Life just gives you time & space; it's up to you to fill it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Message from Beyond?

Appa had this favorite clock that hung in our dining room which was modeled as an ancient clock made of wood. He spent a lot of time searching for a model that would satisfy his quest for those grandfather type clocks and finally bought this one so it must have been special. As far as I can remember he took a lot of pride in keeping it clean and also making sure that the batteries were changed as soon as they wore out, so the clock never stopped for more than a couple of hours at the max. This was during his healthy days.

After his surgery for liver resection 3 years ago, he stayed with us for 3 months and then went back home. Apparently his first instinct upon return was to check if the clock was still running and heaved a sigh of relief to see that it was. His comment to mum was that since the clock was still running he had some more time on this planet. Wow!

This time when I went back upon hearing his condition, I didn't pay much attention to that clock except to check the time. It was still running and I didn't know about his belief with respect to the clock. Precisely a week after dad's passing I noticed that the clock had stopped too and that is when mum told me about his earlier comment. That sort of sent shivers through my spine. The time on the clock was 3:30. Being busy with all the post-funeral ceremonies, I didn't think of changing the batteries. After that we moved temporarily to my grandparents' place, so once again I lost a chance of getting it back to run.

About a week later when I came back home, I couldn't help but noticing that the time on the clock had changed. The house was locked all this while so nobody could have entered to prank us. From what was 3:30 a week ago it was showing 3:55. Why would that be so significant? 3:55 was the time of dad's leaving this world!!! I was shocked beyond words and kept staring at his photo, silently asking him if he was sending us a message through his favorite clock.

We normally tend to believe that articles that don't have life cannot be connected to, but this was an amazing experience to see how this belief could be wrong. The practical person in me still believes that probably there was some life left in the battery to make it work, but then again I ask myself why or how would it stop exactly at 3:55 not a minute here or there???

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

My Life with Appa

My earliest memories of Appa are from my toddler days. As most fathers he would do anything to keep his only daughter happy. He got scolded for pampering me but that did not deter him. It only got us closer. I still remember when I preferred him to look after me while he was around even though mum spent most time with me. The days he went away on business trips used to be the hardest for me and I even hid his tickets once so he would not leave me and go. He was very upset that time but yet did not scold me (maybe he was happy not to go too).

He used to religiously drop me off at school on his way to work on our scooter and I used to enjoy the ride – standing in the front while I was little and sitting behind him holding his tummy real tight when I grew up a bit. Those were blissful days. He always used to be at school to cheer me if I got an award or a rank and the pride in his eyes would be enough to encourage for the next year. He was a good badminton player and taught me the game so I could win some matches in the company tournaments. I loved playing with him since he treated me as an adult and advised me when I faltered rather than losing his cool.

This was the same attitude he maintained while teaching me to ride a bicycle. We had a huge ground in front of our house and I would have fallen a few times, but every time he was always there to lift me and console me until I could go fully around the ground. Sunday afternoons were for such activities that made him my role model. Once I had mastered the bicycle, he taught me how to ride his beloved scooter – a Lamby – even though I was too young for it. My dream used to be to be able to drive his car like him. To please him I used to clean it on days that I got ready quickly in the morning or on holidays. He let me start our Fiat Premier Padmini and that used to be a treat for being a good girl.

When I reached high school we bought our first piece of land and constructed our dream home for then. Dad and Mum took the role of architects and I was consulted in important matters to make me feel special. This house was quite far from my school, so we had to take the bus everyday and dad always accompanied me even if it was out of his way from his office. His head on collision with a truck was a blow to our otherwise normal life and put him out of action for 3 months. There were times when I wished he did not work and stayed home with me, but this was not how I wanted it to be.

As soon as he was back to work, he was sent to Indonesia for a project. I was sad that he wouldn’t be with us, but the thought of him flying overseas was more exciting. As a perfect husband and father, he sponsored us to visit him. That was a beautiful trip by the end of which there was a turning point in our lives. He was offered a job he couldn’t turn down for any reason other than me. He waited almost a year to make this crucial decision since I was in Year 11 / 12. He finally accepted the offer and moved to Indonesia although he made sure he visited us every 2 months even if for just a few days. I guess by this stage I started missing him lesser since I was busier with my studies and knew he was away from us for his own career development.

He travelled places and climbed up the management ladder, while still being a good father. He made sure that I got a glimpse of Europe while he and mum were placed there. That was a memorable experience and his joke with the Sri Lankan cricket team on their exit from World Cup will always put a smile on my face even on the dullest of days. At the turn of the century and while I was completing my Bachelor’s, he decided it was time to move back to be with me, but unfortunately this was the stage where I wanted to fly away from their nest. He single-handedly backed me with my decision to fly to the US to pursue my Masters’. He came along with me to set me up which showed how much he cared for me.

