Monday, 11 January 2016

To bud to bloom and to fade !

To bud, to bloom and to fade

“Like a traveller sailing the Archipelago who sees the luminous mists lift toward evening, and little by little makes out the shore, I begin to discern the profile of my death.”
: Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcera

Neepa (my wife), Aryan (my son) and I brought in 2016 at Captiva Island, Florida while attending my friends daughter’s wedding. Namrata ( my daughter) brought the New Year in with her friends in Dubai.    

This was Aryans first invite to an American wedding.  He loved the quiet ceremony on the seafront, he watched my friend Rick walk down the aisle with his daughter Allison, he heard the words of the Priest and the wedding vows exchanged by Allison and her husband Joseph. 
Aryan later told me, “Dad, in India the priest speaks gibberish and there is so much noise and chaos.  At this ceremony I could hear and understand everything” 

I also took Aryan fishing in the ocean and he caught his first Seatrout within 30 seconds of casting his line.   We caught almost two dozen fishes which we let loose right after reeling them in.  I realised that he has the patience to sit in open waters and wait and ponder and do nothing while waiting for the fish to bite.
On the plane back to India he told me, “Papa we need to go fishing in India”

Before coming back to India, Neepa and I ran the Jacksonville Bank Marathon.  Aryan ran the 5k.  It was a freezing cold day with a slight drizzle and a cold wind.  

The 42.2k started along with the 21.1k and the 5k and shared the first part of the route.  He ran the first 2km slightly behind me before slowing down.  
After finishing his race, he spent the next 4 hours waiting for me to finish.  

The finish was inside a stadium and he waited with his camera to catch me coming in.  By then, he had collected his tote-bag, had 3 glasses of hot chocolate, and 2 bowls of hot soup.   He had used one glass of hot chocolate to defrost his frozen fingers by dipping them into the hot chocolate.  

While we waited for Neepa to finish he told me, “Dad, I could have easily run the 21.1k today”

I love my boy.  He is 14 years old.  

As my plane left the United States, I felt a sense of nostalgia mixed with a sense of melancholy.  

I love the United States.  The 6 years (1987-1992) I spent there were some of the most formative
 years of my life.  I started becoming independent and for the first time understood the merits of hard work and the meaning of meritocracy.    Nobody in America cared which family I came from or what my background was.  If I worked hard and if I got the grades, I was respected and I was promoted.  In those 6 years, I also met people who ended up being my life-long friends. 

When I was young and in my 20’s, I had believed that the possibilities were endless. When I left for India after graduation, I never doubted if I would ever visit the United States again.   I knew I would visit the United States many many times and I have done so.  

This year I will turn 50.  I cannot doubt that most of my life is over.  I must, at the least accept, that more is gone and less is left.

As my plane left the tarmac, I felt that I could no longer know with certainty if I will visit America again.  It made me feel melancholy.
Memoris of Hadrian is a wonderful novel written by Marguerite Yourcena written in the form of a letter by Emperor Hadrian to his successor Marcus Aurelius. 

In the beginning of the letter Hadrian tells Marcus Aurelius that he suffers from a heart ailment and that his death is now near.  

As my plane left the United States, I thought of some of the lines from the novel: 
“This approaching end is not necessarily immediate; I still retire each night with hope to see the morning....To say that my days are numbered signifies nothing: they always were, and are so for all of us.  But uncertainty as to the place, the time, and the manner, which keeps us from distinguishing the goal toward which we continually advance, diminishes for me with the progress of my fatal malady.  

A man may die at any hour, but a sick man knows that he will no longer be alive in ten years’ time.  My margin of doubt is a matter of months, not years.   

The chances of ending by a dagger thrust in the heart or by a fall from a horse are slight indeed; plague seems unlikely, and leprosy appears definitely left behind.    I no longer run the risk of falling on the frontiers, stuck down by a Caledonian axe or pierced by an arrow of the Parths; storms and tempests have failed to seize the occasions offered, and the soothsayer who told me that I should not drown seems to have been right.

