This Is Pune

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Out and about in Pune, to do things and see places.

My mother can’t go out at all but she knew Pune very well when she was a young woman doing her secretarial training here in the 1940s. She would tell us about what a charming part of town the area close to where we live was once upon a time, with banyan tree lined streets and sleepy lanes, and bungalows set back in large grounds. She herself stayed in the YWCA and only saw this place a few times. Where we live now was long deserted farmland which slowly became urbanized. Pune is a larger place in 2014 with growth in all directions. We go to a lot of different places and of course everyone has seen malls, stores etc so no photos of those from me.

The fresh looking tomatoes, onions and coriander are from pictures my daughter took of a street food stall, long ago, when we went out together one evening.

In those days Main Street, which used to be one of Pune’s stylish shopping centres, was turned on Saturday evenings into a walking plaza. It was fun for people who could buy snacks and even get free wi-fi for their computers and the best thing was that there was no traffic. But eventually the shop keepers complained that their businesses were affected on these evenings and ultimately these unique events were put an end to.

Here are pictures of my favourite local snack. It is called bhel puri. Made from puffed rice, mixed with green chutney and tamarind chutney and with all these fresh ingredients (seen in the main picture) stirred in, it is DELICIOUS.

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This is the bhel puri stall and

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this is the stall chef getting the ingredients stirred vigorously together. Most people use stainless steel utensils for such preparations as they are tough and clean and don’t let chemicals into the food which can happen when sour ingredients such as lime and tamarind are used.

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These are other garnishes that go on top and make it more flavourful.

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Here is another expert making a different kind of popular snack. Probably aloo parathas, if I’m not mistaken.

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This is water provided for anyone who wants it. It is a custom to do this in many parts of the country and quite a common sight (though maybe less now, in the more ‘stylish’ localities). Well there’s more to the walking plaza but so much of it for now.

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I spotted this mural painted on the side of a railway crossing’s little cabin. It is close by here. This Hindu god’s representation like this is a rare sight. I had never seen anything like this before. Now a little shrine covers the space where the dogs are so they are out of sight.

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This is the Aga Khan palace in Pune where Gandhiji was kept under house arrest by the British during one period of his agitation against colonial rule.

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The prisoners lived very simply. Mahatma Gandhi was also lodged at a different time in Pune’s famous Yerawada jail, it’s most famous occupant. For his satyagraha and non-violent and civil-disobedience movements against the colonials he spent great amounts of time incarcerated. Just a reminder in case I give the impression that he lounged around in luxury. These were the bare furnishings – the desk is meant to be used while sitting on the floor.

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Kasturba, his wife, and some close aides also shared the house arrest with him.

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School kids starting young to learn about the history of their country. They were such a joyful little bunch with good natured teachers looking after them.

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The city is surrounded by low hills. This view is from the farmhouse of some friends.

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Closer to home is this tree where the crows gather. They are most interesting.

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And last but not least, this beautiful moth who got inside in December 2012 when we were a houseful, my kids and grandkids and Mummy and us all in this house. We switched off the lights and put the balcony light on and soon he was outside where he belonged.

That’s a smallish glimpse of Pune. I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

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Visitors for Mummy

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Today my mother had some visitors. My niece who has come to Pune from Delhi on some work is staying the night with us. She is a lively girl with a love of family stories and having a good laugh or two. She looks so happy in the photos I took of her standing near her grandmother. The young bring a kind of uplifting of the soul. I would definitely feel terrible if I could not ever have young folks to chat to. There is so much going on in their lives.

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Another visitor today was from Delhi too. This was Mummy’s friend and colleague when they worked together in the same organization in Delhi in the Nineteen Eighties.
Mummy’s friend met her husband through my parents when she would visit their house. Both these friends have lost their life partners now. She sat next to Mummy holding her hand, smoothing her forehead and telling her about her family, her kids and grandkids.

Mummy gets occasional visitors. Friends from our building who are all around my age will drop in sometimes and Mummy will respond to a hello or a bye bye. My sister in law will come sometimes too and chat with her cheerfully.

Another niece who is married to an American came year before last with her American in-laws. It was quite something to see her Mother in law interact with Mummy, who loved her sweet chattiness.

