I lost my grandfather on the 10th of September.  He was close to ninety and had been ill on and off for many years.  Somewhere in my mind I knew that his time was limited but of course none of us knew when it would be time to go. I got to know of his passing from my parents. Almost immediately after that I found a flood of messages on Facebook. I stayed away from that medium. While I appreciated the time people took to remember him and the kind words they wrote, I felt he deserved more than a fleeting mention on a swiftly changing newsfeed. I wanted to remember him in a more permanent manner, hence this post.

I spent a large part of my childhood with my paternal grandparents. Being the first grandchild I was much loved and wanted. Every summer vacation and any other vacation that my parents would consent to would be spent at their house. Living in small educational township, they had privileges unique to such places. The community was close-knit and everyone really did know everyone else. With only cycles (and an odd scooter or two) for transportation, they had the cleanest air to breathe. At nighttime you could spend hours gazing at the sky, counting innumerable twinkling stars. The roads were wide and tree-lines. The solitary shopping area offered such few spending avenues, that even with the measly Institute salary you could probably save more than you ever can in the city. External source of entertainment were few. That meant you learnt to keep yourself busy with sports, crafts and socializing. The entire township wrapped up in a couple of kilometers and this made sure that nothing and no one was too far away. The sprawling house they lived in was another benefit of the township. The two-storied house came with a hedged front lawn and a backyard full of fruit trees.  The backyard opened out to the shifting sands and sand dunes of the vast Thar desert.

Arriving in the township as a student in the pre-partition era, my grandfather made it his home for over fifty years. After completing his studies, he worked for a short while in Calcutta and quickly realized that life was not for him. He came back to his alma mater and over the years took many academic and administrative posts. He continued to work for over ten years after his retirement.

My relationship with my grandfather was wonderful.But on that smooth road of life, there were some rough patches. I would be lying if I said there weren’t any.  As I grew up, there were differences in approach and beliefs on certain issues. Sometimes we agreed and sometimes we didn’t.  When we didn’t, we chose to disagree without making much noise. He wasn’t one for much discussion or persuasion or even negotiation. I think that came partly from character and partly from belonging to an older generation.

Despite the rough patches, there are hundreds of things that I would remember my grandfather for.  Things that I believe made him stand apart, gave him character. Some of which I wish to inculcate in myself.

  1. A man of few words, he spoke little. For those who didn’t know him, that quiet exterior was unnerving. Those who knew him were used to it. They also knew that he spoke little, raised his voice almost never, but when he said something, he meant it.
  2. My grandparents (and my parents) are the hardest working people I have met. I am not lazy and manage a job and a house largely on my own. My days are pretty full but inspite that I don’t think I have ever worked as much as them. I have time for leisure. That luxury I didn’t seen my grandparents or parents enjoy. Hard work takes you a long way. My grandfather’s life reaffirms this. Starting with practically only an education in hand, he worked hard to build a life for himself and his family. I didn’t see him participate much in the household, but when he was at home, he was usually working. Either it was some Institute related work, or a book he was writing or editing, or an academic discussion with a bunch of students he had called home. There was hardly any time he wasted. His only indulge was the television- limited hours and mostly the news.
  3. A determined man, he approached his goals with focus and grit. When he worked, the world around him ceased to exist. It would take a few moments and a call or two before he could pull himself out of his work. Such was his concentration.
  4. My grandfather was extremely disciplined. His day was neatly divided into time slots, each with a specific task. He was extremely particular about sticking to his schedule. As a child the schedule was at times impressive and at times annoying. It was difficult to understand how someone could keep a schedule day after day, without a break. In the last few years, health failed him, yet he did his best to keep his schedule.
  5. Everything associated with him was neat and orderly. On his side table next to his sofa (which doubled up as his writing corner) lay a tiny tray with neatly lined up pencils and pens, an eraser and a pocket comb. You weren’t allowed to fidget with that tray.  If you picked a pencil (as privileged grandchild we were allowed) it had to be returned. The pocket comb was used several times in the day- his hair needed to be absolutely in place. He placed hand-embroidered (my grandmother’s creations) napkins on the sofa arms. That was the arrangement he had for as long as I could remember. I remember opening his cupboard a few months before he passed on. It was exactly as I remembered it as a child. Tidily stacked shirts and pants and handkerchiefs.
  6. Being a disciplined man, indulges weren’t for him. He once told me he was an occasional smoker as a young man. He gave that up once he made up his mind about it.
  7. Truly fond of getting and giving an education, he motivated countless students and relatives to pursue higher studies. I think may be with me he was a little disappointed because I neither studied the subjects he loved nor did I get a Ph. D.!
  8. He was worldly wise and managed his money well. On a limited income, he gave his three children a fabulous education and made adequate retirement plans for himself. Today I  earn more than he did at the time of his retirement. I still dont think I have the ability to juggle my money  as smartly as he did.

