Yesterday’s experience will remain a cozy oasis in my heart. As I’d declared on my status yesterday, I had a date with my boss and his son. It turned out to be a heartwarming day despite the relentless dreary drizzle.
I’d promised my Jewish boss Hal that I’d accompany him to our Ganesh temple in Flushing Queens, New York to commence 2015 on a solid footing. Super busy Hal meditates daily being a marshal arts sensei, an ex- Hollywood actor who teaches acting and runs own dojo besides selling real estate. After working eleven plus years for him, I’ve come to love him as a dear friend. He was always around with door to door service when I had my various minor + surgeries over the years.
I am plain thankful that I landed a job with him after working three years for a bitter corrosive she-devil of a realtor. The contrast took a while to sink in when I first joined present workplace. Basically in literal sense I landed from fire into a shady glen. And that’s how my life has been more or less in every context.
Now to the present. Our one to one with Lord Ganesha went rather well and the priest was exceptionally gracious to us as there were only a handful of brave souls around. After the usual ‘Parikrama’ (circling the temple of deity) post archanas (offerings and requests) we decided to meditate. Hal, my boss can enter what he calls his ‘pleasure dome’ with a blink of an eye and how I envy him that- my mind is too restless to stay still. Either I connect right away or languish in anguish. Yesterday I did not connect unlike a week or so back when I went with Ganesh and had a wonderful connection that had warmed body and soul right away. Soon afterwards, we were on our way to appease our grumpy bellies and much to my relief Hal and junior enjoyed their ven pongal (a khichidi of rice and mung lentil with curry leaves, cashew nuts and whole black peppercorns and lots of ghee) and Pondicherry dosa (rice and lentil crepe) very much along with brewed Madras coffee. Then we were on our way to Hal’s planned surprise visit to an authentic Chinese gourmet tea place.
Parking was impossible and hence Paul offered to stay in the car while we went inside to the tea store/ expo. It was a wonderful experience.
First of all the decor was aesthetically pleasing and the staff wore traditional Chinese garbs. After enquiring about our wishes, the host beckoned us to a ‘tea ceremony readied table’. The seats were not too low and luckily I was wearing my knee joint sleeves and could maneuver easily. Then began a wondrous calming experience. Being overly receptive to atmospheric vibes, I was soon at ease ready to be beguiled. Tea is a passion with me as is and I often take the trouble to warm my cup and pots and steep tea well before drinking my perfect cuppa.
Our host was a diminutive Chinese lady and in her hushed quiet manner she explained the true nature, age and therapeutic value of each variety. Even small packages can cost over a hundred bucks given how aged they were was an eye opener for me. We were served five helpings in tiny porcelain cups of each variety of tea and this tasting can cost anywhere from five to ten dollars per person. Hal was only interested in Pu-erh teas that come compressed in bricks or cakes and one can enjoy up to ten steepings with only one pellet/cake same day or next day max. The serving cups were merely 2-3 gulps full in depth and made of fine bone china. First she poured steaming hot water in the pot containing pu-erh tea disc – then she rinsed ours and her cup with hot water prior to pouring the tea into a small serving pot, using that to fill our cups. Her graceful hands and quiet demeanor were rather calming and as the aroma and flavor of the tea coursed inside my veins I felt a lovely haze steal all over. All haste and impatience had fled and I felt rather laid back and euphoric. Soon the tea ceremony was over and after purchasing some tea bricks we left for next work appointment. And that is that…
both images are from google
Today I’ve decided to visit all the flagged, so called peaks in the EKG of my life. This is one reading I can do without waiting for medical reports to come in and disentangle me from tenterhooks’ misery.
Most families have black sheep and “monsoon wedding like uncles with octopus limbs- I’ve had my share and reason why I recall them is the Tom and Jerry element of it – my cousins and I were quick on our feet and usually eluded these rascals. Molesters do come in many garbs and I wish the elders had warned early on before the fact instead of sweeping under the carpet later.
