The Karo…na staycation!

o now we are all on a forced vacation– at least I can call mine that! (Karo…na is a parodied version of Corona, in Hindi which means, do it not). But since the government has put us under this forced vacation, it has indeed put us there!

Why?

Because I recently got over with the writing of the doctoral thesis, so it is a much needed break…utter break that I am taking after July 2016. I never took such a break, or any real breakthere was always so much to do academically (while there is still more to do now as well). So I was hoping to go around, meet friends, be with my parents, eat out a bit, drive around Delhi- Noida etc, meet a few neighbours that I had been promising to before plunging another time into the deep end of writing, more writing and riyaaz (and more in music research).

Yet, one good thing happened last year- that I watched a lot of gardening videos (in my last blog post my friend Vishu said I may be taking another degree in gardening as well, alas! this much is enough. But thank you the idea is interesting Vishu) strange as it may sound, while I was writing the thesis, I was also learning about growing vegetables, about cooking food (I am a reasonably good cook, but learning more things) and more gardening videos, not to mention all about politics (globally). Have been reading a lot of research in social sciences and medical sciences for several years…so the mental activity has been humongous. And I was really looking forward to applying my gardening ideas to the garden, where else. It was planning to grow vegetables… been planning from last year August how to expand the gardening space. Naturally one can only do so much when it comes to horizontal space, which means going vertical. So I also watched myriad options of how to create that vertical space- over months and budgeting for it, slowly adding one little thing at a time.

Anyways, the long and short of it is that now that the time came to implement those ideas has arrived…it seems I really have to implement them with my own hands! The gardener has stopped coming; he is anyways always too happy not to! And here I am saddled with all the seeds, manure, coco peat and whatnotDSC00150

…and of course the space, which is asking for lot of work because the plants are overgrown with weeds and asking for work, beds are asking to be cleared among other things. I was just outside clicking a few pictures for this post and I saw a huge amount of tomatoes growing, and I have only recently learned the mistakes I have made with growing tomatoes, for not having put the support they require. Nevertheless one always learns from mistakes and so am I. Especially when your gardener is not proud of his farming roots and he wants to do the little dainty flower gardens and not hard core vegetable patches then one is left to one’s own means to figure it out.

Among the gardening videos there are several channels I follow. One of them is this person who speaks in a very funny manner but his ideas are very good and at least a couple of them have been tested by me. And as one outcome I have got these results exactly by the method he told me seedlings of bottle gourd

If I take you on a tour of the garden just for a moment, you would know how much work is needed here!

the spinach bed needs to be cleared soon

Spinach and lettuce

lots of tomatoes

Abundance of tomatoes

asking for a lot of work

These beds have tomatoes, nasturtiums, radish, green onions, lettuce, coriander all growing together. This corner is asking for a lot of effort among other locations around the house

After these issues there is more work, I mean planting more seeds, or make seedlings first and then planting them. there are scores of things here in packets and let me first get them up and going before talking about them. Already some seeds have sprouted, as I showed above- bottle gourd and now these- amaranth (chaulai- very rich source of iron etc). Right now these seedlings are very small and they are at the seedling stage only. But since this photo is taken from a height it is not easy to make that out.

red and green amaranth

But this is not all that is required to be done in this house, manned by one  academic- musician, but also two dogs, and cockateils, fish etc

There is a huge amount of work just to keep this house in order, and working. I cannot claim I can do so much work- which includes cleaning, cooking, dusting, the plants, the birds, the fish, the yard, which I am just about to show here-

 

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This is the amount of work required, and this does not include the basement which I will keep closed and the guest room ditto, until the household staff returns. In addition to keeping this space reasonably clean on a priority basis, the first being the kitchen and the dining area

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Ginger under the dining table. Just see how her underbelly is all red with the itch and scratching, though she sleeps here peacefully

This above photo is from the time when Ginger was still with us…so this is a nutshell of the space that needs to be kept clean in addition to the washrooms!

