This earth life

It’s 11 pm and I have wound myself cozily down for the night, a tad too well fed, wrapped in my warmest shawl in the thick of Karachi winter. Today has been the kind of day I am inspired to cook a lot, partly because the cold makes me hungry, partly because it’s pleasant to hang around a fire. So I whipped up a fresh salad using half the mung beans I had soaked overnight and boiled in the morning, saving the greenish water to make a spicy, lemony lentil soup. The dwindling gas supply is erratic this winter, and perhaps forevermore. It seems we didn’t really think this precious natural resource could ever run out. Now we have a portable stove/gas cylinder on standby and I pretend I’m camping in my kitchen, which makes cooking oddly a whole lot more fun despite the awkwardness of the process. (Perhaps because of it?) I need to have a little chair to sit by the stove, and a low table to keep my things on…..and I have to admit, cooking is indeed a lot more enjoyable when you’re sitting down. I confess I could cook things all day if I didn’t have to stand and do it.

I also boiled some potatoes and mashed them up with butter and a little locally-made Gruyere. But the piece de resistance had to be the gajar ka halwa I had been daydreaming about since yesterday and finally conjured up from freshly grated red carrrots, lots of milk and sugar, and a tsp of crushed cardamom seeds. The gas supply had resumed , so I slow-cooked the grated carrots, stirring frequently as the milk evaporated. I made myself a cup of coffee to sip while watching the sun go down and the clouds turn pink, as the halwa bubbled and glistened deliciously in its final stages.

Two batches of laundry were hung out to dry in the soft winter sunshine in the middle of all this cooking, multiple cats fed and cleaned up after. It had been an active, busy day but I had made an intention to get in some mindful exercise before the day was over. So on went the fairy lights, the diffuser spewed out a refreshing mist, and twilight turned into night with a 50-minute yoga practice.

I don’t know why the idea of learning to make origami paper cranes entered my head today. Of course, it was one thought that led to another and then another, but the root of the matter was an empty journal with uninspiring paper that I had put into the recycling bin earlier. I think my inner critic was chastising me for not thinking of a better use for all that unused paper. I was also a bit bored of late and in need of a new ‘project’.

So I fished out the journal from the bin, searched for a suitable tutorial on youtube and set to work. I made three perfect cranes, one after the other, but if you ask me to make one without guidance, I might flounder. It gets rather technical halfway through and I suddenly lose the logic of what leads to what, which makes me think I need to practice a lot more to create a stronger neural pathway to keep track of the folds in the paper.

In Japanese culture there is a tradition of making one thousand paper cranes as a prayer for the return to health and well-being of a sick friend or relative. There is an analogy too between that square piece of paper and ourselves. The paper starts off smooth and unwrinkled until it starts to fold and the creases keep adding up, becoming an indelible part of the paper, eventually turning it into an unfathomable sculpture.

How long will it take me to make one thousand paper cranes? 200 days, if I make five everyday. Enough time to create an enduring crease in my brain I should think.

Speaking of making the most of beautiful winter afternoons and cooking on low stoves, I’ve been joining youngest sis on her regular weekend beach forays. She loves the feeling of expanse, being near water, and going for long walks while listening to music. It has become something we both look forward to, even though the drive back is fraught with huge trucks and traffic jams. But the beach is peaceful, the waves soothing, and the earthing effect of walking barefoot on sand is incredibly grounding. We usually pack some food for a post-walk picnic when we settle down to watch the sun go down and make tea or coffee on her camping stove, folding chairs firmly planted in the sand. We leave when it starts to get dark, albeit a little reluctantly, as the feeling of freedom, fresh air and seagulls casts such a spell on the senses. I suppose it can get a bit creepy when there’s no one around but you on an empty beach, but in all my years I have only encountered fishermen, camel-men, horse-men, and groups of families with children or young people partying in the huts. I have never felt much fear of anything apart from the swarms of midges that emerge from the mangrove forest on one side of this particular sand spit, and in retrospect, I’m a little surprised at my naivete and misplaced sense of safety.

The truth is, when the universe sends you an angel to warn you of danger, you’d better trust him, and pay heed. When you start to feel uneasy, even after a lovely afternoon, leave as fast as you can. When you spot three men walking along the shoreline in your direction, don’t assume they’ll keep walking. Definitely don’t bring so much stuff with you that it slows down your escape.

We got mugged last weekend by three such men, and though none of us were hurt and thankfully Huz was also with us, it was a frightening experience which took a couple of days to stop replaying in our heads on loop. We were so vulnerable, such easy targets, and they were petty thieves with a gun. They ran away over the dunes after depriving poor Huz of his phone and wallet and didn’t come after Fatu or I, probably rode away fast on their motorbike.

This unwholesome event has left a definite crease in our paper, and I don’t know what shape the future of our freedoms will take. Will we be too scared to continue our weekend jaunts? Or will we be a whole lot more vigilant from now on? Perhaps this mugging was just waiting to happen, and perhaps there is an important lesson in it for us, to never take our safety for granted, never be complacent. Perhaps it was a lesson in how to take the good with the bad. In truth, isn’t being ‘safe’ an illusion? Anything can happen anywhere, even if you’re ‘careful’. Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, couldn’t that be true?