Olden days Bombay abounded with Irani Hotels around most street corners. We were no different. We were often sent on small errands to buy bread (pav) and butter from these places. One such hotel owner was a real lecher and dangled free candies as a lure. I recall us kids grabbing the candies and making a run for it. He was too lazy and fat to give chase. We had lots of “scramble” practice as we often stole guavas and raw mangoes jumping boundary walls of our building being chased away by a furious stick wielding guard.
We often ate hibiscus flowers but spat out raw papayas at they tasted yuck.
Another great memory is sticking our tiny fingers in the pickle jars “marinating” on our building roof belonging to neighbors and mom. Their taste still brings a mouth watering rush in mouth.
Speaking of roofs, brings back memory of maternal grandpa’s house where the street had back to back houses and the roofs had common walls. It was a great lark to jump over these walls and reach the other end of the street. Come to think of it, it would’ve worked perfectly for cops and robbers in our movies.
We often peeked into houses out of sheer curiosity and one memory I am ashamed of is peeking into a newly wed bride’s chamber on her first night. How we kids had tittered at that making up tall stories. They were Kashmiri Brahmin family and the bride was drop dead gorgeous.
Another great “roof” memory at grandpa’s house is of the lit tandoor and freshly baked stuffed paranthas liberally served with fresh home made butter and lassi. We put away so much food but were still as thin as reeds. One thing I greatly enjoyed was narrating english horror movies to maternal uncle and aunt and as my memory was impeccable I brought all the horror and gore alive- uncle (Mama) would shiver and hug his wife tight and we had a good laugh.
Dad’s sister too lived in Amritsar and her sprawling mansion was next to the rail tracks. We had fun at her place as well as they lived in one big joint family and there were cousins galore. Especially boy cousins who had other “boy” friends and we had a great time mingling with them. We enjoyed fierce table tennis and carom board matches among other things. One memory that is seared in my brain is viewing a bleeding head separated from its torso of a suicide that had occurred on the rail tracks and we had a clear view from the roof. I did not sleep for a long time after that. For breakfast in aunt’s house we were served fresh paranthas topped with ghee and rolled into logs- sometimes it was topped with jams. They drank gallons of tea and I think I developed my tea habit here. In Bombay we usually had bread and porridge for breakfast hence this recollection.
Dad mostly stressed on English language and was a walking dictionary as I recall hence my Hindi and Marathi grip were rather poor and learnt from the help or whatever we heard when mom read from the scriptures daily. Here in aunt’s house, my cousin bro read a lot of Hindi detective novels of Captain Vinod and his sidekick Hamid –guess our Indian version of Sherlock and Watson. Being an incorrigible bookworm and out of sheer boredom, I took to reading these books and thus polished my Hindi.
Before starting school in Bombay dad had engaged a tuition teacher Miss. Caur who was a real lady “Hitler”. She had mom oil our calves daily to enable her to smack us with a ruler in case we didn’t come up to snuff. I have always been too proud to cry and had deprived her of that pleasure. The sheer ignominy of it still rankles! Luckily Ms. Caur got married off soon by her uncle aunt as she was an orphan and dressed in our Sunday best, full of joy we waved her goodbye as her ship sailed away for Singapore from the Victoria docks, Bombay.
continuing so called highlighted moments of growing pains in 1950s Bombay –
Life as I recall was rather simple in those days and for entertainment we had lots of outdoor games
with droves of friends from same school, hood. I had a close gang of sixteen at one time and I recall
this due to number of birthday invites. We played eyes-spies, seven tiles, kabbaddi, hop scotch during
dry months in outdoor games and for indoor games we played with marbles and cowrie shells plus carom and
ouja-planchette boards during the relentless monsoon season. One evening it was exceptionally dreary, wet
and grey and the as the grown ups were at a nearby get together we decided to beckon spirits on the planchette.
