Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2 days short of 8 months

2 days short of 8 months. Since mom passed away. 

It is unbelievable in some sense that life has continued (for others… for me) after her. Some days it feels like it was just yesterday that she was hale and hearty, being her usual energetic, relentlessly talkative, always ready to listen to me, sometimes unbearably opinionated, self. Then some days it feels like it was just yesterday that she could barely sit up in bed – in fact, could not sit up, but would try to, breathing heavily, breathing with a noise?sound? that will remain in my head forever.

But much has happened in the past 8 months. Yes, things at work, a work and holiday trip to South Africa, but what stands out foremost for me in the progression of time over the past 8 months (2 days short of) are the shifts in my non-work life in relation to my dad and his home. My home now. Well, it was always my home, but I also had my own home. Which I do not anymore. Since more than a month now, I have been living with dad, and about three weeks ago I decided to give up my apartment and move in fully with dad. I will not dwell on why and what etc of that (in fact, in my experience, I do not have to explain why I have moved in with him – if at all, I had to explain why I was not moving in with him, because it was unfathomable to folks other than me, my dad, brother, sister-in-law and maybe 2-3 friends, why I would want to live by myself when he was alone and I was alone. Someone once asked me "don't you get along with your dad?" Um, I do, so what? Anyway, that is another story and I do not want to digress tonight). What I wanted to write of here is how this process (of moving in with dad) has forced me to shed: some of my stuff, mainly furniture; also a lot of furniture and other material possessions at my parents’ home in order to make space for my stuff. This is what this post is about (though it might veer off into something else): Shedding stuff. Shedding some of my private space. Shedding attachments. And the journey that I anticipate as a result of this shedding.

Tonight as I sit in my bedroom – what used to be the study in my parents’ home – I see the photo tackboard propped up on a table, waiting for me to decide what to do with it. 

It was where my brother and I had pinned up phone numbers of doctors, nurses, the place where one could get a oxygen cylinder, etc contacts w.r.t. mom's illness. I have not been able to throw away that stuff. I have often thought of doing so, and have gone to stand in front of it to start unpinning the stuff, but haven’t had the (not sure what it is.. courage? probably something else) to go ahead with it. So it has remained like this for all these months. Maybe I can’t do it because I am afraid that I will forget her illness, forget how much she suffered the last few months. I don’t know what it is… this holding on to the painful memories also, as if forgetting what she went through those last few months would be a betrayal of her. I don’t generally dwell on this though the thoughts and emotions flutter in and out of my head every now and again. I dwell on them mainly in such moments where decisions have to be made about shedding stuff. A cupboard from my apartment now occupies the wall where the tackboard used to hang. So temporarily it has been propped up on a table, but it cannot stay there for too long. Especially since I am a stickler for neatness (am I like my mother on that, I automatically wonder, but it could also be that in this, I am much more like my dad - I cannot be sure though. It is, after all, past midnight). In any case, the table needs to be moved to the living room. 

I also survey the bookshelf brought in from my apartment today evening. I have two blue bookshelves. Lovely ones I got made last year. The other one had to be placed in the adjoining bedroom, which is the room that has become S’s room. S is with us 24-hour to take care of the house and dad's domestic needs. But I digress – I shall perhaps write about S another time. What I was saying was the blue bookshelves. I was really keen to have both bookshelves in my room. After attempting all sorts of furniture arrangement scenarios in my head tonight, I realized that it cannot be done. This bedroom is also where my brother and sis-in-law have to squeeze into when they are here, and I want there to be maximum possible space for three people, so the lesser the furniture in the room the better. But before I digress again… The point is that this attachment to my bookshelves is something that I struggled with all evening. And then as I sat back on my bed and surveyed the room, I realized that my attachment was not just to my books and the blue shelves but equally to an image of what “my” room should look like, not just to me but also to others. In a sense this is not surprising and there is nothing wrong with it. We all arrange/design our interiors as a reflection of ourselves. But it is not just ourselves, is it? It is the image we have of ourselves, images that we are very attached to, images that we also seek to project onto others.

Over the past few weeks, I have often had the thought that maybe I was meant to question many of my attachments and many of the assumptions I have about myself, my needs and wants, etc. This sentence ("meant to") has the strange sound of destiny. I don’t mean it that way though, or maybe I do.

In any case, as I sit in a half-arranged room, I have this sense of starting a new phase of life, for I suspect there are new discoveries and learnings and transformations awaiting me. I don't expect it will be quite so easy. I crave solitude and quiet; I thrive on solitude and quiet. And living with a household comprising of not just dad, but also S, then dad's daytime and night-time male helpers, and a couple of daytime domestic workers who come in and out for various jobs, are not quite the ingredients for solitude. There are times when I am convinced I am in training to become a HR manager. There are moments when I frantically wonder whether I'll be able to cook a meal in utter silence for there is always someone around who wants to help or thinks they should be helping. Some months ago I had cooked a bit in this house and I had to shoo S out of the kitchen. It wasn't the same with the sense of a person lurking outside the kitchen. But maybe she and others will get used to my ways and I will learn to ignore the lurking. And I have to admit that there were days when the help was welcome, especially for cutting onions. Still, I like to cook alone, even when it involves cutting onions. 

As my mom's illness got worse, she would often tell me that you returned to Ahmedabad and that’s why you got stuck with our (her and dad’s) health issues. I think… I know… she felt bad about that. She always wanted my brother and me to live our lives independently – she did not want to tie us down, impose on us. It hurt her, I think, that her illness required us to put in so much of our time and energy. She was a proud woman not used to asking others, even her children, for support, even if she needed or wanted it. The most that she ever asked me really was to listen to her talk :) sometimes to get things out of her system. I am glad I could give her that sort of support when I was near and far, and I know that meant a lot to her. But during her illness, it was different and I did not always have the energy to deal with stuff and she could see this. Some of it had to do with other personal stuff in my life. I think I tried to tell her a couple of times that I really wanted to be there for her, and my lack of energy should not make her doubt this. But I don’t know how clear I was in communicating this to her. And anyway, she was thick-headed and it was difficult to dislodge certain thoughts from her head (yup, that was mom). In any event, I wish I could still convey to her that it is not about what happens in life and what we get “stuck” with. It is about the kind of journey we choose to make in the process. 

This blog has been dormant for way too long. Keeping the blog was something I truly enjoyed. As I survey this half-arranged room before switching off the lights, here's me hoping that all this marks my return to the blog, even as I shed, shed, shed…. (and I don't mean tears :))

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Three (adorable) Elders of Akola

Indu-foi with book and my winter topi

Kanu-kaka with the Indian flag

Ansu-foi in embroidery-mode

Sunday, January 13, 2013

in her element

after a long year of fighting cancer and losing enough weight to make her compete with me on the thinness quotient, she is as energetic as ever. she wanted to push dad's wheelchair at the bird sanctuary even though devabhai and i were there to do that. we had to literally shoo her off from such pursuits.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

the bird watchers... and the birds

the bird watchers

and the birds

five greylag goose and one northern pintail

dad trying to close his right eye (from which he can barely see due to glaucoma) and peer through the binoculars

indian pond heron


cormorants (no, the cormorants are not religious - the cross is there to mark the water levels in the lake)

ma, dad and the ever-enthusiastic devabhai (my parents' driver and all-round handyman / trouble-shooter, and without whom this little excursion wouldn't have been possible)

as we returned home...