An option called ‘Love’

Today as I sat down to sing a Raga that I had not sung in a long time, by learning a new bandish with my guru (the raga being Madhukauns), I just started to weep by the end of the new composition, because its words were such- ja ja re pathikwa (go away you traveler) . I just thought the recent traveler who moved out of my life, and the tears began streaming out.

Then I thought, is this the way I am going to live now? I love Raga, not loved – the love remains in my heart, there is no change. I did everything I could to make her life’s journey and our companionship joyful. I tended to her, loved her, kept her comfortable, kept her utterly clean (she didn’t have a bath in the past six months, since April) and she even smelled fragrant! I did not allow any secondary infections to develop in her, I carried her around to let her experience every part of our home and our lives, so she would not languish in one room while the others were all over the house, I never left her out of anything- ever. Even when her body stiffened to the extent that she could not even sit up any more (which was for the last three weeks or thereabout), I did not forget to carry her around. My own spinal pain has been a constant part of my life for years now, and yet there could not be any compromise or exclusion when it came to Raga.

When she could not pee any longer, because of a progressed stage of her illness, I just learned to tease her bladder and help her empty it out. She would just lie on one of her sides and I would press her sides, enabling the urine to come out. I washed her feet if any drops fell on them, and kept her eyes clean by wiping the discharge that came out. I picked up her stools and made sure she was defecating by changing her diet if need be, to ensure some bowel movements. I never let her lie in any of her discharges. When she stopped eating the food that all other dogs ate, I just checked and tested other things that would interest her and even if it was a little expensive started feeding her mutton (which i pretty much cannot eat with any regularity myself).

I have left no stone un-turned for Raga’s sake- neither physically, nor financially, or my own efforts. This is the most I could have done. I did not want to have any regrets later, and I know that when I go down this dog would be one dog that will remain in my heart until then, or perhaps they all will. But she was my youngest in this pack of four, and she left first! That was the sad part for me.

Dec 2010, Delhi-Goa 008

Getting ready to drive out- some time in 2011/12

So coming back to the tale of where I sat with tears streaming down my eyes and the emptiness of Raga’s physical presence, which was by my side these past ten years and more. It is also ten years ago that I had moved to this house in Faridabad (barring the over two that we were in Goa).

Upon an impulse I decided that new life is needed. I came to the computer and checked to see if I could get a Dachshund somehow…and then guess what…within a few hours this little duo was on its way …

I thought to myself, love cannot

IMG_20171025_185220048

Checking out my table!

diminish because the one that you love is gone- that love is eternal. I will always love my Raga, but that does not mean that there is no more love in my heart. This heart needs to love because it is its nature to love, it must embrace new life and new journeys, because it is the nature of life to love, to grow. It is my ancient nature- the nature of my species.

IMG_20171025_185149475

Sitting on our mummy’s music notebook that she wept singing a song from, just this morning 🙂

Then recalling the ancient wisdom of the flow I decided to give it a go and here are the newcomers in my life…Floe and Rhythm.

My sister upon hearing that I was planning to get a pup home, decided to throw her weight into the deal as well- got one herself, a very beautiful black labrador, whose name is now Masha. So here we are, less than 48 hours of Raga’s passage, embracing new bundles of joy and loving the ones we already have and the ones who have left us, for that is a choice nobody can take away from us.

cropped-img_20170405_084422586-1

She sat closest to me when I sat for riyaaz. In this picture, taken earlier this year in the summer, she dragged herself to be close to me…one of the last occasions to do so.

Advertisements

Our Two shepherds and October third week

It is not usual that a family would lose two dogs in a few days- but we did. Lalu, the mixed shepherd passed away on his way to Jim Corbett Park (18th October 2017) and Raga- passed away last night (23rd October 2017).  I had pulled her bed close to mine and decided to go to sleep. But before that I had teased her bladder and helped her empty it out to the extent possible. She was very weak- the whole day she kept breathing with her mouth open ,with eyes fixed in an uncertain gaze.

cropped-img_20170405_084422586-1

Till she could still move, she would sit closest to me as I sat down for my riyaaz. May-June 2017

I could not be with her too much , but many a times I came and sat by her and I kept an eye on her from a distance, to be sure she was breathing. At night, when I knew it was time to sleep I pulled her bed close to mine- to keep an eye on her and ran my hand over her head repeatedly. She looked at me and then settled once again- mouth open, laboured breathing. Then I held her paw in my hand, it was warm- she had fever. I held her for as long as I could without changing my sides. Then I had to change, and I did- while keeping the lights on in the room, for i did not want to lose a sense of time.

