‘Spring is too busy, too full of itself, too much like a 20-year-old to be the best time for reflection, re-grouping, and starting fresh.For that you need December. You need to have lived through the mindless biological imperatives of your life (to bud, and flower, and show off) before you can see that a landscape of new fallen snow is THE REAL YOU. December has the clarity, the simplicity, and the silence you need for the best FRESH START of your life.” ― Vivian Swift, When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put
December 2020: Staying Put is alien to us (husband and me) as within forty years of married life we have moved a dozen houses inter-city and inter-country. Locating to Pune in 2018 was a natural sequence in this order more so as I needed to recuperate from open heart surgery in Dec. of 2017. The breezy clear environs, the friendliness, the smiles and helping hands of our closely knit 55 houses Society (Pune lives in Enclaves or Societies) worked wonders for my health. A neighbour was vocal… ‘When you first came you shuffled around and now it is chin-up brisk walk’. He demonstrated my walk and I was surprised how well he captured the magic of place….. more than all therapeutics combined.
My first visit to Pune was in 1972 and in a cliched statement “I fell in love with the city”. The verdurous rambling tree lined avenues of Koregaon Park, the majestic Banyan trees, the awe-inspiring National Defence Academy, Aga Khan Palace (former internment home of Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi), the temples and markets and forts, the Parsi bakeries and eateries, Shrewsbury biscuits and Vada Pav. The list is endless as Pune did justice to its role as tranquil balance to pandemic Mumbai. On a different wavelength the glitter and gloss was slowly fading but one dare not voice this to a Puneite. I tried once and got a earful of ‘best and first’ listings in food, lifestyle, education, technology etc., etc… Puneri pride to the fore. Sometimes one needs to clamp up and I dutifully ticked the list.
We purchased this house in 2005, a vacation home to luxuriate in pollution free environment. We trucked in (luggage) September 2018 to dig in roots in this exclusive gated community of people from different regions and professions, sensibilities and choices. Made new friends, celebrated festivals and personal moments and enjoyed the collective benefits of staying together. In between there were trips to Canada, Maldives, Goa, New Delhi but returning to our new abode was a pleasure… a validation of our decision. This pic is of house lighted up for Diwali festival.
The dream sequence was surreptitiously disrupted by an unknown virus that was going to storm the globe. Before we knew lifestyle barriers were bulldozed with individuals floundering for anchors. Travel restrictions to countries and cities, closure of market places/entertainment centres/ educational institutions, friendships on hold and it was turning asphyxiatic. We came to realise that having family around is more important than luxuriating in millennium whimsicalities. The fun layers peeled off we took the decision of breaking our 15 year association with our villa and most important the city.
When I come down
And look around
I can’t believe
The fantasy is gone like a memory
Out of my reach
Fading out from me
You’re fading out from me
(lines from Finger Eleven’s LIVING IN A DREAM song from their album LIFE TURNS ELECTRIC – 2010
As we sit kilted up in PPE gear in front seats of aircraft the two years of our stay flash past……It was not exactly a close knit family, but, as a resident quipped ‘we do take care of each other’. This is saying a lot as nuclear and far away families have spaced out and friends replacing them. There were new friendships and learnings, evening strolls or discussion and sharing platforms, the crucial months of Lockdowns and curfews, uncertainties and disruptions of essential commodities, of neighbours caring for each other negating the feeling of being marooned within four walls. But the niggling emptiness persisted. Ultimately decision taken we packed our bags, donating extra stuff because no matter what the value of article it is difficult to dustbin choices.
The ‘tighten your seat belt’ sign flickers on. I scan the horizon for last glimpse of the city that was second home. We wing our way to New Delhi
“Ageing is just another word for living.” – Cindy Joseph.
We forget. I remember telling my mother to behave, she was in her 70’s, and wanted to taste that one slice of Mango. A diabetic and heart patient her taste buds were synchronised with a sumptuous lifestyle. Now inching towards her age I feel sad and bad for not letting her ‘live.’
January 2021: A new year and a new beginning