Monday, November 19, 2012
A Love Story yes--but a M & B story I don't know!!!One of my very dear Spark friends Cheri left a remark about that on the Poem I wrote for Sudhir in my last Blog.This remark set my mind off the Memory Trail and while I'll admit that we were true Soulmates--well matched despite being as alike as Chalk and Cheese in quite a few aspects of our personalities,we still had some healthy arguments about our conflicting opinions--which I must admit he won 80% of the time thanks to his logical mind!!We agreed to disagree on many minor aspects of living together---some of my idiosycrasies irritated him and his--me.
We belong to a family that largely is extremely demonstrative but highly complexed. Most of us have a penchant for pondering over certain remarks that upset us--and then trying out various permutations and combinations to give different meanings that can be attributed to these.I am not that affected by this---for me my way of dealing is ignoring unpleasantness and pushing it under the Carpet---for mulling over it another day--which fortunately never comes!!Sudhir would brood over it and that would affect his mood adversely for the next few days.Both of us after living together in such close proximity imbibed some parts from each other's characters.His brooding lessened while I began looking for deeper meanings in certain barbed remarks!!Together as a couple we grew closer---and while we each tolerated each other's foibles we were not blind to each other's faults.Perhaps the secret of our closeness was the fact that we accepted that each of us had feet of Clay--and being human were extremely fallible.My Nanny's advice to me when I came to Bombay to marry Sudhir in 1970 was---"Love him as a whole--accept him with all his faults and you will always be happy!!"How very right she was and how glad I am that I took her advice to heart and acted on it.Saying this doesn't detract from the way Sudhir handled me---he was always indulgent and very giving of himself--not just his love and understanding but also of his time.Despite being part of a very close knit joint Family we still managed a lot of "us" time in the first few years of our life together.After that we shifted into our own home and though the family closeness continued we really began to understand each other more fully.One can say that our marriage on a one is to one basis actually started in 1975--5 years after we got married.For here it was just the 4 of us--the girls very young then--so the real "us" and getting to really know each meant that the Gloves so to speak came off with a vengeance!!
One thing that never ever faltered in all these years was our complete Commitment to each other.We were together forever and literally "Till Death do us Part" and we trusted each other implicitly.Though both of us were first cousins he and I were very different as individuals.Like the British, I believed in "innocent until proved guilty" and he like the Greeks, believed in "guilty until proved innocent"!!I viewed Life through Rose coloured Spectacles--he saw even the minutest blemish through the magnifying Glass of his suspicious eyes!!I remember an incident on the way to Shimla once.We were on our Honeymoon and were aboard this Bus enroute to Shimla. The seats next to us were taken by another Newly wed couple--also on their Honeymoon.During the 6 hour journey the wife and I got friendly and gradually the new husband joined the conversation too.It turned out that the bride was from Bombay while the Groom belonged to Chandigarh--exactly the opposite of us!!That did it--the Bride began questioning me about my parents and where we lived in Chandigarh and the same about our address in Bombay too--maybe she just wanted to establish some type of familiarity into her new Life!!As I opened my mouth to answer Sudhir pinched me hard on my arm and smoothly changed the topic.The conversation veered onto more innoccous topics!!There however was more in store for us in Shimla.Our reservations had been made at the Oberoi Clark's which was/is built onto a spur of a ridge and boasts beautiful views of the mountains surrounding it.Besides back in the 1970s it was a Shimla which was still extremely picturesque,thickly wooded and where the only way to get around was mostly on foot.On reaching the Bus Stand by the time we alighted,it had become pretty dark since the days had become shorter in late October.We hired a "Coolie" or a person to carry our Baggage as far as the Hotel and after deciding his remuneration set off uphill to our destination.We kept trudging uphill for about 10 minutes but still no Hotel in sight--this made Sudhir a bit wary and he questioned the Coolie about how far we were from the Hotel.The reply was that we were about 5 minutes short.After trudging on for another 10 minutes in silence behind the Coolie--still no Hotel in sight!!Now Sudhir was seriously worried as to the Coolie's intentions and asked me in Marathi to hang on to my Purse--for if we needed to take flight we should atleast have our Money with us!!This amused me and seeing me smiling at this infuriated him.Luckily by trudging further for about 10 minutes more got us to our Hotel and having paid off the Coolie Sudhir heaved a sigh of relief!!This was however short lived--for he then very curtly,logically and sarcastically let me know exactly what he thought of my naivete and trusting nature--unfortunately an opinion that he held till the very last.Today our daughters treat me the same way--according to them I was born just yesterday in this big, bad World!!