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I inserted this photo of a plant that I pruned quite daringly, not sure what would happen. I just did not like the way it was becoming so extra tall. And it is now a wonder of flowers. But that’s by the by.
I have actually somehow lost the post that I first wrote, I don’t know how and am having difficulty remembering what I had written. I have stopped writing notes and just try to compose posts as I do emails when I write them to my kids. I wonder if this is not such a good idea because once lost something spontaneous in it is hard to replace.

All I can remember of what I wanted to close with was that the visits cheer everyone up. The younger folks have more interesting news for us than we have for them I’m sure and the older ones come with their compassion and affection for us which delights and makes us go all yakkity yak.

I had taken some pictures today of Mummy watching TV before she goes to bed, sitting up for her daily change of position. This changing positions is very important for bed ridden patients and I have to devote a post to that.

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My friends and relatives constantly ask about my mother’s health and well being. I think people are basically so kind and their love nourishes me as well.

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So bye from me for tonight. I hope I am more capable next time.

This Old House

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The house as it looks in the present day.

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The entrance with Denis’ official photo

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The garden – one of the angles

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There is a classroom on the verandah where we would gather

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The dining area on the verandah. They have kept all the old furniture in good shape.

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Extensive plantings along the wall.

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Deborah in the garden.

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Fruit gathered from the trees all around the garden.

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Laden with fruit.

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The porch with nice stone paving.

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Festive looking flowers, just enjoying the sun’s warmth.

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Some of the girls with Mother Teresa. Years ago my parents asked me to make the covers for these chairs. Felt so nostalgic.

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It is a simple yet comfortable home for these girls from destitute families. They were a laughing and energetic crowd.

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We took white roses to plant near the grave.

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Prayers near the grave.

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All of us after the prayers were said.

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The sweet, kind people who look after the place with Deborah.

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They grow vegetables for their kitchen on this side.

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More vegetables.

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Sun-loving plants and a Christmas Tree.

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A peaceful resting place.

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Nearby is the grave of Denis’ beloved dog Max. The words describe him: Brave, Happy

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After Mass and prayers at the grave we had a wonderful breakfast. My niece Arati,  her Mom my sister Jeanne, Mother Teresa, Mushtaq, our taxi driver and Debbie. They were so hospitable and affectionate.

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I took this close-up of an appam. Gosh, they were delicious.

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Then on the road to Hyderabad where I took this photo of an autorickshaw. This was a pleasant and nostalgic visit to a city and a village which has a dear place in our hearts.

Return to The House

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As I wrote last time, we were going to the village to visit my father’s last resting place. We did make it there by eight in the morning, driving down that highway and it felt so surreal to be going there along that familiar route to reach Brahmanpalli when there would be no father or mother there to be enthusiastic about our visit.

As usual as the granite quarry at the side of the road appeared we saw the tall coffee factory which stands near by to that precious house. We were soon there and just in time for Mass. Everyone was seated and ready to begin. While I participated I also noticed the simple chapel made in what used to be Denis’ workshop. It was just the kind of place to give a sense of peace and contemplation of what this place had meant to all of us.

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Later we walked out to the grave, surrounded with rose plants in bloom and decorated with gerberas and roses and with the flowers from the creeper my sister had had planted there earlier raised on to the edge of the white stone. Now a high wall surrounds the property with fruit trees and other plants lush and laden along its edges. We hope our white roses will grow and flourish too. It was a blessed experience and I have a lot of photos to sort out and make a large photo post with titles explaining what was the before and the now.

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The Nuns had made us a breakfast of appams with channa sabji and chutney. The appams were soft, delicious and wolfed down by everyone. We called our taxi driver in who was happy to partake of the meal as well, made as festive as the Lenten season allows. The best part was the nimbu pani they brought out in trays to us as we wandered around the grounds looking at the changes. I did not, and I don’t think my sister’s did either, feel sorrowful or depressed to be there. It was humbling to see how the people there were making do with things left there and hadn’t glammed it up. It was still a simple home, but now with many more inhabitants. Seeing the place thrive with the happy girls rushing about was uplifting.

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It would have been devastating if it had been abandoned, nor used to such good purpose and it was so heartening to see that there was a classroom, neat and clean places for the girls (all orphans or from poor families) to sleep and eat and do their daily tasks. My parent’s furniture was all there, kept in such good order and it was gratifying to see all the paintings, crockery, lamps, other knick knacks that were all neatly arranged to their usefulness here and there.

The Nuns left us alone to wander the grounds, the garden with exuberant bloom and the house now painted white looked cool and as much loved and maybe more cared for from when we were there.

