On the edges

The moon is a 71.4% waning gibbous and supposed to have risen at 21:50 pm tonight, but it wasn’t visible yet even at 22:25. The sole beautiful cumulonimbus cloud of the earlier evening sky had given way to a whole fleet of poofy ones. I climbed up to the top of the water tank as Molly and little Scruffy looked on anxiously, all bright-eyed and pointy-eared vigilance. They soon joined me there, Molly curled up at my feet and little Scruffy hell bent on smothering me with her (ever-welcome) love. I lay down on my back for an unhampered view of the panorama around and over my head.

Sunset today was marked by a red sun in a hazy sky, nothing to reflect the last rays save for the aforementioned cumulonimbus, the poofy top of which turned increasingly neon shades of pink , capitivating all our attention. To my great surprise, there was a sudden flash of lightning within it, followed by more every 15 seconds or so. I had never witnessed anything like this before. The show went on for a good half hour as we sipped ilaichi chai in awe.

pic courtesy my dear Amu

Lying on top of the water tank, visualizing my body being earthed even on a concrete surface 30 feet above, I seamlessly slipped back into the otherworldly realm where I’m infinitely more attuned. Thoughts float through my head like the clouds above, city lights twinkling, an awareness of other lives, parallel universes playing out like stories all around. Where is the moon?

I ignore the mosquitoes and the threat of dengue, running my hands over my arms and exposed feet while little Scruffy grabbed my thumbs to give them a thorough grooming. Her tongue is rough while her fur is unbelievably soft, and I am overcome by so much love for her, so much gratitude for her presence. I tell her she is so very beautiful and I love her ever so much, and she responds by sticking close and looking up at me and I can tell she would totally lick my entire face if I would let her.

I sit up and look all around. I feel like I’m the same awareness I was when I was 9 years old , in a similar position on a distant long-ago rooftop. Nothing has changed, though everything has. Is this what I’m here for? To gaze at the sky and the wonder of it all…..because it feels like it would be a life well spent, just witnessing miracles and beauty.

There must be a word for someone who feels lost if she doesn’t have access to the expanse above her.. who feels grief for the loss of starry nights , thanks to electricity and the loss of true darkness.

I’ll miss all this love once we move out, cos’ I can’t take all the grown up siblings with me. They belong here, together, safe on this rooftop where they’ve grown up.

I stroke little Scruffy’s head and say a little prayer for her well-being, and wonder if she’ll miss me as much as I will.

March, 2021

here i am again, under a new flag, a lot older, a bit wiser. 2017, the last time i shared anything.

i wonder if i have any followers left? let this be a thought bubble that drifts away into nothingness if not.

fuzzy the cat is now fourteen years old and has been gently groomed over the course of a week by me, in order to avoid the easier route of having him sedated and given a lion cut by someone at the vets’. Today I discovered he likes papaya in addition to melon.

mowgli the calico is almost five and has proved to be a highly intelligent cat, demonstrated by her ability to open doors by jumping up and grabbing door handles and pulling them down using her body weight.

minnie has been around for a few years more than mowgli, i forget the year we rescued her. she did get lost for a whole month two years ago, but miraculously returned, haunted and half her size. her survival remains a mystery i shall never unravel, but her return was along the same route i had visualized in my mind’s eye.

a lot more kittens have entered and gone from our lives, the most notable being georgie and mano. and there is a mommy cat who lives outside with her brood of four: emmet, molly and the two scruffies. they are the most delightful family we have the pleasure of being acquainted with.

amu is now twenty three and feels weighed down by the burden of existence sometimes. my job it seems is to remind her to keep her eyes open to the wonder of it all. she is finally working towards a bachelors degree in social sciences, after quitting college for a year to dabble in other things: a yoga teacher training in nepal, a bit of teaching thereafter, and then a job at a startup. she produced a ton of art through 2020, and thrived in lockdown as it eased her fomo.

huz is almost fifty five and continues to be a poet and an IT consultant. his biggest breakthrough over the last couple of years has been to give back to the world by making inroads in the world of activism, doing what he does best: programming and visualizing. his work has helped in mapping global inequality, and apart from being mentioned in a groundbreaking paper as well as a book, he continues to gain the greatest satisfaction in finally being able to do meaningful work, not just a bullshit job.

