#Grief

(This is a personal reading of the book “Notes on Grief” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I write this to help myself. I hope reading this will help us all in some way, that we grieve as we feel.)

The bold and italics are excerpts from the book.

An impermanence in the air. The virus brought close the possibility of dying, the commonness of dying.

I am one of those millions of children who live far from their parents. We live with certain confidence that we will be able to reach them quickly in case there is an emergency. That certainty ended with the pandemic.

After fifteen long months of corona restrictions, when I could finally travel, I was shaken by the frailty of my father. My heart pounded non-stop, I lay awake at nights, I jumped if the phone rang at the slightest of odd hours. I could not keep away from the thought that my father may be gone soon. In that state of gnawing sadness, I looked for something that would quieten my mind, would keep me afloat.

Sometimes a book finds to you. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Notes on Grief’ was on the shelf. But I was evading reading it. The line between fear and premonition can get easily blurred, especially when you know the eventuality, that your fear is the ultimate truth. I was avoiding a daughter’s reminiscence after her father’s death. Will it prepare me or will it devastate me?

I removed the cover of the book to spare any anxiety to the people around me, and started reading it after my father’s passing. Because I loved my father so much, so fiercely, so tenderly, I always, at the back of my mind, feared this day. From a daughter to a father, and an overwhelmed family, the grief in this book connected like there are no boundaries. Every sentence resonated; either in its parallels or in its manifestation. I also realised, that grief is intensely personal, obstinately individual, and is way more complicated than it’s understood to be.

Several of my friends lost their parents in the past few months. The loss continues as I write. It is in this living and breathing an air leaden with angst and ambiguity that broke us bit by bit. It’s not that I find succour in the fact that so many of us are grieving. I find the true meaning of how hard it can be.

So here is how the book is both solacious and cathartic.

A brain surgery four years ago, followed by diagnosis of Parkinson and incontinence severely impacted my father’s daily activities. A man who always walked, never depended on anybody, now needed assistance for almost everything. Age descended as if in a hurry and with savage intensity. He complied to the doctor’s prescriptions with single-minded devotion that he will be able to walk the streets again. We answered his questions with care and believable vagueness. We were in constant search for what could make his living easier (I say living and not surviving). A straw to sip, softened food easy to chew, regular review of medication, grab-bars, anti-skid bath mats, electric shaver, several kinds of aid for mobility etc. Our mind space filled up with the pursuit of solutions, every conversation opened up a possibility or threw up a challenge.  

Zoom calls, there was my father, only his forehead on the screen. Thanks to video calling, and my mother’s ability to pick up technology, we saw each other twice every day. I will hear her prompting my father, ‘hold the phone properly so that she can see you’. My mother tells me now, that my father will ask if I did not call or was late. Till the time he could, he will dial from the non-smart-screen phone and ask “kahin galu” (where have you been?), with a mix of concern and demand in his voice.

It was so fast, too fast. It was not supposed to happen like this, not like a malicious surprise, not during a pandemic that has shut down the world. Through the severity and continuity of this pandemic nightmare, I had prayed for a proper closure. Amid the horrendous episodes of deaths that happened in isolation wards, last rites performed in PPE suits, I had prayed to be spared of the misfortune. That there be an opportunity for a good bye.

Thankfully, that could happen. About two weeks before my father’s death, we could all be together, me, my brother and my mother, reliving how it all was when we were children. The photos from that visit make me weep. In that blessed time, I often caught my father’s eyes, fondly, longingly, looking at all of us, as if to say ‘this is it in this life.’ He was slowly willing away from life.

The recent the memory, tiny bit less is the weight of the grief. My heart goes out to all those who could not be with their parents in their last days. Death is not just death. How it happens matters, in our reasoning, our healing, our acceptance, our closing.  Was it the gradual onslaught of advancing age or was it a sudden, freak, unconceivable incident? My mother saw it coming through his progressing illness. Someone who read and re-read the newspaper at least twice a day, would fall half asleep on the second page. He talked less, opined less, participated less.

The dictates of Igbo culture, this immediate pivot from pain to planning. And so, I try to remind myself that my father would want things done as they are done. Already friends and relatives are saying this must be done and that must be done. The rituals, I am told, are designed to keep you occupied, mentally and physically. There are tons of things to do. Several arrangements for the body to be laid to rest, for the soul to be set free of human bondage. And while we were engrossed in doing that, we were also starkly aware of the absence of my father. This worsens as rituals get over. The everyday routine returns, and along with it, the memory of what it was when my father was around. It’s as if the clock, the house, the phone calls, the food, everything was in synchrony with that one person who is not there anymore. He is not at the dining table for breakfast, on his chair backing the window’s light, and that after breakfast he is not settled on the sofa in his mid-morning ritual of napping, reading and napping again. My brother and I take turns to sit on his desk, to look at what he saw when he looked out, tuck ourselves into his space.

We had tremendous outpouring of love and remembrances. People taking over without fuss what needed to be done, sparing us to gather ourselves. From waiting at the hospital, keeping him in the morgue till we arrive, arrangements for the last rites, the rituals, the community feast, all the tasks were picked up and completed seamlessly.

Except, the consolation.

Grief is not gauzy; it is substantial, oppressive, a thing opaque. Grief is raw wound on the skin. Any touch singes, salve or sharp. Grief has at least two vital elements. How as a person we deal with the deepest, closest feeling of loss. The second, how people, family and friends, make us feel. I don’t know why the second becomes significant. But it’s hardest to say “I don’t care” when in grief. You are vulnerable, your wound is in open display.

You learn how much grief is about language and the grasping for language. I have in the past found my-own-self fumbling for an expression, for words, that would touch a grieving soul. The same words come back to me with a vengeance. Be strong, I hear often. Tell me what is strong? Not crying? Is holding my father’s hand which is now ice-cold after being in the morgue for over thirty hours, strong? Is weeping when he is laid on the hard-wood-pyre strong?

A friend sends me a line from my novel: ‘Grief was celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.’ How odd to find it so exquisitely painful to read my own words.  Some say he is in a better place. Where is that place? I cannot conjure up the image of that place.  And why is that place better? How am I supposed to feel comforted by the idea of a place I do not know exists? All that I know is that our family is now broken, it has an empty chair which will remain empty, always.

