Bart Hergaarden, Thank You

Thank you for making my days special.

Thank you for smiling whenever you see me across the room.

Thank you for including me in all your conversations.

Thank you for talking about me to everyone else.

Thank you for worrying every time I am unwell.

Thank you for sending me surprise food packages so I don’t have to cook.

Thank you for bringing chocolates just because I love them.

Thank you for bringing me flowers on occasions.

Thank you for calling up my family just to chat.

Thank you for making my family yours.

Thank you for giving me a new family.

Thank you for playing with Nemo every day.

Thank you for stroking Memoll whenever you see her.

Thank you for cleaning up after them without a change in expression.

Thank you for fixing all the broken stuff at home.

Thank you for serving me food always before you serve yourself.

Thank you for filling my glass always so that I never have to do it myself.

Thank you for impromptu messages that make me smile.

Thank you for always listening to anything I have to tell you with an open mind.

Thank you for being so sweet tempered.

Thank you for being patient and understanding even when I’m in a complete rage.

Thank you for pulling me out of my bad moments and never giving up on me.

Thank you for never saying one hurtful thing to me even if I do to you.

Thank you for never screaming or swearing or making me feel less important about myself.

Thank you for always being on my side.

Thank you for putting me on your lap and hugging me close when I’m sad.

Thank you for laughing at all my silliness.

Thank you for eating everything I make and never complaining if I don’t.

Thank you for being so nice to my friends and accepting them as yours.

Thank you for letting me be a part of all your decision making and control.

Thank you for working so hard to keep us comfortable.

Thank you for being protective and looking out for me.

Thank you for all the lazy movie nights.

Thank you for always holding my hand when we go out.

Thank you for putting me on the safe side of traffic every time we have to walk on the street.

Thank you for explaining things I cant see.

Thank you for switching off the lights when I’m too comfortable to get up.

Thank you heating hot towels when I’m in pain.

Thank you for calling me beautiful when I feel most ugly.

Thank you for never resenting me.

Thank you for all the great holidays and getaways.

Thank you for taking so much of an interest in my work.

Thank you for great weekends.

Thank you for forcing me to slow down when I’m trying to tear through life.

Thank you for picking me up from the hospital when I was with apoopa everyday.

Thank you for spending so much time with them in the hospital even when you were exhausted.

Thank you for enjoying spending all your weekend in the hospital with them.

Thank you for being so genuinely interested and in love with my family.

Thank you for translating even the tiniest sentences when I’m with yours so that I’m always included.

Thank you for noticing every single expression in my face and reading me exactly.

Thank you for giving me reasons to celebrate.

Thank you for loving me.

Thank you for marrying me.

Thank you for sharing the rest of your life with me.

Thank you for being you.

Bart Hergaarden, I love you.

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The Month Behind – The Ups and Downs

My life is like huge crashing waves. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. The month behind was turbulent with many lessons learnt about handling crisis, about who my real people are and how much family means to me. The month and a half went racing past; seemed like a never ending eternity when I was going through it, but now I can look back and frown at the awful moments and smile at the good ones. So here is my stream of thoughts of the last month and half.

Cycle 1: Vishu. New year. Hopes of a good year. Dinner at home with friends. A whole day of cooking. Kidney stone pain!!!Shots in the night. Shots the next few days. Pain pain pain. Never ending pain; pain when I sit, pain when I stand, pain when I sleep. Why does pain take over your thoughts till it lets nothing else pervade in. Your whole existence becomes about the pain. Scans, tests. Nemo and Memoll cuddling upto me. Teena soothing me with home made lunch and sweet talk. Bart coming over everyday and making me laugh. Ravi on the phone every day making sure I’m all right. BR Uncle and all his help. Work sent from office. Sneha tells me to lay off freelance and just get better. Concerned phone calls from home.

Cycle 2: Excrutiating pain. Numbed with pain makes sense suddenly. Hospitalized for a week for kidney infection. Stone-UTI-Kidney infection. Pain shots, fever, medicines, nonexistent veins and repeated efforts to find one, jabs all over, kind nurses and doctors, Bart and Teena shuffling up and down, ambulance, more tests, tests I will remember with embarrassment for ever, tests I was too drowned in pain to remember, insurance hassles, a stuffed toy, lollipops and cards, hospital food, sneaked in Mc Donalds burger, work sent from office, concerned phone calls, pretend concern phone calls, pain pain pain. Less pain lesser pain, no pain. Discharge. Advice. Doing things alone. Home.

