Back when I was a child my mum used to make me a Christmas tree each year. It did not matter that we were not Christian. That had certainly not stopped us from stuffing our faces with cake or accompanying our friends to midnight mass or indeed demanding and receiving presents. We never had a real or even vaguely life like tree - instead they were fabulous creations dreamed up by my mum. Her tree-like wooden bangle stand wrapped up in green crepe paper chains was my favourite. There were others - made of balls stacked up was one - always with little decorations to make them feel christmasy. The excitement of my childhood is certainly borne out by photographs collecting dust somewhere in my parents home. If I bribe my brother enough he will no doubt pull them out and scan them for me.
Well, this year someone sent me a Facebook link of a picture of a Christmas tree made up of books and decorated in a string of fairy lights. I loved it! Then I was thinking about it all . the. time. I have a stack of books on my own sideboard ready to be donated to the local library/ charity shop so I thought why not?! I added some books from my shelves and lo and behold we have a tree.
Of course my tree has neither the height nor the glamourous setting but it's made good use of eyesore stack (so when are these going to the library again?). It has no lights or decorations except for a Christmas card on top and no presents nor space for any at the bottom. I still love it.
I have always always loved watching cartoons. The Road runner outwitting the Coyote, Tweety bird escaping from hungry Sylvester and Tom thwacking Jerry are some of my earliest memories of televised animation. My father used to record VCR tapes of the stuff for us when he lived abroad bringing us back a fresh quota each time he came to visit. I distinctly remember going to watch Yogi Bear at Chanakya cinema as a child and of crying great fat tears the afternoon I watched Dumbo on our TV/VCR.
After the awesome Lion King, on the cusp of adulthood, there came Finding Nemo, both path breaking mainstream films in their own times and right. Now here was a different league of animation from the jerkily hand drawn images of my childhood, animation as I had never imagined it before - fluid, sleek and ever so beautiful - mesmerising. I watched Finding Nemo again and again and again, at the cinema and then on DVD, never tiring of the storyline, the cresendo of music, the humour and accents of fish, always silently rooting for the father to find his child. The beauty lay in the subtle subtext; for while Marlin roams the Great Barrier reef looking for Nemo it was a journey of discovery - for him to take risks and overcome obstacles - and to allow Nemo to take care of himself. A beautiful film if ever I saw one.
Of course then there was a spate and you always had the choice of watching something animated at the cinema. From the sequels of Shrek to many parts of Toy Story, the roaring of Cars to the super powers of the Incredibles there was movie after movie to choose from. Along the way I stopped watching any TV animation.
Of course the arrival of the Child has meant a re-introduction to the animated world. And even though he is only little and his TV is rationed for eye saving and in favour of physical games, I do let him watch animated series such as Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine. These are both British creations with cult followings and merchandising that could seriously harm the pocket. Thomas the Tank engine is, as the name suggests, about an engine. He is blue, his number is 1 and he lives on a mythical island where he and his other engine friend have 'adventures'. Peppa is a very pink pig whose daily life provides much entertainment with her family and many animal friends. Thomas the animated series has had many iteration and technological advancements over the years, going from stills of actual and very basic animated train models and a single person doing all the voices to a slick animated version very much computer generated.
The wierd thing is that my child always seemed to prefer this older version of Thomas and the line drawings of Peppa (though animated, very simple drawings) to teh slicker more modern versions. I would always be met with resistance at other TV animation such as Jungle Junction or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (except for the opening songs because bopping around to a tune is his thing!) and it recently made me think about it. I too prefer the more basic animation than the 3D experience and the very 'plastic' quality of some animation. I have come to the conclusion that some of the modern day animation is so detailed that he cannot fathom, compress and process all that information in so short a time. The simpler drawings/ models and gentler, slower pace of the voiceovers is more attractive to him, much easier to compute as he makes sense of the world around him.
