Sunday, 29 June 2014

I have not ever considered it to be a home, but several times it felt like it, and at times staying there seemed almost natural. The house itself was constructed under the eagle eye of Chachaji , who was a man of very few words and who I loved dearly but like him spoke little in his presence. He had a towering personality, very cultured and well traveled and the house he built with such care was a reflection of this. As a young child I was in awe of him and feared him very much, this because when we stayed at his home, both my brother and I were told constantly that if we were naughty Chahcaji would put us in jail. I would watch him every morning from the sofa in the drawing room when he left for work in his dark suit, not really frightened but most definitely awed, not even daring to say 'bye. This routine was followed after breakfast in the dining room with Masi , Chachaji and whoever the guests were at that time, sometimes it was only we who were there. Since we lived in a town close by at motor-able distance we would spend many of our holidays with them. After breakfast he would go to his room with his assistants to get ready to leave for work. I , in the meanwhile would settle into a corner of the sofa, sometimes with a book and wait to see the ritual of his departure for work.

Let's back to the house which was built by him and my chacha to move in when the time came for them to retire from work. Chacha , his younger brother was quite the opposite, jolly, rotund and of even temperament which Chachaji also shared. I had not ever heard voices being raised in that house.

One day when we were there for a vacation, Chachaji took my father and me to see the place where he was building his nest. The area which is now considered a posh locality, at that time was almost barren of houses, there may have been one or two but perhaps I paid very little attention to those.When we reached our destination, we stood at the spot where the gate now stands. He stood there in his usual way all of six feet tall and I could somehow instinctively feel his pride. The house was half built by then, and when we entered the under construction building, the first thing I saw was the staircase leading to his open study above the drawing room, a design which struck me with gladness. ( One is not usually struck with that emotion but it was a feeling of happiness which is inexplicable.) I think he saw the small smile of joy on my face. I was a teenager by then and although I was always at a loss for words in his presence, I had by then been witness to an endearing part of his personality. There was, in the house which they lived in a dog named Mickey of Alsatian breed who I was a bit wary of, when I was much younger ( perhaps four or five or it may have been three ) I had wandered off from the front gate on a mission, possibly ( if I recall ) to meet the President, there was something I had to tell him and in my young mind it was of impending urgency. There was a furor at home because I had disappeared and everyone was searching for me , frantic with worry. Somebody, one of the help suddenly shouted, that ' babyji was at the gate'. It was Mickey who had found me and bought me back, whether he had been given some clothing of mine to smell and then trace me , or whether he came on his own I will never know for I have not asked..... but there he was nudging a small child home ,into the gate of that corner government house much to the relief of all concerned. I was always disparaging of him after that incident and kept my distance. Much later when my cousin was a teenager and I was somewhat older I watched her playing with him during the evening, running and throwing a football in the backyard. I kept a safe distance but liked him better than before. Mickey must have died soon after, and some time later Chachaji  had  Lhasa Apso from Lhasa and it was then that I saw his very endearing side. The tiny dog would sit at his feet when we sat together after dinner and he would talk and pet him. A female companion was soon brought for him,who went by the name of Kesang, she was not as beautiful as her male compatriot but a very sweet dog,and Chachaji would lovingly call her Murgi .

Masi has always been my most favorite aunt perhaps because we spent so much time at their home. The only time I stood first in my class was when she came to our house to look after us when Mom had to undergo a surgery. Always encouraging and of good humor, a lady of few words much like Chachaji, she always called me her favorite niece ,I am not sure if Masi feel the same now, but we will let that be.

