T is for To The Teacher , with love #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

The Sanskrit word “Guru” means dispeller of darkness. Therefore, a guru or a teacher is someone who banishes the spiritual ignorance of the disciple and bestows spiritual knowledge. I didn’t find my guru in mandatory adherence to a religious/spiritual denomination . I didn’t have to go through any initiation rituals either to be his disciple for life . I found him in the secular abode of education- my school.

Right from the first interactions in the orientation programme he had conducted for our class , we were convinced that he would stay , like a tree that gives shelter and shade to all who seek it, without discrimination . We were still adolescents , with a blurred idea of self and the world around us . In the true spirit of guru, he had unveiled the unfamiliar world of the powerful self with its rich reserves of hope , faith, courage , grace, preparing us for a smoother transition into the world outside .

Setting us onto the path to self-discovery has been his most precious gift to us. He was able to inspire us and influence our thoughts like no one else could, on account of of his selfless affection and unfaltering belief in the beauty of our dreams . The self-discovery as the foundation for self-love has helped us to stay hopeful and positive , through difficult times and to radiate that love to the people around us.

Our “guru “ transcended the traditional role of imparting lessons in Algebra and Geography to include valuable life lessons in our syllabus . He is still in touch with us , (his past pupils) , welcoming our questions and concerns with open arms , prioritising them ,despite his hectic schedule , putting our worries to rest with his patient and wise explanations and interpretations , never dismissing our issues as “trivial ” or “insignificant”. We can open up to him without fear , guilt or hesitation and confide in him like one would confess to a priest .

As I type, Abba’s “I have a dream “ plays as the background score in my mind,transporting me two decades back to the assembly hall of my school , with our revered teacher handing down the lyrics of the beautiful song and how it was the beginning of an exceptional life-long relationship , the genesis of a lasting , positive change!

S is for Siblings are special #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

I have had the privilege of growing up in a joint family , a 25 member household , a house echoing with sounds of a range of conversations, from serious, soft whispers to high pitched cheerful chatter . There was always something to do, someone to talk to, someone to hang around with , someone we could call a “friend”. Not to mention, one could aspire to enjoy “play dates” , all days of the week , all through the day with siblings and cousins , living under the same roof.

Being the oldest in the generation, the rudimentary understanding of “friend” as a little companion one could play with, would have dawned in me when I was around 3 years old and my sister was around age 1 . Though “playing “ would have mostly meant a silent game of peek-a –boo or something like the repetitive task of putting the pretend lollipop in the doll’s mouth that would make both the dolls(the plastic and the real life) break into ripples of laughter. I would probably have been the only one to have felt a tinge of nervousness on the first day at school . For my sister and younger cousins , there was always one familiar friend from the family to tell them “it will be all right”, alleviating the anxiety of the unfamiliar.

Being a child was different. We had limited privileges in terms of material goods but unlimited moments of fun and happy companionship with siblings and cousins. The mornings started with collective giggles , innocent pranks and a kid’s breakfast at the huge dining table. T.V. as a friend for entertainment during lunch hours or recesses was redundant as we had so many “live” friends right at home . Going to school was a fun ritual and so was practicing school work together , with the confident older siblings and cousins , helping the compliant younger learners with their exercises. Non-compliant exceptions were rare. The outdoor games of hide and seek , hopscotch , freeze tag with my beloved siblings and cousins animated the evenings. Weekends meant customary visits to the fields , orchards or the lake , brothers and sisters in arms . Rainy days were about paper boat competitions and getting drenched in the rain . Without reservations.

Festivals were twice as much fun , despite the fact that my sister and I looked as though we were in uniform , with family members diligently buying matching dresses for us, without fail . Festivals were busy times , packed with practice sessions for the talent show that we, the children , conducted for showcasing our talents to our proud and happy family members . Enjoying the rides and the interesting stalls in the village fair was a special ritual during the festivals.

The bond between the members of my generation was so strong that I couldn’t tell my cousins apart from my siblings. Our shared history , a repository of smiles , giggles , anecdotes , our happy camaraderie , the special moments we have built up together is what makes our bond so unique. Though education, career, marriage has separated us , geographically , we are still an indispensable part of each other’s lives. Thanks to my siblings (and cousins), in order to roll into a child-like giggle, all i need to do is to close my eyes.