I am to draft the invitation. Writing ‘funeral’ is impossible for me. I could not bring myself to write the intimation. I sought help. My eyes would well up with every word. I could not be part of a conversation where that lovely picture of him, with that gentle smile, would be up on a frame and garlanded.

How is it that the world keeps going, breathing in and out unchanged, while in my soul there is a permanent scattering? How do people walk around functioning in the world after losing a beloved father?

“This is the rule of Nature. This is the ultimate Truth.

We all have to leave one day. He would have suffered had he lived.”

Yes, I know. I will still cry. Because it hurts.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird).

I back away from condolences. People are kind, people mean well, but knowing this does not make their words rankle less. I am incensed when asked ‘when are they bringing the body?’ I supress a sob and reply ‘we will bring my father home between 12-1 pm.’ ‘Oh, you don’t have a nice framed picture of him’ asks someone planning a condolence meeting. ‘No, I did not prepare for my father’s death. No one hangs the image of a living person on the wall.’ I think but do not say it. In about three hours of his passing, a close associate asks my mother ‘will you move in with your son or your daughter?’ My brother gets a message ‘be brave. you are the man of the house now.’ Anyone who knows our family, knows that my mother is the (wo)man of our house, is the most resourceful, rooted and has always been on the top of everything, including my father’s office cum residence. We are actually borrowing from her, what it needs to go on.  It breaks my heart when she says ‘just because your father is not there anymore, everyone now thinks I am shiftable.’

I hear from others that videos of my father were circulated immediately after he was gone, on the way to the morgue. I am unable to accept such brazen intrusion. People stand around him, as he lay on the ground, frozen, and click pictures. Click several pictures. Someone places a paper with the name of an organisation on him. I remove it. My father is not a billboard. After a while, I ask people to stop taking pictures.

What does not feel like the deliberate prodding of wound is a simple ‘I’m sorry’, because in its banality it presumes nothing. My deepest condolences, as simple as that, also feels okay. The most consoling voices are from those who have gone through the loss of a parent A sixty-year-old neighbour who sits next to me and weeps for parents long gone. Another daughter talks about losing her father in the isolation ward after testing positive for covid, while he pleaded to be taken home. Another friend recalls the disturbing dilemma when the doctor mentions withdrawing the life support of his father. Or the thirty-six long days a friend’s mother was in the ICU. Till the machines keep beeping. Or the friend whose mother went for a check-up, never to return. Or the friend who came back home to find his father cold.

Concrete and sincere memories from those who knew him comfort the most, and it warms that the same words recur. How they knew my father, how he helped them, how he made suggestions that changed the course of their lives, these narrations fill the air with happy memories, with gratitude for a life that had touched so many. My father had the ability to find something good in people, from a gardener, an autorickshaw driver, to an industrialist, academician or a politician. It all showed in his death.

There is value in that Igbo way, that African way, of grappling with grief: the performative, expressive outward mourning, where you take every call and you tell and retell the story of what happened, where isolation is anathema and ‘stop crying’ a refrain. Grief is individual. I have built a tight wall around it. I don’t let anyone in other than close family. I don’t talk. I avoid phone calls where I have to give a chronology of my father’s death. My mother is different. She grieves through the retelling and comes out less stricken. And so, we mourn differently. Yet ‘people mourn differently’ is easy for the intellect to absorb, but for the heart it is much harder.Grief is both universal and unique. The loss is universal, how each of us take to it is a little bit common and a little bit sole. No matter how we tend to grief, how each react to grief, how our culture influences us, grief’s characters are common. I have mourned in the past but only now have I touched grief’s core. I cage my thoughts. I do the same.

Because I am drained limp from crying. And to speak about it would be to cry again. But later it is because I want to sit alone with my grief. Is it possible to be possessive of one’s pain? I want to become known to it, I want it known to me. So precious was my bond with my father that I cannot lay open my suffering until I have discerned its contours. I burst into tears when am asked how I am. Else I go about doing what I am needed, expected to do.

One day I am in the bathroom, completely alone, and I call my father by my fond nick name for him – ‘the original dada’ – and a brief blanket of peace enfolds me. Too brief. I am a person wary of the maudlin, but I am certain of this moment filled with my father. If it is a hallucination, then I want more of it, but it hasn’t happened again.

I have never been someone who thought of ‘life after death’. Not until I experienced death from this close. I look for a sign, a dream. Others tell me they dreamt of my father. That he appeared as a light, or he spoke, or he hugged, or he was writing on a desk. But I have nothing from him. And I want to ask him ‘why?’ One night, in a vivid dream, my father comes back. Mistake and mistaken identity. I am ecstatic. How can your unconscious turn on you with such cruelty?

It was the wholeness of him that formed me, but it was also these incidents, slice by slice. My father taught me that learning is never-ending. My father took notes of everything he read. He kept news clippings with the date on it. The last article that I read out aloud, he listened with rapt attention, nodding. Later he asked me for the clipping of the article and I asked ‘do you want to read it again or do you want to keep it?’ “Keep it” he had replied.

Every time he picked up a book, he would write down what appealed to him, a passage, a historical fact, an articulated emotion. I find his handwritten notes everywhere, on all sorts of topics. There is an intense pathos to looking at his handwriting.  Pathos is a word I had heard first from my father, and often. Orphaned early, he grew up in hardship. There never was a second serving at meals. Even later in life, where food was not scarce anymore, he continued to eat only one serving. Nobody has ever seen my father overindulge.

One of the last wishes of my father was to also immerse his remains in Mahanadi, the river around which he grew up. He told us about bathing in the river. That he would run as fast as he could because the sun would be blazing hot, and the sand under his feet was scorching, and he did not have any footwear. He would carry a wet gunny sack while he ran. When his feet could not take it anymore, he would throw the sack down and stand on it to cool his feet, at the most a minute, because the sack must not get dry, and it has to last till he reaches the river. Because he will also come back the same way, run, pause, stand on the wet gunny sack, run, pause till he is home. Now his remains embrace the river. “You don’t need to run back anymore Bapa. You are home.”

But that he was so respectful of our boundaries, and so grateful for the smallest things, was like a priceless trimming. A man of small needs, he would over-think what we do and whether it will cause inconvenience, extra burden or upset our routine. A holiday, a health check-up, or the travel to be with us, he will be happy but will also worry about how much extra work it may be for his children. One pen, a book, a writing pad, collection of newspapers from the airport could make him so content. How exquisitely he paid attention, how present he was, how well he listened. If you told him something, he remembered. He observed what mattered to him. Not ostentatious, grandiose things. But a word, a frown, a description, a museum, a fact in history, a quote. 

