Dabbawala Statue, Mumbai

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A unique service provided by thousands of lunch box deliverers which has been studied even by Harvard is commemorated here with a statue. These dabbawallas pick up lunch boxes prepared by wives or mothers and deliver them to distant corners of Mumbai never making a mistake.

Love All says iPucid— On Valentine’s Day

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On this 14th February 2016, in Chandigarh while the police keep a heavy vigil on the goings on of young men chasing women on the romantic Geri Route, I wonder what St. Valentine would have thought of it all.

Cupid it seems is let out of his heavenly or verdant wherever confines and shoots arrows here and there Like Putin’s planes.

While Westernized youngsters exchange roses and cards (the share value of Archies rises in February) Indian jingoists attack these lovelorn creatures with bricks and bats.

A very disapproving picture of the Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain appears in the Indian Express of today. The President asked a gathering of young girls to refrain from such seditious activities in the name of St. Valentine who was not suitable to the scheme of things in Pakistani culture.

Messages are fired like missiles on the internet and WhatsApp. Love is in much demand but mostly missing between couples who are busy texting on their iPhones.

iPucid

I suspect if Cupid were born today he might have been named iPucid or something like that convenient for Apple or Google.

St. Valentine they say was a Christian priest promoting love and marriage in the days of the Roman Empire. He became rather too enterprising and tried to convert Claudius II to Christianity and was beheaded for his efforts.

 

Mooning–Bring me Back

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ABOVE PHOTO CREDIT–NM

That old innocence
That old innocence

That First Glow

 

I’ll have to pull myself

In within me

Dig out again

Through the caverns of my being.

I’ve got lost in commercial ad-like dreams

I’ll have to reset my innocence

My childhood, my teenage years as it were

Which I new I would lose

When I was young and turn cynical

and codgy

How will I find a pebble?

Lost fifty years ago?

How will I become eternally optimistic? Again

Like a child

What is the trick?

Life after Life – Kate Atkinson– Book Review

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Book Review of Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

The book Life after Life opens a time-warp into England during the Second World War. The author Kate Atkinson weaves a dreamlike story of Ursula, who dies several times but the author opts to resurrect her again and again, Life after Life. It is beautifully done. Finishing the book, I felt reluctant to leave the world of Ursula her mother Sylvie and sister Pamela. This book is a time machine that bounces even into the private life of Eva and Hitler.

Perhaps this is the best novel about London during the Blitzkrieg.

One has to be patient with good books. Most of them take about 70 pages to create a certain ambience and cast of characters.  I got glued to the web of characters in Life after Life somewhere near hundred pages. That is them moment when one really looks at the back cover to read more about the author.

I am cowering now with Ursula in the ruins of a building in London during the night time incessant bombing.

As a writer I feel like a tiny dog perhaps like Jock. I want to bark a good story and run  and run around Kate in circles yapping my praise mixed with jealous anger—‘How can you have so much talent?—while we here are eating cake in our literary poverty.

MARGIN NOTES

I have also decided that in future any book that I read will henceforth be defaced by me on the last empty blank page with tiny details of the characters as in plays’ cast of characters. That way I will not get lost as I did in A Thousand Years of Solitude with the Antonias and the Buendias.

Thus:–

Sylvie—mother of Ursula.

Hugh – Father of Ursula

Teddy – Ursula’s brother

Izzie – Hugh’s sister.

This listing will make life so much easier while reading great complicated books.

After finishing the book I feel as Kate Atkinson—about the book, ‘everything was ephemeral, yet everything was eternal.’ The book is so English. Kate has the secret map to a treasure of good writing. I am just like the cowboy in the posse who gets shot off his horse right in the beginning. Kate gallops ahead and reaches the gold mine.

Here I am sitting shot and propped up perhaps against a cactus in the desert pulling needles out of my butt as far as I can reach back. The realization of one’s own incompetence is so painful.

For Jean

This is a guiding light which we sorely need on this 15th of August, 2015, Independence Day of India, where the leaders and the people need to do a rethink about their democratic attitudes.

I love these lines—

“I realized that the light was me.

And you.

And us.

The difference we make.

The imprint we leave.

The caress we give.

The path we can make.

To help other people.

The light is it.

The light is within us.

It’s why we are here.

The light is love.”

