Tag Archives: Family

The beats of the drum

24 Jul

As I spoke to my friends’ sister-in-law, I could hear the beats of a tabla ( a percussion instrument) being played in the background. It evoked strong memories of my mother, who used to play at numerous social gatherings, dinner parties, weddings and Mehndi nights. “Oh, Mrs ——! Why don’t you play?”  “Please Mrs —–, sing for us! Play the tabla!” The women would plead, implore and encourage mum by placing a spoon in her hand and pressing her clenched hand onto the table.  Mum would react with some reluctance at first, displaying modesty and humility. But the beats of the drum would easily sway mum to become absorbed in the sound of the music. Meditative, delightful and passionate. Sometimes, you would hear laughter. Other times, tears. But overall, a joyous occasion shared by women.

Photo: commissioned for a 40th wedding anniversary

Dad didn’t quite have the same “musicality” as mum . He did however, have a strong sense of verse and poetry. He would be sitting in another room, surrounded by men, his peers, long term friends and new acquaintances.   His reputation surpassed his knowledge. People would invite him to recite poetry, “ghazals” and verse, write articles, poems and provide awards, receive rewards of recognition and accomplishments. His words, strong and emotive, would reverberate around the room, halls and amongst the crowds. The tone of his voice resonated, the audience murmuring assent, applauding the sound of words, spoken with aplomb.

However, I chose to ignore, didn’t understand…

But now I cry, soft tears roll down my cheeks, memories strong for the love of my parents I long…

Love is like...

 

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Respect for Elders

19 Jul

 

At the same occasion of the House blessing, something else was highlighted to me – that being, no matter how old we are, we still seem to bow down to the commands, requests and directives of our elders.

This feeling was compounded by my Sikh friend, aged 44 and a teacher at a Secondary/High school. He invited me into his home, I accepted. We were or are 2 people with common interests, independence and our own family units.

So, he called me in. He offered me a seat, which I accepted as I had already explained the physical symptoms of my back pain. But just when I was about to open the folding chair which was proffered, his older brother made an accusatory remark and commented that I should sit on the floor as a mark of respect to the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Scripture) and to the others who were present, sitting cross legged on the floor. I was embarrassed and without further ado, I complied to the bidding of the elder. I sat on the floor, albeit in an uneasy and uncomfortable fashion.

 

Afterwards, my friend asked : “When my brother asked you to sit down, did you feel like a child?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“I’m sorry,” he said “I felt so embarrassed for you. My brother does that to people.”

 

We agreed that it wasn’t so much his brothers approach , but the attitude or response we provided in return. Even though I’m 44, it’s only now, in the last 3 years that I’ve attempted to speak my mind, be outspoken and assertive towards my own siblings. I keep telling them that I;m not 12 or 126 anymore. I have my own life, issues and challenges to face without being treated further like a child.

My friend and I conceded that the relationships and boundaries we have with our own Elders is a challenge in itself and a cultural attitude which needs to be addressed and the cycle broken.

 

A Single Blessing

5 Jul

2014-06-25_19.13.36

I was invited to a housewarming party by a Sikh acquaintance. Well, actually, he’s not an “acquaintance”. He’s an old school friend but after our college years, we went our separate ways. We rekindled our friendship several years ago after bumping into each other on the street.

But I digress…The housewarming was really a low key event, and can only be described as a “blessing”. The holy Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib was placed on a low bookstand and we sat around it whilst verses were recited, chanted and absorbed.

It was embarrassing for me as I couldn’t understand the spoken word or even its meaning. I heard several words here and there that just about provide me with the general gist of the reading: it seemed that the recitations were about “bringing harmony, sweetness and peace” to the loves of those who live within and for those who visited the home.

Although I couldn’t understand, my spirits were lifted and felt a sense of belonging.

For all of 30 minutes, it offered up an opportunity to relax, meditate and reflect on past events. For me, not only was it a “blessing” for the house, but a blessing just to be invited to the occasion.

 

The Learned Kat

Why am I so angry?

28 Sep

LOB8

 

Why am I so angry?

Is it because I am gay

and you say I would die a like a dog at death’s door?

Or is it because I finally have my say

and you hope there is no way for me to be paid?

Or is it because you disown me

and leave me feeling lonely and mad?

Or is it the sad losses

and two crosses gathering moss is lost in the quagmire of hope?

Or is it the job losses

and the  bosses who post a print out of lies?

Or is it the silence

and the concrete sighs ends my days of stress?

Or is it the times

and the fast paced lives which drive me until I’m dead?

Or is it my life

and the linear ways of thinking my dreams away?

 

The Learned Kat

 

 

 

 

Crying because I’m chopping onions

22 Jun

 

I’m not weeping because

I miss you

I’m crying because I’m

chopping onions

I’m not lonely because

you’re not here

I’m cooking the dishes

you used to prepare

I’m not nostalgic with

memories of you

I’m trying to recall all

your recipes

I’m not wondering about what

you would say

I’m pondering on how it would taste

 

I’m not sorry

you left me

I rue the day

you went

I’m not looking for comfort in

your dishes

I’m trying to recapture

your essence

I’m not searching for

your happy look

I should place your recipes

in a book.

 

I wrote this poem whilst cooking a curry which was taught to me by my mother. She passed away three years ago. I find cooking or baking, therapeutic, a distraction. There IS comfort in food which is prepared and cooked with the extra ingredients of warmth, love, and happiness. I’m not saying it lessens the burden of bereavement, but it does help me to ease the pain.

