These days as I observe myself closely I notice certain tell tale signs of ageing--and I realise that just like Mummy acquired certain character traits of her mother as she grew older--I too am acquiring hers.Cooking has always been something I enjoyed--and that is what I had in common with both my Grandmas--paternal and maternal---- for they both enjoyed Cooking too.With my mother and mother-in-law it was a Passion--and both had discerning taste buds--they would dissect every Food they tried out---ferreting around to find each and every Ingredient used!!Sudhir's sisters--Kunda and Suhas as well as my sister Ritu possess this same Passion--and it used to amuse me earlier--but lately not-- for I find myself straying into their Territory!!
Thanks to Ritu I too would watch these Cookery Shows on T.V. with her---for it is interesting to see different styles of Cooking employed the World over.It was by chance that one day I stumbled upon 3 Indian Cooks---Marut Sikka,Aditya Bal and Vicki Ratnani on an Indian T.V. Channel called NDTV Good Times.All three have a passion for Cooking but while Vicki dabbles in Continental and Fusion food it is truly fascinating to watch the other two--specially Marut Sikka cook.His Recipes are simple and easy--uncomplicated but if followed to a "T" produce amazing results!!I have been hooked onto his Show for well nigh over a month now--and have been trying out some of his Recipes.I love cooking old,traditional and authentic Indian Cuisine---modifying the Ghee used in most to suit my Diet.Maybe that is why the fact that he uses the traditional methods to cook as far as possible appeals to me!!The fascinating Vessels and Utensils he uses are another attraction---these are so wonderful that they have me drooling--specially the Pans he cooks his Rice in!!Unfortunately they seem to be pretty old--he must have scoured the old Bazaars of Delhi,Hyderabad and Agra to get these----for they have that wonderfully antique look of the Pots and Pans both my Grandmas owned!!Just today I visited my sisters-in-law--both of them are each other's next door neighbours--so it is very easy to visit them at the same time since they literally live side by side!!However they too were a bit taken aback by the vehemence with which I discussed the Recipe for "Mutton do Pyaaza" which I cooked to perfection last Wednesday.I seem have found my rhythm again for frying the Spices on slow heat for hours on end--and trust me it does add yummyliciousness to the Dish!!Only one thing--the satisfaction of achieving a perfect result of the Recipe takes the edge off my appetite and I end up eating plain Pickles and Indian Bread--for I'm too stuffed to even taste whatever I've cooked so laboriously!!
It is not just this--it is also many other small nuances that are changing me.Mummy would have the T.V. going full blast all day--she'd watch all her favourite Programs and their re-runs all day long after she became confined to the house after 2003.This confinement was more mentally induced than any physical reasons.She had visited my cousin Meera in Hyderabad and while there caught a very bad Chest Cold.This made it difficult for her to walk to catch the Flight back to Mumbai--and maybe the ride in the Wheel Chair changed her outlook altogether---and she slowly began letting go!!As her moving out of the house for her daily errands decreased her weight increased--till she was really pretty overweight.I am scared that I may go her way--and maybe that is why I try to keep myself busy and as far away from the T.V. as possible!!Besides my high is my Computer--specially going onto the History Sites--for these truly fascinate me immensely.I'm surprised when people tell me that they find History boring--for to me there is nothing more riveting and spell binding as a Subject.However---I've also learnt painfully over and over again that too much Knowledge is not a great Conversational Gambit!!
These days I'm beginning to like my own company---and any diversion of Routine is getting to be troublesome!!My mind is now settling down to the new routine--as i rush about getting the entire house in order.There are still Sudhir's papers stored in the house which need stowing away properly---and also weeding through stuff that I can safely give away is hard to get rid of--for I suffer from pangs of guilt at getting rid of perfectly good stuff--but unfortunately not needed any more!!Ritu tells me that I better stay away from acquiring any more Pots and pans--but those are so very lusciously inviting--the brilliantly coloured,Die Cast Ceramic coated Sets in different sizes which are displayed so very invitingly on the Net!!It is really hard to resist their lure--and here too shades of Mummy surface--for she too had loads of Pots and Pans of various shapes and sizes--Copper,Brass,Steel and Bone China---which became a headache for Ritu to dispose off after she died in January,2010.As far as I know these are still stored on Mummy's Loft--wrapped in Newspapers and stuffed in Gunny Sacks!!!However I wouldn't want to wish this on my daughters after I go!!
