Golden Memory Bubbles

I was excited beyond measure – I was going to see my dearest friend after almost two decades. It didn’t feel like decades had passed since I last saw her. The flutter in my stomach was the same as when school reopened after the holidays. I was eager, expectant and a little nervous.

As I took her in, the years fell away from us. I was so happy to hear her voice, see her smile and take in the movements that were so familiar to me as a girl. After watching me spend the evening with my dear friend, the daughter said, “You know I have never seen Amma this giggly and happy! It is like she is a teenager!”

“You know? There are a few moments that will shine in every one’s mind. It is one of the dearest moments in life when I sat next to the girl with wavy hair and a blue hairpin in Second grade. She stoutly stood by me even in ugly situations such as me being threatened with worms 🐛 and I hope I did the same for her. ” I said with a dreamy look in my eyes.

The next morning, I was lazing in bed, when a memory rose unbidden from the depths pushing aside decades of adulthood and surfacing the teenage self. It reminded me of Mole, Rat, & Badger in The Wind in the Willows.

wind_in_the_willows

We had been “bunking class” as it was called. It was technically no more than taking a circuitous route to the restroom and back. But for some reason, our teachers did not like to see us “loitering” around the corridors as they so inelegantly put it. I would have preferred the term “musing along the corridors”. So, it was no surprise then that we were hailed in stern tones, almost as soon as we left class, by one of our milder and more patient teachers.

Inexplicably, we decided that the prudent course of action is to run to the girls toilets instead of back to our classroom. A dumber choice I cannot think of, for the girls bathroom was a good way off. Off we ran – charging down the corridors, and skating down hallways to the safety of the girls bathroom, giggling and encouraging each other to keep up.

When finally we locked ourselves in, we burst out laughing, heady with relief at outwitting the poor man, though it must have been glaringly obvious to him who the miscreants were. We were also dumb enough to call each other by name just in case he had any problems with his sight. Really! The collective intelligence of teenagers is to be seen to be believed.

I laughed in my sleepy state, and the teenage daughter gave me a quizzical look, “Why? what happened?” I sheepishly told her.

“You bunked class? ” she said a little incredulously. “Well…actually it shouldn’t surprise me that much. Thaatha (grandpaand paati (grandma) said that you were the naughtiest of the three children.” said she with a newfound respect in her voice. This summer was a revelation of sorts for her.

Within minutes, this confession had the most marvelous effect I could have wished for. The children and nieces piled on to the bed I was lounging on, and each one narrated their own school tales to much hilarity and pride. A glimpse into their world with no inhibitions is a marvelous gift. I looked into their shining and mischievous eyes, and listened to them. Amusing escapades revealing their beautiful personalities – fun-loving, good, loyal, sharp, sincere, and witty.

These golden bubbles to be treasured come unbidden, spontaneously and genuinely.

The feeling of being in a Wind in a Willows sort of world deepened:

wind_in_willows

“A book of youth, and so perhaps chiefly for youth and those who still keep the spirit of youth alive in them; of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems, clear of the clash of the sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things that ‘glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck’.”

I wished for these children nothing more than the warmth and strength of the gift of lifelong friendships that allow them to smile just thinking of them.

Symphony of the Chelonian Steam Engine

The mater has the unfortunate habit of behaving like a speeding steam engine.

The pater holds his side of the matrimonial agreement by acting like certain chelonian species fond of using foghorns. He is not a turtle or tortoise – far from it. I do not know the voices of turtles, but I am sure they differ drastically from the fathers. The similarity ends with the hearing alone.

Let me explain.

The mother, though the decades in between have slowed the steam engine somewhat, still retains that shrill whistle that characterizes a good steam engine.

Her tracks change quickly as she steams about the place letting out steam and words as she moves. She charges about saying a million things and if you happen to be in the vicinity, you can pick up about 30% of what was delivered and what Mr Christian Doppler thought you should hear depending on the speed of the train and the distance and all that lark. This steam engine type of behavior is most trying when you have good hearing.

Doppler Effect : Wiki Link

chelonian_steam_turtle

The father, unfortunately, partially lost his powers of hearing about 3 decades ago, and relies on the sound waves that directly hit his hearing aid from a certain angle, a delicate  reading of facial cues, and leaves the rest to the benign deities of the universe assuming that mankind is in general good and kind.

Good violinists have been known to fiddle about with their pesky instruments – they can be seen on and off stage twisting, turning, pulling and tuning, to get that delicate balance that produces beautiful sounds. The father, though not a violinist, treats his hearing aid with the same delicate charm. The precious hearing aid whistles, squeaks, and sometimes amplifies the sounds in the vicinity. Between these squeaks and blurbs, he reconstructs what he can and astounds those watching with coherent answers.

If you were to google for animals that cannot hear too well, you will come upon a link similar to this one: Animal Planet.

Quote:
“Certain turtles and tortoises lack an ear opening. It’s true that chelonians can’t hear anywhere near as well as humans and many other species can. But they can detect certain types of sounds. “

The father can certainly detect the annoyed shriek amidst the chaos in the home.

