July 2018

I know this is not a good title for a blog post, for this is something I really enjoy doing, yet have no time for, at least in this span of my life. Ever since Nikki’s passage I have not been able to come back to this blog. There is so much water flowing in this river of life, that it is utterly difficult to keep noting the curves and bends in the flow. But when I look at the calendar today, we are nearly into the end of July and I must scribble at least a few things- to humour myself, to stay connected with anyone who is reading silently and to leave another mark in time and eternity, for who knows when suddenly it is time to pack bags and exit the drama of life- there will be no time for blog posts then!

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The front lawn this July

This past month and a half has mostly been about dealing with health issues and yes Phd issues. Yet it is not entirely unsuccessful. Today, when I am just four days short of completing two years of being a Phd candidate, I have a better sense of reality about most aspects of my research, a steadily growing practice of counseling, a regular bunch of people coming for counseling, a new set of friends from the Open Dialogue Approach spread in Europe (mostly Norway, Finland in fact), and blah,  blah, blah! The good thing is that the pains in the body, especially the spine has finally become negligible and to imagine i was thinking of doing Phd with the pains- I could hardly sit on the computer at all. But I have to thank the boy who came for reflexology, that I learnt to put it all behind. Health is in a much calmer place now- not the center of my life.

Yeah right, why note the uncertainties of Ph.d. research and the silent brooding one does every few days or the ideas about quitting (!), the unfulfilled promises to self and supervisor, the journal article that takes forever to go over the peer review process, the dissertation that refuses to move further, the ticks on the dogs that require daily monitoring and control exercises of diverse sorts…the list grows the more I expend thought over it!

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View of the Malati creeper in the backyard

For once, this summer the flowers are abundant. Really abundant. And it seems quite surprising and joyful- the varieties are also quite a few. I never thought summer could be so colourful. Of course we are well past the real dry heat of summer and now we are into the stifling monsoon heat- which is accompanied by intolerable, draining humidity. The little rain is so welcome.

I just tried uploading some other pictures- of baskets full of flowers, but somehow the file type is not supported by the computer or some other problem. So I cannot record them here- but the flowers are in hundreds – from creepers (at least four different kinds of creepers are flowering, of the nearly six-seven varieties that I have), in baskets, in the earth, and in flower pots. There is a profusion of colours an even fragrances. The jasmine bushes are flowering both in the front lawn and backyard. And so is the raat ki rani (night blooming jasmine), Tori (ridge gourd) is beginning its yellow blossoms, before the vegetable comes, and so forth. 

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Axora in the backyard, and a new champa tree- that is giving deep pink flowers

Of course for the umpteenth time I have made my website, and this time I like the website, because all sides of are showing there nearly as much as this blog. Of course it is a professional blog and not a random rambling sort of blog- more formal and talks more about my counseling work.

I was hoping to take a break when Andre comes in August, but I have a rider.: the pups are due for neutering surgeries, and I have to go to a university out of town to deliver a workshop and possibly a set of lectures. So I decided to take the week off when Andre is here, go for two days for the workshop/talk and remaining days just relax, go over the surgeries etc etc. But to spoil everything for me, I just got a call from my university to come and share the work done until now. So I have to go to Hyderabad as well- that too for one day only! In other words the week I was planning to relax with no academic work, is the week I have to travel to Gujrat and then Hyderabad. Talk about relaxing at home!

Anyhow mid all the spoiled plans, which also includes a plan to go visit my aunt (mother’s sister) with Andre- the only redeeming thing that remains a constant source of

IMG_20180719_184007028_HDR joy and life, in addition to the liveliness of the pups and the dogs, the birds and the fish, is the garden. In two years time I have finally managed to also cover the side wall on the Southern side of the house, with a green cover, that hides the hideous grills. So now this is the front of the house, as you come in from the outside- and thankfully it is all green at least on one side. It was a very slow growing creeper. Ok, I just figured it is called the Curtain creeper (no surprises) or Vernonia creeper. So now I know the official name as well, of something that is growing so abundantly in my home. Oh yes, the bamboo is growing profusely as well- but is at the entrance, and along the outer wall of the house, another beautiful grass!

