Making the Connect!

We do not destroy something we connect with!! Isn’t it?

So I am trying to connect as many individuals to Nature, forests, green spaces, trees and animals, as possible! Together, we will mend our ways and ensure that we save them.

The children are most impressionable at their age. Just the right time to kindle in them the love for forests. I took them to the jungle in an endeavour to connect them with Nature and feel the oneness.

We collected feathers, listened to the chirping of the birds, trekked and climbed a tree. The smileys they made were to express how they felt!

After the trek, the kids were elated and far more confident than earlier. They were happy to venture on the difficult terrain. They were as happy as ‘me’!

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Meri pyaari Acchu mosi!

While I was going thru the most rough patches of my life, I sought answers to the most difficult question…”Why me?” It took me years of seeking and finally I found not one, but two answers.

  • Life is not just ~~ Buddhism tenet 
  • Few things in life do not have answers, they have to be accepted as facts!

And I think these two tenets best answer the early onset of ‘dementia’ of Archana mosi (aka Acchu mosi). She is all but 63 years and her condition has deteriorated at a very fast pace in the last two years.

Mosaji and mosi (my maternal uncle and aunt), have frequented our house since the time they shifted in the close vicinity. Mosaji’s good cheer and mosi’s heartwarming presence always made our day. During the days of COVID, the visits diminished. We could not meet for weeks together. And on one of the visits I noticed something – it was neither normal nor could it be termed abnormal. But there was something amiss; something noticeably amiss…only to an observant eye. 

After a few more weeks, there was further change in her behaviour and it was evident that she did not register details. She would talk out of context. Fear gripped her for no apparent reason. Eventually, the conversations about change in mosi’s behaviour started in hush-hush tones. Everyone was sure and none knew how to broach the topic with mosaji or with her children. The elders, I guess, took the lead or one of her siblings mustered the courage to speak to the family. Why am I writing about this? This point is irrelevant. Who broached the topic, how they broached the topic is all irrelevant NOW and it was irrelevant then! What was important was that we acknowledge the fact that mosi wasn’t behaving normally so that corrective action could be taken.

Mosaji in the meanwhile, was experiencing frequent refusals to do daily chores and never seen before, rebellious nature of mosi. He remained annoyed because he was unable to identify the slow but sly progress of dementia. When finally, someone spoke to him about seeking medical help, he was reluctant! Why? because ‘acts of defiance’ do not require medical intervention. Had I been in his place, I too would have shrugged it off because acknowledging the wayward behaviour as medical condition meant tumultuous times ahead… 

The children, too noticed undesirable changes in their mother’s demeanour but they were not sure. Like us, they too were scared to admit to themselves that something did not seem right.

And what about Acchu mosi herself? How did she feel about the changes in her personality? Well, I guess, none of us know. While we started noticing the changes, each one of us tried to correct her or gave her gyan…unfortunately no one listened to her! We didn’t ask her how she felt and sadly now she is not left with the vocabulary to express her feelings. To add to it, her nerve connections have gone faulty and she can’t speak coherently. She forgets easily so maybe she doesn’t even remember how she felt… How I wish at least one of us would have listened to her instead of correcting her…how I wish…!!

Slowly mosi became quiet because she had been corrected way too many times. All our efforts to ask her to talk once again, went in vain. Her confidence level had started dwindling. And last but not the least, the doctor had proclaimed right in front of her that she had dementia. In our own ignorance, we repeatedly discussed the ailment ‘dementia’ in her presence. She took it to heart and her mind registered it! So much so that when anyone asked her about her health, she would speak this sentence stressing on each word, “mujhe dementia hai!” (I have dementia). If you think she had accepted her fate easily then you are mistaken; she tried to fight it but the ‘dementia monster’ was too powerful and sinister. And the people around, out of their own inexperience, were unable to help fight it.