Cycle 3: Antibio, antibio, antibio. Bacteria develops resistant. Bacterial infection in the worst of places. Ecrutiating pain. Can’t sit. Can’t move. Crying in the bathroom. crying in the bedroom. Cursing everyone there is to curse. Nemo accompanying me for every hellish bathroom visit. Memoll sitting near me all the time. Afshan and chocolate cake. Mrinal and Andrew and lunch and tender coconut water and love. Payal and comfort. Rutger and sympathy. Teena and love. Bart always. Surprise visit from Gibson and Malik who drove all the way from Chennai just to see me for a few hours. Home and phone calls and voices that make me feel better just listening to them. More work sent home.

I need to stop here to talk about pain. Pain is a funny experience. When you go through it, you are so consumed by it that you promise the one up there you are talking to all the time that you will do everything in your power to stop asking for anything if only it will go away. Your whole life becomes centered around it. You are irritable CONSTANTLY. Everything people say seems to be targeted at only making your pain worse. No one gets it coz only you are going through it and you hate the world for it. You take out all the anger, the frustration, the sheer tiredness of having to deal with it every day on every one else. Especially the ones you love best. And then you feel wretched and guilty about it. You cry all the time. You sleep crying. You wake up crying.

Cycle 4: Recuperating. Frustration. Small ventures outside the house. Quickly back inside. Bart’s bday dinner. Pain in the restaurant. Doctor’s visits. Tests. Work sent home. Ravi being there to make things better. Sharika’s exams. Ama comes to take care. Anagha visits after 3 years. Happy. Talks. Dinner. Ama magically makes illness better. Long talks with Anu. Dinner, movie. Ama and Anu leave. Flu decided to torment me. Cough, cold, congestion, fever. Teena not well. Bart leaves for the Netherlands. Payal calls to check. Ravi calls to check. Sneha and her never ending support.

Cycle 5: I go home. Flu slowly goes. kidney pain goes. Bacterial infection goes. Frustration at job. Mean bosses. Decision to only freelance from now on. Happy at flexibility. Happy to be home in my room. Happy to see amuma and apupa and ama and acha. Happy to see Simba and Cocoa. Guilty about leaving Nemo and Memoll behind. Phone calls. Mails. Good food. Gitu and Jess and the beautiful beautiful beach. Hospital visits. Trivandrum and muthashi. My adorable nephew and cuz and aunt and uncle. New paintings. An airplane and Back in Bangalore. My babies. My house. Missing home.

Now comes Cycle 6 and I see the wave crest here again. Here’s to the next batch of me surfing on my waves. Love you all for being there for me.

My Song

Everyone has a favorite song. One that keeps ringing in your head, one that you find yourself humming when you wake up or take a shower or feel happy or feel sad. One that seems to make perfect sense to you. One that you find yourself going back to, to help you through crisis. My favorite song is ‘November Rain’ by GNR. To say I love the song would be to put it very mildly. I love everything about the song; the beautiful lyrics, the unusual melody, the way it is crooned, the music arrangement, the emotions behind it, the video, the fact that it is by my favorite band, basically everything. But most of all I love the lyrics.

To me the song stays true to what it says in every way. That it is a lament of a kind, a sad love song about a man in love with a woman who is in love with his best friend. A song about a man who starts talking about how he loves this woman so much that even though he knows her loving him back is impossible he still looks for that little ray of hope in all the darkness. A song about a man who finally loses his woman to her own turmoil and suicide. The song is so cruelly sad, that it becomes strikingly beautiful. The way it unfolds is sheer poetry; the fact that it is centered around an inauspicious start because he is marrying someone not in love with him, ironically in November when the rain is considered acidic and not a good start for a life together, that he keeps saying that even November rain can’t last forever which subtly conveys his hope that bad times can’t stretch on forever. I love the way Slash is weaved in so ingeniously into the story, just giving one a glimpse of the whole complicated triangle, showing only snatches of what he is probably going through as well. The human emotions attached to this song; love, happiness, sadness, desperation, anguish, pain, betrayal, hope…it is all so artistically intertwined.

The lines that speak to me most about the song are, “And when your fears subside and shadows still remain. I know that you can love me, when there is no one left to blame”. These lines show love that is so unconditional, so unrestrained; a love that I wish I could experience. A man who is willing to wait around, who is so much in love that he doesn’t mind what’s happening, who is just around hoping to have her love him back. Is love like this possible?

