Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Little Girl in Paradise – PART ONE

A mighty bird circled above a tree guarding its nest.  Snow-capped mountains of the Himalayan range stretched in the horizon for miles dividing the continent.  They loomed over crevices, ravines and valleys as they stretched upward reaching for the sky.  Sheltered by the high mountain range, the valley boasted green prairies, translucent lakes, colorful wildflowers, gurgling rivers, succulent apple orchards and mountainside wild life and the settlement of Kashmir under the Raj.  Within this valley a bustling city, Srinagar flaunted a large lake nicknamed “the jewel of Srinagar”.  The jewels in Dal Lake were numerous and diverse.  Floating gardens drifted parading their lotus blossoms and lily pads.  Long Shikaras speckled the lake as they rowed people to floating hotels and houseboats, scenic gardens in the far banks or just for a serene cruise.  Tiny islands boasted the Chinar trees with their hollow trunks.

Shiv stood at the bank of the lake that featured the Moghul gardens.  His eight year-old legs took him aimlessly through apple orchards and walnut trees.  He explored in the crevices of the Chinar trunks and sat cross-legged in the hollow center, pretending to meditate.  Before the sun started its low descent to rest its head on the pillows of the mountains, Shiv ran to his large, bustling house.  He dashed through the open gate of the boundary wall and stopped in the courtyard where his father stood with his six brothers and their children.

Shiv looked up at their worried faces then turned towards the screams coming from the room with the closed door.  The door opened and his mother stepped out.  Without meeting anyone’s eyes, she dashed into the kitchen and ran back into the room.  A few minutes later, the door opened again and one of his aunts stepped out, ran to her room, and returned with something tucked under her sari.  She slipped back into the room from which the screams were louder and more frequent.  Then a cry. Shiv looked up.  It was the cry of a baby.  His mother slowly stepped out and walked towards his oldest uncle.  “It’s a girl,” she announced.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Best Friend

Beagles and their urge to chew
It is their destiny to be shrew
You give them food, they gobble it up
For every treat they’d waddle or sit up

Raw hides or chew toys are not enough
They even munch the inedible stuff
Carpets or sofas, take your pick
These in my tummy, make me sick

Chomping, munching and gobbling
Canine jaws working at gnawing
Whatever they see in the mouth it goes
In the tummy out the poop by joes!

Beagles and their urge to chew
But their loving friendship is few
They look up with those expectant eyes
What they dislike most is goodbyes

Right next to your sitting form
They cuddle up close to you at home
Licking away tears off your cheeks
Cheering is their business, they are not meek

Sensitive and depressed they feel
Love is their next best meal.
In quiet they lick their wounds
Uncomplaining remain these hounds.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Perception of Peace

The obvious definition of Peace is the elimination of wars, violence and conflicts.
But what about the inner conflict that we all battle with daily?
In our struggle to find or define happiness, our mind has become chaotic
We have added so much noise with constant internal dialogue
We have even become slaves to intense emotions driven by fear and greed,
There is never an end to wanting. 

I believe Peace is bliss
It is silence
It is solace
It is a relaxed mind
It is even detachment

When individual minds are at rest, conflicts and struggles are undesired
Strong emotions become placid
Thought processes become clear
Everyone is calm.

When internal conflicts are resolved wars and violence appear meaningless
External strife dissipates
Harmony takes over
Life becomes a blissful journey…

Saturday, November 19, 2011


The sun does not reach my eyes in time for the procession
monks had proceeded down the depression

I wake with a start, don my robes
run up the mountain to see them below

I see a stream of fire, orange robes ablaze
flowing down like lava, a path to carve

their chants fly like birds over the ranges
rise into my ears echo through the ridges,

I observe my own robes, pale in comparison
I stand on the edge, waver to be risen

the climb had been long and hard
a journey alone, no one to hold a hand

turning back is not an option joining them is deception
right or left, I can choose a path, whatever the destination

the sun sky high with mystical illumination
the monks bathe in lightness, shadows my culmination.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Second Life

I am cold, oh, so cold….

My nostrils tingle with the smell of ammonia.  I hear wheels tweaking under my weight as I am being rolled away.  I open my eyes and whiteness greets me – ceilings, walls, nurses’ uniforms, and even their skin.  It’s cold.

My lips feel dry.  I cry out weakly, “mummy, water”.  No response, only the sound of the wheels and the never-ending ceiling above me.  I am laying flat on my back and as I look down my body, I see suction tubes all over my chest.  I get scared but am too weak to cry.  I close my eyes.  The dry lips hurt.  Nothing happens even when I lick them.  I feebly moan, “Water.  Mummy please!”  I hear weeping.  Just quiet, contained sobs.  I wonder why nobody is responding.  Are they going to let me die of thirst?