As much as he loved us grandchildren, he was strict with us. Summer vacations were a lot of fun but sprinkled with a good dose of work. There was no over-sleeping, no laziness, no last minute hurriedly completed holiday home-work. We had a schedule that involved studies, sports, a small amount of TV, lots of wholesome home-made food and lots of friends. It wasn’t that he was heartless. Within his disciplined approach, he found space for indulging us. He made sure there was a crate of Thumbs Up waiting for us when we reached home after the journey from Delhi.  But it was one crate and we had to make it last the vacation. He even bought us an expensive brand of chewing gum a few times during the summer months. He took us to his office in the Institute car (such a privilege!) and let us spend hours scribbling on the large blackboard with colored chalk. When the parents came to fetch us, he’d take everyone to the guest house for a rare treat of authentic Rajasthani food. Once in a blue moon, he’d let us go venture into desert (of course, supervised) and visit the sandy hamlet from where the house help lived. He’d take us with him on his morning walk; introducing us to people we met. Once every summer, he’d arrange for a car  to take us comfortably to the outskirts of the township. With my grandmother in -charge, we’d visit a local  lac bangle maker and choose dozens of colourful bangles. We couldn’t wear bangles to school but he’d let us collect them anyway.  He would take the time to personally oversee the homework. I have distinct memories of him sitting with me on that big dining table solving maths problems.

It’s a whole life of memories and it’s mixed. Some happy, some sad, some bittersweet. Its actually too much to put down in words. And when words fail me, I take to pictures.

This is my grandfather at my parents’ wedding. He looks joyous and healthy. This is also the only time I have seen him dance!

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This picture was given to me by my grandmother some months back. She said there were too many picture to keep and she was giving them away to children/grandchildren.  I remember this occasion particularly well. It was a wedding in the family and I attended it with my grandparents. Lost in a sea of relatives, known and unknown, I clung to dada.

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Moving into an apartment close to work has been a lot of fun.  Living on our own given as an opportunity us to learn and grow, to face live on our own and to begin thinking as a unit.

In the past six months that we’ve been here, I believe we’ve turned a bare, white-washed apartment into a home. It now has enough furniture to accommodate get-togethers and family visits, the kitchen is well- stocked with gadgets and food, cooling and heating systems are in place.  This is a space where we are truly ourselves. Living here we’ve taken the time to discover each other, we’ve talked and argued, cooked and cleaned, laughed and cried. In every sense this is our home.

The apartment has balconies. If you come from Bombay you know how precious they are! We’ve turned one of them into our “garden”.  The “garden” is basically a few well tended pots lined up along the length of the balcony. A little greenery in the concrete jungle.

I took to gardening with the purpose of learning something new. I thought I’d learn about plant names and nature.  It turned out that I learnt a lot more. I learnt the importance of hard work, patience and hope.

After a rough start where a couple of my plants died, I now have plants that are thriving. The Delhi rains, though delayed, have been kind.  This “garden” is my pride and joy. Take a look.

Jade in a matka planter

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Rain on foliage

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A stand alone terracotta horse amongst moneyplant that is recovering from the severe summer.

Homegrown curry leaves.

Homegrown curry leaves.

Buds. Hoping for lots of hibiscus flowers.

Buds. Hoping for lots of hibiscus flowers.

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Rain lilies

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And a few more.

A solitary rose blooms.

A solitary rose blooms.

And soon finds company with this pink one.

And soon finds company with this pink one.

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Jasmine. Absolutely the best part about summers.

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If you’ve been in a job for a while, there would have been times when you’ve  felt it would be far better to set up your own little enterprise and work for yourself. You’d do the work you like, the work hours would be flexible, there would be no office politics or ridiculous hierarchy to deal with and you would build something from scratch.  It would be your idea and enterprise and you could take it anywhere. The idea sounds absolutely thrilling…….. If only I had  earth-shaking ideas and the guts to leave the security and familiarity of a regular job. I dont. So for now, its back to the office desk.

Where must you go to get a dose of quiet? Gethia.

Tired of the grueling work schedule and the 30 km X 2 everyday travel, we wanted needed a quiet place to recharge our batteries, to talk, connect and basically vegetate.   The Holi holidays found us on the road with packed bags heading north towards Gethia.