R is for Roses for you, Maa #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

It’s my mother’s Birthday. Daddy and I have a special schedule today. We have to visit the baker’s , the gift shop and the florist . We have ordered a Rose cake this time, Rose being mother’s favourite flower . Mother’s Birthday is a quiet affair . We just invite my maternal grandparents and Misha (my mother’s sister and best friend).

I need to call my grandparents to remind them about bringing along my mother’s favourite red velvet dress that she had received on her 18th birthday as a gift from her parents. I might wear it today, if it fits me . I turned 18 last month.

We make a fresh collage out of copies of Maa’s pic and put our Birthday cards on the collage too. Daddy and Maa look so gorgeous in the photos , especially the one with Maa in a lilac dress. My favourite , however, is the picture where she is holding me as a newborn , I can feel maa’s warm embrace traversing the decades .

When I was 4, Daddy had told me “Your maa is one with the stars in the sky, now. “I had anxiously asked as to when I would see her again. “After a long long time , perhaps“ , he had said with a searing sense of helplessness. I had heard these details from Misha , when I was old enough to understand that I would NEVER see my maa, again.

Daddy and I have included Maa in all our celebrations . We carry a red rose to her resting place, every time we have a good news to share – my general proficiency certificates since grade 1 , my music awards , picture of our new home . Misha tells me a lot of stories about maa. She was a vivacious person, brimming with life . Her pictures are a testimony to that .

Memories are tricky things – too little could make one feel incomplete and too much could make happiness a dream. Daddy hardly mentions her , except while responding to my questions. I rarely ask him about maa , now that I understand. I dreamt of her the other day- Daddy , maa and I enjoying family picnic beside the lake , the place echoing with irrepressible happiness .In these precious fleeting dreams, I get a sense of heaven and the hopeful “forever”.

Q is for Queen of my heart #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

Tina is determined about discussing the matter with her family tonight – the constant in her head that keeps peeping every now and then to remind her of its significance. Yet, she is uncomfortable. She is apprehensive, she might end up hurting the very people who mean the world to her. Her family. True, Ruby, her closest friend in school, had been a regular visitor to her house .Tina’s mother adored Ruby for her pleasant disposition and composure . But Tina was almost certain that her mother would not approve of the matter , the “inviolable secret” that only Ruby and Tina knew about( though the murmurs in their high school canteen suggested otherwise). Their promises were intimate. Their goals, priorities , their picture of life, invariably included each other ,though they were to graduate in merely two months . They had made a list of the places they wanted to travel to , books they wanted to read , a wish list of things they wanted to do before they turned 25 .Together. They ardently hoped to find place in the same college as they couldn’t conceive of a life without each other. However, in order for their dreams of a life together to materialize, they had to qualify many tests and be prepared for possible severance of close ties. The secrecy , the pretence, the disposable guilt was tearing them up.Tina stands in front of the mirror, in her bid to rehearse the obligatory impending discussion with her family, flustered with incertitude. “Ruby , you are the queen of my heart “, she utters absent-mindedly instead, and the rosy mirror blushes back.

P is for Permanence #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

The chilly wind from the mountains blows across Sujata’s face.She turns towards the narrow lane bordering the hills. She sees old men on bicycles at day’s end, cosy lovers walking towards the promise of another day, a little kid comfortably wrapped in her mother’s arms, heading home. Sujata smiles a faint smile.She closes her eyelids, immersed in deep thoughts.It has a detoxifying effect on her soul- love.It cleanses and nourishes,gifts immense peace. Her mind travels to him a thousand times a day.She whispers “true love is infinite, imperishable,eternal”

Sujata leans further against the wooden bench ,facing the dusky mountains and the reverie continues.She thinks of Siddhartha- the self-absorbed “arrogant” boy in her class.The snobbish indifference that his classmates detested was the subject of Sujata’s admiration.Perhaps,it was Siddhartha’s lofty intellect that intrigued her.The solo copy of Mario Salvadori’s “Structures in Architecture” in the college library had built the bridge of friendship between the two.Over the very many conversations in the library, canteen,classroom, Sujata had discovered her true inspiration in Siddhartha.With his inspiration, Sujata had applied and prepared for the gruelling GRE test and found place in the prestigious University of Pennsylvania design ,while Siddhartha had achieved the coveted seat in the Berkeley college of Environmental design,California.Sujata thinks back on her surprise visit to California on Thanksgiving weekend, Siddhartha’s warm embrace , the gush of happy emotions,the giddy feeling called love. She thinks of her motherly concern towards Siddhartha- a deep, seemingly unfathomable affinity.

