Letter to Myself On the Edge of the Precipice

Dear Me,

Does it bother you that you are galloping ahead, in real, physical years? Is the speed just right, or are you blown away? Do you feel intimidated by the fact that you can’t hold on, just a little bit longer to your fading youthfulness, because youth is long gone? Do you wish you didn’t have to stop pretending?

Well guess what, you’re at the threshold of the middle ages and perhaps a little further along.



Listen up, this is not the gauntlet you think it is. Just ease in, gradually. It’s not going to destroy what you’ve been living and working at. Growing older doesn’t mean giving in, or giving up, it simply means viewing things with a wider lens. You’ve been around, looking after the family and their needs concertedly. Now, zoom in to yours. Well, guess what, you can be your life’s central character and start focusing on your desires and needs and whatever else you had put on hold for later, Later’s arrived.

So whatever you had envisaged gets put on the front burner. Go on, set it alight.

Dance, sing, write, play, move, and shake, whatever. But of course, you’re not quite as light on your feet as you used to be. You’re heavier. You’re not as energetic as you used to be, as a result of the time of life you are at. That’s interesting, because I reckon, you might be lighter inside of you, what with so many responsibilities gliding off your back. Yet you say, you’re heavier. Well, you’ll just have to live with it, won’t you! Guess what, there’s no time like the Now, especially when you know you can’t turn back the clock. Love this new, fuller you. It’s bounty, the reward of abundance. So was it a fair exchange- getting heavier without, in exchange for a lighter mind within?

Finding yourself will be a benefit that comes along at this stage too. Did you know that? Does it excite you, or, does it frighten you, this facing yourself? It can get ugly, but only so much. What’s the point if you can’t summon the courage to befriend yourself in a new light; you might unearth some chinks and cracks that enhance, not mar. Novelty much.

So far you had been busy living others’ lives. Yes, I get that it was deeply satisfying and all that, after all it is your family, your kids and your duty. The duty is now shifting, quietly, and the focus is now You. The greatest duty of all- rediscovering your Self. You can do it while fulfilling all that you had mapped out for your twilight years, you know all the plans for when your kids will have grown up and found their calling. Now’s the time, live yours. No more faffing about, just succumb to this spell that’s beckoning.

Haven’t you been writing private journals for the longest time- deep thoughts and musings- all that you conceal from the world out there? Well now is the time to enliven that process. Relook at the past, as one looks at a life lived; cull from it that which you need, the rest, you erase; there’s no need for clutter. Become your own living journal, and position all the missing pieces of the puzzle that you are bound to discover, together. The outline becomes clearer, and an image begins to form, trust me, I’ve been there endless times, in my head. It won’t be a spitting image of yourself though, not the one you’ve known at least. Be ready to fall in love, again.

Guess what, this  puzzle could be confusing and complex yet the intrigue of it will keep you busy for the longest time, one day at a time.

What do you mean you are too old to get out there and do what you thought you should have achieved earlier, far earlier? That’s such bull-crap! Yes, people say age is only a number, but it’s not, it’s more than a number- it’s experience and much collated and processed wisdom. You’ve brought that along from all these years you’ve lived. Age is the kind of affluence you can’t count, so no, it’s not just a number; it’s fortune multiplied. You can do it, whatever it is you thought you should’ve accomplished earlier.

Go for it, don’t allow anything to deter you, especially not the mind that tries to control, and influence and negate when you’re on the edge of the precipice that’s your launching pad. Guess what, you’re actually pretty close to that edge right now, so run, take flight.

Good luck mate!


What!?! It’s Only Been Two Years!

IMG_0494.JPGI wake up on a fine March morning. The temperatures, deeply pleasant, almost nippy, and realize that we have been in this wonderful home of ours for almost two years now. A new nest had been made ours, embraced and furnished, as is our wont, with much gusto, imagining that we wouldn’t last beyond the assigned two years, at best. It is tradition. We move, we settle, then we unsettle and move. That’s the pattern.

Yet, here we are, thus far- close to two, and more than settled, more than comfortable- bordering on complacent. Something’s wrong, or is something finally right? A question that throbs.

