Sunday, September 18, 2016

Both Sides Now

A friend of mine is in love with someone who is married, Another friend of mine is married to someone who is abusive. Another friend is falling out of one person and falling for another person, and feels guilty about the first person, so not able to stand up for his heart.  And on the opposite spectrum, I have a friend who has found love in serving others. Another friend who is traveling around the country and has achieved freedom from all kinds of romantic love. Another friend, who has such a terrible childhood that she is grateful to have a husband who is so supportive and loving. I have seen all friends happy and crying. I have seen marriages failing and successful. I know that each one of them found their battle difficult and it was never a fairy tale.

I have come to believe that love is about paying attention, to really see someone. But most of the time, we don't even see ourselves. Do you ever have a feeling that you need something else or need to go somewhere, but when you have finally get that thing you wanted, you really aren't as happy as you thought you would be? We are just not happy where we are. We want to keep going to the other side. We don't find the current state of things satisfactory.

One of the famous travel writer Pico Iyer, in his Ted Talks, talked about that we yearn for energy from people who are still, have been able to find their balance and are able to slow down. I think being truly in love is something like that. To pay attention like that. To yourself and to the other person.

I look at this idea of loving someone and being with someone and I think what can you do different to be in love. This reminds me of one of the most famous songs of Joni Mitchell. My favorite line is "It's love illusions I recall. I really don't know love at all"


Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels,
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real,
I've looked at love that way.

But now it's just another show,
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know,
Don't give yourself away.

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Threshold

I thought I will write again today. I sat down for Vipassana meditation after a long time and in few minutes my back was in severe pain of the knots that I was trying to open. When I first did Vipassana, I remember I would have a pain like this and a memory related to it. Both will rise severely and dissolve. After meditation, I felt lighter today and didn't feel as angry as I used to feel sometimes.

The life ahead has several possibilities. And we make choices everyday for them. The true moments come rarely and all other times we are chasing the illusions of those moments. In Vipassana, they call it attachment, chasing the perfection. You free yourselves from them and you free yourself from all the pain that attachment brings to you and others around you. That's the endeavor.

Sometimes what people think about you starts mattering so much. A little controversial to say but everyone around me has a question on their face. When will I get married now? Both my sisters are married, settled etc. And me all alone in a city where I have no relatives. I definitely should get married. The pressure starts affecting. 

But I have a parallel realization. Every life on this planet has a purpose. May be my purpose was to serve my parents through their illness. Now it is time to find self. To see what Yogis hiding in Himalayas are doing or Monks in monasteries are doing, how can I immerse myself in art of building the businesses,  what's their in world's best education systems, how lives of all of us are interconnected. 

If any of you who is married is reading this, probably would say all these curiosities doesn't matter. Everybody should get married and have kids. But you know what, they matter to me. I want to train for Triathlon and travel to Tibet. I want to climb up the mountains and swim in the sea to feel the waves falling on me. and find myself through the world. I want to feel more connected to my family and heal with them and not fight with them or hurt them anymore. You know like getting the basics right about life before giving a commitment to someone that I can take care of them.

I want to shed kilos and read every book on my list. I want to write more, learn photography and find harmony in the music. I want to see my life through my lens, not through the lens of people who are married and think that's the way forward for any single woman.

We can't control the course of life. My perfectly healthy parents one day, felt so ill, that it was a storm in the family. Whatever plans we all made, never went anywhere. Their plans to save money so that they can live an old age together, our plans to build our career and see the world. Nothing went anywhere. You can't control. So, why bother! All I can do is get less anxious of what is still to come and remind myself of the lessons taught by the past,

Life hacks. Seriously. So, let me stop living other people's lives and live mine! And seriously, I don't want your advice.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Practicing Kindness on a road trip to Badami

My sister and I decided that in order to give ourselves a break, we should do a road trip. I have been driving a red Honda Brio for last 3 years, just after I finished my Teach For India fellowship and I recently completed the loan on it. So, it was a good idea to give ourselves a break, may be grieve together or redeem from it, and may be have conversations that we were not having.

So, we started from Hyderabad for this beautiful place called Badami, where the rocks are of color of Almond, and hence the name. I drove 8 hours, found a lovely room at Heritage Resort to get over the tiredness and slept all night to wake up early.

This trip for me was a trip of kindness and recovery. The goal was to help my sister and self to start over, so we both were very kind and harmless to each other, or may be a shared pain, makes you so. Anyway, we started next day at 6:00 am. Our 66 year old, MA History, Tourist Guide was waiting for us on a chair outside the resort.

