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The Music of Remembrance

The Mother under my feet wherever I may walk.  She is first – she supports me and holds me and feeds me.   What other path is possible but only to open my hands and my heart and to pour back the blessings upon her in whatever way I can.

For she is my Mother.

The ground that I walk may be strewn with the garbage of her people – those who do not yet see, who have forgotten they spit into the face of their Mother as they cover her breast with the ugliness of their life’s discards.

Is there a blame? No just a sleeping, a forgetting – so what of my job?

It is first to awaken myself and then to share the beauty and the pain of that awakening with my brothers and sisters who walk beside me on this stupendously magnificent Earth.

We the caretakers, forgot our purpose, the caretakers became misled, we lost our pathway and walked a highway of greed and self centred madness.

Play the music of remembrance today, sing the song of awakening, bring the instruments of delight out of their locked and velvet lined cases to stream the song of remembrance to those who sleep on into their nightmare of the loss of their Mother.

She will prevail
She will not fail
but her children, her caretakers?

It is time past time to awaken,
for our lives, for the love of our Beloved
Our Mother
Our Earth.

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Street Cows

In Search of Dinner

A walk down the road in search of where I may eat tonight:

I leave my house where I am living, down the dusty staircase to collect my ‘chappals’ (sandals) at the entrance – yes they will last another day I hope – the shoe repair man did a good job but really they are on their last legs.

Shoe repair man
and out the squeaky gate. The street I live in is a dirt road, lined with double story houses, dogs in the street – one is becoming my friend, but tonight she is more interested in another dog and doesn’t say hello.

As I come to the end of the street by the hospital, more people are walking – a group of young men casting their curious eyes at me as always in this city where there are not too many foriegners and I am worth a look. That rather strange looking old westerner.. ‘what is she doing here?’
And on down the busy side road – motorbikes in dozens, auto rickshaws, and the occasional car.. oh here by the side in the rubbish dump someone has dumped something that the buffalo like.. as I came past earlier there were a herd of cows there, but they have been replaced by the big horned dark grey beasts – a whole group of them. and no this is not rural India .. this is the city of Hubli.
I walk on crossing to the side of the road where I have my back to the oncoming traffic – this is the correct side to walk on in this land – they have to avoid me on this side.. ah I am being greeted by two young men.. ‘Hello Mam’ .. I know that I know them .. but who?  ‘The resaurant is closed to tonight’.. ah the boys from the kitchen of my favourite dinner place.. good to know as I was half planning to go there.

And on up the street.

I am headed to the ‘supermarket’ a place I haven’t been before to check it out and see if there is something there I might like to buy.
There are a myriad of possibilities of places to eat on the way .. ranging from ‘Bombay Chinese Fast Food’ carts – to pop up ‘hotels’ that look pretty good serving biryani but with chicken and I am not too big on ‘non-veg’ these days.

I have avoided being run over, managed not to walk in cow dung tonight, crossed the street three times, and arrived at the ‘supermarket’.  Its a bit of a disappointment really .. certainly not your ‘Dorabjees” the fancy Western stocked place in Pune – but I buy some tomatoes for a ‘salad’ fix, some washing powder and yogurt for breakfast and escape back onto the street again. Prefer the small family grocer shops so won’t bother with that again.
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Now for the ‘wine shop’. They are getting to know me even though I have only been here twice before! They don’t even ask what I would like – but produce my preferred red .. it looks like it has aged on the shelf – totally dusty – a vintage bottle I’d say! They call them ‘wine shops’ but everything is wine here.. including the nasty little bottles of homemade hooch that makes people who drink it lie down in the middle of the street and sleep. Social drinking is not really a thing here and most of the men in the wine shop seem to be here for the serious business of getting drunk. I scurry out pretty quickly – stashing my bottle in my shopping bag.
Now for dinner.. there was a likely spot on the way near the chai shop – time to try somewhere new.
Its a simple place – hot in here.. but they turn the fan on for me after they have got over their surprise at seeing a foreigner in their shop. I order a paneer mutter masala spicy please, with butter roti – Paneer – the white cheese of India with peas and a spicy gravy – and two flat breads to go with it.. it comes and it is delicious – I chose well.  As I go and pay – all for the cost of $2.20 – the son asks me the perennial questions: ‘Where are you from? What are you doing here?  Where do you live?’ and then: ‘How was the taste?’ – ‘Very tasty’ – I reply. ‘I will be back.’ Nice family – a pretty wife preparing vegetables near the door who returns my farewell with a flash of a beautiful smile.

I leave feeling fortunate again – I am so lucky.
Now as I head along the street, a crowd is forming further down  .. and drums and some sort of trumpets are playing .. and now fireworks.. ah a wedding procession.

I go back back past the buffalo, wending my way through the traffic jam created by the  procession, past lots of people – and I realise how fortunate I am that I am not a person who lives in fear.

My essential belief is that as I move through my life with a sense of safety and friendliness that is what surrounds me.

Even as the culture of India dances around me and sets off fireworks that sound like bombs, I feel safe. I am so lucky .. if I was of another nature I would be unable to live as I do – to have the opportunity to experience the heart and soul of this land.
Thanks India, and thank you also to myself for allowing myself to be and continue to learn the ways of this land.

