My Gym Shoe

 


My gym shoe misses the gym.

Shadows

 

Lockdown Diary Six - March 31, 2020

 I woke up at 5:30. At first I felt good, that I had broken my new early-waking habit. Then I opened my eyes. Darkness. My hands smelled of garlic from yesterday’s cooking, in spite of the multiple times that I wash my hands every day. I refused to get out of bed until 6:30 — that’ll show them!

I went up to the roof at 7, but my heart wasn’t in it, and it was getting hot, so I only walked for half an hour. 

I came back down and mixed the ingredients for the cold brew coffee liqueur which I had prepared yesterday, and decanted it into a wine bottle to age.  There was some left over, so I poured it into my coffee and drank it as I washed the dishes. I rarely drink at all, but it sure helped with the dishes.

I was listening to the great On Being podcast, in which Krista Tippet talked to Ross Gay about delight.

There’s a question floating around the world right now — how can we be joyful in a moment like this? To which Ross Gay responds, in word and deed, how can we not be joyful, especially in a moment like this? He is a writer, a gardener — also a former college football player. To be with him is to train your gaze to see what’s terrible but also to see what’s wonderful and beautiful. To attend to and meditate on what you love, even within the work of justice. We practice tenderness and mercy in part because to understand that we are all suffering is one quality of what Ross Gay calls “adult joy.”

— Krista Tippett

I also made kichdi and washed the kitchen counters and swept and mopped the kitchen floor. Oh, what a good girl am I.

(This is the last entry that I wrote as a lockdown diary. Now it is just my life.)

Lockdown Diary Five - March 30, 2020

 Woke up at 5:30 again. I hope this isn’t going to become a habit. Had problems getting to sleep at night, too. I am thinking of ways to exorcise the bed, or maybe move into the guest room for a while. 

I watched hours of a Turkish historical serial on netflix: Resurrection – Ertugrul. 

Beautiful faces, landscape, clothing. Lots of galloping horses and swordfights, because it’s about the establishment of the Ottoman Empire. Nice background music too. What more could one ask for? In Turkish with subtitles.

I tried to listen to the Turkish and pick out some of the words that have made their way into Urdu / Hindi (insaaf, adaalat, munaasib, zaalim… so many). In fact, I googled and found an interesting research paper online:

Common Vocabulary In Urdu and Turkish Language

I made cold brew coffee liqueur! That was exciting, though I can’t try it for a few days.  I got the recipe on thrillist.com: https://www.thrillist.com/drink/how-to-make-cold-brew-coffee-liqueur

I didn’t have Demerara sugar, so I used half white and half jaggery. No one’s going to punish me for that, I hope? And my coffee comes from Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters in Delhi. They sell single-plantation beans, and roast them just for you.


Lockdown Diary Four - March 29, 2020

 I am writing this to sharpen my observation, to pass the time. It’s frivolous. But when I look past my locked door, it really looks like a culling. The Earth, culling its tormentors, starting as usual with the old and sick. Then various governments, culling their inconvenient poor. Refugee crises, starvation. How many people are dying, and how long can they bear it? Then war? It looks like William Gibson’s Jackpot is coming sooner than we are pleased to believe.

I woke up at 5:30 with tears sliding down my face, no energy behind them, just self-pity I suppose, something about R, my husband. I managed to go back to sleep and woke up again at 6:30. I was still feeling gloomy, and I thought, okay, today I won’t get up early, as if I were expressing some defiance against someone who would care.

I got up and went to the roof. I looked down at the road and saw that a few walkers had ventured out, widely spaced and hurting no one, already tired of huddling inside. My roof- neighbor also emerged, with his phone, but soon put it away and began jogging. The crow-drum had gone, but there was a long white dribble of its contents, which the crows had not been able to scrape up with their cruel beaks.

I was listening to Sufi music. My favorite song, by Kabir: Naiharwa, sung by Kailash kher, was playing. ‘Sai’, the beloved, is god, or the Guru, or Ram; someone divine.

Whenever I hear this song I see in my mind, for no good reason except the cold ‘ping’ that opens it,  an image of a snow-globe, with delicate snow falling.

I went inside and made child’s food, snow-globe food: a mug of hot chocolate. And in the afternoon, for lunch, I used up the stale sourdough bread from Pumpkin Tales, and the last of the maple syrup, by making French toast. In short, I ate my way out of self-pity.

When my maid went home before the lockdown, this was one of the things she left behind. It looks like things a bird would collect.  Just in case – what?

