Sunday, February 19, 2017

All is well

All is well in the Jain household.
That's saying something, considering Valentine's day came and went and no battles were fought, won or lost. Even the silent treatment didn't get aired or administered this year. What's going on?

Has the husband (and my Valentine by choice, not default) passed all his 'how to please the wife' training modules?

Has he, after nearly 25 Valentine's Days, decoded the elusive code to make me happy?

No and no.

Was it a piece of jewellery? Roses? Dinner?

No and No and nada!

So what happened?

I grew up. Simple. This year, at the ripe old age of 45, I suddenly felt all grown up and responsible for my happiness.

Flashback to when I was twenty-something and the husband was still a boyfriend...

This is what I expected from him on Valentine's Day and failing that, my birthday which was a few days away:

There'll be a beautifully wrapped box with a gorgeous dress inside with matching shoes, waiting for me in my room when I get back from work. On this box, there will be tickets to a concert and a voucher for a day long spa treatment with a love note from him telling me that a limo would pick me up at such and such time to go to the spa and then to the concert hall.

Cities changed, from Chennai to Calcutta to Delhi to London and now Doha, we wed and he became the husband, but my list of Valentine/birthday desires remained the same, more or less. Odd, when I think about it-- he didn't even know my shoe size then! And limo? At the salary we were making at twenty-three?

I digress.

My plans may sound awfully familiar to all of you who've either read Mills & Boon or watched Pretty Woman. I didn't say my romantic imagination was original. In fact, it's anything but. It's just what I'd expected for our first and every subsequent Valentine's.

REALITY check.

He did buy me a card for our first Valentine's.

I looked at it and watched the above-mentioned desires fall off the boughs of my romantic heart, one by one, like leaves in Autumn.

Disappointment often disguises as anger and mine did too. I was furious.

He misread the anger and assumed I had an inexplicable hatred towards cards.

Every Valentine's since then, he's asked me the same question, "Should I get you a card?"

My practical, pragmatic hubby has no clue ...not a peek into the workings of his wife's expectations.

And why should he? He NEVER expects me to get him anything either.

"Call yourself a feminist?" my seventeen year old son taunts.'s a thought. Maybe, feminism is about taking charge of one's happiness and being responsible. We can't be flinging the baton of equality when it suits us and then wait for that 'surprise' from the man to tick all our expectation boxes and make us happy. Do we even know what this surprise looks like?

I don't. But I've always managed to make him feel guilty because he doesn't either!

Yes, it's taken me two decades to get this.

And the result?

My best Valentine's day to date.

National Sports Day coincided with Valentine's Day this year, so he was at home. We went for a run in the park and I clicked this picture of a rose, growing in a friend's front yard.

Ah! the joy letting go of expectations brings...
A rose becomes my garden. 
 "All is well." has such a calming ring to it. The minute you hear these three words, the heart beats softer and starts to smile, No?

A few weeks ago, I happened to be on a Heritage Walk in Ahmedabad. A kite stuck on electric wires declared All is Well. Who was I to disagree?

It was early morning. Children were getting ready for school. Mothers were busy packing their lunches. Shops hadn't opened. Brooms had cleaned the streets recently. Chants of prayers emanated from Hindu homes. Jains dressed in white made their way back home from temples. Call to prayer had rung out an hour earlier from the nearby mosque. Some windows were shut and some were half open. Agarbatti (incense) infused zephyr blew down the pols and narrow streets. All was indeed well with the world that beautiful morning.

Are you ready to hop on?

Smiling faces agreed to be photographed. 
 Getting ready for the day's business...the ironing-lady.

I was admiring this beautiful door, when it opened and ...
the lady of the house beamed a smile...her son is in grade 5.

"Return to your Center"
The couple's Tao Te Ching by William Martin

If you make a show of your love,
it will hide itself.
If you babble on about it,
your words will fail.
If you grasp and cling to it,
it will slip through your fingers.

You cannot approach that which has no beginning.
You cannot lose that which has no end.
You do not have to protect it.
How then can you experience it?
As a swimmer experiences the water.
Dive in.

If you're feeling somewhat separate
and distant from your beloved,
do the things that stabilize you.
Walk, dance, paint, meditate,
write, build, play or sing.
When you return to your center
you will find your beloved waiting.

Have a happy, peaceful dive.
till we meet again...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Happy New You

I wish you a Happy New You.
What's that?
State of mind?
Flight of fancy?
A flippant thought?
A kiss?
A hug?
A new saree?
Hot tea?
absence of all?
Does happy exist in nothing?
Or does it need everything?
Is it even a thing?
Or, is it in all things?
Why do we attach Happy to New Year, Diwali and Xmas?

What do you think?

And how can you or I be new?

Have you planted a seed recently?
All of the plant's past incarnations live inside it--
roots, shoots, leaves, sepals, stamen and stigma.
A bit of sun, a drop of water, soft soil to caress and a gardener's love--
is enough.
Watch the tiny life furl out of the dried up seed, and you'll know
how to be new.

Be a newborn every day.
Be blown away by the miracle of a sunrise and the promise of a sunset.
Be ready to die every day, any day.
Dying begins at birth, said Anusha.
Every breath I take is taking me closer to the day I will breathe my last.
It could be today!

