Friday, 26 April 2013


I am writing all these posts because I leave for the city tomorrow for over a week, back to my other life, where there is no email. My mother doesn’t even know what email is. If there is one thing I am really pleased with, it is that I have lived through the technological age of the Worldwide Web, another image from the world of Spiders. We sometimes get caught up in it, but if we know how to use it without letting it use us, we are sitting pretty.


If you are a decent parent, you stop whatever you are doing when your child calls. So, when your body screams, stop. Absolutely nothing is more important than it. Spirit, Soul, God, or at least our consciousness of it, wouldn’t exist without it.  

I had a dream a few nights ago: I am riding a mare, and she is going very slowly, and I wish she had more power and muscle to fly when I spur it, but she takes her time. I realize she is hungry, and stop at a mandi, where farmers sell their vegetables wholesale, where there are heaps of spinach and other wonderful cabbage greens, and I let her feed to her heart’s content. 

Sometimes rest is a way to feed your soul. 


I have said I have a dual life but in actuality, I have three broad lives, geographically speaking. Psychologically speaking, I have more than I can count or categorize, so I won’t even attempt a description of it. I can hardly describe my three lives in detail, but here is an attempt. I will start with the third, the interim life I live between the two long-term lives in the US and in the Kullu Valley: in my hometown, Chandigarh, though I never grew up here. It has always between a stop-gap life between lives, a necessary via. It is where my parents, and now only my mother, and an entire clan of relatives, lives. Wedged between my two solitudes, it is a social life, the place I connect to my roots and all the things that are its manifestations – food, dress, culture, language. I first feel a high upon landing from the US, and getting into the car to make the long night journey to Chandigarh. I feel the high for several days, meeting those I love, a lot of adults, and my joy, the children in the family. Since I have resolved to live each of my lives with engagement and presence, I enjoy all of it. And when weariness sets in, and the interaction becomes too much for the hermit that I am, I head up to my life in the mountains.


It has been ten years since our ‘double’ lives of India/America began. I want to describe my dual-life of US/India but when I am tired and jet lagged, it is very hard for me to focus on my delight –detail -- and feel inclined towards abstractions, a general description of the geography of my soul. I think it is a natural tendency in tired moments and in aging to move towards greater abstraction, the kind that is the source from which we are born into so much concrete specificity. It why the brain tends to forget to pay attention to the essential details in the business of  living, and I misplace things and spend hours trying to find them. I have come up with a method that works for me.

When I put something somewhere consciously (this is the hard part! Generally we do things blindly, unconsciously) I do a mental repeat, and say to myself, remember, you have put this here. And whenever I do this, I have no problem locating things. I have also taken to making, in addition to mental notes, lists of where I put essential items like keys, sim cards, etc before I leave one life for the other. In the six months away from one life, I happily forget everything about it. It is only when I return to it that the things that were of no importance whatsoever, suddenly assume an alarming relevance. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


My encounter with the cockroach reminds me about my encounter with another spider last year. I am not afraid of them, unlike a friend of mine who had to have therapy for it, which didn’t help. I even love them, for they are, like me, weavers and spinners. I have a deep respect for them.

But in our home in the Kullu valley there is a variety that gets huge. Spread out your hand and imagine your fingers extended another inch, and you have its size. They are black and when you see one, it does instill a certain fear and horror though I am told by locals that they are harmless.

Once when I walked into the bedroom there was one, sitting smack in the middle of my pillow, like a big black flower. Now, though I respect them as a metaphor, this I could not tolerate so I screamed for Payson to help. He came up from his studio grumblingly (he was in the middle of something) and threw a towel on it to catch and release it outside the window. But he must have grasped it too hard, so its yellow juice blood splattered on the side of the bed. I felt really sorry for it, as did Payson.

But then one day while Payson was away hiking, I awoke to another huge one in the room, sitting without stirring (spiders know how to do that) on the wall near the window like a lovely flower, except, of course, it was a spider, and too close and too big for comfort. I was paralyzed with fear for a long time, perhaps ten minutes, approaching it with a towel, then returning and standing still. I had drawn aside the curtains and opened the window before approaching it with a towel, but though I went to grasp it many times, I always withdrew with dread. The paralysis was caused by two conflicting thoughts and emotions (emotion precedes thought but at some time they become inseparable): One voice said, be brave, courageous, overcome your fears, go on, do it. The other voice wondered in its (what I thought was) cowardice whether it wouldn’t just go away if I ignored it, re-hide in one of the crevices in the room. But even as I so wondered I knew that this option would not produce ease and peace of mind.

As I stood there the spider stirred and aroused the old fear. What if it moves away, and what if, oh horror (and this is the fear) it moves towards me, jumps on me, latches itself to my face, my breast, my bare skin, etc, etc. But it moved away in that quick and stealthy way that they have, and I couldn’t see him, and I breathed a sigh of relief, sort of, till I saw that he had moved behind Payson’s marvelous sculpture of Buddha, all curled up at its base. I removed Buddha’s head, then the body, and tried once more to approach and remove it, when it deftly moved towards the open window and out it went.

I shut the window, amazed at the turn of events. He was a sentient creature entirely cognizant of my consciousness. There was a mind-link with it. I didn’t want to hurt it but nor did I want it to bite me. He didn’t want to harm or be killed either, simply to live and be in peace. He took refuse in the pedestal of the Buddha, as have I, many times. He read my thoughts and escaped.  

I didn’t have to be ‘brave,’ grab him and put him out, with all the consequent ego stroking at having been ‘courageous.’ All I did was have the presence of mind to open the window and the solution presented itself to both of us.