a little teary-eyed and very proud

So we had the first day of school about a week ago.  But it wasn’t too big a deal because I was going with her everyday.  Then today I decided to try leaving her at school BY HERSELF!  Vaava and I got there a little early so we could meet M her teacher and settle her in to school and so that she and I could have a quiet moment before I let her go into the big bad world.  I expected at least a little crying or some hugging, but she was so brave.  She waved me goodbye and turned around and walked away holding M’s hand while I stood there watching.  Then I turned walked out of the gate of the school, got into my car and cried.

where did winter go?


So its March already….I’m already wearing cotton salwar kurta’s to work and thinking about when to put my cooler in.  Where did winter go?

It seems like it disappeared in a fluff of trips to Jaipur, weddings, polo and trying to figure out what exactly I was going to be doing this year.

And what am I doing?  What’s the story for this year?

Its not quite clear yet….

  1. Figure out my space professionally
  2. Definitely write more….
  3. Have another child (this is the one that’s MOST fun to work on)
  4. Move house (the damn landlord keeps raising the rent and we’re bursting out of the seams – I NEED MORE SPACE FOR MY SHOES!)
  5. Try and get Vaava to sleep through the night (easier said than done)
  6. Be better at love

So where are we at now?

  1. Well the professional thing is happening but all I seem to be doing is adding responsibilities rather than sorting out the one’s I already have…perhaps not quite the solution I was hoping for…but we’re getting their slowly.
  2. Well I’m definitely writing more…but combined with #1 it just means that I have no time for anything else!
  3. Going to practice this one tonight!!!!!
  4. Does anyone have a beautiful house that they might want to rent to us? Preferably in south delhi, with a garden or terrace, and HUGE kitchen….ahhhh if wishes were horses!
  5. HAHAHAHA….she’s only getting worse not better…and this is having a negative impact on my efforts to achieve #3
  6. I am trying I am trying…to be better….to not get as frazzled as I get…to be accepting of differences…to be more patient (tolerant)….

Not too bad for 2 months down….

25 random things….

1. I grew up in Jamaica, I spent 17 years there and at some level it is the place that most nourishes my soul

2. I knew from the moment I met him that my husband was going to play an important part in my life…there was just something there

3. I have been in love 3 times but have had the great fortune of marrying my one great love.

4. I love to cook…absolutely love it!  I harbour secret dreams of opening my own restaurant/inn some day.

5. In respect to #4 I am absolutely passionate about food and ingredients, if its organic, home grown, natural, unprocessed its for me.  I firmly believe that most of life’s problems are caused by bad eating and eating habits!

6. Before my daughter was born I was absolutely terrified about being a mother.  I thought I would be really crap at it.  Now I love it and can’t wait to have more children.

7. Having been brought up and educated (mostly) outside of India, when I shifted back I was determined to work for INDIA…I work for Indian organisations, working with Indian NGOs and Indian communities.  I know it might sound quaintly patriotic but for me it was my way of feeling useful.

8.  Even though Jamaica is in many ways the place that nourishes my soul (see #1), India is the place that feeds my imagination.  It is mad, chaotic, passionate, frightening, infuriating, beautiful, ugly all at once and even though moving to Delhi has been a HUGE adjustment, I don’t think I could any longer live anywhere else.

9. I believe firmly in the idea that Heaven is right here on Earth.  I do not believe in religion, but rather see god everyday in my family, friends, the world around me.  Similarly Hell too is right here on Earth and my work brings me closer to it than most people.  I know exactly how lucky I am to have what I do!

10. I secretly covet Dior and Jimmy Choo!  But the idea of spending that much on a bag or a pair of shoes scares me.

11. I think the sari is the most beautiful garment on earth.  I can never have too many and am constantly fascinated with the different weaves, embroideries, colours, fabrics that exist.

12. I love that both my hubby and I follow our hearts and do what we love for a profession.  I don’t think I could have it any other way.  I hope I can impart the same to my daughter.

13. I hated my baby brother when we young, he drove me batty.  Today I think he is one of the most grounded and amazing people I know. Plus he’s really funny to boot!

14. I once questioned my sexuality, albeit briefly. It was more about college experimentation and angst than anything else.

15. I find licorice to be one of the most revolting things in the world, followed closely by tomato ketchup!

16. My friends and family are my most treasured resource.  Often they intermingle.  I cannot tell the difference between the two categories – my family are my friends and my friends are my family.

17. I love to travel, I was born to travel.  Settling down to living in one city has been a huge mental and physical adjustment.  I now love travelling with hubby and daughter in tow…tho once in a while its still fun to set off on the road on my own.

18. I am VERY houseproud…I already know what my dream house will look like.  I have been planning it for years.  I know this sounds contradictory for someone with itchy feet (see #17).  But for me part of the fun of travelling is the knowledge of a beautiful place to come back to.

19. I learnt to play the piano when I was younger.  It was something I was pretty good at.  I wish I could still play as well.  It is something I would love to go back to as I get older.  Especially to pass on the love of different kinds of music to my daughter.

20. I love with passion

21. I would like to learn to ride a horse one day (I am not too sure if its too late) just to be able to ride into the sunset with my love.

22. I worry everyday about the planet I am leaving for my daughter.  I try to be ecologically friendly.  I eat local, grow my own food, reuse plastic bags, aluminium foil, take out containers, bottles, try to save electricity and water.  I don’t see this as a huge ecological committment but rather just the way that both my mother and grandmother’s’ ran their homes.

23. I would like to write a book, it will be called “the girl who came out of the cupboard” – there is a special reason for the title that would take too long to explain here.

24. I love books, of all kinds.  I can read anything.  I collect old books and erotic literature.  I love the feel of a leather bound book.  My favourite passage from any book is from “The Tale of Two Cities”.