Have we broken and stilled an unerring pattern that had us in its hold? Are we now at an age when we can actually be ‘home’ for longer than what we had deemed a natural length of time- say two years? It’s laughable for many, yet it was us, the Natesans. We are good with two years, and then, ready to be up and running. My cup spilleth over. Actually deeply content, and not jumpy or impatient to start looking for packers, and movers. It’s happening! Praise the Lord!

To be clear about how this is coming to pass, collating factors that obviously come into merry play, is imperative for me :

  1. Started conducting writer’s workshops, a dream nurtured for the longest time;

2.  Imagined that our son would need to be in a steady environment to complete his graduation;

3. Husband would surely be in a job that would provide us our fair share of bread/butter and means to travel at will;

4. Within the first year, I rejoined my book club, which embraced me without much ado, and if anything, with open arms. Then joined another, a new group of beautiful women, who read, chat, pub. How does it get better than that? It doesn’t.

5. Being in Gurgaon opened up doors, and a whole new world of world cuisines, books coming at me faster than I could dodge; a brand new momentum within shed its grace upon me, shaking me out of a previous stupor.

6. The seasons in the north took on new meanings, with each lending itself to my creative instincts; every nuance observed, nothing was missed. A heightened sense of perception invaded my being.

7. A terrace garden- you’ve got to be kidding! That was what others always possessed, the wealthy folk! We actually had one, one that beckoned at odd hours of the day and night, seasons notwithstanding. This was crazy- we were living in the midst of exotic birds, and could touch real colours.

8. If that were not enough, a kitchen garden bloomed, and we were eating straight out of our homegrown patches. How does it get better than that! It doesn’t.

9. How could I not write, write, write. SO I started writing seriously, and began to look in earnest for publishers for my debut novel.

10. A new work studio was knocked into place, and inspirations began pouring in torrents. Was I thrilled!

So : the husband, the one that seeks newness in all, is actually content in his job.

The son quit college for more intellectual pursuits, and soul-satisfaction. In the meantime, the daughter in New York, completes her MSc and finds a job.

The summing up of two years, two very happening years, i hasten to add, encompassing, it would seem, a lifetime of events- or rather a culmination of hard work, and marking a continuum that should hold. I do believe we might just have plugged the stream that flowed from a two-year stretch, into a two-year stretch. It is now to be seen how much longer this body will nurture itself, in this new paradigm.

I want to celebrate this newness, one that I discover on a fine March morning. Upstairs, the flowers nod at me, smiling in summery fashion, telling me, ‘all’s right with the world girl, just keep going’.

Zorro, the Indian Irish Setter

DSCN2560He arrived home, oozing out of my husband’s arms, 3 months old. I could scarcely believe my eyes, a massive auburn beauty, with limbs splayed in every possible direction. It was love at first touch, soft brown fur, and pendulous ears, swaying rhythmically – a gorgeous pair of dark eyes that sprinted into my heart’s corners, establishing supremacy. I had not wanted a dog, I had not wanted a pet at that juncture in my life, I had been pretty categorical. There he was giving me that look- that irresistible doggy look. I was taken.

However, I quickly told my husband, who’d brought him along that fine morning, that we’d been cheated, that he was at least six months old if not more. My convictions quickly transferred to him, and we made a quick call to the breeder in Bangalore who confirmed that he was indeed three months old, not a day more. We were forced to believe him. As it transpires, his conduct was befitting of an infant’s, and stayed that way, to this day. Today I smile indulgingly.

I imagined then that he would not grow very much, since he bore a rather large muzzle, and oh those long limbs. Yet he continued to grow for over a year and became nigh a strapping of a pony. He was beyond all training, that had become increasingly clear. The door would be ajar and Zorro would disappear like a bullet while the entire family would hare off after him. The fear of his being hurt unwittingly by a passing vehicle put the fear of God in us all. We were in love, and we needed to protect him from himself. He loved us anyway, he knew no better.