Gethia is a small and sleepy village in Nainital District.  The type where everyone knows everyone, you can count the vehicles on your knuckles and there is only one main road that cuts through the village.  Just the perfect place to absorb nature, relax and do nothing.

The road from Delhi to Gethia is smooth, except for one rather bumpy and rough patch. With 3 breaks, it took us 7 hours to get to our destination.  It was an uneventful drive with the person at the wheel and the other navigating.  Always one to ask the locals for directions, this trip made me acknowledge the true value of Google Maps. I am now officially a fan.

We stayed at Two Chimneys.  I think that’s the only place you can stay at in Gethia.  I didn’t see any other places, though I didn’t move around much and Google search doesn’t throw up any options either.

Two Chimneys came recommended by a friend who had previously enjoyed a lovely holiday there. Trusting his word, we chose to explore Gethia and Two Chimneys.

Two Chimneys is an old cottage from the British era converted into a tourist accommodation. It’s a fairly spread-out property and the developers have done a good job in utilizing the space they had at hand. There is a pool, a library, a common room with a music system and television, a big front lawn and a space for indoor sports. Basically enough to keep you occupied while you are there. Two Chimneys has only seven rooms to offer. But don’t be misled by that number. Most rooms are huge and have lofts or narrow passages that lead to hidden annexes. They can comfortable accommodate 4-6 people. I thought the architecture style was pretty exciting. The staff (mostly local) was friendly, helpful and  inquisitive in just the right dose about all visitors. The kitchen at Two Chimneys provides home-cooked meals. Besides the regular roti-sabzi-dal, they also create barbeques and Italian dishes. Quite a delight in a place so small.

Once you have checked in at Two Chimneys, there isn’t much reason to move out. The rooms are comfortable, the food is good and you are surrounded by beautiful nature.  It’s just the right environment to relax, read, contemplate and review life. It’s a good place to be in.

While at Gethia, we picked up a new hobby- bird watching. The cameras we own are obviously not good enough to capture flighty creatures that prefer to perch on the highest branches, but still it was an absolute delight to spot birds, make desperate attempts to get a shot and then study the pictures and identify the names.

 

 

A real fire place in the common room at Two Chimneys

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Mushrooms in tiers

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A serene Buddha overlooks the pool and the outdoor dining area

Anyone up for a cool drink?

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A fallen flower

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Cherry blossom

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Fallen leaves decorating the deck next to the pool

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A verditer flycatcher on a high branch

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Grey hooded warbler

Green backed tit

Three Magpies

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Himalayan bulbul with its distinct mohawk hairstyle

When there is so much happening in life, it’s hard to decide what one should write about. I thought I will write about my travels, all three trips of the past five month. Then I thought I’d write about the new family and give them an introduction here. I felt myself settling for the pros and cons of married life. And finally when I decided on the topic, I chose my parents. You dint see that coming did you?  :)

You see, this whole marriage thing has made me look at my parents differently.  Now I don’t just look at them as ma and pa. I look at them as two vastly different individuals, with hugely different backgrounds, tastes, aspirations, who came together and did a fabulous job of the marriage business. It’s a whole  new dimension to them.

Marriage is a complex thing. Once you enter it you realise it’s nothing but work. Its work mixed with a good measure of sacrifice, adjustment and an endless list of household chores.  Don’t forget to add a bundle of new and unexpected emotions to that.  Of course people tell you this, but that’s gyan. Your experience is your very own.

I appreciate things my parents did together as a unit now.  It could be that one of them put more effort into one aspect or at one time and on other occasions the other took the lion’s share. But point to focus on is that  they functioned beautifully as a unit.  One thing I’ve  realised is that marriage isn’t office. You can’t say this is beyond your KRA.   You do what it takes (or more)  and it may or may not be what you thought you’d  be doing when you signed up for marriage. You do it irrespective. That’s because it’s a long term thing. No one will appraise you after one financial year. Your rewards will come later, much later, but they will be well worth the effort and wait.

Some of the things I think the parents did well together.