For Siddhartha, Sujata had been the perfect friend and confidante. Sujata was the first to be intimated when he had received his recruitment letter from the renowned architecture firm Perkins Eastman as an Architectural Designer.Siddhartha now had a clear sense of the course of his life.He wanted Sujata to be his life partner and not merely a partner in his dream architecture firm.”You know Sujata “, and Siddhatha had quoted Nietzsche “ It is not a lack of love but lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” He continued, “Do you want to be forever happy … with me?” Sujata had responded with the most radiant smile, her face sparkling like a precious jewel in the beautiful,breezy, moonlit night. “You will be the best intern, they have ever had”, was Siddhartha’s exact response on receiving the news of Sujata’s internship opportunity with “Page”, an Architecture firm in Washington D.C.Inspiration is both the seed and a powerful expression of love.

Sujata had bought a promise ring for Siddhartha after his unusually romantic proposal on that breezy, moonlit night. During an evening stroll,they had exchanged their promise rings.The dense, dark ,chilly fog had enveloped Sujata like a sheet .She had lost sense of time, still engrossed in her reflection.She thinks of the summer afternoon ,her fluttering heart on noticing Siddhartha’s precious name blinking on her phone, the feeble “hello” from the other end, her impromptu hasty drive from Washington D.C. to New York.

Sujata was welcomed in Siddhartha’s dimly lit studio apartment with a tired, laboured smile. “I am so happy you are here, Sujata”, he had said. Sujata couldn’t control her stream of tears as she hugged him tight.Siddhartha had been suffering from tremendous pain in his hip bones, limbs and shoulders. He had consulted his physician, the physiotherapist, the chiropractor, exhausted the largest doses of painkillers, but to no satisfactory relief. The severe pain would interrupt his sleep. It had taken a toll on his health and job. “Don’t worry, a good Orthopaedic surgeon will heal all your pain.” was Sujata’s reassurance. “Do you have a family history of Arthritis? “ Sujata had asked.

Sujata thinks of the first hopeful visit to the Orthopaedic surgeon’s chamber . And then,the interminable nightmare – The MRI and bone scan , the biopsy and the doctor’s devastating conclusive pronouncement “ Metastatic Osteosarcoma- a bone cancer that has spread to distant organs”,the 4 cycles of Chemotherapy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer centre and the inevitable , inescapable end. The end of many unfulfilled dreams , the end of an incomplete story with two promise rings.

Sujata looks up at the lone shining star in the night sky and murmurs into the eternal silence, lines from her poem “Permanence”that she had written for Siddhartha a month before his final good-bye.
“When you are gone, i will think of you,
..paint my mind with your words, words lost for eternity,
only safely stored in my heart.
…And when at night, all is still and the stars are shining bright,
I will search you in the stars and sky , before i say good night..”
Precious teardrops moistened the mutely eloquent promise rings on adjacent fingers of Sujata’s left hand.

O is for Over and out #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

On this arduous path, when I fret and fear
Capitulate to self doubt ,drink dark despair
The ME broken to futile pieces
I Yearn for unscathed past ,
un-barren reminiscences

That tranquil path of hope and cheer
Spirit of zest sans all fear
Melodious togetherness,
Warm, rejuvenating words,
Inspiring faith against life’s odds.

And then one sudden unfeeling glance,
Withdrawn murmurs on life and chance,
“our time has ended ”
the dispassionate utterance,
with love as a violable contract,
I, an acquaintance.

N is for Names that remain #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

She was inessential, like some dusty, old, unwanted, broken article. She was a valueless appendix in the impecunious household of eight. It did not matter to anyone if she smiled more or appeared to be a lot more worn-out, weighed down by poverty and unthinkable hard work. But to me, she was a pink lotus floating in the pond- rare, soothing and precious. She was a girl. Her name was Sunita.

My earliest memory of Sunita goes back to when we were around 11. She would accompany her mother to our house. Her mother worked as our domestic help. Both the daily visitors, Sunita and her mother, were extremely polite, humble and good-natured.In our very second meeting, sunita had coyly handed over colourful toy marble balls to me in her characteristic generous spirit. It did not take us long to make the muddy front yard our preferred playground. The evening lantern and the sound of my mother’s holy conch shell announcing nightfall would take us back to our homes like a flock of birds in the evening sky. Sunita and I would help each other clean up our begrimed hands and feet, taking turns at pumping the arduous tube-well until we felt decent enough to enter the house.