We have travelled a lot to the North--my Umbilical Cord is tied to my beloved Mountains and the North appealed to Sudhir too--as a result there were certain precautions we fell into the habit of taking on the way.We would always travel by Trains as both Sudhir and I were very fond of Train travel since our early childhood.Both of us would sit by the windows by the lower berths on either side of the Compartment, watching the changing contours of India.We also used dream about getting down on an impulse at one of those sleepy little Stations in the Interiors and just stay there for a few days.Unfortunately we never got round to doing it--and nor did we take the prolonged Train Journey we planned when the Konkan Railway opened it's doors to the public.The idea was to travel from Mumbai to Kanya Kumari through the steep,picturesque Western Ghats of India. From Kanya Kumari or Cape Comorin as the British called it, we were to travel as far North as the last Station in Jammu-- and then travel back to Mumbai via an Eastern route.This way we would have spent about a Week on the Train, travelling all the while through the length and breadth of India--today it is just another unfulfilled Dream!!We revelled in the various sights and smells of our Country----somehow these journeys helped us to bond more strongly with each other as well as our Roots--and we both looked forward to these Journeys.In fact we were so bad that we'd take off on an impulse!!Once we went to Bombay Central Station to drop off some friends who were going on Vacation.We returned home with reserved Tickets to New Delhi--the sights and smells of the Station induced us to take off a Week later!!
Those days there were Dacoits who would attack the Trains enroute--specially in the region of Madhya Pradesh--the very heart of India.This region has a topography which in parts resembles the Lunar Landscape.There are bare hardened Sand Dunes popularly known as the "Bihad" in local parlance.This is a favourite haunt of Bandits or "Dacaits" as they are commonly called.These Bihads are a honeycomb of natural passages so deviously interlinked that only a person who has grown up or lived among them can navigate these.It was for this patch on the way that we'd prepare ourselves for our travels. Atya used to laugh at the stuff my Purse contained.Firstly it was actually not really a Purse but a huge Bag--it was equipped with primarily a sharp instrument like a razor sharp pair of heavy Iron Scissors.Besides this, there were small containers of Red Chilli and Black Pepper Powders--ostensibly for Seasoning bland Food--the prime intention was to use these as Defence Mechanisms.If anyone knocked on the door of our Compartment past midnight,we'd loosen the caps on these containers and then gingerly open the door--prepared to fling the Powders into the eyes and nose of the Intruders if needed.Not just that,the pair of Scissors also would be hidden by either Sudhir or me behind our backs--ready to use in self defence if need be!!Luckily we never needed to use any of these--but these gave Atya a reason to christen my Bag with a name that stuck like Glue--"Ladhdoo"!!!In Marathi that means heavy and unwieldy--and so it was--hence no wonder I developed a wrestler's muscles in my upper arms thanks to carrying it around!!
Our last few years were spent flying abroad to the USA and in the last two years to UK as well---but those Train Journeys always will hold a very special place in our-sorry only in my heart now.Those years have left behind a huge Treasure of Memories--of Sights,Sounds,Smells and Impressions that even a tiny bit of detail can send me on to a Journey into the Past.We were lucky that we married each other---for as I used to say to Sudhir after each quarrel we had--"God decided that the two of us deserved only each other and no better--so here we are--together!!Better make the most of this--for you're stuck with me forever!!" It always made him smile--no matter how angry he was with me!!!!