Buddha- objet d’art

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Objets d’art

Our marriage reception party was superb. Good food, drinks and dancing. We received numerous gifts. We left for our honeymoon to Thailand. It was a lovely week exploring Bangkok and Phuket.

I loved the long speedboats on the Chao Phraya River and did the rounds of many Buddhist temples. As I was getting back to my boat after one of these temple rounds an old woman caught my scarf and said, ‘please’ in the most plaintive way. I looked at the frail old woman wearing very thick glasses. Her eyes magnified by her glasses had genuine tears in them. She was holding out a reddish Buddha in a meditational pose.

“Ten dollars” she said.

I gave her ten dollars out of pity and took the Buddha from her. It was surprisingly heavy.

“Bless you, happy marriage” she said and shuffled away.

We did the usual shopping. When we got back home there was a big pile of gifts and shopping packets to be opened and assigned a place in my small apartment. Deepak promised we would move into a bigger place he was soon going to buy when he got his promotion.

The last package I opened contained the six inch tall statuette of the Buddha meditating sitting in the lotus pose I had bought for ten dollars. It was dark chocolaty brown and red. I loved it. I had just been married and my husband was the best in the world. Six months of bliss. I installed it on a wall unit with the other gifts we had received. Over time I noticed the meditating Buddha changed its colors according to my life moods. It was dark when my life was not going so well but became lighter if I was happy. Perhaps it was just in my mind.

Sadly, things began to sour after that. Deepak had an anger problem. He could not hold a job. He would fight with his colleagues and eventually throw a punch at someone or other. He began to turn violent against me too. I went into shock.

This Deepak I discovered is a big lout of a fellow but a gigantic pussy. He is a Mamma’s boy. Mamma has been promoting his tantrums for ages. Mamma (Mom-in-law) rang up every morning and checked with her son about my doings. Did Sania make breakfast for you today? Is she using her credit card? Why does she need to work? We are landed people our bahus (daughters-in-law) don’t work. These service people don’t have any culture.

I tried to melt into the great culture of my husband’s violent family. Fisticuffs were common between my husband and his cousins, brothers and his uncles. It was their sophisticated culture. They settled every dispute on the spot and then went on arm in arm to that great Punjabi male chauvinistic Nirvana in the sky. I sadly could not hear the piper they danced to.

There had been love between us. I stuck to that romantic dream.

“He will get ok when he gets a good job.”

His mother would ring up daily and I approximated after ten calls I was primed up for a beating. My friends and colleagues asked me to run away. Alas it was my home. I was still paying installments for my tiny apartment. I would not budge from my home. Sadly the beatings increased and I ran away to my cousin’s place nearby. This pattern of existence continued for years. He would beat me, I would escape to some family member’s place. He would become repentant after a few days and somehow make me come back.

This is the time when the practitioners of Feng Shui, group chanting, long forgotten aunts appear to give you home truths of the highest order. My aunt Sushma took one look at my apartment and said, ‘bad vibes.’ She glanced over the souvenirs and gifts I had installed in a wall unit and ‘tut tut tut’ she went.

‘A sad Buddha meditating always brings misfortune; throw it out’ said my aunt.

‘I will. I will just give it away to someone’ I reassured her. She had lunch blessed me and my sulking hubby and went on her way.

I picked up the Buddha and could not bring myself to throw it into the dustbin. It is an Indian religious thing. Every deity is sacred and can wreak devastation upon a home if not carefully handled. Ok I would just go and place it under a Peepal tree. That was the sanctuary for all discarded house gods. After Diwali that is where the rough pottery Ganeshas  and Laxmis are relegated. Someone takes them away eventually. Someone who believes in God more than us city people.

I indeed had to run away. I gave all my things to my friend Kolna to sell or donate. She brought her car and helped me fill my car with my clothes and meager things that my nasty husband would allow me to take away. I went away to a new city which I still will not reveal to others because of my fear of my ex-husband. Of course I felt like Julia Roberts in ‘Sleeping with the Enemy.’ At tremendous cost of time and money I would go to New Delhi to attend divorce court appointments. Deepak harassed me till he found someone to love in his demented way. I said good riddance and signed on the dotted line though in my heart I hated his newfound love.

