Sifting through the reading journals over the years, we went through the places of worship, museums, zoos, nature places we have been over the years.
This theme made me revisit the Confucian Park in Toronto zoo- where we have spent many lovely hours watching the zoo mobile go by, and discuss nuances of Identity- using framework of works of Amartya Sen-Identity and Violence.
WALKS IN ROUGE RIVER VALLEY AREA-TORONTO ZOO
In this Nobel accepting speech -Sen had remembered Kader Mia. This theme -and discussion of places of worship -meditation where our family has prayed, made me recall some of the temples with which our family is associated.
LOCAL HISTORIES- EXPLORING THE TRAIL OF -THE SKIN OF THE LION-
DON RIVER AREA-TORONTO
We as a family shifted to the Toronto area – in July 2012-after two years in Malta. Over the years, we have spent many lovely hours walking the Don river area. Nature and its currents made us walk through Wilket Creek park and Edwards garden- which is also housing the Toronto Botanical gardens. From there we went through the different galleries and displays of the Ontario Science Centre.
In Michael Ondtaaje’s novel-The Skin of the Lion- talks about the people who were part of the making of Toronto in the 1930s
“ Through fragmented stories and evocative memories, In the Skin of a Lion recounts the story of its protagonist, Patrick Lewis, and his experiences as a member of the Canadian working class.
In the meantime, in Toronto, Commissioner Harris presides over the construction of the Bloor Street Viaduct.
There, workers take part in exhausting, dangerous work. One worker in particular, Macedonian immigrant Nicholas Temelcoff, distinguishes himself by his bravery and his talent.
One night, when a group of lost nuns walks on the bridge, one of them falls off and Nicholas saves her, though everyone believes that the nun has disappeared forever. While the nun, who keeps silent throughout this entire episode, tries to mend Nicholas’s shoulder, which he has dislodged when he caught her, the two of them walk to Nicholas’s friend Kosta’s restaurant. There, they share an intimate moment in the empty restaurant. The nun vanishes the next day, transforming her habit into a dress and entering ordinary civilian life” (1)
Video Diary- 2014-WALKS IN DON RIVER AREA
In the many walks, studies, talks in the Don river area of Toronto our family found many threads through which we built our life in GTA area. The study of the licensing exams, the many family discussions and connection with this region, which has been for around eight years.
The narratives of people who came from different lands and built parts of Toronto struck a deep chord. Looked back at some immigrants who came before us and then helped us in settling down here, through their teachings, examples and inspiration.
“I could not write a girl’s story knowing little about any but my own sisters and
always preferring boys”,
as quoted in Anne Boyd Rioux’s Meg Jo Beth Amy,
a condensed biographical account of Alcott’s life and writing.
Anniversaries are a good time to look back at our lives. Around 25 years ago,we got married in Mumbai-1995.
KARACHI TO BHIWANDI
The writer -psychologist John Gottman writes of different exercises which a couple can do to make their marriage life better.
One of them is to explore a different period of one’s life- and ask- If I could re-live a five year period of my life-which would it be.
Using this exercise, and adapting it to the family history of my wife-I asked Mamta about how life was for her mother, grandmother. This brought up some deeply emotional family issues, (all not for public blog) on how the family members attached to each other. Her parents originally lived in Karachi-British India, where they were born. After partition, they came to Gujarat and then Bhiwandi- in Greater Mumbai area. With a choked voice, she told of the times when the family would be in Bhiwandi and she expressed deep gratitude to her father, for having supported her grandmother and great grandmother in their older days, got a house for them, and helped build their sense of self-worth and dignity.
As I heard these intimate details, I came to know a bit more about why the daughters love and respect their father so much.
This winter- (before COVID19 lockdown) we went to see “Little Women” the 2019- film adaptation of the novel by Louisa Mary Alcott (1860s). After seeing the movie, my son Sagar discussed the differences between the novel and the movie and reflected that the characters and subplots are much better developed in the novel.
As we went through the nuances, the way the death of the sister Beth is dealt with in the novel as compared to the movie.
Looking back-25 years.
