April 20,2019 I am not one who makes excuses for not doing things on “my to do list.” But, I do have a very good excuse for interrupting my efforts at weekly blog posts. My youngest daughter has brought home a newborn baby boy.
She is staying with me for her three months of vacation time with this small baby boy. I am over the moon with the closeness I am building with this person, who, as small as he seems, is quite a big man in the effects he has on me and the rest of our family. First of all he makes my whole being happy. Just being himself effortlessly makes every member of our family happy. In the two months of his life, each of his achievements amazes us. This baby brings back those emotions from years ago. It was the same feeling when I held my little ones many years ago, and, later when I held my two older grandsons when they were babies. So it doubles my feelings of happiness when I hold this two month old.
The happiness quotient expands my heart and when it can’t get any larger, I just let it overflow on to the rest of my loved ones, each time. How such a small being can give such expansive thoughts in me: I don’t understand. So intense, I stop breathing for a few minutes. But it is a breathlessness that does not deplete any oxygen. It only adds more energy. Inexplicable!!!
This was the theme we taught at a summer camp to our grandchildren a few years ago.
Every day, I feel this is true in my life. Right now I am grateful for a visit I made to my sister Shanthi. I had not seen her in two years. From the time in December 2018 I told her over the phone that I had tickets to go visit her in India and the time I got there last month, her voice was stronger, her resistance to doctor visits and updating her meds had decreased and there was a big smile on her face. She had not cooperated with her daughter about checkups with her doctors in the past several months.
My youngest daughter who accompanied me on this visit boosted the efforts of her cousin to take Shanthi to all the specialists she needed to see, and to update her meds. I know between the two cousins they pushed Shanthi to get the care she needed.
Shanthi was almost herself, making home-made banana chips and raw-jackfruit chips and breadfruit chips. Not just for us to taste but also bring a few bags back for her nieces and nephews here in the U.S.A.
I am very grateful I was able to be there, although the visit was a short three weeks, and that all of us benefited from her energy.
On this trip halfway around the world, covering 10,000 miles one way which takes 23 hours, and the flight hours of 17 to 18 hours; I am grateful to the Gods for keeping us safe and all the Airlines and staff for their knowledge, commitment and efficiency.
I am also grateful for my sisters, cousins, sisters-in-law, and their families including nephews, nieces, and even grandchildren who shower unconditional love to me as I drop in once a year or once in two years, and then disappear into the skies.
The process of getting your book in print is not a very smooth one. Many things I thought were clear got obscured in the final process. Just for example, the font, size and color of the caption for the front of the book had to be looked at, and the photos rescanned and their dpi quality had to be changed, when possible. But I am in the end-stretch of the road and soon I will have a release date for my memoir.
TRANSPLANTED FROM 110 DEGREES IN THE SHADE TO 10 DEGREES BELOW ZERO IN THE SUN
Christmas this year was special with celebrating my newly-wed grandson and his wife, two high school graduates in the family, a four-month old little princess among us, (my nephew and his wife gave us that one), and the announcement of a new baby coming in the family in June, from my niece.
While all these new memories are being made, we cherished our memories from the past, and the people who have left us after leaving indelible imprints in our hearts and minds. Just talking to each other about those dear ones give us a special strength to carry on what we need to do today and in the days to come.
Happy New year and tons of love to all. Swamee Rakshikkané “God, keep us safe” (This is a blessing and a prayer of surrender into God’s hands for safekeeping.)
I disappeared from these pages because I had to immerse myself in the book production site for my upcoming memoir “Transplanted from 100 Degrees in the Shade to 10 Degrees Below Zero in the Sun”:
Now that my manuscript has been submitted to the publisher, I can get back to sharing my thoughts and feelings.
When you write a memoir, you start with a conception it is all about you. But as you start writing, you realize it is about the places you lived, your loved ones, the classmates, the colleagues and the mentors in your life. Above all it is about what your relationships and life experiences helped to mold the person you are now.
I understand now that ones who clung on to the past were stuck in the rut and remained unhappy despite their blessings. The people who used past experiences to learn from them and used them as stepping stones to leave them behind and go forward in their lives stayed happy and content.
In the book “Anam Cara, A book of Celtic Wisdom”, John O’Donohue says that some people are born happy. To see a silver lining when dark clouds loom is a special gift some are born with. Yet, we can all cultivate happiness. That is what I learned while writing this memoir.
Seventy-one years ago my sister Shanthi and I alongside our cousins, were allowed to stay up until midnight to hear the celebration on the radio of The Birth of a New Nation, an Independent India.
The National Anthem blasted over the radio at Midnight. I sang along, as best as I could at seven years old. I don’t think I knew all the words. But I remember my little heart pounding with pride as my father cheered on.
The next day we watched the Independence Day Parade at the Pangode Military Base, not too far from town. We were handed little Tricolor flags of a free India to wave as the Parade passed by the viewing stands.
