to punish Russia for the invasion of and continuing conflict with Ukraine.
Snollygosters are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which marks the beginning of the end of the secular India that we once knew. More sensitive souls are resorting to lalochezia to express their emotions, although they are fully aware of it not making an iota of difference to anybody at all. One wag on social media claims that the ‘disputed structure’ committed suicide, much in the same way that ‘No One Killed Jessica’, as no one was ever found guilty of the demolition, despite vast quanta of evidence of the destruction.
Our erstwhile colonizers are celebrating their victory over our neighbouring country, the one that many of our populace love to hate, in the first test match of the series, that was played in Rawalpindi. Ben Stokes and his men beat their opponents by 74 runs on the fifth day of a high scoring series opener.
The sporting world lost an iconic coach with the demise of the 91 year old Nick Bollettieri. He had coached many legends in the world of tennis, including Venus and Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, and Maria Sharapova. He was known for his acerbic manner and no-nonsense training methods.
Exit polls indicate that the ruling party is making a clean sweep in the Gujarat assembly polls, while they may be in a close contest with the Congress party in the Himachal Pradesh elections. Let’s see if there are any revelations when the actual outcome is revealed. Perhaps a great deal of perspicacity is not mandatory for an accurate prediction.
A 500 word travelogue of any place/ space of choice that MUST employ all five senses.
On this trip, we discovered that Vietjet had a special class of air travel: sardine class. Never again, we swore to ourselves. We rushed to catch the connecting flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Denpasar. The view from the plane, as we approached Bali, was magical: a coastline of green and brown, with a deep grey sea. The Denpasar arrival hall was exquisite, with statues that seemed to be carved out of ice, and beautiful pillars which looked like woven cane. We obtained our visas, and then discovered that our luggage was arriving three hours later, on the next flight, and so we bought chocolates and Pringles and bottled water from duty-free, our first nourishment in Bali, and sat and waited. Luggage acquired, we stepped out and were received by the travel company’s agent. Our villa was about half an hour away. It was lovely, with a private swimming pool, surrounded by frangipani trees, bearing pink and yellow flowers, such a gentle fragrance. I luxuriated in that silken water.
A glass bottomed boat ride to Turtle Island. Corals and shoals of fish. Wading through sandy, stony water. Holding turtles: large and cool to touch. A visit to a temple on the shore, with a gentle young guide. The sea and the rocks and the ancient stone. There were many temples across the city, ancient looking stone, with fascinating gateways: the inner side smooth, the outer side carved and chunky at the base, open at the top. Offerings outside every home and shop for both the good spirits (at a higher level) and the bad spirits (on the ground). The acknowledgement of both good and evil in the black and white checked cloth wrapped around many statues. The huge Hindu mythological statuary at a few roundabouts. The strangeness of no one being allowed to enter the temples, except the priests, on most days. The coffee plantation where we tried all kinds of coffee, and delicious lemongrass tea, but didn’t dare try the world’s most expensive Luwak coffee, wherein the coffee cherries are fed to civets, the beans emerge in their poop, after which they are cleaned and processed further. The beans smelled good enough, but no thank you.
We saw silver craftsmen at work, and wood carvers, and artists painting beautiful canvases.
We saw a delightful, colourful dance drama in a temple hall surrounded by emerald green rice fields, with a troupe of musicians playing various traditional instruments, in pleasing harmony and rhythms. We went back to Ubud, to a long street full of more kinds of wood carvings than you can imagine, to buy a traditional Barong mask, an exquisite, somewhat scary looking good spirit, which the spouse had set his heart on. A little bit of Bali now lives with us!