Truth be told, I hated myself for loving him as I did. I had already left my professional life to embrace a domestic one in order to be there for the children. Our two children filled my hours with considerable homework, plus the housework, plus all the driving up and down from various extra-curricular classes- my life was full and my life was happy; there was no extra room for any extra work. Zorro was plenty extra work. He needed to be fed, he needed to be walked, he needed to be guarded and he needed loads of affection. He was one loving dog who refused to guard. He was a family dog that wanted to be petted when awake, and left undisturbed when asleep. He was full-time work. To top it he needed to bolt. When excited, he shot from one end of the house to the other, in uncontained merriment. He still does it, but now he slips and falls midway, after all he is 12 years old. How he managed to emerge unscathed from his jaunts was anyone’s guess.

Our son, hardly recognized walls of any kind. So there I was, saddled with two brats, and no stopping either. By the end of the first year of Zorro’s arrival, I had lost considerable hair, weight and was ready to resign. The daughter, bless her, tried to support me as well as she could, but given her schedule there was precious little she really could bring to my domestic table.

In his third year of life, we moved to Hyderabad. Whether it was some quirk of fate, or God’s reward for my good karma, we were able to rent a large mansion, with plenty of space for both son and dog to overlook the walls of the house, and run amuck. I had learnt to ignore the loud noises, the falls, the tumbling artefacts, and other such incidents, and would quietly put everything back in its rightful place after the storm passed. Patience, that’s what I learnt fast in my mid-years.

As far as the human child was concerned, he had a grown a little, and his energies were also put to better use, such as tennis and skating lessons. At home, exhausted, he would place his head on the pillow and sleep. Zorro, on the other hand, got burlier and more active.

One evening, as my husband was travelling, I had to walk him. Let’s just say, we tried to stroll and balance energies with one another, rather unsuccessfully. He would prance ahead and then break into a jog, gradually into a run- me flying behind him, hanging onto the leash for dear life, and holding my right shoulder, lest I lost my arm that was attached to it. That evening I was more tired than most days, and he broke free. I just sat down in the middle of the street with the leash dangling by my side, free of Zorro, weeping copiously. I pulled out my mobile and called my husband who was in some corner of some country at some godforsaken hour. When I told him what had happened, he coolly asked me to calm down and summon help. It was eleven at night, who could I summon without them declaring me a wacko! After much back and forth, the neighborhood watchman asked me to return home and that he would somehow find us our Zorro. I entrusted my Setter in his able hands. He did return him home, and had managed to lure him with an old bone, no less.

I filed my resignation- I put my foot down, I played truant- I yelled and said I had had enough and that Zorro had to be trained to walk on leash otherwise he could find himself a corner in the home to relieve himself. The husband promised that something would be done about this nuisance within the month.

The husband kept his word. In the meantime, our luck turned, and an old helper came looking for work at our door one fortuitous day. He was hired without much delay, and was able to walk Zorro morning and night for many years thereafter.However, we also found a military training school on the outskirts of Hyderabad, who were miraculously able to train this un-trainable pooch of ours. He returned chastised and seemed older and wiser. I breathed a little easier.

We moved to Bangalore where our beloved Setter fell badly ill within the first year. We were bereaved, and stricken. We learnt that his kidneys were failing and that he had a fifty percent chance of survival. That is when, with a jolt, we all realized what he truly meant to us- he was our eternal baby- as much as I had denied myself the love of a dog and hated him when he would run away- I was his mother, there was no denying it. He had to be saved at any cost, he was only four years old, and had a long and healthy life ahead. The vets were sincere in saving him, putting him on dialysis for a week, and then ensuring that his protein intake be limited. He had to be on a renal diet for the rest of his life, but he emerged fit and fine for the rest of him. He continued to run around the house when happy, and flopped himself where he could, when done. The ensuing years have been happy and disease-free.

Zorro has travelled with us all across the highways, during our moves from one city to another. His massive frame has had moments of disquiet, yet he has been exemplary in a nine-hour drive from Hyderabad to Bangalore in a small Getz, with much luggage, two kids and two adults. What a memorable journey that was! When we stopped for food at a wayside inn, he chased their hens, who clucked off for dear life, while he wondered why he couldn’t even harness one among so many, given that speed was his thing! Hens were faster, when it came to guarding one’s survival he reckoned, and ate his watery rasam rice, chastened.

