Archive for June, 2008

Two expressions that I love….

June 26, 2008

Through the past week (yes, it is 7 days today since my brother suddenly decided to move on), I have heard two lovely expressions that are very common here….

1. “What’s there!”.

This is said in response to your thanking someone for something. “Thank you for the efforts you have taken for us.” “What’s there!” (Roughly, “it doesn’t matter, don’t mention it, it was no big deal.”

2. “That’s there.”

This is said in agreement with some point that you have made. “BMTC is not doing enough to solve public transport issues in Bangalore…but they are also working under a lot of contraints, like bad roads.” “That’s there.” (Roughly, “yes, I agree with you, the point you have made is valid.”

I am totally used to both expressions…but they never fail to tickle me. They are there….

What sort of assers are these?

June 26, 2008

Obviously, if you are infringing on other’s property rights, you are an ass…but it’s nice to see, once in a while, someone being called just that…

I hope I will never tresp, er, tressp, on others’ property…

The three things that help me…

June 25, 2008

Many of my relatives were aghast when I decided not to do a professional course (particularly, the medical course that my parents were hoping I would do) and decided on studying English, and Philosophy instead, and took up music very seriously.

I think I had a Liberal Arts education….before the term was invented.

But today, whenever I have to face a crisis, these three things…the ability to express myself, the philosophy that I studied, and the music that I practiced so sincerely…..they stand me in good stead. They prevent me from slipping deep into the Slough of Despond that Chaucer talked about, and bear me up to face life once again, and start over with a smile.

“tum ithnA jO muskurA rahEy hO…kyA gam hai jiskO cchupA rahEy ho?” goes a beautiful ghazal by Kaifi Azmi.

Who knows how many tears others’ smiles cover?

June 25, 2008

One of my favourite songs on death, bereavement, and philosophy. The movie is “pAlum pazhamum” (milk and fruits, given traditionally for the nuptials after the wedding); the actor is “Sivaji” Ganesan. The actor, in the movie, is a doctor who has lost his wife.

And the lyrics are by that immortal poet, KannadAsan….poetry is the art of tugging at one’s heart-strings with just a few syllables.

Unfortunately, the embedding is disabled, a user-unfriendly thing that people often do,don’t know why…

lyrics and rough translation here

To my friends….

June 24, 2008

Those two overused words: Thank and You.

Your affection and your care comes through, and that’s what matters to us right now.

Yes, Anjana is here, and Derek is arriving on Friday night (managed some time off from his demanding job!) so we will be together for a while….oh, it’s going to be a long road to the new and altered normality, but we have started walking on it now.

I have been singing out loud a lot (we only had close friends and relatives yesterday and I was able to sing) and that has helped ME a lot. My common-sense husband, whose lack of emotion (actually, lack of display of it) I sometimes deplore, has been a rock since he came back.

I am sad, but also realize that I have so much to be thankful for….

Thoughts on rites and rituals, and et ceteras….

June 23, 2008

Some reasons why I think we have all these rites and rituals:

The house will be full of people who each have hes own ideas of what should be done to a)give peace to the departed soul and b) will be the “proper” thing to do. The situation is great fun because so many of the ideas are at variance with one another. Thankfully, at least at my brother’s place, one person’s decision is respected. But normally, this would make for a lot of interesting situations. A set of given rites and rituals would–at least in part– obviate all such differences of “how things should be done”.

The relatives are often people who are not used to sitting idle, and therefore promptly start in on each other and use the occasion to settle several old scores (and begin new ones.) I have certainly seen this happen in several homes, where one would think that adults would behave like adults, restrained in the face of loss and sorrow. But no….so, giving each an allocated role, and a pre-determined task, would certainly give all of them something to do, and prevent much of the friction that could ensue. (Who is allocated what task and what role, of course, is often the source of more friction!)

Visitors, too, are better able to follow set timings to visit,and set things to do, when there is a pre-arranged set of rituals. Otherwise, one has the piquant situations of visitors who don’t know which days are “good” or “bad” to visit, and the even more funny situation (it happened here yesterday) of visitors who come over, don’t know when to leave, and stay for several hours as a result. (We gently eased out a couple of visitors four hours after their arrival, I am not joking.)

It is a pleasure to see my sister-in-law’s relatives calmly taking up whatever immediate job needs to be done, and just doing it and abiding by the decisions the designated decision-maker is taking. They never fuss….and it is so heartening to see them being a source of comfort to my sis in law, instead of the reverse situation I often see elsewhere.

We had a simple and dignified Arya Samaj ceremony this morning, and the priest told us how, in our culture, the soul is believed to be permanent, and it is the remains that have turned to ashes. And most important, my sis in law felt comforted and more at peace….and that IS the entire point of a “shanthi havan” or “sacred fire ritual for peace.”

We do need some ritual, I suppose, to give some sense of closure..though we couldn’t help thinking of both my father’s and brother’s irreverent remarks… like my father’s “Don’t light up incense sticks in front of my picture, just light up a good Benson and Hedges” and my brother’s, “If Dad knew what a bomb all these funeral rites were costing, he would just say, ‘Hey, I’ve decided not to die after all!’ ”

I am planning, since I am on the net and the visitors seem not to require my presence just yet, to look at INW images, my usual source of comfort….and I snapped thisnice b&w scene of a drongo on a tree, at Mydenahalli….I keep thinking of the forests, and that gives me solace.