To me, it feels like a story that wants to be told, but the details can really only be felt, deep in our bones, all the thoughts that passed through our minds, the way the very air seemed to change with the approach of menace, the way our hearts beat against our ribs, the ways we responded in the moment, and all our individual regrets at not having done all the things we could have done, throwing fistfuls of sand in their eyes, shouting loudly for help, pulling out a threatening knife….something my warrior-sister came very close to doing. She isn’t new to muggings or risky endeavours, like cycling around the city alone at night, so when she says she doesn’t feel too comfortable going anywhere alone anymore, that’s a lot.

And the protective older sister in me is super relieved. How sad is that.

Five paper cranes a day, that’s how we rewire.

Being of this world

I didn’t just turn 50 on the 4th of December, it has been more of a becoming. To become means ‘to grow to be’, and indeed it has been a journey to grow from 40 a decade ago to the place I am at now. Nope, it doesn’t seem like yesterday at all.

I love my birth month so much. It makes me want to hunker down and reflect on the year that has passed, to spend time in solitude, to welcome and enjoy the winter with cozy, warm mugs of coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice, and carrots that are redder than any other time of year, and to buy salted pistachios and cashews and almonds from the dry fruit store/treasure house.

I want to spend my time being at the beach, going on walks there, watching the seagulls and the waves, the fishermen in boats and the ones casting nets at the shore. To feel the sun on my skin, to let the breeze play with my silvery hair, to dig my feet into the soft sand, to lie back and gaze at clouds, to look at pebbles and admire their shapes, colours and beauty.

It’s a challenge for someone like me to navigate wedding season, which coincides with December (it being seasonally the best time of year in Karachi) when there are invitations to events in settings I’m uncomfortable being in. Being social requires a lot of energy, and a lot of things which entail a lot of time spent in shopping places. And the thing is….I’m quite done with putting so much effort into activities that I don’t enjoy.

At 50, my soul feels wilder than ever, more fabulous and freer than ever, and to be honest, it wants to express its fabulousness now more than ever. But here’s the thing: it wants to express itself on its own time and space, it doesn’t want to spread itself thin. Sometimes I think it doesn’t want to spread itself AT ALL.

I thought a few times over the course of this last year of how I would like to celebrate this milestone birthday, and it made me a little anxious and a little pressured to think of how others would expect me to. The funny thing is, I don’t enjoy celebrations and I don’t enjoy being celebrated either. I almost wished no one would remember, as I didn’t want any birthday wishes. I appreciate seamless transitions, don’t I? But my heart knew what it wanted, and it gave me a nudge…and a very nice visual.

The usual suspects (Amu, Huz and Fatu) made a cute little fuss after which we packed some things and set off for the beach. I think we were all in our own head spaces that day, and that was okay. There was comfort to be had in being together, yet doing our own thing. One of the things I feel compelled to do is to clean up as much trash as I possibly can in the area we set up our base camp, I cannot feel at ease unless I do so. We even had a large rake to make the job a little easier (thanks to Huz, who made it a point to buy one.)

The others helped a little but then eventually abandoned the job to go swim in the sea, or sit peacefully and take in the golden hour. I found a large, torn fishermen’s basket abandoned along the shoreline, and decided to use it as my trash bin, slowly filling it with objects like footwear, empty gin bottles, plastic bags, toothpaste tubes, chip packets, juice boxes, straws, rope, styrofoam and other flotsam. If you’re anything like me, you’d know how committed one can get to a lost cause. And yet, when the basket was full to the brim and I looked around me, I felt and saw such a big difference. Amu remarked amusedly that I must have been a professional trash collector in a past life.

People saw me do this work, and I didn’t give much thought to whether they thought I was a loony, or if I inspired them to do something similar. What mattered was that I left the place better than I found it. There were large craters higher up in the sand, where the Olive ridleys laid their eggs, and there were so many eggshells scattered about. I smiled to think of all the little babies that must have made their instinctive path to the waiting waves, and felt even better about cleaning up. Like I had a pact with the protective nature spirits and the elementals to serve them and the original inhabitants in whatever way I could. I know I felt their welcome as soon as I entered the land of the mangroves, it felt like happiness.

The moon rose, faint at first but grew stronger as the sun went down. I took my rake and drew large concentric circles in the sand, claiming the space. We ate, drank, made merry and I couldn’t imagine a better way to have spent the day. It was perfect, even though Huz had been hangry on the way, Amu had been in a troubled mental space, Fatu had insomnia and missed Hasan, and Lums thought we were all a bit nuts. The sunset was beautiful and the twilit beach still had mysteries to reveal. I pulled a chair right up to the water and watched the shapes of little crabs scuttling along the wet sand. There was movement skimming across the surface of the water which I realized was a little flock of small birds only when they touched down on land. As it got darker, we listened to music and danced in the shallow waves that washed up gently on the shore, the tide slowly being pulled higher by the moon. The waves glowed neon with luminescent organisms.