So while there may be people who are wondering what to do in this staycation, I have no dearth of work thanks to the 360 degree life I live! So these areas are as follows, just by way of summing up

Minimum daily work-

  1. Bath, exercise and riyaaz (first thing in the morning)
  2. Kitchen- cooking for self and dogs (separate meals obviously), this also means the two outside dogs, + doing the dishes and organizing in their separate locations, which are many and cleaning the kitchen!
kitchen

kitchen

2. Birds– cleaning the bird cage and giving them fresh food/water- both the inside birds and outside birds. Also putting the birds out in the morning and bring them back when it warms up

3. Fish– food twice a day and aquarium cleaning once a week

4. Watering all sides of the garden- three sides

5. Cleaning the front yard– I mean by washing it and drying with wiper

This is the minimum work required to be done daily, whether or not I can do anything after that.

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The front yard

Biweekly tasks

  1. Cleaning bathroom/s
  2. Teaching music classes online- every student twice a week online (two students in-person)
  3. Learning music – once/twice a week with my own teachers
  4. Going to the market for grocery shopping since there is nobody getting milk etc for me!
  5. Washing my clothes and doggy linen

Optional work that needs to be done as per discretion/requirement

Planting new seeds/plants

Removing old plants and reworking the soil for next season

Writing (research) articles

Working on the next project

Reading research- in mental health and now Covid-19!

New musical compositions for teaching

Bathing dogs as per schedule

Counseling clients as and when they take appointments, usually online

As anyone who reads this can comprehend, this leaves little time to watch TV or anything else. So at most I may watch news on the phone and of course also turn on the TV occasionally. There is hardly any time for the phone, barring sporadic messages- which are more often than not work related. And after this if any time left check social media (facebook, linkedin, quora etc).

I can do with longer days or more energy

Oh! I forgot walking the dogs and now Rhythm just came to nudge me to remind me that I have missed it, just in case! (also time to take them out). It is a 20-30 minutes walk at least.

Now that my whole day is in front of everyone who is curious how I am spending my quarantine period, I think you have a clear picture how much there is to do here! So if I am unable to come online and answer some queries, you would understand.

OMG! this is really a lot of work, let me not read it again lest it overwhelm me 🙂

Another addendum: in all likelihood my ‘home-manager’ is likely to report tomorrow because she is also bored sitting at home. So let us keep the fingers crossed.  Possibly I would be able to focus on my whole specialized tasks than managing the chores as well, god bless her!

Delights of winter gardens in North India

Gardens always carry a potential to bring delight, peace, centering and a scope for developing calmness, reflexivity and a philosophical approach to life. I am not going to delve into these issues here though, because this is only meant to be a little blog-post, chronicling musings that emerge from watching things develop from beginning to end and seeing them go down again- life coming a full circle again and again. Or perhaps nothing at all of that nature also- only a simple documentation of what grew and what it looked like 🙂

One can classify things in diverse ways, I am thinking of my flowers here, or should it be flowers and non-flowers? Or should it be edible versus inedible plants? Plants distinguished on the basis of the colours of their flowers or those that are creepers, shrubs and herbs? I was thinking for a long time (not continuously of course) of how to classify the flowers, and finally for this season I am thinking of doing it by colour! Or may be not! So let’s see what emerges from looking at the (photographic) data- yeah! now being a researcher soon to get a degree confirming that (hopefully somewhere in the near future) I can begin to appreciate the fact that even photographs are data 🙂

So how about I begin by the first photograph from this morning, for this is the most updated version of my garden. Tomorrow is a different day and everything will be different tomorrow, as gardens can change quickly. But today or just now, things look thus, with of course variations in light.

I have been keen to write things down because as always many things emerged in the garden for the first time this year and I am quite thrilled about them. One of them is what I would call-

Free blossoms

I mean of course if we can call anything that! So let me share a collage of those that appeared, from seeds that fell from last year, sprouted in due course on their own. These are the best presents that came to me from Mother Nature- free blossoms that I spread around the garden once the saplings were strong enough. No, I mean three varieties sprouted- poppy, nasturtium and larkspur. It was only nasturtium I spread around the garden- these are very delicate plants and do not withstand much transplanting. But first here are the poppies, that grew on their own, much to my delight and surprise. And more so they sprouted all over the house- backyard, front lawn, flower pots around in several locations.