Looking into the way our reading journal has evolved over the years, I see the discussions with my sons and their contours. Marriage led to children – and as they grew, discussing the nuances of different characters in great works of literature became a way of life-family discussions.
25 YEARS ANNIVERSARIES- REMEMBERING MY PARENTS
When they celebrated their 25th year Silver Jubilee- in 1992, they were in Pune-Maharashtra, Western India. The shape of life in that period, of the vision they had about life and living, and how their own parents and extended family drew into a dynamic of creating a joint vision of who we are as a people came alive.
THE STORY OF THE SISTERS…Following a life is a great exercise in developing vision.
Following the life of the sisters and close ones of my wife- added many dimensions.
Over family dinners, discussions and walks- we looked at the different trips of Libya-North Africa, Malta-Gozo in the Mediterranean and now the different parts of Ontario Canada.
Knowing about the details of family journeys, struggles in the times of partition of British India, their move to Bhiwandi area added intimate layers.
Louisa Mary Alcott’s – Little Women is a book which is said to have shaped values of domesticity, feminism, realism. While “Alcott never questioned the value of domesticity”, she challenged the social constructs that made spinsters obscure and fringe members of society solely because they were not married (1)
One of my efforts over the years, has been to try in inculcate the love of the written word in my sons. This was a gift passed on to me by my father, uncles, grandfather. I tried in my own way to pass it on to my sons. In this- the 25th year of our marriage, Little Women was one work which we looked at a bit more closely.
In that framework- we also heard stories of the ladies of the family, and their journeys during the times of Partition, their struggles in different phases of life.
Elbert, Sarah (1987). A Hunger for Home: Louisa May Alcott’s Place in American Culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ISBN0-8135-1199-2.
It takes one person, to inspire a world of kindness
* * *
My mother was my first teacher.
She would read the different lessons, prepare notes and then explain to them.
In a way- she taught all subjects to me. She also taught me to be organized.
When I visit our family home in Palam-India I come across her notes-logs of works done in house-the list of boxes to be packed (in the different shiftings we did as a military family). I could have brought those log books and note books with me to Mississauga-Canada. But I let them remain there- as they are part of the family archives which I have been maintaining in Palam. That sense of connection will remain through those note books.
Logs of relations
Who visited- for how many days- what we ate together- where we went-National Museum-2002
How we went to Srinagar-Garhwal- for what- whom we met- 1999.
How we had dinner at Rishikesh-Garhwal- where we walked-Chotiwala- 2000.
Log of works done-
How much money was given to Mr.A to repair the front door-1996.
How many boxes of Paint were bought, who was paid how much-for the paintings of house-2007
Who gave how much rent-where did it go? How was it distributed in savings-2006
The family momentoes- and how my mother was linked with them- whom I gave them away to
-My grandfather’s eye cleaning piece- which I gifted to her youngest sister In 2011- after she passed away
-The Buddha bust- my gift to her- when I last met her-2009- I gifted that to my father’s sister, when I met her in 2013
-My father’s emergency kits- for resuscitation – Some of those are still in Palam, some I gave to my brother-in-law who himself is a Cardiac Anesthetist (like my father)
– The Doll which she gave me-when I was a pre-schooler- That I have still kept in the house in Palam- as a symbol and memory of the times when we used to stay in Khadki cantonment area-Pune-1970
IN POPULAR CULTURE-A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
It takes one person, to inspire a world of kindness
In 1998, Lloyd Vogel is an Esquire journalist known for his cynical writing style. He attends his sister Lorraine’s wedding, along with his wife, Andrea, and their newborn son, Gavin. During the reception, Lloyd starts a fistfight with his estranged father, Jerry, over memories of Lloyd’s deceased mother Lila, whom Jerry cheated on and abandoned.
As Lloyd tries to interview Mr.Rogers to prove that his kindness is just a made-up act, many layers of relationships are revealed.
