An unobtrusive, luminous thing


I have never thought of it like this – the special kind of ‘empty’ unstructured time you get to have when you are mainly home watching over a young child – gives you moments that you never expected – or ways of looking at the same, familiar sights, in an entirely new way.

Nearly 20 years ago, when my parents were able to invest in this house and make it their own, they took great pride in giving it personal touches to mark their particular aesthetic sensibility on its walls and interiors – my father would have thrown his head back and guffawed if he was around to read this – ‘sensibility?’ he would have said – ‘what exactly does that pretentious word mean anyway?!’

Both shared an interest in the crafts, both were drawn to simple, earthy design, and both had discovered a wonderful architect at a local Laurie Baker centre not too far from our new, and for the first time, owned home.

So even though resources were tight and a complete makeover was impossible, they found ingenuous ways with the architect, now part of the family as son and brother, to remove the sordidness of a banal, basic flat.

One of the improvements they decided to add was to cut a long room into two by building a trademark Laurie Baker feature – an exposed brick arch – which discreetly announced the separation of two spaces – a dining and living room area – and my father in his desire to add his own flourish to it requested Anna (the architect) to insert asymmetrical marble planks underneath the two half arches adjoining the main structure.

I used to be a tad embarrassed by their incongruity, the fact that they didn’t look like marble and that they were asymmetrical. But I knew better than to argue with my father about it.

Yesterday, as T and I lay in the hall, with our old water cooler blowing lovely cool air towards us and further on down the length of the house, I noticed light bouncing off the marble plank as though it were a piece of glass, and I thought to myself, what a wonderful quirky presence it brings to an otherwise deliberately draped and darkened space to stave off the hot sun; a quiet, unobtrusive, luminous thing.

And that reminded me of my father of course and I thought 9 years after his passing I’m at greater peace with my grief over his physical absence and quite certain in ways that sound ludicrous and mad that he is not and can never really be ever gone.

The gift of sight


Nothing clarifies to me the preciousness of being alive than the renewed knowledge of a physical limitation.

When I close my left eye and try to read this page with only my right eye I don’t see so well – the vision is mildly blurred and accompanied by a faint darting black dot that no spectacles or surgery can remedy.

13 years ago, around this time, in the first few months of the new year, on my first visit and stay in London, I had suddenly lost vision in my right eye while working on the editorial desk of the BBC’s South Asian Regional Unit at the now historic and former Bush House.

Thankfully, despite all the doleful and flat-faced diagnoses I was given at the various clinics my dear friend Aasiya dragged me to, my vision did return over those first few scary weeks, but it has never come back in full.

Lots of case studies I have read since make me feel grateful that I ‘got away’ with just a diminished quality of vision – and not a complete loss.

And this evening, when I accidentally closed my eye and realised that I do indeed live with an eye that doesn’t see as well as it could have, or as well as the other, does, it comes to me so clearly how futile all the other fights and nagging and arguments and rages are; what is not futile is being reminded how lucky I am to have been loved the way I was by people and friends who had just got to know me in a place so far from home; to be alive at all and to have sight; and to have at least a handful of people around me who care about how I am.

The hard part is remembering all this at every moment, without having to shut one eye, every day!