I shall die at Tibur or in Rome, or in Naples at the farthest, and a moment’s suffocation will settle the matter.  Shall I be carried off by the tenth of these crises, or the hundredth? That is the only question. 

I'm Like a traveller sailing the Archipelago who sees the luminous mists lift toward evening, and little by little makes out the shore, I begin to discern the profile of my death.”
As I turn 50, I haven’t begun to discern the profile of my death, but I have been thinking about it quite often.   I don’t have an ailment which will be the trigger nor can I predict the sudden accident. 

However, it is the thought of death which is new and vital.  

It is a thought which says that time is fleeting and now the grains of sand in the hour-glass are pouring downwards at a rate which makes the approaching end inevitable, sooner rather than later. 

And although I might feel scared when death approachs, I have no problem with the idea of its inevitability.  

I have lived an awesome and full life.  All my desires have been satisfied in good measure.  I have had more than my fair share of good luck and happiness.    

So now like every parent, I now worry, only for my children.  I would want to stick around, for a bit to protect them.  

Namrata at 19 is well on her way to independence, but to my mind still needs a little  guidance and 
security.  Aryan being 5 years younger than Namrata, needs them in greater measure.  

It may be my mistaken sense of self-importance but I feel need that they need my protection for a few more years.

But there isn’t much one can do.  Life is transient for all.  It is transient for all living beings; for men and for animals, for plants and even for roses.

On the way back from the United States, I watched a wonderful movie on the flight.  A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman and Jermy Brock.

Many of the characters appearing in the movie are fictional and thus it is not a historically accurate movie but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) is an unconventional gardener/landscapist who believes that the garden layout need not be too organised and that a little chaos is good.  

She lands an assignment to design a small area in the Versailles gardens for King Louis XIV of France.

What follows is a story of political intrigue in the court and some romance and some chaos. 

The Queen has died and the King is not only grieving but also has lost interest in his mistress the Marquise de Montespan.  (this was a time when a man was allowed to have an official mistress)  

However, what stood out for me was an exchange which takes place when Madame De Barra is first introduced to King Louis by the Marquise (the mistress). 

Madame De Barra offers the King a four-season rose.  This then inspires a conversation between the King and De Barra on the metaphorical nature of the rose and its life cycle.

The King inhales its fragrance.

King Louis: It has a light honest scent.  It is very refreshing, Madam De Barra.  Some other roses are over-scented and overblown.. (He looks at his mistress the Marquise)

De Barra: That fate awaits all roses, sire.

King Louis: Is that so, Madame de Barra?

De Barra: All roses are open to the elements your majesty.  They bud, bloom and fade.

King Louis: Continue, Madame

De Barra: In the garden the rose grows entirely unaware, she follows the pattern of growth, changing naturally from one state to another, in order that future seasons may exist, and although the elements may treat her cruelly, she knows nothing of it, and continues to her end, without judgement on her beauty.  Alas, it is not the same for us.

King Loius: If such a rose could speak, what would she say?

De Barra: She would say, “Yes, I am here, and gave service under nature’s eye, and after me my children will be.  Is there any greater contribution, or more graceful end?

King Louis: A wise rose

King Louis (continues): And what protection can we afford this rose from these harsh elements of change?

De Barra: A little warmth, from the sun, can do wonders for the growth of the rose, your majesty.
I loved this exchange.  It meant a lot to me at that moment of time.  

We are all roses.  We are all destined to bud and bloom and fade.  What we need to learn is to continue to change without judgement to the elements and what they do to us. And have faith that our children will continue after us.

All we need to do is give our children some warmth and allow them their time in the sun.
As Aryan and I sat in the freezing cold and waited for Neepa to finish her marathon, we spoke about a few things.  He told me that he could have easily run a 21.1 half marathon.  

I told him that these marathons were getting harder and harder for me to do.  

However I promised him one thing, “Aryan, I hope to keep running until one day you and I and mom and Namrata finish a marathon together”

What I was really thinking was , “I love you my son, and I wish I can run along with you for as long as you need me "