Naiharwa lyrics


Naiharwa humkaa ne bhave

Humkaaaaaa ne bhave

Naiharwa aaaaaaaa

Naiharwa naiharwa aaaa

Naiharwa humkaa ne bhave

Humkaaaaaa ne bhave

Naiharwa aaaaaaaa

Naiharwa naiharwa aaaa

Sai ki nagariiiiii

Sai ki nagare param athi sundara

Athi sundara

Jaha koi aawe na jaawie

Heyyyehiyey

Jaha koi aawe na jaawie

Chand suraj jaha

Chand suraj jaha

Pavan na paani

Pavan na paani

Ko sandesh pahuchawie

Heyyyehiyey

Ko sandesh pahuchawie

Dard yeha

Dard yeha

Dard yeha

Sai kooo sunave

Naiharwa aaaaaaaa

Naiharwa naiharwa aaa

Bin satha guru apno nahi koi

Apno nahi koi

Ko yeh raah batawie

Heyyyehiyey

Ko yeh raah batawie

Kahat kabir

Suno bhaii sadho

Suno bhaii sadho

Sapne me pritam aawaai

Heyyyehiyey

Sapne me pritam aawaai

Sapana yaha diya hi bhujava

Naiharwa aaaaaaaa

Naiharwa naiharwa aaa

——-

Naiharwa translation (from boloji.com)


I Don’t Find any Interest in My Parent’s House

My Beloved’s Town is Most Beautiful

However, Nobody Goes or Comes from There

There is no Moon, Sun, Wind or Water There

Then Who Will Take My Message There?

Then Who Will Tell My Pain to My Beloved?

There is No Visible Path to Move Forward

And You Blame the Past for It

How Should the Bride go to the House of the Beloved?

Powerful Pangs of Separation are Burning from Inside

Dual Reality is Fashioning a Dance to Its Tune

There is None Other Than the Guru Who is Mine Who Can Tell the Way

Says Kabir Listen oh Aspirant

Your Beloved Will Come in a Dream-like State

That Alone Will Quench the Thirst of your Heart

Lockdown Diary Three - March 28, 2020

 I caught the sun, trying to sneak in over the horizon.


I am still getting 1 litre of milk delivered to my door each morning, too much for me to use, and the small freezer is jammed. In the morning I took a tall glass of boiled milk down and offered it to the watchman, who is also trapped.  He smiled and refused. I wonder if he thought I am sick.  I should have offered an unopened packet, but then he would have had to boil it.

I ate a frozen peanut butter cookie. Not bad. I ate salad, trying to finish the fresh food. It was too late for the cucumber, though.

As I did my housework, I listened to the podcast, The Fall of Civilisations. Today’s subject was China’s Han Dynasty. The author/narrator’s measured speech is solemn but soothing, putting my small inconveniences into a much larger context. As the song goes,

Losing is an easy game

it’s so easy to fall, but it’s so hard to climb,

pretty soon you’re falling all the time

Maude’s Blues, by Sylvia Tyson


I culled my fiction shelves, working backward alphabetically. I have reached L.

Lockdown Diary Two - March 27, 2020

 My sister has urged me to stop taking increased doses of sleeping pills. I had to, at first, when my husband died: I was still sleeping in the bed we had shared, the bed he died in, and every night when I turned off the light and closed my eyes, I would see him in those endless nights, asking for water, or reaching with his thin fingers, so cold, for my warm hand. I would have to turn the lights back on, and sit up, and wait for the medicine to kick in. But now  just over a month has passed, and I’m feeling better, but I have been reluctant to cut back. But I did, and woke up at 1:30 a.m., and tossed and turned for the rest of the night.

Then my eyes opened finally at 6 a.m., and I dressed and went up to the roof.

There was one man walking on a nearby roof, with his phone at his ear. Otherwise, I shared the roofs and the treetops only with two crows, playing percussion on a plastic container they were trying unsuccessfully to open.

I walked to the singing of Sanjay Subrahmanyan, the Carnatic master. His voice is playful, nuanced, perfect for a quiet early morning.

I talked on the phone to Mary, my maid of more than twenty years, to get her bank details so that I could pay her salary by bank transfer. Thankfully, the government has ordained that every Indian should have a bank account. She has been taken in by relatives, so she is okay. 

My part-time maid doesn’t have a bankbook because it’s in her drunken husband’s name, and he is likely to drink up money that she wants to use to educate her children.

I am washing dishes now. I have a dishwasher, but I never used it because my maid scoffed at it as being too slow and too wasteful of water. And now I can’t find the detergent for it.  Anyway, I am feeling some satisfaction as I pile clean dishes in the drying rack. Also, the skin of my hands has some texture now. And I got it while listening to Gillian Welch Radio on Spotify. Really great background music for washing dishes.

There was a TV ad when I was a kid, where a housewife laments to her manicurist, “Madge! I have dishpan hands!”  Now I do too! 

Lockdown Diary One - March 26, 2020

 I was alone, nowhere to go; the night before I had declared to myself that I would sleep late, luxuriate. But at 6:30 my eyes popped open, and that was that. I passed some time by playing at housewifery: tidied, made my bed, drank cold black coffee, looked out the window to see if anyone was defying the lockdown by taking a walk. Nope.

The previous day I had ordered groceries to be delivered: the PM had assured the nation that essential supplies such as food and water would not be interrupted. But instead of my delivery, there was an apologetic sms from the company: 

“Dear Customer,

Your order #—— scheduled for delivery today couldn’t be processed due to restrictions imposed by local authorities on the movement of goods in spite of clear guidelines, etc etc.”

