A life beautiful, and a death serene

Two months >>>>>>>>>>  Eleven years and eight months

29 October 2006 ——>>> 8th June 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was not a post whose time had come, neither Nikki’s to leave.

But unexpectedly, after just a day of being unwell, which I attributed to fever, she passed away quietly. Just the night before I had sat up with her from 12 am to 1 am, thinking she is a little unwell- for the whole previous day she had not eaten. And then checking her for some fever I put a wet towel between her inner thighs. She was breathing heavily and uneasily, yet settled down to breathe calmly in awhile. I too slept after that. I turned on the lights to check her once or twice in the course of the night and I could see her breathing.

When I woke up in the morning, I quickly jumped out of bed to see how she was, and she was just immobile, silent, mouth a little open and serenely lying on her side. I touched her inner thigh- it was a little warm, the last of the heat cooling down. But I wanted to believe it was still life, possibly I was mistaken. I shook her stiffened arm a little, gently of course because I could see it was stiff already. Yes, it was stiff for sure. My beautiful girl had passed away- just so quietly, without a word, without letting me know in any way that this may be the end. One day of fasting is not such a big warning after all-dogs do stop eating when they are unwell, unlike us human.

It’s all a flashback now- the day I went to take her from a (ridiculous) breeder, and how me and Ginger had driven those 25-odd kilometers to Noida. How upset Ginger had been to meet a new puppy, she was herself only a pup too. Nikki happily came over to me, as though we had been parted for a long time and she was waiting for me. She eagerly jumped into my car and Ginger- who was already in the car, was terribly upset. To settle the two pups I gave them chew sticks to nibble on, soft ones, while I would manage the drive. But Ginger refused to eat out of protest and Nikki was only too happy to! And by the time we reached home, Nikki had happily messed up in the car- so imagine that I had to hide the pup and take her home and then clean up my car as well 🙂 And I kept her hidden for several days, but that is another story.

And so much more comes back to mind, how Raga came into our lives and the play of the pups, our move to Faridabad, and then Dash joined us after a year. Goodness, we lived a good life- moved to Goa in 2014. All of us, me and the four dogs, went to Goa by road- a four day road trip. What an adventure! And what adventures we had in Goa too- walking in the villages streets, chasing hens and fowl, and pigs! Having the barbeques and the walk to the river next door, by the pond where lotuses grew in the summer.

Oh my goodness, we had a beautiful life and there are beautiful memories. And we even kept a little blog about our life in Goa, brings a smile to my face. Really this is a life worth celebrating and death only the hermits get, as we all say in a calm serene way, without experiencing much suffering- other than what is due to one’s age, without causing much grief.

May I die as peacefully as my Nikki- gently slipping away into the arms of eternity in my sleep as those around me, if there be any, also lie in their dreamy stupors.

dsc010071

This was the front of our home in Chandor Village, Goa; where Nikki and Dash were in a serious conversation about the state of affairs

Advertisements

Four months into the year>>>

From the last time that I wrote on this blog, feeling happy and excited about the new things happening, today I am about to register something of a mixed lot of experiences. And they are all, as one would expect, in my case-

  1. First, Rhythm came into heat- a little over seven months old that she is! I was having a premonition it could be anytime now,  but not so soon (ouch!!!). Couple of times I had broached the subject of spaying with the vet too, but he said, let’s wait until the pups are nine months. So now, they are just a little over seven and here am I- a pup in heat and two male dogs of her size around- certainly no enviable situation for a PhD-er! This Phd is really an eventful one- so much keeps happening with a fair degree of regularity. The boat is always rocked 😦

2. I went and had my first ‘class’/learning session with my new guru- when he was here in Delhi briefly, staying at the India International Center, not the best locations to conduct a class…but at least a beginning was made. When I heard the minute nuances of his voice, my heart just quivered in fear- god, can I even do it, and how will I? Fortunately I will only be meeting him in several months now- which means I have all the time for my own riyaaz and internalizing whatever he showed me that day . But since it is really quite foundational, meaning a significant shift in my singing style, I cannot hurry this up- it will be very slow, the change.