Next I am posting here are the nasturtiums- which I managed to spread around the garden though they were initially located in two locations alone. Since there is a profusion of different flowers , for those who do not know which one I am referring to, these are orange coloured, having round leaves, like the lotus though much smaller in size than lotus leaves. In one of these photos it is very clear indeed. For the first time these year I was ready to support the plant climb, as earlier, I was not so attentive. This is one of the two creepers (the other one is sweet pea that I have never grown). So this plant has grown to considerable heights this year in many locations, which is quite a thing to see. It has climbed trees- including the curry leaf tree on side side, the harsingar tree on another side, and few other locations on sticks that I planted for support.

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I have very few larkspur plants that are around, and they are only flowering now, so I am not going to post their pictures. Instead I will take a photo from last year’s larkspurs only. That also brings another beautiful memory of my darling Dash who passed away, last year in June. These multi-coloured larkspur flowers were more profuse last year.

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So all these above are the free blossoms that came out of the earth- I did not plant them at all this year, because either I had forgotten to buy them (all of them grow from seeds, not saplings that can be brought from nurseries). Naturally enough this was a tough year and I hardly stepped out to go to any nursery, though I did venture out one! (incorrigible that I am). From here I go over to the double blossoms…let me clarify after I post the pictures first.

Two blossoms in the same location, one after another

 I need to say something here about the angles of the pictures- one picture is taken from standing along the line of the colourful chrysanthemums from one end of the garden, while the other has been taken from the opposite end. By double blossoms I mean the same bed was used to grow both these set of flowers- the first set on the left was sown in August and it bloomed by late Nov, December and early January. By mid-Jan they were all gone and we cut the plants, removed the dead flowers (though we have left the plants in the earth itself). While these flowers were beginning to blossom, we had planted the Salvia saplings in three batches. Now they are all flowering- one lot is the regular Salvia which is posted above, one lot I grew from the seed stage and a third set is from saplings which came in saplings that are called hybrids- bigger saplings which one is certain they would grow. Let me see if there is a photo of these

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In this picture one can see Salvia plants which are much smaller than the ones that are flowering in front of them. These are barely as tall as the dachshund here, whereas those others are as tall as my shoulder.

Vegetables this year

I am very keen to grow more and more of my food, so this year has really seen a lot of them at least being attempted, not all successfully so. But trying is the first step to succeeding and that is important for its own reasons.

I grew many things this year, more than last and hopefully less than the next. I did get to eat a huge amount of lettuce, spinach and a decent amount of radish (actually very small). And I grew methi (ate only once!), coriander, garlic, onions and ONE beetroot if you please (the birds ate the rest 🙂 ). I also gave lettuce and radish to others, principally my mother, and why wouldn’t I? I hope to give more and more away in the times ahead. I shared saplings also much earlier so that others would grow them as well- especially lettuce.

Dahlias and geraniums

This year I have had the best dahlias until now, the biggest dahlias to ever grow in my home. These were three-four  – the biggest were the white ones, and the smallest were the variegated red ones. The other colours were orange and purple ones. I absolutely loved all of them and I now realize that Dahlias are best grown in the pots, not earth, because the earth ones go out of reach, where they cannot be given fertilizer which is their due.

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Geraniums were entirely grown in pots, while dahlias were planted both in the earth and in pots. Geraniums have grown in big bunches in three locations around the house and I am posting a few pictures. I have not been able to click the biggest dahlias as it is not always possible for one tends to forget doing so much work, and clicking photos is certainly no priority. Despite that I manage to click many and none of these pictures are taken with my mobile phone which is much easier (because I do not know how to upload mobile pictures on my computer!)

Then I must note here about the solitary packet of seeds that flooded the house on all sides, amazingly…the allysums

The packet of Rs 20!