He has received our undiluted devotion and love. He has been a terrible guard dog, and welcomed all and sundry without any bias, or distinction. Given his stature, we have had to do little to discourage strangers from entering.

He is twelve years old now, and continues to represent what he is best at representing, Love. He still pushes and paws me for attention, and still eats his rice and boiled vegetables with utmost excitement, as if it were a gourmet meal. He barks without any warning, and we still wonder what sets him off. His responses are slower with age, his hearing is wanting, he walks far slower, as his hips are giving way- he is aging with grace, and needs us more than ever. He is just as beautiful as ever- his limpid brown eyes still melt me just the way they had on arrival.

He puts his muzzle on my tummy every morning for extra petting- he chases, rather gently, a fly if he feels like, and absolutely loves putting his head on the keyboard when I type sitting upright on my sofa, like right now. His increasing affection makes me nervous- I know he shan’t live forever, that a dog’s life has its expiry date. I am writing this because I want to- because I feel compelled to. I hope when he does decide to take our leave, it’s on his feet. We love you Zorro, and that’s how it is and will always be- you are forever our beautiful brown baby.


Bhabhiji Me

In a new Avatar i suddenly find myself being addressed as ‘Bhabhi ji’ (sis in law), her role notwithstanding, and a moniker i’ve yearned for, the gleam of it, not wasted on me for sure. I have a spouse with no sis, no bro, and to top it he’s a Madrasi (you know Tam Brahm and all that), so i was and am always ‘manni’ to his cousins. I don’t mind, i’ve never really minded being called anything, but having heard and seen Bhabhi ji in movies, and having been fed on a worthy diet of Hindi movies, i wanted also to be seen and heard wearing this name tag. Essentially living in the northern regions of India, it’s a term that’s easier to relate to. It is one shrouded in mysterious affection- one that spelt – Man, she’s so lovely and so affectionate, all for family ties, she’s the one who ties it all together seamlessly; she oozes goodwill, she tolerates nonsense and yet never ever stoops to the level of the motherinlaw; one can count on her to sing at festivals, to dance flawlessly on any given occasion, if required, and her cooking abilities, o boy, none better and there’s no cuisine she can’t undertake, if new, she masters it with practiced ease. So Bhabhi ji was one character i so totally wanted to play, or perhaps even be. I am now.

Every family member turns to Bhabhiji for advice- when in trouble, any trouble; during exam time, Bhabhi ji’s the expert academician so younger members look up at her for math, geography, history, you name it; perturbations in the area of the heart (a burgeoning affair, a heart-break, a light infatuation), Bhabhiji, with her wide array of experiences, both pre and post-marriage, to the rescue; if ever there’s a need for monthlies to be paid, Bhabhi ji rushes to the cupboard and returns armed with green-bucks (rupees) for – the Iron man (Dhobi), the vegetable vendor, the milkman, the newspaper delivery boy, anyone at the door for longer than a minute or two. Bhabhi ji is the mother not just to her children, as well as to all nieces and nephews, because, believe it or not, she’s an amazing storyteller too. If other Bhabhis are professionals, there is no ‘ji’ added to their Bhabhis- it is only the one who manages every aspect of the home that is a Bhabhi ji. While Bhabhis go out and work, Bhabhi ji rears everyone’s offspring. Mind-boggling eh! Why would i not want to take on the responsibility of this amazing persona! See, the thing is, it’s a lot of fluff…someone with the gift of the gab and a reasonable exposure to our Bollywood fare can do the job, and walk away with the laurels every time- the Oscar of the Family it is! No mean title this.

My inner aspirations have suddenly found a voice : our new cook inadvertently fulfilled this almost-last desire of my heart, he addressed me – “Bhabiji where will i find a paraat?” This ‘paraat’ is a wide metal dish which one uses to knead the dough for chapatis (flatbread). He not only endeared himself to me instantly, he drove me completely out of the kitchen, taking over expertly, and who was i to stand in the way of culinary awesomeness, i scuttled out of my domain chuckling merrily to myself. I am certain now that this was ordained. To be called Bhabiji so late in life (after 23 years of marriage, takes some doing, bank balance of good actions have finally tilted in my favour it appears).