The last 3 days have passed by in a whirl---in many ways these have been introspective,ruminative and in parts very enjoyable!!Getting rid of many old things adds a new slant to one's perspectives--and sometimes clears some old,addictive Cobwebs.In my case sifting through old stuff, drawers I usually hesitated to look through has left me feeling mentally lighter and physically tired but not unhappy.The result has helped me remove a lot of Clutter---and let's be honest---left me loads of Space to store new Stuff---which I won't for I like the feeling of having additional Space!!!
In Mumbai, Space is at a premium--and today's Flats come with a lot of built in features--which they have recently incorporated into their Floor Plans.That is why we had to resort to various kinds of ruses to store stuff---going vertically higher seemed the only solution!!In all these upper Drawers--very hard to reach without a ladder----a lot of stuff found it's way and because it was out of sight it became forgotten and proceeded to collect several layers of Dust and just rusting away!!On Thursday I opened two such drawers---and came across a collection of my old Steel Utensils? which I had salted away because in actuality though these had outlived their usefulness--but I just couldn't bring myself to throw away!!!Well the final outcome was that all these got thrown out--and the Space got taken up with Stuff I need on a day to day basis.This includes a collection of Magic Mop Fabrics---which Sudhir and I had bought in L.A. a few years back for Vanita to swab the Floor with daily!!Well finally Vanita has it--and the look she beamed at me while telling me how good it was to use showed me that it was Money well spent!!!
Another new Routine we are trying to set is our Walking Routes.Previously we'd go round and round our Building Complex--a necessary but irritating prospect.To complete 1 km. we had to walk around our Complex 5 times---this was a route that Sudhir had driven around to get me the exact measurement----and mentally exhausting after a while as the large number of Rounds tired us out--while not really clocking up much Mileage!!Since Thursday evening 3-4 of us have finally taken our courage in our hands and struck out a beautiful Park on the Sea shore nearby--30 minutes of walking at an even pace gets us there and we sit there enjoying the view of the Arabian Sea and the refreshing Breeze for about 20-30 minutes before starting back home.In another 30 minutes we are back home--recharged and refreshed.The only drawback--it's boring to do it alone because that is when the length of the entire Walk gets to one!!Let's just hope it becomes a Routine--doing it even 4 times a week would be sufficient!!
Today has been a mix of Nostalgia and Memories--as it was our National holiday--our 64th Republic Day!!Since childhood it had been my dearest wish to attend this Event personally--but somehow it never came to pass.Now since 1983 this Event gets televised--and since day one of it's being made available I've never missed a single telecast!!Sudhir would just shake his head at me helplessly as I sat there---- crying copiously into the various Handkerchieves he kept handing me---the huge flood of Pride that swept over me literally making me weep!!Last uyear I just could not face this---so I took off for Kolhapur--along with Ritu and Kunda---to spend the long Weekend there!!Today I decided not to run--and collecting a few Napkins next to me sat down and watched the whole Telecast once more.It was painful but it also was self educating as well.It taught me that there is no place on Earth where I can go--leaving my Memories behind--I just have to stand my ground and face my fears--and today I did manage to do that.
So I watched---and wept--both out of Sorrow and Pride---the former for the Vacuum in my Life and the latter because it felt so proud to see the show of Strength that India set forth!!As always it is these few lines that incapsulate my vision for my Country from a song by Allama Iqbal written in pre-Independent India.The words are truly inspiring and if we learn to live by what they tell us--nothing and no one can stop our Progress!!The last Verse of the Song "Saarey Jahaansey Achha Hindostaan Hamaara"--teaches us about Religious Tolerance and Brotherhood and says this----
"Mazhab nahin sikhaataa Aapas mein Bair rakhnaa(2)
Hindi hain Hum(2) Watan hai Hindostaan Hamaaraa
Saarey Jahaansey Achha Hindostaan Hamaara
Hum Bul Buley hain Isskey yeh Gulsitaan Hamaara!!"
These days Mumbai is experiencing some truly awesome Weather--the Tempratures are hovering between 8-15 degrees Celsius--which for Mumbaikars is cold and chilly!!My sister Ritu--who was born and brought up in Chandigarh is wearing Socks,a Cardigan and uses a Cotton stuffed Quilt every night to cover herself to combat the Cold---besides these days our Meals consist of one Dish Specials----hearty bowls of steaming Laksa or Khau Suey for Dinner--courtesy Madame Ritu and her I Pad--which provides the Recipes!!Unfortunately we have not been to the Fish Market to buy Fish from Sarla--one of Sudhir's trusted Fish Vendors nor have I been buying it at the Door--The Kitchen was in various stages of taking shape earlier and later of being assembled.During this time we made do by ordering out and also having my friends sending us a steady supply of home made Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian Food--leaving my Kitchen flooded with Containers that have to be returned--but cannot be sent back empty--just not done in our Community!!