3. A few days later in a phone conversation he told me to drop my Phd and join him on his concert tours. I think it is a great honor to be said this by a senior guru, to a shisya. However, I shared with him that firstly i cannot play the tanpura on stage due to my spine and secondly the Phd is something I want to put behind me, before plunging myself full scale into music- which is really the case. On the other hand, I wish I could just dump the Phd- it is painful, as one would expect it to be, more so in India- where everything is against a Phd-researcher!

4. On another front, quora offered me a (free) subscription to the New York Times as a recognition of the fact that I have been volunteering and helping people who use quora, and made me a ‘top writer’. I never do anything for the sake of recognition, but this was completely unexpected. Not that I have time to read the NYT either, but it is interesting to see that this happened.

5. Students in music are all making progress and yet I had to drop one child from the fold who was taking a lot of breaks, without giving any reason. Often in India parents take the arts lightly (ignorantly?) and most cannot understand that classical music is not like other forms of music, you cannot just begin anywhere and catch up with the group. There is a system one is following and a structure being created here- to think musically and from the ground upward. I had to lay him off in a strange way- it was sad, but a necessary move that had to be planned out. On another front, I am glad and surprised to see the ladies who have joined newly, being so enthusiastic about learning musical notation- it is a great thing  because it inculcates a musical seriousness and discipline. Ok so this is about the students.

6. And last of all, the journal article- which i finally sent with great effort. Responding to the peer review comments this time was very tough, because the field of mental health from an emancipatory and peer perspective is still a new area of study and the intersectionality one has to keep referring back to is quite complex. But simultaneously I am getting to work with many families at present and that makes the whole picture  a representative and well-informed picture at many levels.

Analyzing so much in research makes it relatively easy for me to understand what obstacles people face in their recoveries. How I wish I would have a little more help at home to manage the dogs, so I can just sit down and work on my dissertation. I m somewhat lagging in my commitment that I had made to my university.

The month of May also seems packed with teaching, counseling and of course the ten day break, that hopefully I will be writing the next blog-post about.. In the meanwhile let me just manage to shoo the dogs away from Rhythm, who is confused, as is Flow- about why Dash is interested in Rhythm. Who can explain to Flowie, that Dash is a neutered dog and  you are the real risk to your sister! you donkey!IMG_20180325_211214614

An auspicious time

This is my birth- month. Gone are the days when I would see one day in April as significant, for the whole month is so meaningful now. This month is a special month, after a long time. Many new things, a few new beginnings, some pending things getting cleared and new horizons.

First of all, I turned another year older yesterday- that could have been last of all, but like the ‘baby’ that I am – I still like to think of the birthday as a special day. No longer in the public dIMG_20180420_160637868omain- only with family- so it was eating, playing with dogs, watering around the garden and then back to the books- naturally.

So, this beautiful and very light, fruit cake reads- Happy 40-something birthday Preeti. Good line to go with all the birthdays in the forties – all thanks to a PhD for a sister 🙂

 

Academic

Yesterday an article I had written long ago, and which was going as a book chapter in an edited book came to me, from the publisher this time (Springer) for the final nod- it was a relief. For years there was complete silence about this chapter. If I can recall now, I wrote it at least five years ago!

And of course I am struggling with a journal article – that has been on from August- back to me after peer review, and i have to return it now, in the following week. But fortunately for me, the struggle has been a very meaningful one and in writing down this article I have been able to clarify my own research methodology very thoroughly. So that will help me write the methods chapter, hopefully in a better way now.

My Phd work is languishing for now, but in reading/researching for the article above, I have read a lot of stuff and I feel I can see at least some light in the darkness now! But I think I will fall short of my promise to my supervisor- about sending some of the stuff that I had planned for May 2018! What a pain/pity.

On another front, I will be talking in the Open Dialogue Symposium in Greece about the challenges I face working in Counseling in India, which is a traditional and ‘closed’ society. I am keen to learn and hear what scores of others from different parts of the world are working on and creating useful outcomes for their societies. Let’s see when that happens in due course. For now I have to write the paper down and also read Plato’s Symposium- after all one is going to the birthplace of the Philosopher.