This was one packet that I sowed myself, I mean not me but the gardener, so we sowed them in one long planter, and lo and behold, in a short span of time there were so many saplings that I not only gave them to one neighbour but also spread it profusely around the house- and the results were so wonderful that every time I looked around, it was a source of joy, and smiles

And then are the other beautiful beings,

Pansies, phlox, antirrhinum, etc>>>

And of course the utterly beautiful cineraria, which is another delightful sight to the eyes. Here is a set of cineraria plants, which are growing in many locations around the house. The colours are blue, white, and purple with a few shades.

And here is a mixed lot of all the above flowers- which are phlox, antirrhinums- which grow only in one location yet have gladdened my heart every time I have looked at them, not to mention verbena, with its multicoloured hues…purple, red, pink, magenta, white etc.DSC00091

This brings me to the end of this post and I leave with one last set of pictures of the flowers mentioned here and not yet inserted into the text .

But this is not to mean that one is not going to mention about the planning which is underway, for the summer in fact the life ahead, because I have invested a lot of money for these structures, having thought about it for the last few months. DSC00069

These are three stands of iron …created to house more plants, and planters constructed especially to fit them, by order. These gray coloured trays as are visible here for now have seedlings growing for the summer ahead. And the plan is to grow whatever can be in the house, by making mistakes as usual, learning as I go along. But then someday in the future I would be eating what I grow, minus the grains of course!

So here is the last set-

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‘Coming home’ in 2020

I mean, I changed the header image 🙂

I changed the header image after a long time, because when I put any picture on my header I believe it represents me in a significant manner. For the first time I have put a picture of my front lawn that I took earlier this morning. It shows the peaceful early morning hues that I wake up to everyday. Of course the hues, colours and light keeps changing the whole day and depends entirely on the season. And the garden that is there on all sides of my house remains a testimony of how Mother Nature is responding to my efforts in honoring her presence in my life.

Earlier this winter the same lawn looked this way, especially the front row which now has a long line of red Salvia growing, it was full of chrysanthemums. The lower photograph is the spring look of the same bed where Chrysanthemums grew in the early parts of winter.

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A full bed of chrysanthemums from this morning, 24th Dec 2019

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My front lawn on 22nd March 2020

A decade of ‘recovery’

2010-2019 gets over in a few hours now. An eventful decade, full of recoveries, adventures, love, friends in all parts of the world, flowers, homes, family, books, research and more. Phew! woof! what a decade it has been. Not easy to capture in a blog post, so it would be foolish to attempt it. Instead I will focus on the word ‘recovery’- silly though it may seem.
But then this was a decade which began with my ‘recovery’ – a non-drug dependent recovery from bipolar, in 2010. I did not know then when it all started that I would someday be studying my own recovery, through the lens of a researcher. So this was the decade in which I was slowly morphing from a psychiatric patient, overwhelmed by her bipolar diagnosis, to a self-trained researcher. The testimonies of that started coming in the previous decade when I had peer- reviewed publications, though I had not yet turned the researcher’s lens on my personal story.  Moving out of psychiatric medication also brought about that change. And then came those early attempts at documenting the ‘recovery’ from how I understood it then- three journal publications in 2011, 2014, 2015.

2014 was another year of adventure when I moved with the four dogs I had to live in a village in Goa, and meeting with the Goan countryside was an experience I will remember for long, perhaps until the end of my life. I often think of my landlord Hyginus as the only person in Goa who was really fond of me from the bottom of my heart. Little did I know how attached he became to me and my dogs, and so emotionally dependent upon us that once I left his house after a year of being there, within two months he passed away. Not that I was in any way responsible for it, but his loneliness and sense of abandonment was so acute that it ate into his very soul and killed him. A simple man constantly misunderstood and rejected his whole life, a single child of parents who were extremely poor, who by dint of his labour and traveling on ships for a living gathered a lot of wealth, building four houses for himself and his family- all throughout rejected by his wife and sons, due to his deep dark complexion.

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My Raga stands in Hyginus’s side of the house and on the inner side of the gate was where I lived myself, while he lived on the other> The gate was put here to confine the dogs to my side of the house.