When all four of them , Masi, Chachaji , Chacha and chachi shifted to their new residence we were already in the then Bombay. When we went to visit them next, the house which I had seen being constructed was an elegant home. We would sit after dinner in the drawing room chatting until it was time for us to retire for the night. Chacha , in his easy chair under the lamp and both chachi and Masi in their favorite chairs, us scattered about on others and Chachaji on the sofa. The picture of the warmly lit room is etched very firmly in my mind. During the mornings, Chachaji would be in his study from where he had a view of all that was happening below, his big table and the chair almost like the peacock throne was as impressive as his personality. I would join him for breakfast as I was ready early, chacha and the others came later after their puja was over. I would more than often be the first to come downstairs, and a little later Chachaji would come with his boots alerting the servants of his arrival, he would eat and I would sit across him while he was being served , an interesting piece of news would be shown to me or sometimes there would be small talk. Morning tea was a quite a ritual at 6am in the living room,the flavor of the tea so good  that it was the perfect perk up cup. Kesang was also living then but passed away soon after, they never had a dog since then.

We would often visit relatives with Masi , my Chacha and Chachi in DC other aunts and uncles and return for lunch which was served at the dot of 1pm unless we were invited out. On a few occasions we would go out for a meal , one such is imprinted in my memory card. Some evenings I would accompany Chachaji when he went for his evening walk, but more often it was with Chachi that I went on her rather fast paced walk, greeting all those she knew while she walked and stopping occasionally for a small chat.

There were times when I flew in and the car came to pick me up as it was not possible for any of the elders to come. Stepping out of the car after being greeted by a 'Jai Hind Saab' from one or more of the domestic help, I would gaze for a moment at the balcony outside the study wondering if Chachaji was waiting for me there, he would always either be in the drawing room or come down the stairs on the other side so I was never sure. Gazing up felt almost like coming home.

He is no more, when he passed away I was shattered, to me he was a figure I looked up to with great respect. A few days after his passing away, chacha went. It was the time of trauma for our whole family, the home which was called 'Saket' was bereft of Ram and Lakshman. By that time my cousin's family had shifted there and Chachaji was very proud and impressed by the flat that they had built above. Masi and chachi were widows all of a sudden. Two brothers gone in the the space of a few days, a most trying time for both Chachi and Masi . It somehow did not feel the same again, and although I never considered it as my home, there were some occasions when it felt like home.

Both the ladies are old now and well looked after by my cousin and their family. My darling aunt once so robust and full of laughter is quiet, well aware but quiet and my chachi who was so active and talked nineteen to a dozen now moves with a walker to support her. It is almost as if an era is over, the shells remain of  the pearls which we cherish.

I visited my masi in VV yesterday on her 94th birthday. I came home and could not stop my tears from overflowing. Her wisdom and love will always abide with me as will the cherished memories of times gone by. Change , it is said is life but sometimes changes bring about a sadness in the core of ones being. That house will never be a home to me.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Waking up at a godforsaken hour of 3am after another restless night the next best thing to do is to put my incoherent thoughts into coherent text. There have been so many thoughts and ideas racing through the mind for so many months, thoughts which could be written down or ideas brought to fruition.... none of which saw the light of day.. which incidentally shows up outside my balcony, the light, not any idea... AH ! Wouldn't it be lovely to see an idea float in through the balcony door and perhaps catch it or then leave it free to go and find another open door? Or  many ideas swirling around , knocking on ones dull head waiting for the brain to open the doors to their freshness but return disappointed after circling because the thick cranium did not give them any notice?

The mind is so full of so many thoughts, a reflection of its restlessness and once again what comes forth is the picture on the Bhagwad Geeta of Krishna on the chariot reining in the horses, representing as we have been often told that the mind is like the wayward steeds which has to be reigned in with immense control. I don't really wish to ponder on the Geeta right now nor on the texts which I have read ... perhaps I want to let the mind fly free without the bondage of control. There is so much to ponder on .. so much already thought about so much left to say so much left unsaid. Sitting in the midst of fun and revelry a quiet thought crosses the cranium and gets crossed out. I see I watch and observe, socially active but inherently quiet. How far have reached or perhaps how far we have not. Some things remain unchanged and some change with a rapidity which is unnerving. The stages we go through in the walk of life and what we are today, what one has been through to be at the place they are now, how circumstances hone your thought and how you hone yours to face circumstances. That nothing is permanent or none invincible but life and living is all around which perhaps shows some permanence in the impermanent, or that even in the most terrible times the strength that one gets from within oneself to never give up is representative of a shadow of the invincibility of what one calls the Supreme.

