I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
Today, as I reached Cubbon Park thirty minutes early for my bi-weekly class, I decided to take a brisk walk around. But my plans were thwarted by none other than a gigantic tree. I am always fascinated by trees. I stopped short in awe at the size of the tree. And that was when I noticed the squirrels and the parrots playfully prancing around. I lost sense of time as I stood and watched them in silence, taking care not to scare them away. Not that they were bothered. They were used to the humans walking in the park. So I had an eyeful of these merry creatures, and clicked some pictures too. Then I noticed a man placing some nuts on the branch of the tree. And the birds and squirrels playfully shared their bounty.
There were some pigeons too, near the tree trunk. All I had to do was shoo them away from the ground, to get a beautiful picture as they flew away. (No, I didn’t do that!). Guess I have a halo around my head now. It only takes a small part of nature for that positivity! This happy sight still lingers in the mind as the day progresses.
As I walked homewards after my morning walk, I saw her by her scooter, getting ready to go somewhere. She lives two doors away from mine. I stopped by and said a hello. She was happy to see me and her hello was warm. ‘Come home’, she said. ‘Sure, I will’, I replied.
Such common words! Come home. Sure I will. But how many times do we really take that next step? Really visit a person?
This lady is an avid gardener, and I often see her lush-green terrace garden on Facebook. Yes, you read that right. On Facebook. I did try to peep from my terrace, but could see nothing. And whenever I bumped into her in the neighborhood, I told her that I would come someday to see her terrace garden. And I continued to use the ‘like’ button to all the rich harvest of vegetables and herbs she grows. On Facebook. It had been a few years.
So this day, she invited me for lunch. It was Varamahalakshmi, so she said we could have lunch after the pooja. And then I thought, ‘enough of the like button on Facebook. Let’s get real!’ And I said yes. When she realized I was alone at home on that day, she made it a point to call me and ensure that I didn’t shy away.
The food was yummy, of course. But more than that, I discovered a very inspiring woman who has so much to teach me. And she lives right by my side! Had I missed lunch, I would have missed more than just a meal.
It is nice to meet people in the real world, especially those who are close by. And we miss seeing them because we are busy living in the virtual world.
PS: That’s a pic of the green haven on her terrace 🙂
A bright, lively young girl from a small town marries and moves in to a big city. Her husband is quite clear from the beginning that he does not want a career-oriented wife. And she is quite happy with that. But there is a restless energy within her. The husband recognizes it and encourages her to follow her heart and do whatever makes her happy. They do make a lovely couple.
As the years roll by, they move into a new locality. Her house is located at a place where she can see a different a section of society. She watches them through her window or balcony as she goes on with her day’s chores – where the people are not so affluent. They are not in slums, yes, but they do need to count their pennies before they spend. She notices that the children in that locality do not have the same privileges and luxuries that her daughter enjoys. They do not have even a small park! Most of us would have not given it a second thought. At most, some would have thanked god for their good fortune and gone on with their lives. Any other woman in her place would have blissfully spent the rest of her life in shopping, gossip and watching TV.
Not Vandana. She decided to do something for these kids. For a start, she decided to hold classes for them. Classes that they could not otherwise afford. They lived in a spacious three-bedroom flat, and she initially used the extra space to hold classes. She started with music and dance. Was she trained in music or dance? No! She thought out of the box, and got innovative. She hired teachers who were willing to come to her place and teach. She chose teachers who agreed with her concept of giving back to society, and did not demand high fees from students. Initially she went through the tedious job of moving furniture every time she had a class. She did it happily and single-handedly. The number of students began to swell, and the house was now too small to hold all classes without a hitch. Her next obstacle was finding a place. She was limited to the vicinity as the students would not attend classes if they were held too far. After searching for a few months, she found an open terrace with a small room that she used as her office. She invested in the required infrastructure to put up a roof so that the sun and rain did not disrupt the classes. She now added classes in oil painting, guitar and the harmonium. The people in the locality were very happy to have a place where they could learn so many things at affordable rates. Shortly thereafter, she had to move from this place as some people in the neighborhood did not approve of children talking and laughing, and also the sounds of music! She had to start all over in search of a place. She soon found one nearby.