So everyday i will get to be called Bhabhi ji henceforth. i am She. Oh! the wonder of it- a perfect specimen of womanhood in any country, since Indians abound so do sisters-in-law i believe. So Bhabhi ji it is! God Bless north Indian cooks, and may many more Bhabhijis be born everywhere, everyday. Life is good.

Probing the dermis – life of two adolescents!

DSCN3085I am listening to his favourite song. I am him. I’ve got inside his little head- or big head depending on which HE i am. Observing his thoughts flying…or his stillness. Am i really or is it my imagination? At this very moment i am the mother, then the child, then the mother, then the child. How do you get under an adolescent’s skin and become this growing person? I often lose to myself, because of my own inability to just be him…when i am with him. This is my 16 year old son, whose ephemeral, stand-offish, oft capricious moods can get under my dermis for sure. I do not deny that the pain of being utterly incapable of fathoming an adolescent’s persona- the mind- the imaginations – the energies of this particular ado is all mine to live, or outlive, as the case may turn out to be. Being, or more precisely, having remained an adolescent myself, ado for short, i would have imagined it a lot easier. But every ado is a creation on the wheel- the potter’s wheel –  with every move, there’s a new crease, new furrows, exciting ridges happening.

Yesterday, my ado says to me, “why don’t you and appa just live with me and Ambi when you are old!” Already there, are we! My response, alas, was anything but interesting,”nope, no way, we need to be independent and get together for short stints, not long ones when you would await our departure….” Always about me, it has to be. He seemed disappointed, and almost pained. His yearning to see us happy, settled and looked-after was quashed there and then. I could have made up something sweet and touching. I am just not a making up kind of person, and then, nor is he. Oftentimes i feel he’s much like i was at his age- rebellious, wanting to push back constantly, hiding what i really wanted for fear of being judged and all that he seems to be. My upbringing was unconventional. His? I don’t really know. He is beyond conventions already…he is not bound by the regularities of a set of parents that seem to get on, a regular school which doles out homework, conducts regular tests and exams at regular intervals. Everything around him is begging him to conform. And he, anything but conformist. That would be pretty clear already to anyone who meets him but once.

Yet, we require Chaithanya to belong, as we say, for his own sake. But why? Does he need to belong when he won’t? Does he belong to us? Are we his keepers, till he flies the coop? Does he need caretakers? These questions haunt me….should i let him be, should i not- should we remind him that there’s a world out there waiting with its arms open to embrace him, when it may or may not embrace him at all? Musn’t he find a calling that will nourish his body, while he gets to nourish his soul through his relationships and his family? Must we not be concerned at all as parents who brought him willy nilly into this world of woes? It’s also a happy world i remind him constantly while pulling a long face at his refusal to comply. How is he to believe me? He has called me a hypocrite, a meanie, a sadist (drink your milk or else….- complete your project NOW, or else…., you can’t just walk out of the house without informing us….or at least letting us know when you’ll be back, you just can’t spend over 2 hours on Skype, that’s NOT OK Chaith!, you can’t go on eating chips when you feel like, it’s bad for you, your teeth, your …., can you not have eaten Maggie before i returned from work, of course you would, you don’t like my cooking now, and it goes on and on and on….)

On the other hand, to fight my case his list of his non-compliances is long, however i will dwell upon one which is his current obsession: growing his hair to his waist. He believes (as we do quietly) that the school only allows girls to grow their hair which is a sexist attitude and we must fight to help him fight this unfair rule. He found a list of wonderful things that can expedite and push forth hair growth so that he can then show off his tresses. We have had umpteen arguments to fight the school’s case against his. He is deeply disappointed in us. At least therein lies the fact staring us in the face, that he had once had high hopes of his parents as being principled and fighters at that! How does one win this one?

We are told, adolescents face such ‘weird’ issues and get over it. Our ado was born an ado. Physically he may have attained 16 plus years of age, but as far back as my memory goes- he was always one for picking out losing battles against society. He remains consistently disappointed with the lot of the human race, which clearly includes us, his parents.