So July this time has been gardening, writing, reading and trying to understand issues of epistemology, getting the threads of the research in place, by dissecting them first and then tying them up in a coherent stream of ideas. August will be more of the same, as of course progress on these lines only. In the gardening front, hopefully we will get the chrysanthemums, lantana or kaner for the outside space. Let’s see when I get to write another post. I always shy away from writing more academic posts, for fear that when I will read them at a later date, may be a few years down the line, these struggles will be so far away and there will be newer struggles to deal with then 🙂

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The backyard on a rainy day. it looks less green in this picture, but if you combine the second and third photos of this post, with this one, it gives you a better perspective of what is growing here, and what is flowering.

 

A life beautiful, and a death serene

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

29 October 2006 ——>>> 8th June 2018

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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.

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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

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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…

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Chrysanthemums- December 2017

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Chrysanthemums- December 2017

‘Senior’, teenager!

By doggy standards, Dash is a senior- after all he is 13 today. But by human ones, he is a teenager- the start of a new phase of life. Both ways- it is the start of a new phase for him, no doubt about that.IMG_20171121_114517196

When you live in a household where dogs outnumber humans, the one that learns more from the other species is not always the dog; it can also be their human. So these are my days as I watch these two pups sweep away the lethargy and ennui of our geriatric household into a younger, buoyant and playful energy. Just look at the senior dorg Dash running in the lawn with Floe and Rhythm, in the picture above or this little brat, sitting on top of aunt Nikki-

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Re-casting

A lot happens between two blog posts for me. This time, it was (is ongoing) a journal article, a number of musical compositions, a whole lot of reading on at least three different aspects of mental illness research, tending to the dogs, an attack of cough and chest congestion (still on), putting a new garden in place and I don’t know what else.

Its September end, so technically it is autumn here- the heat has subsided and the last two days of rain have actually hastened the pace of the oncoming winter, I fear. I am not too fond of being bundled under layers of clothes and trying to keep myself warm on a chair.

The article that I am currently writing is a direct outcome of my research- especially the data that I am collecting in research. My ‘data’ is basically stories or narratives of people’s brush with psychosis- a lot of things come out when you listen to stories and that of course also depends upon the questions you ask. But the next stage, is going to be the real challenge- the data interpretation one. At present the struggle is to get the data set together before embarking on that journey.

Changing the way things look leads to newer insights, growth and outcomes. What fits ideas also fits with physical spaces. For the last one year I had been thinking that the backyard needs to be remodeled. Low level of sunlight does not augur well for grass and having a lawn where you do not even sit on one day in a year, makes no sense. After much thought and planning I am now changing it. Here are the four stages of the garden just for a reminder to myself, before the past is forever replaced.

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The backyard in the winter

Putting a new garden in place is a lot of thinking first. Especially if the only resources you have are your own mental ones, backed by a little money. I do not like to bring in professionals, though no doubt they would have all the ideas- and a big list of options to choose from. But I feel that for a garden I should just stick to what I can afford and what I want, rather than someone telling me how to do what. I am being frugal and I am letting myself experiment here. How else does one learn? If we keep taking everything from the market itself, because we feel those who are in the market know better (which they may because they have spent years training for the work) the whole world starts looking alike. I want to look like myself- even my home should be like me- relaxed, calm, a sense of joy and a variety of plants, books, etc etc.

Maintaining a lawn is always an issue, and no lawn survives without careful maintenance. It was a big step for me to consider pulling the lawn out completely- mostly a big step in my head first. And then I began to conceptualize what I want instead. So I decided I want flowers and flowers and yes vegetables.

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Stage 1- empty patch

What purpose the lawn serves is going to be much less than what flowers and homegrown vegetables serve me. So there you go- the grass was pulled out and I sat thinking now what is to be done.

I made a few designs and then decided that I need to build that slowly. So I first measured the piece and decided to cut out a few straight beds. The wall side, which is to the left in this picture is where I made a vegetable bed. Also the wall adjacent to it- where there were green vegetables last year as well.

After that all the center is left. So I have cut out more spaces that are independent units in it. I am still watching the play of sun and shade, and this is still autumn. I know that in the winter the patterns will be entirely different. The trees also have to be pruned and trimmed. So on the whole, things are looking different.

At present things have already moved forward from this stage, and the seeds have been bought for everything. There is a whole lot of investment done in plants, manure, earth and bricks etc. More will be needed still- I am still holding it in my mind, like the Rubik Cube.

A change of perspective is usually generative. It made me also somewhere change the idea of the Hansadhani Foundation, which I have been feeling was something dead and difficult at the moment- considering it is such a small thing. SO I decided to put it on a back burner and carry on work independently, as myself. As an entrepreneur. I have already put SwarGanga together and I intend to do more with it. Hopefully Antardhwanee will also come together soon.

