Post 20: It’s not easy!

An old hindi movie song goes like this :

दिए जलते हैं  – candles are lit
फूल खिलते हैं  – flowers do bloom
बड़ी मुश्किल से मगर – but with great difficulty
दुनिया में दोस्त मिलते है- friends are found in the world

This week a friend of mine moved around 4000 km away to another province and that made me reflect on the power of a loving friendship. When I moved to this city a year and a half  ago PB  was another face among strangers. Her family had moved in to the city a few weeks before us but they had lived here before. We met in church and slowly became friends; having kids the same age helped too. Her daughter is only a few days older than mine. Watching them play together as tiny tots has been fun!

Over the course of time our friendship grew and having friends eased life in a new city. Our girls loved to play together. And now they are moving back. Although I  am happy that things have worked out well for them with this new move; I am saddened to see them go.

I consider my self blessed to have some really good friends. Here is a little something I made for PB as her parting gift. Its a combination of scripture verse with Madhubani-style drawing. (I am not a trained Madhubani artist, I just like the style and its story telling style and like to draw in the style!)
Isn’t this true! our friends really do refresh and strengthen us. Its not easy to make new friends as adults but  it is most certainly worth the effort.

Phir Milenge!!

Post 19: Finding L

Last I heard of my friend L more than a year ago, she was pregnant with her second child. She has been incommunicado ever since.

I met L  at my first job after graduation and we became close friends. She was known as S then. Her name meant dream and dreamer she was. A talented artist, she was timid and shy but had big dreams of making it on her own. She so wanted to break free from the clutches than often bind girls, from small towns in India, in the name of tradition. She was successful in part too! She had managed to convince her parents to let her study and then find employment in the city as big as New Delhi. But the questions about marriage still lingered in the back ground. Consider it her misfortune that by the age 24 she had already had ten marriage interviews and rejections. As if the pain of rejection was not enough, the blame was put on her and she had to see her parents burdened by increasing dowry demands with each passing year. May be that is what made her determined even more to find her own niche.

Soon her parents found a suitable match and despite her wishes she was married to this good looking, well settled guy in New Delhi. She was given a new name , a new identity and a new life- all I am not sure she was happy with. Life in a joint family required some adjustment but she did it all to please her family. I was married few months after her and moved to distant shores but we always kept in touch  through phone and emails. She was trying to make the most of her situations and trying to rise above her daily household routine. Of course it was stupidity to fit an arranged marriage with in the notions of romance; she said; Foolish also to seek friendship in a marriage. It had been made clear that she would never be allowed to work. The only time she was ever allowed to step outside or drive a car was with family or to drop her son, then 3, to play school. She once mentioned she suspected her emails were being monitored. Her emails were reducing, her voice was growing silent and the pain increasing.

Two years ago, a common friend P joined L for her son’s birthday party. What P told me was heart breaking. L was alone in a sea of people.  Every time the two stood together L’s husband whisked her away. P confirmed my fears she was being kept away from everyone. Early in 2011, her mobile phone stopped woking, her facebook profile was deleted and her email address was suspended. All I now have is her mother’s phone number and despite my repeated requests have not been allowed any contact with her. I told her mom I just wanted to speak to L once to know that she is okay. I was aghast her mom said it wasn’t such a good idea and she would pass my message to her ( I don’t think L ever got that message!)

I hope and pray that she is not facing any physical violence but this is for sure that she has been confined and not being allowed to meet or talk to any of her friends from before. I do not know how to handle this situation ( there are no ‘well being checks’ I can ask the cops or women’s organizations to do without creating a scandal of sorts!) . I feel extremely sad on loosing on a friendship. I can only hope that she is safe and has found friends & happiness – that her marriage relation is healing.

If someday she happens to find this blog post, I hope she knows I love her very much and wish the best for her. She doesn’t have to say much, I only want to know that she is okay!

Phir Milenge!!

Picking up from where we left

It never fails to amaze me how relative the perception of time is. It seems to fly when we are having fun and it drags when we are waiting for somethings. Sometimes it seems to stand still. I met some old friends recently after a gap of many months and it seemed as if I had never left. I was able to pick up from where we left many months ago. This visit was special for another reason too. My friend and I could observe our kids getting along and playing together. It was a feeling I am yet not able to articulate through words.

