SONG OF THE MOUNTAINS – My Pilgrimage to Maa Ganga
Shakuntala Rajagopal, MD
If you like to read about adventure…
If you want to be inspired to move beyond heartbreak, read on…
Unable to contain the grief from the loss of her husband of forty years, Raj—her soul- mate and best friend, the author ‘Shaku’ (to her friends) decided to go on a pilgrimage to the holy river Ganga carrying the ashes of Raj. As she points out, “New beginnings need empowerment from within. I decided to seek help from above to attain this. I felt a pilgrimage to The Holy River Ganges—Maa Ganga—would be a chance for a rebirth, and a new beginning.”
“In her second book, Shaku takes us on an unforgettable journey, albeit a perilous one at that, to the ‘Char Dham’ (the four sacred sites revered by Hindus) nestled in the majestic Himalayas. As we travel along with her, we get to see the many splendors of nature like glowing glaciers and alpine meadows, listen to the songs of the mountains, worship at the holiest of Hindu shrines and get the blessings of the Gods. I have never felt so close to heaven in my life.” M. P.Ravindra Nathan, MD, FACCEditor in Chief, AAPI Journal
Packed with emotion, Shaku allows you to experience with her the range of sensation and emotion as she travels through the Char Dham, from the blissful sensation of dipping in the cold rushing waters of the Bhagirathi Ganga at Gangotri, 10,000 feet above sea level to the scorching dip in the hot springs of Alaknanda Ganga at Badrinath at 10,500 feet. Entwined within this beautiful travelogue is Shaku’s own love story, an enduring monument to the only man in her life, her husband Raj, which is at once moving and inspiring.
Find out what in the pilgrimage gives her a sense of rebirth and how she is able to finally find peace without her beloved Raj.
For as Shaku says, “As my life and psyche evolved into survival mode, the reader sharing my journey will also be changed in the way he or she approaches major changes in life. My story will definitely empower the reader to take action and go forward in their own life, whatever the circumstance they are facing.” Written in beautiful prose that reads often like poetry, this is a love story and a spiritual tome. A must read for everybody.
BUY YOUR COPY at www.shakuraj.com
“Song of the Mountains, My pilgrimage to Maa Ganga.”
By Shakuntala Rajagopal, local author and artist
Port Edwards Restaurant, 20 W. Algonquin Rd, Algonquin, 60102.
July 9th, 2015, 5 -9 PM
June 14, 2015
A cloudy summer day today. The rains in the last two days have beat up my peonies. The flowers have shed their million petals and the resulting tricolor tapestry of pink, magenta and crimson design decorate the green grass below the plants. I know the next wind will erase the design that Mother Nature created. Replacing the colorful peonies, yellow primrose, white and pink penstimmon and purple and pink columbines have raised their stalks with glorious flowers. On and on the flower show continues.
Every year when the weeding gets to me, or the rabbits eat all my petunias, I wow to stop planting any more petunias or eggplants. But summer comes and the colors in my garden make me forget the labor that goes into maintaining it.
The flip side is that the labor in my gardens keeps my body and my mind healthy. In my younger days I had many more roses because that is the only flower bush that blooms all summer long.
I will include my Vegetable garden philosophy here. Food for thought!
My Vegetable Garden Philosophy
My vegetable garden symbolizes my philosophy in life.
Life need not be ordinary.
Hard work and ordinary chores are the necessary backbone of survival.
Yet, to limit ourselves into shaggy vegetable gardens is not needed.
The ordinary activities of life, even as the naturally unruly vegetable growth
can and should be glorified
by the beauty of paths that take you to nowhere—
but into our own selves.
Need a fountain or two keep our eyes upwards to
divert us from any tired and dead plants at end of autumn.
Need some rising colors of sunflowers and zinnias
to contrast with the browns of the aging spinach or the graying cucumber vines.
All this we need to help uplift the rising spirit of our souls
even as our aging bodies claim rest from our labors.
The beauty created by me in my vegetable garden
echos the beauty that I create in my life.
Amongst the mundane in our lives and amongst pain we cannot avoid,
we still cherish the smiling face of a sunflower or of a special smiling boy,
Enjoy a bear hug from a girl child
like hugs of a morning glory vine around a wooden post.
Cascading marigolds suggest the loud laughter of a tickled child
Red tomatoes on vines warm me the same as chubby red baby cheeks
Purple eggplants bring royalty to my stone throne
the beauty of life reflected, elevate me out of painful chores
Albeit, the chores are the backbone of survival
And oh so necessary for living!
Me as a Memoirist.
I am fortunate in that I often dream of people from my past. I dream of the life I shared with them, and I dream I am doing the things I wish I had done with them.
In my last dream Daddy was here in Chicago, walking with me and my grandson in Millennium Park. In my dream we laughed and talked, and he and his long white beard were the same as when I left him and India 48 years ago. I could only see wisps of my own hair, and my 12 year old grandson was vivid in the picture, skipping along beside me, talking to Sivaraam Appoo, that is what he would have called his great grandfather, my dad, if he was here now.
My Dad has been gone for forty years. My dream evoked memories of the time he and I walked the Botanical Gardens and Zoo in Trivandrum, South India, where I lived until I was twenty three. I close my eyes, and I can hear his rich, vibrant voice telling me I could be, and could do anything I wished in life, if I believed in myself. More so, he instilled in me the belief that the divine power of God is within each of us.
This dream not only triggered memories of Dad, but made me look up other stories from my past I had already written.
I plan to share them, soon.
June 3rd, 2015
A week ago I had the good fortune to spend some time with my classmate from Kindergarten and High School, Ambika Sukumaran. She was an actress, a renowned movie star in Malayalam movies, (Malayalam is Mother tongue). Ambika acted in many award winning movies and was heroine to some famous actors in the sixties and seventies.
