Friday, August 28, 2009

The Funeral Diaries - Part I

Om taccham yoravrini mahe
gaatum yajnaya
gaatum yajnapataye
daivi svastirastu naha
svastir maanushebhyaha
urdhvam jigatu bheshajam
sham no astu dvipade
sham chatushpade
Om shantih shantih shantihi

We worship and pray to the Supreme Lord for the welfare of all beings. May all miseries and shortcomings leave us forever so that we may always sing for the Lord during the holy fire ceremonies. May all medicinal herbs grow in potency so that all diseases may be cured. May the gods rain peace on us. May all the two-legged creatures be happy, and may all the four-legged creatures also be happy. May there be peace in the hearts of all beings in all realms.

She's watching them, and they her, although it is two different things now. Her sons: the eldest, the middle one and the youngest. The fourth is far away: separated by time, distance, words and circumstances.

She'd cradled all of them once: bathed them, massaging them, rubbing hard against the hair to give them the creamy, hair-less, soft skin that is their surname: the fair one. The middle son is bathing her today: he anoints her with sandalwood, tags her with abil, gulal, kanku. There's a slow, methodical love in his hands: how does he know this, she wonders? It does not come naturally to his gender, and yet, he knows how to prop her head up, how to drape the clothes on her, how to arrange the flowers. He's chanting too: and she knows her husband is watching too, flushed with pride. The pandit with four sons, named after the Gods themselves: three atheists and only one believer. The other two are watching too: working in a tandem that beats age-gaps, egos and beliefs.

Om sahasra shirsha purushaha
sahasrakshaha sahasrapat
sa bhumim vishvato vritva
atyatishthad dhashangulam

The Purusha (the Supreme Being) has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet. He has enveloped this world from all sides and has (even) transcended it by ten angulas or inches.

What are they thinking, she wonders. Do they remember my anger? Piercing words. The rolling pin, the kitchen utensils that were an extension of my arm, and my anger. Once, a hot pincer that had found its way to the eldest one.
But he bothered me so, the eldest one. A naughtiness and boisterousness that defied his asthma-racked body, malnourished from the hand-to-mouth existence that marked my youth, my middleage.
Do they remember the love? The going hungry to feed them food? The walking barefoot to chosen deities, scorching sun and blistered feet? The fasts, the giving up of favoured things, the countless nights spent, stroking, sighing, sitting? The warm, ghee-soaked sheera that I fed them before I offered it to my Lord?

purusha evedagam sarvam
yadbhutam yaccha bhavyam
utamritatva syeshanaha
yadanne natirohati

All this is verily the Purusha. All that which existed in the past or will come into being in the future (is also the Purusha). Also, he is the Lord of immortality. That which grows profusely by food (is also the Purusha).

Me, the shipping magnate's daughter with rooms of my own, watching the waves roll in from my window to the endless. Me, the pandit's angsty wife, raising four sons and two daughters and one more in a one-room house, designated corners to cook, to pee, to bathe. Me, the woman who put her youth and her beauty in the aluminium trunk I carried my wedding clothes in, and locked it in for mothballs and silverfish to enjoy.

Me, the creator of my own destiny. Me, the forger of my own fortune. Me, the mother of four sons. One who I drove away with my words. One who lived with me, but who still seeks a semblance of happiness from a life in which I weed-ed out love. Wife to a man whose malaise was generosity, whose curse was his concern for other people, whose gifts were only for the hapless.

Me, Prasanna Gauri, named after the Devi who is both happy and gracious, benevolent and serene.


to be continued...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michami Dukkadam

I've always been a great believer in confessions: maybe all those stories of Hindu mythology where repentance equalled a spiritual and karmic cleansing, coupled with my convent education, have super-glued it to my sub-conscious.

When I was a teenager and did things or thought of things that I was too embarrassed or afraid to tell my mum, I confessed to my diary, spelling it out frankly, sometimes hoping that mum would pick the diary up, and read it, and I would be absolved of all guilt. That she was fiercely adamant about giving me my own privacy, is a different matter.

Marrying into a Jain family, and living with Jain in-laws (I live in a joint family: you do know that right?!), I've come to value the ritual of Michami Dukkadam immensely. On the eighth day of Paryushan, the Jain festival of fasting, on Samvatsari, Jains wish one another, big and small, with a firmly clasped Namaste and a body posture bent at the spine, asking for forgiveness, for hurt caused through thoughts and deeds, knowingly and unknowingly committed. One day when you must ask for forgiveness even from your enemies. It's a gratifying scene to witness grandparents bowing to grandchildren, young children bowing to their friends. There is no age for the asking of forgiveness, no gender, no economical or social status.

My sincerest Michami Dukkadam yesterday went to Nino:
For those first five days when I made him feel unwanted, unwelcome and insecure. For my lack of patience; for my inability to understand that his boisterous ways are not as much a lack of discipline as it is in his nature; for exposing him to the complications of adult relations and for taking it for granted that he does not understand the undercurrents of tensions. For my inabilities, for my excesses, for my demons, for my errors and for my tears: Michami Dukkadam, dearest son.