I turned sides and dozed off at may be 11:15 or 11:30, i cannot say for sure. At 11:40 I opened my eyes and looked at the clock first and then at her. I noticed she was not breathing. I got up quickly and touched her- there was no life in my baby- she was lying limp there, or was she? I had to find out. I could see the absence of breathing for sure…I was not ready to accept yet.

I went next door to call my sister, who was staying the night over anticipating Raga’s end. She got up quickly and came, and confirmed she was no more. I was not sure how long I would have slept…I could not make out how long she was thus. But the body was still soft and pliable. We had kept a pit two feet deep ready in the garden for her burial. I just wore something on top as it is cool in the night outside. I picked up my baby and the last few drops of urine came out…she was so light weight by now. Her head rolled over to one side on my left arm- the body was still warm. I carried her to the garden…and lowered her into the pit. Then we both put mounds of earth on her and covered up the entire pit.

In these past few months I have been writing about Raga frequently, trying to capture my story with her. And I did a photo montage as well in one of the posts. It has been a great life with Raga- she would have turned eleven in January 2018. But exactly three months short of it, she passed away.

Raga and Lalu died within less than a week of one another. Both of us sisters have lost one dog each- both of them shepherds too. Lalu had come into her life from a shelter in Austin, Texas. When she moved to India in 2008, she brought him and Lucy along. Lalu was over 14, is her estimate. We both feel grateful for the opportunity to love such beautiful dogs

july visit to goa upon Aires' demise (30)

, while they enriched our lives in deep and transformative ways. And yet we are also grateful for the presence of all our other dogs too, who are still with us and who not only are sagely managing the loss of their friends, but also keeping the flame of canine love glowing by their unquestioning presence in our lives today. Thank you Ginger, Nikki, Dash and Lucy. What would the world be without loving a few animals every day? And also thanks to the other street dogs who have adopted us and continue to man our main gate, offering us hope, security and companionship in your funny little ways.

IMG_20170726_072714361

Street dogs eating inside my home

One year later>>>

Today we complete a year, tomorrow is a first ‘anniversary’ of returning back from Goa. It is a funny thing to say- nothing can be more ridiculous than the anniversary of return from one city to another. But in this case it is.

I had left Faridabad and gone from here for good- I was certain that I was going to create a new life for myself in Goa, because it is so scenic and the beauty itself will take care of all my concerns,  give me an opportunity for new connections and help me establish professionally- both musically and otherwise. So then, the great leveler that life is- nothing ever goes as we imagine it could. There is a difference. If you are lucky the difference is not so big that it would bother you- but you got to be lucky for that. I had no such luck. The difference in my imagination and reality was almost 70%. But then that may also reflect how much of a dreamer I still am! Not a bad thing that my youthful dream-ability is still intact at 45.

The problems I encountered in Goa were of a dimension I had never imagined. So for now I am not going to brood over them or even reflect back- they are the stuff one writes stories about. I hope to, as well. Coming back to the theme of this post- our return- all of us five-some (if there could be a word like that!).DSC00048

From the last July (2016) we all moved back, grew sick, recovered a little and so …

But then if I were to count my chickens, who are also hatching nowadays, here is a tentative list…(of that which has happened in the last 12 months)

List of hatching chicken …

The health nugget

Health has been a big…HUUGGE mess. Mine, Ginger’s, Raga’s, mummy and papa (event though they don’t stay here with me)

Last year’s chikungunya was bad- pains are still lingering and energy levels remain low with me. But I have started a new therapy whose third sitting I took yesterday. They have promised that I can recover in four weeks from the pains I am suffering from and I am quite hopeful.

Pain is a big problem and it incapacitates completely. Not just that, it compromises the quality of life one is living. So to be in pain is to live a life in fear, because you cannot say yes to doing so many things you want to do. Getting rid of chronic pain is an important issue in improving the quality of our life and remaining mindful about our health. I hope this is the best step towards that outcome.

Research

In mental health/phd research

Last year, when I was starting the research, things looked so uncertain as I had no clue. But even in that haze a year has passed by and I have made some progress in meaningful ways and need to get more organized still.