With animated movies and TV series being big business technology is pushing every known boundary in the arena. It's very very exciting and I can't even imagine what the next level of animation will be. And while I am all for better and sleeker animation I do wonder at what point does animated become so animated that it loses that basic quality of animation, the edge of belief in a character and become so plastic in a way that makes one lose interest? This is a rhetorical question - and just my very small opinion. I guess I (and my son) have catching up to do.
In the words of Bruce:
'I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.'
At the end of a long busy week of managing my child's hectic social life I am out in central London having an evening with friends. We ate at the ever popular Busaba and chatted over the din of busy diners also enjoying and evening out. And then we walked the length of Oxford street taking advantage of late night shopping to try on winter hats. With my mad mop of hair I just look more deranged if that's possible. The only hat that might suit costs more than I am willing to spend. But as an exercise it was super fun. Also the only person not looking for a hat bought a lovely bright Christmas party dress so we all feel like our time and her money has been well spent. I've bought V a couple of kathi rolls and am now on my way home. Life is made of sticky children and wonderful girl friends! G'nite!
In early November this year V, kid and I had a weeks vacation in Italy. We flew to Rome where we spent 4 days before taking a train to Venice.
Plane and train journeys with a small active child are a definite adventure. But once we reached our hotel most of that 'adventure' feeling (read traumatised parents feeling) is soon drowned in a glass of a wine and patted down by a nice meal.
So Rome. It is a splendid city indeed. As the guidebooks rightly point out everywhere you turn is a beauitful building or sombre ruin of a once beautiful building. We stayed near the beautiful Borghese Gardens. Ever since the kid became part of the equation our vacations have become more relaxed and see-it-as-you-go-by than dash around and see everything the guidebook tells you to. So each day we managed only to see one site or monument before eating a relaxed lunch and returning to the hotel for a lovely nap. And in the afternoon we'd just go for a walk or find a local park with swings and slides for entertainment of small person who has no interest in monuments of any kind.
Each evening we ate in little local restaurants in the area near the hotel, pizza and pasta mainly. And the kid lapped it all up with a love that makes me think he's a bit Italian. We took a few tram rides in our search for playgrounds and managed to see a lot more of the non touristy bits of city than we envisaged. The thing that struck me most were the wooden shutters on every window of every building. Lovely, colourful and bright relief from the plain plaster walls.
We visited the Vatican where the long narrow halls were the ideal running track for the kid. Our view of the Sistine chapel was a bit like a darshan of a very famous temple - a quick and fleeting glance as we were herded in one door and out the other. But every bit of the Vatican was beautiful and we could have spent days just gazing at it's artworks and architecture. The Vatican was certainly the highlight of Rome for me although the magnificence of the colosseum is a close second.
We had amazing Mediterranean weather - in the mid-20s every day with brilliant sunshine and no need for any sort of jackets. It rained buckets just one afternoon but it worked out fine because we had already done our sightseeing for the day and instead spent the afternoon in a local supermarket marvelling at the number of pasta shapes on offer and buying fresh fruit for snacking purposes. And of course making sure that the escalators did their jobs properly. Ah the fascinations of foreign holidays lie in supermarkets and let no one tell you any different....
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. - Washington Irving
As someone who cries only in a bathroom with the tears running its a leap to think of them as marks of power not weakness. I can only try.
My ears hurt. And feel all blocked. My tonsils are,as usual, out of a summer hibernation and desperately foraging for every virus and bacteria they can latch on to. Swallowing is painful. And yet I have a full social life (or rather am secretary to the child that does) of a playdate and the first of many Christmas parties today. Home hippy remedies to suggest anyone?
While I begin everything with good intentions my follow through clearly leaves something to be desired. To make up for not posting yesterday here is the first of two posts today. We had two sets of friends around for a meal yesterday, one after the other and before I knew it it was 1am and I couldn't even keep my eyes open.