Amma always said bending makes you stronger: and yet I failed to bow yesterday and respond to Nino's Dad's greetings of forgiveness: there were too many currents flowing within me and the froth of the churning waves refused to let me surface and reciprocate, perhaps because I knew the gesture was only ritualistic. And yet, it deserved a reply, because I too have much to be apologetic for, my whip-lash of a tongue being predominant. It is not easy to live with someone who is a fierce critic: I've seen it too close to not know how damaging words can be.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top Clicks

I wish I could write this in the dockyard-stamp font that is used on notices!

Anyhow, I just wanted to draw attention to the Top Clicks section on the right-hand side of the page, just below Nino's age-tracker, and to the subject, before I change it.

We're massive fans of whales here: I believe Nino picked up his first adjective, gentle, thanks to the great giants of the sea. His first fact for show-off is also associated with them: they're the world largest animals, some as big as two buses parked one after the other.

For me, it has always been like seeing the starry sky on a cloudless night: the sheer size and beauty of it makes you and in a way, your issues, insignificant.

The first link is the incredible story of a man, who has travelled the world and spent his life, seeing, understanding and chronicling these treasures. I always thought I'd have the balls to do something like that: to not worry about money or stability and follow a dream till it soaks into the very bone of my being, and I can exorcise it. That I din't is another story, albeit adventurous in its own way :)

The second link was the result of one day's frantic googling on 'tips to make baby sleep'. Whale sounds can be beautifully soothing and eerie as well: I distinctly remember the hair on my nape standing up when I heard their distress calls to each other. They're a great way to teaching kids how animals converse as well: how they love, and ask for help and show anger or happiness.


I've loved using the whale to explain to Nino the concept of power, and the choice of how to apply/use it. I don't know if I've gotten through to him, but I work on it regularly: it's a lesson for life.

If you're going to be talking whales with your little one, maybe you can try listening to Baby Beluga by Raffi. It's the easiest song in the world to fall in love with: and so happy.

We don't have any specific whale books: Nino has nature encyclopedias, painstakingly separated into various animal/element kingdoms by Naani, and he just keeps on looking at the whale pages and asking me to 'quantify' their size and power. You can also try Edward Lear's A Was Once An Apple Pie - The whale is the only animal in reference to whom the world 'little' is not used, and surprise, surprise, a couple of repeats later, the young ones will spot that out real quick.

I'd loved reading Moby Dick when I was a kid - I don't remember how old - but you know how Montessori believes education must be muscle memory as well as mental learning? Well, that book made the sheer size of these creatures a muscle memory for me. This way, even old age can't take it away! There are lots of abridged versions available for older kids, although, if you can, you should read it too.

We also loved Free Willy: but I will tell you we'd a few tricky patches with it. You might have to face questions on exactly why Jessie is living with an 'uncle and an aunty' instead of his 'mum and dad', and why Willy is sad in the aquarium, and what Jessie will do without Willie, his 'only friend'. Nino literally sobbed through the movie: and he remembers the oddest thing about it today: that Willy's fin was 'bent' because he was unhappy. It also helped him differentiate between fishes and mammals, and why whales can stay out of water for a bit.

If it's a 'compare' day: just 'how big' Mama - see these pictures.

And here's a free pdf on how to make an Origami whale.

I hope you have fun!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Things I Googled This Week Vol.1

You know how it is, that when you've said something really personal to a someone you're just getting to know, conversation and contact become painfully embarrassing... well something like that, so small talk to fill the shy gap...


1) Snail and slug care in India.
Mr Sneelock has me reading up on the uses of different kind of compost, why snails need their daily calcium dose too, and the wonders of that shell he carries on his back.

2) Put pockets.
What's the opposite of pick pockets? Apparently '20 former pickpockets in London have turned over a new leaf and are now trawling tourist sites slipping money back into unsuspecting pockets' - atleast the economic crisis brought about some good.

3) B12 deficiency.
Nino might have one: he's been very fatigued lately, and has the most perplexing nerve-cramps: I thought only pregnant women or middle-agers got them. His toes just tremor apart every time he has a bath: and he's up most nights with nerve pain in his calves. Apparently drinking RO water gives your a B12 deficiency. More digging needed.

4) Merritt Malloy
Her Epitaph reminds me of my grandmum. She passed away last August.

5) River cruises on the Bramhaputra.
Beautiful, untouched and incredible. Also, unaffordable at this point in time. Still, I looked and imagined all the conversations I'd have with Nino on the cruise boats, on seeing the one-horned rhino, on waking up to fresh fish on the deck. And the pictures I'd take.


The inspiration of the list comes from here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our newest family member

Meet Mr Sneelock, our mighty African snail. He (well Nino insists he is a he, although snails can be hermaphrodites) loves potatoes, moneyplant leaves, lettuce and doodhi, in that order. He's a very curious guy and makes a lot of poo for a little fella. Slightly bigger than my palm when's he out and in his form, Mr Sneelock, says Nino, loves boys who do acrobatics. He also loves to walk, sip water from his leaf-shaped private pool and pee on the walls. Plus he has 'suction cups' on his belly, just like Spiderman, adds Nino.

He's our newest family member: and perfect entertainment for too hot weekend afternoons.
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