Part of grief’s tyranny is that it robs you of things that matter. His pride in me mattered. He read everything I wrote. The one person who savoured even a ‘Letter to the Editor’ by me.

I like that his response to power was a shrug. He worshipped integrity. He was indifferent to, if not distrustful of, grand flourishes. My father was a journalist. Mild, softspoken, thorough investigator of facts and a keeper of history. He survived and flourished in his profession because of his integrity and impartiality. He could get people to be their best around him. His was a kind of naivety, an innocence of the just.He admired Lal Bahadur Shastri. He would tell us about the call by Shastri to forsake one meal during the war and my father is the only person I know who ate one meal every Monday.  We would turn to him for any question on history. In some strange coincidence, my last face to face conversation with him was about a question on Shastri, which he answered correctly, and as always ended it with ‘I have limited knowledge’ followed by a hearty smile. Another revelation: how much laughter is part of grief. I laugh too, at times, but I know that my eyes have lost the happy twinkle.

My mother is strangely progressive and also stubbornly conformist. I am heartsick to see her so brave and so drained. In her forever pragmatism to life, she starts offering his shirts, shoes, medicines. I quickly hide one of his often-worn shirts in my suitcase. It still seems to have the smell of him. I want things to stay as they are, my mother is making space. After devoting every single minute to my father’s care, my mother says with simple finality ‘everything has an end’, in a very matter of fact way, as she goes around following the rituals and getting everything cleaned.

Nobody expects the bodies of men to wear the imprint of their loss. But my mother says she wants to do it all: ‘I will do everything that is done. I will do it for Daddy.My mother understands the society’s unfair treatment of women, in happiness and in grief. She balances herself in the spectrum, makes her choices. If she is not allowed to use red any more, she won’t allow white either.

I had often wondered, especially with the corona restrictions, what if my brother doesn’t make it to India to perform my father’s last rites? I ask my mother, assuming she would name a close male family member as women are not allowed to light the pyre. My mother surprises me ‘If your brother could not be present, I never thought it would be anyone other than you.’

To sit with him and talk about the past was like reclaiming gorgeous treasure. My father’s past is familiar to me because of stories told and retold, and yet I always intended to document them better. My father had a twin brother who did not survive. I have this sudden quest to know his name? How long did he live? There is no one in the family to tell me, their entire generation is gone. One life is never enough to know another. There is a sensation that is frightening, of a receding, of an ancestry slipping away, but at least I am left with enough for myth, if not memory.

So, I knew. I was so close to my father that I knew, without wanting to know, without fully knowing that I knew. A thing like this, dreaded for so long, finally arrives and among the avalanche of emotions there is a bitter and unbearable relief.  No parent should have to bury a child. And all children should know that they will be the one to say good bye. I don’t know in the case of happiness, but hindsight trails grief. We look back at everything. On hindsight, his suffering was only going to increase. His body was giving away. He would have abhorred being fed through a tube, an oxygen mask, laid on the bed the whole time. Hindsight can be comforting. But the hope for a little bit more of him, little bit more time with him creeps right back in. 

I am my father’s daughter. It is an act of resistance and refusal: grief telling you it is over and your heart saying it is not; grief trying to shrink your love to the past and your heart saying it is present.

‘When will Grandpa wake up again?’ The little boy asks ‘when is Baba coming back after his meeting with God?’

I accompany him on his final journey, talking in mute, singing to him some of his favourite songs,

Babul mora, naihar chuto hi jaye… Mora apna begana chuto jai ….

(Sung by K.L. Saigal, O My father! I’m leaving home… I’m leaving those who were my own…)

Our home is never going to be the same again. My mother is never going to look the same again. Our family is now altered forever. It’s going to be one less, forever. 

My memories bring eloquent stabs of pain that say, ‘This is what you will never again have.’

I will never see my father again. Never again.

‘Never’ has come to stay. ‘Never’ feels so unfairly punitive. For the rest of my life, I will live with my hands outstretched for things that are no longer there.

This grief is a long haul. Sometimes I freeze for a moment, at times I drop into cold sweat, I cry, the finality of death sinks its teeth on me, crushing, merciless. When death comes un-announced, no alert, it has the potential to alter us. Sudden death is unfathomable grief. I see the picture of two daughters looking at their young father in a glass coffer, gone in the best of health and I imagine their grief. I wish them space. And that they find their ways to grieve. And that we are supportive of grieving, no matter how and what it takes. No rules.

We don’t know how we will grieve until we grieve.

After many weeks, I look at myself in the mirror and pick up kohl. I open the cupboard and choose what to wear. We will go back to doing what we do in our everyday lives. Interspersed in that routineness will be grief. A void forever. Grief inserted in our everyday lives.

“This is it, in this life”.

How does one mourn some people?

How many times has he dropped me and picked me from the railway station? I have had a long, both amazing, yearned and also difficult association with trains. The good first. I love a train journey. Nothing compares with sitting near a clean, glass window, or on the steps and watch a forest, a hillock, paddy fields, goats, waving kids pass by. What has been hard, is their timings, and the delays. My train to Mumbai for studies was at 03:45 am. When I started working, train to the coordination office involved taking the last bus at 12 am, to reach the railway station to catch the train at 6am. Later, when I started connecting to an airport, the connecting train was at 5am. It also meant after an early morning flight, the train journey was close to 10 hours with delays. The day would start at 4 am and end around 11pm. I have been subjected to 10-to-24-hour delays. I can go on, but I know you get it.

Since we found him, at least a decade ago, his auto was our designated transport at home. my parents do not own a vehicle. Pick ups and drops, and also to visit others in the city was always by autos which are easy to get. No uber etc those days but once cell phones came, it was easy. He had come to know the houses of all the friends and relatives. So you only needed to tell where to go, relax and stare at your city with nostalgic eyes. His was a big Piaggio auto rickshaw. Lots of space, so much so that I could never sit without holding on to something for the fear of being shifted around like popcorns in a machine. If you shopped, you could leave it in the auto. If you wanted something specific to buy, he would take you there. He would wait. He would hold the hand of my father and bring him to the auto rickshaw, drive slowly considering his age. He would even do some post office work, bank work and any other you needed done.

