Hari and I went to Hidden Figures tonight. What a fantastic movie? I didn’t want it to end because the movie gave hope. It’s a story of three independent, hard working, smart women. Imagine being a trendsetter, standing tall and confident when the world around you thinks less of you. It calls for some courage and strength of character, isn’t it? The best part being, it is not a feel good story born out of someone’s imagination but is based on true life events. Granted, reality may have been tweaked here and exaggerated there to make it commercially successful but that doesn’t take away the fact that there was segregation, discrimination and that wisdom, grit and courage knows no color or gender. That there are some people who don’t let their circumstances constrain their lives; they rise above and lift others with them. Their courage is a gift to mankind – one that inspires us to try harder, and stay stronger. Do watch this movie to believe in possibilities…!!!
New Year’s day was sunnier and warmer than one would expect at this time of the year in this part of the world. So we picked our lethargic selves, and did something that we always wish we did more of – go to the city!
Chillier than we had expected, the place was teeming with life and the new year spirit. We walked briskly as the kids played tag, sighted some ice sculptures that were slowly melting away, and then caught this street performer in action.
When I first say him, the term free spirited came to mind. There was something about him that said that he was doing this act for more than sustenance. He had random contraptions and knick knacks on his head, tied to his legs, and his hands. He was a one man band with a website! He sang the Beatles and even invited volunteers from the audience to join him.
Intrigued, I came home and googled him. This avid traveler was making music, and believed that the energy from the music created peace waves that free trouble spots in the world. The cynic in me rolled my eyes and thought it was bit of a stretch. Peace waves? trouble spots? really? But then it dawned on me – there is so much panic, cynicism, hatred and terror out there. Here is someone, who knows what his heart is after, has the courage to pursue it and in the process believes that he is making a difference in the world.
Selfishly I say, more power and success to this one man band. We all could use some peace waves and free spirit in our lives, don’t you think?
I found these words very empowering. It reminds me how powerful focusing within can be. Hope it appeals to you as well.
When the mind is running hither and thither,
When it’s telling the same story again and again,
When it’s tempting me to check Whatsapp and FaceBook every other minute,
When it’s pushing me for all the tasty treats,
When it acts with a sense of entitlement,
It’s about time I focus on the NOW. This moment. This breath. This task
By this time last week, little did we know that my mil was living the last few hours of her life. The first of the several phone conversations for the night happened at 1:45 A.M. “Amma is not responding to CPR,” The next call said her lips had turned blue and that they are waiting for an ambulance. The next one said the ambulance arrived and they have called for a local doctor. And then, we learnt she is no more. All events unfolding within a span of 45 mins to an hour. It was very excruciating – hoping, wishing, praying, denying, and then finally accepting. We lay in our beds, too numb to feel anything, and trying to make sense out of the sudden turn of events. Can you shop for tickets? Da asked. On the other end, his sister was at the mortuary, trying to do the needful to preserve amma. My heart bled for the two of them.
Flights were booked for that night. We kept ourselves insanely busy, tying loose ends, not wanting to face or even think about amma not being here anymore. Hari who is grown up enough to have made memories with amma was visibly shaken. We were too distracted to let Ram know, but Hari took it upon himself to explain to Ram. “I felt bad for him amma. I think he should know even if he doesn’t understand” By then I had also spoken to Da’s sister who calmly explained how peacefully amma had passed away – she had her morning oats, had a hair wash, got ready for a doctor appointment, and just when she got into the car, there was a loud breath after which there was little life left.
We tried to find meaning in her death. So many things to be thankful for – we visited her in Nov. which was not so long ago. Da had visited her again last month as she fell ill with multiple health setbacks and she was recuperating remarkably from the health deterioration. Last but not least, she did not suffer, she went when the going was good, isn’t that the greatest blessing of all? As much as we were thankful for these gifts, they didn’t make us miss her any less. That’s when I realized what grief and loss is about – overwhelming sadness, indescribable loneliness, and a sense of helplessness that envelopes you when you think of that person that you can no longer touch, listen and be engaged with.