I open my eyes again and see that the ceiling is still passing by overhead, more slowly now.  Nancy, the nice nurse leans over bringing something white to my lips.  It’s a wet cotton swab.  Is that all the water they are going to give me?  I hear more sobs and recognize that it’s my mother.  She is pleading with the doctor to give me more water.  I don’t see Dr. Stark but recognize his husky voice.  He is trying to explain to my mother that it’s not safe yet.  I hear my father speak but can’t hear what he is saying.  The wheels stop.  I feel something cold and shiny on my dry lips.  It’s water!  A whole spoonful!  I fall into a deep sleep.

Crash! I wake with a start.  My head and chest hurt.  I’m cold and feel something prickly on my arm.  I try to sit up.  An unfamiliar nurse comes to me right away gently making me stay still.  I realize the noise was of my I.V. cart that had bumped with the bed’s metal frame.  I was in a special room, not the ward with other kids.  I deciphered the letters on the frosted glass window.  It said, I.C.U.  “Now what could that mean?” I wondered, “A special code for the doctors – icu?”

I lay back in my bed to rest.  I think back the past month when we first reached London in a big airplane all the way from India.  I enjoyed my view of the clouds and toy-like houses below from my window seat.  On the way to my cousin, Anita’s house, I spotted red double-decker buses on the streets.  I also got to play with Anita’s cute toys and especially loved her tiny tea-set.  She is also 5, like me.  I remember the old Mrs. Rudge who babysat us some days.  Her daughter, Lorraine, was mean to me.  I also hated the food there, boiled meat and mashed potatoes.  Yuk!  Some days, though, Mrs. Rudge would take us to an indoor park where we could run around, jump on the trampoline, and play on the monkey bars.  There were also many other kids there our age.  We could never play outside since it was always raining.  I don’t even remember seeing Mr. Sun since we arrived here, in early March.  But we had to stay for my surgery, else I would die.

I had overheard my father tell somebody that my heart condition was called ASD/VSD.  Later, when I asked him he explained that I had a hole in my heart.  However, my main problem was that the flow of my blood went the wrong way and when it came to the hole the good blood was able to go to my body.  The doctor at the children’s hospital could fix me so I can run and walk, without gasping for air all the time.  My heart wouldn’t beat as loudly anymore and my face won’t turn blue whenever I cried.

Suddenly, I hear a squeak from the door and quiet footsteps entering my icu room.  I see mummy and papa and give them a big smile.  They are overwhelmed with joy, tears going down their cheeks.  Their eyes show love and relief.  Their daughter had returned from the clutches of death.  I learn that I will be moved to the ward tomorrow.  I can see all my friends again, even Lisa, who gave me the big activity book with fancy markers.  But soon I will be able to go home, back to India on the big airplane.  I can see my baby brother who is with grandma.  Soon I can play all the running games with my friends and won’t feel left out.

I feel very tired.  My eyelids are getting heavy and I feel drifting into dreamland seeing bunny shaped clouds, toy houses, tiny cars, little people, and a giant tea-set.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


She takes the shawl
in her hands
admiring its simplicity,
respects its shade of mud
its patterns
of delicate intricacy,
loves the muted tones
of yellow, green, red
of threads in its embroidery,
runs a finger over
the meticulous design
across the narrow periphery,

elevating this simple gift
high above her eyes
amazed by its beauty,
feeling its softness
on each cheek
melting in its velvety,

made from soft hairs
of hardy beast of Himalaya
that is its specialty,
its warmth, its softness
known around the land
famous across boundary,

she holds the fabric
to her chest
valuing its austerity,
she brings the shawl
to her nose
drinking aromas spicy,
buries her face
in its warmth
revering its intensity,
drapes the shawl
over her shoulders

In its healing comfort
Its quiet affection
Its loving melody.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mother of my Children

First time I saw her was through the bars of her kitchen window.  She stood in profile in deep concentration over the stove.  Steam from the pan rose in the air, settling on her delicate skin to form tiny beads on her forehead.  Her dark long hair collected loosely at the nape like silken drapes.  Few strands escaped veiling her face like a lace curtain.  With her free hand she used long fingers to guide the runaways behind her ears.  She used the back of her hand to wipe her forehead.  A shiny wet bead hung loosely at the tip of her elegant nose, threatening to take the leap.  She ran a finger over it and the plunge was averted.

I moved closer to the bars and called out.  “Didi, what are you making?  Smells good.”