Musically

But the most important thing happened today- the thing that I have been waiting for months (or shall I say years and years) for. I started training with a guru, that I have been in search of for lonnggggg. I found him, first in the world, then on the phone, contacted him and earnestly requested him to teach me- rather give me ‘marga-darshan’ for I have learnt music for almost 36 years now, I teach my own students, I read/write/research and perform myself. But the desire to learn more and with a final degree of finesse never left me and made me consider knocking at many doors. On most doors when the head peeped out upon my knock, the person who opened did not coincide as the person I wanted to learn with- either their singing was too mechanical, or as people they were prejudiced or their terms and conditions were not friendly. So I just backed off and waited my time. And all these people are among the top musicians of this country, all Padma-shree-s (a civilian honor given by the president of India) awardees

After more than a decade of searching, I found the person I started with today. I am not writing his name down at present, because I feel this is not the time for that and besides, I am not sure if anyone who sees this blog cares who I learn with! Of course he is also a top musician, and someone who is senior to me in age by almost two decades. And this is the reason for my current deep elation, without excitement- to understand the extreme subtleties of music- which only master musicians can teach. He told me clearly that he does not teach anyone and whenever he comes to Delhi, he would be teaching me- which is not a frequent occurrence at all. After today, the earliest he would be come may be around August!

However, musically things are progressing. I have four new students this month and the tribe has grown- which is interesting- a challenge to teach older people, all into their fifties and older.

IMG-20180325-WA0021

I must not forget that I had the among the first of my (paid) classical music concerts in March- end recently and the singing was well appreciated. This was at a difficult time- afternoon at 4 pm. The venue was Delhi University and it was a conference in Indian Psychology- so an international affair. I chose to sing two ragas with the same structure, unfortunately because most ragas sung at this time of the day have that structure only- N S G M P N S, S N D P M G R S. I sang Bhimpalasi first and then Madhuvanti! What a pain, having the same structure but different notes.

Even though the ideas are abundant and the mind is so highly wired in so many directions, there is no time at present to write another blog post, and it is a great pity, because I know that someday I would like to look back at life and read through some of my writing- I want to not see blank pages, but pages full of work done, people supported, family loved, dogs tended to and played with…and more and more. Of course gardens nurtured and friends laughed with.

IMG_20180325_211214614

Oh, and the legs in the picture are Andre’s!

writing the thesis – the theoretical framework

Here is a blog post worth referring to, while sorting out theory matters

patter

9337917895_b8e0b4705f_b.jpgPlease note that I write my blog on weekends. It is not part of my workload or job description. I support the #USSstrike and “teach out” online. 

Not every thesis has a section or chapter devoted to a theoretical framework. But a lot do. (It’s the Ph in PhD after all.) And these ‘theory chapters’ can be very tricky to write – and are often tricky for the examiner to read.

Before starting to write your theory section/chapter it can be good to think about what the examiner wants to see.

The examiners have likely been appointed because they know, and possibly use, the same theoretical framing as you. And this means that you have to assume that they don’t need a basic introduction or a run-through of every possible thing there is to say about the theory. The examiner doesn’t want a general essay, the kind of here’s-the-lot that…

View original post 718 more words

Spring 2018

It would not surprise me this year, if I did not make many blog entries. This is a tough year, academically. Just see, it is March and now I am making my first for this year! I had all along been thinking of writing this or that and here I am! There is so, so much work, that it is difficult to keep a tab on blog-writing as well. I am now into the writing of the first parts of my dissertation- in fact many chapters were launched and left behind for want of other stuff that needs to be done first.

But this, as the name suggests, is primarily about gardening- that i have been at, in a manner of saying full swing, so no time to write about it, unsurprisingly. In this post I am making a note of the new gardening lessons learnt this year, the changes brought about and all the ideas I must take note of for the next winter season, in other words, for the months of November and December, later this year.

I had changed the plan of the backyard so now it is completely full of flower beds and a few greens.