We reached Hyderabad on Thursday morning. Amma was brought from the mortuary at 10:30 A.M. and the last rites and ceremony took place little after noon. Somehow the environment was not heavy as one would typically expect in a funeral. In fact, there was a certain lightness to it, that was so characteristic of amma when she was alive. I realized how important it is to say that one final good bye – to be physically present, to cling for one last time, to thank her for all the things that were and to ask for forgiveness for all the things that could have been.
Amma always took things in stride. She was never insecure about getting old. She took age related setbacks with grace. She didn’t need a lot to be happy. She somehow was adept at the art of savoring the little moments in life while not sweating the small stuff. She instilled the same attitude in her children, who in turn are causing a ripple effect with their families and beyond. Lucky us…!
Amma, thanks for showing us a different way of looking at life, one that is filled with lightness, grace and love for living. We salute you for this and for a life well lived. We miss you. A lot. Rest in Peace.
As a child, I grew up listening to devotional songs by MS – the Hanuman Chalisa, the Ramnavali, the Suprabatham, and the Vishnu Sahasranamam. One of my proud mommy moments was when my 2-year old second born would regale us with the singing of the first few words of Bhaja Govindam by MS when he had barely begun to string words into sentences. Every once in a while, I would resolve to play her songs at home as steadfastly as my dad did, only to let it slip in the humdrum of life.
MS, to me and to several others exposed to her mellifluous voice and divine rendition, is synonymous with devotion. A certain sense of peace pervades your being as you lose yourself to her singing. Little did I know that underlying that serenity were stormy forces and scandalous events that made MS a household name in south India.
In this biography, MS – A life in Music, author T.J.S. George has done a phenomenal job of writing the life story of MS in the context of the societal norms, the evolving performing arts, and the people in her life – notably her mom Shanmughavadivu, her husband Sadasivam, and her contemporaries.
I confess that half way through the book, a part of me wished that I had not started this book because I was worried that I would feel let down – I would form impressions of MS that I didn’t want to. But I am glad that I persisted because the rest of the book so beautifully reinforced how that her enablers (her mom and her husband) may have made calculated moves to make MS popular but that did not in anyway adulterate her dedication to her art . From the beginning to end, MS did what she knew best – being true to her music. With passion. With discipline. And devotion. Nothing else mattered to her.
If you heart MS or are a music lover, this is the book for you. You will not only end up learning more about the legend but become more knowledgeable about the dynamics that shaped the carnatic music through generations.
I leave you with few lines from the book that tugged at my heartstrings.
“Her involved non-involvement, her detached attachment somehow enhanced her beatific profile. She was Sadasivam’s wife, Rajaji’s disciplie, Kalki Krishnamurthi’s friend, but she was always MS. In the end, she herself was her music and her bhakthi. In the end she attained what the people around her seemed to miss – a sense of fulfillment. Sadasivam was successful and devout, but did he find ultimate fulfilment? Rajaji stayed for long at the top of political and social pyramids, but did he find the satisfaction of the true achiever?
A look at MS was enough to convince anyone that she had found herself. When she sang the Rajaji hymn “Kurai ondrum illai” it was like she was telling the world about herself and thanking her god for his blessings. One word occurred frequently in the language of those who met MS in her later years: Glow. Everyone talked about how she glowed from within. In the midst of frenetic life, she had found serenity. An aura of grace surrounded her.“
I had to convince myself a lot before we started hiring cleaners. It felt wrong that someone else was cleaning up the mess we created, and I have chided myself for taking the easy way out. But I am glad we made the switch as it has freed up so much of my time to do things that are close to my heart. In the process if someone is benefiting, then why not? May be there is no need to get all righteous about it.
The Brazilian who currently cleans my house every other week is my all time favorite. I don’t like to micromanage her. If I have to spend time hovering over the work of someone, why not do it myself? While the earlier cleaners have taken advantage of this attitude, she works with integrity. It is important to her that she does her job well. She is one of the hard working persons I have ever met. She works on three to four jobs, waking up at odd hours, carrying the weight of having to support her family back home on her shoulders. But you know what I like the most when she comes – she hums her favorite numbers when she cleans!
That she is doing what it takes to keep her life going inspires me to no end.