In the next blog post that I write, I hope there will be better things. Raga is stable – better than earlier now that I have figured the mix to feed her. She was simply not eating earlier and neither much urinary output, which is a sign that the kidneys are not working well. Adding a little Psyllium Husk to her food has made her bowels stable and changing the food to simply putting mutton instead of chicken has also helped. I know of course she is living on borrowed time- but till as long as she does, it should be nice, easy and comfortable. Naturally I am doing all within my means to ensure that.

 

The difficult month that went…by and by

This was a difficult month, for all of us. But today is the last of the month and a lot of that difficulty is now behind us. Yet I want to scribble here in brief what all happened so that if ever a time like this should come I would remember, we have been there before.

Papa had to undergo a open heart surgery- all of a sudden. That was decided in the first week of the month. The date was set for the 10th. On the 1st of the month it was his angiography which told us about the blockages in his heart- they were four when the surgery was performed.

Around the same time Raga’s tail amputation happened, and while the tail was still recovering she had a bladder issue- she stopped passing urine. the vet said that she has lost sensation of a full bladder- due to paralysis. It was a nightmare after that- every alternate day I would be taking her to the vet for a catherization! As a result in the second week, she developed a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). That coincided with Andre being here- so between him and me, we kept taking her to the vet daily for cleansing her bladder with saline and antibiotics- six days continuously. By the end of this time it was time for Andre to go back, as well as for papa to return from hospital post surgery.

But this was not all, I also got to teach music in a teacher’s training department for three hours at a time- six sessions in all, to over 20 girls per session. Not the easiest of tasks to perform. Tomorrow is the last of them- thank god. Teaching such big numbers is not interesting at all, unless the students are motivated.And that usually does not happen easily in Indian universities. But every effort of this sort is generative to a researcher like me- so I am busy writing about the experience and drawing the outcomes from it, whatever they could have been.

I had to let go of writing an article for a special issue of a journal in mental health, which had earlier accepted my abstract, many months ago- because my mind was very scattered this entire span of time. The sort of peace I require to write was simply not there. Plus Ginger also got a diagnosis of chronic Otitis and a couple of other things. So now, we know all our cards, no more surprises- hopefully the worst is behind us.

After the UTI I learnt to tease Raga’s bladder and now I can manage to press it twice a day in a way to help her empty it out. It is a great relief to see my girl fine, though weak and becoming more and more so. However, I know that I am tending to her the most I can, and keeping her close to me, the most I can…loving her, petting her, cleaning her, hand feeding her, grooming her, putting medicines in her mouth when required. I know this is the last of our moments together, nobody knows when the end comes- I do not want to miss whatever scope life still gives us- the borrowed moments- to love each other and remind ourselves how much we will love one another, even when we would not be able to touch each other. Until then, let me run my fingers on her back, her head, her face…my weak little old yet baby girl- who had once come into my life as a 45 day old puppy. My darlin Raga. The beauty is that while I write this, my baby is still sleeping behind me peacefully.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Time for organizing

The plate is full to the extent it is overflowing, while energy levels do not match up to it. But that does not stop the flow, only slows it down.

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On the one hand there is research- reading, writing, interviews (yes, the process of gathering data has begun), more reading, more and more reading…dogs, Raga, Ginger -both of who are suffering, the birds, the students- everyone having a different need or composition to be taught, my own learning of music (just learnt two more bandishes in Raga Durga). I just don’t seem to get a grip on things, as they move at their own pace. There is so … so much to do: the day just flies …

in music…

But today is dedicated to music. I began with playing my own CD…it seems so faraway, so long back, that I recorded the CD- it has been around on the internet too for so long. I just love this particular ghazal in it.  So after a long time, today this ghazal coursed through me- reminding me of all the pains the heart hides. And then the pains and tribulations of the day took over. Raga came upstairs today- I brought here along, as I thought the weather is so beautiful, a cool rainy breeze blew in the morning, but then the clouds came and she tried to crawl behind me, in a bid to scamper away. All her life she remained fearful of winds, rain and the clouds- also thunder. Ditto with Ginger- who learned to mimic Raga’s behaviour. It has been a nightmare when Raga was agile- she would try climbing on my bed if I would be asleep or Ginger would sit on my pillow. I have had a nightmare with these two.

with the dogs…

Anyhow, I had just had the first bite of my upma, when Raga tried to crawl feebly under the dining table, and in that bid, toppled one of the chairs on her. I rushed to help her, as did Ilma, only to see that Raga was in a pool of her urine. So we cleaned up, and she looked at me helplessly. She has always been such a beautiful, clean dog, that to see this phase of her life is a very painful part of my own journey in life. I used to always think that the German Shepherd has such a beautiful tail, which she also has naturally enough.

