Friday, July 31, 2015

A friend of mine…

She’s bright, vivacious, an ever-charged battery in a small, compact frame.  Her frequent in-your-face, foot-in-mouth moments are charged with an honesty that is refreshing and what some would consider the crassness of youth, I consider enviable. There is no subtle veneer that shows you one face to your face, and another behind your back. You know where you stand with her and to be ‘liked’ is a privilege.

She is that odd mixture of old fashioned wisdom and naivety; she will immediately grasp the fundamentals that govern the serious, but will fail to catch a meaty joke. She challenges, opinionates, likes and dislikes strongly and, most importantly, she is herself. She has the vulnerability that is typical of her youth but will still take risks that are very obvious (to others!); sometimes she comes off without a scratch and sometimes the price is heavy. But she takes all that in her stride. The lesson is learnt.

She has a heart that cares for the less fortunate and she is ready to pitch in and be an agent of transformation – she radiates the joy that she creates! And she leaves behind unforgettable memories; the kind that bring a smile – sometimes rueful - to the face.

Though she can make you spin on your head (even if unwilling), and throw a whirling dervish out of whirl, she is not a problem to be solved like ‘Maria’. She belongs to the tribe that will change the world for the better, provided the world does not change her.  We have this habit, which is understandable, of being protective of our children and conformity keeps them away from harm. Little do we realise that we might be quenching a fire - one that lights and warms but does not destroy. I would like to think that that is impossible in the case of my young friend. 

From another realm, one day, I would love to be able to look down on the woman she is and say, ‘age did not wither her, nor custom fade.’ And the Lord will endorse that with a thunderclap!!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Aarushi…Rays of the Dawn…

Years ago, while on the drive to Poona, we were playing our favourite game: spotting ‘Truck Graffiti’. ‘Horn – Okay – Please’ was a common rear-end request but, occasionally, one would come across a gem like this one: God spare me from the clutches of a doctor, a lawyer and a scheming woman.  Being a woman, I would change that last to ‘a scheming man’.  And who wants to invite ill-health? But lawyer? You would have to experience an encounter to relate to that one!
When Mumbai Mirror published an extract from Aarushi by Avirook Sen (Penguin), I read through it avidly – I’ll admit to the voyeur in me.  But it was more than that.  It was a tragedy that had unfolded in real time with no sense of closure, even though a conviction was reached - too many questions, too many ‘whys?’, too many loose ends.  I picked up the book during a lunch break and delved into it post dinner.  I didn’t stop till the last page was turned.

Gripping narrative? No! But it was a fluid read through a journalist’s meticulously reported journey through the case.  Objective for the most part, it is not entirely dispassionate. But comment, inference and opinion are supported by illustrative and damning fact. Take the text of the judgement, for example: “The cynosure of judicial determination is the fluctuating fortunes of the….who have been arraigned for committing and secreting as also deracinating the evidence of commission of the murder of  their own adolescent daughter – a beaut damsel…”. There is more! The judge in question is apparently in the habit of reiterating, “I have command in English.” This was one of the lighter moments.

For the most part, the book takes us through the very sordid environment that is the Indian legal and law and order system, no holds barred. The scarred and the inured would probably retort, ‘So what’s new?’ There is, on the other hand, a new and rising generation who could make a difference, even if it is one person at a time. Which is why I make this my fervent recommendation: every college of every university in India should make this book compulsory reading.  This is no work of fiction. It is pure fact.

The book closes at the end of yet another ‘ordinary’ day.  For Aarushi, the rays of dawn are forever an altered reality. And I fervently paraphrase that driver’s prayer – from the clutches of the law, O God, spare me!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Where Life Has Gone…

Yesterday’s experience brought back to mind an encounter from my tweenage years – the introduction to Harold Robbins through ‘Where Love Has Gone’: the same sense of desolation, the lack of closure, the never-ending question, ‘why?’ 
Anyone who has lived with Parkinsons – either as caregiver or as afflicted – will know the slow and agonizing descent into futility.  First, the uncontrollable trembling, then the reducing motor skills, the tricks that the mind plays leading to frustration and an altered personality, the struggle to be ‘normal’, to reclaim the dignity and usefulness that once were part and parcel of the person.  Yesterday, I met a man who was once a missionary, who built a mission and sustained it against the odds! A once active and driven man, who fought and succeeded in realising dreams for others, not just his own. Now, that same man is struggling to escape from the stranglehold of an illness that will rob him of everything he has known. And the struggle is desperately visible.