25. I know its probably not fashionable to say it, but I actually really liked writing down these 25 things.  It was sort of self-reflexive therapy!

Everyone’s Nani

On the 21st of October 2008, I lost my grandmother, Bimla Harbans Lal Talwar.  It was possibly the most difficult loss I have ever dealt with in my life….and even today I miss her every single day.  To those of you who didn’t know “Nani” its really difficult to describe just how special she was.  She was a feminist and a leftist before it was fashionable, she was unbelievably smart, even more unbelievably kind.  And she was the most amazing cook!  Like my dearest friend Enola said…”She was just EVERYONE’S Nani”

This is the eulogy I gave at the memorial service we had for her…I promised myself I wouldn’t cry when I gave it…and I didn’t!  I wanted to share it…

Thank you all for being with us today to celebrate my Nani’s life.  When my mum and maama’s asked me to speak about Nani I really didn’t know what I was going to say.  She was and in many ways still is such an important part of my life and I had no idea how I would be able to encapsulate all that I wanted to share with you into a few minutes.  Almost everyone here will have different memories of my grandmother that they will cherish in their own ways, but I thought I would share with you some of my memories.

I think Nani was the first feminist and the first leftist I met in my life.  She never questioned or even considered that her daughter, or granddaughter or even great granddaughter would do any less than the men in the family, rather she believed that we could do more.

A lot of people don’t know but my grandmother was a gold medalist from Government College Lahore.  She did her masters in Political Science.  Her interest in global politics never waned, and even in the last week when she found it difficult to read the newspaper herself, my mum would sit with her and read it for her.

She was a great Sudoku fan, she never bothered to do the Easy one’s as they were too boring, she only ever tried the hard and medium ones and was generally the first to crack them!

Grandmothers are special, they are like indulgent mothers.  And so many of my and my brother’s memories of Nani are related to the things she used to make for us.  Rabri, for instance.  She had two great reasons to make rabri, her son-in-law loved it and her grandson loved it.  I remember her standing in the kitchen (whether it was at the farm or in Jamaica or at my mother’s house in Delhi) patiently stirring the milk and Arjun (my brother) standing right next to her, jumping impatiently trying to grab a taste when she wasn’t looking.  She’d keep brushing him off and trying to be stern with him.  After all it had to be just the right consistency.  But then once it was ready she would always give him the karhai to lick clean.

And her jams, jellies and marmalades!  I don’t think there was a fruit that she couldn’t turn into a preserve.  Guava Jelly, Grape Jelly, Marmalade, Gooseberry Jam, Strawberry Jam, Gajar Ka Muraba.  Each of us, her children and grandchildren, have a favourite that we will always crave.  For me it will always be Gajar Ka Muraba which I used to eat every night at the farm with fresh cream….its one of the defining tastes of my childhood.  Or my brother who used to pour mounds of Guava Jelly on to his toast and then scrape it off and eat it with a  spoon.

We used to joke that in other families it was customary to boil a patheela of milk when you moved into a new house to start the kitchen, but in our house we boiled a patheela of fruit!

She had such a great sense of humor, and how much we teased her.  About everything, when she had a drink in the evening she always asked for a very small one.  So we would always search for the absolutely tiniest glass in the whole house and present her with a thimbleful of wine!  She always encouraged my brother to speak Punjabi to her and their conversations would always end with him responding to her by saying “Aho ji” (which is kind of like truck driver Punjabi) and she would just shake her head and tell him “Nani nu aho nahi kehende”.

In the last few months she had become increasingly fussy about what she ate, mainly that she didn’t want to eat vegetables and only wanted chicken, fish and mutton.  My mum would get very annoyed and try very hard to get Nani to eat more greens.  But my dad was her partner in crime, much to my mother’s annoyance he would encourage Nani by saying that of course the raw onions she enjoyed with her meals were vegetables, and the aloo in the meat curry and the matar in the keema were all sufficient amounts of greens!  Nani and Dad would have a good laugh!

Her breakfast was legendary; she would patiently chop a variety of fruits, nuts, and dried fruit and then mix 2 tablespoons of 3 different kinds of cereals.  We would joke that she expended more energy making her cereal than she got from eating it.

She never demanded anything from us, she loved all of us with absolutely no reservations or conditions. 

But for me she was my “head office” my guide, my source of knowledge and wisdom.  When V was born and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going it was only by talking to her, with her calm voice and manner as she explained things to me that kept me sane.  I remember when V was very small she became colicky and would cry for no reason.  No one could figure out what was causing the colic, until Nani (who was at the farm at the time) patiently listened to all the symptoms asked me what I was eating and figured it out.  Everytime V has  had a cold or a cough it was Nani who I turned to, to find out what to do.

She had a magic potion for everything….and they generally tasted awful but it was always the quickest way to get well.  But her most famous magic potion was the one she ate every morning for years.  It was made from all kinds of unpronounceable ayurvedic herbs and plants and was black and smelt awful, she kept it in a marmite bottle and had it with her morning tea.  But she swore that it cured her asthma, now when I find myself having a similar problem I asked her just a few weeks ago to make it for me.

I could go on and on, there are so many things that I would love to share with you.  We all drew so much strength from her.  She was so intelligent and strong, even in the worst of times when she was ill or when she broke her hip, or when my nana passed away, it was always Nani who was strong for everyone else.   And yet she was so soft and so gentle, a goodbye always brought a tear to her eye.

After V was born and I was a new mother, always exhausted she once called me up and asked me “Babi meri Babyis (she always called V that) kaisi hai.” I was feeling particularly down that day and I got annoyed and said “Nani everyone calls and asks about V, no one is asking about me, I am so tired” and she said to “Babi bachi, I am always thinking about you” Well Nani I will always be thinking about you.  I love you.