Sometimes i am able to feel his pain- it is hard. There is a boulder sitting upon my heart- feeling him throb inside me, my little baby, wondering why he was pushed to belong to a place that seems so alien, so unwilling to listen, so bereft of knowledge that is his alone. However, i reckon, he is no hermit. His willingness to communicate with us…to spit out his angst, to cry and to hug are all in the right  place, at the right time. Yet, he seems to find reasons enough to want something else- what is isn’t what he wants. He knows not then what he wants, except that it has got to be something else, somewhere else and sometime else! As a mother, i hold some cards, but not all. I cannot work against the cosmos, nor can his dad. We listen, we listen hard- we exchange glances, we sigh, we reason, we fight…and it never ends. To be fair, there are days when he is reasonable, as rare as they are.

There was a time when we thought he would be a baker….he baked in the middle of the night, sometimes thru’ the night. He baked and he baked and he shared with his school friends what he baked. I tried being him then…wondering what obsession had overcome him toward chocolate and baking..but i failed cause am no baker. Then it passed. There was the time when he wrote and he wrote, and he shared his writing. We imagined with delight that this was it- he had found his calling. After all both his parents enjoy literature, writing and poetry. That too passed. Music? Yes, he would play and compose for hours on end…that phase was wonderful, his best, our best. We enjoyed his joy, we revelled in his musical pleasures. The guitar was heard, as was the piano. Then there was that wonderful boy voice- it broke. My heart broke with it. The singer disappeared, but not his melody. He still strums, however that wonderful musical phase, it passed all too soon.

I am still struggling with my heartstrings that are closely entwined with his. Sometimes i am open and bound. I feel what he feels. I become what he becomes, or is at that moment. Sometimes, i am egoistic, removed, cold and cruel. I want a kid who abides, who listens, who obeys and who shines out there. I want it all. Kids are not tailor-made, and thank god for that. That i have come to terms with. Thank God for that!

He has asked me in a weak moment- our weak moment, if i regretted birthing him. I was jolted. Did I? Never i screamed from within. You are precious my love, and i don’t want you any other way (altho i may have wished it so on more than one occasion, when i could bear no more the pain in his eyes- the agony burning thru’ from his very soul). His sensitivity and intelligence have blown me over. His quick-wit and repartees are mind boggling for a lad his age- yet they don’t come when i need them most. His inner turmoil out shadows so many days. Then, very gradually, unbeknownst, my helplessness succeeded in making me live the moment- the now. I learnt to not carry over. I learnt to take each day in my stride thanks to my child. I am much the happier , both for him and for us.

The adolescent in me rescued me, plucking out the searing ache from my heart…holding his hand i realise that it is best to hop along in step with his, and not settle down in one place and then watch him tread on alone. He has turned away, wanting to fight alone, but has always returned home to roost. “You won’t understand, you are too old school.” or “What do you know of my pain.” “you just want to judge me, not understand me. ” OUCH, that hurt. I pride myself on being non-judgemental, but truth from the mouth of babes. If i were that, which i desperately wished i was,  he would reach out at that moment. I did not know, and i do not claim to know…..but being his friend, his mother, his confidant and his sibling – whichsoever, whensoever asked of me, is half the battle won. Hopefully, the rest of this ado battle will find its own way out…and it will tide over within the next two years left of adolescence. Unless he is truly like me, and never outgrows the adolescent years! Now that would be telling….the life of two adolescents!

Emergence of a Diary…1st Dec; Place : Pondichéri/Pondicherry

I stand exhausted under the shower, naked, soaking in the fast droplets of water…like a thirsty animal. As the skin meets water, a sudden burst of energy is felt…an onrush of life. I am in a hurry, need to rush out, dress and head to Lake- the Ashram Dairy. I want to, but am unable to. I shut the shower and stand under the closed nozzle for what seems like 15 minutes, but in fact is probably just some 30 secs. The internal clock ticks and the mind is sending alarms. There’s a friend waiting to take me there. Oh all right then. I switch from tired to energetic and get myself together into a tee and shorts. The shower seems to have worked its magic….oh yeah! the spirit is willing and am ready to roll.