Lloyd refuses to remain overnight at the hospital with the rest of the family and returns to Pittsburgh to see Rogers. Exhausted, Lloyd collapses on the set of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and dreams about his repressed childhood trauma. In his dream, he stumbles into an episode of Rogers’ show about hospitals, finding himself wearing rabbit ears and shrunken to the size of Daniel Striped Tiger and King Friday XIII, while Rogers and Andrea tower over him.
Lloyd also dreams about Lila, who urges him to release his anger.
(one of the pivotal moments in the movie-a mother giving the message of forgiveness and kindness to her son- who still holds a lot of resentment, anger towards his father)
Rogers and his wife, Joanne, bring Lloyd to their home to recuperate. Lloyd and Rogers later go to a restaurant, where Rogers asks Lloyd to spend one minute thinking about the people who “loved him into being,” and encourages him to forgive Jerry.(1)
PREVIOUS PERSPECTIVES-A walk in the world of Sophia McNab-1846
Last year 2019-around Mother’s day, we went for a walk through Dundurn Castle. We got the diary of Sophia McNab- the daughter, written in 1846-the year her mother passed away. A touching account of the way life was in that period, the pages give an intimate inner view of a family which shaped the Canada of today in many ways.
WHAT WILL WE BE ABOUT-THIS TIME NEXT YEAR…This question asked by Lady McNab to her daughter Sophia-in Jan 1846-the year she passed away, made me think of how the world has changed since last year-2019. If someone would have told us that around this time -2020-we would be in lockdown and not be able to go freely for walks in Dundurn area of Burlington Heights, it would have sounded far fetched.
As a family, we went through some interesting discussions, based on the theme of forgiveness and recovery based on the movie-A Beautiful day in the Neighborhood.
This made us look and follow these words in a deeper sense
Anger not transformed, is transmitted.
Rick Reynolds, Family Therapist
KEEPING LOGS AND NOTES
Carrying forward the lessons my mother taught me, I have been keeping some logs of the progress I am making in cleaning and arranging my backyard garden in Mississauga. It is a work in progress. The lessons she taught me by her example remain.
My sister saw this arrangement, and commented that it reminds her of some of the gardens we used to see in Pune Cantonment area in 1970s.
Combining the Gratitude Texts Club with the 5 Am club led to some interesting results
GRATITUDE TEXT- Write a gratitude text daily. A good friend advised, elaborating that one cannot feel bad and feel grateful at the same time
FIVE AM CLUB- REMEMBERING MY MENTORS.
I belong to the 5 am club.
The first person of this club I came to know- was my father- an army doctor, who gave me the gift- of the morning hour, when night turns into day. In these times of COVID19 lockdown, when I do not have to get up to go for work-my family members were wondering if this 5 AM club would sustain.
One of my heroes- did not belong to the 5 AM Club. He was part of the 4 AM Club.
Before the morning walk, (6 am) he had already done some readings, reflections.
His instructions- before starting a session of study try to revise what you did in the previous session- what are your goals-aims of the present study session, and after the study session is over- try to see the points which you have studied and tidy up your desk and work place- have stood the test of time.
This person was my maternal grandfather- and over the years, through talks with extended family, I have come to know many different aspects of his life, the times in which he lived-the India of the 1940s/50s/60s..and what family life was at that time, and now, looking back-over the decades, one can see the shape of things to come.
GRATITUDE FOR GIFT OF THE WRITTEN WORD
Before I entered school, my parents got an encyclopedia for us. I read most of it over the years, and that gave me the gift of the love of the written word. This has stayed with me through the years.
One of my all time favourites, reading Ruskin Bond books gave a better sense of connection to the Hills of Uttarakhand, from where our family is originally from. We are Garhwalis- though a part of our family shifted to Shimla- the capital of British India- and we had a house in Upper Kaithu Bazaar.
Took out my copy of -Rain in the Mountains- and went to the woods nearby and went through these words of Virginia Woolf written in 1932- written by Ruskin in his notebook in the 1950s- which are a great credo to live by
I have sometimes dreamt that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statemen come to receive their rewards- their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble- the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms,
“Look, these need no reward.
We have nothing to give them here.
They have loved reading.”