So, I let death become my constant companion.
Only then can I truly appreciate each breath I inhale.
For only then can I STOP wasting my precious, precious time on God's beautiful Earth
indulging in regrets and anger and what ifs.
Only then can I be a happy new me...
every day, every glorious day.

Jab jago tabhi savera 
Make this moment your first of many
new ones
and be the baby you are meant to be
gurgling with happiness
and spilling your joy
and spreading your love
inward and out.

It's not easy.
I know.
I was in the middle of typing this gyan (wise words!)
when the husband walked into the kitchen.
What's for dinner? he asked.
Leftover chana, I replied without looking up.
I don't like chana, he declared.
What? When did you decide that? 23 years of being married and today you tell me you don't like chana?
Out flew peace.
Anger danced with glee.

Yes, the new me is still petty.
The new me has an ego.
But the new me can see this.
The new me is a work in progress.
The new me is taking baby steps to find the true me.

Wishing you all a Happy New You:) And here's your treat for surviving the onslaught of my emotional ramblings above-- a bunch of sunrises and sunsets captured on Jersey shore this Christmas.

It was a fabulous family holiday. Eleven of us (mature adults, new adults, a teenager, a pre-teen and a pre-pre-teen) gathered for a week. The only items on our agenda were food and tea and chats and walks. We ate and caught up and danced to silly item numbers and got tipsy and walked and collected shells on the beach and clicked photos -- lots of photos and videos, too:)

Life, when you look back, are these moments --shared with loved ones --strung on the tender thread of memories.

I'm reading Devdutt Pattnaik's Sita these days and one line has stayed with me ever since I read it:
When it was time for them to leave, Janaka blessed his daughters, "May you take happiness wherever you go."

Happy to see the sun split itself into mini suns and play with the sea...
Happy to sit and stare: crimson and gold and blue and mauve

 cross connection!

two sides of the same coin.
Life and Death
Happy and Sad
Peace and Anger
Can't define one without the other.
But what we choose 
to define us
is ENTIRELY up to us.
Will 2017 witness your serenity
 or will drama play out?

Your choice.
You choose.

Will you let the serene settle in silence?
Will the drama of life draw you in--deeper into everything-- away from nothing;
 no-thing: where happiness lives.

Have a peaceful weekend. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Petra portraits -- of humans, animals and stones

It's been too long.

I've missed you. Let's meet soon.

Does the first weekend in December work for you?

How about Petra?


Just over a week ago, Angela and I found ourselves, bathed and ready, waiting for the door that led to the breakfast buffet to open at 5:55 am. The doors opened at 6 sharp and we entered. This was a first for both of us, waiting for a restaurant door to open for breakfast. Angela had another first to follow -- her first time in Petra. This was my second time in 7 years but this time I 'd brought my blogging eyes with me, i.e. my camera.

Going through 500 plus clicks to pick just enough to give you a feel of the place but not spoil the surprise for those of you who are planning to visit Petra in the not so distant future, turned out to be an enjoyable and tedious task. Reliving those magical moments (and there were lots of them) has put a song in my heart and even though the kitchen sink is full of unwashed dishes and there's no sign of dinner, I'm humming a happy song.

Come, feel the sun on the ancient rocks.

See how each layer, sediment and pigment lights up under the blue sky.

Lose yourself in the kohl rimmed eyes of the charming Bedouin men who flirt with you with such confidence and charm that you can't help but smile back.

Sip sweet sage tea offered by Bedouin women who show you pictures of their children on their phone and whose skin glistens and eyes smile.

And just like the clip-clop, clip-clop of the hooves on stones laid down almost 3000 years ago by the Nabataean tribes fades when the animals cross over to the sandy patches in this ancient land, dissolve in the silence of the stones.

Listen with your eyes.

And let the silence of all those who've walked these parts before us keep you company...

These pictures are in no particular order. I surrender to this wonder and let Petra show me the way...with just a few words, I promise, just the bare minimum...

Monsieur Camel, they whispered. 
 Ahmed, our guide.

 This is Hassan. He sells silver bracelets.
Saw him cleaning the Siq on our way back.

Look up!

The 450 year old tree.
Straightened her red jacket, she she caught sight of us wielding camera and phone:)

A rich man's cave, joked Ahmed, with two car garage:)
 Audi and his donkey, Michael Jackson
And we walked into an Asterix comic strip; as if the obelisks around weren't enough.

Made in India:)

That's a fully grown man in the foreground-- the Monastery.

Fifteen year old Mohammed whose family lives in the Bedouin village, down in the valley. 
He sells snacks in this shop and sleeps in a cave nearby as it's not practical to go back home everyday.

Fix roofs, add solar panels and then breathe-- inhale, exhale.
 Camel caravan...his legs wrapped in toga and the camel's belly become one with stone and history.

Art's never far...bought a portrait...will share another day.
Sad eyes, happy laugh.


Silent stones
that speak volumes
tug at you;
at the bit in you
that was there when light first touched earth
the bit that feels the connection
of air and ether
 of the cosmos within
and human history on show.

Hope to see you soon.

Have a wonderful weekend.