Those 2 years in the US, made me a bit cold and detached from the 2 most precious people of my life, even though they tried to be there as much as they could. When I finally got back to the nest it was not the same. Dad got extremely busy with work and I hardly got to see him even though he was not travelling much. In a few days marriage happened and that surely drifted me from him even further since I moved to Australia. Priorities change and I thought this was normal only to be proven wrong.

The diagnosis of cancer brought a very emotional phase. Our will as a family was put to an ultimate test. The fight was his but the battle was ours. We wanted him to be victorious as we have always seen him. The decision to go with surgery was the first step in this long battle and I had the honour of looking after him through that and after. But, the disease was not one to give up easily and kept coming back. He fought with everything he had and yet had the energy to help me out with my new baby. He absolutely adored his grandson and I could see just how much he would have loved me when I was a baby. My respect for him grew with each passing day and was very happy that I could spend quality time with him. But, there was always the fear of what if the cancer got the better of him. In my greed to keep him with me, we decided on a new treatment which we thought would completely cure him.

This in fact deteriorated him maybe because of all the treatments his body had already gone through. He still did not lose hope and kept on fighting, his short term goal was to celebrate his 60th birthday in a grand way. I was extremely happy to see his will power take him through the elaborate ceremony. He went through it as though he was perfectly normal. Slowly the cancer was spreading and there was not much we could do other than to see him decline. I wanted to look after him towards the end of his life just the way he did at the beginning of my life. I was only partially successful in this since I had my own family. It is funny how you have to share your time between the ones that gave you your life with the ones that you gave life to.

The news of him suffering in his last few days caused a lot of heart ache and the thought of losing him was scary. Even in all this pain he kept reassuring me that he was fine and asked me not to worry about him. I wish he passed on some of his virtues to me via his genes. As much as I was softly persuaded by others to go back and be with him, I was reluctant to see him suffering and hold those as last memories of him. The day I finally did go back to see him, he was fully on life support and the image of a strong man being tied down by tubes and not conscious to even feel his daughter made me cry. Sometimes I wish I had not gone back, because maybe then he would have been just fine. The doctor’s advice of pulling the plug was like a nightmare, how could I take responsibility of taking away the life of the One who had given me this life? Thankfully Appa as much as he cared for me didn’t give me that misfortune and passed away on his own. It was very difficult to see him in that state, but seeing him suffer any more would have been tougher.

All I could do was to stare at his body that supported me all along and silently pray that his soul rest in peace while knowing that now nobody could separate him from me – not even cancer. It still feels like he is around me, guiding me in every possible way. I LOVE YOU APPA and THANKS FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE FOR ME!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Nile Cruise

This post has been sitting in my unpublished blogs for almost 2 years - I was in hibernation all this while, so thought will show it some light :-)

Our wish of visiting one of the oldest civilizations came true this summer. After the beautiful Greece it was destination Egypt for us. We flew into Cairo for half a day while visiting the Khan-El-Khalili Bazaar which supposedly began operating from the 14th century. The system works like any bazaar in India, where you had to bargain to get the best deal and we not being veterans in this area, were not the best shoppers, but did fair better than some of the tourists from countries where bargaining is unknown.

We had a glimpse of the Pyramids from the car, knowing that we would be coming back to see it, but surprised all the same to know how close to the city the Pyramids were built or how much the city must have expanded! We flew the same day to Aswan where we were to join the Moon Cruise to Luxor. We had a shocking incident at the Airport where our driver was delayed and we spent half hour frantically trying to find some help in a place where everybody seemed so friendly, but no money no help. The Airport was really small and closed 10 minutes after we landed once all the passengers were outside. We forgot all about this incident once we entered our cruise which seemed like a floating 5-Star Hotel. Our guide met with us and explained all the formalities.

The following morning he took us to the Unfinished Obelisk. It lies in a quarry untouched from 3000 years ago because of a crack running through its body. Its estimated weight being 1000 tons, which would have made it the heaviest Obelisk if it were to stand erect. The explanation of how the gigantic stone would have been transported and erected in a temple is an interesting story, considering that they were not technology savvy in those days, yet used their brains in better ways. After this, we went to the High Dam of Aswan, built a few decades ago with the help of Russians. This helped in preventing the flooding of the Nile and also supported irrigation. The Nasser Lake formed by this Dam is 350 square kilometres and is divided between Egypt and Jordan and is full of crocodiles.