My grandfather’s sister was married to a family in Meerut region. I have no living memory of my paternal grandfather, as I was around a year old when he passed away. However, listening to the talks of elder cousins, I came to know about the family’s relations and extended networks in Northern India region. One of them was the sister of the Bhatt brothers of Upper Kaithu Bazaar-Shimla. That sister’s grandson- is my dear Devraj Bhai. He sends me pictures – from his garden- Gudhal (Hibiscus) and we shared so many intimate family details.
On a trip to India-2016-December- I sat with my aunt- in the B Block Garden of Palam Vihar and we talked about old times gone by, remembered my parents. She is a life long educator, a Phd in Two subjects and told her name is mentioned in her department even now, after many decades of her retiring. Doctorate in Literature and Education. These teachings she passed on to her children ,grandchildren in many different ways.
Many lovely memories
Apart from the love of the written word- one of the things she has imbibed in her children is Compassion.
Moti- a dog who lives near his house- the dog does not have any particular master, but comes to different houses. One day -Moti- was run over by a vehicle and suffered fracture of the legs.
Devraj Bhai wrote about the treatment he got for a Moti
Dec 5-2019- Moti had an accident
Dec 12-2019-Was operated in a clinic in Moti Bagh
Jan 21-2020- Pin Removed
Feb 20-2020- Discharged from personal care of Devraj bhai
Great writers help us connect with different aspects of Humanity. We study literature to explore, experiment, expand.
Shakespeare’s – Prospero wrote
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on
And our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Our experience of the world is limited by time and place, and even the most resolute traveler can only superficially come to know the complex blends of cultures that make up our world.
As I went to the Lake near our house in the Naturalization zone –(Jan’s trail-Mississauga). Coming to know the story of Jan- made us connect with the history of Russian empire, the second world war.and the persons who made Ontario-Canada and the world we live in. This also reminded me of another Polish immigrant- who was the first Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission -Casimir Gzowski.
The Lake at Jan’s trail has been one of our Thinking places over the years.
In John Maxwell’s book on Thinking- he says that if we get deliberate about having a place and time to think, and intentionally go there and think- it will help us expand our thinking. This suggestion has helped in many different ways over the years.
Here are some of the Thinking places and associated themes
2017- Discussing -A Passage to India-E M Forster- and the characters within
2019- Museum Societies- Royal Ontario Museum- intimate association since 2013.
Here in 2019-we attended a special exhibition on Jodhpur. I told my sons about our family connection with Jodhpur- their Bua-ji (Aunt) was born there on Feb 10,1969.
THEME OF GRATITUDE-TEXTS- SOME AFTERTHOUGHTS.
In these times of COVID19 lockdown, my friend helped me with a great idea- write a Gratitude text. This made me reflect on some Brotherhoods, Sisterhoods, Museum Societies , Five Am clubs, Libraries and walks for which I am grateful for.
Do you have a place, person, theme, institution, principle and related memory for which you are grateful for?
Żurakowski was born in 1914 to Polish parents in Ryzawka, which had been a city of the Russian Empire since 1793 when it was removed from Poland in the Second Partition.
What they don’t realize is that these small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.
The Compound Effect (p. 10). Vanguard Press. Kindle Edition.
The Compound Effect can be applied to many things- one of them- relationships. Have a touch-base every fortnight, and getting current- to what is happening in the lives of our near and dear ones. This nourishment helps us connect.
Around the birthday of my cousin sister-I rang her up and many memories came alive. She told me that I could use the pictures sent by her, but with proper privacy settings. So I decided not to use any such pictures which could cause confusion later. But I spent some time thinking of Sisterhoods and how these impact us.
As we went through the motions of how life is around COVID19 lockdown, she gave me some important tips about recipes- and gardening.
Over the past few months, she sent me some pictures, one of the most memorable being seeing my aunt and my grandmother’s sister walking -their profiles taken from behind, and she asked me to identify who they were. I could easily tell who they were, and many memories, family stories came alive.
We go back a long way.
PAST-WALKS IN HIMALAYAS
During a walk towards the woods near our house, we recalled previous such walks.