There was no financial benefit at this stage. Vandana’s main needs were to pay rent for the place and to pay the teachers. The inflow was the same as the outflow. She did not aspire for more. As the school grew, she registered it and went official. She called it ‘Pratibha School of Art and Music’.
Her efforts have been recognized by the Karnataka Samskrutika Academy and she was awarded the Karnataka Bhushana in 2017.
Vandana is now a trained yoga teacher, and has added yoga to the list. It has been nine years since the school was started in 2009, and Pratibha today teaches the housewives too, along with the kids. These women find an outlet to learn things they wish to in their free time after completing their household chores.
It is a happy wife that keeps her surroundings happy, a happy neighborhood that makes a happy city, and then a happy country! May her tribe increase!
Yesterday, my neighbor was showing me her kitchen garden, and gave me the tomato and the chillies, which triggered some memories.
I had never gushed over a tomato. Never over a chilli! The sight of vegetables neatly piled up in the most creative way at the market, or either in heaps, to show the bountiful crop – all these failed to move me. They were just vegetables. Until now, that is. This is the effect that these silent green lives have over you. These were unplanned babies that sprouted out of the garbage heap. And the motherly heart said ‘no’ to uprooting them. So they were moved into pots with due honour. And before long, I found myself rejoicing the growth of every new leaf. When they flowered, it was such a lovely sight! And as the tiny little tomato and chilli made an appearance, I was eagerly looking up recipes for tomatoes and chillies.
The first tomato sat on the kitchen table. Somehow, I did not have the heart to cut it up. After all the recipes I had planned, I found that I was just looking at it – my first ‘crop’ of one tiny tomato. Too small for one meal. I admired the shiny skin and the healthy look. And it sat there until my son walked in, and popped it into his mouth, asking ‘mom, what’s for lunch?’ That was the end of my first ‘crop’.
This was a few years ago. Now for anyone laughing at my post – I suggest you grow your own veggies. I will be there to gush with you.
How many times have we heard women say ‘I want to work from home!’ with such a longing? Visions of sitting with a cup of steaming hot chai, after everyone has left home. Finish cooking. Supervise the maid. Sit in front of the computer for a while, and work. And then around the month end, feel that sense of pride with the paycheck. Oh yes, quite dreamy. But what is the reality?
The negatives first. At least what I went through. Initially when I started working from home, I realized that I was sleeping at about 3 a.m. And at times I had to get out of bed at 4 a.m. (not after sleeping at 3… I would be dead by now if I did that!), and straight away log in to the system. Because I had a deadline to meet. ‘Pure inefficiency’, someone commented. Oh yes. I was so inefficient that I could not complete my work on time. That was because there were so many other things that came up during my ‘office time’. Like the maid who went missing, the loving phone calls from bored friends, or the sweet lady in the neighbourhood who dropped in for a long chat – ‘I was just passing by, so I thought I’d say hello to you!’ ‘Oh! Hello! So sweet of you! But dahling, this is my work time!!’ I could not say that to her face. And the sweet lady remembered me almost every day! And then there was the young neighbor who was at my door with her year-old baby in tow. And before I could say anything, she thrust the kid into my arms and said, ‘I’ll be back…I need to go somewhere urgently and can’t take the kid!’ Sigh. Inefficiency it was. Until I started telling people clearly that it was my work hours and I would not like to be disturbed. Rude? Not really. I would call that efficiency now. But yes. The odd jobs (could be anything at all that requires your time and attention) that come your way, because ‘anyway you will be at home, right?’ cannot be avoided. Sometimes the totally lonely feeling, if you know what I mean. I miss the crowd, noise, and chatter of an office.
Now for the plus points. I can log in to the system in my night gown. No one to see. I don’t have to worry about what to wear. About which shoes and bag would match my outfit. No worries about transport. Rains? No worries! And yes, there is that small beep that comes at the end of the month to say that your salary is credited.
Thank God for the blessings!
I know that you are far better now than you were in your twenties. Wiser and smarter with all the experiences and lessons that life has bestowed you with. But there is more, my dear. From where I see things. Pay attention to what I say, so that you will be the happier for it when you reach where I am now.