i am now 48, proud to declare that i have finally managed to grow tomatoes and even a melon. i have learned a lot about gardening and composting, messing around with earth and seeds. i have jumped with both feet into mother earth spirituality, transformed by the depth of indigenous wisdoms, specifically native american ones. life has been full of understanding and insight, ephemeral though they are. letting go of the pretense of hair dye was a process that did more for me than just save my scalp from chemicals. i now sport streaks of white , along with the virtual company of hundreds of women who did the same, all of us part of a whole movement of women intent on overturning the norm. we all know it wasn’t just about hair.

setting an intention here today. to tuck away some thoughts as the days go by, whatever they are, worth sharing or not, just as an exercise in flexing my unused muscles.

love,

munira.

No.

It didn’t happen Hasan..

There was no 6 am phone call on the 12th of January..

We didn’t tell Amu, numb with shock..

We didn’t jump into the car and make our way to the hospital, sobs turning into moans of bewilderment..

I didn’t see your mother walk out of the gate like a sleepwalker, turn around and see me running towards her, didn’t see her stunned face crumple in disbelief, didn’t catch her as her knees buckled…

The four of us didn’t huddle on the dewy road outside the hospital, crying, watched by curious bystanders..

I didn’t get in the ambulance with your shrouded body, stroking your covered hands and face, trying to memorize the feel of you..

I didn’t stare at my sister in anguished silence as she looked into my eyes uncomprehendingly, desperately, saying ‘maaro dikro…maaro DIKRO….’…

I didn’t hear Lumyah crying out ‘But he’s only thirteen…..!’…

You didn’t just die in your sleep Hasan my boy…

Your parents didn’t tuck you into your blanket and spend an uneasy, sleepless night in their own..

Your father didn’t ruffle your hair in the morning and realize something was very wrong..

Your mother didn’t scream all the way to the hospital as she floored the accelerator on your car…

We didn’t just bury you Hasan..

You can’t be gone my dear jaan…

We can’t ever know what didn’t happen.

hasans grave

 

 

Friend or foe?

Ever wondered what a ‘bete-noire’ is? Let me enlighten you if you haven’t. It is a person or thing that one particularly dislikes or dreads. It is another word for enemy, who is, of course, someone who hates, attacks or harms another. An adversary, something that threatens someone or something. Literally, it means ‘black beast’.

Fuzzy, our pet, who for the last seven years has mostly just slept, keeps us as his slaves and wants for absolutely nothing (apart from the occasional bits of raw chicken as I cook and a slice of watermelon or two, or so I naively suppose)

But is the most wonderful thing about being Fuzzy ‘really’ that it seems you’re The Only One? If you have never seen another cat ever since you were separated from your sibling when you were a wee kitten (unless you count the weirdo in the mirror who got startled every time he saw you) do you recognize the yowling beyond your existence as the sound of others like you? And what is that potent aroma wafting towards you from  the balcony and courtyard doors? Smells like cat-pee but not your own…

Fuzzy lost no opportunity making sure that if what he suspected was true, there should be no doubt in anyone or anything as to exactly WHO was Master of this Domain.

Every morning to our dismay, we began to find puddles near every entry or exit point in our house. We dealt with it by putting our daily newspaper to good use. Yes, he had been neutered…or at least the vet did the best he could (since Fuzzy is monorchid)

One of Fuzzy’s favourite hangout spots is also one of mine, the breezy top step of the stairs that lead down to our courtyard. A swing door separates the stairs from the rest of the house, so in the evenings when someone opens that door, Fuzzy steps out for some fresh air. He prowls around downstairs, sniffing pots, inspecting different areas, marking his presence discreetly. Guilty as we feel keeping a living thing in such seclusion, the least we could do is allow him this little bit of freedom to experience the outdoors. This little freedom expanded to such an extent that we even let him spend the night outside since he loved it so much. It’s not like he would ever be able to scale the boundary walls and actually go out to explore the Outside World. He’s just not built that way. He’s the kind of cat that ponders and dilly-dallies before jumping on or off chairs and coffee tables.