Life can be unfair. Seeing Hyginus and his heart, or how people treated him or how they perceived him, how he struggled to keep up his dignity, living in a small part of the house he had created and letting out the bigger one to one tenant after another got him an income and possibly some company, though not all tenants were like me. There had been an American lady who perhaps stayed there six years and another English couple whose length of stay I cannot recall.

There were many others I met and befriended in Goa, but there was no substitute for Hyginus. However another person who is a dear friend until now is Mina- who interestingly I met at a vegetable vendor’s, in Fatorda, Margao. So we are the best of WhatsApp friends nowadays as I have kept busy with research and writing, keeping away from all friends, for want of my ability to manage time. I remember seeing a very exquisite part of Goa once with Mina, we both drove down in my car, though I forget the name of the place now. Having a car with me in Goa was a great blessing for it gave me tremendous mobility and freedom, without of course the ability to figure out where to go! Google maps were not such a rage then, as they now are and that curtailed me somewhat. Not that I knew anyone anywhere to go visiting them anyways. The Goan adventure was just over two years, which enriched me yet brought me to a place of peril- which became a turning point for me to return back the same 2000 kms I had gone. It was a heartbreak to return and build all broken fences/bridges.

But it was also facilitated by the fact that I had gained entry into a doctoral research, by a sheer dint of fortune (how else to justify it). So at least this was the time when my acumen as a researcher got established as a certainty and I entered university with nearly eight peer-reviewed publications in tow, perhaps the highest a researcher entering into a doctoral program would be having in most parts of the world.

May be there is a time when a person needs to morph from being a producer of research articles to a producer of books :). With the completion of the PhD research I hope to complete that part of the journey of my life. This (doctoral) research has been a very interesting, yet difficult journey of research, replete with spinal issues and another attempt at recovery – of my bone health this time, recovering my lost self from the abysmal darkness of mental ‘illness’ and then diving down at the deep edge to understand recovery more fully, thoroughly and minutely. A few days back I wound up my first draft thesis and sent it to the supervisor, who has finally shown some interest in my work and has understood that I am doing something quite interesting. Otherwise all this while half the time she did not even respond to my emails. Until now we have only had a brief ten minute phone talk once in 2018 I think- which was so useless that I decided never to talk to her again until I reached the very end. Having finished the first draft of course meant that now the time had come to get back to her and share the work I had done.

Coming back to Faridabad has also meant recovering my life from all the lost years, nay decades of life, rebuilding the life of a musician by first setting up the music school (that I intend growing in the new year), and then starting out my counseling practice, from both of which I have so much experience now that it merits another scholarly endeavour of writing!

And this decade has also meant losing Raga, Nikki and Dash and welcoming Rhythm and Floe into our lives. I do not know now whether it is fair or ethical to mourn the ones who are gone, which also includes my grandmother in 2013 or celebrate the new arrivals (which means all the children of my brother and sister as well)  but in keeping with the infinite flow of life we can only bow to the passage of life, and accept the inevitability of this motion. What is here today will be gone tomorrow and the circle will go on unceasing. It is comforting yet not when you lose someone you love. I still ache in my heart about my dogs.

Making friends with wonderful people all around the world has been another enriching experience and I have begun to value the nature of these friendships which bring people together for ideas, rather than other selfish needs or fear of loneliness. And the range of people is big- from scholars, academics, to artists and therapists, students and whatnot. Students have a special pride of place in my heart- not only because of the bond of a teacher-student  but how we enrich one another on a fairly regular basis. It continues thusly.

Andre keeps busy and his & my lives are interwoven in a deep, yet distant manner- My Phd years have been tough on him and us- for I have not had the mental space to accommodate him/us, overwhelmed and forever tired as I largely have remained, for most parts. So this is where things have brought me at the end of the year or decade. Steeped in work I do, passionate about the work, in deep meaningful connections around the world, full of ideas, musical compositions and ideas, always on the move with research and doing all the latter without any financial support from other than family resources. It has been quite a venture really- but well worth it I suppose.

And with this goldmine of knowledge I move into a new decade, whose numbers also look so musical, especially because I am born on the 20th of a month. There is rhythm in this year ahead and there is Rhythm in my home…and dogs go on with their doggy lives, chasing rodents and up with their playful barking as researchers like me turn grey in their locks.

