Saturday, February 18, 2017

You give, you take

For you, Patrick

However loud the sounds around, you can always tune into your own station. Try it. Like I am always tuned into barbet station. :) :) Wherever I am in Bangalore, above the loud traffic sounds, I can still identify a barbet. You can always hear what you want to hear. I hear birds. I hear barbets. The city is still a magical place for me.


The white-cheeked barbets live only in the green area in the map above, in the entire world. Imagine! They are frugivorous, and can be found all over Bangalore. Proof that we still have so many fruit-bearing trees.


Patrick used to talk to me non-stop, in French, during my monthly haircut. Stories about the South of France, his high-spirited mother and her many sayings, his grandfather who could predict the Mistral by the colour of the sky, his own wanderings alone, life lessons. And he used to teach me Tai Chi in the mornings in the park, the ancient martial art. Explaining so beautifully, in French, how everything about Tai Chi was about balance. You open, you close. You rise, you descend. You give, you take. And you repeat, again and again and again. You stand with your feet firm on the ground, and move slowly, gracefully, barely displacing the air.

The day before he died after a brief vertiginous fight with cancer, I gave him water. A small offering for all the warmth and generosity he never failed to show.

His daughter brought him the smells of his hometown, from the Southern coast of France.  Lavender oil, Marseilles soap made of olives, traditional sweets. He left with the smells of his childhood, half-conscious. Maybe that was closure in one way. You go out into the world, you return.

Au revoir, Patrick. I still practise Tai Chi every morning, without shoes, feeling the earth, like you taught me to. The barbets, the koels, the squirrels, and my Brahminy kite, they keep me company.


The Hongai trees are turning yellow and brown, rapidly losing their leaves. In preparation for that most stunning event of the year, the budding and blooming of their tender green oily-shiny leaves that let the light through, each vein standing out in its perfect glory. That time when I go berserk, run late for appointments because I am standing by the roadside, looking up, smiling, risking death by suddenly stopping my bike whenever I come upon a new tree. :)

I can barely breathe. This in-between time between seasons, the expectation in the air everywhere.

The old sweeper at the park says that he comes in at 5 am every day and sweeps once, but in a few hours it already looks like he’s not done any work. :)


I am doing my favourite thing again. Sitting alone in coffee shops, occasionally catching random bits of  stories going on around me. “That was SO not me!!!”, she says, her eyebrows and hands raised in total surprise. 

 "At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.

...The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless."

from 'Four Quartets', T.S.Eliot

Saturday, February 11, 2017


I wake up and have no pain anywhere in my body. I can get up and walk freely. I can see. Thousands, nay, millions, wake up and can't say the same.

I am giddy just thinking of my good fortune today. And I know I will not always have it.

I am going to smile like a fool all day.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Moving through the Universe

 For S, who chose to leave us on a cold dark February, four years ago.

In the pond in the centre of the park, the tall white egret moves, quietly, without disturbing the water. I am fascinated. I stand and stare every single time I visit. His reflection is unbroken, not even shaken, but he's traversed the pond, feeding. I barely breathe, watching him.

Ah. To move through the universe like that, not disturbing anything …

The old fish-man who’s been coming to my parents’ house, for over 30 years. I ask him about how fishing is done these days, my usual search for stories. He tells me about men who go into the mid-sea for 3-4 days to find fish. 30 men cooped up on a boat with ice storage boxes, cutting across choppy waters. As soon as they catch the big ones, they sell them on Whatsapp to vendors back on land. But he says, I’d never be able to do that, such a scary thing, accidents happen, these are not the best boats.

That was a few months ago. But the picture remains imprinted in my mind. I keep imagining 30 men crowded on a small boat, ordinary fisherman for whom this is survival, not adventure. Lifted up and dropped down by giant waves, again and again, watching the light and the darkness come and go, surrounded by a million stars at night, and hoping to survive the journey, not knowing. I wonder what goes on in their minds…

“I don’t watch films about bad things or social inequality. Makes me frustrated that I cannot make any difference. So I just focus on my family and my hobbies.”

You can make a difference. Just by being kind, to anyone you meet. Every little thing counts.

And sometimes it takes only a smile.

“I’m walking to the bridge,” begins a Golden Gate Bridge suicide note he cites. “If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”

I am walking to the bridge