So in July my son turned 2 and although my intention was not to have a birthday party I bowed to the pressure/ my instinct so my parents could meet all his friends and mine at one go. It wasn't a birthday party in the traditional sense, more a glorified playdate. We invited 15 kids including a few babies to come round to ours between 2pm and 4pm on the Saturday before his birthday. There were no games or activities just plain simple running wild all over our small apartment and in our narrow balcony. We have an abundance of toys - balls, trikes, a tent, a slide, a train set, about 40 hotwheels style cars, a scootie, and baskets full of plastic and wooden crap to make 'toys r us' proud. Essentially at that age they don't seem to do much by the way of collaborative play, so most kids chose a toy or toys to play with and was oblivious of the others around him/her. There were cupcakes, sandwiches, vegetables with a selection of dips and corn and beetroot fritters for the kids. It was a busy afternoon and most of the action was 2 year olds trampolining on our bed. We had multicolored cloth bunting up (since re-used in his room) and enough helium balloons so each child could take one home. We avoided the gift bag route and gave each kid a set of balls (basketball, football and random yellow ball) small enough to snuggly fit under their buggies and a tub of playdough.
The piece de resistance was his cake , a collaborative effort between two of my friends. It was a forest of cupcakes with the characters from his favorite book 'The Gruffalo' strategically placed to look like a scene from it. So one friend baked and iced while the other made the figurines and details (like orange eyes, mushrooms, terrible teeth, butterflies and purple prickles) and they assembled it on our dining table.
I'm quite sure my son will have no memory of this day to celebrate his birth. After all every day at this stage in his life is a SUPER FUN playdate. But it was worth doing just to see the realisation in his eyes of the figurines of the mouse, the fox, the snake and the Gruffalo coming to life, and the beaming smile that followed.
This summer my cousin 40in2006 came to London with her husband and two daughters. It was a wonderful sunny week and every evening exhausted from a long day of sightseeing my nieces would fall asleep in our living room. As my own kid would be asleep by 8pm as well this meant that the 4 adults could sit on our narrow balcony and drink wine and eat our meal at leisure chatting and chatting into the long summer evening. It was a lovely week.
My son loves his chechis (sisters). He saw them in November last year and ever since then walks up to their picture on our bookshelf and says chechi chechi chechi. So he was totally prepped for their arrival and after the first few minutes of feeling shy followed them around like a shadow. My fondest memory is of him sitting on the kitchen floor while my oh so tall niece sat opposite him as he played some game. He kept looking up at her and blabbering away. And then there was our lovely day in Greenwich sitting in the park and eating our lunch while he and my younger niece ran around like loons. Special special days and times and although he is only small and will have no memory of this I hope he grows up loving his cousins as much as I do mine.
First it was an amazing summer of guests and I was having too much fun to post. Then I was lazy enjoying the sunshine and long summer days.
Then another beloved uncle (cousin of my mum) died. Then a dear school friend of mine was murdered. And although we hadn't met in over 22 years we had found each other on Facebook and it was like yay technology for doing what snail mail could not. We connected again and it was all the reminiscing, catching up and looking forward that we chatted about. I'm still in disbelief about his death. And with that any words I had froze. I sat down to write about 6 times in the past month but each time the words would catch in my wrists.
Today I just knew I had to write. I think I will try and write something everyday this month. Not sure what but a few lines each day to get the rusty old brain working again. And then who knows, in the New Year I might be readable again. Bear with me.
Tomorrow is my 36th birthday. And I cannot for the life of me think of 36 things to say in one coherent post so I thought a nice little ramble might be the way to go. The mind is clearly the first to go!!
This past year, I can say with some confidence, has gone by in a flash and achingly slow. Not sure how to explain that besides claim ownership of a weird time continuum machine in the living room of my brain!
I've blogged less than in any other year. And vacillated about it for far longer than I would have liked.
I've dyed my hair for the very first time and I'm not sure I like it. I do know now though that I'm certainly not brave enough to grow grey naturally - yet.
I've read more than in any other year; possibly the only consistent thing from my childhood to this middle age has been my love affair with the printed page. I'm not for the convenience of a kindle and don't think I shall be seduced away from the flipping of pages anytime soon. I am however doing a cull to save my groaning bookshelves and hope to sell 100 books for £1 each to support a charity close to my heart.
