I have been based in this city, on and off, all my life – and for the most part have been happiest away. These last few days, something changed. Not the city, just my awareness of it. Have a look at my drive to work, it is quite the happiest part of my day. Every round about is a blaze of spring colour, the roadsides are blooming. That I choose to only drive through the pretty parts of Delhi is a very concious decision, why would one live in this city and not enjoy the bestest part of it. I find I am coming to terms with, if not actually enjoying my city.
It is quite spectacular – at least the bits I choose to see everyday. My spirits lift the moment I cross the Dhaula Kuan flyover and start seeing the pretty flowers and nicely maintained road sides. The Teen Murti Circle is a delight, then I turn and the majestic Rashtrapati Bhawan takes centre stage – very proud making. The fountains and flowers of Vijay Chowk have to be the best bit of it all – such a wonderful spectacle spreads all the way down Rajpath till India Gate. By now I am in such a happy state that the rest of the traffic becomes
inconsequental and the mood wafts me into my office on a haze of happy colour. How easy it is to change a perspective, I only just realized that I have an infinite ability to see only what I please. Thus, when I drive back to Gurgaon in the evening and leave the pretty bits behind, honestly, I still manage to see a very pretty sunset almost everyday through the haze of pollution. It’s a happy state.
My grandmother called the human race a deadly virus that would destroy the earth. She said we were the only species that destroyed the very things that sustain us. She also said man could be worse than a rabid beast. A beast is acting true to his character, if he attacks, he does so only to eat or protect. Man has no such requirement….She was right.
She was a woman who had lived a lot of life.
This morning I listened to the debate on the radio with unutterable disbelief and horror. Is the making or showing of this documentary even a topic? Why? Why isn’t the fact of what that man said being discussed?
His words reiterate what all of us in our hearts know – she was so brutally assaulted because she fought. He means she would still have been raped, but somewhere in that complete oblivion of right or wrong he does not even begin to think that raping her was equally as bad as brutalising her. What does that say for us all – for his parents, for his village, for his society, which is also ours? He has peers, friends, kin that all actually think exactly as he does. He is not alone – that is what we should be addressing.
There are statements like ‘ what happens if you put a toffee on the road? Obviously the dogs get it’. This from a man who is learned, or so we would assume, he is a lawyer and advocate talking about rape!
This isn’t only an Indian context, it happens the world over. Did anyone see the photograph of Dominique Strauss – Kahn in the Hindu today? He is striding forth in complete power and assurance to attend his trial for rape, pimping and abusing sex workers. He certainly does not think he has done a thing wrong.
Why are we wondering who gave permission for the documentary instead of debating what we can do to condition the minds of men to perhaps emulate the wild beasts that we so happily malign. They do not hurt and abuse for entertainment and pleasure.
Sometime last month I thought I had finally caught the acute family malady – depression. Believing all my life that I had evaded this one overwhelming genetic disaster, an already down me was bought even lower thinking it was just late in coming. So imagine my plight – grey out the window (it’s just Delhi). Cold, (which I hate when it is city based cold) take me to a snowy topped mountain and life is fine. But there weren’t any trips in the offing.
I had descended into that horrible state where one wallows, not even trying to get out of it, all I wanted was the heater, preferably bed and a hot water bottle. The world was grey, the future held no excitement, the books were boring, the crossword undoable, the friends had deserted. It was a long weekend and there was no work, I should have gone home to ‘The Pind’ but I could not find the energy. I am quite sure there are many who empathise with this, it was rather alien to my normally upbeat self.
This is when the hum drums of life can save your soul. Sheila my wonderful keeper of all things necessary – home, market, kitchen, laundry et al – fell sick! I hope you understand the depths of despair this bought with it. I had to get out of bed – I had to go to the shop for milk. On the way to the shop I had to walk through the pretty garden and there I met a pansy – the flower – to clarify!
When my daughters were little they had pansy friends – see drawing – those beds of pansies were invested with real people and whole families. Grandfathers to little girls. This little burgeoning pansy suddenly lifted that horrible pall of gloom and made me smile in remembrance. I got back home with the milk and pulled out all the old drawings
and little stories that went with them.
But before that while I stood there smiling at the pansy a friend came along, that led to a conversation and the invitation to a drink. More gloom lifted. Back home with all the old stuff scattered around, the stories got put in order and the drawings collated. They might even go to a publisher now?
Happiness and purpose all due to a packet of milk and a pansy.
I drove across the bridge at Hardwar, and that first sight of the Ganga brightened my heart and set me smiling. It happens every time – the river, the mountains and that forest act like an elixir. The guard at the barrier to Rajaji Park, smiles and waves you through, the road winds through the forest and it feels like old friends welcoming you. Every vista, the trees and the grasses spell home. The old guard at the inner gate who has been there forever, recognises and waves. This time I took the road along the left bank all the way to the Garur Chatti bridge, by passing Rishikesh aswell. How I do love this part of the world and what a beautiful drive it makes with non of the traffic and noise, the perfect way to enter this home stretch after the maddening road conditions all the way from Delhi. Suddenly, it all washes away, the sunlight makes tree shadows dance, the road along the canal brings memories of elephant meetings and butterflies.
Three days at camp – blissful sunshine, the sparkling river with all her familiar nuances and time to stare despite being there to work. It is never work surrounded by that view. I found a new rock and spot to replace the one I lost. Sitting there and talking to the river as in the old days was a healing that has been a long time coming. She was my friend and confidante for so many years and washed away many a care and I thought I had lost the connection. Now as I sit and watch, the cliche of life flowing like a river resounds – the turbulence, the obstacles, the depths and shallows and all through it, the constant flow. How many, many people before me have thought and said it, and how many more will say it, the point is how many have found wisdom, strength, succour on the banks of how many rivers? This one is just special to me – I think all rivers are special – but the Ganga truly is my friend and I am blessed to still be able to live on her banks whenever I choose.
OF ALBUMS AND TRUNKS
I thought I would clear some clutter before the new year came in. Little did I think that it was going to be a crying jag of epic proportions.
Trunks: those wonderful things that store everything – I have many – and I thought to get rid of them!! Obviously I didn’t – to start – it was the girls’ old files – report cards and letters – I was not able to throw out a single one. Then I found an old folder of all the cards that I had kept from my wedding – half those people are gone, but seeing those messages – obviously I just sat there, cried and packed them back into the folder. Backward in time to my own school files and dimmed letters from my grandfather, the ink is faded but the messages remain in that tiny scrawling hand, so many words of wisdom that carried me all this way.
A dancing Bare Moms
And dancing parents!
Followed the albums, ancient history, a whole story and so many memories. What a vast family I have, so many, many people that all come together to that one me! It constantly amazes me that I am the only person who has all of these people. Parental doubles, grandparents in quadruples, oh so many aunts, uncles, siblings.
An accident of birth, an accident of circumstance, an accident of plenty yet not any. To belong to so many people, yet to not wholly belong to any – it alternates between a blessing and a craving.
For the longest part of my life I wanted a place and a space that was answerable to none. Today I have it and love it, but, occasionally it throws up that odd alone feeling. This weekend was one such. Do I forget my family or does my family forget me? Probably all in my head and just the memories making me nostalgic and maudlin.
A little Maya
A little Rifq
Friends, the dancing ones.