Monday, November 29, 2010

Bird of paradise in my little paradise

When I was moving to the UK from Pune, India, one of the things that saddened me the most was giving away my collection of  about forty potted plants which had moved with me every place I moved. These plants were the plants I had lovingly grown, after I got married. Each plant had a story and each had been chosen with care and carefully tended to. Satish knows my love of plants and nature (and animals) and whenever I went out of town, he would never forget to water them. We had moved and lived in about nine houses in a span of  eleven years and yet each place we moved, the plants would arrive behind us like Bo beep's sheeps, sometimes wilted (as it would take three days in a truck at times) and they always survived.Sadly, they would never survive an International move and also there is a ban on bringing plants and other stuff into the United Kingdom. So we left them behind.

When I relocated to UK, all I inherited  as a 'garden' was a sad looking patch of earth with a lot of rubbish strewn and absolutely  no plants at all. My heart sank when I saw it, but I set about nevertheless, creating a garden. It was the first time in my life I was actually doing hard physical labour in the mud. Satish and I dug, weeded, uprooted a lot of unwanted bushes. Then we went to the garden centre and bought lawn seeds. We read up about planting them and little by little, a lovely little garden took shape. I discovered that tending to an English garden is a completely different (but rewarding) experience. I grew all kind of flowers that I had only seen in books before. I grew Clematis and Azaleas and Tiger lilies. I grew roses and Dianthus. I grew English Lavender and  primroses. One of my good friends gifted me Daffodil bulbs and I loved watching them bloom in my garden. Each flower that bloomed reminded me of the smiling face of my friend.

Then we moved back to India and I had to once again  leave it all behind in the UK.

But this time I was really fortunate to have inherited a  lovely little garden in my new place at Bangalore. I lie on the lawn at night and gaze at the stars. Early in the morning I walk around with my cup of coffee admiring the dew drops and feeling the grass under my feet. (Walk on grass barefoot if you haven't done it for long. It is such joy in such a simple thing!)

So, imagine my delight when a Bird of Paradise flower bloomed in my garden! I have been gazing at it every single day and admiring it and clicking pictures too. Here is how it slowly bloomed. (Pictures are in sequential order)

This is how it looked on the first day.

 Then it opened up a litle further and two more 'wings' appeared.

The above picture was clicked by me just a little while ago and that is how it looks at the moment.

Sitting in my garden, a cup of coffee in my hand, peace in my heart and typing away on my laptop as I gaze at my bird of paradise flower,with the sun slowly setting in the background, casting a pale orange glow across the skyline, I understand Henry Beecher completely and  truly, who had said  "Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into."

Even Emma Goldman's words make so much sense now. "I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck," she had said.

How apt! Just make my rose a bird of paradise in my garden, please :-)

Friday, November 26, 2010

An extremely special birthday

Funny how time changes things so much.

Thirteen years ago on this day, I became a mother. It was my first born and I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I did not know how to hold my new born son and I had to call my mum or my aunt to even lift him. I was so afraid of not supporting his neck right (new born babies cannot hold up their neck and need to be supported and carried in a particular way) and he seemed so tiny (even though he weighed a healthy 3.25 kgs) and I was so scared of hurting him.

Funny, how within a week I was able to even manage giving him a bath and how I learnt to even manage the cord stump. 

And then his first year. Oh how delightful it was! He was such a sweet, gorgeous baby. He started sleeping through the night at three months.I began reading books to him when he was three months old. He was such a joy and truly no trouble at all, that I even travelled without my husband, to Darjeeling and Gangtok  when he was just five months old. (New parents know what a nightmare it can be to travel with babies). We had an amazingly wonderful trip.

I refused to leave my precious baby in a creche (I just couldn't bear the thought of someone else looking after him) and so I took up a job (teaching in  a pre school) which was completely different from my field, just so that I could take him with me to work. He started accompanying me to school, from when he was one and a half years old.

When he was about two, he fell down and  he had to get six stitches at the back of his head, I was so distraught I could barely speak. I never knew till then, what helpless pain truly is. But he was a tough little fellow. He was finer than I was.