Nikki and Raga in Cupangale hillside

But then just see what life has to show you. Every day nowadays, since she has no control over her bowel and bladder movement, and she is not able to evacuate them fully …her beautiful tail is smeared in her excrement or urine. I feel it is a great lesson to me personally, to never get attached to the physical beauty of anything. And then poor thing, she looks at me in a mute way, as though say, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to do this.

I see a new side of me with this experience of Raga, which I did not know or imagine. I have never lost a minute in cleaning her, or scolded her or left her in her mess, even for a second…I have tried the best to keep her as clean as I can manage- changing &washing her sheets multiple times as per requirement, keeping a mackintosh under her so that the mattress she sleeps on don’t get soaked in urine, washing the mackintosh (I got three now), cleaning parts of her with water, washing her feet, drying up her hind legs which get soaked in urine, picking up the poop everyday…it is all labour and it comes without an announcement. Several times, when I am sitting on the computer and studying/writing, I smell the smell and I know she has defecated. It is another such moment. There have been times when she has defecated and then dragged herself in it- in other words she is smeared with her excreta as well as the floor. Its not easy. But I did not see even a flicker of anger in me…ever. How did that happen? I did not know I was capable of this extent of patience- especially because I don’t seem to have it with everything else.

She also indicates her discomfort by making a oo-oo sound (ooh, ooh, clean me up). At night, it may be any time…2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, I have always responded to my dogs. I never thought I would be able to handle this last stage of life of my girl with such calmness,  while remaining in pain all the time myself. But I suppose life is all about understanding ourselves and the ones we love- how much we can serve them. Raga’s disability is a profound learning experience. I am seeing her calmness all the time- she may be in pain, or suffering, but she does not say anything. At most only with her bowel and bladder issues she makes a noise. (Just now, while writing this post, I had to go out with her, at her beckoning, to help her have a bowel movement. The temperature is upwards of 40 degree, and standing in the heat balancing the animal on  my left arm, and ensuring that neither of us should trip over seems very tricky at this time of the day- around 2:00 pm). I am also trying to manage the four-seven dogs (varies every day) outside the house, who I feed regularly. Yesterday, I also 18556271_10210346797719515_2401334130308584981_ndewormed the puppies! All at Andre’s behest.

I may not be able to write another post in June. Ginger just turned 11 two days ago- on the 6th. She is also not too well- the ear infection that she brought from Goa, never really got okay. Today it is a year that all three of us – me, Nikki and Ginger returned from Goa by plane along with Gokul, who came to help me with the dogs. There is so much water under the bridge. Soon it would be a full year of my actual return- on the 1st of July and half the year would be behind us.

dabbling with research issues…

I have got the ball rolling on the empirical side of my research- meeting individuals given diagnosis and their families. Haven’t met any families yet, but two individuals. I also wrote a blog post about it on another blog, but that has no relevance here. There is a journal article that I am toying working on, and as usual my website- the pain of the website never ends! May be I am the pain, who never resolves to have a final version of it. But no matter what I do, another side just pops up and tells me that I should be doing that now. Just when I started the school of music, (not that I have really made it grow big like a real school), the need for teaching counseling comes up. Like me and Andre are fond of saying about our lives- there’s never a dull moment!

of course students…

I think the sort of emotional relief I get with students is unlike any other thing- because the flow of knowledge is so easy and seamless here. And I feel relieved to share so many different things in the course of one week. One learns one raga, one another, a third learns something simpler. Songs, bandishes, and my own learning with my Guru, they compliment one another in a heady mix.

and the garden…

I sometimes wonder if I am really doing a phd- when I seem to all the time be enjoying myself, watering the garden, feeding the birds, cleaning the bowls and baths for the birds (at least three-four around the house), the big dog water planter I have put outside the house…

Nowadays I can see the bhindi plants coming up, where the Salvia grew in the winter. This summer I have had a huge loss of plants due to the heat. Too many plants, too many attempts. Finally I am seeing one creeper, a few bhindi plants and a some tiny sprouts of coriander coming out. My lemon grass has died in the heat, so has the spinach- not shown any growth. No sign of cucumber plants or anything else. Neither lettuce. The weather has been horrible.