When he drops me to the railway station, he would wait. Help me with the luggage. Meanwhile chatting away about his children, a son and a daughter, how he wants them to study and find a job. About his relatives living in other cities. He would say with pride how he takes his entire family of four on the auto for as long as 200 kilometres!

Then the pandemic embarked upon us. And nobody could travel or stepped out. So after March 2020, when I last visited, there was not a need for auto rickshaw. I called his phone few times to run some errands for my parents long distance, but could not connect. I wondered if he had to look for an alternate profession and is doing something else. But why would the call not go through at all?

He had mentioned while chatting away, that he sometimes does some work for a post office. I looked up on the net, found few numbers, took a chance and called. I asked the gentleman, hesitantly that I am looking for a certain Balaji who used to be an autorickshaw driver and was related to someone in the post office.

“He was not well and did not recover”, said the gentleman on the other side. I don’t know what illness, where he lived, no information on how to reach his family.

Always helpful, always soft spoken, never an argument.

How does one mourn some people? A face only in the memory.

Reuse & Recycle (Continued)

Continued on 8th September (three months! I should gotten to this earlier)

I need to figure out how to announce addition to an existing post. For now, am just going to make this a new post with continued on its title.

Elaborating further on the areas where a substitute for plastic will be near impossible to find.

With a little bit respite in the spread of the virus, we resumed our annual health check-ups. These spaces and its procedures have needed to wrap everything and themselves in plastic. This does not have a substitute. In order to santise and remove any possibility of infections, hospitals have to do this. This is the most critical need of plastic, in hospitals. I guess if we seriously took up R&D, we may find alternatives. May be a mapping can grade the criticality. But right now, there is no substitute.

Besides this, most other use of plastic can have alternatives. It may not be as easy as plastic to use or to produce, but it will be worth finding them. There is no doubt on that.

Buying:

Household stuff:

Grocery:

Some general thumb rules.

First things first. Carry an extra bag, always. Even if you don’t think you are going shopping. That’s exactly when our eyes spot freshest fruits on the road side and we are tempted to buy. There are plenty of choices of bags that can be folded and kept even in your pockets. It’s a must to avoid single use plastic. Must. Non-negotiable.

Buy larger packets if you do not have a budget constraint. A 5kg packet uses less plastic as against five 1 kg packets. The 5kg packets can be reused to hold small plants for you. They are also easier to segregate for recycling purpose.

Buy glass bottles. These may be slightly expensive, but once you have a glass bottle, you can then buy the refill packs. The glass bottles can be used for many purposes especially if you remove the label (soak in slightly hot water and scrub the glue under the label). They can even be used like flower vases. My husband nostalgically remembers when in his first job, he shared accommodation with batchmates, they used the Nescafé bottle of that time which came with a wide mouth, to drink, water and etc. Also, next time you have to give something you cooked to a neighbour or a friend, without expecting your Tupperware to be back, and instead of the hotel plastic takeaways we get, give it in a glass bottle. I can guarantee it will be appreciated. And don’t worry that glass will break or kids will drop it. They don’t. Once in a while someone will break a glass thing. Its just how it is. It’s still way better than sending loads of plastic to the landfill.

Some of the smaller stores are happy to use containers if you bring one. It’s a little bit of extra work but a great opportunity to reduce single use plastic or things that go into landfill straight. For example, if you buy fresh chips from those hot-chips places. Carry the container in which you keep it and they are happy to use it. If you got those grey coloured eggs cases (please avoid the ones packed in plastic), they can be reused over and over again. Just use a rubber band to hold it together. By the way, one of the ingredients which is used to make these grey coloured egg cases is water hyacinth pulp. Water hyacinth invades our water bodies. It’s a big environmental challenge, so using them to make products, and offer employment and income in the process is a big positive deal.

More on this soon. I promise.

The Mulberry

I can’t recall when exactly and why I got besotted with mulberry. I like berries, except gooseberries which I can eat as a medicine, may be once annually, or powdered or candied.

And then somehow, recently, I started noticing mulberries more, the trees became visible, the excitement to spot them, and in general, my obsession to grow any plant that I like, and that looks like, it will be possible to grow them in a garden pot.

I can still clearly remember the mulberry shrub in a friend’s neighbourhood. We must have been around 12- or 13-years old. Being outdoors to play and to also pluck and eat seasonal fruits were the most loved activity. Mulberry and few other fruits were the tricky ones, as they gave away where we had been, the stained mouth and marks on the clothes.

There are about 68 species of the genus Morus. The majority of these species occur in Asia, especially in China (24 species) and Japan (19). Continental America is also rich in its Morus species. The genus is poorly represented in Africa, Europe and the Near East, and it is not present in Australia.

In India, there are many species of Morus, of which Morus alba, M. indica. M. serrata and M. laevigata grow wild in the Himalayas. Several varieties have been introduced belonging to M. multicaulis, M. nigra, M. sinensis and M. philippinensis. Most of the Indian varieties of mulberry belong to M. indica.

Though mulberry cultivation is practised in various climates, the major area is in the tropical zone covering Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states, with about 90 percent. In the sub-tropical zone, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and the northeastern states have major areas under mulberry cultivation.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Student days, when I was once visiting a Krishi Vikas Kendra (KVK), the agriculture research and extension centres and saw rows of mulberry trees. Some had fruit and I asked if I could pluck a few. “We are only interested in the leaves” said the sericulture researcher. Sometimes in the commuters’ trains between Anand to Ahmedabad I will find them being sold, and eat unwashed with much happiness.

After almost two decades of not really thinking of this fruit or the tree, it somehow came back again. It was easy to buy them in Hyderabad. One time at a Ratandeep store, late into the night just before closing, I could not find any mulberry. The kind store manager told me lets go and check as fruits and vegetable stocks are arriving just now. Sure, they were there and I greedily bought five packets!

Mulberries are delicate, they have short shelf life and can get squishy easily. We now have ice-creams and they are great. I have often wondered why with so much silk cultivation around us, we do not find this so easily in Bangalore.

On a trip to the handloom centre in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a guide with whom we did not have a common language, I pointed at mulberry trees in delight, took my phone out and showed him the tiny mulberries from our garden, his face lit up “same” he said, bringing some instant connect between us, and the two countries!

With this new found obsession, I started getting a branch to see if it would grow. A friend in Hyderabad gave me a cutting and I carried it as hand baggage but it did not make it. Then a cutting came from Gudalur which continues to live and give us few berries every now and then.