Of these the largest number of Containers belong to my dear friend Pushpa--who'd keep sending us plenty of Food regularly.Now she is a Fishatarian who really relishes Fish and eggs--but does not eat Poultry or Meat.Besides she really relishes my Curries and since yesterday was Wednesday I made some Dry Fish--"Sungta" Curry to send in one of her Containers.While talking to Vanita I told her to send Asha----the Fisherwoman who makes the rounds of our area--for I wanted to buy some Mackerels for a Curry.Imagine the coincidence when Asha rang the Door Bell literally moments later--carrying a depleted Basket of Fish--and all it contained was some Prawns/Shrimp and about a dozen small Mackerel and about 12 pieces of assorted other Fish--6 pieces each of Kingfish and Black Pomfret locally called "Surmai" and "Halwaa".Now while I'm not too fond of Fish anymore it had been a long time since I'd cooked some--and while I don't much relish Fish these days I love my Fish Curry and Rice like any other self respecting Konkani--specially on a chilly Winter's day!!As she cleaned and gutted the Fish and shelled and deveined the Prawns for me, we chatted.
She too lost her husband about 5 years back and she was commiserating about how things change after the loss.As we compared Notes she said a surprising thing.She said that her husband was very fond of Fruit--she'd buy a regular supply of every Seasonal Fruit for him and it was his favourite Snack.However she couldn't bring herself to even touch the Fruits after he died--for it just saddened her terribly and made her cry.It was her grand daughter who gave her the reason to buy it once more--she asked Asha "Aaji don't you love me enough to buy me Fruit anymore?Or was it only Aazobaa that you loved?" Asha says that it was as if something hit her hard on the head--the child was her Grandpa's favourite--and since then Asha makes it a point to carry Fruits each day when she makes her way home after finishing the day's sales.It is not the same but she says the fact that the child looks forward to it makes the effort she makes worth while!!I guess it is the same with me over Fish--Sudhir loved it--specially fried Fish--his favourite Meal was Dal-Rice and Fried Fish--and he just couldn't get enough of it!!
Later as I cleaned the Fish I asked Vanita to get me Pushpa's Containers--I thought I'd send her some Dry Fish Curry immediately and on Saturday cook the Mackerel Curry she relishes so much--when once more the Door Bell rang.This time it was Pushpa herself--and she'd come to visit me unexpectedly!!I was extremely happy to see her--and insisted she stay on for Lunch.The two of us ate a very simple meal--with Vanita making steaming hot Multigrain Flour "Phulkas" and frying the Fresh Mackerel crisp for her to enjoy--for me it was loads of hot steaming Rice with generous doses of Fish Curry--accompanied by the Potato and Fenugreek Leaf Vegetable Curry I'd cooked that morning!!It was a leisurely Lunch followed by two hours of Gossip--most of it inconsequential--but highly entertaining!!
It is the very simple things in Life that can light up one's day--spending a few hours with Pushpa and the unexpected pleasure of feeding her favourites myself instead of sending these over really made my Day!!!
I am gradually realising that Life and Time can both be moulded according to necessities.Having come to terms and accepted the Pain and the Loss of the fact that a major portion of life as I knew it can never be resurrected I'm going around trying to build one that will God Willing continue till I die.It's not that I blame God for Sudhir's death--for I know that everyone who is born has to die one day--that is the finality of Life---but it's just that I do not need the urge to communicate with God the way I used to.Those days I would talk to Him all the time---He was my Friend,my constant Companion.I can still feel Him around me and in my heart but today the words have frozen.Maybe as Sayali puts it, it was the fear and the stress of losing Sudhir to Death that made me hyper sensitive--whereas today the worst I feared has come to pass and so maybe I'm somewhere resigned in my mind about Life.I have never asked for anything for myself except Sudhir's well being and long life---for me that was the core my very existence rested on.Today I'm trying to recreate a new base to shore up my feet--and slowly but surely I'm succeeding.