My friend Kolna is a brave and adventurous girl. I was still learning to drive my newly bought small car when our marriage broke up. In my new city I found a good job and was after months able to build a new independent life free of the fear of my ex-husband. I found it very inconvenient to use the public transport system and wished I had brought my new car with me. It was still parked at Kolna’s large house. The brave girl volunteered to drive the car to my city all alone. I loved the idea though I feared for her safety on the unruly traffic infested highways of India.

I sat in my pleasant balcony in the evening having tea and watching the light traffic of my suburban apartment. I was waiting for Kolna. It was almost nine in the night when she arrived. I was so happy to see her. It was a weekend and we spent the night talking and talking sipping on perfectly chilled wine and home delivered food. I was finally free of Sergeant Major Deepak. My divorce was through and I admitted to Kolna about having met Mr. Right at the office. She too had met someone through a matrimonial online service and was now on her fourth date the next weekend. It was a great get together. Sunday we spent exploring the ethnic clothes of famous markets of my new home town.

Monday morning I dropped Kolna at the airport and went to work in my newly arrived car. In the morning the building’s gardener/liftman/cook/electrician/plumber named Ramoo helped me carry the packets from the car which had been left with Kolna in Delhi. Everyone trusts Ramoo and I left my door keys with him so that he could unpack the packets and place them on proper shelves and cupboards. Ramoo does not need to be told. He is super and has a woman’s instinct for storage logistics.

In the evening when I came back the apartment was looking spic and span. Thanks to Ramoo’s magical dusting cloth. Life became pleasant again. My Mr. Right, Laxman proposed and we were soon married. He moved in with me because my apartment was bigger. Of course he took care of the rent and the groceries and everything. I have never seen a more patient and generous man.  Life went on smoothly for us and we were soon planning on having a baby. Laxman had already bought the apartment we lived in. So no more rent. Things were going pretty smoothly and as they in old Hindi movies, ‘Jolly Good!”

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Suddenly out of my old life came an email. It was from Aunt Sushma. She was coming to visit me for a day. How did she find out my email address and where I lived? I did not even try to guess her secret informant. She came in glowing the next morning after the email. It was a Sunday.

Aunt Sushma had tea and then set out to debrief us. She wanted to know everything. Her cleverly disguised questions soon unveiled layer by layer of my life in the last years since my divorce. She filled us with information about herself too.

“See,” she said, “your life turned better after you threw away that sad Buddha. I have a feeling for these things these so called objets d’art.”

She went on and on and we surreptitiously looked at the wall clock. Her train left at five. It was still only two. We finished lunch slowly hoping the food and juices would pacify her tongue. Alas it was not to be. Laxman had volunteered to drive her to the railway station which was only fifteen minutes away. I had excused myself with a slight headache which I had really acquired listening to Aunt Sushma. She looked at the wall clock. It was four.

“Ok show me all the rooms.” Laxman volunteered. He was so good. I sat down in the large lounge chair breathing cooling mantras my yoga guru had taught me. Ten minutes later there was a shrill shriek, ‘She’s still got it. Abomination. Throw it away Laxman. This moment.’

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I followed the shriek to my third room which generally is unused. On one corner shelf high on the wall was ensconced the sorrowful Buddha, Aunt Sushma had told me to throw away. I too was amazed, how did it get here? Then I remembered the hectic exit from my New Delhi house; the packing done by Kolna; the packages in my new car left at Kolna’s home. She must have brought the package containing the ‘to-be-discarded-unfortunate Buddha.’ Ramoo must have unpacked it and shelved it on the unused third room. Aunt Sushma soon left dismayed escorted to the railway station by my husband. I brought a joss stick and placed it in the tiny holder provided by the side of the Buddha. I lit the fragrant sandal wood agarbati. The aroma wafted away my fears if there were any left out of the window.

Things are fine with me and my husband. We have a two year old daughter now. Her name is Ilna. She is full of laughter. The Buddha has been promoted and now brought to the living room above the television. I send up a silent prayer of thanks to Buddha for watching over me all this time. This silent knowledge seeking and right path showing reincarnation of Vishnoo had guided me through difficult times. Behind the scenes.

People and not statues bring misery to our lives. On the obverse side, good people bring joy and happiness to our lives. People like Laxman and Ilna and of course blessed objets d’art.