Friday, February 27, 2015

Not this; not this.

Stillness pervades all. Beneath the ripples, the waves and the turbulence on the surface, deep underneath is stillness that never moved, was never a participant nor ever will be anything but what it is – stillness.

Neti Neti - not this, not this – the only reality in a world of constant movement, the waves and the ripples and the stir, the impermanence of everything which is transitory and shifting, there is though only one truth, deep down beneath all that is moving, it a stillness that never moved. Nothing brings us closest to this truth than the constantly moving Ganga in Rishikesh.

Water is life; water is therapeutic. When we watch without disturbance, water falling or moving, it brings our mind to stillness. Not like it never was there, but because when the ripples of thought and waves of upheavals rest, there is, and ever will be only stillness.  

Be Watchful.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sleeping with Mummy’s

Chhana Chatterjee's home
When I was a student in Bombay, our home used to have a little visitor from the neighbourhood. Named Shompa, she was 3 months old when her father or mother came to drop her at our place for the whole day, while they went to work. Shopma was an unplanned child and her elder sister was already 10 years when quite by chance, Shopma’s decided to visit planet earth. My aunt, who loved babies, was overjoyed to have Shopma around and I too took much pleasure in this little bundle. One of the things I remember about her is that after her feed, you had to place in her hand, her mother’s handkerchief which turned out to be her ‘security blanket’. As soon as she held it in her little hands, she fell asleep. The procedure was the same, if she cried for some reason – once you placed her ‘security blanket’ in her hand, she became quiet.

Only very recently, I came across another experience with ‘security blanket’ when a tiny little cat, picked up from near the garbage on the road, exhibited similar behavior.

Chhana Chatterjee’s home with his single mother is in the Suburban Bombay. He is the size of a tiny white ball, resembling the Indian dahiwala’s ball of makkhan, which translates like this, for those who do not know the terms, dahiwala – man who sells milk and curd at the local market; makkhan is the equivalent of home-made butter, got from churning milk cream. If that too is too difficult to imagine, then just settle for a very large snow ball, fluffy and soft. Yes, that is Chhana Chatterjee! 

Little ChhanaChaterjee with Otto
Leave that as it may, the cute little story I began to tell you was that little Chhana Chatterjee, sleeps by himself all alone in his basket, because, Otto, the black and white larger cat, you saw in the picture up there, sleeps with his mother on her bed, making noises all night, to wake her up and play. Not a very nice thing to do, because, his mother works all day and needs her sleep in the night, but Otto, who has slept all day, is ready to play at night! And if you are sleeping with Auto’s mother, God save you!

Suddenly in the middle of the night, you might just have a gentle paw spread right across your face, trying to wake you up. Never mind the ill manicured and smelly toes - Psssst! Hope his mother is not reading this – you are most likely to jump out of your skin and not only your bed and let out a sharp loud cry that can split the night air and tear it to fragments. Thank God it is Bombay, you say, where the night never sleeps nor the sound decibel ever gets low.

But, no matter what, Chhana Chatterjee continues to sleep because; he has what Otto does not have. And I will give you a fraction of a second to tell me what it is.

The ‘security blanket’ of course!

Snuggled under the T-Shirt, which has been worn by his mother and therefore has her smell, little Chhana Chatterjee sleeps on. The moment his mother puts the T-shirt over his ‘home’, even if the lights in the room are glaring and can make you blind, for Chhana, it is night! Until the T-shirt is taken off, or rather the ‘security blanket’ removed, Chhana Chatterjee is cozy and fast asleep! In his mind, he is sleeping with Mummy’s.

Just like Shopma with her ‘security blanket’ in my student days in Bombay! Aren't human beings so much like cats?

Acknowledgement - Thank you Debika Chhaterjee for providing the real life photographs

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Old wine tastes sweet, sometimes.

Visiting a place you have left behind or people you are no more in daily contact with, because they are no more a part of your life, causes both a feeling of happiness as well as sadness. Let me explain.

Many moons ago, I came to stay in a city which was buzzing with life. Over the years, it made me, molding me from raw and ready clay to a finished good ready to take on the world. The city was Bombay.

I can’t say I was ever in love with the city – who can really be, if you have come from the laid back life of a small town, picturesque and beautiful. Yet, the cement blocks of which I was going to see a lot in later years as well, grew in me and the people became my family. Yes, they say, in Bombay, you do not need your family; your neighbours make up for your family.

After thirteen years, I escaped to another place, close to Bombay, where the quality of life resembled what I had left behind, long ago. So, why did I return to Bombay after eight years out of it?

I longed to be in the hustle bustle of daily life, waking up at 5 am to take a train at 7 am to reach my work place at 9 am! Five years and I was done.