I've stopped listening to music almost completely, abandoning my ipod and its dock, the radio and any cd's. I'm not sure why this has happened and wierdly I don't miss it. I hum random tunes a lot more though and that is not necessarily a better thing as I cannot hold a tune at all.
I've changed career paths from fundraising-for-the-not-for-profit to the stay-at-home-and-look-after-the-kid-kinda-not-for-profit. This was not an easy decision but a quick one when I came to it. It's one of the better decisions I took this year and as hard as it is I am enjoying it (mostly, she gingerly says!).
I've had more angst than ever before - about work, child rearing, growing old, friendships, relationships, the meaning of life etc. Large swathes of time this year have passed in self pity and serious wallowing. Duvet days of the mind I call them. You'll be glad to know that its a phase well in the past.
We've had a few amazing holidays while I've been 35. But I've had moments on these holidays that I have blocked out from memory, snapshots erased from the hard drive of my twisted mind. Don't ask because I won't tell.
I've killed all the plants on my terrace, slowly but surely. Over watered and fistfuls of mud falling (literally) victim to my enthusiastic boy. But as I turn 36 I've found someone to come and replace them, repot the survivors and possibly check on their wellbeing in the future.
I've given in to the temptation of eating chocolate more often than I would like to admit. My love affair with ice cream however has ended. Ben and Jerry no longer come a-calling at my freezer.
I've stopped cooking almost completely and found someone else to cater to our hunger. I've eaten out fewer times in this year than in any of the last 7 or so years. I've eaten in only 2 or 3 absolutely new places in the entire year, a dismal record by my standards. The joy I used to find in food has diminished. This has nothing to do with ageing tastebuds and more to do with my state of mind. It's a sad day when I no longer relish food or even the act of eating. It's not yet come to that although the line is simmeringly flat and I am hopeful of the next year being a renaissance in cooking and eating in our house and about.
I'm a bundle of contradictions every. single. day. It's been a meh year to say the very least, certainly far from my best. Having said that I've had many many moments of pure unadulterated joy, mainly involving my son and diamonds (greedy guts girl). Moments that have made 35 bearable and the possibilities that 36 hold enticing.
I've had a drastic haircut today. Tomorrow I am 36 with a mop of unmanageable curls rather than my staid tied up auntyji bun. I feel lighter and more hopeful and positively enticed. Less auntyji more middle age ladki.
I am a realist and I usually tell it like it is. In fact my friend M and I once had a conversation where she said that she would never say it like I do lest it hurt someones feelings. Well I have been known to tell it like it is and as my other friend A said that makes it very difficult to be friends with me. Even all this 'gentle' critisism has never stopped me from being a foot in mouth patient.
The thing is this: I don't always speak my mind. When I do, it's real and I try hard not to be scathing. My aim is to build and make stronger relationships. Similarly I am often at the receiving end of such critisism or realism and I take it in that spirit. I am judgemental about certain things and I don't make bones about that.
I do realise there is a time and place for saying things and there are always tonnes of things I am simmering with that I want to say but don't for reasons of propriety/ distance and becuase they are plain none of my business. There are things I wouldn't say but plenty more that I do. I have no doubt lost countless friends over the years with my talking ways but equally I have friends who appreciate or merely put up with my yapping. But with the longest dry spell this blog has ever seen I thought I'd say the top things I wish I could say right now but just cannot. What's the point of a blog eh?
1. I really really like you but your partner/ husband/ wife, not so much.
2. How come it's only ever me that calls? Or writes?
3. I have lost all respect for you as a person because of how you handle your children.
4. Does it all come down to money? How much you make and how much we make - such an unattractive discussion don't you think?
5. You left without saying goodbye or bothering to write after you reached your destination. More than hurtful it was rude.
Luckily none of the people these are aimed at even know I write a blog so I have no fear.
So it turns out I'm not a very nice person. Let the critisism begin.