We were then taken to a Perfume Factory called the “Essence of Life” where we were demonstrated how the big perfume manufacturers made perfume from a few essential oils. They had a very impressive collection of oils and glass blown bottles. Amazing how the ancient Egyptians paid so much attention to vanity. After this was one of the highlights of the whole trip – a ride on the Falukkah. The Falukkah as such is a boat which has no motor, it drifts in the direction of the wind with the help of its sail. It was so serene and peaceful that I still think about it and makes me feel good.

The same day our cruise moved from Aswan and set sail towards Luxor. The first stop was at the Temple of Kom-ombo. This was an ancient temple for Horus (the Falcon God) and Sobek (the Crocodile God). They had embalmed a crocodile family (mother, father and child) from 3000 years ago and they are still intact. The temple had inscriptions depicting dental surgery and a level to measure the flooding of the river to determine the tax for that year. Once we had finished our tour, we were told that there would be an Egyptian dinner on board the cruise and everybody had to be dressed traditionally in Galabaiyas! That was a beautiful night of good food and great dances by all the crew and the passengers.

The next morning we were woken up early to visit the temple of Edfu. This temple was dedicated to Horus and retained a lot of colours from the ancient paintings, but had deteriorated over the years since it was used as a shelter during the war periods of Middle Age. The day was relaxing as such and later in the afternoon we arrived at Esna which had a Lock. This meant that at a time only two ships could cross the lock, one either way, so we ended up waiting almost 8 hours. The food on the cruise was excellent and I was surprised how much variety they had for a Vegetarian, I went thinking I would be fed grass!

The next morning we arrived at Luxor. Our Guide warned us that it would be a busy day and so it was. Our first stop was to the Valley of Kings where the Kings and Noble Men were buried. They have discovered 62 tombs, the latest being that of Tuth-Ankh-Amun’s. This place is camouflaged very well and is surrounded by 2 sandy mountains. Apparently in those days the Egyptian Kings decided the place they wanted to be buried and had informed Priests and a secret sect of workers about this. They then built his tomb as per his wishes and when he died the Priest led the procession to his tomb and they put him in the Sarcophage and filled his tomb with all his belongings and things he used over the years. We had the luxury of visiting 3 of the 62 tombs and the beauty within was breath taking. If only we had learnt some hieroglyphics to understand the inscriptions. Right next to the Valley of Kings is the Temple of Hatshepsut – the first female ruler of Egypt. The temple is built over 3 levels and shows how much importance the ancient Egyptians gave to women.

After this we visited an Alabaster factory, where they demonstrated how they mage the various figurines. The shop was filled with colourful articles but very expensive. On the way back to the city we stopped over at 2 gigantic statues considered the Mother and Wife of Memnon. The Luxor Temple in the city was huge and resembled an Indian temple in many ways. The Statues of Ramses still stood tall and the Sanctuary (holy place) had the serenity of all the prayers performed centuries ago. The ram-headed sphinxes ran in parallel for 3.2 Kms between the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple. Although, now some of them have been buried or stolen.

The Karnak Temple, believed to be one of the biggest man made monuments because of its size spells grandeur. It was built and rebuilt over 1500 years and every King wanted his signature over the Temple. The entrance is magnificent with 134 pillars, each having inscriptions all around them to the ceiling. In the backyard there is a pool where the Priests used to bathe twice a day before performing the religious rites. Close to this is a pedestal with a huge Scarab Beetle considered a Good Luck charm by the Egyptians. Towards the inner of the temple, there were 2 Obelisks – one for Hatshepsut and one for her father Tuthmosis – I. The story behind the Obelisk of Hatshepsut was pretty interesting. Her half brother Tuthmosis – II was not happy with an Obelisk for his sister and wanted to embarrass her, so he built a wall surrounding it. It turned out that this wall acted as a protection for the Obelisk which is still intact. Just sitting in the Hypostyle Hall (Pillars Room) and imagining the life lived by the Pharoahs and the elaborate ceremonies, was a beautiful feeling.