Her face turned showing small, round eyes and arched eyebrows in surprise.  Her lips widened lighting up her entire, round face into a smile.  “Dumm Alu.”

She returned to the stove.  After a brief pause, she added in a barely audible voice.  “But I’m just frying the potatoes now.”

            I leaned on the window sill and asked, “So soon?  The henna is still red on your hands.”

           Her response was a smile and lowered eyelids.

            We met again the next day, over our adjoining terrace.  She was collecting sun soaked laundry from the line.  We talked until she was called away.  Her duties were never ending even as a newly-wed.

Finding comfort in each other’s company, we found ways to do chores together.  We sat in the alley next to each other among other neighborhood women.  Some sifted through the lentils or rice to remove the pebbles.  Others tackled the mending or embroidered intricate patterns.  We mostly kept to ourselves, listening in on the gossip or banter among the older women.  Our own conversations were muted.

She was shy and uncertain.  She listened while I talked.  I pointed out the interesting personalities and the various generations among us.  I filled her in on the neighborhood scandals and shocking developments in the inhabitants’ lives.  Her nods were slight and surprises innocent.

Our best times together were the walks to the dairy.  We carried the empty steel cans half a mile returning with the containers filled with creamy, buffalo milk.  It was on those walks she started to open up.  Her smiles were genuine but suppressed in larger company.  Her voice was soft but strong.  She had a deep enthusiasm to learn.  She shared tales of her childhood filled with mischief and adventure.  Her reminiscence allowed me to peak into the life of a spirited young woman.

            During the same time I was discovering my new friend, she was finding changes in herself.  Soon her belly started to show.  Within the first year of her marriage, she gave birth to a beautiful girl of twinkling eyes and happy disposition.  Motherhood came naturally as her duties extended from household chores.  We still found time to be together.

As her daughter stepped into toddlerhood, the strain on my friend’s face started to show.  She masked her pains well with smiles.  What she could not hide were the shadows under her eyes.  As I noticed and commented on her weight loss, she shared the happy news.  Her womb was filled with another joy.

I responded with concern.  “Will you be able to manage the two and all the duties at home?”

As I had expected, she replied with a smile.  “I have nothing to complain about.  My husband loves me and I have the gift of motherhood.  I am happy with my treasures.”

She went on to talk of personal matters.  Her relationship with her husband was of deep mutual respect and friendship.  She shared her dreams for her children.  I listened and watched her perform her duties with effort as her body changed.  The pregnancy was hard.  Our excursions to the dairy became fewer until they were not possible anymore.

After a long and hard labor, a beautiful tiny boy joined her family the following spring.  I saw joy in her eyes but also noticed that smiling seemed a strain.

Our evening walks to the dairy continued.  In the chatter of close friends I did not notice until months later that the walks had actually become slower.  My friend had developed a limp.  Her face showed no signs of pain but the limp was obvious.  She dismissed it to being tired.

She had seen different doctors, subjected to various tests.  The diagnosis was hushed.  It was the disease that eats from the inside and robs of small pleasures of life.  With no known cure, her cancer had started to spread in her leg.

To limit the spread, the doctors advised amputation.  Within months of the surgery, she carried on her shoulder the strong determination to live.  Holding a pair of crutches under her arms, she hopped around the house doing chores.  Our conversations continued through the bars of the kitchen window.  She balanced her weight on a crutch as she cooked the family meal.

Several years progressed with her daughter blooming into a beautiful eight-year old and son chatting away at five.  Her children spent hours at my house playing with my young brothers or out in the alley with all the neighborhood children.

 My friend kept her spirits and moved about the house.  But her body showed signs of deterioration.  The cancer had travelled up and into her very spirit.

I remember those last days.  Bedridden and in pain, she began to fade away.  Her eyes spoke with plea as her hand rested on her children’s head.  I promised with my eyes to take care of them as my own.  Her last moments were shielded from her children as they were sent to my house.  My friend suffered quietly the strain on her body and the pain of leaving her young ones behind.  She departed in suffering but with a smile.

Years later, I stepped into her big shoes and became the mother of her children.  My friend Madhu lives on through us and her children.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Journey of my Stories

Life is a climb through rough terrain to reach new heights or a flowing river serenely following its path.  It's an obstruction run in one phase and a quiet walk by a lake in another.  It sinks to the bottom of the well one season and reaches the highest peak in a new one.  Life carries on with joy and love of friends and family but the constant reminder that nothing is forever leaves you feeling alone.  This blog is to share stories of the lives of characters I have developed by observing and studying people, conversations on lives of those before us or of other lands and contemplating on life's great journey itself.  I look forward to this journey of sharing my stories with a larger audience.