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.

Advertisements

Feedback that gladdens your core

Of course every feedback is valuable to an artist, but some is more so. The ‘more So’ happens when it comes from seniors who are significant in their own right. Yesterday, by chance, upon listening to one of my ghazals (while sharing it with another dear friend who is equally fond of my music) I thought of sending a ghazal to a senior musicologist, who I got to know last year in the course of writing my (in progress) book. This senior musicologist is Sh.Deepak Raja, who also writes very insightful books (now four) and blogs.

dr22banp2bbk4

Deepak Raja, with his guru, Pt. Arvind Parikh- and the former’s fourth book, whose promotional lecture is on 14th July 2017

Books have strange and mysterious lives- they can grow and wane at a whimsical pace. That music book of mine has taken a backseat for now and in the course of it my contract with the publisher (a very prominent one in India) came to an automatic termination, as my health (spine) would not permit me any time on the computer. Nevertheless I have put in a lot of thought, labour and effort in it to whatever extent I have managed it so far, and for now I have laid it to rest and got busy in setting up the school of music and other related pedagological issues. Naturally enough at this juncture other things have taken precedence- possibly my Phd research most of it (it better), and my musical research not far behind (all in the compositional domain though).  Dogs have also contributed to this shift in some significant manner.

So coming back to the issue of the feedback, I sent a ghazal of mine to Deepak-ji, as I had had a WhatsApp interaction with him earlier in the day, for he invited me to a lecture of his to happen in the near future (14th July 2017) in Delhi. The day seems fine to me, being a Friday and I have no teaching classes that day. He will be talking about his book, Raga-ness of Ragas. I may or may not be able to go, but I think I would seriously give it a try. This was the first time I shared my music with him, despite communicating with him on scores of occasions- on email and phone, never in person as yet.

Earlier this morning, I received this email back from him-

Deepak Raja <deepak.raja@ >
to: Prateeksha Sharma < .com>
date: 25 June 2017 at 09:19
Dear Prateeksha,
You are an excellent singer. I am glad you sent me this link. Not an intrusion at all. I will now also hear other recordings. 
Thank you again. 
Warmest regards. Deepak 
Coming from such a heavy weight, it sure is a great honor, and I feel the need to write a post on my blog for I am so touched by his words.

As also that of my friend, who I just call here Ali- a professor of Linguistics in an American University, and a Pakistani by birth, and a  philosophical, deep and insightful individual . Upon hearing the same ghazal, he said this to me-

Thanks for singing the Urdu Ghazal, the way it should. The accompanist: baja, violen and Tabla jelled with the beautiful rendition filled with powerful musical expressions
The best is that singer kept the swaras and lyrics in a beautiful combination
(I have copied his words from my facebook chat with him)
Every appreciation is valuable, as I said earlier- but some are more so. These are two such.

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.

mqdefault

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. 

Managing different kettles!

These days the tea is boiling in many kettles- many, many in fact. And diverse, non-overlapping ones as well. Yesterday I started one major part of the work in data collection for the phd research- so that is a big enterprise by itself. And getting people to talk to, who are willing to share their stories of mental suffering is one of the most anxiety producing situations. No, let me rephrase it.

DSC00803

From March 2014- April 2015 this was my kitchen in a small village, in South Goa- from where many a guest has been served a wholesome meal and many a cup of tea shared with loved ones.

Finding people who are willing to share their lives with you is one of the most anxiety producing things for any researcher. I was just discussing this with Ramakant-ji, and he told me about his experiences, in the 1970’s, of doing research with Punjabi children in England, and how he was often shown the door by people suspecting him to a be a spy, trying to interview them to send them back to India!

So on the one hand, one meets one person and then the one person backs off. Then you meet another, through whatever means you may have- and they say, we will think it over. You approach one non profit; they say we will come back to you- someone comes back, someone leaves you wondering for months. By then you know they have no intention to come back.

Start of Data Collection

Nevertheless, I started the process yesterday- interviewed the first person, who happens to not live faraway. There is another meeting with another person on Friday- she too, like the first person, has agreed to come down and meet me in my home. It is a great relief really, because with my broken back, going anywhere is a huge challenge for me personally. I also decided to NOT record any interviews (and go through the needless hassle of transcribing the interviews and collecting mounds of data). So I have taken the equally difficult path of writing the interview down with hand! I wrote almost 11 pages yesterday. Later I realized that there are some themes that I want to discuss again or with a different perspective. Fortunately since this person is also a Phd herself, she understands the process of data collection and in any case I still have to meet someone from her family.