The atmosphere was perfect – if only we could lure a spirit to predict our school results and satisfy our
curiosity on love and marriage. With one finger each firmly holding the glass down with flickering candles
for light and billowing sheer curtains we were quite hopeful when suddenly the glass started moving briskly.
For a moment we became fearful but with hearts in mouth we doggedly started taking turns seeking answers to
our burning questions. We had called the spirit of a known young person who’d died recently and knew us
as I recall. We all got ball park numbers as far as school marks were concerned and a couple of startling
answers that were not common knowledge. Then suddenly the candles blew out followed by a violent crack of
thunder and lightening and then a deafening sound of a craaaashhhhh. The glass fell from the table shattering
into smithereens even as the curtains billowed violently frightening us to death. Rather chastened and shook
up we all slunk away avoiding each other’s eyes. I am not sure if it was us moving the glass as a single
entity or if we had had a ghostly guest. It’s anybody’s guess.
In those days neighbors that we frequently got together with were punjabis and the Arya samaj faction of it
formed a moral police of sorts. I don’t recall mom and dad ever joining them preferring to keep own counsel.
In building next to ours was a Cinderella family with nasty stepmom and sisters. Our Cinderella was nothing
much to look at being spitting image of her dad with gaunt face and bunny teeth but we all felt sorry for her.
I don’t recall what brought events to head but one Sunday the whole community got together after the
ritualistic Sunday Havan puja. They congregated outside the Cinderella apartment and loud peremptory tone
ordered the family out. Said family trooped out and then the leader of the moral police garlanded the
cuckold with a string of old slippers and poured cooled down ashes over his head blackening his face
infront of whole community. They decried the fact that he couldn’t stop his wife from ill treating
the step child and forced him to marry her off at the earliest with everyone’s help to bring some
cheer in the poor girl’s hitherto sorry life. The stepmom was ostracized by everyone.
I was a slip of a girl and in early years was constantly coaxed to eat my veggies and fruits along
with fish oil and other health supplements. My dangles were mostly indian sweets, chocolates and puddings.
I think I grew up mostly on these supplements together with jello puddings. I was rather raucous when
in throes of hissy fits and tantrums and once at the end of his tether our mild dad scooped me up and
lowered me in a huge gunny sack with handles which he hung on the living room wall.
The sheer humiliation of it still reddens my face in recollection. I was put out of my misery
when I finally fell asleep in it and woke up in my bed. Dad was six two and he often let me play
with the ceiling fan when it was off.
to be contd….. maybe
Often certain words or sights spiral into nostalgia fits and I revisit some cozy memories that more than eke a smile on my usual laughter ridden lips.
First, I want to mention the hibiscus flower which grew in abundance along our building boundary wall separating us from the train station in Bombay. ( to my mind I cannot for the life of me call it Mumbai!). I have no idea why we called them shoe flowers and often ate them, stamens and all. I can still experience its tast…e on my tongue. It was almost like sticky sweet okra that we Indians call “lady finger”. We equally enjoyed bootlegged guavas and raw green mangoes especially as they had an element of danger attached to them as we often got threatened and chased away by a fat stick wielding gardener (maali). That adrenalin rush still makes me smile.
Such utter bliss of insouciant childhood cannot be replicated later on in life.
Now on to pigeons. Whenever, wherever I see pigeons I get drawn to them right away. Be it our flat in Bombay or later in Delhi and grandpa’s house in Amritsar Punjab, we always had pigeon nests and “cooing” sounds are as comforting to me as the noisy rattle of moving trains. One memory truly gets highlighted in mind as it was horrifying. Once our Nepali cook captured one less than full grown pigeon as he wished to cook it for a friend who had a severe case of pneumonia. Pigeons according to him sped up the curing process for such ailments.
