Everybody’s loss


And so a life comes to an end. Found fallen on the side of her bed in the morning by her daughter in law who was used to waking many hours after her. Our local GP confirmed there were no injuries and that the cause of death was not the fall.

I didn’t know her much except as one of the less frequent walking partners of my mum’s little gang of mummies/grannies. Everyone knew she had miraculously escaped death after a horrific road accident in the hills that took her husband in a flash. She spent hours in the ICU not knowing he was gone. Having survived showed in the form of huge scars lined across the side of her head, an unsteady gait and labored breathing from earlier but made much worse by the accident.

And yet every time I have had occasion to meet her I have been humbled by her courage, easy smile, warmth and dignity. She never had time for gossip, never inquired why anyone lived the way they did, never interfered in anyone’s business and seemed to think, life isn’t always fair but its alright.

Although I couldn’t join the mourners, I did witness the small religious ceremony that a Sikh priest conducted with great grace in our common courtyard. Everyone who could come down was there and for those few minutes her passing away was everyone’s loss. As the priest’s voice soared blessing her body and her departed spirit, everyone was reminded of our common destiny. How we all one day have to say goodbye and go onward — to wherever it is that we are destined to go.

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The languor of summer afternoons


Being able to lounge around in your night clothes on a lazy weekend afternoon with no great plans and no burning ambition to achieve anything of any significance is the kind of life I remember having had in my youth. Often enough what that state of being was usually a precursor to was long bouts of reading — cooped up in a room, with some light in the vicinity switched on, or beside a window through which the unparalleled light of the sun was pouring in.

Unexpectedly, I got the rare privilege of having a considerably large window of time the other day to do exactly that. Not with the same sense of gay abandon I suppose — which is only fair given how much older one has become and given how one must know that time cannot be lived in the exact same way at some other time under other conditions but even so — achingly close and similar to that earlier memory.

And in doing so what I found was how the mind lets you float back so easily to memories from so long ago — the soaring songs a lover once played in a language you once knew as a child which came back to you in snatches, the confusing look of acute concentration on his face that frightened you in its innocence and intensity, the pleading in his eyes as he hoped you would stop giggling from nervousness and just listen quietly in the stillness of a hot Delhi afternoon, in a room too large, too ornate, too filled with carefully placed artifacts to do any justice to the Soprano’s song of loss and longing.

And it makes you think what if you had given in? How different would life have been? Would you have felt a closeness to his river, the Danube? Who knows, really?

And then, another old memory. Of having lost vision suddenly in one eye on my first trip abroad on my own as an adult, walking in thankfulness side by side in the shivering cool breeze by the Thames in February with an old friend, who always had time to meet me when I finished work, who always took me to a new cafe or restaurant with ‘student rates’ to ensure I tucked into some dinner, who always listened openly and fully to whatever it was that I was saying — whose steadfast friendship, affection and love helped me get through my first professional training course while fighting the horrifying possibility of going completely blind.

But also in retrospect now the embarrassingly ungrateful way in which I fell madly in love with his best friend a quiet, reserved Irishman — who took me in, made me for the duration of my stay in his city a part of his inner circle, who spoke to me at length of his family, his ailing mum, his distant, calculating siblings, his father’s painful passing — and then almost just as quickly dropped me off. Leaving me wondering even now what exactly ‘went wrong’ as though one could ever really understand why we feel what we do — whether meeting him at another time may have led to other outcomes — and if what had to happen, had to happen then why at all it did?

The book that precipitated all these old memories did so in part because it was also about young love. It made me remember the exquisitely painful experience of being wrapped up in another person’s life as though there was nothing else really worth living for. And yet, in hindsight, the wonderful thing seems to be that it is all worth it. All the pain, all the anguish, all the suffering. What exactly for I cant quite yet say but worth it, yes, without a doubt.

Gratitude


Lucky to have the leisure to rest. Lucky to have a bed to do it on. Lucky that the heat gives way to a thunderstorm, rain and cool gales. Lucky to have work I love (most of the time). Lucky weekends are truly off. Lucky the body is mostly well. Lucky there is a roof over our heads. Lucky there is food to eat, water to drink, air to breathe, people to love. Lucky to have a laugh often enough. Lucky to have friends who check on me in just the way I want. Lucky that all the grueling long hours spent on work are slowly transforming into greater trust. Lucky to be able to notice the small things. The blade of grass, the sharp-edged hedge, the squirrel darting across, the little myna bird singing a rhythmic, high-pitched song. Lucky to see the day unfold in all its glory. The quiet of the early morning, the steady, unforgiving roar of desert heat at noon, the relative mildness of late evenings, the luxury of conditioned cool air in the night. Lucky to be here. Lucky to be alive.