I have nearly found the research participants and it is a big relief- already interviewed three and one has sent me her answers by writing by hand.

In counseling

Some progress, and it is a great joy to see that I am coming to a point where I may offer counseling training as well. Just gearing towards that nowadays.

In Music

  • Oh this is the one that brings the greatest happiness. Am working profusely in composition, and in notating them (obviously).
  • The book is stalled for now, but I hope to begin soon. It is sad that my health took such a toll that the contract with the publisher fizzled out. Nothing is more tragic for a writer- for this was a contract that had come my way, I did not have to seek it out in the least!
  • While teaching children, some research ideas have come to mind- some that are nagging me to worry about what is going wrong in their schools and whether music can really transform their lives or is it just a thing to pass their time with? I am also quite worried, rather perplexed to see the different learning abilities of children, depending upon their socio-economic backgrounds. I fear that this is the fault line that will keep some people ignorant and poor!

 

Home

Fish and birds

Is getting better, more organized and more suited to the climate than ever before. There are new members around in the form of birds and fish. Yesterday I also paid an advance towards the new fish tank- which will probably be set up in August, when Andre comes. Right now I just have two siamese fighters- in each in two small glass bowls.

IMG_20170423_070430405

Raga having a moment with the cockatiels, April or May 2017

Of course the cockatiels are here to keep chirping around in the cage and soon I intend to get them out of the cage as well.

Birds keep coming on two sides of the house in the least , thanks to the cockatiels’ leftovers newer birds are moving around here, in addition to the regular ones- mynahs, sparrows, finches, occasional parrots and doves.

Gardening

I have worked very hard with gardening- financially, physically, emotionally, and I am beginning to see dividends. Last year I had the best garden in winters, till so far and I hope to repeat the feat this year too. I had a good measure of spinach, lettuce, coriander/cilantro last winter- even some tomatoes. In the summer we were late in sowing, so many things perished. Many things perished because of the heat as well. So both reasons- our lateness and the heat killed many plants, far too many.

So it was a lesson well learnt about the seasons and the climate in general. I have done a lot of fortification around the house-including painting the outer grills on three sides of the front. In this picture one can see a pole on which a basket is hanging right in the middle- this is a strong iron thing, in two locations, meant for baskets of flowers and green plants. I love the idea of hanging baskets, but have only one for the last few years. So now is the time to grow their numbers.

IMG-20170630-WA0009

This is a picture from today morning- its been raining, everything is wet, but the greenery is bright and sparkling, thanks for the wash

There is a lot of help here than I can ever imagine in Goa- there are scores of people working, doing little little things around the house to make life move and it is a great blessing. It leaves one with so much time to do whatever you want to or can. In Goa, this was a constant struggle. And the people there were of a narrower disposition and very regional/small minded. Out here the labour force is gigantic in numbers and people are hardworking in general.

Professionally- in music and counseling

On both these counts there is significant gains and I think on the whole, i have moved back for my own good. it is proving to be so.

Hill side in the morning

In the mornings, I usually take the dogs to the hill side for a walk. With Nikki, Ginger and Dash, the walk is a short one- not lasting for more than a round or a little more. With Raga, we both walk for a little longer, or in fact a lot longer.

On many a walk with Raga I have thought about innumerable things. This hillside is the only place where I could let Raga off the leash, so she may run and check a few things around. We are on the verge of leaving now and I know those days when Raga would be off the leash are getting over soon. So now the choice is whether to brood over it or rejoice in the fact that we even had this experience.

June has already begun. Today, Ginger turns ten. I look into this frail little golden retriver and I see age sitting there- there is kindness, trust and wisdom. I see someday she will not be there… I inwardly shiver and yet I love her so to accept that we have to part. Writing this also brings tears- for she is the one who brought life to me before all the rest came in. In this picture, she is alone in the frame with Andre and communicating with me in the other picture.

On the 8th Nikki and Ginger are taking the plane back to Delhi and a few weeks after them, it would be turn of Raga and Dash- so they will probably come to the hill a little longer than the retrievers. Our Goan holiday of two years and more comes to an end and it is time to say goodbye. of all the things I will miss, I think it is the walk on the bottom of this hill that I will miss most.