We got back to Pune in the early evening today. When I told my mother that we had been there she looked slightly puzzled almost as if she did not know what I was talking about. I asked if she remembered it and she said yes. I stood thinking whether I should tell her more but I asked about Denis and she said I don’t know. I think there is something that she still thinks of or still visualizes but does not articulate. It’s possible but makes no sense to pester her about it. I did feel it important to tell her that their house looks like a happy home.

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We got a great surprise of the gift from the Nuns of green mangoes (called Kairi) from the many trees. There is a dwarf variety planted by them, barely a few feet off the ground but bearing fruit amply. The old lime trees, about twenty five years are still fruiting year round, some ripe ones were lying on the ground and they gave us a large quantity of these as well. They have collected dried leaves and grass cuttings to place around the base of trees as mulch which will slowly turn to good compost over time. I plan to make some nimbu pani and a cool drink I make at least once in summer called mango fool and give this to my mother. The only thing that could possibly make me feel a bit dejected was that she couldn’t come.

It was an enchanting morning, our going back there a valued experience, so much graciousness and hospitality was displayed. We came away assured that it had indeed been a wonderful idea to turn this into a home for these abandoned young girls and women who would now be able to go into the world with dignity and hope.

My Trip

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I am in Hyderabad, where it’s plenty hot but it is still a vibrant and lively city. I’d never stayed in the Banjara Hills area which has quiet lanes, pretty houses and is smart. My sister will be living and working in Hyderabad for three years.

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We went to buy some rose plants to take to Brahmanpalli tomorrow. In the blazing sun these plants were all lined up in the nursery we went to….it’s not peak flowering time, roses do best in winter, but we managed to find some with multiple buds and which looked like healthy specimens.

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It is strange to be here after these many years, but we feel an affinity with this state and this city because we had visited it so frequently when my father was alive. We also spent some of our young days here and used to know it pretty well. In fact, it is where Jeanne was born.

All of us are pretty fond of gardening and the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy had told us they would plant a garden for Denis. I am so keen to see the place and all it’s changes. Today I have some pictures of Jeanne’s plants on her terrace.

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Meanwhile, Suvarna is staying overnight at our house in Pune to help out with Mummy. The reason is that Uday can’t help to lift Mummy as his wrist is still not strong enough after that fracture he had in November. She helps with lifting her up and out of bed and to put her back, things I do when I’m there. Uday is fixing her meals. He called to say that everything was fine and Mummy in particular, was fine too.

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It is a warm afternoon. We had a nice South Indian lunch of dosas and idlis with coconut chutney and some delicious fruit drinks and have come home to cool off. Everyone, my niece is also here, is feeling dozey and falling asleep. We are up early tomorrow as Brahmanpalli is about seventy kilometers from here and Mass is at Eight in the morning in the chapel of our old home.

So tomorrow I plan to take a number of photos and one of these days put up a photo replay of that sweet little village and it’s life as it is now.

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A Special Day

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I’m getting ahead of events and of myself with this post but it is my mother’s birthday today and that gives me a topic!

I heard her cough in the morning and went in to give her some water to drink. I told her it is her birthday and my mother asked me, how do you know it is my birthday?

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The day had started with the usual routine of measuring the oats out, cooking them, adding bananas and milk and sugar. She is OK with fruit, and bananas are her favourite.

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I baked a sweet potato cake last night. It is easy to make, in the style of recipes I get from Pinterest, where a lot of cake ingredients are oil, yogurt and carrot, or sweet potato or banana. They all usually turn out well and I seem to remember the process too by now. Usually I would have been unable to control my outright greed for freshly made cake and would have cut into it with a passion, but not this time. Mummy when given a slice, or a morsel really, said no,  and closed her mouth firmly.

In the photo it looks like a piece of parched earth in a bad drought but is, in fact, soft and moist inside. I have yet to cook anything that turned out useless from the Pinterest recipes I save. I only have a Microwave oven that turns convection but is rather small and what happens is that the cakes brown and harden a bit on the edges and stay raw for longer in the centre. I don’t mind as this is the part I love to eat – crisp and crunchy and full of the flavour of ground spice.