That was yesterday.  

This morning, I was reminded of the Pope’s message to his priests to be ‘good shepherds’. A shepherd needs to be strong and healthy in mind and body – he has to guard, guide, understand and love his sheep. But shepherds are mortal. They fall ill, grow old and become weak. What then?

Unbidden, this thought came to mind: perhaps, the answer lies in the cross? We look to Christ – the risen Christ – as our Good Shepherd, for whom nothing is impossible. Yet, it is as a man, broken and suffering, humiliated and dying on the cross that He is most effective. We can identify with that man – he is us and we are him.  

Hold back the pity and the regret. Forget not the past; rather, give thanks and praise for what was. Then, look to the future and the loving greeting, ‘…welcome, good and faithful servant…’. For it is not what we were and are, but what we will be.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Melbourne Memories

Reading through my posts brought on nostalgia! So, here's what I will remember -

First of all, reconnecting with my cousin Penny who is still the delightful presence that I remember from childhood – the only cousin whom I have really known. And her husband, Ian, is a darling too.  I am all of 64 years old and he calls me ‘Kiddo!’ What’s not to love?  I got to catch up with her sons and their wives: the elder is the baby I carried - he is now a grown man with teenage sons and a person of eminence.  The younger son, who was a little fellow when I first encountered him, still retains his shy smile and happy demeanour.  He’s also ace at choosing fabulous places to eat!! 

I got to catch up with other cousins, too, some of whom I had met years ago and one who I was meeting for the very first time!!  David is still the big and burly giant to my slight frame but definitely closer in image to Santa than the teenage lad who used to take me piggy-back.  His wife, Jackie, was all affection and super-efficiency.  And I was the pampered ‘little cousin’!  I loved meeting their children and extended family – most of all I loved Tim’s renovated caravans.  A home on wheels is a beckoning adventure!  

Catching up with Eslyn and his lovely wife, Christina, brought back happy memories of Uncle Dudley, my Mum’s older brother.  And the ‘tea party’ in Melbourne city with Penelope Jane rounded off the encounters of the relative kind.  

From the original family of ten that my mother belonged to, this may seem like a small number but quite a few of her siblings did not marry, some (as I) are only children and one cousin has, sadly, passed on.  My visit did achieve what it aimed to do – catch up with family!

And then there was the road-trip to Sydney and Canberra with the Anglo Indian Association. Boy oh boy, that was a family trip of a very different kind.  A joyful, exuberant, friendly busload of people who were glad to share their memories of an India that would be totally unrecognizable to them today.  They also shared an amazing variety of food (reminded me of our train journeys when I was still a child and the picnic hampers we carried from destination to destination), the songs of yesteryears and Bingo!!  Yes, the memories are plenty and nostalgic!!!

Of Melbourne itself (in preference, Sydney and Canberra come a distant second and third) I will remember the tree lined suburbs with houses boasting the prettiest gardens – the freshest air, the cleanest water (I did not need to carry my bottle – we drank straight from the tap), the well-kept surroundings, the fantastic food.

Of Australia, as a country, I will remember the really huge open spaces, the miles and miles of road that made up the longest distances, the outsize servings that are characteristic of every meal and the rejoinder ‘no worries, mate’ to my sometimes necessary ‘sorry’!  But what made the greatest impact is that here one sees that good governance really works – it is visible in every aspect of daily living: the efficiency, the courtesy, the observance of rules, the honesty and accountability.  I never heard a car honk and the consideration observed on the road by every driver is to be seen to be believed. It is perhaps significant that on the only occasion when I was almost ripped off, it was by someone of Asian origin!! 

And all this is just the ‘outline’!  

Yes, it was a good trip – a fantastic trip - and as memories grow distant, my heart will still carry the happiness of a month much enjoyed, the anticipation of living as family certainly achieved.