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

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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.