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A Year in Provence

Around this time last year, I was at a desolate train station, with two aunts, one mom, and about 8 bags. For the second time in months, I was moving cities. I didn’t know what to expect in the ‘Provinces’– I was glad to have a relevant job– and excited to work again, after a year in school.

My year has been… quiet. There have been highs, there have been lows, but most of the year passed on an even keel. I met some old friends, made new ones. Picked up some skills, and lost a few too.

Read a bit more than usual. Bought A LOT MORE. Listened to newer music, but held on to loved tracks. Kept a house. Bought groceries, killed one plant, tried not to kill 12 others. One still hangs in the balance. Chased a mouse out. Realised I do get scared with rodents and shriek like a banshee.

I feel like it has been a year of being grown up. A year of adulting. Paying rent, keeping up with the bills. Of finding peace and balance. Of enjoying my job, and wondering what the future holds.

A year of being away from the fam-jam. A year of relentless trans-continental phonecalls.  A year of digging deeper. A year of discovering histories, narratives, tangents.

A year of Jaipur.

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Remembrance

There aren’t any grand tombs or commemorative chattris in my grandma’s honour. We don’t even have a picture on the wall. We may not say much, but thoughts wander. We do have memories, and prayers to make, and there is a steaming bowl of Maggi, to be fondly eaten, thinking of Aaji.

When you live alone, the toughest thing to do is to wake up. Not on time, just to wake up. There is no one to greet, no one to make coffee for, no one to judge as you lie in bed, reading, scrolling through Instagram, or watching Seinfeld on your phone.

There are things to do: thyroxine, coffee, brekkie, lunch, getting ready and making it to work on time. There is the freedom to follow your own routine, to find yourself, to meditate, exercise (haha!), and to not be in any one’s way. But the quiet is a blanket, a heavy, difficult blanket when there isn’t anyone to yank it off you.

The loneliest time is not when you tuck yourself in, it is waking up to an empty home.

An Ode to Ice Cream

Oh, the joy of cruising around a sleepy city in a big car to get ice cream. Late in the evening, surrounded by cheerful, sugar-high faces, the cold tender coconut working its magic. Things are good now. It’s okay to giggle. There’s scope to shrug the day (or week) off your shoulders, and lose yourself in ice-cream.

Ice-cream only demands focussed attention, a complete devotion. The heat of the city keeps it fragile, evanescent,  and you must concentrate on the waffle cone in your hands. You must slurp, lick, bite yourself into a brain-freeze. An ice-cream is occasionally a frenzy, sometimes it is meditative, but most of all, it is fun.

It adds a new page in my diary– dairy to diary, if you will! It is delighted reactions to a old new Merc, wry amusement over unlikely / unexpected acts of generosity, but most of all, it is a welcome cool evening in the Provinces.

Spirited Away

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…

I don’t know if Anu Atya had ever read any Dylan Thomas but go gently she did not. A firebrand, she was free-spirited, fiercely independent, curious, and had terrible hair colour choices. She laughed as freely as she sang. Argued with passion, but listened, really listened. She made choices that worked for her, she lived on her own terms, with dignity, and a twinkle in her eye.

She died quietly. Far away from those who loved her, typical of Anu Atya, to keep even the end solitary. Loneliness and being alone are two different things, and neither makes you weak nor vulnerable. The body gives way, but the spirit, that spirit lives on. There were no goodbyes, no prayers, no rituals. There was only a short phone call, conflicted feelings, and unanswered questions. And profound grief.

 

Pumpkin Patch

Punks is well taken care of. She’s unwell, but Munna Doctor is only a phone call away, and DM is a stellar caregiver. There will be yummy (but healthy) food– khichadi, soups, something soothing, always very nice, every few hours. She’s reasonably well-entertained, although I hope my aunt has turned the wifi off.

I can see her propped up in her little white bed, rolling her eyes at my sentimentality. At work, a thousand odd kilometres away, I can’t concentrate. It’s only a low-grade fever, and she’ll be fine, but I worry. There is a lump in my throat, I’m a heartbeat away from tears, and utterly helpless. Not that I’d be much help, even if I were next to her. I’d read a story out, stroke her head, and hope there is more where that yummy khichadi came from. For now, I’m only worried.

Get well soon, Pumpkin, because when you’re ill, this Punkin is too!

Ageing

I had forgotten to drape a saree. To wear it effortlessly, elegantly. I remember wearing it with more ease, with the confidence of a young woman, on whom most things look reasonably good.

I’m older now. My face has changed, so have my eyebrows (ARGH). There are laugh-lines and grey hair. Doesn’t help that I’m turning 32 in exactly 11 days. I thought ageing was only about vanity, but looking at old photographs, I understand why people endure immeasurable pain and spend so much money to recapture youth.

I was 6 when my mom turned 32. So much more grown up then I am at 32, and definitely more graceful, much lovelier.