Many years thus passed and a routine established itself. Fuzzy snored under my bed in the morning and all afternoon, emerging in the late afternoon, stretching out his back legs, yawning humungously. He’ll sit outside my bedroom door, disoriented and a tad cross-eyed. Then he’ll wander over to the netted balcony door, tucking his legs comfortably under him and sit there basking in the last golden rays of the sun, ears twitching now and then at sounds of passing cars, human voices and chirping birds, eyes half-closed.

Soon,  he will unfurl and walk lazily but purposefully over to his water bowl, positioning his body around it, enveloping the bowl in an embrace. He loves his water bowl.

No one could ever describe Fuzzy as a fierce cat. He is the very essence of docility, unless he’s in a playful mood. His mouth is so small that he can’t manage food that is larger than the tip of your finger. He will patiently chase a piece of kibble that drops from the bowl to the floor until he can latch on enough to be able to chew. He’s not the kind of enthusiastic cat who’ll run to his food bowl when he hears the rattle of kibbles. If he wants food, he’ll go sit by his bowl and wait with equanimity. But if he wants water, he’ll come into my room and get my attention by meowing softly till I get up. Then he’ll lead me to his water bowl , trotting ahead and looking back again and again to make sure I’m following. Sometimes he’ll swat at my ankles with his paw to hurry me along.

The only time he’ll betray any excitement is if he hears the rattle of ice cubes. An ice cube in his water bowl is like Eid for him. He’ll hover over it like he does on hot days in front of an open fridge. Such sweet small happinesses. And then of course, there is the anticipation of being allowed to go down to the courtyard.

We realized why Fuzzy had been acting extra territorial and so very eager to dash out of the house when we found him sitting on the stairs one day with a cat sitting across from him. They were staring at each other emitting low guttural sounds, not fighting but just facing each other. We shooed the other cat away and it ambled off lithely, scaling the wall and disappearing while Fuzzy looked on, unable to fathom how.

Another time we heard some fierce howling only to find Fuzzy having a face-off with the same trespassing cat, but this time, heartened by my presence perhaps, he began to chase the other cat round and round the stairs until the cat managed to jump onto the trellis from the balcony, scale the wall and get away, Fuzzy breathing in huffy bursts,  fuming with prickly antagonism. This was the first time I had ever seen Fuzzy so intensely worked up.

Late one evening a few months ago, we returned after several hours spent away from home, me worrying about Fuzzy being alone and hungry. As we climbed the unlit staircase, my worry turned into a strange sense of foreboding when I noticed clumps strewn about the landing halfway up…I was almost afraid to inspect closely, but then I discerned something dark smeared on the floor and my fears turned to panic as I turned to Huz to ask if Fuzzy was inside or out. Huz fumbled with the keys (why does it seem to take forever when you’re panicking?) we all ran in and called for Fuzzy but he was nowhere to be seen. We usually find him waiting for us by the door alerted by the sound of the keys turning in the lock. Heart hammering, I stood in the balcony and called his name…it is usual for him to come dashing up like lightning. After a few seconds I saw some movement and Fuzzy came out slowly from under the stairs and started climbing with some effort. Turning on the lights, I realized the dark blobs on the stairs were bunches of Fuzzy’s hair and the smear was blood.

Horrified and shaking, and too scared to touch him in case he was badly hurt, I let Fuzzy walk into the house unaided, limping visibly and looking rather subdued. I stroked his head and checked him tentatively for wounds, but couldn’t see anything through all his fur. Huz joked that the blood might belong to the other cat and the thought made me feel a little better, but I was sad for Fuzzy and outraged at the other cat for violating Fuzzy’s territory and consistently looking for a chance to attack him. I took Fuzzy to the vet next day and was told he had a sprained shoulder which was causing him to limp, but there were no wounds anywhere. I looked at Fuzzy with a degree of skepticism. How could a spoilt, evolutionarily challenged semi-Persian defend itself against a ruthless street cat and draw blood?

Nevertheless, Fuzzy had to be protected from the wily building cat and stay withiin the house at all times from now on. As a result, he became ever more vigilant at the balcony doors. The anticipation of more confrontations was palpable…Fuzzy was alert and tense on the lookout for further trespassing, eagerly waiting for the building cat to show up and he wasn’t disappointed. The other cat kept coming back and there were further face-offs through the netting (which occur with regularity around the same time every day.) I’ll be sitting in another room and I will hear Fuzzy yowling angrily or I’ll hear the door rattle loudly and I know he has flung himself at the door with force.