And this was how I crossed over into my 50’s, loving my gentle, unconventional life more than ever. Isn’t it a miracle to think how rare and beautiful it is that we exist? I’m here for it all, and I will slow it down as much as I can, continuing to create my own reality in my own unique ways, so help me Great Spirit. And it was nice to read the messages on my phone as the day went by, and to remember I am loved and appreciated by humans too.

Whatever catches the light

How do I honour myself? These are the words that rippled through my mind during the course of my day, as I went from one activity to the next. I like to think I move organically from doing one thing to doing another thing, usually based on visual stimuli, and also a little bit intuition….what needs to be done today? So many things need doing, and most things need time, attention, and yes, love.

I made banana pancakes this morning. It may seem like a mundane thing for someone who has made pancakes often enough in life, but I did it differently this time. I didn’t use any measuring cups! A small shift seemingly, but for someone who follows recipes to a T and wastes a lot of time trying to be precise and perfectionist, this was huge. I felt so liberated as I mashed the bananas and whipped in the eggs and the oat flour, using just instinct to get the right consistency. This shift didn’t happen all by itself of course, it happened because I watched a guy on Youtube the day before, effortlessly whipping up a batter, all free and easy and playful, and I LOVED that, and so I channeled some of his spirit into me. Amu wandered into the kitchen as I was in the process of being playful and looked askance at my winging of the pancake recipe. Of late, she has been crowned the pancake queen of the household, or rather, the breakfast queen (that being her favorite time and meal of the day) She interrogated me about my ingredients and urged me to squeeze in some lemon juice, sprinkle in some salt and some cinnamon, use baking soda instead of baking powder, and lastly, would it be nice to add some cocoa powder? Yes, I said, not just because she looked like she needed cheering up after having beaten herself up mercilessly for all the ‘wrong’ decisions she has made over the course of the last four years of her life, but also because chocolate and bananas always taste great, and also because collaboration is the name of my game now that I’m all grown up and wise and realize my-way-or-the-highway isn’t the best way to win friends and influence people. She did look skeptical as I embedded grapes instead of non-native blueberries into the pancakes before flipping them, but the juicy fruitiness tasted wonderful to me.

The next thing was to tackle the daily accumulation of clutter in my room, which often makes me feel a bit like that guy who was cursed with the task of rolling a huge boulder up a mountain, only to watch it go tumbling back down. What was his name now? I recall Camus assigning him with a certain joie de vivre. Certainly not with defeatism!

It’s not that I’m lazy, I’m just not always very efficient about putting things away after I’ve used them, perhaps because I need to use those things every day, and honestly, who am I trying to be neat for? I know the answer, it’s me of course, I do appreciate tidy rooms, with a perfectly made bed, everything in its place, no visual clutter in sight, dust-free surfaces, clothes neatly hung or folded and kept in the cupboards.

It feels nice to tend to my clothes I think as I sort my wardrobe and fold things Kondo style, making separate piles for various items. I had not been paying attention since a few months, allowing everything to get mixed up and so I ended up wearing the same things over and over while other good things stayed hidden and unused. I took time over the task and by the time I was done, I felt nothing short of joyous! The prospect of being able to discern exactly where everything was… felt like pure magic.

Energized by this expansiveness, I wandered over to Amu’s cupboard to create some more magic. Some unworn musty outfits needed freshening, so I rinsed them out in soapy water and hung them out to drip dry gently in the yard. There’s a flow to my day now, and everything I do, it’s happening with ease, the mountain is not insurmountable after all.

Love languages, I thought, as I chopped the lettuce, washed the bokchoy, sliced the spring onions, grated the carrots, marinated the chicken, sauteed the green bell peppers and made a sauce for the wraps I wanted to have for lunch. Lately I have been noticing how my body seems to crave fresh food, literally rejecting anything it doesn’t agree with anymore and in a variety of alarming ways. Post-thyroidectomy me is learning to listen, and the message is loud and clear. Eat more plants, it says.

My windows face west, so I cannot witness the rising of the sun, but I sometimes get up to look out and see the tops of the trees across my window catch the first beautiful, golden rays. I’m grateful for this, and also for the resilience of Jimmy the unfortunate cat, who sits in the sun when he is struggling with a respiratory infection, soaking in all that solar medicine when there is nothing to do but try and breathe as well as he can, and also for the guidance that appears when I surrender control, when I unburden myself from the responsibility of keeping a creature alive and allow the Mystery to come into play, to recognize that in the world of magic, things happen when I am quiet and still. Jimmy lives!

Sisyphus, that was the name.

The god of jellyfish

I have been stung by a sea creature twice in my life, both times on the beaches of Karachi’s coastline. Fishermen from the village (who doubled as local lifeguards) would warn us to watch out for bluebottles when it was the season, and as a young person I felt a mix of terror and fascination to see those glistening, gelatinous bodies washed up on the waterline.

I was around sixteen the first time, and the only one to be stung that day. All I remember is the intense ache in my stomach as the venom made its way through my blood, and I spent the rest of that miserable afternoon doubled over in a haze of bright sunshine and pain, despite the application of onion juice as an antidote.