We simply enjoyed following the whole birth cycle – eggs, to cracking shells to baby pigeons and then the swooping take offs. Mum, a stickler for cleanliness usually clucked her unhappiness as she got the bits of sticks and dry grass swept for the umpteenth time. I even took a real close up of a pigeon in Lisbon Portugal in which you can even see its yellow eyeball.
Red hibiscus is the flower of the Hindu goddess Kali,
and appears frequently in depictions of her in the art of Bengal, India,
often with the goddess and the flower merging in form. The hibiscus is used
as an offering to goddess Kali and Lord Ganesh in Hindu worship.
Hemingway, with his creation of the six-word story,
combined poetry and drama into a short form that has
grown in popularity while remaining difficult to achieve.
For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn. —Ernest Hemingway
Longed for him. Got him. Shit. —Margaret Atwood
Well, I thought it was funny. —Stephen Colbert
Revenge is living well, without you. —Joyce Carol Oates
All those pages in the fire. – Despair, Janette Burroway
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Seriously life is no laughing matter
Laughing matter is what life is, seriously
cutting smiley faces word cookies seriously
Jealousy nip in bud stop flowering
Two timing bigamist roasted fired solo
Glorious autumn natures last hurrah applause
Mind boggling contortionist untangled at last
Terse levity with brevity always rocks
Opponents politicians woo glue sundry blues
four eyes, love marriage, kids, old
doyen’s family sad, young widow happy
cage open bird flew cat happy
mafia twins identical, police mystified conned
orphaned newborn abandoned old father remarried
big note, discarded pants, beggar rejoices
Once upon a time, on any given day I used to read one-two books on daily basis. With photographic
memory and an inordinate love for lingua Anglais it was pure manna for me. Being an outdoorsy sporty type as well,
I used to play with friends after school until sun died down and cows went home! At home, I’d curl up in nooks
and crannies being quite slight in build and dad would have devil of a time searching for me and admonishing roundly
as he worried about my poor eyes –but in those days I rather fancied “spectacles” salivating for a pince-nez
on my perfectly formed nose! Later when I did get them as a wish fulfillment, I learnt to hate them malevolently! Ha!
I read just about everything I could lay my hands on but “thrillers, whodunits and then romances” were genres
I liked most in that order. Books found me like magnets to metal. Friends, acquaintances unloaded their piles
on me throughout the years and I’ve happily obliged.
Then I got married, became a wife and mother. Arranged marriages are usually hit or miss – mine was a huge miss-
enough said. For quarter century I lived a full fledged internal life behaving like an automaton externally.
I never thought there was an out until destiny declared ‘enough is enough’. Books had become a distant dream
during this period of my life. Then destiny decided to turn my life on its head and I got remarried.
I came into a house of book lovers in the big Apple no less! My suppressed love for words surfaced
and I swam in it deliriously. Regardless of good or bad times, I never lost my sense of humor –fake
or genuine; I took my laughter pill religiously. Above all, I survived. Writing became my outlet and poems
are my lazy way of expressing what’s in my heart and I think I’ve become adept at it- I have to be grateful
to two office colleagues who literally kicked my behind to get me started on my writing gig.
Now that I have a free hand and total freedom, I find that even though books give me a high like none other –
am unable to stay put and read one at a go – my long suppressed persona is like an imp that has suddenly
whooshed out of bottled life and wants to drink life real’s elixir firsthand and travel gives me these
highs and lows. I greedily drink nature in its full regalia with my 20/20 vision post cataract surgery
and being a people watcher I get further entertained. My home is overflowing with books that I fondle
lovingly; consoling them with words like “one day when I retire and come
to a full stop” I will sip you page by page cover to cover like my favorite masala chai!
Until then hold your horses”
What to do, life is short, I need to be everywhere in person, eyes all agog in wonderment. Still, that has
not stopped me from downloading books on my IPad and also buying “spined” ones. That is it – my confession
in a nutshell. I may also suffer from ADD -(attn. deficit disorder- maybe) lol ~ Finis.