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Lakshmi arrived in the morning with a colourful bouquet of flowers, roses and gerberas and gladioli. Later, she and Suvarna made some goodies to eat, they were something called Puran Poli and Bhajjis made with onions and potato slices, none of which Mummy ate – in one photo I clicked of her cake and other eatables can clearly be seen her glass of pureed vegetables and lentils and broken wheat, this time made a bit more tasty with the addition of coriander leaves and ginger and garlic paste. Uday came home with some icecream and that she was willing to have after lunch. Suvarna loves icecream too and chose chocolate when I asked her.

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Sharada will come by 7:30 and I must remember to give her some of the good things we ate today. She will be sorry to have missed all the festivities specially since the kitchen is one of her favourite hangouts.

I’m not crazy about baking, or being in the kitchen at all but these recipes are so simple and nutritious too I feel, and most interestingly, Mummy gets a bit of an appetite by the early evening and with her Complan will have a slice of cake, so I didn’t pursue it when she refused at lunchtime because she will relish a big slice at teatime.

Mummy’s birthdays here in Pune are quiet affairs with just us. Of course my sisters (just like the rest of us at other times) have forgotten all about it and I haven’t heard a peep from them. Oh, for heaven’s sake, this family! How awful of us!

No presents though for my non-acquisitive mother. She was, and is, the most unmaterialistic person. In her wardrobe are clothes we have bought her for years. Shoes are put on her feet for form’s sake and for discipline though it’s only to go to the dining room so she has about three pairs – but when she is not interested she will draw her foot back and not give any help at all in pushing her foot into a shoe. But this no present situation is reversed when my children and her niece come from the US. They bring all sorts of gifts for her. I think she likes the chocolates the most.

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In the morning it seemed to be so pleasant, for a change. There was some cooler air stirring in the rain tree, full of its pink flowers and the orchid we’ve been nurturing is looking rather gorgeously perky. I like leaning on the balcony ledge and looking at the trees, they give me such a refreshing feeling. The sun was in the trees though and I could not get a good, clear photo of the rain tree flowers. The Gulmohur is just budding and will be a blaze of red in May. It was a present for me alright.

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So that’s another birthday already almost over.

I am off to Hyderabad with my sister Deborah to stay with Jeanne. On the 6th is Denis’ death anniversary and so we are visiting Brahmanpalli. I’m not sure that I will be able to create another post while there but I do hope to take some photos of the city. I have not been back to Brahmanpalli since 2011 so am keen to see the changes made by the Nuns, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.

 

A Blameless Age

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As the unvaried days go by for my mother she has become like a child whose children have become her mothers. It could be perceived as a nuisance inflicted on us and in fact, sometimes in the early days of her being here I would get furious with her and very impatient with her constant demands for someone’s presence. Happily that all wore off as she gradually became used to our apartment and we learnt not to answer temper with temper but to try and get what she was feeling instead.

Sometimes I do need to hear her say the simple repetitive things she says or the questions she hasn’t forgotten to ask. Sometimes faced with the duplicity of people who offer you their more ‘honest’ side when all they want to do is be rude, she becomes the only comfort in this world to me. What she says and what she does have become so authentic to me that often I need her voice above everyone else’s.

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Mummy’s all round health has improved lately and she is more talkative but with such artlessness. She will call out in Hindi –  listen, listen – during the time of morning when only Uday and I are in the house, pottering about and she is there alone. It is the time when there is a long break between shifts for Sharada or Lakshmi and she may not be getting why they are not around. Or she will call me – Deborah  – (somehow she can’t remember my name – sometimes I remind her of it and sometimes I just answer to my sister’s name). Uday goes in and will chat a bit and then I may go in and ask if she wants water since it is hot and I’m never sure if she really knows that she is thirsty or not. She never refuses a cool glass of water though.

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She usually answers yes to most questions but if she says no if I ask her whether she is alright, it means that she wants company around her and voices  to make her feel content. For months she may be uninterested in speaking but then she’ll find her voice and an insistent calling out means she is in a bright frame of mind and feeling more sociable. It is a very gentle form of what she was in younger times, sometimes withdrawn and sometimes needing people in a more intense way.

A few days ago she caught my hand while I was standing near her wheelchair. I asked if she wanted to hold onto my hand and she said yes, holding it tighter in a very possessive way. I used the opportunity to get her to finish her lunch which as ever she had lost interest in. I find it difficult to be emotionally engaged with my mother though I may need her comforting presence occasionally, and maybe because that’s how she was – never very demonstrative. But I have a very tender hearted life partner in my husband and have learnt more demonstrative ways from him. I do feel mournful about the fact that I don’t talk enough to her but cannot explain to myself a better way of conducting communication with her – that is, give her more time.

