Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Childhood Happiness

A couple of years ago, after the loss of my mother I was looking through the family photo album. This photo taken in 1953, at Juhu Beach in Bombay, India, has always symbolised my quinessential moment of happiness and peace. I am aware that the concepts of happiness and peace are not able to be articulated as such, at the age of two. However, on any occasion, since developing the ability to embrace the meaning of 'happiness' and 'peace', when I have reflected on the meaning of these my thoughts, emtions and memory turns to this moment. Here is a little story about the memory.

It was a hot and dusty day in late April. Bhudevi had not been allowed to go over to the Gymkhana park with her ayah, as the sun burned fiercely on the grass paddocks where she would occasionally play. Intial efforts to entertain her had been rather fruitless and like any stubborn two year old she tried exhaustingly to have her own way.

Her mother, a graceful and patient woman employed many of her skills as a kindergarten teacher to cajole the young Bhudevi. Finally, she found a task that seemed to captivate her daughter. She placed the big navy blue Family Photo Album on the wooden dining table and opened it. Bhudevi strained out of her high chair to touch the photos that had been carefully placed in the album, known to the family as Happy Memories. Her father was a keen photographer and her mother who told her the stories of each photograph had spent many hours preserving these memories in the album.

Later that evening, Bhudevi's father returned from work and to her delight announced that they would go down to Juhu Beach for a picnic.

After making their way through snarling traffic in the old Citroen, they arrived and settled on a rug on a patch of sand under a clump of coconut palms that lined the shore. Bhudevi played with her bucket and spade occasionally flicking sand in the air, and annoying the other adults sitting nearby. At any time of day, Juhu beach unfolds like a theatre set. Balloon sellers paraded with their creative rubber contortions shaped like butterflies and dragons, kite flyers ran up and down the beach in aerial battle, their manga tugging and cutting their young hands. Groups of people engaged in games of beach cricket often having to dodge the odd cow who took precedence over all. People strolled at the water's edge savouring their Bhel Puri or an Ice Gola. Some offered a Puja to the gods by tossing garlands of marigolds and sweet smelling mogra into the sea.

They unwrapped their picnic, and feasted on green chutney sandwiches, and savory mince rolls and curry puffs - all Bhudevi's favourites. On this occasion, she was allowed to wash these treats down with a fresh coconut juice - straight out of the coconut shell.

The big red sun slowly dipped into the Arabian Sea. A cool breeze tossed the curls on Bhudevi's forehead as she sat with her parents safe and secure in their love. She recalled her mother's words as the curls tickled her face -
'There was a little girl
and she had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very very good
and when she was bad she was horrid'
She gave her mother and father a big kiss and hug - this moment she would recall as one of the most joyous of her life.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The First Day of Spring

I'm indulging in a week of writing at home, which as luck would have it coincides with the first 'calendar' day of Spring. After a week of rain and blustery winds, the sun is shining and from my desk I am able to observe an abundance of nature's beauty through the blue window frame and past the lacy filigree of the 'bridal vale' acacia.

Not long ago I ambled delightfully in Vita's 'white garden' at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. Today, I am fortunate enough to experience my own 'white garden' at Orchard Street.
Arum lilies abound swaying gently in the afternoon breeze, the sun casting exquisite shadows of lacework on their petals. They bow down gracefully towards the profusion of sweet smelling freesias that
carpet the ground. The lemon scented Daphne is almost gone but amidst its death throes it gives off the last perfumes - a pungent reminder of the dying Winter cold. Towering over the floral explosion of ranunculus, jonquils and daffodils stand stately silver birches and a magnificent Japanese Maple bursting with fresh lime green foliage and with no trace of the horrors of the hot dry summer that had caused them to wither and shut down in an act of self preservation.

Recent changes in planting for an Australian summer have paid off, for amidst the aforementioned remainders of my 'cottage garden' Australian Natives such as Grevillia, Banksia, Correa, and Erystostmin are clothed in bud awaiting the mid Spring sunshine. My favorite experience at this time of year however, is watching the transformation of the seemingly humble Viburnum Burkwoodeii from a non-descript leathery leaved bush to a wonderful tree covered in small white crowns of the most delicate smelling flowers.
I will go out into the garden now to stretch my legs and amble amidst this Spring abundance.

How fair the flowers unaware
That do not know what beauty is!
Fair, without knowing they are fair,
With poets and gazelles they share
Another world than this.

Vita Sackville West Spring, The Land and The Garden

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