IMG_20180222_143032316_HDR

Cinereria bed of purple, the reds are in four different flowers- Salvia, Kalanchoe, Axora and the creeper Chlorodendron. Apart from that there is a deep pink/fuschia Petunia in a pot here, plus larkspur, verbena, marigold, dog flowers, and  the greens- lettuce, spinach etc

I have tomato plants coming up, there has been a lot of coriander, lettuce and spinach. Apart from that no other vegetables came out properly. I had put in beetroots as well, but the sun being blocked due to the neighbour’s building made them sprout so weak, that we abandoned the thought of letting them grow fully. In the new bed to the left where the red coloured Salvia plants are growing, is where the beetroots had been planted earlier.

So here are some of the ideas I must note down

We grew from seeds- larkspur, nasturtium, coriander, spinach, lettuce, phlox, as of course

IMG_20180303_162438358

poppies. Apart from phlox everything else was successful. Larkspur grows best if you don’t transplant it, and also if more of the plants grow together it gives a better effect. But since this was my first time i was unsure about how it would fare, I spread it a bit thinly so that i could see the effect of the variable sun, in different locations.

Nasturtium responds better if planted in the earth, than pots, and least of all plastic pots. So though I have grown it in three locations, the best outcome is emerging in the earth, under the tree there.

To grow nasturium next time I will make no attempt at growing it in pots, or if at all then baskets. It has done very poorly

IMG_20180220_101811452

in the new hanging plastic pots I bought, even though we did everything possible, in terms of soil, water, sun and you name it. this photo is that of the two that grew in the earth, the only two. Rhythm ripped off one merrily- while it was a weak little thing, so that was a hasty end!

There was a profusion of chrysanthemums, when they came.

IMG_20171216_074603557

Chrysanthemums- December 2017

For sure two plants are a great delight- chrysanthemums and petunias. They flower in such abundance that all the labour seems justified and also the money spent!

 

IMG_20180302_081214152Next season I have decided that all petunias must be grown together. This year we brought them in three or four batches. In all I have nearly 45-50 plants growing around the house, in three different parts of the house.

The photo here is on the front portion of the house- where they are the largest in numbers. Cineneria is growing in the earth, and petunias are growing in the pots and baskets- which were planted for the first time this year, as I made arrangements for the baskets only this time.

This picture is not a very good picture in terms of the fact that it does not show the exact profusion which one gets to see with the eyes, possibly due to the angle from which i have taken the picture, nor does one see the colours, but the beauty is immense here.

So there are many hits and misses as always. I grew loads of flowers, but many many plants also died. We bought them again.  By we I always mean me and my gardener- its his labour at putting them in, often mine in getting the plants, as of course paying for them from the little income i have from singing. The backyard was a great source of suffering as scores of plants died again and again- there was practically no sun. Now that the winter has abated the sun is back and the yard is FULL of flowers. it is a great sight and a big relief as well. So these were the lessons, that we will have to try the backyard again and again, many plants can grow in baskets, but not well- new learning about phlox, larkspur, nasturtium, even ice plant, dianthus. The greatest disappointment has been Dahlia- we put in 20 plants, not a single grew to its full height and no sign of flowers either. I had left the most prized flower bed in the house for that plant- so so disappointing.

Right now I have over 20 varieties of flowers growing around the house- next year many be we can do with lesser varieties and more density.  But even these 20 varieties are not bad at all. Let me list them for one last time- marigold, geranium, ice plants, petunias, phlox, larkspur, nasturtium, kale, chlorodendron, cinereria, dianthus, axora, poppy, kalanchoe, salvia, verbena- both summer and winter varieties are growing at the same time- this is the cusp of the seasons, dog flowers, chrysanthemums, and of course Elysium. I also have the evergreen Adenium flowering, and of course Calendula flowers in many pots. So that by far, is all the plants I have here…and let’s see what the summer will look like. We have already got the small plants from the seeds of sunflowers- the ones that we give to the cockateils here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

New ideas I picked up in 2017

The foremost is the knowledge about the Global Mental Health Movement (GMHM). But the rest is saved here from the main articles I got them from. There is no particular order really.