In the year previous to this event, Mahatma Gandhi had tried his level best to avoid splitting “India” into the two countries of India and Pakistan. In support of Mahatma, my father, photographer Sivaraam, who was an ardent Gandhian follower, posted these tableaux in the local paper as an illustration to keep the two countries together. With the relief of an United India-Pakistan in the background, I donned a Nehru-cap and touted the Indian flag, while Shanthi had the Muslim salwar-kameez outfit and the flag of Pakistan. The accompanying article pleaded with our leaders not to split the two countries.
While both attained freedom from the British rule, history has shown the united nation was not meant to be.
Freedom fight, 1946-1947
On the relief of an United India-Pakistan country, Shaku wearing a Nehru-cap holding an Indian flag, and Shanthi with the Muslim Salwar-Kameez outfit holding a Pakistani flag. This was the local town’s appeal to avoid splitting the two Nations. It did not come to fruition.
What I love about a hot summer day is that I have an excuse to slow down, watch the sun move across the sky and daydream about all the things I still wish to do in my life on earth.
One of my favorite pastimes is perusing the thousands of photographs I have. Some photographs bring to mind key events in life from long long ago. Like hot afternoons on the beach with my Dad, Mom, sisters and brother. Walking barefoot in the sand with my ammoomma and my sister Shanthi for miles at a time. The warm feelings they evoke give me joy in the lazy and hazy days of summer.
My photos with my ammoomma make me thankful for her influence on me to stay level-headed in times of chaos and crisis.
Although tinged with sadness in missing them, I sigh with gratitude for all I gained from them. With a new assurance that I have their blessings to continue my work on this planet, I spring up from my chair and start fulfilling my dreams.
And I am rewarded by the fruits of my labor for this moment in time in my present life.
There goes the lazy days of summer……..Not lazy or hazy anymore. Yet, very gratifying.
There is a parasite called jiggers in Uganda that enter the skin and causes infestation affecting the feet of children and many adults that render them unable to walk, causes anemia, disability and even causes them to be social outcasts.
The Sole Hope organization helps to provide uppers for shoes made of cut up jeans and plastic inserts. These are made by people in the US at “sole cutting “ parties then sent to Uganda. The workers make the shoes there. The patients are treated by removal of the jiggers under the skin and then wear the shoes for ongoing protection.
My niece Shanti is dedicated to this cause, and last weekend eleven of us had a sole-cutting party.
In one afternoon we made forty pairs of cutouts to send to Uganda. We also have to provide $10.00 per shoe pair to complete the mission. It was also a very neat bonding experience for us,working for such a worthwhile cause.
The colors in my fall garden surprise me each year. Brilliant reds of my roses, the four different hues of just that one color, red all amaze me. The way I plant them, I have the million petite blooms of Sweet alyssum at the baseand the red color pops up. But then the pink and purple snapdragons appear in unplanned spots and add vibrant contrast to the whit alyssums and the roses. I turn around and my orange-yellow marigolds and the pure orange zinnias boldly wave to tell me they are there too. None of these can be ignored. And, add to all this, my red hibiscus in the pot, the violet and pink clematis and the long stalks of the purple sage; and that will complete the picture in my front yard garden.
Oh, then there is my arch of climbing Autumn Clematis that forms a breathtaking backdrop to my lady in the garden. This statue is Anne, and she has her hands on two children climbing up on to her legs. Raj and I got that statue in 1972, when we moved into our first home in this country. In 1973 I had sweet white alyssums planted in front of her. Those days I had dozens of roses on both sides of her. I have a picture from that fall garden too. Memories……
I did not plant, feed, water, talk and sing to them to ignore them in all their glory. I do wish to enjoy, savor and dream upon them.
It is true they will all be gone in a few days. The only truth we know for sure in life is death. I know the colors of the different seasons add to the variety of life. Yet, fall brings a feeling of tightness in my chest that lingers just beneath the joy that the glorious colors of my garden give to me. I don’t really know why. Just like death and goodbyes I have learned to accept, manage, and live beyond the loss of my fall garden which is imminent and is under the mercy of that first frost, and the ones after that…..
A poem I wrote a long time ago still reflects my thoughts of this season.
Melancholy of Fall
Melancholy of fall weighs heavily in my heart
the beauty of auburn Maple, yellow golden Ash leaves
and rose hips turning red and brown
signal goodbye to blue herons, robins and the geese
falling leaves wave farewell to summer
and force me to remember of times I had to
bid somber farewell to loved ones in far away places
and those long gone with the setting suns
sunbeams push weakly through fog hovering over still waters
even fat frogs croak sleepy and slow
lazy golden sunsets change to orange autumn specters
and a pallor fills my eyes with sadness unexplained
when winter winds bring chilly nights
frigid and still though they may seem, they seethe
with the energy of sleeping dreams readying
to unfold the hopes of Spring not far behind
but, it is the slow of fall I really dread
as I face long swarthy, submissive evenings
and the restrained sorrow that fills my heart
owed to nagging pains of remembered goodbyes
Local Author to Exhibit at Autumn’s Living Library
Raising Scholarships for Girls on the Run of Northern Illinois
Crystal Lake, Ill, Sept 5, 2017 – Avallon’s Voice Inc. invites the community to Autumn’s Living Library, (ALL) October 5th where readers and writers come together to raise scholarship money for the Northern Illinois Chapter of Girls on the Run. The event will be held at McHenry County College, Building A (Atrium), 8900 NW Hwy, Crystal Lake, IL from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Authors will be available to answer questions, sign books, and will have their latest works on display.
