Archives for the month of: July, 2013

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The window that framed a kaleidoscope of loud Mithun dance numbers, splotches of dung, colourful bangle-wallahs tinkling their wares, jasmine bedecked oiled heads, fragrances waving their cocky tendrils at my house bound dullness and so much more.

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An early morning beautiful sketch-session in the company of the Bangalore Pencil Jammers group.

(Title by Raghu)

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I discovered this Anjaneyulu hidden behind the tulsi plant in the back of the house under the blue sky. The layers of limestone and paint applied on the wall have created a little niche for this carved stone slab. A beautiful soft hollow that has gotten smaller over the years so the corners are buried in the wall. Lest you miss it they have used a red line to encircle it and the Kannada symbol for Shree is painted over it.

Often i feel like that wall. A vast wall with a few tiny niches of pure energy shining through. Lifetimes of limestone, paint and grime, layer upon layer hide the core. I choose to scrub and peel away the layers. Some parts of my life melt and merge while others remain encrusted and resist my efforts. I feel the softness of the wall, the powdery delight of knowing that it will all crumble someday. This strong limestone coated wall is only 200 years old and I am as old as the ages. Little wonder that I resist. Yet I know it is only a matter of time before the wall succumbs.

Trying to find my way out of a maze, with mirrors for walls, I panic. It’s not that others haven’t been here before. It’s not that anyone has ever been forever lost, inside that maze. It’s just that I cannot bear the constant deception of not finding my way out.
I have only my own innumerable reflections, at different angles, for company, and I can no longer bear to see, just myself. I see a young girl walking through that maze, blindfolded, hands out in front of her, and wonder how that could help. Is she thinking to escape delusion by shutting down perception? Someone with open eyes, takes her hand, and guides her. Perception by proxy. It doesn’t get better. My panic remains, held in, like gas, in an unopened coke can. I try not to shake. I see the exit in reflection… in many reflections, and know it’s just around me, somewhere. I’m out of there, before I know it. I haven’t fallen apart. Now, I cannot stop seeing my own reflection, in other people’s eyes.

Pressing his joints deeply into the mattress and trying hard to cover all of his body with the quilt Raghu ribbed Zoya. She yelped “Raghu” automatically and turned the other way while expertly arranging her quilt so all of her body was covered. Raghu’s hair seemed to be warming his face along with most of the quilt. I leaned over and tugged at the quilt and covered his legs which by now had goosebumps on them. I suddenly felt that nagging sensation of a strand of hair on the back of my forearm. I angled my shoulder and craned my neck but could not find any annoying fallen strand.

My hair has grown to my waist, almost. It is thinner than it has ever been but also silkier and lighter. I could never stand having my hair open and wild but having lost most of it, it all just hangs light and easy down my back now with an elastic hairband keeping it off my face. Recently I can see the grey and white more clearly. They add tiny natural shimmers in a way that a highlight job at the saloon never did. Over the years I have often felt uneasy about the amount of time and money i have spent at beauty saloons. And having low pain thresholds meant using up valuable energy towards steeling myself, alerting the saloon lady for the 15 thousandth time that my skin is super sensitive and then promising myself to get over the need to remove what is natural.

Recently a few difficult, energy consuming couple of months helped me on my way. Suddenly for the first time since I started to wax all those years ago as a student in Mumbai, I have not waxed my body hair in several months. My unibrow is taking on a ferocity that i only remember seeing on my grandmother’s brow. Some well wishers openly recommended I get an appointment as soon as i can. They would help me if i needed a recommendation. Just do it soon they urged with concealed wonderment at my lack of body awareness.

However i have never been more bodily aware than i am right now. Every floating strand on my body is waving in the wind. Which is why i keep craning my neck and try to get the errant strand of fallen hair only to find that there is nothing. Its the movement of air thru my hair.

I am exploring how to be responsive to situations without standing firm. About a year ago i expressed my new love for being anti-soap/shampoo. Within a few months the scent of a shampoo i used to love sent me right back into the shower with it. I still go a couple of days of the week without soap. I am no longer holding myself to an ideal, I let it flow. Even as i feel the wind in my arm-hair I remain light heartedly aware that the next time Raghu says with innocent honesty that he thinks my upper-lip needs a shave, i may just make that appointment. Meanwhile i vainly think I am beginning to resemble some of my favourite artists who favour the au natural look, namely Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo. A quick search online reveals that there is a growing positive body-hair awareness among young women. So maybe there is hope for my daughter to grow amongst people who keep or remove hair for reasons of their own comfort and not because beauty cannot be hairy.

This morning i watched a TED podcast of Young-ha Kim speaking of “be an artist right now” in Korean and it blew me away. Tepid coffee did not bother me any more. His example of an art class from his school days strikes close to home. He kept darkening a sheet of paper, covering it with black and nothing else. His teacher pulled him up for it. Kim explained that it was a picture of crows in the dark. Of course the teacher took him to task. Years later Kim saw paintings by Rothko and others hanging in museums that were similar to his early piece! Some were even titled “untitled”!