I am hoping that the rains would be delayed a bit. Right now as I write this post, the first major rain is pattering away – it is 20:30 in the evening…the clouds have been threatening for several days now. this had to happen. But I was really hoping the it would not  happen before we left on 8th. I am dismayed for now, because I do not want the dogs or their crates to be wet when we go to the airport. Travel will become that much more tricky. However much beautiful it may have been here- the other factors of Goa have been very tiring and we are all happy to return home to the North.

IMG_20150709_070017998_HDR

my success, not mine in the least

I should have written a new post…the new year is 31 days old after all. But this was a difficult year in the beginning- it started with me having a burnout!! of all things. Due to what? Nothing but a deep cough.

A cough brought in all the symptoms of mania (psychosis) and I had to go through the difficult passage of a shamanic renewal. All my auditory sensations returned, I could hear things from far, I would hyper react to small stimuli. So what was it finally I thought?

I am certainly not suffering from any mental illness or so-called mental illness. So how to explain this sudden tsunami of the consciousness? Anyways, what I have been writing about the spiritual basis of existence is true once again and I went through the cosmological cycle of birth and awakening, meeting with the ancestors, healers and ancients in this span of time.

When the clock turned for christmas I knew nothing, nor when the new year came. But my family was all around and when they thought I had another breakdown, and may be need to consult with a psychiatrist all over again, I said no…this is not psychosis. But the ‘symptoms’ would be the same. What you are depends upon who is seeing it. If you have a cough, the cardiologist would have a different view of it than a guava seller. Everyone has a point of view. So whose view should you refer to?

Fortunately in my case my own views on spiritual awakenings are very well entrenched in multiple domains of knowledge and this time I knew for sure it was a shamanic renewal- there was so much memory of mythology and I was back again into the domain of Gaia, Sumerian civilization, Egyptian mythology and Hindu gods, goddesses and the whole of the Indus civilizational motifs- it filled my mind with stories ad infinitum. My family was certain, it was a breakdown.

But I called it a burnout, as though the boundaries of consciousness had blurred and there was a large scale bombardment from all sides- whether the personal kept merging into the universal back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And on the personal front a lot of fires were lit, friends lost, neighbours charred and whatnot- the usual upheaval that accompanies an intense experience of such cataclysmic changes.

At the back of all this, one thing was gently unfolding- I had cleared the phd entrance exam in Nalsar, Law University and I had sent my research proposal- in recovery, what else. I had to face an interview, right on the heels of a burnout! Date- 29th January 2016. It had to be made into the form of a presentation.

I asked Ramakant-ji how to. It is one thing to write a research paper, but one thing to write a phd proposal in 1000 words. He told me to narrow the focus down from the entire spectrum of mental illness to one thing. I chose psychosis. Then he told me to think what could be done in psychosis and how it would fit into the law mode. But that I also discussed with others.

DSCN1155

Anyways, I wanted to talk to him just before going for the interview. I was very weak, and had not studied. It was not possible to study, I could barely sit up! But I was worried. I thought hearing his voice I would feel better. When I rang his phone his wife picked up, which is quite irregular. But she informed me that he was unwell, and will talk later.

Few days later I got a message, rather a one-liner-25th January- “Improving very SLOWLY. will talk after a few days..”

I wrote- “You are in my prayers n best wishes always. My Phd interview, 29th, Hyde.Plz bless me that I clear the last hurdle. Wish u stable recovery. Gnite” (this is an sms that I quote)

His response, 26th January 2016- ‘YOU SHALL. if they don’t take you, the loss is theirs AND ours.’

On 29th January, I was sitting in the guest house with one of my former, (one course) student who is like a godchild to me. At that time I got a call from the head to go and meet her. I went immediately and she told me that the interview board had unanimously voted in my favour- and condoned the marks that I had lacked in the past- 20 years ago, i had scored a 52.6% in MA Political Science, whereas the minimum qualifying marks for phd anywhere in India are 55%. No university was willing to condone this criteria for me, notwithstanding my research record,my publications for who would support my candidature.

Finally it took an Amita Dhandha, a disability department and NALSAR- the national academy of legal sciences and research, Hyderabad to open it doors to me cautiously, by checking me at every step.

While being driven back to the airport, I called up Srivastsan to share the news. He did not pick up his phone. But when I was entering the airport he called back and I was showing my ticket etc at the door. We were busily chatting away. I told him and he was very happy. I also told him that he was responsible for my success, because if he had not invited me to the conference of the medico friend circle group, in Pune, in February 2015, I would never have met Amita Dhandha, who would never have invited me to teach at Nalsar and I would not have been there to fill in the Phd form with a fraction of time left for closing it on the last day of accepting forms (that would be another story).