We would play the “teacher game” in the porch. After a few zealous “play sessions”, Sunita had accomplished the skill of aligning the alphabets to write her name. She had chortled like a baby, jumping for joy. My mother had suggested Sunita’s mother to send the eager learner to the village school. “I feel too drained out to take care of the domestic chores at home and the routine chores in other houses where I work as a maid, single- handedly. Besides, education is for rich girls. I would have to start looking for a suitable groom for Sunita, soon enough.” Those unvarnished words had dispossessed my mother of the power of speech.

When we were around 14, I came face-to-face with the shocking revelation of Sunita’s marriage. My mother had tried to convince Sunita’s family to postpone her marriage till she was ready but had miserably failed. It seemed impossible to imagine Sunita shouldering responsibilities of an entire household at her tender age. I wondered whether she would live in a tiny hut with a battered thatched roof and tottering clay walls, whether she would be fortunate enough to never have to skip a meal, whether her husband will earn decent enough to spare her the need to toil hard in another’s house as a maid. I felt so pitifully helpless, a mute spectator to all that might befall my dear Sunita. I prayed for her- the only plausible salvation for us.

Sunita looked beautiful, draped in the red and gold saree , on her wedding night. I don’t know why I felt that I might never see her again. Teardrops rolled down my cheeks, unknowingly. I said a prayer for her happy future as I hugged her and the tears embraced.Sunita was such a big part of my days . Now she would be no more. She had told me “Didi, please visit my home “. She must have meant her husband’s home.

My father’s job took us to a new place . I continued my education and came through with flying colors, pursued higher education in a reputed college, got professionally qualified to teach in colleges after years of hard work. I got married at a reasonable age to a man who respects and appreciates me for who I am. Along the journey with various turns and events leading to my present, my thoughts have from time to time connected me to the dear girl named Sunita. Her selfless affection, loyalty and quiet dignity make her one of the finest human beings, I have ever come across. “I am sorry, Sunita”, I whisper in my mind as it carries me two decades back to the porch in our village home, my dear Sunita and I giggling away with the merry alphabet song.

M is for Marriage of hearts #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

My grandfather had taken a leap of faith in marrying a lady he had never met in his life.But that was 68 years ago. They didn’t have the right to choose their partner in their times or even acknowledge of any affections or preferences. Of course, my grandmother’s side of the story was almost similar – perhaps, only scarier , especially since, in our society , the woman has always had the onus of leaving her parental home to make her husband’s home her own. So, on a meticulously calculated auspicious date and time guided by their holy calendars and horoscopes , my grandparents tied the knot and became a married couple. They had real challenges – that they were complete strangers from two completely different regions was their foremost challenge. Bridging the emotional distance wasn’t easy for them due to the acute time constraint . The innumerable responsibilities and demands of joint family left them with little to no “couple time”. Also,my grandfather was a doctor and had a less leisurely day than average people in the village in his times. However, their relationship had a remarkable trait, an asset really i.e. patience . With patience and faith, they waited to discover the myriad worlds within each other, hoping to grow to love each other, eventually. My grandfather’s residence housed a rich library and my grandmother being a bibliophile took utmost care to keep it organized and in good form. They would accommodate a reading time a few times a month, in the quiet library, reading and listening to the verses and tales, while sipping on their favorite chai. My grandfather loved to travel and never missed the opportunity to attend medical conferences hosted in different cities, an opportunity to both learn and explore. While it wasn’t a standard practice to bring along one’s spouse, my grandfather always made the necessary arrangements , so my grandmother could travel with him too. Her fondness for fragrances was rendered concrete with his thoughtful gifts. My grandmother’s wish was quite literally his command, the wishes that she could express only in the privacy of their private spaces. They had their share of storms and passionate arguments(which, by the way was almost non-existent in their times given the subordinate position of women), but the understanding they had cultivated with consistent and resolute effort and practice , the respect they had for each other helped them to endure the unhappy moments till the dawn of a stable day. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in the year 2000 with two sons and six grandchildren. I still remember the sparkle in her eyes as she animatedly spoke of him ,like one speaks of a happy childhood or precious victory, and how he had made a difference.