Then  I taught him to read using the Glen Doman method.  At the age of  three years and eight months he was reading Ladybird books like Princess and the Pea. He was even featured in a local TV program for early reading for children.

His love of books  grew along with him.(and today he reads Paul Jennings and Cornelia Funke)

At four and a half I taught him to ride a bicycle without trainer wheels. When he had his first fall, it was on a row of cactus plants. I had to rush him to my cousin who is a surgeon and he had to extract thousands of cacti thorns from his legs with a tweezer. I think I flinched each time a thorn was pulled out, more than he did.

The years have flown by since then.Today he is almost as tall as me and he can lift me with ease! I squeal and tell him to put me down when he carries me and lifts me off the floor.

Now he can talk to me at my level and we discuss a lot of things. We have such wonderful conversations. I tease him about girls and he teases me right back about my 'boyfriends'. We talk about Call of Duty-Black Ops and we talk about the cultural differences between UK and India. We discuss colleges and  various courses offered. He asks me about what interests me and what I like and I ask him the same. He introduces me to 'cool music' like Pendulum and I tell him about GNR, Bryan Adams and Billy Joel.

He  tells me I am cool (the ultimate compliment for a mother!) and is very proud of me and shows off my book and my portraits to a  few select friends.

He has a wonderful sense of humour and he can really make me laugh.He also clicks great photos and even has a photo blog.

I cannot help turning nostalgic and sentimental on the eve of his thirteenth birthday.

Happy  13th birthday to my darling sonny boy.
Even if you are 26, you will still be my sonny boy :-)
Funny how some things remain the same no matter how much they change :-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

A little love note

Susie in trouble p1 Pictures, Images and Photos

Most people who don't have children, have a  fairly stable routine and  days of work (unless of course you happen to be the official photographer for Kingfisher Calendar or a flight attendant or Rakhee Sawant,  in which case I doubt you would be reading this blog :-)). But people who have children--oh, they will agree with me, when I say  that each day there is a new drama which unfolds. You really don't need reality TV (move over Pamela Anderson)  when you have kids. There is enough entertainment provided on a daily basis, except that sometimes you are an active participant  (at times unwittingly the clown) in this reality show and you don't even realise it till you put your feet up at the end of the day.

But a lot of times it also seems  like we are transported back to our childhood, through our children. The kids these days might be natives to Internet, might have had far more exposure than we did at their ages and might be tech-savvy little geniuses but the fact is children always are children, be it in today's world or be it a hundred years back. The toys they play with might have changed but the qualities inherent in children (a curious nature, a playful attitude, and most importantly being unafraid to try out new things, unafraid to fail and the ability to quickly forgive and not carry grudges) are still the same. ( We adults would do well to emulate some of these qualities).

Each day when my two kids come back from school, I am there to greet them. This is one of the best times of the day for me. After they have been served (today it was aloo tikkis which they gobbled in a jiffy showering me with ample 'mmmmm mummy you are the best cook in the world')  and cajoled to change out of their school uniforms, they cuddle upto me and tell me about their day. I love listening. Each day there is something new.

Today my son (who will soon be 13) said " Mum, today a boy in the bus gave a note to a girl."
"Ooh" I said, "Did you see what was in the note?"
"I could just see it from outside. He had written 'from' and  'to'. That was all what was there on the outside."
"Oh, " I said, a bit disappointed to not know what was in the note.
But the story wasn't over.
"Mum, the girl took it from him and said awwwwwwww," continued my son.
"And? " I prompted him, now fully engrossed.
"Ma, when she opened it, it was a dead bee inside. She screamed her head off and then she threw it out of the window."

I  really collapsed on the floor with laughter as my son and daughter too joined in.

Like I was saying, kids will be kids.
Or maybe boys will be boys :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On making a birthday memorable

cupcakes Pictures, Images and Photos

The other day the newspaper carried an article which showed three young guys from the city who had developed a Facebook application for wishing your friends on their birthdays. It wasn't an application that merely reminds you when a birthday is upcoming (I have no grouses against that) but this was an application which would do the actual wishing for you at midnight, while you slept or watched a movie or had sex or do whatever you do at midnight. It could personalise the wish as much as you wanted ( or as little as you wanted) and it would post a message on your friend's wall at midnight as though you had written it yourself , and your friend would be no wiser. You merely had to enter all the dates of your friends birthdays one time. The article said that this way, you would never have to keep track of any birthdays or take the actual effort to wish a friend or even  forget to wish a friend and your friend would be happy and moved that you  really took the trouble to wish him/her at midnight.

