A disappearing grace.


My  uncle needed some help with his computer, this is how it transpired:

First  his major domo calls the house phone this morning, to enquire if I was awake and free to talk.

Once that was established, he called on my mobile. He explained that he was having some trouble remembering how to do stuff on his computer. Would I please come by and help him when convenient. This came only after the greetings and well beings had been established. No ungracious short cuts.

We fixed on this evening – his question – tea or drinks? I said around 5.30, he laughed and said ‘we will have to see whether that should be late tea or early drinks once you get here.’

I arrived to find him sitting at his table, the computer open and his notebook beside it, with all the issues neatly listed. Ready for me to arrive.

But first of course there was the matter of tea or drinks, which was resolved with tea before we started work and maybe drinks once we finished. ‘The important things in life must come before the mundane.’

His problems were dealt with in short order, he snapped the machine shut and said, ‘well then, time to put on the brothel slippers.’  I have no idea where the bits emerge from till today, I have known him some 58 years, this expression was new.

‘An old cavalry expression for relaxing of an evening’ he said, ‘ an officer did not walk into a brothel beating a drum!’ 

In today’s language they are called ‘desert boots’ probably not even that any longer, but essentially casual ankle high suede shoes with rubber soles. I was so entertained – the vision of cavalry boots thumping up a brothel stairway and the soft tread of the brothel slippers came quite vividly to mind.

I love these moments with the old folk, there is a grace and charm and such perfect courtesy – not to mention the snippets of trivial information that open a window into a world gone by.

Daughters and dreams

I have dreamt about it, my daughter has done it. Packed up her custom made flat in Bombay to move to Goa.photo

She has the most charming little house with a huge sit out verandah which is her living area, looking out on a motley garden with old trees. A typical old goan house with tiled roofs, open spaces it all feels exactly like what I always wanted, my camp turned into a bit of house. This is what Rifq is now living in and she is so happy, and the whole deal makes me utterly blissful.image

I arrived to see these twinkling candles lighting up the most beautiful space. My little daughter sitting there, reading of all things, the Mahabharath. I don’t know where they came so smart from. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Goa, hidden by old trees, she is sitting outside on her dining table to work, to eat, to be.

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I who never asked my children to live my dreams, find them doing so all on their own. Motivates me to live them too. My trouble is I don’t know which I want to live first – live in Florence and learn Italian, live in Buenos Aires and learn the Tango, go to Alaska to kayak or go to the Antartica to see the penguins and the Aurora Australis?

At the moment I am enjoying a weekend with both my girls, laughing madly, fixing Rifq’s garden and being happy with my intrepid adventurers.

The parents, 50 years!

Landmark events make for remembrance. It was our parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary and I was laughing out loud at what a roller coaster ride it has been for all of us.

Then came the flood of little memories:

My grandparents huge rambling garden in Patiala. I was a very little girl and my mother was walking me around the garden ostensibly to teach me my tables. We walked through the rose garden and I learnt about Crimson Queens, Sunflares, Tea Roses and rose -water; onto the lawns and the profusions in the beds offered hollyhocks and Sweet-peas, Talking Antirrhinums or Snapdragons that opened and closed their mouths and could tell stories. The pixies that lived in the rockery and the fairies that lived in the flowers. Finally we discovered a water pipe feeding a flower bed and, there , where the water hit that lovely brown mud was a little hillock of rippled chocolate effect. That is all it took, we sat there for the rest of the morning making mud cakes and creating a little garden-world of stories.

I still don’t know my tables, but I know moments, dreams, beauty and life.  I think it carried me farther than the tables, thanks my mommy.

Then there is the memory of the most unique driving lesson a girl could have. The emptiest, straightest, safest stretch of tarmac my father could find was the runway at the Dabolim airport in Goa. That he was commanding the airbase at the time was obviously a necessity. So there we were, one orange ambassador, my daddy and I at the start of the runway: into first gear and we bucked into motion, into second which was smoother, third was a piece of cake, cruising, then he say ‘see that line there, now put it into fourth, that is where you step on it, get to fifty and take off.’ We went racing down that runway and almost fell off the cliff at the end, driving lesson or flying, I don’t know what he imagined,  but I am still flying!

I think every girl has a swash buckling hero in a dream somewhere. Just what do you do when they come larger than life?

She lived at 5 Safdarjang Lane in Delhi and he was a flying instructor at Jodhpur. How was he ever going to woo this amazingly beautiful woman that he had met?

He did it. Almost every Saturday morning as she sat on the lawn or the verandah, reading her book, a roaring fighter jet would do a low fly past, waggle it’s wings and disappear to land at the Safdarjang Airport. Soon after this swashbuckling man with a flying helmet under his arm would come calling.Uff! And we get excited with motorcycles.

They still make the most beautiful, if volatile, couple and I think I speak for all of their children and grandchildren when I say we are extremely proud to belong with them.