Yesterday I sent off a letter to a friend who once headed an NGO working in mental health, requesting him to help me find people who would be willing to talk about their lives. So now I am waiting to see, if anyone would be willing. I spoke with someone more today- who first declined fearing exposure, but when I assured him of anonymity he was okay with it. But I think I will still write a letter to him.

Musical melodies flow on all counts

On the other hand something completely different in brewing on the musical front. I started some beautiful new compositions in Raga Durga with my guru. I have learnt Durga earlier as well, and it is one of my valued Ragas.

On the other hand, I am looking for poetry for children and creating newer compositions for my students. Just last week I composed a khyal in Ektaal for one girl in Raga Bhairav. Today there is a possibility of a boy (of 22 years) starting anew with me- he learnt much earlier, many years ago. [We decided to offer scholarships to those who cannot afford music education- so three students are full fee-paying, whatever be their fee amount and three are completely subsidized, to paying a small token money (which is less than or equal to 10% of the actual fee)]. At least it is my hope that money should not be a deterrent in receiving quality music education. I hope we will be able to sustain the venture. In two months we have six students enrolled and another two expected. I do not expect to grow very quickly in this location anyways.

Apart from these, the house has its own very fixed rhythm- three women report for work at 6:30 in the morning and then another man comes an hour later to get the daily supply of milk, the garbage collector comes to take the garbage away and then the last boy in the morning comes to clean the car and wash the clothes whenever they have to be! Oh I forgot the dusting lady, who spends  between 30-40 minutes dusting around the house- the doors, windows, books, tables, computers etc. In the evening one or two, depending upon my need for then, of these morning ladies come and do some more household chores and then comes the gardener on three days a week. the remaining four days I have to water the garden on three sides of the house myself. Till so long as these people are around the house, I cannot begin my own riyaaz- living alone means managing a lot of sides actually. Of course there are the outside dogs too, that have to be fed- nearly six come everyday, but there are eight also at times!

So imaging a day with learning with my guru, to teaching my students music and working in phd research in psychosis, cooking, watering the garden, feeding the dogs, feeding the birds, tending to Raga and cleaning her up as per requirement, is a lot to balance in a day. What to talk of days when I have to go out (for shopping for groceries or paying some bill, or bank etc)- life is brimming with ideas, activities and tasks I enjoy. Of course there are other tasks which vary- bathing the dogs, cleaning the yard after them, changing their beds- laundry issues, and so much much more!

Goa 2014 266The long and the short of it is that the tea is boiling in many kettles and my day is a dance of the creating some semblance of this and that. Meanwhile whenever I lie down with acute pain, which is a 24-hour companion anyways, I have these books to read nowadays. I was reading a recently acquired book called Our most troubling madness, and then there was Mad Matters from Canada. I feel so grateful that I have the resources to buy these books that are published in the West, all thanks to my brother.

The last of the things that seems to be cropping up is a course in counseling that I wanted to offer to young people, who are interested in looking at counseling from a non-medical perspective. One young woman recently (in April) approached me but I postponed it. But now another one did- two days back. then I the time has coming or is nearly there- to offer a course in collaborative counseling in the Indian milieu.

Life is not bad after all, so what if the body remains in pain and I don’t feel like waking up on any morning- the birds, the dogs, and the daylight manage it everyday 🙂

18556271_10210346797719515_2401334130308584981_n

These new crop of puppies are the new morning guests to our home these days- they are all lying in wait in the bamboo shoots outside, and the moment the gate opens they all come running. Adorable foursome

 

With Raga, mid ragas and the inevitability of change

It’s difficult to accept, no matter what evidence life brings in front, that you will soon lose a beloved companion. With Raga the evidence is mounting every single day- her earlier mobility with the two front legs has become even less so. Perhaps it is even a notch worse. Now she is unable to turn sides pretty much and I check to see if she is sitting on one side for too long- then I help her switch sides.

IMG_20170405_084422586 (1)

But I wonder if all the others have not got a little ignored because of her needs taking center on a day to day basis. Of course she is not the first one to get fed, because Dash always accompanies me to the kitchen and Nikki is sitting at the base of the kitchen stairs, watching me from below and wagging her tail joyfully at the prospect of what could be coming next. But yesterday, Nikki also gave me a jolt. she refused to budge. I saw her lying for long hours on one side, and then not moving at all- not even to ease her bowels and bladdar. I coaxed her, forced her and finally slid Raga’s loop around her body to help her move. Now Nikki is very heave as compared to Raga- it is not easy to move her using the same method I have been using with Raga for the last several months.