The Root of Cruelty

This is a very important issue and in every aspect of society there is an element of cruelty there, coming from prejudice and ‘othering’. This article from the New Yorker is an exhaustive explanation about it. An excerpt follows-

‘Early psychological research on dehumanization looked at what made the Nazis different from the rest of us. But psychologists now talk about the ubiquity of dehumanization. Nick Haslam, at the University of Melbourne, and Steve Loughnan, at the University of Edinburgh, provide a list of examples, including some painfully mundane ones: “Outraged members of the public call sex offenders animals. Psychopaths treat victims merely as means to their vicious ends. The poor are mocked as libidinous dolts. Passersby look through homeless people as if they were transparent obstacles. Dementia sufferers are represented in the media as shuffling zombies.”

Having children is …immoral

Believe it or not, this is one of the most important articles that I have read and in a philosophical way I now understand my own indifference to having any. An excerpt follows-

‘But even if life isn’t pure suffering, coming into existence can still be sufficiently harmful to render procreation wrong. Life is simply much worse than most people think, and there are powerful drives to affirm life even when life is terrible. People might be living lives that were actually not worth starting without recognising that this is the case.

The suggestion that life is worse than most people think is often met with indignation. How dare I tell you how poor the quality of your life is! Surely the quality of your life is as good as it seems to you? Put another way, if your life feels as though it has more good than bad, how could you possibly be mistaken?’

Rivers, Forests- as health tonics

Studies showed that just three days and two nights in a wooded place increase the immune system functions that boost feelings of wellbeing for up to seven days. The same amount of time in a built environment has no such effect. Human response includes increased awe, greater relaxation, restored attention, and boosted vitality. Health outcomes on the receiving end of the pathway are astounding: enhanced immunity, including reduced cardiovascular disease, fewer migraines, and lowered anxiety, to name but a few.

The main article is here.

To treat back pain, look at the brain!

The article is here

Happy Chord?

New research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science attempts to tackle this issue by investigating the links between the emotions of lyrics and the musical elements they are set to. While the methods used are sophisticatedly statistical, the conclusions are extremely dry. The finding that a single chord type is most associated with positive lyrics is a huge simplification of the way that music works, highlighting the sheer scale of the challenge of creating a machine that could understand and compose music like a human can.

The full article lies here

The Universe is too vast- thank god

Just how large the Universe actually is never fails to boggle the mind. We say that the observable Universe extends for tens of billions of light years, but the only way to really comprehend this, as humans, is to break matters down into a series of steps, starting with our visceral understanding of the size of the Earth. A non-stop flight from Dubai to San Francisco covers a distance of about 8,000 miles – roughly equal to the diameter of the Earth. The Sun is much bigger; its diameter is just over 100 times Earth’s. And the distance between the Earth and the Sun is about 100 times larger than that, close to 100 million miles. This distance, the radius of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, is a fundamental measure in astronomy; the Astronomical Unit, or AU.

Here is the full article

2017 ending…

Wow, its amazing that this year too is coming to an end. Of course every year has to- but the huge amount of changes that have happened in this one, makes it somewhat different in many ways. The change in my family is the foremost thing- I cannot look back at this year, in the times ahead, and not remember who left us all- my darling Raga

14022012010

Hello, I am your doggie

– who pulled along all the way until October, though given her condition and the progressive deterioration I saw, I would not have given her this much time myself. The mystery of the human-canine connection runs so deep, and how we connect with our canine beloveds. I cannot still forget the day I got Raga home as a puppy and then to see her entire life-cycle coming a full circle in front of me, brings a deep sadness and equanimity at the same time. This is the eternal law of the universe- matter coming into creation and transformation, and the role of consciousness, its interaction with that matter and the transformation of them both. Matter (me and my dog) both change, our connection with each other changes and we move from one stage of love- the puppy days to the senior days. The nature of care and concern changes significantly. Raga taught me all that. To the extent, that after her passage when Nikki became ill, and was suddenly immobilized for a few weeks, I was totally able to handle her and the effect of that, since she needed so much more care than Raga (being so much heavier than Raga).