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Rhythm the dachshund

A decade of recovering my lost self, gaining myself back from the suffering of mental illness and a decade which brings me to my emancipatory road of taking this knowledge into the wider world around, with this doctoral research as I now begin to wind off. I hope this earnest labour of years spent alone racking my brains, interspersed with the doggy lives, and music classes will be well worth in the year ahead.

And I hope that anyone who drops by to read this post will also be enriched in their lives further and possibly this post will bring a sliver of hope to some that they can also overcome their suffering no matter how daunting it appears at the moment. It is still meant to be overcome for this is the destiny we are all born with. So here comes a decade of taking the knowledge of recovery wider and catalyzing more people’s recoveries via the counseling work I do.

Thank you friends for reading and for your interest. I wish you a beautiful time ahead and hope that the change of the calendar will weed out the useless and bring in the goodness. May it be so- may there be flowers in your gardens and may all your earnest hard work bring you all the blossoms you have earned.

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A full bed of chrysanthemums  in December 2019, and the dogs and birds on the far side of the photo

Dash departs

When a beloved companion suddenly departs, it only has one effect- a stunning blow one doesn’t know how to respond to. A day of not eating, a day of listless breathing which I attributed to flatulence or anything (not that he ever suffered from that) does not really prepare anyone, until all the signs do not become a writing on the wall. But that one day gave me all the warning and prepared me- to the extent I was ready for it, for all the signs were slowly appearing. Towards the evening I even got a big hole dug in the garden, for I knew it would be anytime now!

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Dash: 19th Dec 2004- 28th June 2019

 

When you love and live through so much together, your companions more so the canine ones, become such an invisible yet constant part of life one does not even look at them. What am I saying?! Of course this is not true. I looked out for him every single moment, more him than anyone else– because I could see his growing vulnerability, especially with the young dachshunds around growing stronger and bolder. I would ensure he was in the room with me wherever I went, especially with the heat now so intolerable. He would wait outside the door for fear of the younger dogs and I would just get up every time or usher him in before closing the door (i never fully close my doors even with the airconditioning). But this was only in the last year, and progressed as the youngsters grew older.

How long we go back

Dash had a long history with me. There are many dogs I adopted in life but having adopted a dachshund earlier, when I had an opportunity to get another home I did not think a moment about it, and promptly got him home. I still remember the long drive from Gurgaon to Faridabad; where I got him from a family who wanted to give him up due to some of their problems for that time. He was born in that home- his both parents were there too. On the day I went to get him he barked at me initially and I shook for a second thinking how would I take him back if he were to show an attitude? But he had a weakness for drives, and he promptly jumped into my car when I held his leash. And we drove away.

After awhile I think he figured that the drive got too long; it was almost 35 kms. And once he did and seeing a stranger at the wheel, he started howling! Now this was a lonely road and not much happening around, except for random people in their cars and bikes. But I felt embarrased seeing the people looking at the dog howling in the car. And this continued for at least ten kms, until we reached home. Once we reached home, the other three girls- Ginger, Nikki and Raga were waiting for me. They heard my car and started barking excitedly. Now Mr. Dash forgot all about his past life and decided that he had to deal with the adversaries at hand. All the howling stopped and here we were…starting a new life. I brought a small male dog into a home with three adult females- golden retriver, labrador and german shephard. He was four years old and by far the oldest for all my girls were younger to him.

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All the dogs in one shot

It was a short process of befriending the retrievers and a little longer with Raga- but in time we all became a happy family. But happy families have to do things, manage stuff and when the family is dominated by canine members, then the human usually ends up doing a lot of stuff!

And so i did- managing a home with four dogs taught me everything about life, everything that I needed to know about humans, relationships, discipline, the value of timeliness, routine and so much more- remaining organized, remaining unwavering, not questioning the work that needs to be done, not making too much noise when suffering, because I saw how placidly animals accepted their suffering, whatever it be.