1. On some introspection I have decided that I don't dislike spiders. Especially small harmless ones. What I do dislike are the cobwebs. They are all over our balcony furniture the second the weather turns warm and nothing but nothing will dissuade the pesky spiders from spinning them. Any home remedies that do not include the words 'spider catcher' or 'squash with slippers' most welcome.
2. In true Luddite fashion I got an iphone 4 about 24 hours before the iphone 5 was announced. Of course I am not using the iphone as anything but a phone, disappointingly. It will take me the 18 months of contract time to download anything useful or blog from it. And the pictures I am taking from it are seriously dsappointing after my previous Sony Ericson camera phone thing. I am looking for some good childrens apps and not necessarily the educational number alphabet nursery rhyme kind. Suggestions please.
3. After dus saal ka service my beautiful leather filofax has given up the ghost. My mum gifted it to me and although the diary and notes pages are regularly replace the main contents of pictures and other random things are constant, the build-up like a mini-time capsule of my time. I could probably superglue it back but I think with all the beautiful modern design ones now available I shall take up the opportunity and replace it once a decade. And before you ask it, the answer is no, I will not be using my iphone as my organiser. I just dump my filofax in my bag, its heft reassuring and my handwriting getting some meagre practice.Also I like the feel of paper and pen thank you very much.
4. I am about to update my very out of date blogroll. I am removing the bottom 6 according to when they last blogged and replacing them with ones that regularly blog and I regularly read. Any suggestions for blogs I should be reading or if you think I should have you on there, are most welcome. If it's you I am removing and you think that might have jolted you into writing again then yay! but please let me know so I don't knock you off.
5. Am doing masses of things with small child, buggy, snacks, changing bag, travelcard and friends. My feet ache ache ache. ache. I need a good footsoak recipe, something easy like chuck salt in a hot tub and soak feet for 10 minutes and rainbows will appear sorts. Anyone??
1. A 'reveal' so long in the making that all very bored parties have left the stadium.
2. As pristine as this looks in the picture, the truth is it is covered in all our stuff again.
3. I love this kitchen. It's not to everyones taste but it most certainly is exactly what I planned (except for the fact that it has no island!) and imagined it would look like.
4. To me the combination of chunky solid wood worktop, travatine floor & wall tiles, up & down lighters and shiny black units is just the right combination of sleek, soft, warm, bright and ultimately functional.
5. That's a new microwave, induction hob (which means we needed to invest in induction friendly pots and pans - yet another mortgage!) and cooker hood in the appliance section.
6. The doorway opening up has meant that the corner unit is now a curved one. I love that curved bit of the worktop best of all.
7. The new fixed sideboard on the opposite side of the main counter replaced a free-standing sideboard in a vaguely matching colour to the old light brown cupboards. We have additional cupboards above and two shelves near the open doorway. Strangely all this extra storage makes the kitchen look/ feel bigger even though it takes up more air space. The old sideboard is serving time as clothes dresser in our childs room.
8. I love my black sink. Simply love it.
9. I fleetingly wondered about the day we have to leave this house. Will new owners love it as much as us? Or will renters ruin the surfaces and mistreat it?
10. Then I stopped wondering and started cooking. Instead of worrying about the future, for now I'm just loving it. The End.
The In-between: This is when the appliances arrived and the new floor (a soft ivory travatine) was being laid.
The very small dining area just outside the kitchen (L-shaped dining/ living) is going to feel a lot more a part of the kitchen than before, what with the doorway being completely opened up. Also on the other side of the dining room, bang opposite the kitchen, is a fake wall with glass outside and insulation between the two. This is completely out of sync with the remaining bank of windows that enclose our dining/ living area. They have taken the wall down and left just the very dirty glass with bits of insulation stuck to it (from years of the elements beating at it). We shall have to replace the glass eventually (another cost not really factored in). I'm not going to post a picture of the dining room or this window but I wanted to just mention it because that's the flood of light you see falling on the kitchen floor. (Note: The picture in the previous post was taken at night, therefore the poor lighting. My kitchen has no windows but natural light floods in from the bank of windows opposite. This final panel of glass will bring in even more light)
The In-between: This is the picture of the shell of the kitchen. With the units and appliances pulled out, part of the floor removed and the doorway widened. Two corner electric and other pipe boxes in the far corner and near the doorway were removed to create smaller boxes and add on a bit extra counter space. When one can't have a kitchen island the few extra inches of counter space must sufice.