First: Get rid of all the clutter. The physical, mental, and the emotional. I know you have started doing it. Keep at it. You can’t stop and say ‘I am done’. It is an ongoing process. You like to travel light. It applies to life too. Less clutter will make the journey of life easier.
Second: Forgive. I know you will say I am trying my best. Yes. Even that “…..”. YES. Those people first. Difficult, but not impossible. Forgiving clears your own soul.
Third: Love. Love with all your heart. Even those who you feel are not worthy of your affection.
Fourth: Accept people as they are. We can’t change others. Their qualities are what makes them unique. Just as you are, with all your quirks. We can only change ourselves.
Fifth: And the last, but definitely the most important. Pray. Pray for all the people that touch your life. And for those you don’t know, either. Pray for the upliftment for all living beings.
At eighty, this is what I want you to have achieved. The rest would have fallen in place if you did this.
All my love,
You, at eighty. (If you live till then!)
I was visiting a relative at a school she runs. As I was about to enter, I stopped at the doorway as I heard the melodious voice singing a bhajan. I tiptoed in and sat at the back, quietly listening. I remembered snippets I had heard about the lady who was singing, and quietly clicked her picture.
After the bhajan class, I stayed back to speak with the lady. Her name is Heera Bai. A very apt name indeed. And a bundle of surprises, I daresay.
She fulfils various roles as a wife, mother, daughter-in-law (‘My mother-in-law loves me!’ she says with pride. A ninth wonder in itself, if I may say so!), mother-in-law, and a grandmother too. Full of life, her enthusiasm for life is infectious.
‘I was a “tenth-fail,” ’ she says. A teasing comment about her being a failure at studies, for having failed her board exams in the tenth grade, spurred her into action. She took up teacher’s training and jumped headlong into a job. With the loving support from her family, of course. She explored her talent and her love of paper craft, and started teaching them to students. Today she knows at least one thousand different ways of putting a piece of paper to good use. She is now a proud holder of a masters’ degree in Kannada and an M.Ed. to boot. But what makes this lady outstanding is the selfless service she renders to people.
She is the proud winner of two prestigious awards. The first one is the Vishweshwaraiah award. She won the award for art and craft made out of waste materials. She had made dolls on the spot using the wraps used to cover apples! The other one is the Kempegowda award for which she won a cash prize of 25,000. This one for her selfless service rendered to the poor people. On probing, I discovered that she helps widows and poor people to claim the pension due to them from the government. These poor people are most of the time unaware of their rights, and are illiterate to know better. She also helps the sick people to claim money from the city corporation. ‘Most people are unaware that they are entitled to 50% of their hospitalization charges!’ she says with much sadness. Counselling is also a part of her services. She has been selflessly rendering this service since the past fifteen years.
Another feather in her cap is her helping nomads (they are called the Hakki Pikki tribe) to earn their livelihood. The government had provided them with land, but these people had no means of earning a livelihood. She taught them to make paper bags which they do even today, and earn a small amount for their daily needs. She tells the children ‘at least earn enough to buy coriander leaves for your mother!’ (Coriander leaves are the cheapest one can buy from the vegetable market). She teaches crafts which are for earning purposes and are also educative.
As she was talking, she took out an old invitation card out of her bag. She went on to draw a bird, and cut out the outline. In no time, she had a beautiful bird flapping its wings to a foot-tapping song with a story! She teaches this to kids which captures their interest in learning.
She teaches devotional songs, or what is known as devara nama in Karnataka, to the local people.
The highlight of her classes is that there is no remuneration that she charges or demands. She goes wherever she is requested to teach, and she accepts whatever they offer. Such generosity and thought process are rare in today’s world!!
She conducts free summer camps in art, craft, and music exhibitions. Again, the outstanding feature here is that as she conducts the camps for kids, she doesn’t allow the parents to be away … she invites them to join in and be creative with the kids. ‘Don’t go home to watch TV! Rather, spend some quality time with your child’ she tells them.
Heera Bai has come a long way, since the days she travelled changing two buses to reach a place of work, to travelling by auto or a cab. Again she stands out from the rest of the commuters – she carries a flask of tea, with disposable cups. For herself and the cab driver if he will have a cup of tea. And around noon, if you happen to be with her, you can be sure of a yummy meal – south-Indian style! Home cooked, and packed with love for any person who might be with her at that time!