The cheerful old man was very detailed about everything he showed. They say God lives in details. He was telling details of the Gods. There was a statue of Shiv and Parvati (half and half), beautifully done, almost difficult to make out, unless you look closely that reminded me how come they only worship Leonardo Da Vinci for Mona Lisa. After all they conceived man and woman as one in 6th century! Who cares what we have done till some other country apprecicate it, we don't appreciate ourselves.

We watched almost all temples and their museums all day. Even climbed over 600 stairs in the entire day, drove for a scenic drive from Badami to Aihole and Pattadkal. And loved every bit of it. The place is still not commercialized and so we were just very few tourists coloring the otherwise mono-colored temples.

The next day we drove back to Hyderabad. And Google Maps, in the manner of its habit, gave us a faster detour from the highway. (which is usually frustrating because it doesn't check for road quality). This road was completely deserted, almost handful of villages and yet full of golden fields of jwar and bajra and occassional sunflower.

My sister and I were singing songs out loud when we saw an old couple walking on the road and looking at our car as we passed by. I somehow felt like stopping. My sister was surprised and unsure. But on my rear view mirror, I saw them jumping in joy. They were so happy as if they found a goldmine.

We couldn't communicate with them as they could only speak Kannada but we all found a shared moment of happiness. They were going to the nearest bus stand which was almost 6 kms away to the nearest town from their village by walking! I couldn't believe people still do that when I all see overloaded autos in suburbs and villages if nothing else.

For my sister and me, it was a moment of reckoning. The way to healing is probably this way only.  Hindu mythology ask for serving 25 Brahmins. may be that made sense at the time it was conceived. But for us, it was simpler and untouched by a ritual.

Love,
Saloni

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The farewell

It is last day of August 2016. I have been thinking about writing what happened. And I am not too sure if one should write something deeply personal on a public blog. But I am still going to write it anyway. I have not been able to call back to many friends who reached out to me and I am little lost in finding those connections, also little awkward to say things which are hard to express and writing has been an easier task for me.

Last night I slept on the bed my mother has been sleeping for last six months, in the room in which she struggled her last breath on the night of 10th August. It might sound like a melodramatic thing to do but honestly it was a conversation that I was not having with myself. There was a person on the bed for 6 months and now that person is no where, can't locate her. Where should I go to find her?

I have lost my mother and there are several memories that have sprang up in these last 20 days. A kind of melancholy that has dawned in the house since she left. When she was here, along with her there were two caretakers who would keep the house alive. I was told in her last days that once she is gone, I will hit the vacuum. I think I might have but in a very different form.

Alzhemeir's gives a very different memory of the person. In her vanishing identity, my memories of her healthy and hearty took a back seat. I was just living with her as dementia progressed and took control of her brain and then her body.

It was a frustration of a caregiver that I think every caregiver goes through, the unfairness of life, the dreams that get crushed in the journey, the sense of entitlement that I developed to be taken care by other people, to tell others that my problems are bigger than theirs and what are they crying about? the loss of empathy along with the heavy guilt of not giving her enough care, of choosing my life over her life, of losing the focus again and again, the feeling of being tied down to a person, to a house, to a place. The person is gone, the guilt, the emptiness, the impatience, the frustration, the downward spiraling battle remains.

It has been a long journey for three sisters. Since 2006, the day my father suffered a paralytic attack, both my parents slowly developed a need for extreme support, in all possible ways. All three of us at some point in time thought of giving up our jobs and ambitions to take care of them. There were sacrifices that we all made. Now when both of them are gone, what should we feel? Normal? In pain? relieved? What should be the dominant feeling?

It is not as easy as a vacuum or a depression. It is probably very human. It is also about valuing the life more, value the people you have more, value the time you get more. The recovery is a dangerous game. You can keep ignoring it, get yourself busy and get lost or you can choose to get closer to yourself. I am still not sure whether I will become truthful or an escapist.

My mom loved gardens. She was very creative with them. The passersby would stop and gaze at the garden of our house.  The crematorium where we bid her farewell had flowers all around the pyre.

In her last night, I spent hours around her when her lungs were drowning in the infection. I didn't talk to her but sat silently as the dawn came. I knew that night that she will wait for the dawn before she leaves. And at the dawn, she headed for the sun.

It was a very peaceful morning. Something which I can go back to find meaning of my life.