Pondy takes a lot from me- i am constantly hyper, in constant need of action, of movement till i hit the Ashram gates, stop to smell the flowers, and then rediscover my regular place, quietly on the stairs by the Samadhi. All is well. Embraced by its ambience, I am also given….Image.

Pondicherry was my world for a long time…and i knew no other. It was my oyster, my cocoon….Now i go back in time…i lumber, i scoot, i banter, i sing, i gaze at the sea and its moods every day as i pass by it, meandering & weaving my way on my hired vehicle. I never have enough rides on the beach road, inevitably coming away with some amount of dissatisfaction….but undeniably happy even so. It does for me what a pilgrimage does for a pilgrim. I come to Pondy when i hear the call and when i can.

I am now at the Lake estate, by the Dairy. It starts to drizzle. We eat under the rain, and it’s dark….the waters bristling, and gleaming with faraway lights. We can barely see our meal, but it’s enjoyable and the rice soaks in some rain before i hurriedly try and cover it with its paper packaging. We laugh. The food is hot. The rain is cold but not so cold as to spoil the prevailing mood and our supper. Afterward we enjoy some Plum cake that was perhaps a pre-x’mas offering at a bakery. Trials on offer, grabbed by some? There is some hot tea that is passed around. It is all the more enjoyable because of the passing rain, whose sound reminds us of its cool character. Sipping on our teas, we reminisce a little, as we keep straying back to the present which doesn’t belong to me. I am still in the past and try hard to focus on the Now. I forget who i was before i drove down to Lake. Then i am gently reminded when the friends’ present is spoken of delightfully. Their voices are familiar, yet distant. Who am i in that now? I remain clueless.

Sleeping arrangements are absolutely delightful, under a humungous mosquito net for 12 people, which we fix with great dexterity. It is under a thatched roof with a view to die for. I see the silhouettes of the Dairy, of the surrounding trees…i hear dogs barking and cows mooing romantically to one another. One calls out, another answers- a Bull awaiting its mate’s word. Hens are also heard, but lightly. Around 4 am the first cock is heard crowing. Maybe only i can hear it…maybe others do too, but i seem to the only one smiling. I smile away as i drift from sleeplessness into sleep and so and so forth. Morning brings with it other pleasures…Pondy’s crisp, cool December air makes me deeply happy. I am eager to get going, but just after a wonderful, hot cuppa…i need to get back to the city for my workshop. The ride back on a bike is heavenly- we pass red earth canyon-like structures and i am ecstatic. The nippy air around is just what i need to be on the go. As the town meets us, we observe the Sunday folk  rousing from their Saturday night slumber. It is already 7.30 am, and i feel joy coursing thru’ me as i understand that i will have to get my act together on my own. After all, i chose to come for the much-needed time away from my familiar routine and work.

At home, i await my Brazilian coffee, made by my host and a friend of many years. Astonishing that i yearn not for South Indian coffee- maybe because i too live in south India, and many yearnings are already quelled. Pondy has so much else to offer apart from its coffee for sure. Eating in the Ashram Dining Room is one such activity that i often yearn for, and that, oh that, is only had in Pondy! It is meant as Prasad, as an offering and as a diet meant for people dedicated to the Ashram’s ideals and work. I absolutely love the food there, simple as it is. It takes me back to the era of simplicity and innocence when i would quietly sit with my school friends and enjoy every morsel, coated as it was with undiluted devotion. It’s easy to return to it with the taste that just belongs, and in turn makes you too.

Yet another day in Pondy- ah the joy, the joy of just being there….no constraints, no pressure..just flow with it. Yet somewhere, i am missing the presence of my kids..my partner. Can that be? How can that be? I am thinking – and my thoughts are pretty loud because i can hear them. Where are you? You must soak in my joy with me…my need to share suddenly becomes evident as i button-start my scooty and head toward the Workshop- i am alone, the air is brisk and there’s  a stray tear that escapes from one eye, then the other. Wish you guys were with me to share this moment of complete freedom. Yet am i free? I guess freedom has many shades, and in that very moment in time, i am completely unfettered and free, unconditionally so. Pondy lends my persona that quality, which leaves me be.

To be continued in another diary, another month…another day.