Saturday, November 24, 2012

It gets harder…

It gets harder, everyday, to say goodbye…

And it’s the ordinary, the everyday that makes it so.

Today, I saw a couple engaged in conversation, so absorbed in each other that they were oblivious to all that was around – we were like that too.

Today, I felt the nip in the air and the coldness of a dog’s wet nose and I laughed and turned to share.  Did you know?

Today, as I made my morning cup of tea and fetched the paper and planned the day, I wondered what you’d make of it.  This is what we used to do.

Today, I sat with the team and proofed the Advent Booklet and tried to be as meticulous as you taught me how.  We worked together the very same way – grappling with space and layout, floating ideas, feeling the same triumph when the light bulb clicked!

Today, was the first day I turned on the Christmas carols while I worked at the computer.  Softly, so as not to disturb the neighbours just like you said.  How you loved this season.

And today, I started on my crochet decorations.  Red, white and green.  And I imagined that impish grin on your face as you delighted in the expectation of the bounty from yarn and hook.

Soon it will be the first day of Advent and the first recitation of the Christmas novena.  You used to keep count for the fifteen repeats.  Now, I will use my rosary beads.

And when the year comes to an end, I’ll play Auld Lang Syne at midnight just for you.

Friday, November 23, 2012


The theme for our Faith & Discussion Group’s next session is ‘Christmas – what it means and how we prepare for it.’  We are expected to introspect and present the result of such introspection, to share and discuss with the rest of the group.  And the discussion can be quite lively and enlightening, judging from past experience!

So, Christmas.  I got to thinking.  What first comes to mind?  Well, the practical things like getting the house cleaned – always a mammoth task which involves long handled brooms, mops and dusters and the murky depths of cupboards which are turned out with a will to the accompaniment of ‘ughs’ (something mouldy), ‘eeks’ (probably spiders), ‘oh this is where it was’ (something misplaced) and ‘you can’t throw that away’ (usually a garment well beyond its wear by date) among other familiar sounds. Then, there are the Christmas cards to buy.  At least this used to be on the ‘to do’ list.  Nowadays, its email, sms and FB.  The cards had to be written, addressed, some with a photo tucked in and mailed before the Christmas rush at the Post Office. Thankfully, I never made sweets but the order had to be calculated and placed.  New clothes? Not essential but usually on the list, particularly when shop windows tempted. Carols in the air either in the home courtesy the CD player, or at practice for the Carol singing rounds, or at the concerts that are a fixture every year – Catholic Gym, Alfy at the NCPA and the local Churches.  Closer to Christmas, haul out the tree, the hangings, the lights and the crib.  What else? Nothing much really, except to look forward to Midnight Mass and the parties that follow.

And that’s ‘Christmas’?

Not quite.  There’s Advent – the time before Christmas.  From the first day of Advent, we recite the Christmas Novena – a family tradition.  Though it is prayed just once a year, ‘Hail and blessed be the hour and moment…’ comes back word perfect. It is a memory, a link to and a reminder of that very first Christmas. There is also more to Advent than the novena and the wreath – another lovely tradition – but we are rarely attentive to this inner preparation when the externals overwhelm by ubiquity.

Ten years ago, I had written a brief reflection on Christmas as my contribution to the prelude to the prayers of the faithful (no, it was not used).  While going through stuff (yes, Christmas clean up!) I came across the typewritten sheet and I think it worth the sharing (even if I am in error and liturgically incorrect). So here goes:

Every year on this night, we gather together to remember God’s gift to us – the Holy Babe of Bethlehem who brought with him the additional gifts of hope, love and peace.  Today, when peace seems a forlorn prospect and faith in the promise of Jesus’ birth seems futile, we need to remember that gifts are only given; they need to be accepted and opened before they can be known and possessed. Each passing Christmas challenges us to open these gifts and share them with the world.  If peace and love seem to diminish, it is probably because the gift is still unwrapped and ignored. 

Gifting at Christmas is reciprocal.  And what better gift can we give than that of ourselves – we who have been ‘loved into being’ in image and likeness.  Perfect in God’s eyes.  We can bring ourselves to the humility of the stable and experience firsthand the gift of Mary’s womb, the strength of Joseph’s protectiveness, the shepherd’s simple and wondering adoration and, since I am an animal lover, the caring presence of the ox, the ass and the doves cooing in the rafters.  

And, by visiting the babe, we too will receive our gift.  All we need to do is open and share it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Taking myself for ‘Grant’ed…

Ethnic classification is a big deal.  “Where are you from?’ will always be part of a first conversation, directly or indirectly, sooner or later.  Or, enquiries will be directed at the colour of your skin, your accent, the way you dress, your attitudes and, since these are all characteristic of who you are, they define you not just as a person but define your background as well!

For very long, I moved in familiar environments – everyone knew me well and so I did not have to answer questions of ethnicity. Now, once again, I move in different circles and the questions are floated afresh: ‘Are you a foreigner? Are you really an Indian? What do you do to stay so fair? How come you do things the way you do? Where does your accent come from?’ Everything is under the scanner, up for scrutiny and fair game for analysis.

I love to throw in a few personal definitions for good measure. I tell them I’m a little bit of this and a little bit of that, a patchwork bedspread, neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring, a mini-UN, a peace front for what used to be inimical nations (British, German, Indian!), a three part harmony.  

So, what does it mean to be Anglo Indian? For one, I am not tied to customs and traditions. While I love to observe from the sidelines the various rites and rituals that define a community - the links in the chain of generations – I am at the same time relieved that I am not bound by such observance (or, certain rules and regulations!)  I confess that I am sometimes the cause of anarchy.  Take for example my school classroom (a very new and learning experience).  Schoolgirls, it seems, need permission for everything.  This results in a lesson being punctuated every now and then with, ‘Miss, please may I drink water?’  Accustomed to adult postgraduate class where everyone, including the lecturer, can sip quietly from glass or bottle without interrupting the flow and concentration, I was fazed – thrown completely off balance.  At the back of my mind was an irritated, ‘Do you have to ask?’ Now, I tell them, ‘In my class, if you need to drink water, just go ahead and do so.  Just do not interrupt me.’ The girls will soon have to manage a balancing act to remember what they can and cannot do in which teacher’s classroom!  

It is typically Anglo Indian to be different and to be highly individual.  This may not have been so with the first generation of AIs who would have tried to fit in with either or all of the cultures they represented, but strong rejection led to the very distinctive identity that evolved – standalone and devil may care! If there is anything that is ‘customary’ it is that we exist in the moment, live for the day, carry no baggage and are totally spontaneous.  But we break no laws. And, yes, we are thick skinned considering the criticisms that we invite for the way we are. 

We have often been termed butterflies in the derogatory sense, and I find this amusing.  Butterflies live for just one day, but in that day they fill the air with colour and motion that are enchanting to behold.  And they infuse every moment with the useful contribution of their whole self.  One does not forget an encounter with butterflies.  Butterflies are God’s gift. And butterflies are free.

P.S. The title is a pun on my maiden name ‘Grant’!

PPS: Someone asked me, recently, what diet I observed to stay fair!  I was tempted to say, ‘Lots and lots of potatoes – eat white to stay white!”  Now that’s an AI response for you!!