Thursday, July 28, 2011

Drenched but not quenched!

Yesterday, I set out dry on an errand that was imperative in its urgency. Cocooned in AC comfort while waiting for a print run to be completed, I was oblivious to what was happening outside. Imagine my horror on being confronted by a torrential downpour and a howling wind, when I opened the door! In the span of just fifteen minutes, the weather had changed dramatically. Courageously clutching my inadequate brolly (I like ‘humble brother’ too!) I braved the rain. Home and bedraggled, I headed for a hot bath and an equally steaming cup of chicken soup. Seated by the window, I watched others struggle against the storm and commiserated.

There is nothing quite like the wet and windy Indian monsoon. I know. I have waded through waist deep murky pools in the concrete jungle and in the real one too. I have trudged through rural sludge and through urban slush. And I have muttered imprecations at the weather gods for picking on hapless me.

But there is a flip side. I have seen the wonder of a firmament lit up end to end by streaks of blazing lightning – a pyrotechnic fantasy, and I have heard the swell of thunder – crashing cymbals and reverberating drum rolls, building up crescendo upon crescendo till the climactic finale. (Yes, I am spellbound by thunder and lightning, and maybe one day, I’ll learn to dance in the rain without protective battle gear!) And I realise that I am but a speck in this great cosmos. But, I am here – an indelible fragment in the history of humankind. To paraphrase Descartes, I experience, therefore I am.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Father Trevor Zenon D'Souza

Occasionally, a little packet would be dropped into my letterbox. The covering would be slit, the whole tied with string and the postage affixed was just Re. 1! When such a packet arrived, all other mail would be put aside and I would happily browse the little booklet revealed by the unwrapping.

I was truly privileged to be on Fr. Trevor Zenon’s mailing list. He made it his retirement work to spread, through the printed word, the message of God’s love. He also circulated, through his little booklets, affirming thoughts and guidance for daily Christian living. Over the years, I have built up a collection of these pocket-size books which I return to whenever I need a ‘dose’. Thanks to my contact with Fr. T, I have always had something to turn to when I am in a slump - inspiring words can be the best pick me up in times of need!

We remained in (and out of) contact over a span of some 40 odd years, all because of CONTACT. That was the name of the newsletter that Fr. T published when he was based at Byculla. He sent out the first copies through an embryo mailing list, parish wise, and a friendly priest passed on the publication. At 15, I considered myself a fledgling ‘writer’ and I flooded Fr. T’s mailbox with my manuscripts – mostly poems and teenage ramblings. He published my work and sent me complimentary copies of the newsletter. I was thrilled - for the first time, my words were in print outside the Parish Bulletin. Fr. T was transferred, and went on to serve in other parishes. We lost touch as we went our separate ways. And then, out of the blue, I encountered him at the Clergy Home to which he had retired. We resumed our acquaintance and once more, I looked forward to the mail in the letterbox.

Strangely, we never met in person.

It was with a heavy heart that I attended his funeral yesterday, but it is with gladness and gratitude that I will always remember his presence in my life.

Like Fr. T, I am a ‘scrapbooker’ – I shared his love of quotations, extracts, poems and philosophical asides and I collect these with avidity. Fr. T gifted his readers nuggets from his collection and I gift you, in remembrance, one from mine – a poem that, for me, is evocative of the Lord’s servant:

He cast a stone,

And wavelets on a silent sea

Caressed the shores

Of lands where he would never be … he started something.

He hid a seed,

And blossoms in the wind that blow

Have set aflame

The countryside with radiant glow … he started something.

He dropped a thought,

And in youth’s eager mind

A candle reared

Through all the future years enshrined … he started something.

He lived a life

Which made appeal to you and me;

We loved to live

In what was his community … he started something!”

- (From: He Started Something by H. Halbisch)

Monday, July 25, 2011


“When I said ‘I do’

I meant that I will

To the end of time,

Be faithful and true,

Devoted to you.

That’s what I had in mind

When I said ‘I do’”

(Words from a song)

Where and when did it all start? The incompatibility? The refusal to reconcile? The climbing divorce rate? The beginning of the end of marriage?