One day, I sat and calculated the number of hours I was on the road and it worked out to be like this: Out of 12 months in a year, I was only living 8, because the rest of the time I was travelling! It hit me like a bolt from the sky and I said to myself – Hey! I am not going to live like this anymore.

Just at that time, love came knocking at my door and I opened it to find that I was already flying out to another place, a place I was going to call my home.

Fifteen years in one place, changes you, for better or for worse. But it has contributed more to me than I can measure. Delhi is my jaan, my love, my life now.

Returning to Bombay, only recently, I realized that I was tremendously happy to be there and it almost seemed that I would return, just like I had many years ago, after living 8 years in a place which gave me, ease and a good lifestyle.  But early came a few warnings!

Friends and family I left behind years ago, were lukewarm.  They were also busy – Still! Even over the weekend, they did not have the time to meet. I understood! Isn't Bombay the place, where you promise to meet friends almost every week but can make it only once every other year? So why blame them; I am forgotten not because there is a problem with me, but because, life is so fast, it is like the old cassette we used to have, where you overwrite and everything is wiped out. So too me.

And there were a few new associations which were so warm and welcoming that I almost stayed behind. But good providence and past experience warned me of the devil within and the carrot that always hangs before a donkey, before it makes another enormous mistake!

I think that creative upheaval is a very positive thing and it pushes you beyond yourself to achieve new dimensions. This is exactly my point of view why I upturned my life so many times for a new place where I could start from scratch once again. But this time, I was shy of it.

It is indeed hard to create your stability with a city. It takes years to do it. And once it is cemented, then, it is foolish to ruffle up everything and start all over again.

There might be a home for me out there, but really Bombay, I am done with you and while I enjoyed my years with you, indeed, you are only old wine that tastes sweet, sometimes.

Photo credit HERE  

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Saving Snoopy

Honeymoon holidays are not always about romance. In fact, quite often it may turn out to be one where you become a mother immediately.

When my partner and I decided to visit the place we wanted to set shop and home, we went to the northeast of India to mix pleasure and business together. It was early March. The wind was strong at that time of the year with occasional rain even. One day, staying over at a family friend’s place, we woke in the night with the sound of a puppy crying. Shivering in the cold, we found a small creature looking like a tennis ball, yelling at the top of her voice. She was cold and miserable and very hungry. She had also lost her mother, because she had been wondering around.

We instantly picked her up and I got busy trying to find her something warm and something to eat or drink. She was a little baby and I was not sure if she would drink anything outside of her mother’s milk. But be that as it may, I quickly warmed up a little milk and fed it to her. She drank up the milk as if she had not eaten in a long time, but within half an hour she also brought it all up. And again began to cry loudly.

I knew my sleep was gone for that night and I would have to hold the baby in my arms till dawn. And it was exactly that. Every time I closed my eyes, she would begin to cry softly gradually progressing to loud yelling. When my eyes were open, she would nap in my arms!

Thus began a story with Snoopy, our little hill dog. The next day, we both went to look for her mother all around the neighbourhood. But, alas, no, we just could not find her. And so, even as the growing romance was sharply interrupted by a baby on hand, I became a mother!

When we, a family of three, settled down in a house, rented out to us, overlooking our shop called “Grub”, we had the most wonderful neighbor called Wilty Aunty and Uncle. They had retired from Kolkata and returned back home to build a lovely English style house with a large garden. Snoopy found her grand parents in them.

Wilty aunty’s daughter lived with her husband and two daughters in Italy and her son, an Air India pilot, lived in Mumbai. The couple had many relatives in the place they settled down in and rarely bothered to busy themselves with the lives of their children. But I heard a lot about them.

Wilty aunty had lost her father early in life and her mother went out to work, leaving her in the care of her pet dog. Indeed, it is the dog that looked after her, while her mother returned every two hours to visit her as a baby in the care of her dog. And so, Wilty aunty knew a ‘dog language’ which Snoopy picked up easily. You should have seen them when Snoopy got a bath in Wilty aunty’s bath tub.

The two would enter a tub that was filled with warm water and Wilty aunty would start to give Snoopy a bath. And the whole bathroom would be splashed with water. There inside would be Wilty aunty struggling with Snoopy and outside, a fully wet Uncle would stand with a stick to scare Snoopy and try to manage her. But, it was useless. Snoopy would jump out of the tub and throw herself on their carpet to wipe herself dry, while there ran a wild couple behind her, trying to throw the towel on her. The loud screams from all quarters nearly brought the house down!

“Be careful,” she warned me, “those boys who live in the rooms below, will kill Snoopy and have a hearty meal. They eat dogs.” Wilty aunty warned.

I could hardly believe what they said, but we all got very cautious thereafter. But Snoopy never became their lunch. Nor her grandparents ever failed to keep a watchful eye over her.

And I continued to be a mother.