The second time was last year, as I circled the Sun for the forty-ninth time. I was one of a group of five people in the water, all of us in the mood to stay there till sunset. As always, it felt so beautiful to be immersed, letting wave after wave lift me off my feet and set me down again on the soft sand. That sense of bliss wasn’t destined to last very long that day though. All of a sudden, I felt something wrap itself around my hand and a multitude of painful sensations ensued, making me scream and flail my arms to shake it off. Of course, I knew immediately it was a jellyfish of some kind, the nematocysts in its tentacles releasing relentless amounts of venom-covered barbs into every bit of my skin they touched. No one knew what was happening as I shrieked and flailed, and in the drama of the moment my precious moonstone ring flew off my finger and sank into the waves.

If the rapidness of the way my dismay shifted from the agonizing sting to the loss of my ring wasn’t funny enough, how my sister responded to the stricken look on my face was hilarious. She instantly directed her focus to locating the ring under the water with her feet and quite miraculously, she found it! I have never felt such gratitude and love for Fatu’s existence as I did that day. She had been with me when I bought that ring from a tiny shop in the bazaar of Kalaam on one of our trips together.

Evening effectively destroyed, we all made our way out of the water as no one wanted to be in it anymore. What followed was a series of potential antidotes to relieve the pain in my hand which had built to excruciating levels. If you’ve ever been stung by a jellyfish, you know.

Having a painful experience, whether it is physical or emotional, can be deeply isolating, and so it was with the jellyfish sting. None of the others had ever experienced it, so even though they were concerned and kind and helpful, I had to sit alone with my shock and suffering, reflecting on the why. Slowly, like a light in the darkness, it began to feel like the universe had just delivered some kind of message to me, though I had no idea what it was. There was a great sense of consciousness, not just of my own physical existence but that of unseen creatures all around, who had as much right to be where they were as I thought I did. And my hurt and distress gave way to acceptance, with this mystical glimpse into the Great Mystery.

I didn’t see the little beast, so I don’t know if it was a bluebottle or a Portuguese man o’ war or some other kind of jellyfish. My left hand swelled up for a week, and I was left with interesting dotted scars along the back of it to remind me of what had happened. The respect I feel for the sea realm, and those who dwell there, was now mixed up with enough fear to stop me from wanting to go to the beach again let alone enter the water. It made me sad, as the beach is the only expansive landscape I have access to.

It took two months for my hand to heal and the pain to fade. I wore my battle scars with pride, they told a story…like a tattoo.

And then a year passed, the scar slowly began to disappear, we moved homes again, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, had a thyroidectomy that left me with a new scar, and Amu went on a solo trip to Nepal where she met a backpacker from Brazil, the land of the Amazon, who spoke Portuguese, and sported long hair, an earring, and a tattoo on his chest, right over his heart, and after eleven months of traveling through many different countries, he decided to make his way to Pakistan from India next door, and Amu had to write a letter of invitation for the Pakistani embassy to give him a visa, and he got it, and he bought me sarees from Delhi an hour before his flight, and we picked him up from the airport when he arrived in Karachi, and he ended up staying in our house for a month, and he turned out to be the most emotionally intelligent young man I have ever met, who learned to love desi food, and rabri was his favorite Pakistani dessert after gulab jamun, and he loved wearing shalwar qameez and talking at length with Huz about politics and Latin America and electrical circuits, and he swore not to go back if Bolsonaro won the election, but Lula won! And we all hugged and danced at the promise of it all, and we cooked together, and he said grace when we ate together, and Amu took him to St Patrick’s cathedral where she attended Mass for the first time in her life.

Why did this strange boy from Sao Paulo feel like soul family and was that why he so quickly become a comfortable presence in our home? Why did he lose his mother to Covid the same year I did? Was it her spirit that guided him to another mother when he needed one, on the other side of the planet? And what made him feel so at peace near bodies of water?

We took him to the beach, and it was in his presence that I jumped back into the sea without any fear, after more than a year, and I didn’t get stung by a jellyfish, because a little baby turtle showed up on the towel he had laid out on the sand, and after it made its way down to the water, all of us cheering him on, he told me that turtles are the natural predators of jellyfish, and I took it to be yet another sign, and the water was beautiful, and I declared him to be the Jellyfish God, not just because he broke the curse, but because the tattoo on his heart is of two dancing jellyfish, tentacles trailing over his shoulder.


This morning, I thought I’d expand the readership of my post of yesterday by sending it to a few of my cat-loving Instagram friends. As I scrolled through my DM’s picking out a handful of contacts to send the link to, I came across a friend I had messaged a couple of months ago. Out of curiosity, I opened the message to realize she hadn’t even seen it yet, let alone replied to it, which made me wonder whether she was active on Insta at all. Or had she ignored it for so long she didn’t even know it was there anymore?

The message I sent was a post by a woman we both follow, whose account is a documentation of her experiments in ice crystallography, a most fascinating and mystical glimpse into an awareness of the consciousness of water. The woman’s name is Veda Austin and she is a water researcher, author, artist and photographer with over 16.000 followers. She believes water is not a resource… is Source. Her book is called ‘The Secret Intelligence of Water’.