Therefore their lives exist in a delicate balance where the Laws of Physics are trying their best to hold their own. The sound waves bounce along with the moving mater train, the pater looks bewildered, and then realizes ten minutes later that he is being given a dressing down for not listening to whatever she said over the past 10 minutes. In response, the pater cracks a joke, which grates the mater like ginger in their evening tea.

Standing amidst this chaos one evening, I felt a surge of affection for the pair of them steadily marching on in years, their sounds of love producing sounds of a somewhat haphazard orchestra – sometimes discordant, yet when you skate over these spots, harmonic.

The Swirling Kaleidoscope

In a fit of inspiration, we planned a whirl wind of a trip to India and UAE. The grandparents, aunts and uncles were unduly enthusiastic, and we were welcomed with joy everywhere. The past month is a beautiful blur of family and friends, multiple cities, delicious foods, tropical fruits, flora and fauna like seen nowhere in the United States, and national forests. 🌳

I have tried explaining India to my colleagues and friends in the United States who have never visited. How does one capture the pure joy of peacocks dancing in the rain, the unease of the stray dogs barking and chasing you as your make your way to the ATM around the corner on the same day? (I did not stop to take pictures of the stray dogs chasing us – self preservation is a dear thing.)

It is difficult to capture the pulse of the buzzing populations, the incessant sounds of the chaotic traffic in cities, the mosquito bites, the sweat from the heat, the beautiful rains, the warmth of the people you know, the helpfulness of those you don’t, the colors and fashions like nowhere else, the birds, flowers, stray dogs, cows, street vendors, disappearing footpaths, haphazard constructions, the quintessential maids, the eateries, the clothes line, the flooring, the beautiful national forests and through it all, the keen and heightened senses required to be aware of the ever-present dangers in highly populated areas.

How does one explain the ubiquitous presence of religions – the call of the masjids, the church bells, the sounds of the temples? The paradox of freedom in a culture that is still quite demanding in its expectations of behaviors in its populace.

The varieties of music – traditional music to start off the days, the filmy beats to take one through the rest of the day: whether one asks for it or not!

It really is Incredible India.

If we stirred out into the urban areas, I quickly yearned for the quiet of home. If I was home, I was exhorted to go out, since there was so much to do, so many people to meet, and so little time. Even so, I did not do as much as I wanted to. Did not meet as many people as I wanted to.

Indian cities are a kaleidoscope of swift whirling colors, its countrysides a different kaleidoscope altogether but equally vibrant.

Consequently, back on the flight to our home in the United States, I realize I have had little time to slow down, read and rest. As the flight drones on, I nap, read, watch a movie, eat, stretch; rinse; and repeat; thrice only to see the flight blink back at me that there are 2 more hours to land. A grim reminder as to how very far away I live . My heart literally stretched across the entire span of the globe.

I cannot help thinking of Virginia Woolf’s saying on Women:
As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.

Too short, too fast and too little, but just enough to make me smile fondly.

Magical Garbage Collection

I plonked myself in bed one night and stretched the tired frame. The feeling of the muscles relaxing against the mattress is a welcome one. The thighs and calf muscles let out a small moan of gratitude at being allowed to rest. How lovely it would be if I could just sleep for another 12-14 hours? I knew the alarm had different plans for me though.

It had been another long day in a series of long days. The relentless nature of the days, and the things that were occupying them had me feeling somewhat jaded. 

Annie Dillard whispered her wisdom “How we occupy our days in how we occupy our lives.”

I really need something to rekindle the magic of life, I said to myself, and then remembered that a task lay ahead of me that had little to no magical appeal. I had forgotten that it was the night to put out the garbage cans for collection the next day. My muscles screamed in protest as I got up to take care of the unsavory task. 

I tried to silence the sound track of the amount of garbage we generate and push out just for this moment the heart -rending images of the garbage floating in our oceans that I had seen in the National Geographic magazine. I tramped from garbage can to garbage can in the various rooms in the house stumping listlessly and loudly. The sounds of my footsteps loudly registering my exhaustion and irritation at the same time. 

I dragged the cans out to the curb. A cool breeze gently caressed my tired frame. I stopped at the end of the curb, and lifted my eyes. I stood there caught in the moment of transformation. There was Jupiter shining down brightly near the Scorpio constellation in the summer sky. I veered my eyesight to the right and there was Little Dipper. It had been a long time since I glanced up at the night sky. The advent of summer meant that by the time the stars twinkled down gently at us at night, I was too tuckered out to exert myself to gaze longingly at the planets and the stars. ✨ 

I stood there for sometime. A few neighbors had stepped out on similar errands looking equally spent, and we had a curbside-garbage-can chat. I showed them Jupiter and the constellations I recognized. Really! How such a simple thing can invigorate us all is amazing. Soon, we were whipping out the Skyview app and looking for constellations and stars, familiar and unfamiliar. 

It was then I saw the artificial satellite orbit the Earth – shooting much faster than the remaining stars, steadily moving across the night sky, like a little star out for a run. In a matter of minutes, we were talking about the kind of data the orbiting satellites send us. No surer reminder of the Pale Blue Dot than an orbiting satellite is there?

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I traipsed back to bed after this welcome interlude of the magic of the skies. Who knew? Garbage collection could turn magical after all.

To quote Herman Hesse, “My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys.” 

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