DSC_0043

DSC_0042

 

I don’t know how he gets his paws so muddy but there are fresh paw prints on the balcony walls and the floor every day. I began to regard the building cat as a friendly foe since he added so much spice to Fuzzy’s life and suggested leaving a bowl of food for him in the balcony, which Huz and Amu vehemently vetoed. But I had cause to rethink my soft spot for him as a worthy adversary.

I was sitting at my kitchen table one night when I heard rummaging sounds. Fuzzy followed me as I went to turn on the overhead balcony light and open the door. On the landing were two cats this time, apparently the black and white building cat had brought along a ginger friend and they were going through our recycling heap like vandals. Ginger saw me and ran off but Black&white stayed and stared back as he squatted on a brown paper bag and proceeded to pee on it. My jaw dropped at his insolent audacity but I couldn’t help laughing a little too.

Didn’t laugh too much when a few days later he left a little pile of poop on a cushion on the bench as a little gift for us. Or this morning when Huz went to fetch the newspaper from under our front door only to find that not only did it have a yellow patch of pee on it but had been torn up as well.

Seems we have a bete-noire on our hands indeed, albeit with a touch of blanc.

 

 

 

a smorgasbord of mudras

Day 4 of the Sri Lankan odyssey. Climbing the rock of Dambulla and exploring the cave temple. 🙂

Mun-zooms

Where were we?

Oh yes, day 4 in Sri Lanka. We had left the gorgeous botanical garden and were making our way towards the Cultural Triangle.

About 72 km later, we stop to explore the Dambulla cave temple on a rock that towers 160 m above the surrounding plains. Though the slope of the Dambulla rock is gentle, climbing it is a task and a half for a respiratorily challenged person such as I, while my poor legs had yet to recover from the 4 and a half hour trek through the Horton Plains.. But it is worth the effort. Plus, there are monkeys. Lots and lots of frolicking, playful monkeys 🙂

Yours truly would, of course, much rather monkey-watch than appreciate a World Heritage Site!

children sitting outside the temple...
children sitting outside the temple…

The temple complex features five caves under a vast overhanging outcrop, the walls and ceilings of which are…

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Ducks, revisited

Once upon an earlier time, on another occasion when my better judgment had abandoned me for a few minutes, I  fell prey to colourful little dyed chicks. They were being sold ridiculously cheap and I thought Amu would get a kick out of them. At the time, I didn’t think that the chicks would eventually grow normal feathers, would stop being cute, and that we would eventually have to think about getting rid of them. I mean, chickens in a small 6th floor apartment? Really Mun?

Mazzy was shocking pink and Zally was bright green. We kept them in a little cage and allowed them to run around the house a couple of times a day, pooping wherever they went. They pecked frenziedly at their ‘bajra’ at feeding times and had the cutest way of dipping into their water and glugging it, raising their beaks to the ceiling.

To cut a not-very-long story shorter, I gave them away to eldest Sis+nephew, who in turn gave them away to their neighbour, where they were attacked by cats. Alas…the ways of the food chain.

Did I learn a lesson? Apparently not, since fast forward a year or two and I now had two ducklings on my hands.

Hill Park with its duck pond could have been perfect, but ultimately I couldn’t just leave them there. I suppose we were more concerned about their well being since they had stuck around longer and raised more hell than the chicks. I had no desire to inflict them on any of my family or friends knowing how much trouble they were. But no matter what, I couldn’t let Apple and Cherry become cat food. Even though I’m more a cat person than a duck person.

A not-too-distant memory crept into my head. The preschool Amu went to a couple of years ago (when she was 3) had a big cage in the corner of its garden. Had there been ducks in there? It was only a vague recollection, but it was worth a shot. 