In the picture above Raga takes her favourite position close to me as I hold my tanpura for my practice and she listens, watches over and in general keeps all others at an arm’s length. But of course this picture was taken a few weeks back. I am not holding the tanpura with any regularity these days. She is more feeble, and several times a day I have to clean up when she pees inside the house or wherever – it is no longer predictable. I never thought I would ever come to such a point- because when you have seen dogs all your life, and never really faced disabling situations, you are just not ready for what can happen. However, I feel grateful that I can manage her despite my own spinal pains, and more so, that we returned back to our home in Faridabad, from Goa. I shudder to think what could have happened had we remained in Goa!

The time between the last and this blog post has seen the birth of my little venture of teaching classical music to children. After years of deliberating upon who should be the one one addresses in imparting musical knowledge, I come to the point of teaching children, because it is in them only that we can actually drop the seeds of knowledge with a long term perspective. By the time they are older it is career goals and other aspirations that take over. The venture, a sub domain of the non profit Hansadhwani Foundation, is called SwarGanga- music workshop.

Does workshop sound tentative?

Workshop seems to suggest a short span of engagement ordinarily. To me in fact the word represents movement, motion and churning. A music school becomes a dead place where the same sort of music is taught year after year to batches of students, in a fixed format. That is why I titled this venture workshop, because the process of churning represents motion, and I am personally constantly researching, innovating, creating and composing new musical ideas in response to the needs of learners I am with.

Of course large parts of my work are a direct dialogue with those I work with and a response to what they can imbibe. The work becomes challenging to say the least and that is where the fun lies- to be seriously creative.

We started in the first week of April. So technically, we are a month old into SwarGanga. In the months ahead I will have to make a website of it and get things up, for I realized that there are a lot of music schools going around in this neighbourhood. The only way to distinguish ourselves from this would be to put it on a website what we are all about and how we specialize in the areas we work in, which are quite a few- mostly in music psychology of course.

Cockatiels

IMG_20170425_064855495

April is my birth month. I turned 45 this once. A lot of water under every conceivable bridge. So the new element that entered into my life this summer are the birds. It was a great moral and ethical dilemma whether to keep birds in captivity. I thought for many years and felt it was improper to keep them thus.

Of course my garden has many visiting birds the whole year through and it is a great feeling to keep hearing bird songs, and see them eating away the grains I scatter for them. But as I silently moped over Raga’s onward journey, I saw a new flash of light right here. She became very interested in the birds. Of all the dogs in the house she is the only one, who has any interest in them. To the extent that when I IMG_20170423_070457072bring up the birds’ trolley anywhere close or towards the back lawn she would get up from her supine posture and chase them on the trolley, by inching forward step by step.

I wonder if she objects to the birds around. I cannot say for sure, but she is certainly animated and I am glad that at least some dog has shown some response to the new creatures in our life. The other dogs could not care less. They go about unperturbed.

The birds are also relatively indifferent to Raga’s proximity and while she tries snapping at them behind the wire mesh of the cage, they don’t even bother to move away. This is the only time when she sits up. The back lawn is quite barren unlike the winter when the flowers were abundant. But thanks to the birds, Raga sits in the back area peacefully instead of trailing after me helplessly.

There is the inevitable prospect of change staring at me with all dogs showing some of the other infirmity. I try finding comfort in the thought that they have had a good life with me and I am doing the most I can, while we still have time. New life is springing around me- in new birds, new students coming, new people seeking counseling help, newer connections on intellectual and artistic journeys. If there is a deep sadness it is taken care of by the routine of managing so many sides of life- which do not allow much time to brood anyways.

I am reading some excellent books along the way, in mental health related issues. The areas of MH are extremely vexing and sad. I have also started a new blog to document my reading, writing and work related to mental health, with particular focus on recovery from all types of mental illness. This is my commitment to people to help them recover from their shattered selves and create beautiful, peaceful, serene lives for themselves and their families. I hope someday to offer my counseling for free- but for now I do not have the means to support that work in this manner.

I am only just beginning, and like mother says, just subtract the twenty years of ‘illness’ from your life and think yourself to be 20 years younger. Yes I love the spirit, wish I could. with all the pains in my body, it does not let me forget how old I am- but I do feel this is just the beginning this way or that way.

The long and short of it is that…

  • SwarGanga is born as the school of music
  • Raga is happy about the new birds in her vicinity
  • I am happy doing what I am in many domains
  • Life goes on and … Andre keeps coming, as do the rest of family
  • Nikki is looking fine now
  • Another blog (!!!) is born, exclusively reserved for my research in mental illness, recovery, my counseling on lay forums like quora, research articles and books I read and of course other media such as YouTube videos which I want to share and so forth.