I have not been able to stay connected to many …relatives, friends, neighbours or anyone else. Not even friends on Facebook. What to do? How much can a person manage alone? Nothing is easy and the plate is too full for now. In other words I may not be able to manage another blog post either. But when I do, I do hope that something nice will be there to record then- which i will read 20 years later and tell myself that yes, even at 45, I was doing something useful in my life. 

‘N then came the flowers, and reconciliation

I moved into this home of mine in the October 2007, with three dogs- Ginger, Nikki and Raga. In October this year it will be a decade- except for the quarter of this time that we all lived in Goa. I remember when we came first how dry, desolate and barren it all seemed. If I only had a record of things I would have shared- but at least the mental record is still intact. We lived here till March 2014 and pushed off to Goa…letting the house come to a similar state as when we had first come. I was certain about selling off this house.

Life has its own mysteries,which we can never foresee. Little did I know in verdant Goa that my heart would not find the peace I had already found in my little home here. So the heart pushed me back to the comfort of my own space and familiarity of a city that I knew. I did not grow up in Faridabad, so it did not have the association or fascination we tend to establish with places we feel connected to. It is also people and places. Living alone in a town, you do not really get to meet or connect with many as the act of survival itself becomes a challenge- negotiating all the roles of family that one person has to play themselves, with naturally enough no work sharing. In India one is not really accustomed to that- for living in family is the done thing.

But I suppose we all have to rise up to the challenge, as the mysteries of life are only to be unraveled to be lived- if you know everything already, what is the mystery and where lies the charm? Upon our (me and the dogs) return I was very sad in truth, and determined to go back as soon as I could. Of course it is part of my temperament- that adjustment takes me some time usually, even in a known space.

However, there was no comfort or time allotted to me to adjust. It was one thing after another. I fell ill, followed by extremely debilitating body aches, then Raga became disabled, and that became a responsibility to be taken care of in new ways. The Phd work started midst an extremely non-supportive university scenario, the book on music got stalled…it all seems so negative in general.

But the little pleasures of living- come not from our official or professional engagements always, they can also come from family dsc00210 occasionally dropping by (notwithstanding what they make of your home), the birds that come to accept what you offer and the flowers that come alive in every season.

This year was a beginner’s year once again as I had to revive the home and garden from the beginning, more of the latter naturally. From the time I returned in early July until October I had to change the gardener at least three times. If it was four I cannot recall now. Finally I settled with the known devil, who also works in the next but one neighbour’s; and has worked with me briefly in the past as well. His labour, my imagination, our discussions, my efforts at watering the garden in the cold winter, keeping an eye on everything, as also the money that went in finally started producing outcomes towards the end of November.

No, but wait, this first outcome of the chrysanthemums dsc00193 was not his effort or mine- but that of Kaushal gardener, who had worked here in my absence.

In this picture Andre is sitting with Ginger and Dash, and there is a whole bed of yellow and white chrysanthemums growing behind him. They were very beautiful when they came. But by December it was time for them to bid goodbye!

I was a little unhappy with their short stint but we decided to throw them out, as the plants had grown very old and bring in new plants next season; while we utilized the same bed for another set of flowers, whose photographs I am not sure I have here. These were daisies. I saw them for the first time this year in the nursery and instantly decided to grow them. I did- some 20 plants in all, and the whole bed was covered, but the flowers were a little disappointing, or may be I grew them at a late stage when their vegetative growth was all over, and only the flowers remained to come. The plant is small and flowers are beautiful, but it does not flower profusely. It was a learning.

Daisies and the little birds

Daisies

So now it is March and the gardens on three sides of the house is blooming. There have been some losses, some gains, lot of learning, and new experiments- successful and otherwise. But everyday I feel the satisfaction of my labour and efforts, and it is great to wake up to such beauty and colour, chirping of birds and barking of dogs. Life is not altogether bad, and one derives courage from the simpler joys of one’s labour of  the past.

Out here are a few picture of the back lawn. first of all- the petunias outside my bedroom door, where in this dsc00268picture my sister is standing with her son, and papa is sitting reading a book. They were all visiting yesterday, while we all clicked photos of flowers and people.