So I close my eyes and hope that I will experience this sheer love one day. To be loved so much that they will wait, to be loved unrestrained, to be needed, to be wanted, to be loved unconditionally, to be loved without expectations, without boundaries. Who out there is lucky enough to be loved that way? Tell me your love story…

My Grandma

One says that family is a group of people you are stuck with. You can’t choose them. In a sense, that is true. Then I am

The 4 granddaughters with the grandparents

probably the luckiest girl in the world to be given a bunch of people I would have chosen anyway if I had the option to.

My grandma and I have always had a very special bond. She was still in her 30s when I was born and her youth, her energy and her complete and utter love for me forged a tie between us that is strong, thriving and one that overcomes all odds, all fights, differences of opinion, generation gap. I remember time spent with her when I was a child like it happened just yesterday. The strange way my heart filled with joy so strong that it almost hurt, the fierce protectiveness and possessiveness that crept into me every time she was around; a love so strong, it felt desperate.

The love grandparents give you is completely different from anything else you will ever experience. It is a love completely without boundaries of responsibility or discipline. They are there just to love you, pamper and spoil you; not to draw any lines of behavior, after all that is what parents are for.

Going to my grandma’s place was all about fun and games and endless stories and doing everything my sister and I would not be allowed to do at home. Spoiling the house, painting all over the walls, eating all the junk food we wanted to, sleeping at whatever time we pleased, watching all the TV we wanted, bossing my grandparents around to our heart’s content and so much more. Midnight car rides looking for helium balloons and chocolates, endless trips to the toy stores, demands of any kind of food only to have it appear on the table 10 minutes later; no one could have asked for better childhood memories.

And this progressed into something deeper and profound as I grew up. The love a child had for her grandmother transformed into a strong love a grown-up granddaughter has for her grandmother. She became my confidant, my friend, the person I found easy to share things with, to fight with. She was always the person I could be myself with without having to worry about the right behavior or opinion. I took her for granted for sure, but isn’t that the greatest part of love, to love someone so much you expect them to understand and put up with you and be able to be the same way back? Sharika and I bully her, make her angry, happy, sad, joyful, all at once. But we love her. Like we love no one else. We admire the strength she has that she isn’t aware of, her ability to love, to cherish, to look after people. We admire her beliefs, her patience and always want her to be happy and at peace.

I hope she recovers from her operation fast. Amuma, your heart is so special, that I believe it will have no trouble getting better soon. It hurts to see you in the hospital so frail and so scared. But you have no reason to be. Look around you. Look at how many people have come for you and love you. It speaks so loudly about you. So you get better for all of us. Because we need you to be. Because we love you so much. Because you are my grandmother.

I judge thou not….

It is very easy to be judgmental about something or someone. Having opinions about people is something that comes very naturally to human beings. We all analyze and pass judgments on people without every really trying to understand them or step into their shoes and see things from their perspective.

Right and wrong, ethical and non-ethical, virtuous and full of sin; these are very abstract words. It is easy to pin them down as being black and white, but are they really? I have always thought that the grey shade in between is definitely more prominent than the stark colors. And this grey world is vast and complicated. How do we judge people really? We think some things done by them are wrong and some things are right, just as we get judged. We judge others on what we think is ok and not. But everyone has a different tangent about these things. Something that might not be ok for one person can always be ok with someone else. So is the judgment right or wrong then? Is it ok to play god and deem someone into a category just because you think so. How many times have we ever stopped to think that the one judged also is a person, has feelings, makes mistakes, could be compassionate, and could have troubles, high points, and low points? We find ourselves stretching our boundary of allowance for people we love. But come to people we know little about, it gets rigid and harsh and in some way cruel. So at this point, when we are being unfair ourselves, is it right to point fingers at others?

I have always felt that kindness and real love comes easier from animals than human beings. I could do anything to my cats; be kind, be unfair, be cranky, love them too much, do stuff that is ‘judged’ wrong by others, but at the end of the day they will still love me and pass no judgments. But when I sit with them and analyze my day, this is when the things that I feel are ‘right and wrong’ for me become very evident, because I am in a space where I feel it is safe to be me. But have someone judging and categorizing me, I get defensive and then shut out all the voices in my head and from those around me.

So next time you are tempted to pass a judgment, step back for a bit, think of all the times people have passed judgments on you and held you in an unfair light and step into the other person’s shoes for a few minutes. And maybe this time you will be kinder before you pass your motion. Live and let live. There are legal bodies paid to pass judgments after all! And for all those of you feeling wronged and judged, get a pet. Have a great, non-judgmental day everybody.