The post I had sent had struck me to be of significance, not the least because Veda revealed that she had been struggling with issues regarding her thyroid gland. It felt so strange and weird that I and Veda had something in common. The image accompanying the post was of a petri dish (with water from a glass she had drunk from and frozen using her special technique) showing crystals formed in the shape of a butterfly.

The thyroid gland is always described as a butterfly-shaped organ in every article you will ever read about it, and Veda didn’t understand why the frozen water showed her a butterfly until she found out that her health issues at the time involved a malfunctioning thyroid. The water knew…

My friend, let’s call her Enn, is the one who first brought my attention to the work of Masaru Emoto. It didn’t really capture my imagination back then, but it just went to show how long Enn had been aware of these concepts. Lately though, my relationship with Enn is on strange ground. I’m not sure where we’re headed, not least because she often doesn’t bother replying to my messages, or if she does, they’re often monosyllabic. The deep connection we had mutually decided we had seems to get repeatedly called into question as we both re-navigate our boundaries after years of knowing each other. Sometimes it looks an awful lot like we have lost that sense of connection. And yet…

Thirty two years ago, we had two classes in common during the two years of our A levels (Art and Business management) and even though I did not know her very well, the simple fact of us being fellow Sagittarians was enough to create a bond. She was one of the very few new people I tentatively befriended, with whom I felt relatively more at ease, and not so self-conscious, someone I could more-or-less comfortably be my middle-class self with. Those days, my solar plexus had taken a big hit, and I navigated my late teen years with the knowledge that my well-to-do friends didn’t even realize they had privileges I simply didn’t. I suppose that’s what made me hold myself a little apart from everyone, unable to reveal myself completely out of a sense of shame.

We never kept in touch after parting ways post-A’s, only to somehow re-connect in our 30’s. She had been married and divorced and was living with her parents again, while I lived with my husband and had a daughter. The re-connection brought with it a renewed sense of kinship and affinity and I loved that she lived walking distance away. Our friendship grew over the following years as we hung out, shared meals and talked over chai. I bore witness to a tumultuous relationship she went through, and I hope I was a good shoulder to cry on during those uncertain days. They broke up ultimately, she left the city and moved back to the US to pursue a masters degree, he went on to marry someone else. It was a sad time, full of heartbreak, misunderstandings and broken friendships. We didn’t speak to each other for a couple of years and lost touch again.

I’m no stranger to lost connections. Over the course of my twenties, I wrote off a bunch of friends I spent a lot of time with in school. In retrospect, using the language of today, I think I had abandonment issues. All of my friends moved away from the city, while I remained where I was. And life went on for all of us….for most of my batch-mates it was full of new experiences, new friends, new environments, new opportunities for growth. Yet they were all in other countries, where things were just….different. Better of course, I thought. I stayed in the same place, and my life didn’t change in the way it did for others. Once again, I felt less-than, unable to relate to anyone as there were no shared experiences to bind us. So I went under the radar, and stayed there, feeling happier being a loner than risk having friends again.

I found it amusing and a bit annoying that the friends who went away didn’t bother to write to me or stay in touch, but wanted to ‘meet up’ when back on home ground. I remember writing long, newsy emails to my best friend from school, only to get a short paragraph in reply. It was disappointing, and it rankled. My emails petered out, and the girl I used to talk to for hours on the phone, who warned me never to drift apart (in the last birthday card she gave me before she went off to college in the US) drifted apart.

Perhaps it’s all a question of styles of communication. I’m a dedicated communicator, a person who wrote six-page letters with paper and ink in those years without computers. I wanted my people to feel connected to me through my descriptions , and I expected the same in return. If there’s anything I adore, it’s the ability to be articulate. Of course there’s a lot more to it, time and attention being two things you can only feel in your heart, evident from the ways you are communicated with.

Now I know these are my boundaries, a much over-used word in today’s lingo, and one that has a bit of a negative feel to it, as if one must put up walls to push people away. These boundaries would perhaps be better defined as rules of engagement with others. Everyone has different rules, different deal-breakers. For me, it used to be inadequate communication, where I’d be left floundering in the dark. Tell me what’s going on with you so I can understand you, or don’t talk to me at all. Ask me questions and listen actively, and you can count on me doing the same for you. Unless of course I don’t want to.

Lately though, my boundaries are defined more in energetic terms. I feel things more in my body and i pay attention to my triggers, knowing they’re there to teach me. Ironically, it is Enn who first pointed me in the direction of not just energy work but also shadow work, her thesis for her masters degree, all such new realms for me at the time. Now, I’m a lifelong practitioner.

It’s interesting that while writing this post I have gone from doubting our friendship over unreplied messages to realizing how valuable her presence has been to me over the last six years, even though she lived in New York and I in Karachi. When we were done sorting our differences we managed to reconnect once again over long conversations on Whatsapp. I couldn’t always latch on to some of the cryptic things she said, and it frustrated me, but it always prompted me to do some research. It was the only way I could keep up with her and I learned so much as a result. She’d scoff at me if I told her she was one of my teachers. She firmly believes I am an empath with far more skills than a licensed therapist.