A Goan adventure

But happy families with an adventurous human also treat life like an adventure- which it is meant to be! And we all experienced the crazy adventure of the Goan holiday where we lived in a village and a city- one year each, soaked ourselves in the Goan country and then happily returned home. But not before we captured some of our experiences on this blog, which of course is now defunct, but which still holds in place some of our fondest memories from Goa. And in this one you can see how Dash would strategically place himself and seek Nikki’s comforting companionship.

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Tolerating Dash, as he seeks the comfort of her company (Faridabad)

One can see the silent exchanges Nikki and Dash were having- they were quite a pair really.

Raga was the first of my girls to go, even though she was the youngest. That was in October 2017, then it was Nikki’s turn on 8th June 2018. And now it was Dash- 28th June 2019. In three consecutive years three of my babies have departed. Dash has shaken me just like Nikki, for there was no illness, no warning- perhaps another sagely demise like Nikki. One day of not eating, not showing much response – a certain delirium, and gone the next morning.

He was having some hiccups and coughing and everytime he did, he expelled either from his mouth or his bowels/bladdar. I kept him clean till the end, made sure his sheets were changed, bed was clean, the towel under his head, to prop him up to ease his breath, was clean too. That was the most I could do at this stage I felt.  My heart was very disturbed and I even postponed one of my music classes to the next morning, of the three I had, because I did not want to be away from him that long. I taught the other two classes because by then my sister was here, and she was by his side while I taught. By the time I came up from the music classes, she told me this was the final countdown.

Living in surrender

Between us we have seen so many dogs, from our earliest years that we can tell. I called someone and got ready for the next stage of life. It is a strange eerie thing that while someone you love still lives, you get ready for their burial. But I now think that this is the greatest acceptance of the inevitability of the circle of life’s circularity, that what is…will pass out of being, into non-being. If we were to only accept this wisdom and live in awareness of our short time, no matter how long it appears today, perhaps we would develop some insight into what we do, how we think, how we worry/fret/suffer or whatever else it be.

So these were the dogs because of who I chose to not go to the US for my PhD, and I am so glad I chose not to. The exact feeling in my heart was that my dogs were ageing and at a time when they were ageing and needing my tending to, could I just leave them with anyone and hand over my responsibility to another? Would I not suffer to remember them at a time when they would be ill and they would be dying? As though prophetic, this is exactly what happened. While the PhD still goes on, the dogs passed away- one in each year, as I mentioned earlier. In July this year, 2019, I complete three years of PhD research and three of my dogs have departed. It was them, my greatest companions because of who I am doing this PhD…and I think at least today I have the comfort that I kept my vows to them. If they have been faithful and loving to me, so have I tried, in learning from them the greatest of my life lessons, imbibing the values of dedication, commitment and contentment, regardless of what/who you have, or do not.

Now here is a collage of photos with Dash in each of them, the rest may or may not be there. I am unlikely to be there in most as I would be the one behind the camera, capturing vignettes of my life, my loved ones, my adventures.

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But I do not write this note in despair…neither should anyone who reads it construe it thus. It is meant in honor, in love and in gratitude for lives shared and loved deeply, for companions who endure every season of life and for the circle that continues as younger dogs live on a reminder that even when we will go there will be others holding fort…so let us do the best we can, while we can.

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Why gardening heals and other reflections at the end of first quarter, 2019

This year is super- busy, and despite wanting to I have not been able to take time out to write a single blog post on this blog. But foreseeing the months ahead, and in all likelihood I would not be able to come back here again I want to wind off the winter, and welcome the year ahead with reflections, rounding off open loops and coming into the zone where a lot of work is getting nicely aligned, in a serene manner. I cannot hasten anything, because it is all seamlessly connected- whether the manner an article is written, dogs’ food is cooked, thesis takes a step further or a child learns a new bandish.