The Learned Kat

 

 

 

A little truth about life and relationships

28 Apr

orange gerber 1

 

When I look at the people around me, not just in my life but others that I see, I think “They’ve got it made”. There are those who are married, have successful jobs or careers and children. There are those who I look at an admire or am envious about. There are those who are hardworking and appear to get nowhere and yet there are those who appear to have “celebrity” dropped into their laps for just being who they are.

There are those who I can rely on, look to support and can talk to for hours on end without feeling guilty, having a laugh or just being me. There are those who I keep at a distance and then there are people that I like to spend time with and don’t mind seeing once in a while, every few weeks or months on end.

Then there are those who I only catch a glimpse of once in a while and I see or hear a chink in the cracks of their lives:

The neglected housewife seeking adventure and new romance, the woman who had mad, passionate love affairs in her youth but finds it difficult to find a suitable playmate or soulmate in her retirement years, the gay man who seeks cheap thrills, one night stands and more but deeply wants a monogamous relationship, the elderly and disabled woman who years to be reconciled with her grown up children and grandchildren, the promiscuous gay man who leads a double life with a “Sugar Daddy”,  the gay couple who have escaped the hedonism and drug scene of London and have retreated to the tranquillity of Torquay to repair a broken relationship, drug induced hostility and mental health issues, the  husband and wife who have remained together for 26 years with five children despite bouts of domestic violence, a husband and wife who divorced because he felt guilty when his mother passed away. There have been others who have almost been torn apart  with allegations of child abuse, or those who have converted to a religion who wish to remain faithful to their doctrine and appear to cut me out of their lives, there is one man who appears to have date after date to find his Miss Right after his original Miss Right dumped him within weeks of announcing their engagement and planning their wedding. Then there is the woman who places her addiction to gambling a priority over her domestic chores, her duties as a mother and her friendships that supported her through her times of loneliness and isolation. Another woman who needs a man in her life but when he wants a secure family unit, she rebukes him for treating her son as his own.

Then there are those who are superficial and everything in their lives appears to be “hunky dory”, glamorous and positively rosy…

And then I look at my own life and my relationship of 21 years and I think, you know what? despite all our ups and downs, trials and tribulations, foibles, flaws and his slightly fractious nature, I am grateful and safe in the knowledge that at least my relationship provides nurturing, growth and development to grow as a couple and even though we sometimes have our varying differences of opinion, hobbies and personalities, we are as One.

orange gerbers in vase

 

 

The Learned Kat

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht

11 Mar

This book was recommended by my local book club, the Bearwood Bookworms. I wasn’t too sure about the choice made as we’d only finished reading The Leopard (Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa) and someone had mentioned The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga).

There seemed to have been a big cat/feline theme going on…

I requested a copy from my local library and when I got home, I started to read it:

A young female doctor goes in search of her late grandfathers’ last resting place and his personal belongings. She describes her relationship with her grandfather, who was also a doctor, and the associated memories of him. This is interspersed with him telling her stories of his youth and his subsequent meetings with “the deathless man”.

The tiger of the novel is a relatively tamed species, which is kept in a zoo that the young doctor frequently visited with her granddad. manages to escape from a bombed zoo and in its attempt for survival, prowls the land in search of food and shelter. It is in one village that the tiger is seen, and “hunters” are dispatched to kill it. Unbeknownst to the local villagers, a deaf-mute woman, who also happens to be an “Outsider” finds a way to feed and care for the tiger. This leads to speculation, alienation and fabrication.

The story is interwoven with characters from different eras, but at the same time, the themes of desperation, survival, dying/death, fear and quality of life remains. There is uncertainty, trying to draw out fact from fiction, the question of cultural identity and the role of compassion and humanity in times of destruction.

I wouldn’t say he was a central character, but because he appears several times as a “constant”  throughout the novel, the “deathless man” has to have a mention as a very clever literary device. To me, the deathless man is symbolic of what the old doctor had known for most of his life: death which is known and unknown. For most of his young life, the doctor had either seen, heard or witnessed death. It was his experiences that drew him to try and help people and keep them alive. But it was also his knowledge of observing the signs and symptoms of death,  dying and the search for salvation that seemed to allow him to have pleasant conversations with the deathless man. Having the figure of the deathless man in the stories seemed to make the doctor, although sceptical and angry at the initial meeting, begin to develop  a relationship of some sorts over the years. Sporadic meetings allowed the doctor to question why the deathless man would come to him and what he gained from his visits. I think the deathless man represented the doctors own conscience, as he would look around during the war years and would question the futility of it all. It was at these times that the deathless man would appear and they would either argue or wrestle with what may be the consciousness.

The deathless man offers hope and preparation, not fear and uncertainty. He is a quietly strong, confident and practical being. In his own way, like the doctor, he offers salvation, resolution and peace. Maybe because the doctor has seen so much death in his time, that is why he would not accept it in a “lifeform!” It makes it more tangible and “real”. It is there, waiting and ready for everyone no matter what the circumstances.

Relationships are explored, either superficial or deep, loss and love are prominent in the telling of the search for the grandfather. Friendship, support and understanding are also key issues which Tea Obrecht explores with passion and instinct.

Having won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011, I can now fully understand and appreciate why. The author draws you into a story within a story. Descriptive, seamless and enchanting, Obrecht relates the horrors of modern day wars with the wars of yesteryear. It was similar to The Book Thief ( Markus Zusak) and The Diary of Anne Frank but told through the style of The Arabian Nights. Full of sadness, melancholia, dark humour and shocking endings for some of the characters, it combined fables and folklore within communities bombarded by war, death, segregation, religion, superstition, fear and possibly ignorance.

My initial uncertainty was unfounded. It was an engrossing, page turner and at the end, I was overcome with the desire or wish to see this novel turned into a film. Every bookshelf ought to have a copy.

The Learned Kat