There are stories galore in this one little story, but I have to hold one thread and I hold the one which has Ramakant-ji in it.

On 29th evening, having spoken with my family, I felt I must tell Ramakant-ji about it. And sending a message to him was the best thing. I wrote, ‘With your blessings, I have made it thru the Phd interview. The board unanimously agreed in my favour. Thank you so much. I hope you are steadily recovering.’

Next morning, while in my sleep I heard the phone beep. Later when I saw the message, which was sent at 4:53 am, it said, ‘The most welcome news of the new year. So much on the horizons for you to achieve. Best and regards to you mother, brave as always.’

My success, at anything whether overcoming psychosis or making through the phd passage, where the obstacles were nearly insurmountable, has never been a personal or individualistic journey. I owe my everything to others and no wonder my research will now be into how more people can recover and what sort of things can be done in the country to make India honor its commitment to the UNCRPD. I have entered the portals of law, legality and jurisprudence. WOW! life is so full of surprises.

And yet, I am not going to forget the knowledge which has flowed from Ramakant-ji- who opened my mind to the possibilities that lurk within language in how we construct our own and other people’s realities> Linguistics is going to be an intimate part of my work ahead.

I salute all my guides and mentors. My new year begins with that salutation.

I am back into university study after 23 years of studying from HOME!!!

This picture below is from the Nalsar Campus, in Hyderabad

IMG_20150918_102420319_HDR

Who knows where the road takes you from here

Damyanti … :)

A few months ago, I went to meet an elderly relative of mine- a grand aunt and her son’s family, from my father’s side. When I visited them, my first visit to their home ever, I was fascinated to meet them as a family, because where does one get to meet second cousins of one’s father, except for weddings and funerals, if you happen to attend any? I am notorious for not, so inadvertently the one source I have to get to know about anyone is from descriptions of them from others, usually my mom.

When we went visiting them here in Goa, where they are living for several years and me only for the last over a year, it was my first visit ever to their home. I never met them in their home, in Delhi, though we did not live far from one another. My family kept away from relatives or perhaps everyone in a curious sort of way, or possibly everyone is caught up in such a madness of living the daily survival.

Damayanti, is the name of the lady who is seated here. I am sta20150421_155924nding right behind her, with knees bent. To my right is my mother and the two extremes are her son and daughter-in-law; both architects by profession. The small girl there, is the child of the architect parents- Amit and Vinita. She is a swimmer and that explains her complexion as compared to that of her parents. The sun in Goa is quite strong, for human skin and she swims between three to four hours everyday. Of course she is swimming at a competitive level nowadays.

It is quite fascinating when you discover relatives after decades of knowing them from a distance and chachi-ji, the honorific with which we address Damayanti Parashar (ji) who is seated here, prepared the lunch for us that afternoon, personally, taking over from the household assistant who would be helping her. Me and mom, heard this and appreciated her alertness and we kept thinking of her age, on our way to their house. Finally we could not resist it and inquired plain and simple, how old she is.

The response was a bit surprising for us. She is 93. She had cooked for us (!!!), she maintains a full active life of pursuing her practice as a homeopathic doctor and keeps in touch with her patients via email (laptop user). She goes out for a walk with her friends in the neighbourhood every evening, and manages a little garden of her own, right outside her window- small balcony garden, and a very neat little thing at that.

So we thought on our way back that it is nice to meet elderly relatives, for you never know in what form one gets an inspiration. At an age when people become feeble and feeble minded, she is as active as could be and spreads positiveness around. How truly wonderful.

On the amusing side, in response to one of my posts a few days ago, I got a message that said, the way wordpress informs us all, that Damyanti liked your post very much (or whatever the standard wording is). I was even more impressed with chachiji, thinking seriously she knows enough to follow a wordpress blog too! And lo and behold…when I saw who the Damyanti was, it turned out to be a much younger Damyanti this time, who writes another fascinating blog here. So I smiled to think of the two Damyanti-s that got me mixed up for a day or two, till I could check who was who.

Here is another picture from the same afternoon. In this one, it is A20150421_155901ndre standing there, next to Tanaya the young swimmer, instead of Amit who is behind the lens. Rest of the team is the same.