Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Regular Irregularities Of Monkeys

The monkeys are back!  They visit periodically, wreaking havoc all around the house (fortunately the house itself has been monkey proofed and they cannot enter.  This, of course doesn't prevent them from persistently attempting to do so!)

They clamber onto the clothes line, swing from the telephone wires, sit on the terrace and throw plants and stones down below.  They chatter, fight, play, mess up and more...

As a result, our phone line goes dead.  This is a periodic event, so we put in the usual complaint.  The phone repair man comes promptly; he too knows that this is a one minute job (though he refuses to tell me how to do it).  He climbs onto the terrace where the wires hang in a series of loops, picks out the phone line, probably does a cut and paste job and trundles down to my house.  Rings the bell and I open the door.

"Is your phone working?"

The question is always the same and I know he has fixed it but hasn't told me yet.  So, I am not supposed to know.  My answer, also, is the usual -"No".

"What is the problem?"

"The monkeys had come."

He looks impassively at me.  There is no need for explanations and I know what his next statement will be.

"Try it now."

I walk over to the telephone.

"One minute, madam," the repair man says.  "I will dial your number."

He does so and, raucously, the phone begins to ring.  It is the most joyous sound I have heard even though it wakes up my baby.

Through the corridor of air between my house and doorstep, the phone man and I look at each other.  I lift the receiver.

"Hello," I whisper.  There is no need for muted tones because the baby is now wide awake and surveying the situation with interest.

"Is it working, madam?", the repair man's voice rings through the phone and also directly through the corridor of air, in my ear.

"Yes.  Yes", I reply, to both sets of voices.  We look at each other.  He stares impassively once more.

"Thank you," I say into the receiver.


I wait for him to say "Over and out," or some such thing, but he promptly disconnects and leaves.  He knows as well as I do that he will visit again, when the monkeys reappear.  Until then, all is well.

The baby senses that all the action is over.  He begins to howl.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Baby Bliss

I was a little concerned on the day that I had to take my baby for his vaccination.  This was a new doctor- how would the baby react (now that he was old enough to recognise faces)?  And this was a particularly nasty shot, being a difficult combination of five vaccines.  Moreover, how could I make things pleasanter for him afterwards?  He is too young to indulge in ice creams, toys or games.  He has no friends whose homes he can visit.  It's a completely different baby world of his.

Of course, I didn't realize that his view of the doctor's clinic might be different from mine.  He seemed to view it as just another social encounter with yet another adult.  A person who looks at you and says a few things.  The doctor didn't say much and didn't prod and peer as much as many other adults might.  There was none of the clicking, clucking or tickling that often happens in these encounters.

Instead, the doctor bustled in, made a brief examination.  He then muttered a polite, "Sorry," to the baby and gave a careful jab as I held the baby's leg straight.  My baby stared at us as if this was a strange new game.  He didn't cry.  It was almost as if he was  thinking, "What will these grown ups do next?  And when will they really grow up?"

This afternoon, as he was asleep, he began smiling- a little smile that turned into a grin.  Sometimes he chortles with delight in his sleep.  Whatever does he dream of, that gives him so much joy?  I can only make a vague guess.  Warmth?  Comfort?  Food?

Extra long walks, a snug little bed, being close to loved ones.  Being held and carried, talked to and played with  - all day long.  Feeling secure, with a belly full of milk and a heart full of love.  Perhaps that is what baby bliss is about.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Simple Pleasures

The rains are finally here!  The much awaited monsoons that sustain our country.  Of course, the north still blazes with heat, but even there, in the hills, the clouds are gathering and showers are beginning.  Let's hope they continue.

Here, it has been raining the whole day.  It's lush and green outside, the air is fresh and cool and even the birds sound overjoyed.  In due course one will miss the sun, but the beginning of the rains is always a special moment.

Inside, I spend a few moments in thanksgiving for simple pleasures - the rain, the freshly drenched earth which releases all kinds of delicious smells, the life giving air, and the comfort of my home.

I bake an apple tart - delicately caramelised apples covered with a crisp, buttery pastry.  Make a wholesome soup with broth and noodles, topped with a sprinkling of fresh coriander and lime juice.  There is fresh fish to be fried and a cherry tomato and basil salad to be made, with lashings of olive oil and feta.  Now that the summer heat has dissipated, fresh herbs and greens will begin to fill the market.  Right now, avocadoes and mangoes are plentiful.  We eat them everyday, to our hearts' content.  This reminds me that I have not yet begun my Mexican cooking.  I must open those bottles of mole and get to work on the salsa and stir up some thick drinking chocolate...

My list is endless, so many simple pleasures abound!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Karma, Kairos, Fate...

