Wednesday, 31 December 2014


Yesterday, while clearing out the Library which we use as a dumping site for all the overflow of our house, Payson discovered that the rugs we had folded up and shoved into a closet were coated with moth larvae that had eaten up large chunks of the wool pile. They were so many that they had changed the design and landscape of the rugs, which now had white dashes on their designs and bald patches on them where they had consumed an entire area of pile.

It was upsetting. These wonderful, expensive, hand-knotted, woolen rugs dyed in vegetable dyes had to be thrown out. I dare not take them back into the house from where they lay scattered in the sunlight, pupating, and hatching prematurely in the sunlight and heat. Last week I had discovered my favorite black Cashmere sweater had ten large holes in it. Now I had discovered the source of the damage, and I was going to get rid of it.

Like these material, literal moths, the Moth of Time has been at work inside and outside my body, too. It leaped up and flew at my face when I brought out, at Payson’s request, a copy of my book of poems, RADHA SPEAKS, and looked at my photograph on the back cover. Here it is. It speaks for itself. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Our last morning in New York I was filled with joy at the thought of returning home. Nothing like going away, and absolutely nothing like returning. I had had a great time, and let me define what I mean by ‘great time,’ before I go on to other, related things. The brain wants to work in a meandering sort of way, like a river this morning, and I have unharnessed it and let it go its way.

Great. Ironically, I loved being warm inside in cold, cold New York. While it was 26 degrees outside, the apartment was 80 degrees inside. There was no way to turn down the temperature inside because the thermostat was set at 60. Payson informed me the warmth filtered in from the entire apartment complex. My experience of New York in terms of temperature: too cold outside, too warm, if not hot, inside. Can’t understand why energy cannot be better conserved. However, on really cold days, when the temperature inside fell, we turned on our fake electric fireplace. I have never liked them, but loved this one when I remembered how it saved me the labor of chopping wood, carrying it in, lighting and stoking the fire, the way we do in our Indian home, though there our wonderful staff does the work. 

My great vacation is as much indoors as out, as much indulging the old and comfortable, as the new and strange. I do not like to exhaust myself on my vacation by sight seeing, and the cold prevented me from doing this even if I had wanted to. So, I got to have the perfect vacation where I planned to be out only for a few hours a day, five at the most. I had lazy mornings followed by two to three hours of work (made great headway!).

When I got cabin fever I looked outside the three windows we were privileged to have – when Payson told me we wouldn’t have a view, I had prepared myself for bricked windows and was pleasantly surprised. Just proves my conviction that to under expect is better than over expect. Though the few trees on the streets were bare of leaves, there were tons of people to watch, hurrying to work with their briefcases, mothers with strollers, people walking their dogs, poor people (the bottom feeders) collecting tin cans from garbage bags, and even a black man surreptitiously trying the handles of the parked cars on the street to see if any were open. And the day it snowed . . . I felt like a child watching it for the first time.

By the way, I do not mention bottom feeders with disdain. On the contrary, I think they perform a vital function in society. I am grateful to them for recycling that which unconscious people throw away to the detriment of our planet.

The cold outdoors: my experience reminded me of the winters at Kent State University during my college days, and I loved it.  Because I knew I was only in it for brief spells, no more than a three or four block walk to the subway or bus, I enjoyed it after I figured out to button up my down jacket and unbutton it when I got on the subway or indoors. We walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – twice; to the Museum of Natural History – twice (only because a fire alarm chased us out the first time); we went to see a dance performance by Meredith Monk, a delightful play by Bread and Puppet Theatre (that Payson worked in and with for three years in his youth) called NOTHING IS NOT READY CIRCUS; ate sweet and sour pork chops (with other dishes) at China Town, drove to Riverdale with friends, had lunch with the writer Thomas Hoover and his partner, Karen Sunde (theatre personality) in the village, dinner at the Candle with friends, among other things. All in all, I would return to NY again, though not in the winter.   

Thursday, 11 December 2014


I know I wrote a post on how shopping has lost its glamor for me, and it is true, in a way it has. I used to be a shopper, and shopping was always on my agenda when I traveled. Now I feel I have altogether too much, and have everything I could possibly need. You could call it old age. Besides, I like to see space, empty space when I look inside a closet, not things piled up and spilling out. I have come to adore space. Take this tiny 600 square foot apartment. It feels big to me because our 3,500 square foot home in So Cal is full and this is empty. The dressers have nothing in them here and the closets, too. This place feels huge because I have time. Let me explain in my twisted way how space equals time. Because this apartment has only the necessary things plus two small suitcases – Payson and mine – I wake up in the morning and write for hours. It is a psychological thing. I am not tied into any schedule. I could become addicted to traveling like this.