No apologies for the long silence - we've been enjoying the lovely spring summer sunshine and days in the park feature far more importantly than this blog.
The before: There is nothing wrong with this kitchen besides the fact that it is bog standard (not always a bad thing) and plain boring (in my opinion only). Also it is showing the wear and tear of the past 10 odd years since this development was built and is identical to every other kitchen in every apartment here.
This picture was taken the day after we moved in - subsequently we covered every surface and cupboard with our stuff, added in a same-as-cupbaord-doors-boring-brown sideboard (to hold yet more 'stuff') and then added all the plastic of the world that our child seems to need (bottles, sterilisers, plates, spoons and every kind of water cup made in the universe). With all our combined stuff and years of service this kitchen was groaning and creeking. For some tlc and a serious diet induced by having to sort things out and chuck chuck chuck before the Big Renovation.
In the 5 and something years that I have pretended not to care about people not reading this blog I have never changed the template. I tried once but it looked terrible and strangely alien to me and so I went right back to my old faithful. For lack of anything to do tonight, while the dishwashes gurgles and everyone else snores, I am sitting here and fiddling with the settings on this blog. I like this new template. Wonder if it will last the next 5 and something year though. More importantly will I last?
1. My head has been messed up for many months now about a variety of things I don’t wish to share here. None of this is serious in the ‘our-lives-are-in-danger’ way, more serious in the ‘is-this-how-I-imagined-life way?’. Most of the messing up has been to do with me overthinking things, complicating strands in my head and the burden of sadness I felt from all the recent losses. I’m done with that part of the programme, thank goodness. And the answers were so so simple as to be staggering in their simplicity. And now I feel free and light and like all is right with my world.
2. The Japan earthquake. Talk about life altering. The unfinished business of life, finished without warning in a truly horrendous way. It’s almost unimaginable how dire the situation is, from the most basic supplies and power outages to the radiation from nuclear meltdown. I have the utmost admiration for Japanese people, queuing for supplies rather than rioting for them in the face of shortages and chaos. It shows strength of character unprecedented. It’s in my thoughts constantly.
3. I have been drawing up a chart of places for me and my 20 month old to peruse in London. We wasted last summer hibernating due to car sickness, lethargy and a lack of motivation. Not so this year. He is older, I am wiser. The spring and summer lie ahead of us, a green field of warm sunshine to step on and I have a plan - to travel far and wide, close and deep, with him to enjoy the delights this city has on offer for his age group. Any and all suggestions from the London reading crowd welcome.
4. I have completely stopped cooking. Since October last year. It’s something that I unwittingly do when all is not right in my world. I make excuses, hum and haw and produce Maggie or other ninspiring fare for meals each evening. Or consume oil laden deliveries from the restaurants dotted around this end of London. Make no mistake - I am an experimental cook, a trained cook; even a passionate cook when I want to be. I mark off recipes in my library of cook books and read diaries of food writers, I take recipe cards from supermarkets and ask for menu ideas from friends and bloggs. Instead of complaining any more or eating another insipid/ over oily meal I found us a chef who comes once a week and cooks us 5 - 6 meals which I can freeze and use during the week. This week’s menu includes: Borek, courgette and tomato gratin, salmon fish pie, aubergine and chickpea stew, vegetable cottage pie, green thai chicken curry.
5. Not having to cook has taken away a lot of the pressure from life. It’s freed up some mind space and provided us with a very good reason to eat at home every night. And I am back to doing the odd bit of real cooking (not Maggie) and suddenly I am enjoying it again. Just proof that my head is clearing itself out. I baked a banana walnut cake this weekend. Nothing like a piece of cake to mark how life is once again a piece of cake.