We reminisced of our time at the Holy Angels’ Convent High School and laughed at how naïve we were when we came to the U.S.A. We talked about all the years in between when we did not see each other for forty two years, yet we were comfortable sharing stories of our life, of our children and best of all about our grandchildren. We promised to do this again, soon.
I have been told not to be stuck in the past.For the memoirist that I am the past stories did not get me stuck in any place, rather gave me one more stepping stone to write about a few more characters from my past.
A double bonus from a rekindled friendship.
sandals thrown , lost in the sand
echoes of my ammoomma’s voice
leave your sandals in the car, lost in the wind
too late too late, they are
gone in the sand
dry and cold from the snow
boots dig deep
heavy steps dragging dragging
chills my bones and bogs me down
tries to stomp my spirit
pick up your feet, go on go on
life’s to be lived, and love’s awaiting
I call on the summer breeze
come blow, and blow
and fan the fire within me
warm up my soul, my body and mind
million miles from summer
million miles from sands
is it too far for the summer breeze to flow?
will it blow, will I grow?
I know I will, ‘cause
the summer breeze lies within
Night-blooming Cereus, May 22, 2015
Tonight around 9:00 P.M. two blooms appeared on my Night blooming Cereus. Perfect white petals arranged in three layers started opening about 8:00 P.M., and the bold –faced flowers, eight inches in diameter swung gracefully from ten inch long stalks which arose from the very edge of one leaf each. They look like they would drop to the floor any minute. However, each flower stayed attached while spreading an unique fragrance which filled the room.
This took me back to when I was ten years old, when the Cereus in my home in Trivandrum, India bloomed, maybe two or three times a year. There, in the subtropics it bloomed at around 11:00 P.M. All the children stayed up late to see the rare sight. In my home here, the farther North I am, and with the daylight saving time changes, the opening time of these flowers also vary. On the occasions they open in the fall, it happens later, like at 10:00 P.M. onwards.
Just as we who moved North adjusted to the movements of the Sun, the Cereus, or (the “Night-blooming Lily” as we used to call it,) also varied its habits of blooming.
Tomorrow the flowers will dangle listless and damp-looking, all the wild white energy spent. The fragrance will linger for another twenty-four hours. That is it. Until more buds appear next month or next spring, whenever that happens.
May 22nd, 2015
A Writer writes.
As an Author, I need to write my story.
Every one of us has our own unique story to tell the world.
I feel it is important to tell the young members of my family growing up here, the experiences of a first generation Indian from Thiruananthapuram, Kerala, India, who settled here in the sixties.
Where Raj and I came from, our given name is usually our ‘surname’ or ‘last name’ and is often used as the official name in business and documents.
So, when our progeny looks up ancestory.com, the search will end with the first person who came here. Unless the entire family sticks to a common last name, or follows the family name, no previous history will be found.
Hence, it is necessary that we put down in words all about where and who we came from.
It is important that they know not only of the growing pains of young immigrants in this land where the language, the food, the clothes and the customs are different, but also of the joy and the spirit of comradery among us newcomers that enabled us to get accustomed to the place we made our home.
Above all, they need to know why it is important to remember people who helped us survive the tough winters and show them why we need to pay forward to those who come after us.
I personally have this need to tell them how our Indian element became an integral part of the melting pot that is the United States of America.
I have been telling my story to anyone who wishes to listen, and am determined to put together my next book of how I was: Transplanted from 100°F in the shade to 10°F in the sun, in a twenty four hour period. I will also tell how our love for each other kept me and my husband Raj going, despite all odds.
At last I have the books in my hand. “Song of the Mountains, My Pilgrimage to Maa Ganga“, is my second book, and will be officially released on April 15th . The Barrington Library has an Author Event Planned on April 19th, and I will be among the authors reading from our works. This is an exciting Spring for me with a new book coming out.
I will be reading from the book at the Author Event listed below at the Barrington Area Library.
I hope you can all come to the Barrington Library Author Event on April 18 th, 2.00 P.M. to 4.00 P.M.”
Event Type: Adult Program Date: 4/18/2015 Time: 2:00 – 4:00 PM. Barrington is full of amazing authors and storytellers: meet them at our first annual Local Author Fair! Readings, panel discussions, book signings, and keynote speaker Sonali Dev, whose debut novel, “A Bollywood Affair,” has won honors from NPR, ALA, and more! You’ll meet and hear from poets, illustrators, and memoirists, researchers of Barrington history, and creative fiction writers both historical and futuristic. It’s the perfect afternoon for every book lover! Books available for purchase and signing (hint: signed books make wonderful gifts!). Refreshments.
Address: 505 n. northwest highway, Barrington, il 60010 Meeting Room . For more information, contact: Ashley Johnson 847-382-1300 x 3030.
March 19th 2015, last day of Winter.….according to the calender.
I woke to a beautiful, early spring morning today. The air is still chilly, but last week’s warm spell has melted all the snow in Chicagoland. Tulips and daffodils are already peeking out from the still cold ground.
Just five weeks ago when I returned from Thiruananthapuram, my hometown in South India, after a short three week visit, I felt like a hot iron rod dropped into icy waters. It was 89°F when I left India and -12°F in Chicagoland. And, ten inches of snow on the ground. Even a short three week visit in the tropical sunshine had changed the way all my senses reacted to the cold. One would think that after fifty-one years of surviving Chicago winters I would get used to it. Still, a drop of one hundred degrees did shock my body.
It is a miracle that human endurance allows us to survive such extremes. But it is an even greater blessing when we thrive and grow wherever we land in life.
It is good to know that spring will follow each winter. Let us get out and welcome spring.