For reasons unknown to me, mulberry branches quite often get used as props to other plants, mostly flower saplings. So this time at Valparai, I found the prop next to a dahlia patch was sprouting a fruit similar like a mulberry. I chased the gardener. We had very little common language again, but he understood when I said fruit and said its black and took me to the tree. We agreed that the day I leave, he will give me few branches to take back with me. Over the next few days, we developed several sign languages around trees and plants.

The mulberry branch is sprouting fruits at home.

Here is to connections and languages around plants and other beings.

The much missed travel

Travelling after eighteen months, a long and impatient wait for us as we almost travelled twice every month, on an average. The packing of a suitcase this time meant more than just a routine activity. There were apprehensions, but the excitement was way more than the concerns. Bunches of masks and bottles of sanitiser being the new additions.  

I did not know of Valparai, honest admission. It was while looking for a break after months of coping with the covid pandemic, with many additional considerations, travel restrictions, flight availability, duration of the journey, less crowd, un-touristy, my husband suggested Valparai. It ticked all boxes and is also a new destination. We started our search, emails and phone calls, and found Briar Tea Bungalows. Having stayed in tea gardens and converted British bungalows, we quite enjoy them. They have history and character and a certain coexistence to them. Usually remote, vast, expansive, rhythmic in a way that rhymes around the tea estates. So, all necessary arrangements followed and we set off.

The airports are a disappointment. How people still do not care enough about distancing and following hygienic practices.

Uncertainty, the most prevailing condition of the current times, I got a call as we landed at Coimbatore, “Coimbatore is in complete lockdown and the Collector has ordered no tourism. We will refund your reservation amount.” Valparai is about three hours drive from Coimbatore, over 100 kms and up on the hills, quite disconnected from Coimbatore in many ways than one. So I said, “I am not going back. Am going to make the drive and see what happens.” Armed with fully vaccinated certificate, negative RTPCR report, we started, not knowing whether we will get to Valparai!

Best decision ever! We were stopped at the check-post, we showed our papers and were allowed to proceed. Yay! This good news followed a tea break, nice strong tea and tasting of varied vadas.

Hungrily savouring the greenery, as we started the climb, views of the reservoirs, waterfalls, the permanence, resilience of Nature, the shining sun on rain drenched tea leaves, new and old, breathing the fresh air, the gentle cloud slowly engulfing the valley, happiness back in our veins.

Stanmore bungalows was built in 1935. The Briar group has five properties, each with a specific character, closer to forest, or river or in the middle of tea plantation. Sitting there, surrounded by tea, I brushed up my knowledge.

When did tea cultivation start in India?

In 1837, the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam; in 1840, the Assam Tea Company began the commercial production of tea in the region. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations.

Who discovered tea in India?

An intrinsic part of daily life today, tea was introduced formally to Indians by the British. The origin of tea in India is owed to the British who intended to overthrow China’s monopoly on tea, having found that Indian soil was eminently suitable to cultivate these plants.

This is a hideout, a place where you may not have a lot to do, though there are points of touristic interest, a tunnel under a waterfall which runs for four kilometers, a reservoir, few temples, what it offers is great, scenic, quiet walks which you can do without a mask. No one around for almost as far as eyes can see, except the many species of birds. The birders will have a field day!  You may not see the wild life like you do in an organised safari. But they are seen by the locals and the lucky. People talk about leopards, bears been seen in certain locations. During our stay, we saw a herd of elephants, CCTV footage of bears and leopards, fleeting glance of a white mongoose, two flying squirrels hanging upside down from the branch of a tall tree, a shy lion tailed macaque looking down at us from a canopy, two Sambar deer and two magnificent Nilgiri tahr. This was enough for us. That they are all coexisting in harmony.

Where we return to at the end of the day and how close it gets to make us feel at home is our comfort yardstick. The team at Stanmore is amazing! Very receptive to details, and small demands, like warm water to drink, an extra bedside lamp, tea at any intervals. The kitchen staff, chef and cook, with skill to not only make world class continental dishes, but also our longing for idli, dosa, puttu, kadala! Each dish brought to the table was both visual and mouth-watering treat. Everything served, from breakfast to dinner, was insta-worthy and tasteful. A team that functions in tandem brings in peace and positivity to the space which was palpable here. As we all know how badly hospitality industry has been affected, for these young people to hold themselves together and go about making the others happy is really appreciated.

Another beautiful feature of Stanmore bungalows is the old trees and the flourishing garden. Mossy, healthy, many old trees, litchi, avocado, guava, mangoes, and many more, full of vegetation and brightly coloured flowers, the gardeners constantly cleaning and nurturing the land and its living.

A trip that made me realise how much I missed travelling, and how grateful I am to be able to do so. This pandemic has given us a new perspective. It’s up to each one of us to understand that we are part of a larger system and we need to recognize and respect the parts played by all living beings. It’s the humans who make the changes, good or bad. And Nature will react, for sure.

This was a place that made us happy deep inside, no cutting of the queue, no aggression, no violence, no arguments. When we drove around one day, and went through the Valparai town, there is a temple, a mosque and a church within one kilometer radius.  Once back in the airport, and then in the flight, I cringed every time people exercised their power to prevail, being rude, treating the airhostesses like servants and several incidents, usually brushed aside as minor by many, which is not really what it is, leaving always a bad taste. I don’t need this and I hoped I have to watch less of these in our everyday lives.

​The most resplendent memory of our stay at Stanmore Bungalows, was to wake up to the singing of the Malabar whistling thrush. I had never heard, had only read, sings from dawn to dusk, a song most extraordinary.

You sing on sweethearts, “the whistling school boy”, you make your own tune, sing to say that every day is a new day, and you make it a happy day. Like a friend said, ​Sarvabhutatmabhut​​atma सर्वभूतात्मभूतात्मा,

“to consider yourself a part of the world, and the world a part of yourself”.

The cats in our lives

Having taken care of Kittu and Pudgy, two street cats, who both came with very little time on earth, we were hesitant to get involved again. Momila fought with our Pudgy tooth and nail, terrorizing with her growls and power.

I first saw Momila when we were moving to this house. She was sleeping in the yard. Momi and Tom are the primary cats of this area. In these four and half years, there has been at least two pregnancies each year. Like a ritual, Momila (so the name, always mothering) will deliver somewhere, keep moving and then most of the kitties would disappear, or one or two show up when they are older. Momi is a disgruntled, frowny, grouchy cat who fiercely protects her territory. I ascribe all this to her life on the streets, her survival shields as a female cat.