It is apparent to me that our connection is a psychic one, as well as a cosmic one. Fellow Sags after all, ruling planet being Jupiter and all. Jupiter, known as the planet of luck, its placement in your natal chart pointing to the area of life where you’re granted gifts and blessings, indicating your philosophical and spiritual world views, perception of wealth, and your experiences of travel and long journeys.

She once had a dream in which she saw that I had been given seven gifts by a neighbour. We still haven’t figured out the significance of this dream, but once, I had a strong craving for a Magnum, and that same night something made her get out of bed, walk to the nearest store and buy herself some. And she doesn’t even particularly care for ice cream.

Both of us have been on our own separate journeys of spiritual awakening, and both of us have embraced our natural streaks of silver hair in our individual quests to be ourselves and stand our ground. We both speak to animals, grow plants and thrive in Nature. She often messages me just when I’ve been thinking about her, and what happened this morning was no different. Within an hour of wondering why she hadn’t seen my message on Instagram for so many months, she finally replied.

I can hear you laughing, Spirit. Maybe you’re reminding me to not take things so personally? Or perhaps that our friends are really stars in our constellation. 🌟⭐✨

Cat life

Someone wise once said, ‘Cats are like potato chips, you can’t just stop at one.’

If there are two things I am very sure of in my almost-50 year life, it is that I like chips. And I like cats.

Long time readers of my blog know so much about my allergies and at least two of my cats. But a lot more of them have entered (and gone) from the picture since I lost the ability to write with joy and humor about my day-to-day six years ago, and almost all of my blog community has vanished into thin air too. When I revisit old posts and read the comment section now, I feel so happy to remember that I had so many friends here once, and I miss them and their familiarity with my idiosyncrasies, and all the conversations we got going.

I am told (and I agree) we should greet each day with enthusiasm and positivity by saying hello to everything we see, it helps to set the tone for the day. I may not always articulate it, but my heart always does send a greeting to the sun, the sky, the sunbirds that visit my courtyard, the plants in my house, each cat that graces us with its presence.

Today I met Fuzzy first, petting his soft head. He stands by the fridge patiently until he is served a tiny saucer of cold milk, which he sometimes finishes, sometimes not. Having been around the longest means he has had to get used to an increasing number of feline presences in the house, first Minnie, then Mowgli, and now Jimmy Choo. Being the only long-haired cat in the house (a little on the threadbare side now) makes him the only recipient of brushing and bathing (the others take care of their own grooming.) He is also the only one who will be hungry and there will be a bowl of kibbles at hand but he won’t touch it. However, he will happily polish off the entire bowl if I pick up a kibble at a time and let him snatch it from my fingers. Once he is satiated, he will look disdainfully at my proffered kibble and slowly back off as if to say ‘get the f*** away from me hooman’. Fuzzy likes to sleep in a corner of the kitchen and is probably very proud of the fact that he has never used a litterbox in his entire life. A few years ago, a vet told us he had only 4-5 months to live, diagnosing him with kidney failure after his pee puddles started to show some blood. I should probably go tell that vet Fuzzy is still living his best life, munching the occasional spaghetti and watermelon, french fries and little pieces of uncooked zucchini, still eating raw chicken like his life depends on it, with gusto and entirely without assistance.

Jimmy Choo gets the most love nowadays, as he is the most unfortunate of the lot. The man who guards our gate drew my attention to him earlier this year, telling me I should take him under my wing or he would surely die on the streets. One look at the little guy was enough to indicate he had some serious issues with his back legs. He could only get around by dragging his whole body using just the strength of his front ones.

I am now familiar with the feeling that comes over me just before I adopt a cat. Perhaps this is what divine guidance feels like, I don’t know. I really don’t understand this mixture of resignation and responsibility, but I knew in my heart this beautiful black and grey tabby could do with some love and care. I know there is always a choice to be made, but often if feels like the choice isn’t really available to me. Like the ‘me’ drops away and Spirit takes over. And it seems Spirit doesn’t want me to be a normal person who gets to travel with abandon or have nice furniture.

It was evident that the cat had a misaligned spine, either from birth or perhaps due to some injury. An x-ray confirmed this, and the vet said chances were he could very likely recover his mobility if he received some care. How fortuitous for this little cat to have found people like us, as Amu and I proceeded to administer lots of physiotherapy, soft food, cuddles and love. By the end of a month he was back on all fours, his personality swung from pathetic to playful, and we laughed with delight when he began to dash about with the zoomies, something we never could have imagined when we found him.

He still has issues though as he is not a normal cat, unable to use a litterbox, which means there is a lot of cleaning up to do after him. So far Jimmy has been treated for a series of afflictions which he is prone to because of his situation in life, the latest thing to strike him down being the most horrifying to witness (I cannot bring myself to go into the details as I am trying to erase the memory of it as quickly as possible.)