How much more superficial can one get?

To me, birthdays are only as important as the people who have them. If the person mattered to me a lot, I would surely make an effort to make that day extra special for that person. To me, it is all about making an effort, not merely wishing for the sake of wishing. I would surely value a phone call or a visit much more than a mere posting on the wall which seems to have become perfunctory. And I would value a hand written card more than an electronic one for sure. On one of my birthdays, a  good friend took the trouble to have a cake and a teddy bear and flowers delivered to me. It was a complete surprise and I was delighted. On my  last birthday  (when I was visiting India from the UK, in December) I was over the moon, when one of my closest friends flew down from a different city, to be with me. Another of my closest friends had taken the trouble to order a delicious chocolate cake weeks in advance (it is very hard to get a booking for a cake from that particular place) and also the care and thought that went into the gift she had chosen for me, moved me and made me feel on top of the world.

Yesterday happened to be her birthday and I decided to surprise her. I turned up outside her door (I had to change two city buses to get to her place as I am stranded without a vehicle at the moment) with a large bouquet of flowers and a nice gift (which I know she will love). Then I called her number and wished her from right outside her door. She had no clue where I was calling from. Then I told her that I think I heard a knock and that there was someone outside her door and asked her to open her door. She wondered how I could hear a knock though the phone when she couldn't :-)  I insisted that she open the door. When she saw me standing there grinning like an idiot from ear to ear, she was so stunned that she could not react for a few seconds. :) Then  she screamed and we both burst out laughing and hugged each other.  She said " Hey. I never expected this. You really made my day."
We then ordered a Chinese takeaway and spent the rest of the day talking and laughing. She later texted saying it was one of the best birthdays she has had.

To me, that is how a close friend ought to be wished on a birthday and a birthday ought to be celebrated.
Not  for me, an automated application that wishes them for you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ullage of life

Every single day I get a new word in my inbox from Sometimes they are words I know, sometimes they are new.If it is a new word, I usually try and understand the context in which it is to be used and I look at the way it is pronounced too. An interesting word I got yesterday was the word 'Ullage'. It set me thinking.

Right now I have relocated from UK to India, and we have moved into a lovely home, which is at the moment, completely bare.  There are no tables, no chairs, no microwave, no TV, no kitchen utensils and worst of all, no writing desk, books, the kids toys or my art stuff which is all bobbing in a ship, in a container in the Pacific Ocean or perhaps it has reached Indian Ocean--who knows! They tell us it will finally arrive by month end. (am keeping my fingers crossed). I am cooking with a few borrowed pans and plates. We sit on the bare floor and eat our meals. Getting stuff organised in India, I am discovering is a long, lengthy and extremely frustrating process.(and God help you if you are not an Indian! I cannot imagine any of my English friends being able to manage in India, unless they knew someone here).  Even obtaining a local mobile phone number was a big hassle and they debarred my number twice, despite my visiting the customer relationship centre and submitting every necessary document two times. Renewing my Indian driving licence is another lengthy lengthy process and if you do not have your own vehicle in India (and right now I don't) one knows how inadequate the public transport system really is. But hey, this is not an NRI returning to India and cribbing and cribbing about what is wrong in the country. (I do love my country, am very patriotic and have  spent more than a year in very uncomfortable and extremely difficult conditions, teaching slum children English and Math, because I do believe that each of us can indeed make a difference if you truly care).