We started feeding Momila since November 2020 because she looked pregnant again, only a fat belly, rest was all skin and bone. We had just lost Pudgy, and were grief stricken. Momi would wait for us at a designated place on the road, a fussy eater for a feral. Thanks to the pandemic, we were not travelling, and it became a mutual habit. We will sit with her, pet and cajole, coaxing her to eat.

Long ago, I had chanced upon the stall of People for Animals (PfA) in the Lalbagh Flower Show. I gave a tiny donation and took their number. Later when Pudgy came to our life, I reached out to the cat community for advice. Once she was spayed and vaccinated and preferred to be an inside outside cat, that’s when I had first spoken to Colonel Dr. Navaz at PfA. I wanted to check if Pudgy can be a farm cat, moved to a vast space with less threat from vehicles, humans, other cats and dogs. He had thoroughly explained the significance of territory and how shifting may not work at all. Since then, I have been in touch with PfA. The rescued owls stole my heart.

January 2021, Momi delivered a litter of five. Adorable, cute two orange and white, two black and white and one calico. I built a nursery with cardboard boxes and brought all of them home. While the kitties had a blast, playing, sleeping, jumping, Momi whined and cried and cried to be let out. The yard was full of scaffolding, and having lost Pudgy when she climbed up a transformer, we did not want to take any chances and left her at her hideout. Fortunately, all kitties got human slaves and happy homes waiting for them. However, on the day of adoption, Momi got an inkling and escaped with two kitties to another campus. Three of them got adopted.

In the next three weeks, once her mammary glands dried, I planned for her spay. Colonel Dr Navaz at PfA made special consideration for Momi and sent for her pick up. Momi refused and sprinted at the sight of the carrier and that was that, end of story.

Come March, Momi was pregnant again! Early May, four more kitties, all white and brown this time. They would come out cautiously when we went to feed Momi and started licking the wet food and biting the dry food. I had started taking the carrier and keeping food inside to lure them inside. Momi was still suspicious but ventured inside the carrier at times. She preferred sitting on top and dozing. In about a month, one of the kitties was not there. And suddenly, the rest three kitties went missing. Just for a happy ending, I want to believe all found homes.

Momi looked lost, lounging here and there, with her mammary glands full. Suddenly one day, she followed us, entered our house and got all nervous. Neighbours have complained earlier if cats come into the building. She kept coming back to our yard that day, where in many years of making it welcoming for birds, finally a warbler had made a nest and there were three eggs.

That day during her lunch, Momi got inside the carrier and I could lock it. I saw that I was in the position to be a conduit. This was the one chance to get her spayed. I had to take a call quickly as she was on heat and Tomcat was stalking her again.

I called Dr. Navaz. He explained it is a difficult attempt but he will try. I veered between opening the door and letting her out or getting her spayed and bring an end to the endless cycles of child birth and torture of rearing and adoption. I sat near the carrier while she settled down inside and occasionally mewed in such sad tones that I was already pained even before she went to PfA.

The team had a tough time restraining her for surgery. Post surgery, Momi refused to eat. I suggested all that I know that she loves, raw meat, raw fish, whiska. The doctor tried broth, milk, cooked meat. But she just refused to eat.  Dr. was absolutely certain that she needs to be released in her territory. Her wound was clean and she was given pain killer and antibiotics. He was sure she needs to be back to her familiar surroundings to recover, else if she continues not to eat, it can be fatal.

She came back looking stressed and haggard. Scratched a known tree, climbed a boundary wall and walked around a bit. She continued to not eat anything we offered. I was worried sick, with anxiety gnawing my insides. Guilty and sad, I tried every two hours with all kinds of food. She sometimes drank a little water, came when I called, but just did not eat.

Then one day, having refused chicken, curd, milk, paneer, wet whiska, dry drool, she moved to the garden and pooped. I have never felt that happy to see poo! Immediately called Dr Navaz and he said “this means she is eating from somewhere else, and something she likes”. She will recover, he said. That evening Momi licked a little wet whiska form my husband’s finger and I had tears rolling down my eyes.

Over ten days of anxiety, praying for her recovery, of reasoning with my guilt but failing, of trading any good thing I have ever done for her life to be saved, Momi is galloping again! She is socialising, talking, and caught a snake recently, garnering some support from the otherwise unkind unconcerned urban neighbourhood.

Deep gratitude to Colonel Dr Navaz and PfA.

Reuse & Recycle

I have been meaning to write about reuse and recycle, practical tips from following it but I would not know where to begin, and so today, The World Environment Day, I decided to start it. One reason for hesitancy is from having known so many people who do so much more in terms of reuse, recycle, living with less. There are always people who do more. The lodestars. And plenty who do not care, or do not know or may be, rarely, do not have an option. So here is to begin, to care.

I also thought to categorise it and not write everything at one go. And we will move from small measures to bigger challenges.

So broadly:

  • Buying
  • Cooking
  • Living: around the home
  • Travelling

I will focus on subtopics for each and add if needed.

My two fundamental beliefs that guide me are these. One, some of our larger global focus, policy, the way we vision economic growth, and look for solutions needs to change. Else, even if the entire humankind reuses and recycles, it would not make any significant dent.  Two, some polluting agents, like plastic, has critical necessity in certain uses. A very small quantity as compared with its current omnipresence. Plastic is a typical example of how convenience takes over to that extent that we do not see the damage it is causing even if its right in front of our eyes.

With that, lets look at what I have practiced and whether it will work for you.

Continued on 8th September (three months! I should have written this earlier)

Elaborating further on the areas where a substitute for plastic will be near impossible to find.

With a little bit respite in the spread of the virus, we resumed our annual health check-ups. These spaces and its procedures have needed to wrap everything and themselves in plastic. This does not have a substitute. In order to santise and remove any possibility of infections, hospitals have to do this. This is the most critical need of plastic, in hospitals. I guess if we seriously took up R&D, we may find alternatives. May be a mapping can grade the criticality. But right now, there is no substitute.

Besides this, most other use of plastic can have alternatives. It may not be as easy as plastic to use or to produce, but it will be worth finding them. There is no doubt on that.

Buying:

Household stuff:

Grocery:

Some general thumb rules.