So I decided to inventory what I had, plan ahead what and when to eat, make lists, and all that. I had just gone through the fridge and decided that a frittata would be the best thing under the circumstances — 

—and then I lost my mind, and began to make a batch of peanut butter cookies, like the ones my mother used to make. Only three ingredients: peanut butter, sugar, egg. Mix them together and roll the batter into balls and press a fork into them, and bake them for 12 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit, and you’re done. (I forgot to let the second batch cool, so they immediately fell apart. I could not save them.)

Reader, they were not the same as my childhood memories, nothing but sweetness, and I am sure that it was because of high-fructose corn syrup, which probably didn’t even exist when I was a kid.

Yes, and when I went back to put them in a container they were covered with ants, rushing to and fro. They must have been loving them. But one doesn’t want to waste food during a lockdown, so I removed as many as I could, and put the container in the freezer, as if that would resolve anything.

I listened to awful virus news, mainly about what was expected soon in New York City. At the same time, I understood at last, in my gut, not just intellectually, why my husband liked to have the TV on, even when he wasn’t paying attention: the hum of voices helped him not to feel alone. Leaving aside large-scale death and destruction, it is sad to understand things about a person when he cannot benefit from my understanding.

Oh, and I took a walk on the roof terrace at 9:40 a.m., and it was blindingly hot already, but there was a lovely cool breeze inserting itself between the heat-layers. I will try again tomorrow, when my eyes first pop open.

At 4:45 p.m., I was surprised that the day wasn’t over yet. And once again I understood something about my husband, too late. 


Lockdown Diary - Prelude: 25 March 2020

 I am posting a seven-part Lockdown Diary, which I began to write when it seemed that the Coronavirus lockdowns would be relatively brief, and that it would be worth keeping a record to look back on later. Now, half a year after they began, and still locked down, this seems to be the normal world. Maybe this view of things will prove to be wrong too. Here goes:

India: Lockdown – Prelude

I had been sheltering from the Coronavirus from home for five days before the Indian Prime Minister announced a nationwide lockdown, so Day One was actually Day Six for me.

My husband had died of heart disease the month before, my brother- and sister-in-law, who had helped me through my early days of grief, had flown back to America just before incoming flights were banned, the bank was tying me up in red tape. I had sent my two maids home, since they had declined to stay locked inside with me indefinitely. So I was locked down alone, except for email, whatsapp, the phone and streaming tv services, and for kind and friendly voices who occasionally emerged from the first three platforms.

Even before Day One, I had been keeping so busy that I could hardly think, which was good. I exercised, de- cluttered, puttered. I began to get used to the vast silence, to wondering what I was supposed to do next, to taking more sleeping pills than before. Things were smoothing out. I took an early-morning walk on almost empty streets.

I started to de-clutter the fiction shelves, and discovered a masterpiece.

I watched Secret City on netflix.

And then the PM came on the TV and announced the lockdown, starting at midnight, no time to run out to the grocery store for one last forgotten thing, nothing to do but try to calm down, and go to sleep early, and wait for Day One to arrive.

2020: The Year So Far

In February, my husband, Ramesh Gandhi, died after a long illness -- heart failure, which stemmed from a prolapsed mitral valve.

In March, the Coronavirus lockdowns began. Most people, at least here in Chennai, believed that in a month or so, things would get back to normal. I started a blog with my sister, called Occasional Fabrications . I began a Lockdown Diary. Then our exceptional circumstance became the way the world was, so I stopped.

Now, I would like to come home to this blog, which was a source of happiness to me for years.  I will begin with the announcement which I posted on my husband's blog, Ramesh Gandhi, of his death:

Ramesh Gandhi, 1936-2020


(2003)


I am Nancy Gandhi, Ramesh Gandhi's wife. On 22 February Ramesh, who had been suffering from heart disease for the last five years, was finally unable to draw even one more breath. At the end, he slipped away silently in the afternoon, asleep. He died at home, as he wished, and he was cremated the same night without any rituals, which was also his wish.

A couple of weeks earlier, before he lost the ability to speak, his sister-in-law, Charu, had asked him, "Bhai, are you dreaming?" and he said, "I have so many stars to count."

His primary interest was in metaphysics, but he had many talents. He was a poet, a beautiful photographer. He was human, flawed, wise. He was quick-witted, funny, depressed. He had seen enough of the world, he was ready to leave.

I will close with a statement which he wrote about himself, many years ago:

"I look at the world. I look, distancing myself, so that somehow in that looking I might see the world as a microcosm of the universe, and thus identify myself with the universe and see my being, fragile, defective, transient, incomplete and fore-doomed, in relation to it. But no matter how far my mind and perception soar, the ultimate limit of physical detachment remains the length of the umbilical cord which ties me to a life, environment, conditions, of which I am no longer a part, and with which I have no pending business. What am I doing then? Why am I not releasing myself from the life-sustaining bond which at the same time strangles me, binding me to environmental attitudes which are alien to me, and situations with which I cannot cope."