So how is all this connected to the word I received?  Mostly I realised that many of us (and that includes me) tend to focus on the 'Ullages in life'. We look at what isn't right and we feel bad. We complain about the traffic instead of being grateful that we can afford a car/two wheeler. We complain about our jobs and how we got a 'raw deal' instead of being grateful that we're not laid off  or unemployed. We complain about how we don't have perfect figures (propelled by media frenzy which mostly objectifies women with all the hype about size zero) instead of being grateful that we have a healthy body free of disease. One of my good friends recently had a mastectomy done and has battled breast cancer and is a proud survivor. Her spirit is truly amazing as never once has she moaned, cribbed or complained instead she asserts how much she loves all of us, her closest friends and keeps sending us messages of love and hope.

We all tend to look at what we don't have, instead of being happy and grateful for the things we do. Let us stop looking at the ullages of life. Let us instead appreciate what are fortunate to possess.Let us fill our lives with joy, laughter and whatever makes us feel good from the inside.

On my part, I am grateful to have extremely supportive friends (because of whom the relocation from UK to India has been smooth), I am grateful to have a wonderful home, happy that my children got into a superb school (despite it being mid  academic year). I am grateful for the three newspapers (yeah I subscribe to three :) )  I receive every single day (Newspapers were a big luxury in UK and many people don't buy one daily) and which I devour from end to end :-)  I am grateful the extremely cheap texting (I could not believe my ears when the guy told me that I get 500 free SMS a day! I kept asking him if it was for a month! Texting is so expensive in the UK)  which I use liberally to text all my friends my friends  my friends who reply. I am grateful for the sunshine, the lovely weather and a lovely lovely garden which my new home has. I am grateful for the superb facilities which my residential complex has and doubly grateful that I can visit my mother who lives in Kerala very easily now. :-) I am also grateful for such well adjusting children (they have been real darlings) who do not complain even one little bit about anything even though the transition hasn't really been easy for them, moving from UK to India.

What are you grateful for today? If you share I am listening.


 PS:  I leave you with a wonderful video which I loved. Listen to it with your headphones on :) It is surely a pep up :)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Dreaming of home

Moving homes is hard. Moving home from one country to another, it is even harder. But I think the hardest is to be without a home which is what my current situation is.

 We reached India on 19th October, exhausted after travelling for more than 24 hours,(it is such a long long long way) bone weary,  jet-lagged and wanting to run back to a comfortable place called home. Except, there was no home. The last of our belongings had been boxed and shipped, our lives neatly packed into cartons, labelled and despatched with cool crisp efficiency of an International relocation agency.

It took me more than ten days to get my body clock set to Indian Time. Was I glad to back in India? I really had no time to notice as there were and still are a million things to be done. Right now we have been put up in a company guest house and we're trying to set up things from here.

We have managed to find an excellent school for the children (they got chosen into four schools which was a pleasant surprise as many well meaning folks had warned us about relocating in the middle of an academic year and how hard it is to get admissions into a good school. The warnings were baseless as we discovered. Doors do open when you try hard enough). We are slowly setting up our home too (we finally signed the rental agreement two days back) and I hope to move into my own home next week, even though the stuff that has been shipped would arrive only by the end of November.

Thank you to all who mailed and asked me how I was doing and wishing me luck. I still haven't got around to replying to mails.  I shall do so slowly.The first thing I am doing  after getting a mobile Internet connection (Oh, the amount of documentation needed these days to get one, is crazy)  is blogging :-) (Yeah, I could not bear to be away from my beloved blog and its readers any longer :-) )

They say that when emotion over flow poetry flows. Poems are often feelings poured into words. Just before we left UK, my nine year old daughter wrote an amazingly beautiful poem.  It seems so apt , at the moment.

I am reproducing it below. (Click on the photo to enlarge it to read it in her own writing and to read her English teacher's remarks too)

Dreaming of Home

By Purvi Shenoy (Aged 9)

Once upon a time
I dreamt of living in a warm cozy cottage
Where the fire flames dance like crazy

The carpeting squidges between your toes
Where the bed is nice and bouncy
Where the garden is filled with the smell of flowers

In the kitchen, a delicious smell of my mum's cooking
In the attic, the stair case creaks and there are old toys in the corner
And the bedroom has cool crisp sheets on the bed.


My daughter's poem really tugs at my heart strings at this moment.
Right now, it seems like heaven, as I wait to move in and create a place called  home.