The mind is a maze of complexity with innumerable thoughts , it can be simple and clear like still waters of a lake or as fervent as the rushing stream both in themselves picture perfect. It is with our own eyes that see the world with a complex or a non complicated view. Perhaps we need to keep clearing the caches and the cookies or then tug with a little more force at the reins.... or then perhaps we should just continue the act of living to the best of our ability... throw away the reins and gobble the cookies?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Our hands reach out to temporary vanity
Basking in joys of unbounded opportunity
We strive we run achieve and gain
Through pleasure and with equal pain

Dawns a day when in crowds we stand
The teeming throng , the noisy band
In the silence of evening shadows
Loss gain or virtue - passing breeze
We come with none
We go with naught
And still we strive
And still we play
For nothing less than empty hands
We reach to strive we reach to aim
Towards the final path we tread
With empty hands....
What then have we achieved, what gained.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Feline frolic and myriad mews.

Long years ago ( with apologies to our erstwhile prime minister) I had a tryst with cats or was it the other way round? Cats have a way of making their trysts and thereby their dominance over the one who keeps them. They can never be owned for they are the owners of free spirits who look on amused at the way, I as an instance, jump to their every meow.

It was nineteen years since Billo Rani came into our lives. She was a dainty tortoiseshell who we (Mom Dad and  moi) alternately fed with great respect and a good deal of pleasure ... the last emotion was hers more often than not... and sometimes when there was chicken... the stealth routine to feed her downstairs was another story. She remained downstairs and Papa used to meet her on his morning walks in the compound. Slowly but surely she made her way up to our little abode. Well, to be very frank that is what we told Mom but she knew us well and our protestations that she had followed us upstairs of her own accord cut no ice with her. Billo Rani was still inhabiting the spaces below when she had her first litter and she was no more than a kitten herself. Happy with her productivity she pranced around our legs at mealtimes promising to show Mom her kittens when she thought it was the proper time. Alas! One day she sat in front of the elevator most dejected and forlorn. Mom asked her what had happened and she just looked at her with mournful eyes. The guard later told us that her kittens had been trapped in an empty flat in the building behind , she could not reach them and they had died. Mom Dad and I consoled her and after quite a while she started eating again. This was the first time I had actually seen an expression of emotion in an animal and although it was a sad sight it was remarkable. She entered her home (which used to be ours) to stay soon after. Her delight at seeing the maroon carpet laid down as if specially for her and her curiosity about the other rooms which she knew were hers was a delightful wonder to us. We had had cats earlier when I was a child but this intelligent torty was something else. She became pregnant soon after and the day the labor pains started ... OMG.. only Pops and I were home and she was yelling loudly in pain.I called the vet and was told to give her milk with glucose which she proceeded to lap up hungrily. Her contractions must have been more rapid for there was a lot of yowlin and meowling . Poor Papa put old newspapers on the sofa so and told her to be comfortable there, we of course knew not a thing about how to carry out midwife duty for cats. She was having none of his sympathetic arrangements and continued yelling. Mom came in around 8.30 pm from the temple and saw the commotion. She went to her and said. and I kid you not, " Billo , where do you want to have your babies. Don't worry everything will be fine." Billo Rani received a few gentle strokes on her head and stomach and THEN jumped behind the tv cabinet and went on to produce the three cutest little kittens... while Dad complained that after all he was doing for BR all SHE wanted was Mom's permission !And then the change from room to room.. rather funny really.... she took them one by one in her mouth and then came back to loudly meow again  to see if she had left any behind. Dad of course commented that she should have learned to count. I did not remind him that she was as bad as his daughter in the mathematics.