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However, I value her, I value her intelligence and the memory of what she was in her younger days, not very sure of herself and quite intimidated by her in laws who were talented and had more ‘classy’ standards of life altogether. She read and learnt and read and learnt, practicing all the while and it did make her a well informed woman. I value that she is alive and in good health. That she is still an anchor to what I remember of our unique and interesting family. Since her time of leaving this earth to us is unknown, I’m happy that she got to see her great grand daughters and that they got to see her (more about this anon).

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Her door is always open and she can hear the sounds that go on in the household but she does need to see more faces. Everyday I promise myself that I will remedy this. Uday always encourages me and I do it like a duty sometimes but obviously it is not enough. This mother who was a fierce person and could unleash a harsh temper is  so childlike, so trusting that I will do well by her, so needy in the way she fixes her eye on me when she sees me and all I do is automatic, robot-like things for her.

Well I guess doing them in itself is not so bad. I don’t want to beat myself too much on this. Also, I have no knowledge of when I will slip into this state some years hence (many, many, I hope). I try to do plenty of different things so that I feel sharp and focused. I try to keep learning so that means in some ways I am like her. I plan to keep my brain agile and live blamelessly and uncomplicatedly. But, well, really, who knows.

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Shoulder To Shoulder

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We’re hand in hand, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, all of us, and our most important assistants in the taking care of Mummy. We have a maid called Suvarna who cleans and cooks for us but when my father passed away in 2011 and Mummy came to us she had special needs and we had to find help, which is personified in the two women who are our great supporters.

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Sharada is our oldest helper who came in 2011, referred to us by a dear friend whose mother she had taken care of till she passed away. When she came to us she said she wanted a permanent job and that she would stay with us as long as Mummy was with us. She is solid as a rock, so tough and strong, and has a jolly sense of humour.

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Besides doing what she has to for Mummy, she has her own family, just as Lakshmi does. She lives in a joint family as many working class people in India do – to be of assistance to each other, and to share in expenses of house and home. This may not be always easy and women often take a disproportionate amount of the responsibility. Sharada has a decent guy in her husband who will do all sorts of jobs such as cook the chapatis for their meal if he returns home before her. She will have prepared the main food for the family before coming to work.

Family demands on women are no less than work demands. She has to see to the smooth running of the family and keep peace in the house. She has to cater to different needs, moods and temperaments, mostly with equanimity. She has years and years of experience and has many a time advised us of what to do because she has knowledge of how to take care of an elderly person.

She is also talented in other ways. When not busy with her charge she will often be on some creative project. One such project took weeks of fashioning –  a rug for her home, done with large knitting needles and strips of ‘yarn’ made from old saris. It was colourful and durable. She is also a great cook. She loves being in the kitchen when Mummy is lying quietly after her bath and will give guidance in how to prepare many types of vegetable dishes, Indian sweets and snacks if asked. The temptation to ask is very great.

Lakshmi came along after some changes in help that did not work out long term. She is Sharada’s neighbour and good friend. Their families also know each other. When we were looking for a long term employee for Mummy she was suggested and has been nothing less than a gem. She had done domestic work before but took to care work with ease and professionalism.

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She has proved to be a person with a strong sense of responsibility and dedication to a good standard. She is always punctual, always arrives with a cheerful greeting for Mummy whose face lights up. She can persuade Mummy to eat up anything with soft and loving words. Of course they both do this. She will keep note and trim her nails, and after seeing me cut Mummy’s hair, learnt it easily and now does it herself. A very commendable thing is what they have done for Mummy’s skin condition. Massaging her after a bath with oil and moisturizers has meant there is barely a sign of psoriasis any more.

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Home responsibilities are so great that it can lead to us having a sense of guilt realizing how very fortunate we are to have their loyalty to regular work and affection for their charge. Lakshmi’s daughter just completed her board exams. This is important for her if she plans at any time in future to be as independent as her mother and seek employment outside the home like her mother who has taken all the burden of family life on her own because men are not always reliable or are not worth living with.