This was the end of our Nile Cruise and it was time to fly back to Cairo.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Memories of Today

Remember the first day your daddy dropped you off at school? Remember the day when you got your first beating from your strict teacher? Remember the kid whom you had a secret crush on in primary school and imagined how you would spend the rest of your life with them? Remember the report card which you were afraid to show your parents? Remember those harmless pranks you played on strangers? Remember those college ragging days and how you were scared of your seniors? Remember the first day you met your true love? I am sure the list will go on…

I have these sudden revelations about simple things and one such eye-opener was that today will never come back again! What you do today would probably be a memory tomorrow, but the day as such is gone. I know it is a mundane thought, but that led to more reflection as to how I would want to remember today. Not everyday is worth remembering, but it is up to us to make more such days memorable. It is like the photos you collect to cherish at a later date. How many photos you make shows how much you want to look back.

Have you ever felt that childhood memories are the strongest etched in our minds? I am not sure if it is just me or if it is the same for others too, but I can remember very clearly all those rainy days while we were out playing and those sunny days still outside not caring to listen to our mother’s pleas to stay indoors. Those days when going to your neighbour’s house unannounced was considered normal and staying the whole day including for all meals while playing with your best friend and still not hearing a word of complaint from his / her mother. Those were days of innocence and the memories are as fresh.

Fast forwarding a little bit, college days even though not as innocent, are still unbiased and hence I remember my first day in college in a city which I had visited so many times but never was a part of, so felt brand new to start a life there. Those unassuming days of making new friends for life and the joint pranks on the lecturers feel like it was just yesterday. All those were days when we never had to worry about what lay ahead tomorrow and hence today was all we had to worry about, I think that is probably the reason that we lived them to the full.

Fast forwarding to the current life, I feel like I have lost a lot of that innocence and ignorance in the race of existence. I feel like I am spending more time thinking of how I am going to make my tomorrow better and thus not living my today. I feel like in the quest of the unknown I am taking a lot of known for granted and hence not creating new memories. I need such revelations every now and then to remember those beautiful days and to remind me how today can be a beautiful memory with some effort.

After all, when we are old and have nobody around, it is only the memories that will stay on with us. Nobody can separate that from us not even ourselves. We can hardly forget certain things no matter how hard we try, so it is probably easier to keep the number of things to be forgotten lesser. There is no guarantee that tomorrow will be a better day, but it is up to us to make sure that our today is a better yesterday!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Desi BBQ

This country down under is very famous for Barbecues (also called Barbie or BBQ) any time of the year and more so in the summer. Immigrants not wanting to be left behind have their own BBQs with their own set of people and I belong to the elite Indian BBQ Club! As the whole world knows India has a lot of flavours and varieties in food and extending this to the outdoor meal is another speciality.

So, come any long weekend and off we go with our mobile burners or if someone has a compact BBQ, then even better. The Ozzies normally only carry the bread and sausages, which they can cook on any BBQ in any park. But we being fussy vegetarians have to be very careful about where we cook our food, so I guess that explains the burners, but that’s not all, our packing includes a variety of vegetables – pickled and raw, sauces, cheeses, drinks and chips. Even thinking about it makes me feel full!

The munching starts once we have decided our BBQ location, starting with chips and drinks. The guys (BBQs are mainly intended for men to cook to give their wives a break from their routine, but in this generation I have hardly seen a man not share this daily chore, anyway nobody complains when the men volunteer to cook ;-) set up the burners / BBQs / stoves and mysteriously creeps in mouth watering Paneer Tikka. By the time it is grilled there is a long queue surrounding the chief chef waiting for a chance to taste the cheese cubes. It gets over in a jiffy and time comes for the Patties (We only like the Bird’s Eye – Bubble ‘n Squeak Veggie Patties, only because we have no other option) to get grilled.

Simultaneously the buns get toasted with some butter and are ready for the patties. Once the patties are cooked, we have mothers making a burger each for their children. The process of making a burger depends on individual’s taste. I usually like to taste a bit of everything, so let me explain mine. I first take the bottom side of the bun and put a lettuce leaf over it followed by some fried onions and fresh cut tomatoes. Then comes the yummy patty (which is good to eat by itself) and a slice of cheese. And then some canned veggies such as olives, jalapeños, roast capsicum. The burger is probably already overflowing. So, I take the other side of the bun and put some sauces – usually tomato and mayonnaise and unite the 2 sides before feeding my drooling mouth! Hmmm, needless to say, any effort (minimal really) that went into the preparation of the burger is well worth it for that glorious moment J

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Humor me

I was reading about faux pas related to Cancer patients on a blog yesterday and thought I should share one of my own. I am sure on a day-to-day basis we would come across many such incidents, totally unrelated to cancer, and have been responsible for a few of them ourselves, although it is just human to err, do we know that we might be hurting someone sometimes?