One of the most memorable ones recalled was in 2006-May- along the Ganga across Laxman Jhula of Rishikesh-India. There are ashrams there for spiritual retreats. However, whenever I have gone to this area (over past forty years) I have stayed away from any organized religion-and connected directly with the Universal spirit.
As we walked, I told of another Sisterhood.
My paternal grandmother- passed away when my father was around 4 years old. That was the Shimla of the 1940s- the summer Capital of British India. Many decades later, a life time actually-when I went to my ancestral village near Srinagar Garhwal- Uphalda-near the bridge connecting Kirtinagar and Srinagar, we stayed in the house of my father’s Mamaji- the brother of my grandmother. He was a quiet man- and his profile was so similar to that of my father.
The sisterhood came alive in many ways.
As we walked across the woods, a squirrel running towards us, I told of my father’s uncle, his daughters and our links with the Himalayas- to the villages on the banks of the Alaknanda river-before the Ganga forms at Devprayag.
After my father passed away, my mother got a lot of emotional support from the Joshi family of Srinagar. This was the family in which my Father’s uncle’s daughter was married. She used to visit them regularly – for a retreat plus emotional check-in. Many of the things which she shared with them, probably she did not share with others in the plains.
In 2011-October, after the war in Libya, when I visited India, the first thing I did was go to the ancestral village-in the Himalayas. This time, my sister helped me perform the prayers for my mother who had passed away in June that year.
The sisterhood came alive in many ways.
SMALL STEPS OVER A PERIOD OF TIME
As I talked about the walks in Himalayas, one step at a time, I recalled these sisterhoods and how the family institution connects generations across continents.
A life time ago, my father started taking me for walks in the hills, first the Western Ghats-of Maharashtra- The Sahyadris and then the Hill Temples around Shimla and Rishikesh. Those lessons , talks, memories of sisterhoods and associations came alive in many different ways
In Stud Terkel’s – Coming of Age – he writes about the experiences of persons in their seventies and beyond
and the lessons of life we can draw from them.
“Life certainly does not begin at seventy…..”
SLEIMA-MALTA-2011- We did not inherit this earth from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our Children..Native American Proverb
AS I SAW THEM-
This book made me think of the seniors who had influence on shaping my thoughts and beliefs.
My grandfather was not in his seventies- but he was in his sixties- and he got me into the world of letters.
He would correct a letter which I would send to him from Pune-India. He was in Moscow.
This was before the times of internet-and instant messaging and video conferencing calls. But that process of writing a letter to Moscow, then waiting for it to be corrected with some suggestions, was a binding exercise which introduced me to the world of letters.
Later I refined it into a three point heading grid.
1-As Life Is
2-What we are as a group or people
3-What we can become.
THE JESUIT FATHERS
The senior teachers, priests of St. Loyola and St.Vincent’s Pune were a shaping influence.
When I look back, I remember these educators who could teach so many different subjects, I saw some of them even teach sports- Javelin and Football, while being equally comfortable in the Wren and Martin Grammar and Geography projects which they guided us through and introducing us to Newton and VIBGYOR.
The concept of a legacy- a living tradition came in very strongly as I witnessed the football cup in memory of Father Riklin .Father Maxmillian Riklin was the principal of St.Vincent’s School from 1929-to 1950. The St.Vincent’s High school was established in 1867 by members of The Society of Jesus
THE GARDEN TOMBS OF DELHI.
My paternal grandfather lived only till his fifties. But talking to older cousins, I came to know of his love for the garden tombs, museums, parks, trade fairs, exhibitions of Delhi region. They told of times when he would take the children to Qutub Minar Mehrauli area and commune with the centuries gone by.
In this COVID19 lockdown, I had a re-look at some aspects of my home library, which includes books, but also personal journals, albums and collages.
Re-read the Reading Journal notes of Conrad’s – Heart of Darkness and the discussion of whether Conrad was a racist as some like Chinua Achebe say . This led us to -Things Fall Apart- the book by Achebe in which Okonkwo struggles with the legacy of his father – a shiftless debtor fond of playing the flute – as well as the complications and contradictions that arise when white missionaries arrive in his village of Umuofia.