Karma (often used in the context of 'fate') is a much used and sometimes misunderstood word. It is also generally considered a very oriental concept.  Hence I was surprised to be reading about it in a book on Greek mythology written by the French philosopher Luc Ferry.  His overview of Greek myths is interspersed with thought provoking snippets of philosophy.

Interestingly, one aspect that Luc Ferry brings out is the concept of 'seizing the moment' or completely being in tune with the present and all that it offers, for a harmonious and balanced life.  The goal of a life well lived is not measured in its achievements, physical or moral, but in how true to oneself one has been.

This thought, though woven into myths, is certainly the crux of many eastern spiritual texts (not to be confused with the religious ones, where symbolism, social and 'moral' connotations intervene).

In the Indian system of philosophy, karma (in the context of fate) is not something to be accepted with submission or fear, rather it is something to be wholeheartedly embraced and positively accepted as a part of one's evolution.  Karma yoga (there are broadly four paths or ways of doing yoga, depending on a person's inclination or temperament; the ultimate aim of all yoga being an understanding of one's true self) describes karma as being the right action (rather than a mysterious and often unwanted endowment called fate).

This kind of thought is also glimpsed in Chinese philosophy.  There is a saying by Lao Tzu which I particularly like : "The Master is ready to use all situations and doesn't waste anything.  This is called embodying the light."

Greek myths, speaking as they did of great gods and forces of nature, also reminded men of their role in the cosmos and the need to play out their part without fear, remorse or desire for other realms.  If this did not happen, cosmic harmony was bound to be affected as each element (and individual) was connected to the other.  This is emphasized in the telling of the story of Odysseus and his adventures on his way back home.  He is offered everything that might appeal to a mortal by Calypso - immortality and youth at the expense of going back 'home', but he chooses to return to where he belongs rather than hover forever in an unreal world.

Interestingly, this kind of thought does not end here but finds its way to modern philosophy, as Luc Ferry points out:

"Nietzsche was to reiterate this, long after the Greeks - which proves in passing that their message preserves an actuality such as can still be found in modern philosophy: the "love of one's fate."  To embrace everything that is the case, our destiny - which, in essence, means the present moment, considered as the highest form of wisdom, and the only form that can rid us of what Spinoza (whom Nietzsche regarded as "a brother") named, equally memorably, the "sad passions": fear, hatred, guilt, remorse, those corrupters of the soul that  bog us down in mirages of the past or of the future.  Only our reconciliations to the present, to the present moment - in Greek, the kairos - can, for Nietzsche, as for Greek culture as a whole, lead to proper serenity, to the "innocence of becoming," in other words to salvation, understood not in its religious meaning but in the sense of discovering ourselves as saved, finally from those fears that diminish existence, stunting and shriveling it."

This, of course, is just one point of view, but I have tried it and find that it works very well for myself (when I am able to put it into practice).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Going Solo

I reached Bangalore, bag and baggage in tow and the baby in my arms.  Happy to be heading home but a little apprehensive as well.  Apprehensive, because it was a new beginning and I wasn't sure how I would manage as my plans had gone slightly askew.  The reason being that one day before leaving, I had decided not to bring the maid along.

"No maid?" asked many well wishers.  "Are you sure?  When you get there, look for someone as soon as you can".

"All right," I replied hesitantly, "I'll do my best."

The maid situation had been pretty grim in Delhi.  Even in the large space that I had, maids and I seemed to be rubbing each other the wrong way.  So, in a confined little apartment with no private space, I wasn't sure what would happen.

As it turned out, I couldn't find someone I liked anyway: someone who was gentle, intelligent and professional and didn't come with loads of emotional baggage, advice and opinions.

As it turns out, I find after a month that I'm doing fine without a maid (though I'm functioning quite differently from many Indian homes, where either maids or parents are called upon to babysit).

Small though our apartment is, it is utterly peaceful.  The baby and I roam freely from room to room, looking out upon the trees that surround our house, listening to bird song (which initially startled him, he had never heard it so close or loud before!), insect hums and so on.  We watch the sun rise through our bedroom window and set through the one in our living room.  We walk outside whenever we want, listen to music and crawl on the floor.

I'm learning how to prioritize, how to break up tasks into small steps which take very little time when done gradually, how to put all my gadgets to the best possible use. 

The baby is learning how to entertain himself in the time intervals when I can't be with him.

It's not always easy, it's strenuous for sure, but it's also very satisfying.

Yesterday I baked my first bread.  Today I'm writing my blog.  It's raining outside.  My baby is snug in a rug and I'm spending a few happy moments typing.

What more could one ask for?
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