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She lives with parents and sisters. Recently her brother-in-law was laid up with broken bones himself and she does much to help her sister. While her daughter was doing her exams she did night duty because it is a much lighter load and both patient and carer can have a long restful sleep, though they are up very early. She is a person of quiet dignity and self awareness. She does her work with minimum fuss and will do more than she has to, to feel that Mummy is being well looked after. I love these women with all my heart because they have come to our aid and taken so much worry out of the whole equation.

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Both of them are literate, will make time to read the Marathi newspapers, operate their bank accounts, and keep track of many other developments in the world around them and in our home and theirs. Fortunately for us they live halfway between my sister’s house and mine so it is possible to get buses to come to work here or there. Who sent these two angels to come to our aid? Some special providence – when we mention them in talk we give them thanks for the sustenance they provide. Someone must watch over them and be their sustenance in this world and that is our responsibility.

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The Same Old Same Old

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It took awhile to get our team together and functioning well, with some false starts and some unsuccessful team members, and funny experiences, but we got it all going some time ago and we love our present helpers who are proverbially worth their weight in gold. Slowly but surely everything settled down to an orderly pace.

After we came here, with much help and cooperation from the Air Force and my father’s bank in the village (The State Bank of India), Mummy’s pension (which is usually a portion of the deceased person’s pension, not the full amount), was activated and it is a great help in paying for her carers salaries, for medicines, doctors visits and supplies required for her.

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Now that there is a timing and a method to everything and everyone in the house knows what has to be done things function pretty smoothly. For at least the first two years she has been here Mummy was a bit difficult but not so bad that we could not deal with things.

Our meals are similar to what she ate in Brahmanpalli but with less frying, more vegetables, less meat, more dal and beans and healthy stuff like sprouts. She ate lunch with us, whatever we were eating – vegetables, dal, salad, yogurt, chapatti and dessert after. Her vegetable soup has continued up to now and is an invaluable tool for her digestion and  nutrition. She liked her soup with buttered toast as well as enjoyed her breakfast oats with banana and other fruits. Earlier she did not like eggs and believed she had an allergy to egg yolk.

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Her day starts early. Whoever is staying with her at night wakes at dawn (it seems to me) and the trundle bed is pushed under. She is woken up and teeth brushed and freshened up. Then she is alone for an hour or two – this being a time of day required by the helpers Sharda and Lakshmi, to attend to what is required for their own daily routines, making dabbas (packed lunches) for their family members going to work or school and cleaning homes, having a fresh bath and then setting out to work themselves. I peep in from time to time, to see that she is asleep and sometimes quite wide awake and she will call me Deborah, what are you doing? Sometimes she needs water because of a coughing fit, (maybe because of being prone so much).

Some days, though rarely, she does not want meals and fusses a lot. Then she is coaxed, cajoled, asked to cooperate and finally accepts what is being offered.. She finishes her oatmeal and banana while seated in her wheelchair and might have some other fruit after. Then she sits a bit more, when it is cool, to get some sun, but not at this uncomfortable part of the year. After her daily bath and especially when she’s had a shampoo she is extra relaxed because after being helped into bed she sleeps very well for an hour or so. Then its free time till lunch for the carers and some chatting and tea drinking go on in her room which she has always liked and finds comforting. She gets a peaceful look on her face if people chat in her room.

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Lunch means some more sitting, we try to increase her sitting up but she does not favour it too much, though she can sit for up to three hours. The lady on duty will pull out the bed and have her afternoon nap while my mother will lie quietly. When she is extra wakeful she calls out questions or asks for water. In these summer months nearly every flat in the vicinity is shut down for a rest because the days are long and hot. By eleven in the morning I will have shut the windows and drawn the curtains to keep out warm air and to make it feel dark and cool. Everyone in the house relaxes or sleeps but I am usually on the computer.

At five Uday will appear and make tea for himself and whoever wants and Complan for Mummy. She has it with something to munch, biscuits, or cake. I have tried successfully to make banana/yogurt/chocolate chip cake, carrot cake and  sweet potato cake – some with eggs, some without.

We have our Scrabble board game and then I rush out for my walk around the building after which it is fun to sit with friends in the evening and shoot the breeze.

Mummy’s dinner follows which presently has to be really varied or she fusses and fusses. She has started liking scrambled eggs with toast, or a tuna fish sandwich or French toast. Some more sitting in the wheelchair and then its bed and TV till sleep intrudes.

Evening Sky-4

So that’s Mummy’s typical day.