L is for Love letters #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

I still have them, safely preserved in a metal chest , those precious , cherished letters of love . I haven’t seen their physical form in many years now as I never uprooted the chest from my parents’ home. But I vividly remember the curves of the alphabet , the unique handwriting in different letters , the succinct picture post cards with a “how are you ?” ,the blue inland letters with interesting everyday tales and compact spiritual philosophy , the Birthday cards, New Year’s cards, dated and signed by precious family and friends. However, the most intimate , regular, anxiously awaited letters that I received as a teenage girl in that era can be classified into two categories.

(a) The short and sweet yellow postcards from my dear grandfather with a self-addressed reply post card stapled to them, saving me all the hassles, just so he could hear a “hi”, at frequent intervals. He wrote in my mother tongue, once every week. Unfailingly. He was concerned that my passion to learn English might eventually dilute my dialogue with my mother tongue. His letters were almost identical . He would ask me about my studies, whether I was taking my daily dose of vitamins , whether I was diligently using the mosquito net – ordinary short paragraphs , the “extra” in them visible only to me . He would sum up his side of the weekly story in a sentence or two. He didn’t keep count of who was initiating the letters as long as the correspondence was alive . I would have to admit that it was him, most of the times .He was happy with an “I am OK ” in the attached reply post card.

( b) The long friendly chats sealed in thick envelopes from my best friend in school . Our letters read like the “dear diary” entries in the personal journal of a teenager- no edits , no filters. We would talk about things that we hesitated to share with siblings or cousins – the unadulterated joy of falling in love, the sweet ache for that venerated crush ,the tales of the non-compliant mind , words of encouragement and the “it will all be fine”. Each letter from her was like a secret message hidden inside a fortune cookie , only a lot more precious.

What is best is that the letters carried along the touch, the ambience , feelings of the author of the letters . In reading them, i could actually feel the imprint of an intimate part of the dear sender, engraved in their words. I see my letters of love , as deeds , deeds that expressed how cherished and valued I was, with words as crucial adjuncts to convey a sense of complete love.

K is for Kiss of love! #AtoZBloggingChallenge2017

Today is Sheila’s 1st wedding Anniversary. She is excited . After all , the 1st marks a special milestone when it comes to important life events . She is waiting for Rick to pick her up from office , waiting to celebrate the dawn of another year of togetherness. Rick arrives on time and the couple head towards their favorite restaurant. Sheila is waiting to be complimented on her new dress and hairstyle but Rick seems to be oblivious of the anticipation in his wife. He is busy on his phone , instead. Sheila asks Rick about his day and tries to start a conversation . Her enthusiasm is diluted by Rick’s undisguised disinterest . Some positive self-talk, however, restores Sheila’s eagerness to enjoy the transient evening with her husband. “Perhaps, he is thinking about issues at his workplace” , Sheila reasons. She decides to just let him be , while secretly hoping for him to return to their precious evening so they could at least reminisce about their shared past and celebrate it. Sheila desperately wishes for Rick to indicate a romantic gesture – reading out a poetry or dedicating a love song would do the trick too , satiate the romantic in her , Sheila surmises.Rick is lost in his own world, unaffected by Sheila’s intimate thoughts . Sheila is determined to stay positive. She tries to counteract negative emotions by pulling out Rick’s thoughtful gestures in the not-too-distant past , like that evening when he was home early because Sheila wasn’t feeling well and how he had cooked comfort food for her, later.Or how he was concerned when she didn’t get adequate sleep , or how he always remembered to order Sheila’s favourite food on weekends. Sheila wishes for Rick to at least hold her hands on their walk down to the parking lot ,after the sumptuous yet almost-quiet dinner . She knew she would forget about all the casual glances and non-romantic words exchanged between them earlier in the evening, if Rick were to at least hold her hands .Sheila recollects her reading of Gary Chapman’s “The five love languages” . Physical touch had seemed to be her primary love language along with quality time. Yet , Sheila was struggling to remember the last time her husband had expressed his love to her with a warm embrace. How she hopes to be happily married , how she hopes for her zest for love to be reciprocated by her husband in her love language! In the living room , Sheila presents her anniversary gift to her husband – “The five languages of love “beautifully gift-wrapped with a heart-shaped bow in the middle. She hopes to read the book together this time , on the cosy suede sofa by the fireplace . Sheila is hoping , Rick would understand her language of love and realize what she had been acutely missing all this while . “Hope is indestructible ”, Sheila reminds herself , as she waits for a discernable change in Rick’s expression.