A time to connect- with my sons.
We went through the Extended Essay he wrote in 2016-17- in which he compared “Handmaid’s Tale” of Margaret Atwood-1985 to “Jane Eyre” of Charlotte Bronte-1847.
WALKS-LETTERS AND JOURNALS
The letters I wrote from Pune to Moscow in 1970s, and the corrections my grandfather sent me, have evolved into journals of different types.
The Reading Journal is one example. My father introduced me to Museums. This has led me to go to different museums, become part of museum societies.
Last year-2019- my son Sagar, visited China as part of a University exchange program between Yangzhou and Ryerson Universities. He went for some interesting walks-Visited the Forbidden city and walked the Great Wall of China, paid homage to Nanjing martyrs and meditated at the Marco Polo museums and Flower gardens.
We looked at some of his intellectual and physical journeys. As part of this project, we went through some pictures of the ROM-Royal Ontario Museum-Family Photographs exhibition of Spring 2017 at Frank McKechnie Woods-Mississauga in early spring 2020.
2014-JANUARY – A letter to a loved one who has passed away
The original, complete form of the Exercises is a retreat of about 30 days in silence and solitude. The Exercises are divided into four “weeks” of varying length with four major themes: sin and God’s mercy, episodes in the life of Jesus, the passion of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus together with a contemplation on God’s love. This last is often seen as the goal of Ignatian spirituality, to find God in all things. The “weeks” represent stages in a process of wholehearted commitment to the service of God. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_Exercises_of_Ignatius_of_Loyola
2- JANE EYRE-1847
Jane Eyre- revolutionised prose fiction by being the first to focus on its protagonist’s moral and spiritual development through an intimate first-person narrative, where actions and events are coloured by a psychological intensity. Charlotte Brontë has been called the “first historian of the private consciousness”, and the literary ancestor of writers like Proust and Joyce
Lock down notes-Reconnecting with institutions we have been associated with.
2015-Sahil walks with Giant Panda
In our home library, we have books, journals (personal diaries and subject specific journals) and albums of photographs (some of which have been converted into videos).
As we have more time now, it is a phase in which we will look back at some of our associations with these institutions
We have been members of different institutions of Toronto area. One of them is the Toronto Zoo.
In November 2015 issue of Toronto Zoo- (Wildlife) the Chair of Toronto Zoo Board of Management-Dr Raymond Cho said
“ The role of the Toronto zoo has progressively evolved since its doors were first opened 41 years ago, becoming pioneers in preserving and breeding endangered species from around the world. The behind-the-scenes work done here at the Toronto Zoo is critical to the ongoing survival of many of the world’s most vulnerable species, such as the black-footed ferret, Vancouver Island marmot, eastern loggerhead shrike, Puerto Rican Crested toad, trumpeter swan and others.”
The first zoo which I remember visiting was the Peshwa Park zoo of Pune. We had many picnics and family outings there.
In 1953 the Pune Municipal Corporation created Peshwe Park on about 7 acres (2.8 ha) where Madhavrao Peshwe had established a private menagerie in 1770. Located in the heart of the city at the base of Parvati Hill, this zoo exhibited animals in traditional cages(Wikipedia)
When our children were small, we made trips to Jijamata Udyan, the Bhau Daji Laad museum and saw many interesting artefacts of different cultures.
In 1835, British administration granted a large plot of land in Sewri to the Agro Horticultural Society of Western India for a botanical garden. That land was later acquired for a European burial ground. In 1861, construction of a new garden was commenced on 33 acres in the Mount Estate, Mazgaon (now included in Byculla).
TRIPOLI -LIBYA ZOO- 2004-
The flora from Sewri garden was transferred to this new garden named Victoria Gardens which was formally opened to the public by Lady Frere on 19 November 1862. Agro Horticultural Society of Western India continued to maintain Victoria Gardens till 1873 when the society’s end led to the municipal corporation taking over the garden’s upkeep. In 1890 the garden was extended by 15 acres especially for the zoo.(Wikipedia)