The whole winter, starting Nov 2018, almost till mid-March 2019, there has been a lot of gardening activity. For someone like me, who has no time to step out of my home, partially because I am so invested in what I do, and partly because the whole world comes to me right here- via the internet, the metro and whatnot, gardening is really the thing that brings me back into a zone of deep serenity. Add to it the gentle, loving presence of dogs- the world becomes loving and capable of sending echoes back. But of course it all asks for tremendous efforts– animals, gardens or anything else. Equally as much as effort, one requires resilience- else when plants will die, wither away, perish, not sprout or get infested, one will lose heart and give up. Mother Nature does not relent- there is no mercy in nature. Something is weak, it will be killed- it is as brutal as that. So either you protect the weak or you discard the weak- no point breaking your heart over something you have no control over.

So first of all this bit about the gardening, which took in a lot of investment this year, and I thought it was important for my soul, for my inner equilibrium to step out on all sides of my home and be surrounded by greenery, bird songs, sight of birds, flowers, trees and everything I can create in the arid dryness of this really harsh place, a dusty industrial uppity town, where people ooze attitude and arrogance- starting right from my neighbourhood. Fortunately it has happened, and will continue with the effort we have put in- me and Ram Rattan.

It is not just the financial effort from me, but also the ideas, the arrangements, the planning, the failures and the bouncing back. So many of my seeds did not sprout at all, I told Ram to simply go and buy the plants as saplings after bearing the losses and seeing the failures. the losses were of Larkspurs, poppies, nasturtium (due to hailstorm a full standing bed was finished), dog flowers and possibly more. So it was a matter of tightening my belts and instead of weeping over the loss, plan the next move before the end of the season. So these are the outcomes of that double effort. Like they say, there is more to it than meets the eye- and this is the full picture now- the huge efforts must be shared, and the spirit of those involved, so that one can see that every little thing carries a whole trail of stories behind it, it is not as simple as it looks.

 

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I have kept busy with my dissertation, research papers, singing classes, counseling and managing this little house-  a lot of balancing for certain, and being on my toes constantly- fairly tired at times. But this much work is only possible if one builds in certain elements of  discipline. But thanks to the sheer volume of the work, that has also happened.

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I have also managed to start walking the dogs regularly now- it is a great relief personally and better for everyone; though i really want to train them as well, knowing how sweet and responsive they are, as well as intelligent in general. Rhythm is sitting in this picture with papa watching her. I sometimes tether her, because she straightaway jumps into the flower beds and starts digging quickly, true to her breed instinct. This is the only time papa visited this entire season. I think he was very happy to see the garden and the profusion of flowers around.

And now in this collage ahead, i share the vegetables I grew this year- which is certainly a lot more than last year and hopefully I will do more of the same in the months ahead

 

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A bit about the dogs- Ginger is really suffering with her skin issues, but I have done everything possible under the sun for her and she is eating fine, sleeping a lot more naturally due to her age, and always by my side. Dash is older than her, but fortunately a little better than her, possibly because he did not start as a weak pup, like she did. The deepest lessons come from my animals and the plants around- just because my beautiful girl Ginger is so frail, and in poor health, I can only love her more, respond to her barks for demanding food whenever she does and make sure she is comfortable, her ears (which ooze pus out, due to blockage of ear canals) cleaned regularly, and her hair also kept trim (bought a trimmer for that recently). This is the best I can do, in addition to all the omega three oils, food, vit.B (to both seniors) and whatever else is possible in their food, including curd, milk – for whoever wants whatever.

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Dash, the senior most among the dogs, now into his 15th year

If a dog’s love doesn’t diminish for me when s/he is old, how can mine? Similarly my parents, similarly all the other people in my life- seasons change, but that does not change how you feel about the ones you love. This is the eternal flow of life and we are all crisscrossing across time and leaving one another richer for the experiences, if we choose to see it that way. Else we all have the freedom to feel cheated, feel betrayed, wronged, or whatever…there is no end. The river of life goes on, regardless of our response to it, for this is a great cosmic game, and we are so little- we can only bow in wonderment, wipe our tears of joy, of sadness- gather ourselves and smile back to the universe in gratitude. Thank you Mother Earth for all this love

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Ginger, March 2019. I don’t have a chain around her, this was only because I bathed her that moment and let her dry for a few minutes in the sun

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Ginger in 2012, while Dash passes by

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

An auspicious time

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

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

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

 

Academic

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

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

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

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

Musically

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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