On my flight from Adelaide to Singapore I had this aisle seat behind a huge guy who had decided to sleep the entire journey. So, his seat was reclined almost always except when the flight attendants reminded him otherwise. I was uncomfortably watching the movies on the little screen and each time he moved I had to adjust the screen accordingly. I was annoyed and made a mental note to see his face. When I was getting ready to alight at Singapore, I noticed that he was probably a fellow Indian or maybe one of our friendly neighborhood countrymen! Not wanting to have any conversation with him I just turned pretending not having seen him.

I was obviously not good at pretending, since the guy whom I detested for the past few hours, managed to ask me how my flight was! Not wanting to be impolite, I just bluntly replied that it was OK (of course sitting behind him didn't help, but how could I say that to a stranger!). I was slightly happy when people started moving so that I could lose him on the way out. I did for a few seconds only to realize a little bit later that he was right behind me asking me about Adelaide. Apparently he was visiting this place for a conference and felt that the city had not changed in the past 20 years and it was a "sleepy little town". Now, I hardly knew this city 20 years ago, I love it now, so didn't have much to comment. Seeing my resistance his next question was my reason for visiting Singapore. When I said that it was for my father's treatment, his response took me off guard. He explained that his father had undergone a surgery 3 weeks ago and did not take it too well and passed away in a few days. Like that was the most important thing for me to know about right then!

I am sure he didn't mean ill, but when someone is concerned about a family member is it really necessary to bring up things that might hurt them? The thing that worried me more was that he was hardly depressed about what had happened to his father. In fact he was even joking saying that his old man didn't pull through the surgery and asked me to speak to my father's surgeons. My thought was - is this an omen for Singapore! Some people!!!

But, reading other people's experiences made me laugh. One of them from a cancer patient -
Shortly after my husband and I both shaved our heads (his was for support of course), my husband was at a coffee place that he frequents regularly. The woman who regularly serves him asked about his shaved head. He explained my situation and another worker actually said, "Aw, I hope she makes it." WHAT?!

Another one I liked -
I lost about 70 pounds after my stomach cancer ordeal and I constantly have people come up to me and say, "Wow! You've lost a lot of weight! What's your secret?
"Stomach Cancer," I answer cheerily, "but I wouldn't recommend it."
That's always followed by "Oh I'm so sorry" and then tangible awkwardness.

Another from a doctor -
The doc was trying to console my husband who was dealing with his 39 yr old wife, mother of 5, being diagnosed with cancer.
He said, "Well, you have to die from something."

A cancer patient with a kiddo -
I work with children, and one little boy was looking at my face really hard one day [i was wearing my wig at this point, so he didn't know i was bald]. He put his hands on his hips and said to me -- "Ms. Captain, you don't have any eyebrows! Where'd they go?" He was genuinely concerned, so I said to him, "Well, they're part of the eyebrow union, so they're on their manditory three month vacation." He got a very concerned look on his face and asked me, "MY eyebrows aren't part of the 'onion' are they?"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Great to be Back :-)

After 3 hectic weeks at Singapore running between the temporary "home" and the hospital, flying back to the real "home" was beautiful. Our worries about how dad would take the 6 hour flight turned out to be unnecessary since he slept through it like a baby. I tried watching a little bit of the movie - Shootout At Lokhandwala - and a few minutes were enough to steer me away from it!

The Immigration was uneventful, but the Customs, as it has always been for me each time I enter Australia, was a damper. The officer wanted to check all our suitcases (3 large ones and 2 small ones), only because she suspected Indian spices apparently. In spite of telling her that we traveled from Singapore and not from India, her comment was that you get all the Indian spices at Singapore - fair enough I guess! After searching all those boxes and spending 15 minutes finding nothing, she took a packet of almonds and said she would have to get rid of it since it was not roasted. I have never heard of anybody throwing away dried almonds, anyway since I did not have the energy to argue I let her take it. I did not see her disposing it in the bin, so don't know what happened of it ;-)

Seeing hubby after 3 weeks was heavenly and so was breathing the Adelaide air. It was a nice and warm day. Home was sweeter than ever and seeing it unexpectedly clean refreshed me all over again. Meeting friends was another thing that kept my spirits high. Friday night catching the latest Bourne and the 20-20 match at the Jain's residence almost felt like I had never left this place!

Dad is recovering from the so called "major major" surgery. He is enjoying his short walks during the day in our humble neighborhood. Both mom and dad are enjoying all the programs in Sun TV and K TV (the only 2 Tamil channels available here), even though they could watch all they wanted in Chennai, they never really watched much of TV there. I am sure all the Comedy DVDs would come in handy now :-)