All this while and for most of these activities she is helped and cared for (with some help from us in propping her on the walker) by Sharada and Lakshmi. They pour affection on her and feel a strong sense of responsibility towards her.as well. I will write much more about them later and add photos too. They will definitely be in their favourite and beautiful saris.

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Mummy is in Pune

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Mummy adjusted to life in Pune quite well in just a short time. She has forgotten many things and many people but she still remembers my father. She is not the type, though, to give meaningful looks to his picture on the wall next to hers (at first she would glance away quickly from his photo). She seems to be comfortable here with us.

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Pune is a few degrees cooler than Hyderabad and its surroundings. Mummy never seems to feel heat all that much though she will say when she is cold. In that first year she was here, as usual she would get angry and yell at us if  we urged her to do anything that she hated, like trying to move using the walker. That was all, of course, something we knew well by now and took in our stride.

Debbie’s house has a beautiful garden with trees, shrubs and flowering plants.

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However, Mummy did not want to go outside and sit there. Other  houses overlook the lawn and she did not want ever, to be stared at, and for some reason, people had an uncomfortable habit of giving her sidelong looks as if she is weird or something. And this makes us feel bad for her. She was quite happy to spend time in the living room among us when we were talking. She would not say anything but just liked sitting there, not even, it appeared, listening to what we were saying, just reassured of our presence.

Debbie of course was a familiar face, a very soft-spoken, caring sort of a person. Vani was also, for a while a continuing presence. Vani had the ability to be patient and good natured. Her singing and cheerful greetings had made such a difference in my parent’s lives. Mummy would always be persuaded to eat and do anything Vani asked her to do. She would speak in her own language and sometimes in her own English, continuing to do my mother’s hair in elaborate styles and enhance this with clips and bows etc as if Mummy was about five years old.

As urgent as looking to her needs and being helped by Vani was the need to get our own house prepared for her to live in as was Debbie’s. We take care of her in turns from times varying between three to six months as and when we have to travel or have other guests. Things like this have to be planned well in advance. It is just fifteen minutes drive between our homes so we have got the transfer routine down pat by now.

We asked the same carpenter to make her a bed in our house. It is solid and sturdy and has the same guard rails at the side, with some different artistry on this one. Under is a trundle bed that pulls out for an attendant to use. As important is a TV so that they have some distraction because she does not need attention all day long, more than anything it is supervision because she sometimes develops bad coughs and colds. Other equipment was the same as what was there in Brahmanpalli but we do change and get new ones from time to time. She is on her third wheelchair now. The last one simply started to come apart at the seams.

In the beginning she would not stay alone if she was awake for more than a minute. It could be very trying, though understandable. Being alone and immobilized obviously made her insecure. It became imperative to find a person or persons who could help out. Pune has organizations called Nursing Bureaus. They have men and women working for them throughout the city. On their rolls are trained nurses (quite expensive and I guess only required if the person is seriously ill) and untrained attendants who learn each family’s needs as and when required. They are told what sort of work to expect and  some people even expect them to cook for the patient. They bathe or sponge the patient, wash their clothes, change the bed linen and keep their charges clean. They give a percentage of their earnings to the bureau, though some leave the bureaus if they get steady work. They also negotiate, apart from this, for other allowances, for conveyance, yearly bonus, for a raise, for loans, gifts and maybe new clothes on an important festival.

This was becoming crucial as Vani had to leave and that time was getting close. About two and a half weeks went by and her room in our home was ready. We put Mummy in the car with all her goods and chattels (us) and brought her to our house. Vani came for three days and then tearfully parted with her “chinna papa” (small baby as she called Mummy). It was sad to see her go because of the very genuine affection she displayed and that made her so acceptable to my mother.

We tried to keep Mummy’s routine as close to the one she was used to in her own home. Very soon new people entered the equation and have been a strength and blessing for the last few years. Next time I want to introduce them and tell a bit about their lives and personalities and the invaluable work they do. Everyone who has any knowledge talks about Indian ‘servants’ or home help. It is definitely an unorganized sector – any kind of organization of domestic help is highly disapproved of by employers and is, of course, why they SHOULD be organized so that they are not exploited. Maybe some people, all the same, give them a good reward for work and some give them a raw deal. There is a great demand for good workers so if they don’t like conditions they often leave.

We are very lucky to have two wonderful women who help us with Mummy. And Mummy adores them in turn

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