Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I wandered lonely as a cloud....of anniversaries, lakes and William Wordsworth

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

Twenty-five years ago, on the 2nd of August, two events happened:

1. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and
2. My mother died.

The first event made world news.

The second unmade me.

Loss and death are difficult to comprehend, especially when you are nineteen.

Twenty-five years is a long time and it's no time at all.

Rain had washed the dust off Delhi on Thursday, 2nd August 1990. The day felt fresh. My room- mate and I had cleaned out our room and kitchen, prepared and enjoyed a hot meal. All was well with the world. I was reading 'The Good Earth' by Pearl S. Buck when our landlady's four year old son came up running and shrieked, 'Arti didi, aapka phone aaya hai'...there's a call for you.

When your mother suffers from manic depression, an out of the blue phone call can never be good news. I knew. Even before I heard my neighbour's voice on the phone who I had never spoken to before that day, I knew.

The moon played hide and seek with the thick monsoon clouds throughout my seven  hour bus journey from New Delhi to Dehradun. Two thoughts drifted in and out of my consciousness:

1. I won't be putting on any weight when I go home this time- Mom won't be cooking.
2. "I wandered lonely as a cloud..." my mother's favourite English line.

I suspect that Wordsworth was the only English poet she ever read. My mother belonged to the Hindi brigade. She read Hindi literature. Names like Maithili Sharan Gupt and Mahadevi Verma were uttered with respect and reverence by her. She sometimes read a women's magazines - 'Sarita', I think- I see a few copies lying around in my memories- but I can't be sure. Her Sanskrit was impeccable. I managed a perfect score in my grade 7 Sanskrit exam- thanks to her tutoring. My mother's  English reading was limited to our school text books when she helped us out with our homework. She swore by 'Wren and Martin'- a grammar reference book I hated and she loved. She never conversed in English but her knowledge of English grammar was flawless. And her handwriting was like 'pearls on a string'- moti piroye huye - one of her many quotes.

My mother loved to use quotes, idioms, proverbs (muhavare) in Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit. Her language was pretty colourful, especially when she needed to sort us out! She would use the juiciest Punjabi words to put her point across.

'I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills.'

I had heard her recite these lines. I never really paid attention. Growing up is a busy time and parents are a backdrop to your life- you don't get curious about them till you are much older or if you've lost them, I think.

I was in grade 7 or 8, when I first came across this poem in English class. I knew the first verse before I'd read it. That's when I made the connection. I never asked her why she liked this poem so much. Daffodils don't grow in Dehradun. Was it the reference to the clouds then?

Did she feel trapped? Did she want to feel light and fluffy like a cloud? I never asked. You don't ever think that you'll run out of time to find out, do you? We take so much for granted and yet so much is fickle and transient, like life and breath.

A lot has happened since the day my mother won her battle to rid herself of her pain. My father remarried; too soon in my opinion. His new wife and I didn't get along. So, she decided to take care of my future by fixing an arranged marriage. I cooked up a story and created a fictitious job interview in Delhi and boarded a bus from Dehradun with Rs.257 in my pocket (ten days' worth of my first salary as a receptionist at a local newspaper) to live my life on my terms.  College friends and their families gave me food and shelter till I found a job and 'apne pairon pur khadi hui' - stood on my own two feet i.e. started earning my living.

'Someone who loves you is looking down from Heaven above. She will always look after you.' Brother Dunne, my year 10 English teacher, wrote these words in the condolence card he sent me. I'm not sure where the card is, but the words are inked in my heart. That's how I see my mother- looking down from up there- perhaps wandering as a cloud- but always full of love for me. I felt like I had connections with higher authorities after I read those words. I felt fearless and invincible and nineteen.