But I love him and I love seeing his cute little burger-face (his nickname) every day. He has brought with him plenty of distress but a lot more joy. And he welcomes and receives my morning affections happily, unlike Minnie and Mowgli who quickly turn predictably vicious when they’ve had enough. Jimmy seems incapable of snarls, and always keeps his claws retracted. I love watching him sitting quietly in the dappled sunlight under the tree, looking up at the sunbirds hopping around on the branches and the butterflies flitting by.

Minnie being a nocturnal cat sleeps all day in various locations around the house but will show up at my bedside at night, meowing for attention. She has a way of looking deeply and meaningfully into my soul with her blue eyes almost next to my face. Her sweet spots for being scratched are her cheeks and her chin, but the sweetest spot is the one right above her tail. I think she doesn’t know what to do with herself when I scratch that and will headbutt anything that’s close enough. A very vocal cat, she will even talk to me while fast asleep. I love playing with her, and she enjoys the interaction too, but things can get painful very quickly when her bunny kicks turn violent and her playfulness brings on her teeth and claws. I still let her grab my arm and have some fun with it for five seconds though, but heaven help the vet if she ever needs any kind of treatment.

Minnie is a very dangerous cat indeed, and yet the only one who gets to sleep next to my pillow. I call her my snow bear and I know she secretly adores it when I smother her with my love, picking her up and flinging her over my shoulder for a little stroll around the house. Huz only pets her tentatively on the head when she lolls around seductively on the floor inviting a belly rub, but sadly for her, her cuteness doesn’t fool him much.

Perhaps it is Mowgli’s response to my morning greeting which I find the cutest. She has a way of winding about my feet, stepping on them as I stroke her head and back, rubbing against my leg as her tail twines around in ownership. She is just as vocal as Minnie and will talk to me endlessly if I speak to her. Mowgli is blind in one eye, and I think that’s what makes her movements more abrupt, almost edgy, and I approach her slowly and gently so she doesn’t get spooked. She is the most intelligent cat in the world I think. There are so many things she does that the other cats can neither do, nor display the desire to. She will come running from wherever she is if she hears the tv being switched on , and will watch whatever I’m watching with avid and unwavering interest, especially if there are fellow animals on the screen. Mowgli has very short hair so I think that makes her the most sensitive to cooler temperatures, and she is the only cat who will purposefully climb onto a warm lap and snuggle in cozily. She can open doors by jumping up and putting her weight on the handle till she manages to turn it down, one trick that just doesn’t get old. It is astounding to me that she figured it out.

This post was meant to be an introduction to the cats that co-habit the bubble, but I haven’t even mentioned the ones that got adopted (Mano) or abandoned (Emmet, Molly and the Scruffies) or the ones that crossed the rainbow bridge (Georgie and Grey) It has been very difficult to shortlist a few pics from amongst the hundreds in my collection, but I must figure out a good way to showcase more of them here. They’re my legacy after all… After Amu of course! 😉

Bolna mana hai

I think I can quite safely declare myself to be in a rather acute state of laryngitis post-thyroidectomy, and must try and completely avoid speaking, whispering, coughing or clearing my throat. That vipassana I had mentioned earlier? It begins now.

My vocal cords have been off since day 1, and I suspect the damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve due to surgery was further exacerbated by the viral flu I contracted on day 10. It is now day 25, and last night I had to resort to painkillers as I didn’t know how else to deal with the pain and swollen feeling in my throat. This was following a cold cup of passionflower-skullcap herb tea i sipped to self-soothe.

When I google these feelings, I come across alarming words like epiglottitis and laryngitis, and I’m fairly sure I may be experiencing both to some extent. Friends and family message me every day to ask how I’m doing, if I feel better now, and I am quite literally at a loss when it comes to words. I’m still in a transition phase, still in the midst of recovery, and I’m okay, but then there’s the not-so-small matter of the cords. I don’t really know what’s going on inside my throat while Nature does its stitching up work, so all I can do is pay attention, and really effing take care of myself. If this means no visitors or talking on the phone, so be it. I really shouldn’t have to feel guilty about having laryngitis. I do have fingers though, and I can type, not just to write this post but also to communicate with the homies.

The very good news I received yesterday was the result of the blood test I was asked to get done to check my levels of serum thyroglobulin, antibodies, and TSH. There was a slight glitch when the lab sent me the antibodies and TSH result, but not the most definitive thing to rule out radio iodine therapy, which was serum thyroglobulin. We had to go back the next day and ask them if they still had some of my blood sample left, or if I would need to get more blood extracted. Thankfully I didn’t, small joy, as I’m quite tired of having my arm repeatedly jabbed in the same area, we just had to pay some more for the serum test and wait a few more days.

Serum thyroglobulin is a storage form of thyroxin, which is the hormone produced by the thyroid gland, and in a normal healthy adult it should be around 55 ng/ml. Mine came out to be less than 0.20 ng/ml, which I’m guessing indicates that all my storage was almost depleted at the end of three weeks post-thyroidectomy, and nothing was being produced by any remnants of thyroid tissue left in my body. Therefore the need for radio iodine ablation was ruled out by the nuclear physician and he as well as my surgeon said to start taking one tablet of Thyronorm 100mcg.

So this fine morning on day 25, half an hour before my usual breakfast of tea and toast, closely supervised by my sweet Huz, I swallowed my first pill. This little white pill I shall swallow every morning for the rest of my life.