First things first. Carry an extra bag, always. Even if you don’t think you are going shopping. That’s exactly when our eyes spot freshest fruits on the road side and we are tempted to buy. There are plenty of choices of bags that can be folded and kept even in your pockets. It’s a must to avoid single use plastic. Must. Non-negotiable.

Buy larger packets if you do not have a budget constraint. A 5kg packet uses less plastic as against five 1 kg packets. The 5kg packets can be reused to hold small plants for you. They are also easier to segregate for recycling purpose.

Buy glass bottles. These may be slightly expensive, but once you have a glass bottle, you can then buy the refill packs. The glass bottles can be used for many purposes especially if you remove the label (soak in slightly hot water and scrub the glue under the label). They can even be used like flower vases. My husband nostalgically remembers when in his first job, he shared accommodation with batchmates, they used the Nescafé bottle of that time which came with a wide mouth, to drink, water and etc. Also, next time you have to give something you cooked to a neighbour or a friend, without expecting your Tupperware to be back, and instead of the hotel plastic takeaways we get, give it in a glass bottle. I can guarantee it will be appreciated. And don’t worry that glass will break or kids will drop it. They don’t. Once in a while someone will break a glass thing. Its just how it is. It’s still way better than sending loads of plastic to the landfill.

Some of the smaller stores are happy to use containers if you bring one. It’s a little bit of extra work but a great opportunity to reduce single use plastic or things that go into landfill straight. For example, if you buy fresh chips from those hot-chips places. Carry the container in which you keep it and they are happy to use it. If you got those grey coloured eggs cases (please avoid the ones packed in plastic), they can be reused over and over again. Just use a rubber band to hold it together. By the way, one of the ingredients which is used to make these grey coloured egg cases is water hyacinth pulp. Water hyacinth invades our water bodies. It’s a big environmental challenge, so using them to make products, and offer employment and income in the process is a big positive deal.

More on this soon.

My Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout

This book needed no summarizing, no review. At one hundred and ninety-two pages, it is a slim book. It asks for you to pause almost at every page a few times, get the words, the meaning, the narrative of that time when these emotions and thoughts, the context of when it was written. And that almost all of us would find it resonating with us.

It so happened that as I was rereading the book to capture those expressions which would take the book to others, I sat watching a hospital from the office window.

Lucy Barton was in a hospital for nine weeks and that’s when this story took shape. A daughter who did not see any of her family since a very very long time, until the day her mother shows up at the foot of her bed in the hospital where she has been…

Excerpts as is in the book:

She talked in a way I did not remember, as though a pressure of feeling and words and observations had been stuffed down inside her for years, and her voice was breathy and un-self-conscious.

We lived with cornfields and fields of soyabeans spreading to the horizon….in the middle of the cornfields stood one tree, and its starkness was striking. For many years I thought the tree was my friend; it was my friend.

I mention this because there is the question of how children become aware of what the world is, and how to act in it.

This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true….So much of life seems speculation.

…but what I am trying to say here is that I always thought she liked my circumstances to be so much lower than her own.  She could not envy anything about me.

There are elements that determine paths taken, and we can seldom find them or point to them accurately, but I have sometimes thought how I would stay late at school, where it was warm, just to be warm. XXX I remained alone in the classroom, warm, and that was when I learned that work gets done if you simply do it. I could see the logic of my homework assignments in a way I could not if I did my work at home.

But the books brought me things. This is my point. They made me feel less alone. This is my point. And I thought: I will write and people will not feel so alone. XXX I did not know how hard it would be. But no one knows that; and that does not matter.

What I mean is, this is not just a woman’s story. It’s what happens to a lot of us, if we are lucky enough to hear that detail and pay attention to it.

I say this because I didn’t understand the art; they were dark and oblong pieces, almost-abstract-but-not-quite constructions, and I understood only that they were symptoms of a sophisticated world I could never understand.

I had not yet learned the depth of disgust city people feel for the truly provincial.

He spoke of her work, that she was a good writer, but she could not stop herself from a “softness of compassion” that revolted him, that, he felt, weakened her work.

I see children cry from tiredness, which is real, and sometimes from just crabbiness, which is real. But once in a while I se a child crying with deepest of desperation, and I think its one of the truest sounds a child can make.

I had no knowledge of popular knowledge.

Dreading-in-advance: you are wasting time by suffering twice. I mention this only to show how many things the mind cannot will itself to do, even if it wants to.

There is that constant judgement in this world: How are we going to make sure we do not feel inferior to another?

I have sometimes been sad that Tennessee Williams wrote that line for Blanche DuBois, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Many of us have been saved many times by the kindness of strangers, but after a while it sounds trite, like a bumper sticker. And that’s what made me sad, that a beautiful and true line comes to be used so often that it takes on the superficial sound of a bumper sticker.

I have learned this: a person gets tired. The mind or the soul or whatever word we have for whatever is not just the body gets tired, and this I have decided, is-usually, mostly-nature helping us.

It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it’s the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.

At times these days I think of the way the sun would set on the farmland around our small house in the autumn. A view of the horizon, the whole entire circle of it, if you turned, the sun setting behind you, the sky in front becoming pink and soft, then slightly blue again, as though it could not going on in its beauty, then the land closest to the setting sun would get dark, almost black against the orange lines of horizon, but if you turned around, the land is still available to the eye with such softness, the few trees, the quiet fields of cover crops already turned, and the sky lingering, lingering, then finally dark. As though the soul can be quiet for those moments.

All life amazes me.

Ma’s Ambila (ଆମ୍ବିଳ )

“Will you please make Ambila?”, a request often made to my mother. Nieces, nephews, co-sisters, pregnant women, almost everyone irrespective of gender and age, has the same craving for Ambila. In fact, if your travel distance is within four to six hours, she will wake up early morning, cook it and pack it for people. Pronounced with a tongue twister ଳ (Laa, found in Odia and Malayalam language), it is made throughout the year, not as common as a weekly mutton curry but at the same time not as rare as a seasonal jackfruit curry.

While I am amazed by the variety of cooking across our country, am also totally bowled over by dishes that are made using ingredients that are older, little late from being fresh but not to be thrown away. Like the ladoos from leftover chapati, stuffed paratha from old curries and the ubiquitous mixed vegetable curries.

Ambila accommodates many vegetables in small quantity, curd that is older and sour. It’s also interesting that one of its signature ingredients is bamboo shoot, which can also be optional.

