To be or not to be

To be or not to be- that is the question
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them.

This is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the “Nunnery Scene” of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. In the speech, the despondent Prince Hamlet contemplates death and suicide while waiting for Ophelia, the love of his life.

To be or not to be – was a question of death and suicide. As I see people in their late 60’s or early 70’s, I draw a parallel to this quote from Shakespeare who wrote his in 1600. Now the question is not suicide or death, but to live or die.

There are only two paths or perspectives people see life in, as they get to their 70’s – Live to Die or Die to Live. And this perspective defines the quality of life they lead, the relationships they have, their every waking moment.

I have seen people who are predicting or constantly tapping at an astrologer’s door trying to find out when they would die. From their standpoint its preparation for the end. Maybe at their age, then need to know. I don’t know if I will want to know. Anyways, so they are told a date or month and year of the end. Then what? The group of people who ‘live to die’ magnify each miniscule physical ailment as a door to death. They don’t particularly do anything significant during the day. They are just killing time, waiting almost impatiently. They wake up each morning, eat three meals a day, take their medicines, sleep, talk to a few people over the course of the day and go to bed at night. They are happy watching the sloppy serials on television and carrying the thoughts and feelings of those serial artists to bed. They choke their life to death.

The other category of people ‘Die to live’. They know, like the first category, that they have spent a major portion of their life. But they are fearless about the end. They accept the fact that there is an end, however, they are not looking forward to that. They are also eager to know when the end will come, but they live each day. They too wake up, eat their meals, take their medicines on time. The difference is, this group of people, travel, in whatever financial and physical means they can, meet people, read, enjoy their grandchildren, be a part of their life and growing up. They are excited about new things. They want to learn, explore the possibilities in each day.

It all about perspective; and which perspective one takes depends largely on the journey a person has had till that stage in life and the situations that he or she is in. However, the core of it should lie in a person’s inner belief.  

All this rolls back to how one is created. The growth from a cell to human form. The pain of delivering a baby. Learning everything, yes, “everything”. Going through human emotions, building and nurturing relationships. Making babies. Shaping them into individuals. Hell! There is a lot one goes through from that tiny cell. Life is precious. We don’t become what we become on our own. Its a whole big network of people who shape our lives, play a part in building us cell by cell. Its a magnanimous process, as vast and widespread as the internet itself. So then why waste the precious moments we are blessed with. When we think of it this way, it gives a broader and deeper meaning to life, itself! 

Nuts and bolts

I found this box in my mother’s bag. My mother passed a year ago and while goinggoing through her bag found this box which was once packaged with nuts served on domestic indigo flights. On one of my travels many years ago, probably from trivandrum to bangalore, I had bought this box of nuts for my parents. 

It’s contents span a lifetime and attributed to people she holds dear to her heart. 

There is a passport size phot of my brother in Bishop Cottons uniform. The struggle she went through to get him an admission at bishop cottons is something best forgotten. She paid a donation of 5000 rupees way back in 1989, at her own intuition and will so that my brother would get the best education possible.

The passport photo of me was taken for my engineering college admission, in 1995. Getting me into MIT, Manipal was a big step for her. Payment seat with a fees of 40,000 rupees per year. I can only imagine the jitters she must have had thinking of this colossal amount she had to make every year along with my brothers bishop cottons fees. I got the last computer science payment seat that year. Was she worried about sending me away from her nest, I don’t know, I was engrossed in getting that last seat. 

The picture of her and a boy, is before her marriage. She had come to bangalore to help her sister take care of her son, my cousin, Manoj. He remained her first child always. This was probably 1972..

The next picture is of her, Manoj and his younger brother Babu.. she learnt her first lessons of motherhood from them. They were very dear to her. 

The dice is something I got for her when she came to visit my family in the US, and we went to Las Vegas. Oh! How much fun she had at the slot machines.  By then my elder son was born and this memento says “Grandma’s casino, Las Vegas”.

The kushtex fabrics book is her phone and address book, her link to the world. This was a complimentary gift from a company whose fabrics my uncle and aunt sold in wholesale at Bangalore.

Then her bank card, hospital cards and some papers.  She has carried these with her for innumerable years, adding to the collection over the years. These little things mattered to her. Today she carries them in her heart, overseeing each one of us, visiting us, assuring us that she is here, somewhere around us.
Lots of love, to the woman, because of whom, I am, who I am..

Going home…

The last time this big Bird took me home, the cold body of my mother lay in an ice box, waiting for my brother and me. Her soul gone. The warmth of her embrace now cold from the ice. Her smile faded, forever. I was dreading the journey. I didn’t know myself for the moment and the hours afterward I see her. It was the worst day of my life.
It has been a year. During this one year she visited me a few times. I felt her presence as my husband, children and I reunited after my son’s week long summer camp. I felt her smiling beside me as I plucked the first vegetable from my garden. I felt her each time I cooked her recipe. I felt her as I sewed my first handbag. I have felt her, more powerful than ever.
This time I am going to help free her soul, so they say. It maybe a ritual, but maybe it will bring closure to the mourning. I don’t know, once again, how I will feel. But, maybe it will help me get over the grieving and celebrate her life. I will continue to feel her presence, I know, till my last breath. She will be there with me, holding my hand when I am weak, rejoicing with me at my successes, watching over me and keeping me blessed.
I dread going home, for the first time. It’s the first time, that I will be going home without my mother. It’s not that thought that I am dreading. When I open her cupboard, will I catch her smell? Will it feel like she is there, yet not there? I don’t know. Another uncertain period of life, where I don’t know myself.
I miss you Ma, today and everyday for the years to come. I wish I could hug you, just once more.