Thursday, May 20, 2010

High Above the Valley {on the thirteenth day}

A year and a half ago I lost my father. More than that. A year and 7 months ago. No, I’m not going to get morbid on you. Trust me. A little reflective perhaps.
I happened to be in India at the time he took sick. Purely by chance. It makes me wonder, sometimes. The co-incidence I mean. I could go more into it but then I may lose you.
So, and this is a digression, but oh well. Emirates did me a favor on the way back. They thought. Maybe this was just an accident, but they did know the reason whey I postponed my trip twice before. So I give them the benefit of humanity. Somehow they assumed I wouldn’t be up to chatting up a stranger for the next 18 hours to Houston!
I got a row to myself in the middle of the plane. A row, you say excitedly! There. I knew I’d have your attention there. It was almost business class. But not quite. Come on, you knew there was a catch. The row was in the back. Fair enough, I thought. The plane was ready to take off when I realized my luck. I lay down immediately after the plane leveled, before anyone got any ideas about the open seats next to me and closed my eyes. (To be fair, there was barely any space to straighten your knees before they end up on the other side of the stomach of the passenger directly before me.) (Okay, I lied, before they poke through the rib of the mullah-like-passenger in the seat four inches to the side before me.)
Don’t make me justify this so much.
I’ll never finish the story.
Then where will you be?
In any case, I must have been exhausted. I fell asleep. On those three mis-aligned seats in that pinched waist of the tail of the plane where one feels every shudder of cross wind, where every passenger stops on the way to the toilets in the rear.
By the way I woke up feeling like a shrimp, curved in a not so attractive way, a crick to one side.

But back to the story, and here, I’ll alert anyone who’s beginning to nod off…we’re back to my story now, a little blurred perhaps, but do focus.
I came home to my husband, my son, and to my very inviting bed where I could actually stretch out, and slept for ten hours straight. The next morning I woke up early. As always when I return from India, for the first few days I always wake up in time to watch the last stars in rotation.
Awake, clear, alert.
I think, I write, I’m replete. (I must do the jet-lag thing in a weird way.)
I did my usual thing that morning. I took account of the changes that had occurred while I was gone:
In the three weeks I was away, the late exuberance of summer had turned to fall. My plants had clearly suffered from my absence. Everything seemed in remission.
The jet-propelled humming birds had vanished. Their feeders were drained and stuffed with miscellaneous insects. A thin frost lay on the skeleton deck.
From out of our expansive windows in our bedroom I tracked the upward movement of the sun. The view of the sunrise is always amazing whether I actually see the sun between the gap in the Hogback or not. I can imagine why the Vedic ancients worshipped that daily arrival.
The morning was glorious on that first day back.
I stood by the window, on the cold tile of the bathtub surround and watched the light change by fractal degrees. In micro-seconds on the clock, it went from that watery blue that gets distilled between midnight and dawn to the murky rouges of stirring dust, to flagrant reds that blaze behind the hulking hills and the towers of DTC blurring in the distance, to the gaudy pinks flashing steadily across the ocean sky. I waited until the sun cracked and spilled, dense and liquid in the haze.
By the time I made tea, the drama was over. The sky was normal again. I sipped my tea. Hot. Black. Sweet. Purely caffeine. Stepped carefully out on the deck, leaving footprints down the stairs to the unfinished pond. It was the one thing that hadn’t changed. Still without prospects of completion and filled with melting snow and an apron of animal tracks in the white dust.

I watched a different sunrise everyday that I was back.

On the thirteenth morning of my father’s passing low lying clouds settle in. While I slept, back home in India, there had been a gathering of family and friends, a large meal, food packets distributed to the home for the aged. An observance of my father’s life. My night, their day. The house, silent, emptied of a singular presence beyond all others.

I look out from my window at the valley below. The horizon is close. The DTC towers are nowhere in sight. In thirteen days, snow has fallen and melted several times already. Rooftops hunker down for the coming winter. Now the valley is filled with the tops of trees filtered by smoke, by mist. From my window in my valley full of shadows and stubbly evergreens, some 6000 feet above sea level, I observe too.
The sun has come up somewhere. I am sure of it.
The clouds register its passage.
I wait with bare feet on the four inch square standard beige tile, until the light shifts.



  1. Convergence sounds so much better
    than coincidence

    Remember a favorite high school phrase:
    Great minds think alike.

    I'll see your one blogspot and
    raise you one in June

    With You I Rejoice
    aka con-gratulate

  2. Beautiful, luscious writing of a poignant time. Thank you for this.

  3. Beautiful writing, Sangeeta. I did not know that your father had passed away. Great loss. Your beautiful memories of him will carry you along. Susan.

  4. Beautiful writing, Sangeeta--I was drawn into your experience of those mornings. Love the art too. So sorry about your father. In a way you are carrying on his life in your work.


  5. I too lost my father but its has been a few years. Thanks to an extensive computer phone frame in my living room, I see pictures of him flash by and they are so clear that I can almost feel the moment.
    Yes, sitting in the cramped Janata economy seat gives you time to reflect on times gone by. The last visit when I took out some dusty old photo albums and sat with him recounting people, places and things. There was a gleam in his eye and I felt we connected like never before. His passing was a relief (end of a painful existence) lined with guilt. Till today his Tie and watch are on my table. A quiet memory of a generation gone by.