It’s so strange to reflect today on this page that has been turned to start a new chapter. The chapter that started in February 2022, but which actually started sometime in 2017, has come to an end. I should probably do a little ceremony to mark this day, maybe light a candle and burn some incense. Sit in quiet meditation and breathe it in, accept gracefully what is, embrace the new, release the old, hug myself a little.

Maybe there has been no beginning, and no ending.

Maybe it has all been a journey and an adventure and it simply continues.

Maybe my life is about deeply feeling, all the heavinesses, and all the lightnesses.

Maybe life is all about moving to the beat of my own energy, owning it unapologetically, speaking my truths, owning them, loving myself.

Maybe life is all about awareness……that my happiness and peace are all within, recognizing that the subtle nuances in my environment are created by the energy I emit, and not the other way around.

I acknowledge this immense shift and surrender to it, unafraid, making space for ever-increasing love as I move along in this blessed, never-ending transition called Life.

It is all very beautiful, even the horizontal scar on my swollen, tight neck. And I predict it will become even more peaceful than it already is.

A little piece of heaven

When we moved back into our sweet old apartment after a year away, I had this idea that we really needed to focus on our wellness. I had a strong desire to create a space in the house that would be dedicated entirely to movement and yoga. I use the word ‘create’, because no such space existed heretofore. There was one room which had a lot of potential, but a lot of things needed to be done for it to feel calm and zen, and in retrospect those changes couldn’t have been made to manifest if we had never made the weird decision of moving away. But I shall leave that for another post.

Ultimately, we ended up with new flooring, a lovely medium brown tile that resembles wood, I recall it was called walnut. We removed an ugly dark brown aluminium window that overlooked a balcony, broke the wall till the floor and installed a white UPVC door that could be easily opened inwards. A white picket fence was crafted and installed along the balcony ledge to create a more sheltered haven for plants. This added a most pleasing element to the entire room, as the fence partially obscured an ugly PMT with all its accompanying jumble of wires extending every which way. It also provided the perfect trellis for a pretty yellow-flowering vine I’ve had for years, which miraculously survived the move. The balcony was painted a rather bold shade of dark grey, I just knew the green of the plants would contrast vividly against it and happily I was right. My vision was to create a little forest, with juxtaposed foliage of various shades of green, pink, yellow and maroon. Every time we draw the curtains or open the doors now, we are able to welcome in lots of nature and the outside can merge with the inside. Soundproof white windows were installed to drown out the weekend noises in our immediate neighbourhood, and the room feels a lot more peaceful for the first time in fifteen years.

We painted the room a soothing shade of white, with just one wall a light shade of lilac. It was a fraught decision because I wasn’t sure if it would look right, in fact I thought it was wrong for the longest time. But the addition of white wispy curtains on a bamboo rod, really brought it all together with the soft pastel blue of the L-shaped sofa, the vintage mint-green of the TV console, and a deep bookshelf I painted a light but bright blue. An architectural snake plant graces the corner, and a row of spotlights illumines a triptych of cloud paintings made by Amu on the wall above the sofa. A few simple hand-woven rugs in complimentary colors makes the room even cozier, and adds some padding on the floor for yoga. Our three rolled-up but ever-present yoga mats are always neatly lined up next to the TV in an old wicker basket that once housed Amu’s toys.

We removed half the four glass sliding door panels along one wall and bricked in the ensuing open space to create a greater sense of privacy. The two remaining panels were polished and re-installed, and that was it. Huz and Amu finally understood that the mind-boggling 180-degree change they were witnessing was actually the physical translation of something that was only in my head all along.

I love the fact that we get to enjoy this space so much more now, and use it with so much appreciation and gratitude. This room had always felt disordered and chaotic to me, full of furniture that didn’t belong there and added no value to a piece of prime real-estate, with its west-open breezy windows and bright afternoon sunlight giving way to golden hour before sunset.

Perhaps this is what stagnation does, when you feel so stuck with what you have but cannot change until something big happens to shake you out of your zone. We had intended to change the flooring of only one section of the house before moving back in, and it did not include this room. But then we thought, why not? We wouldn’t ever get the chance again. Of course, ultimately we ended up digging up the entire apartment , it was simply inevitable, and actually our entire home feels transformed just by changing the tiles. It was a huge, destructive, noisy, messy, labor-intensive process and it honestly felt quite scary while it was going on. And it took a lot of time, but it got there finally. It isn’t perfect, but it looks great to me.

I have often thought of our home as a spaceship, hurtling through time and space, the changing sky and seasons. That’s the feeling I get as I daydream through life, looking out the windows. God(dess) knows I have daydreamed a lot here, but the house now feels more like a ship, navigating the wild ride which is the planet in the grip of a sea change.

We refer to this newly incarnated room as our yoga room and we use it every day at different times for this very purpose. But we also end up inviting visitors here, it now being the prettiest room in the house. I think it indeed is the calm zen of the color palette and the healthy plants that made my niece recently exclaim ‘this room feels like jannat!

And so it happily is!