Art, storytelling and drama is happening right now in Zoya’ play. She enjoys a “learn languages” iPad app that allows her to imitate different accents. She is mighty good at it. Her Chinese sounds like Chinese even without using a single word of Chinese! She often creates elaborate scenes by herself and is heard speaking in American English, Italian and Chinese in the span of a few minutes. She role-plays endlessly and will tell us fantastical things or things that she says is a fact. A fact in her world space may not be a fact in mine or Raghu’s. I like to respect our different experiences of the world and our varied interpretations.

Kim illustrates beautifully via Franz Kafka’s implausible first line in his book ‘the Metamorphosis’ (note to myself: must learn the correct usage of single and double quotation marks and not use them interchangeably) “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature” how one implausible statement was supported by another and another to create a fabulous piece of fiction. I must mention that i smile as i write this.

When Raghu first saw Mrs. Weasley’s famous clock in the Harry Potter movies, he wistfully wished he could own such a clock. I remember thinking it was impossible but said “maybe someday”. But lo and behold cell phones and other mobile devices were beginning to give us live GPS/friend location services. As a non-tech person i still see the magic in simple services like email and downloading a movie or a book.

What is real today is no reflection of what may be real tomorrow. What may sound like an untruth or figment of imagination may lead to novels or playwriting. What sounds like gibberish today may lead to stand-up comedy. What may look like scribbles may lead to museum worthy art. Doing with joy everything we do is what its all about. Real work begins at birth. I want to celebrate our joy filled actions and call it ‘real work’ anytime its considered less than ‘real work.’

The emptiness is not constant. I wonder how to stay with it and yet move past it. This morning my coffee is tepid as i consider what i can do. We will be going to the local Science Center with friends later this morning. At my parent’s home there are always things that remind me of my past. As I write this i see a photo peeking out from behind some plastic boxes. It is a group photo taken during Raghu’s naming ceremony. In an instant I am transported into a house and time when my days were full of activity. After a few minutes when my thoughts are back in the moment, the emptiness returns.

Veena made a tasty vegetarian lasagna last night when we visited her. Earlier we had planned to go to a local park. The evening shower dissuaded us. We walked down her street after the rains stopped. Giant trees hung over my head as i walked. Raghu and Zoya were quibbling over who’s turn it was to ride our old rickety scooter. I held Raghu’s hand. He has a tendency to drift off into thoughts even as he is crossing a road. The erratic driving patterns and helter-skelter driving style here requires a certain inbuilt ability to navigate. I am reminded of the old Seinfeld episode where George is crossing a road with a giant pac-man machine.

The street we wandered into was quiet, tree lined, had bungalows packed together and lovely wind hewn sticks all over the road. Veena and i played with the children. Bits of Mulan action, my niece is immersed in Mulan, bits of Skyrim fighting with Raghu, and a lovely inventive basketball game with Zoya. The wind was calling and there was the hope of Mary Poppins landing soon.

I find immersion and moment to moment existence a funny thing. A long time ago when i was just discovering homeschooling i read a book by David H. Albert, a homeschooling father, writer, storyteller etc., that i found at the West Orange Public Library. From his book i learnt about Mihaly “Chick-sent-me-high” (its spelt differently but David gave this pronunciation) and his book on Flow. Ever since it has stayed with me that when we are happily immersed in something we are in “flow”.

I took Zoya down to the pool for a swim. It was a windy, coolish day. The city was catching a small break in the monsoon. Zoya wore her orange and yellow striped swimsuit. She slowly went down the rails and into the 4 feet deep side that now felt higher because of the wind whipping up the water surface. She seemed cold but was determined to swim. I watched her body flow thru the water, skimming the bottom of the pool, and was reminded of Albert’s book. Flow Hema, Flow. Watching my children swim is hugely restful for me. It is splendid to see their bodies gliding, swishing and turning like fish. Both of them learnt to swim by watching others. They did not want any instruction. And that too was “flow”. They immersed in their love for water and learnt what they wanted from the experience,

Whenever i feel tension rising, usually its a pressure inside my chest, I have made it a habit to release whatever it is i am wishing for. For e.g I was worried about Zoya swimming on that cold day even as we had all just been exposed to family members with ear infections and other nefarious germs. As i felt that fear for her rise, i wished for her health. What is a wish you may ask. Is it like from the Enid Blyton books where little kids went to bed wishing for a miraculous release from some mundane enforced activity like school? No. Its more like i look within and find the root fear and then turn it around. In this case i wished for her health. Releasing the wish helped me get back to my present moment, i was watching Zoya swim. She came out fairly quickly and said it was not cold but she was done. She ran off to change and join her brother on the swings.

This morning as i write this i feel the emptiness giving way to a more joyful space, one where possibilities abound. I had released a wish last night “may each moment be full of possibility and presence”. I know my thoughts are my reality and i am able to enjoy my now. My children will awaken in a few minutes. I hear them stirring. And i feel full of possibility, presence and open to making pancakes.