‘My grandmother would always say: “Just as we cannot see our own backs, but know it is there on the body, so is God. Right behind our backs. Unseen, but always there!” ‘ Profound. And it is this motto that keeps her going. The main source of all her energy and vivacity is the unshakable faith she has in God.
I had a lunch of dosa with sambar, plus home-made mango pickles. Hmm … I would love to meet her often! And that would not be just for the lovely food, of course!
It has been raining cats and dogs in the past few days. As I sit sipping my evening tea looking out of the window, I see this fruit on the citrus plant outside.
The plant belongs to my neighbor. He is as sour as the fruit, minus the health/medicinal benefits. The couple loves plants. There is a very small stretch of land between our houses, and I can see so many plants there in that little space. They grow the seasonal vegetable or pulse which can be grown on a creeper. The creeper is then made to go up the terrace where it spreads out into a canopy on two clotheslines. And I get to see green outside the window. And every time I look out of the window and see the greenery outside, I thank God, and ask God to bless this man who chose to grow plants instead of extending his abode. Surly people need not be totally bad, huh?
I heard a saying that goes, ‘three things you can never choose: your parents, your neighbors and your boss’. Guess we got a good bargain.
What’s this new change in today’s world? Well, it is this app. Whatsapp. Now there must seldom be a person that exists, who has not heard of whatsapp. Today’s rage. The viral fever of the century…or is it the millennium? If I had to expand this word, it would be ‘what’s-this-appendage-that-grew-on-me-without-my realizing-it’. What the heck, the morning begins with the eyes opening to the mobile screen. Gone are the days of rubbing the palms in front of the eyes and chanting ‘karagre vasate…’. Those are obsolete now. Replaced by whatsapp.
A day starts with around 50-80 messages on an average. How can you not say ‘good morning’ to all those people who bothered to spam…errr… remember you, first thing in the morning!? And invariably, one starts replying. Then there are the well-wishers forwarding all the warning messages on what to eat and what not to eat, videos that expose the dangers of most of the things we eat or use in today’s world. Can’t begin the day without knowing so many things! And then there are some innocent people who believe that something bad would happen if they didn’t forward a message or a picture to that specified number of people, and lasso in all their acquaintances into it. Next come the humorous jokes that MUST be forwarded immediately to all people and groups in one’s own list. New in the market, hurry! Then the words of wisdom. By now, most of the population must have got their own halos. So much wisdom that trickles into the phone each day! Oh, did I mention the puzzles? Answer if you are smart. How can you let that pass? As one triumphantly figures out the answer, there are a few others who have already posted the answer … not so smart after all, huh?
And that reminds me… I am yet to use the most important app (appliance, not application) – the toothbrush!!
I recently took yoga classes for a bunch of kids at a playschool. This was a new experience for me – teaching yoga to kids. However, I was in for a pleasant shock on my first day at the playschool.
My classes were on alternate days for a month. The kids were of an assorted age group. The youngest was three-and-a-half, and the oldest was ten. I must have been a sight to see there, trying to make them stand still for even a minute! It was like trying to collect a brood of chicken into an open basket – by the time you got one into the basket, two others got out!
“Ma’am, I’m hurt!” (The kid wants to play outside)
“Ma’am, my stomach aches!” (The previous class was an experiment with ‘food’ and ice-creams!)
“Ma’am, I want to go to the wash room” (the same kid, every five minutes)
“Ma’am … look, I’m wounded!” (Shows the ‘wound’ – a fading mehandi design on the foot!)
I stood there a la Hamlet, in my typical Libran dilemma – to be or not to be. Strict with them, I mean. Then I thought, these were kids trying to ‘enjoy’ their summer vacations, while the parents were at work. How could I be strict with them? But on the other hand, I was there to teach them. It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t!
Finally, I decided. I cannot change them. I had to be the change. I started asking them about animals, and taught them some breathing exercises like rabbit breathing, dog breathing, and tiger breathing. I spoke about a park and showed them the vrikshasana and the butterfly asana. And the month flew by.
On the last day of the class, there was a get-together where the kids enacted a play, and the parents came to watch. I was not there. They were asked a question – which was the class they liked the most? And do you believe they said ‘yoga class’?