My Dearest Friend Nur,
Your Tiger Lily is back after struggling through some unexpected challenges with a very demanding nephew who had been spoiled by my brother and his wife since childhood. I, too, am guilty of spoiling him a bit because Sunny and I had no children. But, who can imagine that now into his 60's he still thinks everything is owed to him. It very much depressed me. I tried to phone you a few times but it appears that the monsoon downed some of the telephone wires between Cal and K.K. causing the lines to be so crackly. The torrents have kept me house-bound and feeling down, craving typical monsoon food of my childhood like Kitchurie. So Niha indulged me and made sure that we had it for dinner a few times. I am feeling better now. I have to live up to the Tiger nickname you gave me so many years ago, as you know me so well. You know that I will not give up anything important in order to live my life and that I always come back stronger than before.
Zemindar was such a popular novel. I think there is a copy of it somewhere in the library. It was a huge volume as I recall and Sunny reading it just because he wanted to see if the author, a non-Indian writer, got all of the old Hindustani flavor right! You must share more of it with me, as I don't know if I'm up to the task of reading anything that demanding, but I shall enjoy your reports. Now don't worry about me. Niha and Rohit are my lucky charms, always with me. Niha is always asking about you as she knows you always brighten my day and sends her love. I miss Sunny and Jack, our golden days, and you, of course. I can't wait for you to get here. Jaldi kegeeyay!
Tossed about upon all these challenges, no wonder you are feeling a bit down, but I didn't give you the nickname "Tiger" for nothing. Last week, I was invited to attend a Vedic ceremony at our local Hindu Academy. Because I was professor there on Vedic Philosophy, they felt that I should cut the ribbon. I know just telling you about this should perk you up. I've included a snapshot from the event. There was a huge shamiana, very beautifully decorated and a traditional Vedic costume show. Lily, the fashion brigade of Rajput clothing, South Indian traditional clothing, Bharat Natyam and Kuchpudi costumes and those of every culture from far and wide from the India of days past. It was a banquet for the eyes. You would have loved it from your days when you sponsored all of those fashion shows years ago for the hospital. I hope you approve-I wore a white pure silk sari with real gold thread elephants, and a choli the color of ripe Jum-Lums. All of the elephants on the sari were connected with the same plum colored rhinestones as the choli. I shall have to bring it to Cal so that I can wear it at the Grande. It felt very special, like when I received my first sari and the first time I wore it out to a special occasion. As you know, Brits didn't typically wear saris, but fortunately for me, Jack's family was very relaxed and because we kept company with so many different people, I was able to wear a sari any time I liked. Anyway, I've gotten off track. Naturally, they began the ceremony with a puja to Lord Ganesha. I heard something that I have never heard of before. That is, to put all of our unhappiness into his big fat belly. I know you typically pray to Kali Ma, but I think if you feed Lord Ganesha a huge serving of all that has had you upset of late, perhaps you will feel better. They even had a magician who performed my all time favorite entertainment, The Indian Rope Trick. Lily, you just can't imagine how much I enjoyed that! Even at my age, I wanted to run up that rope and into the clouds!
Reading Zemindar has made me even more painfully aware that the crisis of the poor is a very long standing shadow enemy, of India. The writer has the "flavor" as Sunny would have put it, perfectly. Poverty has existed ever since the villages we not able to sustain themselves, which we both painfully, read about in the book, City of Joy. Forced to leave drought inflicted villages, losing their land to Zemindar who were bloodthirsty the cities became over populated as they remain today. The simplicity of being able to sip pure clean water from the village "nal" is long gone as pure water becomes an increasing problem. Now, women with no hope of a better life are lucky if they can get water from a city "nal" where they may find enough to barely cook and clean themselves and their babies. Never mind privacy. So, yes, Lily darling, we must talk when, after we finish our memorial visit to the cemetery, and cheer ourselves up, we can take on the task of leaving a living legacy. Write soon, or try to telephone if the wires are clear.
Click HERE to read previous episode of Over Cups of Tea.
Authors Khadi Madama and Bela Banerjee introduce you to two octogenarians who remember their lives in India from the days of the Raj until their gleaming golden ages in this light hearted and sometimes bittersweet letter exchange.