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Kattik,Sudhir and I New York 2009
My Farewell Ode To Sudhir
Love,Passion and a Life well lived together in full Measure
Crystalised Precious Moments turning into invaluable Treasure
Hoarded,locked away safely in secret nooks and crannies of the Mind
A beautiful Collection of priceless Jewels that Time and Life have left behind
These wipe my Tears,soothe my Pain and assuage my Grief as I mourn
Offering truly great Support and Consolation to me each time I feel alone
We walked dreamily through the years of Beautiful Understanding and Togetherness
Today I ache so much for You---your Warmth,your Touch and your Tenderness
I miss the steady feather soft,gentle caress of your breath on my cheek
I miss the pleasure of just cuddling up to you--either wide awake or when asleep
I miss the sound of your lyrically Musical voice singing in our Home
The beautiful cadences and nuances of it adding to my Comfort Zone
Our never ending, meandering Conversations were an integral part of our married Life
We were one another's Best Friends, Confidants besides Lovers and Husband and Wife
We'd grown together like a Pair of Identical Twins melding seamlessly into One
Imbibing each other's Eccentricities and Idiosycrasies but also retaining our own
I miss the funny, teasing Camaraderie and deep Companionship that together we shared
I miss those indulgent ,subtly unobtrusive ways you had of showing how much you cared
You gave my Life a sense of definite Purpose and a profoundly deeper Meaning to being Me
You were the Wind beneath my Wings making me very Complete,Confident and Carefree
Your Aura surrounded me with a Rightness,giving me a very special cherished Feel
Trustingly facing the unknown Future with You and your Love being my protective Shield
All through these years that passed I have followed,treading in your footprints in the Sands
Leaving everything I held dear--Love,Trust and my entire Life in your very capable hands
Suddenly though in the blink of an Eye Life as I knew it was finished,over, completely gone
As I stood frozen,numbed, shell shocked---my Life lying in fragments around me--all alone
The Life I had known had evaporated in a heartbeat like Dew Drops under a Summer Sun
A dark,lonely, empty Path unfolded before me as my Journey through Life alone had begun
Today I stand distressed, bewildered and completely bereft without You to cling to
Groping through the confusing Mists of Indecision and Uncertainity of what to do
I understand and acknowledge that I have still to go on and also find a way to survive
But without You by my side--it's just Survival and I'm not actually, really alive!!!
Thursday, November 08, 2012
The last Week has been kind of surreal----as if I'm a part of a Nightmare that I'd like to desperately wake up from but somehow it is never ending and I just can't!!The day I was dreading but waiting for has finally come and gone---Sudhir has been laid to rest with all the proper Rituals and Rites of Hinduism.Yesterday--7th. November--was his first Death Anniversary according to the Hindu Lunar Calender----and it was marked by a solemn Religious Ceremony to honour it.Yesterday Sayali performed the "Varsha Shraadh Puja" for him and he now is supposedly fully released from all Earthly bonds and ties.
For us Hindus this is a very solemn occasion---a kind of a final "Goodbye" to the departed Soul.A Feast is cooked--consisting of some mandatory Pulses and Vegetables as well as those that the deceased was fond of.Since we are Gowd Saraswat Brahmins----or GSB for short----our food is cooked fully without the use of Onion and Garlic for Foods such as these are considered unfit for the Soul to eat!!Since his sisters and mine had not been a part of his final Rites in the USA I wanted them to have a sense of closure---and a chance to say their Farewells to him.The Rites and Rituals entail an elaborate variety of Stuff--and since Sayali had told me that she'd be here on the 6th. November I got busy running around and doing most of the stuff before she arrived.
As usual she flummoxed me---had Sandy not intervened she'd have been here last Friday--the 2nd.November itself--but she actually made it in on the 3rd. November because BA was busy flying people home in the week preceding those dates.For me it was a wonderful and lovely surprise as well as a great relief to have her with me as we finished making the final arrangements together.The Caterers had been fixed as had the Priest performing the "Puja" and the Lists had been systematically ticked off to ensure that everything was in order.Preparations for cooking Sudhir's favourites at home began on the 6th.---with Sayali making one his favourite Indian Desserts--"Shrikhand" at home.I cooked a savoury dish he was extremely fond of named "Panchamrut" signifying the essence of Life---tickling one's tongue with five different flavours--Sweet,Spicy,Sour,Bitter and Salty.This is one of those mandatory dishes--and a must for all "Pujas"---both in Happiness or in Death!!Then I cooked his favourites----Fresh raw Black eyed Peas,sprouted Field Beans,sprouted Mung Bean Curry also mandatory and "Doodh Paak" a rich Indian Dessert which is made with Ghee roasted Basmati Rice ground coarsely and cooked in Milk.Sugar and reduced,thickened Milk is added once the Rice is fully cooked----along with Saffron Strands and Cardamom-Nutmeg Powders.Besides that I also cooked the plain "Varan-Bhaat" or Dal and Rice--another mandatory dish.By 9.30 a.m. everything was ready and by 10.15 a.m. the Caterer and his men had reached.The priest arrived by 11.15 a.m. and after assembling the Components ritualistically the Ceremony began at 11.45 a.m.---continuing till 1.45 p.m. when the feeding the Crows Ceremony took place.