When I look back, I realise that I had everything I needed to live. I was complete. God, the Universe or whatever you might call it- this force that delivers us into life, sends us prepared for the journey. All we need to do is stop, breathe and trust ourselves when we face an unknown alley, a road less travelled or when we find ourselves at life's crossroads. The well of strength is inside us. We can draw from it anytime we want or need to. We are born alone. We die alone. And essentially we live our lives alone and that is okay. In fact, alone is awesome. Alone is not lonely- never lonely. It rids you of the foolish expectation that others can make you happy.  Alone clears the clutter of attachment. Alone frees you up to love unconditionally, openly and fully. It lets you see this wonderful world with new eyes everyday and cherish the moments spent with family and friends. It's easier for me to see this now - from the vantage point of having lived those twenty five years.

Stuff happens.
Life goes on.
Fathers forget.
And stepmothers? Well, let's just say that within six months of my mother's death, plot lines and characters of fairy tales like Cinderella and so many Hindi films of the early eighties didn't seem that far-fetched any more. Stereotypes are there for a reason.

2nd August 2015- Thoughts of my mother and her memories filled my day. My sister and I exchanged messages and I sat down to look at my holiday pictures.

All I'd planned to do was to prepare a post about our trip to the Lake District- Wordsworth's land. Plans... plans...plans- they have a way of making you. So here it is- an unplanned post to celebrate my mother's life and her two favourite lines of English poetry.


I was unmade.
So I could make
a new me
I did.

Squeezing the grains of expectations
in my fist
only proved
life's evanescence.

So I gave myself permission
relish the scraping escaping grains of sand
through the gaps in between my fingers,
watching them
turn into diamonds
in the sun and shade
of joy and sadness.

There is so much to see
in this beautiful world.
I'm not done yet.

A bumble bee.

Are you ready?
Let's ramble through Wordsworth's darling land
with his words for company.

(WARNING: I've used more pics than usual. I hope you can feel the sunlight playing hide and seek with the rippling water, the glistening blades of grass, the fences that frame pastures perfectly, the breeze, the gusts and the sheer beauty of this land, just like I did.)

'I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills.'


Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
(from Wordsworth's: The Daffodils)

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
(from Wordsworth's: The Daffodils)

Can you see the grin on his face? 

 Buttermere- thank you Shammah:)
This is my favourite lake.


William Wordsworth1770 - 1850

This is the spot:—how mildly does the sun Shine in between the fading leaves! the air In the habitual silence of this wood Where shall we find so sweet a resting-place? Is more than silent: and this bed of heath, Of quiet thoughts,—protracted till thine eye Come!—let me see thee sink into a dream Be calm as water when the winds are gone We two have had such happy hours together And no one can tell whither.—my sweet friend! That my heart melts in me to think of it.  
Source: www. poets.org

The walk around Buttermere took us about two hours. This walk offers everything you can ask for- pastures, woodland, fields, breathtaking views, and even a tunnel.
For more details, you can check out:

One of the walkers had mentioned the local ice-cream. 
Since Buttermere means 'the lake by the dairy pastures', we HAD to taste this ice-cream.
Suffice to say, the service was cold and rushed. 
(I gather since it was five to five when we walked in and it was Friday:)
BUT, the ice-cream was sweet and delicious. 
A couple of Dutch bikers tried to get a scoop, but they were a few minutes late.

We made Staffield in  Eden Valley, Cumbria our base to explore the lakes.
It was perfect.

We walked to Lazonby to buy groceries on the first day. 

Kirkoswald has the best pub in England which we discovered later that day. Their food was delicious- fish and chips and mushy peas with a glass of cider- BLISS!
The staff were warm and friendly.
If you happen to be in the area, check it out- reservations are recommended.

Time to go to bed...

The moon came visiting:)

And just like that, it was time to head back. 

My Heart Leaps Up

William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So it is now I'm a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

I hope you enjoyed the lakes.
A couple of days later, 
we will land in Amsterdam 
where I'll fall in love with Van Gogh 
and his kind of yellow:)

Wishing you all a beautiful, bountiful day outdoors.