But I was speaking of shopping. One doesn’t want to own more, and shopping always makes you accumulate things. And yet . . . isn’t shopping one of the things we were made to do? Isn’t it an expression of our engagement with the material world, the world out there? My mother at 93 is thinking of getting new curtains for the room that has become her world, though she still takes care of the entire house, and had it painted recently; she makes sure the silver and brass is polished regularly; she delights in buying annual winter flowers for her garden, and gives me a report of the stage of the pansies (they have buds on them now) and all of this keeps her plugged into life as we humans know it.

What would happen to the world if we stopped shopping? I recently visited my nephew who is captain in the Merchant Navy in a shipyard in Long Beach, LA. The paths in the shipyard were made by containers from China piled one on top of each other to New York skyscraper heights. This was the place where China comes to America, and carries back America in the form of garbage to its factories to process it again for our shopping bags.  

Shopping is sometimes a worthy goal for getting out of the house, and when Payson suggested he take me to Bloomingdales a few days ago (no doubt to make up for his Gollum remark), I was thrilled. This is a rarity, you understand, because Payson hates to shop. 

So, to Bloomingdales with Payson to find fleece-lined leggings. Streets were lit up in a wonderland way, and being outside was exciting after a day indoors, doing my favorite thing: scribbling. The underworld morphed into heaven! All those sorry faces in the subway were smiling and happy (there is no doubt, none, that what we see is a reflection of our own states of mind). Bloomingdales was a Maya Bazaar, full of all sorts of expensive, lovely things. Payson even waited patiently while I tried on my leggings. He even bought me a hat in addition to the leggings that I love.

We walked back to our apartment instead of taking a bus, shopped some more on the way back, and I came back quite in love with New York. And the few things in my shopping bag were not the only reason.


 This is the most Payson and I have traveled in a short time. A 6 days sailing trip to Catalina, and after a break of three days in which the main tasks were taking care of business and repacking, an almost two week trip to New York, just for the hell of it. I have been mulling over the difference between my packing strategies for both.

Catalina was simple: it was warm, and camping-like, though Payson and I stayed at a hotel for five nights after we landed in Catalina; there wasn’t much space on the boat and Steve and Melanie, who sailed us over, had their two twin daughters visiting over thanksgiving. The boat was 31 feet, and though they generously offered to put us up in one of the two cabins, + the couches that turned into beds, I decided I needed for privacy for my always-secret-agenda: which was to get up in the morning and write. I took two, maybe three changes, the necessary meds, and some favorite treats.

I am not going to live any differently in New York, I told myself while I was packing for New York. We have an apartment, and because of the cold, I am going to spend a great deal of time in it because my favorite holiday is that in which I can hole up and go slowly, rest, write, stretch, and when I feel like it, venture out. Other than two appointments for which I feel I need to look a little dressy, and some hanging out with friends, I wouldn’t need much.

Why then did I sweat so much over my wardrobe? New York! Embedded subliminal images of glamor that you feel you need to keep up with. I feel cold, so I had to be warm, but when I tried on my long down jacket, Payson said I looked like a Gollum. Very appropriate word, not only in the Yiddish sense, but also in the Indian. Gol in Hindi means round. I do not consider myself slim, having much too much of an Indian body; but reflux keeps me from putting on too much weight, thank heavens.

I felt bad, only because I was thinking -- New York! The Big Apple! If one is not aware – and I wasn’t – one acts out of the unconscious part of the psyche in which media images guide one’s actions. For example, whenever I shopped earlier and tried on clothing, I imagined myself in different scenarios, sparkling in it. I imagined so and so being envious of my outfit and on and on. Now, I buy for comfort, pleasing only myself, and pleasing myself well. 

So I ended up packing more than I should have.  I wanted to look good. Of course, and why not? I like to keep up, not let myself go.

But this weather makes us all look like Gollums. You have to bundle up, put on layers upon layers, and cover yourself from head to toe. Warmth is of the essence, not fashion.

A lovely snow flurry is falling as I look out of the window right now, not bundled up, but warm and cozy inside with a cup of chai. 

Monday, 8 December 2014


I don't know what I was thinking when I said to Payson, "Yes! Let's go to New York in December!" I commend my adventurousness and youthful folly, I mean it, because I was getting quite sedentary in my ways, unwilling to travel. So, since the 25th of November, we have taken two vacations: First, a sailing trip to Catalina -- more of that later -- and New York, for yet another week. Payson found us a lovely little two level apartment on the Upper East Side, tiny, as New York apartments are, but quite adequate for our purposes. I was quite thrilled to see it, actually, and thought it would be a wonderful place to hole up in for a couple of weeks. It's not that I forgot it would be cold; I hoped for snow which I haven't experienced in sunny So Cal for several years; I was even aware that it might be so cold that I wouldn't be able to do too much outdoors, though I did see myself roaming the streets in Union Square or the Village, window shopping, popping into a cafe to have soup or something hot. I even hoped in a way that it would be too cold to go out and I would stay warm and cozy indoors to accomplish a fairly important task of getting into my next project which required like a hundred hours of cleaning up of files before I could begin to think of landscaping the garden that I plan to make. So, I was wise enough to come up with all the scenarios so that I could plan my reaction to even the worst of them. The worst, when faced in advance, and planned for, can turn out to be the best. But more of this later.