Those who know Odisha, will agree with me that Western Odisha cuisine is simple. It never required a lot of oil or spice. And is largely made with what’s available around you. The taste of the vegetable stays predominant in the curry. You can taste its distinct texture and flavour. That’s one of the reasons why I never liked raw banana curry. It tasted like mud. Until I started living in south India and discovered many delicious ways of cooking raw banana.

While the coast had its fish, the inland communities depended more on agriculture. Every family grew few vegetables in the kitchen garden. And when they travelled to nearby cities in search of jobs, they tilled the land around them. My fondest memory of growing up in Rourkela was eating many varieties of fruits that came from neighbour’s gardens. We kids will take a consensus, “today we should get guavas from this house” and proceed to climb the tree. Yes, the same Rourkela which many were not aware it existed, till the steel plant started supplying oxygen to other States in India to help bridge the supply crisis.

Ma, otherwise a purist about how things are done, no short-cuts, in poojas and customs, will candidly admit that cooking has always been influenced. Under the larger umbrella of recipe, everyone has a different touch. Few pieces of garlic, a little asafoetida, sprig of curry leaf, many such small tweaks give a completely different aroma and taste.

Process:

In a deep wok, take two big cups of water, about 500 ml. Bring it to boil. Add turmeric powder and salt. Add the small brinjal cut in length to the boiling water. Let it cook for two minutes. Then add the cut yellow pumpkin. Followed by the sautéed ladiesfinger. Cover to cook.

In another deep pan, add two tea spoon oil. Add the big chunks of tomato cut into four pieces and cover. Here is what I do since I do not like to eat big chunks of tomato. Leaving behind only two pieces in the pan, I take out most of them after cooking it till soft, let it cool, and then puree them along with the curd and wheat flour using a mixer.

To the two pieces of tomato on the pan, add the bamboo shoot. Let it cook together on low flame for few minutes. Add two table spoon water if it’s too dry. Increase the flame to high. With a spatula, stirring in quick circles, slowly pour the whisked curd and keep stirring.  This is very important to keep the texture of the curd intact in the heated process of cooking. The other vegetables would have cooked by now. Slowly pour them into this mixture and combine them together by folding in. Cover and switch off. In a separate seasoning pan, take one teaspoon oil, add panchphutana, let it splutter, add curry leaves, one each of green and red chilli, pour this into the liquid and put the cover back on top.

Served with rice, though this is not a replacement for daal, often times, when there is Ambila, many of us skip the daal and other curries, and begin the meal by drinking one bowl full of this heavenly broth. You can take a fragrant green chili and crush it in for added flavour and spice.

Ingredients:

Two big ladiesfinger, cut into 2-inch pieces, sautéed with tiny drop of oil to remove gooeyness

Two small brinjal with stem, cut into fourpieces in length

Yellow pumpkin, peeled, 2-inch pieces

One radish (if you like the pungent smell, cut in length, totally optional)

Two big red sour tomatoes

One big cup, about 200 grams of three or more days old curd, whisked to flowing consistency

And lastly, optional but one ingredient that changes the flavour dramatically, one big table spoon bamboo shoots

Water

One tea spoon turmeric powder

Salt to taste (about three teaspoons for this quantity)

One table spoon of wheat flour

For seasoning:

Panchphutana (an equal mix of black mustard, cumin, fennel, black cumin and fenugreek seeds, pre-mixed also available in grocery stores)

One dry red chilli, one green chilli

Curry leaves

One table spoon mustard oil (vegetable oil also works)

What would life be without Liberal Arts?

Many years ago, in a conversation with academic oriented acquaintances, someone said “what would life be without Liberal Arts”? I, an eternal student of humanities, inclined always towards Arts, wondered, do people really care? Is it the Brick, or the Wall or the Mural or the Graffiti or the Terrain or the Crafts or the Communities? Is Eiffel Tower the Lattice or the Height? Do people marvel at what’s buried under the serenity of a reservoir or at the dam? What is the footfall in a Mall as against a Museum on any given day?

The Berlin Wall

I know. It is not necessarily either or. It could be both. But if one were to pick? Where would the numbers be?

I re-visited this and many of my other notions in 2020. Pandemic induced reality check on Life’s goals, travel plans, bucket lists, assumptions.

And I concurred. “What would life be without Liberal Arts?”

George Town, Penang

Most of us have been grappling with the last ten months. No matter how often we travelled before the pandemic, where all we went, on work, on leisure or to run errands, that has changed for everyone. So, what filled that extra Time, besides the household chores?

Let’s begin with the memes. One a day, keeps the blues away. Plenty and you are forwarding the whole day! Have you noticed how creative they are? One image, few lines, two words and there, you cannot stop laughing!  Some spoons and plates, some poetry, quotes and jokes and I have to admit the air darkened with worries clears up to let some sunlight inside our heads. Not to forget the lifesaving OTT platform. Regional films, Hollywood, Bollywood, old forgotten films and serials. Films made during the world on pause. We were not just randomly flipping channels but searching, finding, watching and sending out recommendations. The complete process of savoring the investment in watching a film.

The books, unputdownable stories of history and romance and struggles. Between the lines are our current realities with the deep sighs.

To really wait for the newspaper. Not like a quick glance over breakfast or to kill time at the airport, but to really relish G Sampath and Santosh Desai, to chew every word, every idea and every conclusion slowly for its taste and aftertaste.

Did you get to read the poem by Kitty O’ Meara, “And the people stayed home…”, in the roots of a tree laden with stars, a human and animals living in peaceful coexistence? Won’t that be one of the best images to hold on to?

And the People Stayed Home

Music, the soul soothing nostalgic faraway land. When a song reminded you of a friend in college and you actually picked up the phone and called her to say “you recall that guy who went up on the stage in our college festival and dedicated this song to you?” You both rediscovered and dusted the friendship which you thought had gone redundant over the years. The old albums, or the pictures folder in your laptop, flashback to a family wedding, black and white images.  

Karaoke singing Heal the World or closing your eyelids to Andrea Bocelli’s Amazing Grace, listening to T.M Krishna or humming along Woh subah kabhi toh aayegi, while we waited for Science to deliver the vaccine, what has kept us going are these tiny little sparks of creativity that lifts the soul from despair, inch by inch.

Remember when the Titanic was sinking, and the band continued to play? (from a meme)