A Day in Mumbai

Mmm feels like coming home now – how interesting is that .. only a short time ago Mumbai felt like a big and strange and impossible to navigate, city of crazy drivers, manic horns, terrible pavements and incongrously majestic buildings stuck between the falling down heritage mansions.  This morning as the overnighter SRS Travels Non AC sleeper bus manoevered its way through the traffic, the ‘sweeper’ or bus boy yelled the stops as we neared the centre of the city.

I felt comfortable .. I knew where I was – I was prepared to get off.. it would be the right stop.  No more nervous indecision about: ‘is this the right place’.. yep Google maps helps but also I am way more familiar with this huge city now than ever before.  It almost feels like home.

After 12 hours on the night bus now for a bit of a trek across the overpass walkways that take you through the highrise slum of Bandra station area  to find my hotel.

IMG_6990-smallWhere slum dwellings are built one on top of the other to a shaky 4 and 5 story height.. and on the other side of the walkway there is a field of brilliant green of ‘palak’ a market garden of spinach in the city.
IMG_6989-smallAnd out the other side of the tracks, and down the stairs into the melee of the bus station.. oops nearly got backed into by the rubbish truck.. no beep beep of backing sound just the banging of the flat of the hand on the truck door to warn unwary wanderers behind the vehicle.

Still not certain of which direction to go.. a helpful Auto rickshaw driver points me in the right way and I negotiate rubbish, broken pavement, myiads of motor bikes, pedestrians, dogs, rickshaws and buses to wend my way up the street.  Its early but very busy.. and there a chai stall with a friendly stool to sit on.. I perch myself and sip the sweet hot milky brew out of a tiny glass.

And there just a little further on is the ‘Rat Hotel’.  No its not really called that.. its just that here is where I did the epic rat rescue so from now on in my mind its the Rat Hotel.  Actually I like it.. a bit of a hole in the wall.. the people are friendly.. they remember me.. they take care of me and outside the frenetic rush of the railway station road is a feast of sounds and sights and life intensely there.

Market stalls, vegies set out across the pavement, any number of food stalls, busyness, shoe shops, dogs, grocery shops, pan beedi shops, the lassi wallah, people everywhere of all shapes sizes and creeds, wending their way through the intense street life that is right outside my door.  A quiet hotel? .. No not really, but I have ear plugs and where in Mumbai do you find quiet with over 20 million people living in this incredible city of contrasts – chaos and life.

These days I can manage to relax into Mumbai and to begin to understand why people really like to live in this immensely incomprehensible city. A city that that will blow your mind in a moment and show you her face of generosity, of wealth, of desperate poverty – piles of garbage, street children, transvestite beggars, high rise gloss – and always in a flash of a smile and the connection of eyes, the depth of her heart.

 All this is Mumbai – a city of dreams.

Looking for a Home…

Who knew that a home was so important?  I forgot. Silly me.  No rush I kept saying – I am fine where I am.. its clean, comfortable and relatively cheap.

But I wasn’t feeling right – I was questioning a lot what am I doing here?  Is this the right place? Am I ‘over’ being in India? Is it time I was out of here for a while? All of that stuff and the answers kept coming through that what I am supposed to be doing is actually what I am doing right now.. otherwise why would I be here?  But still I was not relaxing into it.

Then last night I found it .. nestled into a corner of a courtyard – a low roofed round shouldered small house – well a room really – filled with dusty furniture, cobwebs strung from the ceiling.  In definite need of some white wash – but there it is.. it looks like home.   Big coconut palms shading its surrounding clean swept courtyard .. with pot plants!

Perfect – no.. but home .. yes.  Its a definite feeling – somewhere I can make my own even for a short time – somewhere I can make tea for friends and invite them in – somewhere I can tack pictures to the walls, throw some bright colours around and settle in.

What is home?  Actually its a feeling.  And I have it now.  Now I can relax and be with what I am doing here.  With thanks to all who conspired to discover this place –

This is not it.. but this place too has a feeling .. see what I mean? home

Wonderful kids

Leaving – a piece of my heart

On Thursday afternoon I took my leave of the children at Shikshangram.  How to go? how to separate – how to divide the space in my heart – an impossible task as each responded in a different way to my departing.

Kajal – always my friend glowered at me – she would not come near me, she was angry – she knew but didn’t want to believe that really I was not returning. And at the last moment she ran to the side of the school bus and caught my hand through the open window, holding tight and pouring all of her love and longing into the grasp.  Her hand print stays in my heart.

The boys came to the station – joking and taking selfies in the bus, Juggernaut leapt onto the bus at the last minute and sat as closely as possible to me.

The boys at the station

The night before at the farewell event, half the children came and gave me hand drawn farewell cards – some with weeping trees, and all with messages of come back and we are sad.  I had to promise to return and of course I will but now it is time to take some space and discover again who am I?

Hug from ShubhamWhat is this journey of life that continues to throw this never ending ultimate question at me?  Who am I? and where is my purpose in this winding pathway I follow?  Now it is again letting go time, time to follow where I am called and as that evolves, so to the patterns of my life will form around me again.

and now .. feeling the pain, feeling the loss, feeling the missing of the small arms that hugged me and loved me so much .. knowing that I need to feel this to allow it to heal.  That no pushing it down or away or ignoring it will make it any easier or help it release more quickly.  The pain is the growing, the pain is also the pain of the birthing of the new.

Thank you dearest children for you have given me your hearts and through that my heart has grown far larger than I ever imagined possible.  Without you I would never have found this huge part of myself that now I carry with me for ever.

Love – the love of one child is a tremendous gift – the love of 120 children an overwhelming avalanche of joy.