Reading my Holy Books gives me peace--and soothes my mind into a level of relaxation--and last but not the least assuages the Pain a little for the time being.Another Hobby that I'm pursuing once more is Knitting--very slowly for I can't do much thanks to my right arm being the way it is---but it is turning out to be very good excercise for my shoulders--since both are in two varied stages of being frozen!!!I also am going to take up my Tapestry and Cross Stitch Work once more--for during the heat of summer to even think of Wool makes me break out in a sweat!!Only thing is that I'll be using the Matty Fabric instead of Linen or Casement Fabrics as then I can use the blunter,thicker Needles instead of the finer,more pointed ones.Sudhir would never even let me stitch his buttons on back on his shirts for fear that I may prick myself--and he wanted me to get rid of my beautiful Sewing and Knitting Pattern Books Collection because he used to feel that I'd go behind his back and indulge myself with these during my time alone at home.I may get rid of any other Books but never these for I have slowly and laboriously collected these scouring through all the Craft and Hobby Stores across Bombay/Mumbai!!Sudhir too has joined me in literally scrounging the length and breadth of City for years and years---and many of these have been Gifts from him--picking out the ones he felt I could use!!This keeps me occupied for a long time and also helps me to concentrate on the Task at hand--for since I'm a perfectionist I who hate having to redo everything till it ends up just so---it really works in helping to keep all other painful thoughts at bay.
As a child my father taught me to observe the World around me---and it is gradually turning into an interesting pastime once more.I have begun to observe the people I come into contact with minutely--leading to some astounding and some truly hilarious conclusions!!Each day springs up something new and this too keeps me busy marvelling at the diversity of Human nature!!My subjects are the people around me--including the Vegetable Vendor who comes to the door daily and the Fisherwoman--while I buy stuff from them,I also talk to them and the way they react to certain situations in Life can at times be amusing but is always helpful in teaching me something new about Life.Today I am once more realising and counting my Blessings--I have since Birth lived an extremely happy and privileged Life--having so very much to be thankful for!!Maybe this realisation will gradually help me reconnect my Hotline with My Friend once more--for I really miss the Conversations i had with Him immensely!!
As January advances towards it's end I've come to certain Conclusions about myself and my life.The vacuum of losing Sudhir is huge--and the fact that we literally were joined at the hip and lived in each other's pockets for almost 42 years is mostly maybe the cause.Memories help but these are cold comfort when one feels completely lost and lonely--drifting without a shore in sight on the Sea of Life!!I have also realised that the Pain of my loss will never lessen nor will it ever fade away---so I guess it's a permanent fixture in my heart now.Despite this Time does not stand still and that is why I have taken this new decision.
Getting the Kitchen remodeled has been therapeutic and cathartic---all the unnecessary clutter I'd collected and hoarded has come into the open--and disposing off the stuff I don't actually need is giving me a sense of release.All that Tupperware I was hoarding up for our daughters and grand daughter is now out in the open and I have begun using most of it in the Kitchen.Here I've retained only those of the old lot which is still great to look at and is also useful to boot--while discarding those in not so great shape. Vanita will be carrying the bulk of these Containers home--I no longer require so many Containers to store Snacks in since I snack rarely and 2-3 large Containers are sufficient for me.It was Sudhir who needed the various shapes and sizes to store his stuff----his favourite Indian Sweets,his Chocolates and not to forget his favourite Savouries--topping the list was Potato Wafers/Crisps which really needed a huge Container to hold the big Packets of the stuff he got home!!
This has also encouraged me to clean up the other stuff in the house---and quite a few things are finding themselves out in the Cold--for I've decided to dispose off these too.I have gradually started to think of "Me" instead of "We" and have made a few small changes in the way I think.Today I try to concentrate on making myself as self sufficient as possible--my basic independent nature won't allow me to depend completely on our daughters or our siblings--both his and mine.I have also started to count my Blessings for whatever i have and I'm truly grateful to God for the beautiful Death He granted Sudhir.In time I hope I get a similar one too.I have realised that I was brooding over the Past and dwelling upon it far too much--and the danger of slipping into Depression was constantly hovering over my head.While I still cannot bring myself to perform a regular "Pooja" daily,I have begun reading one of my Holy Books--the Life and Miracles of Swami Gajanan Maharaj of Shegao.I'm also a staunch believer in Swami Samartha of Akkalkot and meditating on these give me a feeling of Peace whenever I'm too upset.I have now decided to try and practice gradual Detachment from Life---getting rid of the "Wants" exposes the "Needs" and Life becomes much simpler.
While I cannot stop the Memories from flooding back I can at least try to enjoy them--and accept them as beautiful Moments from my Past frozen in my mind.I feel guilty when Sayali makes it a point to call me everyday--just to find out how I am--I feel as if I'm an added responsibility she has taken on herself after Sudhir passed away--I want her to live her Life without an added headache--me.I want both our daughters to return to the carefree women they were when their father was alive instead of these oddly mature ones who have taken their place.I once more want to be their Mother not someone they need to look after and feel responsible for.While I know that I cannot turn the clock back I can atleast try to resurrect a little of the strong,confident person I used to be once more.
This is something that I owe to my husband,my daughters and myself---become a responsible and confident Woman once again!!