Today we took some food over to donate to some home for the destitute…and we were told politely at the first place that they had received a lot of food from a restaurant, and they couldn’t use it. We then went to a second place, and THEY had received the excess food from the first place! The third place, a home for youngsters between 18 and 28, finally did take the food, and then we went to the Marina, and immersed some of the ashes and some from the “havan”. It was rather a dirty scene, but yet the waves and the breeze and the sand gave my heart a lot of comfort. There was a sense of feeling that what had contained my brother was now one with the elements…

It would have been very funny…

June 21, 2008

We had given an insertion in the newspaper, ” A V passed away”. It turns out there is another A V with connections to Calcutta, the city we grew up in, whose dad has the exact same name as my father, too…since the insertion appeared, we have been fielding calls from people who think this is the OTHER A V! I don’t know whether to cheerfully announce, “YOUR A V is probably hale and hearty, drop that funerary tone from your voice!” or to say quietly, as I do, “In any case, I am glad you called with affection in your keep in touch with those whom you have lost touch.”…there was a sneaky wish in my heart, once or twice, that it needn’t have been OUR A V…but then I was horrified at what I was thinking….

It’s rather funny to have to tell someone that they are needlessly condoling for someone..or it would be funny, if it wasn’t this situation…

Why can’t we have some music? That would ease my mind. The Christians have so much music as part of their funerary services…we just set aside music as only being for bhakti, or happiness…surely, surely, music can ease sorrow as well?

Love lost in the details….

June 21, 2008

“How many people will be having dinner?” (Remember, the idlis we bought from the nearby restaurant ran out yesterday morning because eight extra people showed up.)

“Is there anyone else who needs to be informed? Goodness, I nearly left out that cousin in Mumbai…and his wife had open-heart surgery last week and I was supposed to call and find out how she was doing, too….”

“Please do come in (who on earth is this, is this my sis-in-law’s official colleague, or someone who knew her dad earlier?)….yes…it was all rather unexpected…”

“No, I have not asked my sis in law what she wants to do about the ceremonies (you insensitive person, let her get over crying first), I really can’t tell you what will happen, or when…”

“Bedding….do we have enough pillows?”

“Make the list of the various kitchen items that are required…where are the milk coupons? Is there someone to just go and get enough milk to provide coffee for all the visitors?”

“Hello…yes, this is A’s sister here….yes, thank you for your condolences (you have been on the phone talking about your own illness for twenty minutes, lady, can you release the line, you seem to have known my brother when he was about sixteen…I do value your reminiscences, but they are upsetting me and I don’t want to hear about your “uterus operation” and why it is preventing you from visiting, right now…) I am so glad you called; keep us in your prayers…”

“We DID try and take him to the hospital, and no, he was NOT ill….”

“Hold on, I’ll pay the pall-bearers and the pundit, but why is he charging us SO much?”

“Did you get the death certificate? It has to be xeroxed umpteen number of times….”

“That aunt won’t eat anything made with onions in it, and the other gentleman wants hot water…”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter that so-and-so didn’t come to see A. People keep away for different reasons…”

And then everything comes to a complete halt as I see my brother’s writing: it says “Funti”, which was his own Orrible Pet Name for my daughter, and her telephone number next to it….

The tears fall inside my eyelids, inside my heart. My voice doesn’t waver. I don’t break down. I am the strong person, I am the one who can cope, the one who can manage, the one in control.

It’s necessary also to keep every guest in the house reasonably happy; I don’t want any arguments or ill-feeling erupting or even festering quietly.

He just went off, my laughing, sardonic-sense-of-humour brother, he’s left us to deal with this mess of how to conduct the death ceremonies, which he had no faith in, with a bunch of relatives he used to laugh at…

Crying inside is tougher than crying outside.


June 20, 2008

I had hardly entered my home after the Thattekkad trip when I got the news….I lost my dearly beloved brother….

I drove down to Chennai with a little help and a lot of support from amoghavarsha and it’s SO unreal, that my brother, my little kid-brother with that incredibly happy, sunny outlook on life, that gifted musician with a great sense of humour, is now a pile of ashes….

Sudden, fast, unexpected…that’s life.

It’s only my brother’s wife (who is as dear to me as my own sister) and I who have to take care of things here. KM is in the US….there is no other immediate family.

When one person is emotionally devastated, the other has to keep cool, take care of arrangements, see to the feeding of visitors and guests, and do a hundred and one things…there is no time for tears, maybe I can shed them later, maybe they will dry up unshed….

I will be back to some semblance of normality….in a while….

Keep me in your thoughts please.

For the first time…

June 16, 2008

We had an NTP outing to Mydenahalli…adarshraju,anjali_ar, Geeta, Prasanna, and I….and we got to see several BLACKBUCK, a couple of FOXES, and several birds…..we got home very, very late and I was downloading the pictures from my 20D into my laptop when the power went…and along with it, the pictures on my 20D CF card, too. I had got nice shots of the BUSHLARKS, especially, and the backs of the blackbucks….feeling rather bad for their loss. Didn’t even get to see some of the pics properly…

I have to finish packing, and leave for Thattekad by the early morning train….oh, well, these things happen, let me see what I have on the S3….

Imagine, instead of seeing the blackbuck photos which I went so far to get, you will have to see this GRASSHOPPER, beautifully camouflaged in the grass!

I have never lost photographs to limbo before, and I hope it will not happen again.

G’night, all, will be back on Thursday…