The back lawn is behind all these folks. I am sharing two pictures of two extremes of it- one is the Northern side and one the southern. The grass in this lawn is very sparse and over time I have a mind to make this purely a kitchen garden. But before that I must write about our kitchen gardening, which happened all in the back lawn only.

This year on an experimental level we grew a few things to eat. This is not the first time though- I have had a bigger crop of lettuce in the past, but this time we grew many things together. The picture is from December or late November. In two rows of leafy greens here, where the naughty Dachschund is looking for garden lizards or other suitable prey one can see a profusion of lettuce and sdsc00241pinach leaves in two beds above one another.

I had a lot of lettuce here- and many rounds of spinach. I was just thinking of cutting it now for some pakoras, but decided against it. Overall we made a good amount of palak paneer, pakoras twice or thrice and palak chicken as well. I was toying with making spinach soup but then let it be out of laziness.

The lettuce has been a treat not only to see for its beauty but equally as much to eat- just pluck a bit of it to make a fresh, crisp, beautiful salad. Tony commented upon eating one such salad, I feel like I am eating oxygen- it is so refreshing. Coriander also grew in the same bed as spinach on one side of it, but it is not showing in the picture here. Of course my satisfaction at learning that lettuce was selling at Rs.160/kg at Spencer’s only heightened my respect and valuation of lettuce even more so!

The same corner in which I had the lettuce/spinach growing in the back lawn is looking like this now. The tiny plantdsc00275s that look like grasses in the lowest row, on the step lower than where Dash is standing in the above picture, is now having these purple, red and magenta Verbena flowers.

The hedge below that has been outgrown by the dog flowers that are growing in stalks of white, pink, yellow and purple colours. From somewhere, two tomato plants have sprung up. I do not think any of us put any seeds. I am not expecting to reap any real harvest from them, because likely the monkeys will spot them before we do. In this photograph above, one can see four varieties of flowers- Verbena, dog flowers (scientific description here), Clerodendrum creeper (also called Flaming glorybower) and Salvia in red colour. I have not counted bougainvilla here, and another purple flowering creeper.

The other side of the garden is looking like this at present, minus the human beings of course. On the sides we have marigold as hedge plant and the petunias of the single variety. At the far end, where mummy is standing in this picture- there is a bed of Cinereria.

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In this picture Raga, the German Shepherd propels herself on her front legs- her adjustment to her disabled condition

All my life until now, at the time of writing this post, I did not know at least a few of these plant names properly and spoke them the way gardeners do- colloquially. Only due to this writing I have checked for their proper and often scientific names and figured out the proper sounds now! ha ha ha- what a joke.

The front lawn is another view altogether, and several plants there are growing for the first time in this house. Of course the first among that were the daisies, whose photos I do not have. There is phlox- which I had never seen until this year as well as double petunias, variegated petunias and multicoloured petunia flowers. In fact come to think of it I have at least six-eight different colours of petunia flowers growing at the moment.

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I know I am making a strange face in the photo above, but don’t bother about me- look at the petunias instead- single ones in deep pink and multicoloured red ones, and the double variety has light pink and white ones. These are growing in five big pots- three or four plants per pot.

All in all, when I counted yesterday I have/had about 20 different kinds of flowers in my garden this winter. These are chrysanthemums, dahlia (fared very poorly indeed), daisies, Petunias, Alyssum, Calendula, Dianthus, bishops candles, Cinereria, Phlox, Verbena, Chlerodendrum creeper which flowers only in December-January, marigold in two varieties, sweet williams, Gazania (I have no pictures of this though it is still growing), pansies, Salvia, Geraniums, dog flowers also called snapdragons, ice plant. I cannot recall one name, of the red permanent plant, which grows throughout the year yet flowers only now.

What I did really miss this time was poppy flowers, which when I saw them later growing abundantly everywhere, I felt a great loss of! Greedy me. And then of course my favourite Nasturtium, which I repeatedly kept telling the gardener to plant, but he shied away for some unknown reason. So these two may be next year. I do hope to have a bigger component of hanging baskets next year- this year there were none, at least not flowering ones.

So the long and short of it is that this is my garden, this year. This garden is a homecoming for me and I am now at peace about Faridabad- for this is home, and this is where the world flowers for me, my labour bears fruit, and my garden blooms in its multihued variety, profusion and colours. I have finally reconciled about life in Faridabad- a place which never felt like home, now feels as though there cannot be another home!

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