But yesterday was quite hellish and I am grateful for the perspective that allowed me to see New York as the underworld. Once I had this mythic view, the hellish day became quite interesting, though tiring. Let me describe it. My first view of it as such came as we were driving back from the airport with friends -- R&S -- who came to pick us up in a limo. We have missed the beauty of fall and are in the heart of winter, the few remaining desiccated leaves hanging on to their mother trees like long withered desires, afraid to let go, and too old to hang on. The telephone and electricity wires looked like the entrails of a beast that had died and left them suspended above our heads. The high, narrow concrete walls of towering apartments buildings that block out the sky looked like the tunnels of hell.

Yesterday while Payson was away visiting with his brother, Larry (two blocks from us) -- one of the main reasons of our visit here -- I decided after several hours of doing the above cleaning up of files, to venture out onto the streets. I was quite bundled up in my long black down coat, a thick hat, scarf and gloves, wheeling a small bag to carry back groceries in, and could have passed for one of the many homeless black women (and men -- hard to tell the sex of the bundles sometimes) on the New York streets. The chilling wind was so strong it almost blew off my glasses as I stepped out of the building. Even after I adjusted them back on, my eyes watered so much I could barely see a few feet ahead of me. I thought I would escape it momentarily by ducking into a shop that displayed fleece-lined leggings  which I have been looking for. I tried to open the thick glass doors and couldn't budge them. I had to pull with both hands before I could open them enough to put a booted foot in the door. There were two of them, and by the time I opened both, I felt I had used up all my breakfast calories. The lady in the store gave me a very suspicious look, especially since I was carrying a wheely -- shoplifter come to clean us out! I didn't spend much time there before I headed out again. I won't describe the rest of the experience walking to the grocery story and shopping in New York on a Sunday when the hoards are out, of the futile search for items on my list, of the mile-long lines lined by isles with all sorts of junk that I piled into my basket because I didn't want to make the trip again. You get the idea.

I returned gratefully to the apartment battling my way through the tearing winds and made myself a cup of tea.

The day wasn't over. By no means. We were going for a dance concert to Brooklyn with our friend Arny and that meant rides in the subway. If you haven't seen the entrails of an underground beast, these are they. The tunnels of hell being ridden by people who are so unhappy at their condition that all they do while riding is play senseless games on their phones. The bright and brilliant light of the whole experience with the sound and sight of a black man in dreadlocks playing the steel drums. It was Orpheus before he found and lost Eurydice, again.

Just one more insight from Payson before I quit and return to that clearing I spoke about. Or at least, to a bath. Today I stay holed up the whole day, loving it. In New York, Payson says, people live in boxes. If you are poor and homeless, it is a literal cardboard box; if you are the working poor, in a small box, and if you are one of the richest, you live in a big box. But it is still a box.



As my parents grew older, they became rather fond of small scissors. Both of them at various times asked me to get some from the market, or the US. I wondered why. Dad was a good Sikh and I don’t believe he cut a hair in his life; my mother, too, though she is fond of plucking and preening, had no use for them in her grooming. It is only recently, after turning 66 myself, that I know why.

I have always torn packaging, even plastic ones, with my hands, impatiently ripping it open.  I have used my teeth too, though Payson has always thought me quite a jungly for doing so – his mother was a dentist.

Now things have changed. My wrists have been hurting lately and my fingers, too. I find scissors, especially small ones, very handy and have put several on my Wish List for when I return from New York and can receive mail again. I think of them as my allies.

ALLIES, ah yes, allies. Implements that make the task easier and make up for old age are allies. Good knives in the kitchen, Playtex gloves to wash dishes to keep aging hands from drying out, good grip can openers, which I also intend to order, good pruners for the garden, smaller watering cans so I don’t have to lift heavier ones, stools to sit upon as I pack or weed. Comfortable boots, clothing that is not tight, hearing aids, good glasses, good creams that moisten my hands and lips. I have discovered Shea butter, which I adore. I ordered a slab of raw Shea butter over a year or two ago, thinking I would make it into a cream. But laziness and lack of time made me finally just chip off a piece of it. It melted with my touch and I found I could use it raw by warming it in my hands and applying it to my face, too, and my hair.

I no longer use any of the expensive leather handbags I own and which I have loved, but travel with a very light rip-stop nylon backpack that has practically no weight of its own: no heavy leather, metal or clasps. It is so lightweight that I can fill it with all the things I need and it still feels like air. Convenience and comfort, kindness to my body takes precedence over appearance now. 

Appearance not withstanding, I still feel great about my self and feel I am lovelier now, inside and out, than I have ever been before.