I feel time standing still every time I visit India and my old friends whom I grew up with too. I have concluded that it is because we have been blessed with selective memory. Our brains only remember the details we commit to it or the instances where emotions are involved. I don’t know the science behind it But I do know this our brain keeps a treasure trove of memories and if only we would put a little bit effort, our daily life today could make a melody of memories for later.

In our hearts memories remain

how and why we can’t explain

They come to us as they please

a laugh, a cry, a gentle tease

They disappear for some time

to reappear in a different rhyme

Thus they are our lives’ tale told

Memories of the good and old

They can be strong but they often fade

Memories for life are daily made

Today just a little effort if we apply

life’s joyous memories will multiply

Then we will be able to sing-along

The lyrics of our memory-song

 

Have any old memories knocked at your heart today?

Phir Milenge!!

 

‘Spring’-ing into action

I haven’t cared much for official start of spring for the last few years. In Canada, some places have snow on ground till May first-week and I was living in one of those places. This year is different. Its my first spring in the new city and the comparatively balmy winter means that spring is really here!

My neighbors, Pierre and Maria, a retired couple in their 60’s, are avid bird-lovers. I know this because of the number of bird feeders they have around their house.They have been carefully preparing these bird houses and feeder in preparation to welcome the migratory birds over the spring-summer season.

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This old tree has all sorts of bird-feeders attached.

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A few more interesting pieces.

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May be some humming birds would come hum for us

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More Feeders and bird-houses towards the front.

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Pierre even installed a few bird feeder up this wooden electric pole in the back alley.

This morning, as they sat sipping their morning coffee in their porch, I made an appearance on mine armed with my cup of tea & a camera, said hello and got talking. I was told that we can spot many species of birds in and around the city. He mentioned that White-throated Sparrow, Blue jays, blue and magnolia warbler, rock dove, mourning dove, sparrows and chickadees often pay them a visit. Honestly, I have never been bird-watching so I was delighted when they told me I could join them for another round of coffee while bird watching.

It is a wonderful thing to be passionately involved in a hobby and be willing to share your experiences with others who may be interested.It is a great act of inclusion and making someone feel welcomed.

The spring blossoms may not have sprung up but today, on the first day of spring , a new friendship has bloomed.

Phir Milenge!!

The heart of a friend

I have been a expat/NRI for almost seven years now and I must confess I still carry some old notions in my heart. I have learnt so much over the years yet I find there is so much more learning to do. My friend Marco Blankenburgh is the founder and director of KnowledgeWorkx, in UAE, a company committed to Organizational Development. Here is an excerpt from his Bio-

“Inter-Cultural Intelligence is essentially the new 21st century intelligence, following on from IQ and EI (Emotional Intelligence). With the advent of globalization, he believes that Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI) is essential to sustainable success for both individuals and organizations.”

In simple words, Understanding and adapting to the cultural context can help to achieve success and avoid conflict. My discussions with him gave me a lot of insights on Inter-cultural intelligence. I would like to think I was able to put what I learnt from him to good use although I am processing some information in the same old way.

One way I still am guilty of sticking to my ‘Indian’ notions is interaction among various age groups. I grew up in a small neighborhood in New Delhi where community feelings were very strong. Everyone knew everyone who lived on the street. There was a group of 18 kids ranging from 6 to 16 years in age who played together, playing tag , hide and seek or randonly chasing one another . At some other time we would get organized in groups to quiz each other , sing songs and compete. Everyone’s parents were our elders. There was no question of addressing any elder formally or by first name. every one was either an uncle or aunty, So Mr. Patel from down the lane became Patel-Uncle and Mrs Gupta from the third floor became Gupta-aunty. Some times we would add a suffix “jee”which denotes extra respect…… Uncle-jee literally meant respected uncle. 🙂

With this background, I think it would not be hard for you to imagine my slight discomfort when my friend’s 10 year old called me by first name. 19 yrs between us seemed like a big age gap to be bridged easily. Slowly I learnt to take it in my stride and also got used to addressing people who I knew for sure were my parents’ age group by their first names too.

My friend recently visited me and I showed my one year old what she had brought for her. I said, “Look, what Natalie got you, say thank you!” To which Natalie replied, “No need. I am her aunty” [ I had never discussed this with her]

It may not sound like a big deal to you but in an instant, I felt at home.

This old poem by Henry Wardsworth Longfellow came to mind:

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Phir Milenge!!