Join local author Shakuntala Rajagopal as she brings her book “Song of the Mountains: My Pilgrimage to Maa Ganga!” This memoir chronicles my healing journey to the origins of the great and holy river Ganges, when I lost my dear husband Raj of forty three years. The journey took me to four historic temples in the Himalayan ranges.
I won the CIPA and The MILL CITY PRESS Author Award, 2017.
The second book I will bring to the fair is my novel “Radha”, a story of two medical students, Radha a Hindu girl and Danny a Christian, and their saga over twenty-five years. ___________________________________________________
One guest from an earlier, March 2nd event stated, “the vibe in the room was so welcoming, I didn’t want to leave!” That gathering raised $380.00 for girls who otherwise wouldn’t have the finances to participate with GOTR. “It was a fun way to share my newest release and to encourage the important work of building up young women in our community,” said Elizabeth Harmon, an exhibiting author and partner in both events.
This year, GOTR of Northern Illinois is celebrating 10-years of building confidence in young girls through running, while preparing them for friendships and the future. Kerstin Schaefer, Marketing Assistant for Avallon’s Voice states, “I’m glad that we are bringing people together and happy to be a part of helping girls to learn of the potential for great relationships.”
About: Girls on the Run NW Illinois
Girls on the Run® is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. Offices are located at 111 Erik St, Suite 115, Crystal Lake, IL. More information is available at: https://www.gotrnwil.org/Our-Programs
About: Avallon’s Voice, Inc.
Avallon’s Voice, Inc. is in Crystal Lake, Ill and exists for the purpose of helping people and companies find their own unique “voice”, then share it. Rocks represent hard parts of the past, by dropping the rocks, we are freed to share our gifts, build beneficial relationships, and prosper. The company is founded by Kimberley Schumacher, Author and Communication Specialist, and is located in Crystal Lake, IL. More information is available at: http://www.avallonsvoice.com/.
I was startled awake from a deep sleep by the hustle and bustle of unusual activity, doors opening and closing, and many footsteps back and forth outside my Ammoomma’s, grandmother’s room, where I slept alongside my three year old sister, Shanthi. Footsteps hurried across the floor. Listening closely I heard more footsteps that paced back and forth outside my bedroom.
The clock said 2, O’clock. I was glad that somebody remembered to leave the blue night light ‘on.’
Suddenly a new sound pierced the night. A wailing sound of a baby crying. I got up and walked out of the bedroom and straight into the arms of my maternal aunt, Ammachi. She explained what I heard was a baby’s first announcement of its arrival, a demanding cry which was a craving for attention. The craving was quite evident-(a craving I have come to believe ends only with our last breaths) – and I knew we had a baby in the house. I ran towards the room where the sound came from. I could not wait any longer to be called. (An obedient child never interrupted adults unless expressly summoned!) Thank God everyone was too busy; too happy to be strict at that point. I barely heard my Ammachi’s voice, something about a new sister. And then I saw her- a squiggly baby, shining wet after her first bath, still screaming, and oh so small.
So, this was my new baby sister. I pushed forward to see her face. I was sure she looked straight at me. My five year old heart swelled with love for her instantly.
The adults were still bustling around preparing an official welcome for the new addition to the family. As was our custom in South India, the oldest member of the family present, my Ammoomma, was going to feed the little one three sips of honey and gold. I saw Ammachi rub a piece of gold, my mother’s wedding ring, into a few drops of honey placed in a little white marble boat. I recognized it as the marble mortar in which our medicine pills were ground up to feed us medicines. The sweetest food of all, honey, and the most precious metal of all, gold; a mixture that is a symbolic offering of the best in life to new and smallest member of our family, by the senior-most family member, Ammoomma.
But- not this time. I was vehement; she was “my” sister. I wanted to officially welcome her, and boy I wasn’t going to settle for a nay answer, and, I must have won my point. Because this time they waived tradition. Soon I had the squirming little sister in my lap. My small hands needed help to keep her there. I held the bundle of joy while grandma had to lean down to feed her the gold and honey. Everybody smiled. Dad shook his head in disbelief. My Ammoomma was not one to give in to anyone. But she did for me, her special kochu-mol, grand-daughter.
The sweet stuff must have made an impression on the little one- for she soon settled quietly in her big sister’s arms as I sighed in relief and sat back basking in the sunshine of all the attention I was sharing with my own baby sister.
That was the very special place, where my two sisters and I grew up with my parents, and my Ammachi, my maternal aunt, when I was five years old.
Seventy one years later, I really believe that the sense of belonging, the sense of unconditional love and the sense of ultimate trust in placing a live human being in my hands—-all these add up to what I became when I grew up from my five year old self.