If Raga’s passage was a moment of truth for me, it had to be acknowledged at many levels: including that, for me to handle big breeds of dogs in the times ahead, may become tricky if I had the sort of health issues I have been dealing with in 2016-17. Soon after when the decision to bring in the pups was taken, this was very much a part of the decision. In fact long ago I had decided to go for Dachshunds by and large, and Labrador too. But seeing Nikki’s health issues now, I think I would have to reconsider  even that. The small size of the Dachshund is ideally suited for a person like me- who manages her dogs alone.

In 2017, Rhythm and Floe became part of the family, as did the cockatiels- who I call Chintu,

Mintu, Dolly and Molly. Not that they care about their names. But I do, even if I cannot make out one from the other. True to my human nature, and our (foolish)  anthropomorphic sensibility we want to see every form of life with human parameters- names included.

IMG_20170918_161557606_HDRI changed the garden in very major ways, but sadly the back lawn does not get much sun any more thanks to the construction by the next door people! It has robbed me of the joy of setting up a new garden- even though very doggedly I have been planting the winter annuals, every few weeks. Three times I have make the efforts already. It is a big learning to not bring in real small saplings any more. My greens are now beginning to show a little. I have lettuce coming up, and coriander, but the beetroots will not grow here, while the spinach has been planted a second time, tomato plants are also standing up now. Overall, my plans to have a neat little kitchen garden have been thwarted.

The school of music- SwarGanga has been born and is a part of the Hansadhwani- which is not the foundation any longer, but a social enterprise headed by a single entrepreneur. Therefore it has become feasible for me to legitimately bring together the contrasting strands of knowledge into my one head, and even succeeded in putting a website in place. I started in earnest in March and the students came in April. At the time of the year closing, I have eight-nine students in all, with varying levels of payment (including one who learns for free, and three who pay a fraction of the amount of the fee, as paid by their peers). Teaching about eight-nine hours a week of music- most of which is new stuff is interesting and challenging simultaneously. My own learning continues as well, and i am also looking out for a new guru, who if I can get an opportunity to learn with, would be a great blessing.

Academically the going is not bad- i have gathered the data for one part of my work (the narratives) and I am also through with the transcription of a majority of them. One of my papers got selected and has currently gone for peer review in a Ethics based journal and in another domain an international conference has accepted my abstract and has invited me to contribute to its proceedings. So though I am extending the scope into the Global Mental Health agenda a little prematurely, but nevertheless it is a worthwhile venture, because in any case I had to work on that for my Phd too at a later stage.

All in all, on all counts there has been a lot of progress, which I had not foreseen, earlier. I am also invited to lecture in at least two different universities in India itself (none being my own!), my networks are getting to be more meaningful and not ‘friendships’ of school/college or social media alone. I have kept away from the social media in a very concerted effort andIMG_20171123_160908774 (1) I really think it was a great decision. It has been much better to invite people in person and spend time with them- and I have done that wherever there has been a scope for it.

My relationships with the children in my family, of my own generation have got a little better because I suppose the children too have grown up by now and they can make out one aunt from another. In November and December my brother and a cousin have been visiting from the US and Australia respectively and seeing them with their families, including small and big children is a great source of happiness (and relief that I do not have my own!!). Its been a time of ageing and renewal (the small pups and the children being the new blood among us).

On the family front, papa has recovered from a major cardiac surgery, and though weakened somewhat he is still very spirited and active- which is very important I think. Mummy is managing steadily and I find her  frail at times, but all my life I have seen her so strong and active that it is difficult to associate her with the idea of weakness- I always think my mom is young!

I do see a lot more work in 2018- including in research, in music, in other areas too- and I look forward to it. I will turn 46 next April. I am almost into my middle age. And of course ‘the middle’ has also begun to show 🙂 So I think the best option is to embrace the turn of the clock joyfully and be energized by some of the wiser people in the family, who lead long, relatively healthy and balanced lives. even though the sun may vanish I will keep sowing new gardens, for who knows what plant can grow well in the shade 🙂

And as always, Chrysanthemums will come well ahead of other flowers…

IMG_20171216_074538455

Chrysanthemums- December 2017

IMG_20171216_074603557

Chrysanthemums- December 2017