Grateful Novembers 🙏🏼

November is usually a month of gratitude and it is one of my favorite months for this particular reason. We do have a lot to be grateful towards even when many things seem to be out of shape and awry.

The world seemed to be losing its marbles all at once. The world of work, economics and egos were all swirling in one large vat of turmoil. I suppose it isn’t too much to confess that all one wanted to do at the end of it all was to curl up in a neat nourish-n-cherish sized hole. But. Life goes on. The sun does set, the moon does rise, and in that safety of time lies our path forward. If ever the seasons have taught us anything, it is that life goes on and life brings changes. (visualize the tunes from the Cars movie for that line!)

I found that my friends, stellar and wonderful as I have always known them to be, were often my buoys during this time. Their generous natures, optimistic outlook on life, pragmatic suggestions, were all reminders that the world is made of wonderful people though we often are at the mercy of the not-so-wonderful at times. With every text message, phone call, or the gift of their time, I found my gratitude for them growing. When I was too upset to talk about the events of the day, they gave the whole topic a wide berth, and worked their magic through their comforting presence instead. 

I was grateful also for those who I know would have thought of me, and refrained from asking me about events and giving me the space.  

“Close friends are truly life’s treasures. Their presence reminds us that we are never really alone.” 

Vincent van Gogh

We just finished watching a Harry Potter movie and fell to discussing the beautiful nature of friendships and how our worlds are much richer because of this simple human bond. I can wish for nothing more than genuine friendships for every body as we pass through this life. The ones we grow old with, the ones who saw each other win and fail and stood staunchly by one other, the ones you lose touch with and pick up right where you left off knowing we thought of each other way more than we spoke, and all the ones in between. 

Over time, I grow fonder and fonder of our motley group of friends – they are the ones who put up with our quirks, and help us belong. 

So, this post is just that: A note of gratitude to our friends. Like Abou Ben Adhem: May their tribe increase!

Mingling Starlight in our Lives

Humanity has been in that strange place of being where our sentience allows us to contemplate the mysteries of the universe, while still being stumped and awed by the chaos and complexities of nature.

A week ago, I said bye to my family and boarded the plane. Airports must always bear the brunt of human emotions. I sat on the plane, and the tears came coursing down. I was so desperate for my dear friend’s life. I had been in denial – there was no doubt. I knew she had cancer and she was stoically, bravely fighting the Emperor of Maladies for over two years now. But I hadn’t realized how far it had gotten. I could not reconcile my friends’ vibrant, energetic, intelligent image in my mind with the one I saw a few days earlier. This girl, without whom I cannot imagine my childhood(the one who would brave anything for you), was fighting for her life. 

Almost every important memory had her in it. A shining presence with her light of being – science lab, sports fields, classes, our home, the lanes of Lovedale. Boarding school bonds are unique. I had not kept in touch with most folks in my class after moving to the US, but I managed to reconnect with her after a few years. My children teased me every time I got off the phone with her (You have *that* look – they’d say, like you’d been talking to your Lovedale pals) It was true. I could not bring that smile any other time – I’ve tried. It is like the precious memories of childhood are saved in a special location in your brain that is accessible only by certain people, events, experiences, places, tastes, aromas (and odors!). 

It has been a long few days since that flight back to the US. During this time, humanity has once again revealed its marvelous nature of being to us. Human beings as a species are redeemed only by their giving hearts, empathy and love. My dear friend now has a fighting chance and it all came through because of the generosity of many who knew her, and many who didn’t. Most of us had not seen each other or spoken to one another in years. Yet.

It was a privilege to see our collective love for each other surface through time and space and help out one of our own.

A shiver passed through me as I stepped out on a walk, and I inadvertently looked up at the stars. Plaedis cluster, and Orion the big hunter looked unusually bright on that cold, clear night. 

“Mingle the starlight with your lives!”

Maria Mitchell, Astronomer & Professor

I smiled up at the universe thinking of that quote. I had been in the skies (among the stars) when I had sent fervent prayers up for this girl, and the starlight had mingled in with our lives giving us hope again. 

Now, we pray that her body accepts the treatment and she becomes healthy again. 

light shining through the clouds

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.

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