Oh March, am I glad to see you or what! In February I was lost for words. I make no apologies or excuses for this, just state it for posterity. Life has been a blur to say the very least. I’ve had so many words just tumbling around in my head but not really stringing themselves into coherent sentences. Not on paper and not in real life. I haven’t been able to speak properly even, words bumping into each other or coming out as half baked thoughts. To say I have had a lot on my mind is an understatement.
Between being ill, deaths and their anniversaries amongst family and friends, 2011 has (so far) rocked my world in all the wrong ways. But of March and everything beyond I am very hopeful - for good health, happiness and a little bit of spring magic to permeate its way into our lives.
After a long and fairly harsh winter (not in the poor-me-in-rags-freezing way, more the rhetorical is-this-Siberia way) we are so ready for spring and summer. Of course one expects that spring is right around the corner when February is over. Till someone helpfully reminded me that a few years ago it snowed in April. Stupid Climate Change, if you were a person I would be making a voodoo doll to stick pins in.
Of course after 3 warm-ish (rather, not freezing) days, in office all discussion turned to lunchtime picnics in poo park, starting a monthly book club themed around sunny themes, holiday plans to make the best use of an upcoming royal wedding, endless hopeful chatter of the summer non-layering, sunshine, brightness type. So imagine the rude shock when the commute to work this week has felt rather like walking through an ice cake. Freezing cold. Like December in the snow cold. So spring I can see you but like behind a glass partition in a dangerous animals in the zoo kind of way. Break through please.
He was an incredible man, definitely the patriarch of the family, the standard to which all others in his orbit aspired. While my aunts and their families lived with him in Chennai (at least for the bulk of the last 30 odd years) my dad struck out to live abroad and then on the other side of the country and so my memories of my grandfather are vastly different from those of my cousins. We took the long train ride through India each summer of my growing up years to spend a month or so at his house. Each year he would disburse pocket money, birthday money and growing-up advice about studying hard to me and my brother while on that summer vacation. The pocket money would go up incrementally (as it did for all the cousins who got paid monthly), it would be for each of the 12 months gone by and with the added bonus of birthday money it would be a tidy sum for a small person. The advice was always the same: work hard, work smart, be efficient.
My most endearing memory of him is of walking on the beach. He loved the beach and in summer he would take us there for a walk and ice cream whenever he could find time in a very busy travelling schedule. We would go in his white ambassador, he would have a walk while we generally tumbled around on the sand and then we got to choose our ice cream and walk to the water to let the waves lap at our feet while we watched the sun go down and listened to the water dance. He would gaze at the sea and I remember how in those few short almost quiet moments he would look so at peace, so content with life. There are so many more memoires I have of him that are just snatches of pictures and words in my head: his sacrosanct afternoon nap (for which the phone had to be off the hook), his love of mulligatawny soup, his voracious reading and brilliant debating skills, his white ambassador car, his practice of yoga every single day, the orderliness of papers, his reading chair and lamp, his smile when all his children and grandchildren were in the same city.
He was warm, loving, firm and straightforward. He lived his life with great drive and determination, succeeding at a very young age but he never forgot his roots, always helping siblings and cousins and nieces and nephews and friends with their educations or pursuing their dreams.
After a fall that broke his hip a fair few years ago he never quite recovered his health. From using a walker and wheelchair to being unable to read any more or hold things steadily, it was a rapid and terrible decline. The indignities of old age and ill health required full time care and humbled this brilliant mind. The sad truth is that at his age and having been ill for a number of years his passing was not unexpected in the traditional scheme of things. It was a matter of when rather than if and in many ways a relief that he is now past the suffering that he no doubt endured recently. None of this makes it any less of a loss and I have felt the weight of sadness sit upon me since the night I heard like a black shroud shawl.
Having been desperately ill and drugged out on anti-biotics for tonsillitis and laryngitis, looking after a small child with very little help and for a variety of other reasons I was unable to go back and be with my family at this time. All five of the other cousins were there along with my dad, mum, my aunts and their husbands. I wish I could have gone. I know I was there in spirit. His ashes were immersed in the sea on Saturday. I think he would have liked that.