Make the most of it-
walk barefoot-
let the grass tickle you
and the sand prickle you.
Watch the sun set or rise-
kiss, hug or smile.
LIFE is beautiful-
smell the roses 
and notice the bumble bee.
He's gorgeous you know-
black and yellow.


  1. Thank you Arti, for filling "your paper with the breathings of your heart" and sharing them with us.
    April xx

  2. Arti, thank you for sharing the story of your mother's last day. It touched me deeply. I lost my mother young too, but I've never been good at sharing my emotions with anyone. I admire that about you, how you're willing to put yourself out there. It's a great gift. Also, those pictures... incredible. I hope you're enjoying your trip. You may have just crossed paths with my family in England without even knowing it!

    1. Hi Tara. The willingness and strength to share my story has come about recently. How? and Why? I don't really know. Maybe, I can point to practising yoga, or writing regualrly or being at peace with myself or plainly accepting it all. Humans are stories and stories like to be told...what do you think?
      Are your boys in England? Cumbria is your kind of place, I feel. The walks are breathtakingly beautiful.
      Thank you for your words:)
      hugs. xx

  3. Deeply moved by this Arti...thanks for sharing about your mum...loved the earlier one about her making your school tiffin too...Big hug to you . Needless to say the Wordsworth-ian experience of being in Cumbria area was delightful to see and read too. Am going to share with a Doha friend who lived in Cumbria for long years if you don't mind. Enjoy.Amsterdam..looking forward to hearing of your Van Gogh experience

    1. Thank you for your love Ketaki. Van Gogh's work and letters have made me have a crush on him! Please feel free to share:) Hugs. xx

  4. such beautiful sharing arti! losing a loved one is the most challenging experience on earth. but i do believe we are all eternal beings.
    your travel photos are so gorgeous!! i just have to follow your footsteps one day, SOON!! xoxo

  5. Arti, I was waiting for the right moment to read your post. Have been quite rushed on the net the past couple of days. I'm glad I did. I never knew what was there in the post but now having read it slowly, at a relaxed pace , I'm glad I gave it the time it deserved. Love you for sharing your emotions so honestly . I can imagine how hard it is to lose someone as close to your heart as your mother at the tender age of nineteen and I love and respect you for how you've resurrected your life after that. I have so much of admiration for you ! Love your poetry and your lovely images. The foxgloves, the buttercups, the ripples on the lazy water, the boats tied to the tree, the tea room, the blue door, the landscapes, the light at the end of the dark tunnel and last but not the least, the lovely drifting clouds. Yes, she's right there, watching over you :) A big hug to you !

    1. I love to hear from you Reshma; you know that:) Thank you for taking your time to read and comment. hugs. xx

  6. dearest Arti...this story about your mom, and your loss at such a young age, is deeply touching. I love that you gave us a glimpse into your world when your mom was there, and then, as difficult as it must have been, you made us feel the emptiness after she was gone... You convey your pain (and your journey) so clearly with words and images. It takes a strong woman to do this. I am happy that you were able to venture out on your own at such a young age, and live such a meaningful life. One that was YOURS. I feel blessed that our paths have crossed. Your photos always take my breath away - along with your words. Big hugs to you, my friend. xx

    1. And I feel so blessed to have crossed virtual paths with you Pauline. Hugs. xx

  7. Another masterpiece from you Arti - and to open up about something so very personal shows just how comfortable you are . Very sorry for a huge loss at such a young age but I always believe that God tests those who will come through . You're definitely a strong woman and more power to you my dear !
    I think you write so flawlessly because of your mom - the way you described how she was so exposed to good literature albeit in Hindi - certainly proved that .

    Loved this blog in particular.

    Hugs my dear ��.

    1. Hugs received with a heart full of gratitude Sharmila:) xx

  8. Your X stitch post brought me here. Your story is incredible. Such courage!

    The first stanza of your poem in particular really moved me. It said everything to me.

    1. Thank you Phillip.
      Your words have warmed my heart today. Thank you:)


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