  1. Dividing up and managing the household duties. The house ran perfectly.  It wasn’t the prettiest or the biggest one on the block, but it functioned well, it was organised and it was always clean.
  2. Managing the budget on salaries lower than what we are used to now-a-days. Everything that was necessary got done. Nothing essential was ever sacrifices or missed. Of course that meant they didn’t do a lot of things they wanted, but it never got mentioned around the house.
  3. Fulfilling family duties. Many of them were boring, uninteresting, took too much from them, I now understand that now, but they got done in spite of all that.
  4. Parenting and doing the gazillion things it demands. Never a “I am too tired” or a “ I am too busy” .
  5. Keeping the disagreements and arguments limited.
  6.  Facing the challenges together. It’s a long life and each of us gets our own share of tests and trails.  The parents have addressed each of them together, acting as a united front.  On a public forum like this, it’s not possible to share further details, but it should be sufficient to say  some of their challenges  were  so difficult that even today when I am older than they were then and have more  resources at my disposal, I don’t think I’d be able to deal with them.
  7. Keeping the faith under all life situations.
  8. Balancing the personal and professional lives and doing an honest job of both. Linked to that is earning honestly and spending wisely.
  9. Living together yet pursuing their individual passions. Building balsam wood aeroplanes  & reading Reader’s Digest while reclining  for my father and exploring spirituality & nature & traveling for my mother.

With each day, I understand you better, dear parents. And with the understanding comes appreciation.  While you give me a well-chartered path to walk on, you also give me a lofty example to live up to.

A lot has happened in the last 6 months, leaving me with little time and even lesser mind space to blog.

Some time towards the end of the November that just zipped past recently, I got married. And I did everything I said I never would.  I married a Delhi boy (oh my god!), had a full-scale wedding (oh my god!!!!!) and will now be staying on a more permanent basis in Delhi (oh dear Lord).

Since November I have moved 3 homes in a span of 4 months. From my solitary existence in my tiny, stone’s –throw-away- from- office accommodation, to a full family and a house in  the NCR,  to  finally settling down in an apartment with the spouse close to office, its been months of packing and unpacking.

I have acquired a brand new set of relatives. The names of many are still muddled up.  I have also acquired a new set of friends.  Work doesn’t allow much time for socializing but the circle has certainly expanded to include many more people than before.

There has also been a good amount of travelling. A trip to the hills with the mother before the wedding, a trip to south after the wedding and another trip to the hills in the Holi break.   Five months and three trips.

Finding a half-way decent accommodation that fit our budget and our need for sunlight and ventilation and was close to office was a task.  Setting it up as been both fun and exhausting.  Its not entirely done up yet and unfortunately we keep meeting some unexpected problems with the place, but we are ready for visitors. Despite the problems the house and the landlord keep throwing up, the place makes me feel  settled. To be honest, it’s the most settled I’ve felt since November. So while I know a lot can be done with the place (some of it needs to be done), I am happy with it.

Hopefully with the mind at peace and some smart jugglery to save time, I will be back to regular blogging.

Half a year gone by and not a single entry on this blog.

The blog title says “ Churningthewordmill is in transit…. and has been forever..!” That should explain the reason for the absence.  We’ll come to the details of the transit in a while; but right now it’s at attempt to revive this blog with a comedy show.

Did you know that Delhi has a Comedy Club? The New Delhi Comedy Club exists and one of the things it does is to organise comedy shows in the city. (They don’t have a website so its hard to know what else they do) I attended a stand –up comedy show by the Club at Akshara Theatre with a bunch of friends.  It was a new experience for me. So far comedy has been limited to whatever the tv or radio dish out.  A live show had never been watched.

The format of the show was pretty straight forward. Three comedians with a 15-20 minute slot each performed their act and did their best to get the audience in splits. The comedians on the show were Adam Learner (a foreign national who spoke with an American accent and held a full time job in New Delhi), Denny George (an under 30 who looked promising) and Rajneesh Kapoor (the main attraction of the evening). Maheep Singh, another comedian, was the emcee for the evening.

The show lasted an hour. Each comedian came prepared (one came with cues written on the back of his hand!) with his act. All managed to catch the attention of the audience. Some lines got smiles,  others lead to outburst of unrestrained laughter.

The emcee, a comedian himself,  contributed his share of jokes for the evening. Some free merchandise (badges and posters) were given away to at the end of the show. I am not sure if they were truly free. The emcee mentioned “ There is merchandise we can’t sell so we are giving it out for free. But you can pay for it also.” Unsure of whether that was to be taken seriously or not, I stayed away from the merchandise.

The overall execution of the show was good. There were no technical goof ups. The comedians didn’t forget their lines. The sound quality was good. The audience was well behaved and decent.  They kept to the time limit. Well, almost. 10 minutes here and there is alright. That is, in fact, the norm in Delhi..

India doesn’t seem to have a culture for live comedy shows. Or at least I haven’t been exposed to them. So from that point of view this was an interesting experience for me. It was funny too (in parts. Not all the jokes were my type). Definitely a good break from  the string of silly Bollywood movies I have been watching.

Would I go for another comedy show? Probably yes, if I got good company to go with. As a one-time experience I recommend it to all.

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