Archana mosi has dementia and Jawahar mosaji is the one ‘dealing with dementia’. It hasn’t been easy for him. Infact it has been equally unnerving for him. He got advices from all quarters. He sought many doctors but none gave a clear answer. Mosi was put on Allopathic medication, as a result she became lethargic and sluggish.

I have immense faith in alternative therapies and I coaxed mosaji to accompany me to these therapists. There have been occasions when I have had heated arguments with him; I felt he had to be more discreet while talking about the problem in mosi’s presence, etc., etc. BUT now I adore mosaji for the way he is taking care of mosi and himself. He has left no stone unturned to find the cure to this disease. We have accepted and he too has accepted the fate – this disease is incurable! The only option is to take good care of mosi and keep her engaged.

He has altered his lifestyle to take care of her. And the best way to do it was to take care of his own health and mental sanity. I admire him for carrying on with his daily regime to attend yoga sessions and laughter therapy. Later during the day, he tries to keep her engaged and takes her for therapy. Since the onset of dementia, he has taken mosi for his tours – something he is passionate about!

I too have accepted that this disease is incurable but still I seek answers for these questions:

  • why Archana mosi?
  • Why at such an early age?
  • What could have been done to stop the onset of dementia?
  • Can anyone have dementia or there are factors that cause this disease?

In these two years, we have searched and researched and none of the above questions have been answered adequately. So, I had to turn to the two statements stated in the beginning…

  • Life is not just
  • Few things in life do not have answers, they have to be accepted as facts!

There is another fact we need to take with a pinch of salt – Archana mosi might not remember us after sometime! So, if you know her, try and spend time with her ‘now’ when she can recognise you. Make her smile and repeatedly tell her that you love her.  It is very important for her self esteem. Do all that you can do to boost her confidence! She has become like a child – innocent and restless…awaken the child in you and engage in activities that she now enjoys. She might not speak coherently but she understands the vibes…so reach out and fill her heart with your positive vibes! Give her a hug, hold her hand while you sit next to her because a touch is much more potent than the words. She might not adhere to societal norms but she’ll adhere to every word spoken to express your love for her! It’s time to treasure every moment with her…

In Xanadu – A quest by William Dalrymple

Pages – 300

There’s something fascinating about the writing style of William Dalrymple and that’s what attracted me to this book. I had never heard about Xanadu, I didn’t have the faintest clue where it existed and needless to say I didn’t know why he wanted to write a book about this place!

Sir Alec Guinness has the opinion, “Delightful and funny”. Just two words and it perfectly sums up a book of 300 pages, about a Quest taken to traverse on the path of Marco Polo as described in his book ‘The Travels’.

This quest was undertaken while the author was graduating from Cambridge University as a history student. It needs guts and some insanity to embark. on a journey from Jerusalem to Xanadu taking him through Turkey, Syria, Iran Pakistan and China. All that he has a backpack and the company of a lady, as he covers a distance of 12000 miles while living in caravansarais or in small stinking rooms. There were days when they had to go without food and they travelled not only on local buses but also hitch-hiked in trucks wherever possible.

As they travelled into China, they had the fear of being deported because following the Silk Route, they ventured into forbidden paths.

Though this travelogue is heavy with the references of historical events and people, there is never a dull moment. I did not take the trouble to soak in the details of the kings who ruled these places or the historical events that made them famous but I did enjoy the anecdotes and the description of the life and people. I am still not able to come to terms with the fact that the author undertook this journey just to follow the path of Marco Polo! The Mongols resonated my feelings… When William Dalrymple and his friend, on the verge of being deported back to Peking are finally able to see the remains of Xanadu, the Mongol Security officer stood shaking his head as he grunted: “Bonkers, English people, very very bonkers.”

If it weren’t for the author’s insanity, we would have been devoid of a beautiful travelogue about 12000 miles of varied landscapes, interaction with countless races, historical musings of numerous kings and travellers, and tales of the two eccentric historians!!

Amazing read!!