He was a loved man, my grandfather. Father of three, grandfather of six, great-grandfather of ten, friend of countless individuals, this remarkable man touched all of our lives and we are most definitely richer for the experience. I miss you muthasan.
Dudes, this year has not started well at all. At the end of last year my parents lost a family friend and at the beginning of this we lost an uncle.
And of course despite the best intentions I have not kept to my promise of writing more. As usual I have the excuses. And normally I would pooh pooh them away as immaterial, call myself a procrastinator and move on but this time hear me out willya? I had a terrible case of bacterial tonsillitis: one so painful that I was in tears when the doctor was checking them out. After a 7 day course of antibiotics which knocked me back into exhaustion I have rarely felt, I was all better. For the first 3 of those 7 days I relied heavily on V to look after the kid each evening and then finish his work. He was as exhausted as I but held in there like a trooper and all round good guy.
I then had a week of feeling fine. Back to work and evenings of play food bathe milk story and sleep routines with my child. We flew to snowbound Switzerland for the weekend to attend a farewell party for friends moving east. All in all life was back to normal. Then on Monday afternoon my throat started playing up again. I could feel my tonsils inflate like lifeboats trying to make their escape. It’s back and this time its viral, a different ball game apparently. As painful nonetheless. I am on a combination of painkillers as apparently antibiotics will have no effect. And I literally have no voice.
I guess this is when all that writing will help…..I am reduced to working by passing notes to colleagues and using sign language with my child. Such are the days. I am going to see a nurse practitioner tomorrow. I am going to lobby to have my tonsils removed. I have had a long and unhappy relationship with them and I think it’s time we break up, gateway to allowing unhealthy germs in be damned.
I first learnt about death when our dog died - I was just about to enter my teens. I only understood its permanence and the meaning of absence with two deaths in my early twenties, first losing my grandfather and then a few years later my college flatmate. Both were sudden and unexpected, shocking jolts to the heart which I thought of only as a muscle and not so much an emotion.
I haven’t been writing at my unbelievable pace(!) because at the very start of the year the vast but close circle of my mother’s first cousins has suffered a terrible blow. We lost my Ravi maama, first cousin to my mother, beloved husband to M maiji and father to my cousins M and R. Even coming after an illness it was sudden and unexpected, a text alert from my mum in the wee hours of the morning. My mother was distraught, her sobs disallowing any words to be spoken as I uselessly held the phone and let her cry. It is impossible, in my view, to find words that adequately describe how empty the world can suddenly seem. She needed to cry and I needed to listen and tell her I loved her.
My tears came later. I am not big on crying, preferring the comfort of a closed bathroom with a running tap to mask my own. But no matter who says what, sometimes just crying through it can express some of how you feel, whether you do so in private or public. When the crying is done what’s left are all those memories of his big laugh, his amazing sense of humour, his bravery in the armed forces and how adored he was by us all. He told me at my brother’s wedding recently that my son had our family’s mischievous smile but that his cheeks could do with a bit of Mathur fattening up. That is my last memory of him. I know that lives are to be celebrated but that is the world’s hardest thing when it seems bleak and harsh and less one very important person.
I cannot even imagine what my cousins and my aunt are going through but I know that each of them has a life of memories to do with maama and these will bring a smile to their faces in time. There are no words that I or anyone can say that will bring them closer to closure - that is a course each person must run alone - but I do hope that knowing so many people have them in their thoughts helps in some small measure. And as unreal as it sounds while in the very middle of very real grief, I can only add that time takes away some of the raw pain and leaves behind a plethora of memories.
I like to think of life after this one as a large white sofa; the image gives me peace. And everyone I know that’s gone before us congregates at it for their evening drink and a bit of a chat, sharing jokes and passing on news about us to those gone before. I can imagine my nana and his brothers sipping martini’s, smoking pipes and the odd cigar and cracking jokes only they get. I know they wait for news of us and I know maama will be most welcome, his smile and infectious laughter joining theirs to be the murmur of the heavens above.