Time was when marriage was a living, breathing, loving partnership. Unequal at times, perhaps, but the shared plans, dreams, laughter and tears evened out the odds. Anniversaries coming and going, marking the years, rubbing off the hard edges, fitting together more comfortably, growing older but staying young at heart, listening to Jim Reeves singing that touching reminder – ‘Memories are made of this’ – marriage is romance, most certainly, but not the fictional romance of Mills & Boon.

A wise man once told me, ‘A husband is not the handsome guy in a well-fitting suit with a stretchable wallet who buys you expensive gifts; he is the man who will be the father of your children.’ And for the man who seeks a wife, she is not the arm candy or the life of the party, she is the one who will be the mother of their children. Whether there be children or no, the ‘mothering’ and ‘fathering’ qualities make sure that the course will be stayed, that the nurturing will be there, that the sharing will be complete because man and woman, husband and wife, need to be halves of a whole. They are each other’s support system, ‘for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in long as they both shall live’.

Is marriage to the ‘right partner’ a dream come true? Certainly not! Everyone retains their individuality and certainly has the right to – this means divergent reactions, different wants, different needs, different purposes. All good marriages have their rough and rocky moments and time shows how and when to compromise; one just has to weather the initial turbulent patches – not easy, but certainly possible. You pull in different directions but you know, instinctively, when the bond has reached snapping point and you relax the tension, take a deep breath and start over, one retreating step at a time. A sense of humour helps. As does the art of conversation, where each one listens as the other speaks.

I am no marriage counselor. On the other hand, I am privileged to have married into a family that has witnessed several silver weddings, a few ruby anniversaries and at least one gold. Would we like to go back and do things differently? Perhaps. Would we choose the same life partner, given a second chance? Most definitely, yes!

When you set out on a long and difficult hike, you invest in a stout pair of shoes. When you set out on a marriage, you need a stout heart. Which is why, when you set out to meet at the altar, if you do not mean ‘I do’ please don’t.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Food, Glorious Food (or, an AI in an EI Kitchen – Part V)

The real rite of initiation for a new bride is her first stint in the marital kitchen (and I brook no argument!). For one who has never stepped into a kitchen before, the trepidation in advance and the ordeal that follows rivals any feat of endurance. Think of all the weapons of mass destruction – fierce flames, hot cavernous ovens, sharp knives, choppers and skewers, heavy skillets, pungent and dangerous condiments (when you chop a hot pepper, for heaven’s sake, don’t rub your itching eyes – a very novice error!) If you’ve been there done that, smile. If not, look forward to it. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

But once the first terror has been overcome, the rest is a rollicking adventure as you pick up culinary skills that are at once unique and fascinating. And you can chuckle at the goof-ups that made you cringe. Thanks to an affectionate and helpful mother-in-law I was coaxed and coached into learning hubby’s favourite foods - like all good EIs, he loved variety and quantity on his plate. The highest accolade I could hope to achieve was ‘just like Mother’s’ (I never made the ‘better than’ grade). I was often regaled with stories of feasts and festivities and special dishes which now reside only in memory and imagination (mine!). I stuck to the daily fare and left the fancy to the more experienced hands. Occasionally, I would slip in a few AI variations. Hubby would take a tentative first spoonful and then utter a plaintive, ‘What’s this?’ He knew authenticity when he tasted it.

Over the years, I find that I have a acquired a goodly collection of recipes – EI, AI, local and international cuisines - which embrace the instructions received from hubby’s mum and sisters and also those gleaned from friends, cookbooks and magazines. The books (yes, I have many) have been well thumbed and the firm favourites splattered with tell-tale smudges - relics of the working kitchen. And now that I’m a battle-scarred veteran of the senior citizen's brigade, it is my turn to pass on the folklore, the helpful hints and tips. This is why I have decided to embark – very ambitiously – on a recipe book. I doubt very much that the next generation will find it useful, but they can read and dream.

So, if I am absent from my blog, you’ll know the reason why.