Leaving you with two passages from the travelogue:

"We heaved Laura up on our shoulders and precipitated her forwards into the train. She fought her way in, flaying like a Saracen. Once she had established a bridgehead, we followed. A coolie passed up our rucksacks, and we manoeuvred ourselves over legs, shoulders, tiffin cans, sacks, tables and benches, until we found ourselves above the central passage. Then we burrowed down. Within a few minutes we had reached the floor, and seconds later had excavated enough space to place our rucksacks down on it, and ourselves on them. We looked at each other and beamed with satisfaction at our achievement."

"The caravanserai was filthy, cold and had no food, but neither, thankfully, did it have any Public Security guards. We slept like children, but only until five o'clock. To keep ahead of the police we knew we had to be off before dawn. We also thought it wiser to change our transport. If the Keriya police had telegraphed forward to Charchan, the Public Security there would be expecting us on the bus. We guessed that we stood more chance of getting through travelling by truck. So, feeling ill and exhausted, we tramped around the different caravanserai dormitories looking for a driver who was leaving immediately, heading in the right direction and prepared to take us with him. Only one filled all these criteria: as at Khotan, we set off into the desert on top of a pile of coal. To mark the occasion we wore for the first time the 'disguises' we had bought in Keriya. Mine consisted of a Mao suit topped by a green Uigur skullcap; Louisa wore a printed dress and a white veil. From front-on, in broad daylight, neither disguise fooled anyone. Indeed on several occasions they caused hysterical peals of laughter from Uigurs who otherwise might never have noticed us. Nevertheless we thought that the 'disguises' did look vaguely convincing from the back. If ever we came to a checkpoint, we planned to fall forward on our faces and pretend to be asleep. Only the most officious guard would be rude enough to wake a sleeping couple, or so, at any rate, we hoped."

Banaras by Diana L. Eck

Pages 344

Banaras has always intrigued me so, when I came across this book in a book club, I ordered it. And this book did not disappoint me. Even though it has been written by a westerner, it provides in depth knowledge about the place, its culture and its history. It is a well-researched book which throws light on the Sanskrit scriptures relating to Varanasi, geographical texts, information from Brahmins and the city life.

Unfortunately, Indians have never been in a habit of documenting neither their places nor their travels. To know more about our country, religion and traditions from the historical aspect, we tend to rely on accounts of foreigners who visited India, were mesmerised by its beauty, allure and diversity.

In this book, it is evident from the opening lines to her preface that the author is in love with this place:

“I first knew Banaras 15 years ago when I studied for a year at Banaras Hindu University. It was an awesome city – captivating, challenging and endlessly fascinating. Benaras raised some of the questions about the Hindu tradition which have interested me ever since – it’s complex mythological imagination, its prodigious display of divine images, its elaborate ritual traditions and its understanding of the relation of life and death.”

The book begins with a detailed map of Banaras, which I referred time and again while reading the text. Diana, the author gives vivid descriptions of the life in the holy city, which has attracted millions of pilgrims and seekers from all over India for over 2500 years. The author is fascinated by the early morning activity in the city – the students practising yogic exercises, Brahmins performing puja in the numerous temples and shrines, students in ashrams preparing for the day and most importantly bahkts taking a holy dip in the Ganga.

She documents about the art and culture prevalent in this city during the different time periods and under reign of different rulers. Shiva is known to be the Lord of Kashi and thus a complete chapter is dedicated to Shiva who made Kashi his home. Shiva temples number in thousands here. Shaiva renouncers and ascetics throng the monasteries of the city. The author also writes in detail about the other Gods who visited Kashi or made it their home and are worshipped in this city of lights. She gives references from the scriptures to elucidate her point.

This city is different from all others because dying here, one gains liberation from the earthly round of samsara. 

The book has been elegantly written, in a fluid manner giving an account of the rituals, myths and literature associated with the city. Though the topic is heavy but the writing style keeps the reader engaged and fascinated.

A must read!!