This Ceremony of feeding the Crows is an interesting thing to observe and has always fascinated me.A Silver/Copper/Brass/Steel plate is lined with a fresh,tender Banana Leaf,filled with Food and ceremoniously laid out in an open space for the Crows to feast on.Many times the Crows begin eating out of it immediately--signifying that departed Soul is pleased and happy to participate in the "Puja" being offered for it but sometimes they just gather around and don't touch the Food at all--circling around the Plate instead.It is then that the relatives think of different reasons as to why the Soul is reluctant to participate in the Ceremony and begin uttering various promises to appease the departed person.A particular promise may click and then the Crows may begin to eat the Food offered---but in case that does not happen a Crow made of Hay is used and the Ceremony completed---leaving a niggling sense of doubt, defeat and inadequacy in the hearts of the relatives concerned.However such cases are far less than the ones where Crows gather round immediately and within minutes the Banana Leaf is empty!!Such was the case yesterday---we were followed by Crows the moment we stepped out of our Apartment Building the Crows began flocking around us--following us to the designated spot.The moment we set down the Plate the first Crow dipped his beak in the serving of Sayali's Shrikhand---and then all of these feathered messengers of Souls began polishing off the rest of the Food in earnest!!!The Leaf was overflowing with Food--for there were 20 courses and 7 Sweets on it!!The funniest thing about the way they ate--for they followed the same pattern that Sudhir would have--with "Shrikhand-Puri "first--the "Bhajiyaas/Pakoras,Kachrees and Chutney" next next and then the "Varan-Bhaath with Papadums and Panchamrut"!!!
I have a sense of satisfaction because of the way everything functioned smoothly----the whole Ceremony unfolded sedately--moving on well oiled wheels.The other aspect of this--the one which is tearing me apart internally---is to finally accept that he will never be coming back to me ever again!!I hope all the positive Vibes both Sayali and I received mean that he is happy and contented with everything we did yesterday and that he completely approves of it.Now I face a bleak Future alone--surviving till he finally comes to fetch me when it is time for me to go.So--collecting lots of logical data to bicker on with you when we meet again--hopefully very soon!!
Friday, October 26, 2012
Possessed of a fiery temper I learnt to stand up for myself at a very young age!!!The best part of my early childhood was that though Chandigarh was the much touted "Modern" Planned City the ambience and atmosphere was unabashedly rural!!For me those were the real halcyon days---for only those who have experienced the true nature of Rural India will relate to my Memories!!The beautiful "dusty" Plains of The Punjab are populated by an expansive,large hearted people----who are perhaps the most caring of all Indians.Unfortunately their attitude towards women is very flawed---and those women who are modern in their outlook and demeanor are looked upon as being forward---which is another word for "loose charactered'" and hence considered easy prey for all those macho B******s who like to revel in what they think is their masculinity!!
My Nanny, Amma was a simple Hill woman---very beautiful to look at.Many of my mother's friends would ask her how she was comfortable employing such a person--to which my mother would reply very simply that she trusted my father implicitly!!I feel proud to assert that she was one hundred percent right--for my poor,besotted father never had eyes for anyone else but my mother--a fact which earned him the name "Devidas" from his nephew Milind!!Devi happened to be Mummy's name and "Das" means Slave in most Indian languages--including Marathi and Hindi!!I was brought up mainly by my Nanny--and would accompany her to visit her relatives---even eating there if it happened to be Mealtime.Both my parents were never class conscious---and that is why we had the most beautiful childhood any child could have dreamt of!!Today what I miss the most is the unconditional warmth of those relations--for these people accepted me as myself--not Amma's ward!!While I was cocooned in this warm acceptance Amma also made me aware of the seamier side of the World---teaching me to interpret which people I should be wary of---as I grew up and also how to use my knees in self defence!!