This very intelligent cat who understood word for word what Mom had to say, was the grandmother of my darling Patch(u) who I laid to rest yesterday afternoon. He was the last link I had to them in terms of the love we shared for all the felines who made their home with us. Coincidentally and very strangely he passed away on the eve of their anniversary which is today , perhaps their souls are united now and the three generations of kitties are all frolicking together with Mom and Dad.The circle of life and death is complete again and while I am heartbroken that Patch has gone I know he is relieved of his suffering and at peace.

To get back to the very intelligent Billo Rani and her even more intelligent progeny .. they were all smart , not street smart but human smart. It was amazing how they understood what was said to them. Kali of course was a wonder cat, I have written about her in another post, she decided to leave the homestead for greener pastures when her nieces and nephews entered the world, but she was knew which side the bread was buttered and she came two or three times a day for her meals. When the kitchen was being refurbished she would walk in every night and inspect the work done that day by the masons and later the carpenters, give her approval and then settle down to eat. It was a standing joke at home .. we would let her in every night to do her catscan. Her sister Bhuri who was Patchu's mother gave surrogacy rights to Mom for feeding her four kittens .. and what a sight it was ... with Bhuri outside and the bedroom door closed Mom sitting cross-legged on the carpet , with Patchu in her lap, Tidda on her shoulder and Tiddi and Spottu ( later renamed Bhure Lal by Dad) in front of her. The boiled fish was fed to each one by turn accompanied by a host of gratified num num numnumnums.Patchu was my mother's favorite .. there seemed to be an instant connect between them. Tidda , poor chap had a bit of an identity crisis when he was very tiny, we thought he was a girl cat and called him Chammak chhallo and believe you me he did walk and run like one. His name was changed the day we discovered who he was. Tidda's love for me was monumental .. his eyes poured with love and while Patchu was Mom's cat Tidda was my love. As a consequence of Mom's love for Patch, Tidda detested Mom for a while and being jealous Patchu and Tidds would get into fierce fights ... with fur flying everywhere. I took matters in hand one say and sat with them and explained to them how both were so dear to us. This coaching class lasted for about a week and voila they were inseparable after that , slept with their arms around each other ! Bhure Lal made Papa his favorite and as he was the youngest of the litter was much smaller than the muscular Patch and the rotund Tidda. He was also a bit of a coward, attacking them from behind and scampering to Dad for cover.

There are so many sweet memories of the three generations which made their home with us. Each time one has died I have cried buckets, they were like my children, with all their expressions and emotions their fun and frolic and the laughter and love they brought into our lives. I have had a questioning mew or two thrown at me at times, and Patchu, my darling who loved Amma so much actually mewed her name.. something like annnnwaaa. Amazing. He did the same a few times in the beginning of December last,when he fell ill. I knew then that the end was nearing ...

The new generation with me are a boisterous lot except for Dhanno who was rescued from the airport..she moves around with the import of a dowager duchess but when she becomes kittenish in her play it is delightful to watch, quite a mommy too, preening the little ones and scolding them for being naughty. Then there is BuffyToo (named after another Buffy in the isles) who is an intelligent AND street smart tortoiseshell and would not be wrong in thinking that she is a distant grrandcat or perhaps a great grandcat of Billo Rani, the harbinger of feline joyousness into my life.

All my darlings each and every one of them with their distinct personalities and incessant demands for attention. The diabolical dozens !! Meeewaaaah !!



Sunday, 9 March 2014

Ode to Patchu (my darling cat)

Between two beams of sunlight,
He sits... a teardrop of tomorrow
As he waits patiently for his end
I can only look on in sorrow
Of days gone by in play
Of his soulful love
and kittenish ploys

How well he understood we said
his love for Mom
And when she passed on
His dread
His expressive comments
with myriad meows
My love my pet my little Patch cat

Sits quiet now
Breaking bonds
Between sunlit beams of sorrow