Mrs G was the principal, the dragon lady of the montessori circuit, known for her stern disposition and no-nonsense demeanour, since her preschool was one of the most-sought-after. This was where Amu cried inconsolably on her first day, spent a year learning her phonetics, colours, patterns and shapes. This was where she learnt to share a sandbox with other children, and where she learnt to pour water from a jug and how to colour within the line. Parents queued up to have their babies registered here while they were in the last weeks of pregnancy. This way they could at least make the waiting list. It was alleged that babies from Mrs G’s school had a greater chance of getting into The Most Sought After School in Karachi. (Amu did.)

I mustered up the bravado that propels a lot of my actions (I am intimidated by people in positions of authority) and called Mrs G to meekly ask if her bird cage would accommodate two adorable ducklings, and wouldn’t the preschoolers be fascinated by the new additions? I wasn’t sure how I expected her to respond but I am predisposed to pessimism, so when she said I could drop by and talk to the gatekeeper (who was in charge of the birds) and see what he said, I could scarcely believe my ears. I thanked her most profusely and hung up, grinning as I looked towards the balcony where Apple and Cherry cheeped nonstop.

The chowkidar was friendly and helpful and led us over to the bird cage in the corner of the garden. It was actually more of a fenced in spot with wire mesh, a roof and a door rather than a cage. It housed two ducks and a magnificent rooster. One of the ducks seemed to have laid eggs and was busy nesting. We let Apple and Cherry out of their basket to have a look-see. The rooster was long of leg and fleet of foot, and at least five times the size of Apple (the bigger of the duo.) He seemed a little edgy. I didn’t trust him one bit and kept a close watch, alert for any untoward action. Where the other ducks were least bothered, Rooster paced up and down and all around, his coxcombed head cocked dangerously towards the newcomers, his beady eye flashing. All of a sudden he darted straight at them and Apple and Cherry ran for their lives! It was most melodramatic.

In the end however, the chowkidar reassured us that our duckies would be fine and the rooster wouldn’t hurt them, apparently it just had a bit of an attitude problem. We decided to trust his experience and left them there, but all of the rest of the evening my mind kept going back to Apple and Cherry, wondering if they were alright.

We went back to visit them early the next day, and indeed, not only were they safe and sound, they had taken to their new home quite blithely, with plenty of food and space and even a little pond to mess around in. They didn’t come running to say hello though. Hmph.

Did I mention that Apple was the prettier, more extroverted of the two? Cherry always looked pale in comparison and I had read somewhere that the male of the species was always more striking, so I figured Apple must be male and Cherry female.

A few months went by, during which we were regularly given news of Apple and Cherry’s welfare through my brother in law, who went to drop his little one there every day. When I went to see them again a few months later it was startling to see how much they had grown. But what came as a beautiful surprise was Cherry, who had grown the most iridescent blue and green and sleek dark brown tail and wing feathers. No longer was she a mousy yellow. Apple still had a black patch on his head and looked more or less the same, just bigger feathers. So maybe I got their genders mixed up 🙂

When the bird flu scare hit Karachi, I heard Mrs G sent all the birds away for a while. I lost track of Apple and Cherry after that and never saw them again.

This and the last blog post are dedicated to Graham and Heather. I thought I should write about them (Apple and Cherry, not Graham and Heather!) because Graham commented on Heather’s blog mentioning a duck that tossed a proffered salad leaf back at him. Because of my alacrity, I have been gifted a cyber duck—-> (*)>  for luck! Hope it makes me blog more often 😉

Harsha is my oldest blogging buddy. I didn’t do anything very interesting today, but Harsha (or H as I call her) observed something very cool outside her window. Take a look. I promise it’ll make your day! 😀

H is for Happiness

So, Valentine’s Day is here and the world – real & virtual has turned Red…the color of Love, or so the experts would have us believe 😉 I love LOVE, but I’m not so big on the commercial craziness that seems to pass for it these days…but Hey! I’m not the target customer am I?! I’m happily in my 40s’, happily married to the same guy for 21 years and happily not celebrated Valentine’s Day for most of those 😛 So yeah – I’m comfortable and secure in the knowledge and possession of a strong, deep passion for my Man – undimmed by years of togetherness; and of solid bonds with family & friends unbroken over years of disagreements 😉 It’s nice to be told ‘I Love You’, but it’s more important to mean it and to demonstrate it consistently. Love is not always ‘pretty’ and ‘wondrous’ and doesn’t…

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