My preferred weapon since very early childhood has been the "Chappal" as we call our Indian slippers.The earliest opportunity when I used it was on my "Masterji" or Teacher.It so happened that I was an extremely mischievous child--- constantly getting into scrapes and being "disciplined" by Mummy---for those were the days when the Proverb "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child" held true!!!Thanks to this we did not share a very cordial relationship---and it was Amma who'd act as the mediator between us!!One day I climbed on to Daddy's Study Table and copied a few letters on his typewriter--unknowingly typing out his name---and this convinced my thrilled father that I was a Genius---a misconception he harboured for the rest of his life!!The result of this was that a Master was hired from a nearby Village to come and teach me and my coterie of Friends.Those days we had large Wooden planks that doubled as Slates.These Planks would be rubbed with a sticky Mud and left to dry in the Sun on the previous day.Once dried we'd mix Ink Powder with a little Water to form Ink and use a Cane Quill to write with--after it had been dipped in the prepared Ink.In Hindi these were called "Takhta (Plank),Kalam (Pen) and Dawaat (Ink)".This master was another one who firmly believed in corporal punishment--his favourite form of inflicting torture being pulling our ears!!I complained many times to both Amma and Mummy--who both turned around and asked me to pay attention and behave instead of blaming "Masterji" who was to be revered because he was a Teacher!!We hail from Kolhapur--a Principality in the Deccan very famous for it's Gold Jewellery,Red Chillies and Spices and also Leather Ware.My paternal Grandma Akka had sent me a pair of handcrafted "Kolhapuri Chappals" made in the old fashioned manner with very thick,layered Leather soles bound together with Leather thongs--not nails.We used to remove these and keep these next to us on the floor while sitting cross legged on the "Chataaee" or Grass Mat while studying.That day Mummy and I had already had an altercation before Masterji arrived so my mood was pretty bad to begin with.Add to that the fact that he took objection to the way I'd written my Hindi Alphabets--out shot his arm and closing his fingers around my ear he hauled me up!!
As he hauled me up I gathered one of my chappals in my right arm--after which all Hell broke loose!!I started clobbering poor Masterji around his head--shouting all the while in Hindi"Merey kaan kheenchegaa?" meaning" Will you pull my ears?"In desperation he began running around the huge Verandah we used as a Classroom--with me speeding behind him,my little chappal held aloft--landing in a few good ones at each opportunity I got!!By the time Amma and Mummy got to me I was completely incensed and he totally cowed down!!While Amma tried to calm me down,Masterji turned to Mummy and said "Bibijee aapki beti toh toofan hai--yeh kabhi bhi kuchh nahin banpaayegi" which translated means that Madam your daughter is a Hooligan who'll never amount to anything!!Mummy paid him off for the entire balance month and sent him on his way---and after he left we had a glowering match--which I'm proud to say I won--for my poor ear was red,swollen and painful!!
This encounter gave me a taste for fighting--and while I never started a fight I never let anyone walk over me either--just because I was a puny,little girl.Here a lot of credit goes to my father and Jeanneret Uncle---- both of whom included me in their Treks and Climbs in the Shivaliks--where I learnt to love and appreciate the beautiful bounty of Nature.This also turned me into a wiry and physically strong individual those days called a "Tomboy" .Daddy used to call me his "Pathan" and he helped me grow into a confident,well read and physically fit young woman.Add to that the muscles I developed because my physical activity which included grinding a variety of Masalas on our huge Grinding Stone for Mummy each Sunday morning.I can never forget the incredulous amazement on Atya's face when I ground the Coconut Curry Paste fine on the even bigger Grinding Stone in our Kitchen in Bombay--for these tasks were done in my new household by the male hired help---never the women!!
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