‘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.

dsc00272

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.

dsc00285

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

No wheels for my girl

In these past few months Raga has progressively deteriorated. So now, this is her most common posture. But that does not mean this is the only posture she adopts in the course of the day- there are at least a few others.dsc00257-1

But while the common posture is what she maintains for the better part of the day, she also moves around. When she has to she pulls up her front legs and using them as her support propels her body forward. And she manages that for the entire house- she can pretty much go all around that way.

Only on the stairs and when I take her outside the home, I lift her hind legs with the loop, supporting her hind legs and give her the speed. Then she really gets the fillip to run around unfettered. She actually runs…with me trailing behind balancing! Many a time when I look at her I wonder at the miracle that we are back home to Faridabad and not still living in South Goa. What if I had to still be in that house there , where we all slept on the first floor. What would have happened to my girl there? How could she have climbed up and down?

Yesterday I took this picture of her- she seems calm and relaxed in the garden outside our living room. It is the same location as the picture above, except that what is now in the shade in this picture, is where she sat in the earlier photo above.

IMG_20170225_121326240.jpg

Taken 25th Feb 2017. Now if you look closely on the top left you see Nikki, the labrador lying peacefully.

It feels like a blessing to be here this winter- all my dogs can bask in the sun, and I do not have to worry about the cold all the time, even though they are all senior canines now. The house is FULL of flowers and they all have a lot of things to engage their minds with, including running after the birds & squirrels that come to feed on the bajra seeds that I spread on the grass for them. The home is full of flowers all around- it is spring after all. All our labours of the months bygone have produced colours everywhere. The back lawn has at least seven different varieties growing, the first time so many in this part of the house.

dsc00261

Back lawn, having six varieties of flowers and lettuce, coriander and spinach growing. Flowers here are petunias, verbena, marigold, salvia, dogflowers, suneneria and the ones on the creeper whose name is always a mystery. Of course the grass here is a mess, due to reduced sunlight.

Petunias are also growing very profusely now in the front lawn- at least five or six varieties of it.

dsc00252-1

Pic around 20th Feb 2017

I have never paid too much heed to the petunia plant. But in this picture here, where one can see Raga propping herself up and Ginger being medicated by Andre, while Dash is sitting further up, on the floor…the blossoms are very colourful. It feels great to wake up every day and see the colours around.

The first thing I inadvertently see is the back lawn, as it is right outside my bedroom door. And I have to take Raga over there to ease her bladdar first thing in the morning, which I always do, so that she is ready to eat something after that. This below is the posture she adopts to move forward. Earlier I was worrying if I were not doing the wrong thing in not buying a doggy cart to help her move. But having a protracted dialogue with the vet convinced me we were doing the right thing. He had told me that doggy cart is best for those dogs who are paralysed. Raga is not- she has a degeneration in her hind limbs, as a result of which her legs have gone limp. She trail behind her limply as she moves forward with her front legs.

A couple of days ago I saw the dog in our neighbourhood who has practically lived on wheels for a long time. He was sitting under a tree. I realized, due to his dependence on the wheels, he simply does not move without them. At least Raga will not become dependent on an external aid for her mobility and she will keep propelling herself till the end, because she has already accepted this posture. Plus the vet also told me that the carts can have painful

IMG_20170212_131453011.jpg

Picture from 12th Feb 2017 when we took Raga to Noida to the vet James Rappai. In this picture we were at Monica’s home in Sector 29, and Raga was moving around in their garden

side effects, like sores on the animal. As it is this girl has a mammarian tumour- I cannot think of anything pressing her sides and causing her any further discomfort. She is eating well, growling at anyone (of the dogs) if they think of coming too close to the food- the way Dash does when he senses she is showing no interest. She is also still interested in chasing the outside dogs, Chhotu, Black and Lily, and also the former’s father. So notwithstanding a change in style of movement Raga is still moving, eating, having regular bowel and bladder movements and life is on an even, though declining keel.

I of course chose to engage in disability studies as part of my life and work, but little did I know that I would have to experience disabilities in my dogs too. First it was Dash who had been waist down immobilized (though it was a lesser issue than this one’s) and now it is Raga’s turn. Ginger is getting better with her skin issues and Nikki also is asking for a little care due to her weight issues. I am toying with putting her up on Glucosamine already.

This post had to be about all our disabilities- canine and human and how I learnt the art of patience, and calm acceptance from my little baby- Raga. Little baby , yet big girl now- gentle, intelligent and full of play still, at ten years and a month above. I am feeling the better for it now- my dogs, my home, the abundance of flowers and butterflies, the phd research (which was chocking me till a few days ago) and my other writing- all seem to make sense together. I am not despondent about Raga’s condition any more for I know this is the most I can do for her and I can see her ease and inclusion in everything. She knows she is not alone in her suffering…or so I hope and believe.