I saw my first snow in Seoul in the December of 2013. I was with K on his business trip and we’d snuck in an extra couple of days and made the most of every evening together while I’d wander off in the day. I remember the moment I first felt the snow because I felt it before I saw it, incredibly light flakes almost mistaken for a drizzle as we stepped out of Myeong-dong station. I remember wanting to scream and no voice escaping me. And soon, we were in a flurry and I remember every encounter with snow after that as if it were yesterday. And yet, every new experience with it, fills me with a renewed sense of wonder and lightness. There is something about – it makes the day bright with its pale bluish white blanket on everything and the world seems light even as you prod through it. Unlike my first experience with snow, I don’t remember when I got into instagram but over time, it has given me such an incredibly lovely community. I feel really pleased that I know so many of you through a little detail in your life and a conversation in my inbox. Today, I woke up to snow and love and caution from the community on my account being compromised and I cannot tell you how special it all has made me feel. None of you needed to do any of what you did, is what I realize. I have reported accounts in the past and never thought much about it, but today as each of you told me that you did, cautioning me what not to do, it filled me with such joy. And I had snow to celebrate it all.
And that purple of Day 9 of Navratri is upon us in a flash. I say flash but I have lived these moments to the best I could and even if it meant spending a grand time on Instagram, it has been one with intent and mindfulness. It was not only a visual treat of sarees and colours that played as a film on my feed but a sense of community and collective spirit of coming together to celebrate. And it was a celebration at different levels and on different fronts for many of us. And #norulesnavratri made all the sense in the world. There was a purpose as I woke up, a colour to add to my day, a few moments of shringaar, an anticipation of words and a contentment at the end of it. There was a desire to relive memories, a drive to make more memories and somewhere amidst all this, weave stories we will live to tell another day. And somewhere along, for some of us, this was a creative outlet to express yourself in ways you felt like and send out your energy to the world and I, again, saw the power of a hashtag. There was inspiration in your wardrobe and on the internet and, corners felt like home – familiar and joyful. It was an opportunity to share a good word and trust me, I saw a lot of it just when we needed a lot of it. It truly did feel like #selfcarenavratri . And then, I had my personal highs of meeting and talking to people I have long admired, visit their homes from the convenience of my chair and also build relationships where I have sat in their presence and felt thankful. I am mindful this may have been a difficult period for some of us and I hope the positivity of celebrations touches us all. Constraints bring out a lot of creativity. But it is the community that has baffled me and left me with a hope and optimism that even amidst all the anxieties, there is someone out there who can be there for you, just a click away. And even though it may seem too simple to grasp and live on, let us not forget how these last #9daysofnavratri have made us feel and believe.
I brought out another saree that is a gift from another perima and this beautiful neckpiece earrings set that K gifted me for Valentine’s day from Madame Butterfly years ago. As I said, jewellery from K is a once in a while event but when he does, he picks the loveliest pieces 🙂 Apparently, K and his friend went out during lunch break and bought something for their partners for Valentine’s day from this shop at Marina Bay Sands. Just thinking of him doing something like that is an incredibly warm feeling. Madame Butterfly used to have a boutique at Changi airport (oh Changi!) as well and I have bought pieces for friends/ cousins when I would visit them and they would love it. Sadly, I haven’t seen this shop since a few years now and cannot seem to find much about them online either. The designs are so oriental and on rich bright glazed colours and they make a delicate statement. The saree itself is one of my firsts, a plain baby pink but with red-silver threadwork flowers on it. I got it when I was in 12th and it feels like a chiffon crepe but this is an overexcited-to-identify-the-material-me taking a guess so I would take my own guess with a pot of salt. I love it, I love how my perimas choose these sarees that one can overlook in a folded state but make for such beautiful drapes. Or maybe they just become yours. The last 8 days have made me look at my wardrobe with renewed vigour. I do sometimes wear a saree and spend some time in it, refold them to make sure they don’t tear along the seams, air them and sometimes just check on them. But this felt different. This reminded me of the abundance I am so lucky and proud of. Every time I took a saree out, it evoked an emotion and a story in me and how joyful is that? Not every object may come with a story, some you make as you go but it is these little stories, associations and emotions that make something inanimate, alive and yours. And the last days have again reinforced that.
Normalcy or normality is anything but that. It is truly something that I most strongly enjoy, crave for and pray for. Perfectly normal, routine days made of exceptionally special mundane acts. It is what I miss most when something abrupt strikes. It is what I am most nostalgic about. Sure, that thrilling day trip on that vacation 4 years ago is a grand memory to revisit and maybe even long for once in a while. But most often what my heart truly wants is all those everyday acts I do and did, that I no longer can. In these moments, I have found my way of making life feel grand. It is a tricky circle of realization – being or the fear of being deprived of something or someone tells you exactly what you love most. And a seemingly ordinary today is the grand memory trip of a further tomorrow.
Today, as I walked out of the Waterloo Station, I saw a slightly elderly man sitting at the intersection of the several crossings (that I cannot wrap my head around) when you exit the station. It was drizzling and he sat by the sidewalk with an umbrella and a small red blanket. The blanket covered him and as I walked closer, I saw a beautiful tricolour (black, white and tan) dog resting his/her head against his chest with a vacant stare. It broke my heart into a million pieces and I felt sick in my gut. I walked past hurriedly because I need to tear myself away in such circumstances. It is so hard for me to talk about such things that typing them here is the closest I can come to baring how deeply I get affected by certain moments and sights. But as I crossed the street, I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back and see the dog. It reminded me a lot of how Mili rests on us when she is being cuddled or when she is sleeping. She loves contact and somehow I keep thinking it was Mili there on him.
So I walked back.
I always like to help in anyway I can. It makes me a little less guilty and in my own selfish way, I feel a bit better though certain times, it takes me a few days to tuck it away in a corner of my mind.
I carry the whole world in my backpack, so I stopped under the roof near the station and took out a 5 pound bill. I did not know what else I could do. I walked upto him and handed it and told him to take care, very quickly trying to catch a glimpse of the dog but failing. I was too overcome to say more. I wanted to ask him to please buy a little something for the dog. But I could not bring myself to say it. Why would I want to say that? Here was a person who was holding an umbrella and covered the dog with his blanket. They had each other and kept each other warm this cold morning as everyone hurried with their tall and grande lattes and with their own challenges and tasks to conquer. He and his dog were a team. Who was I to tell him to care for his partner? He smiled with a clear, “God bless you and love you.” I remember nodding with a very tight lipped smile and walking away. I do not remember what he looked like when he said it, I do not recollect what I was looking at either. All I remember is I had crossed all the traffic lights and walked across the bridge before I even realised it.
I made a dash with hesitation (do you know what am referring to? Like, when you run but also your legs give way and your heart wants you to try a bit more?). As I hurriedly bought my ticket, I saw the train doors closing along the platform that was about 20 steps of a run, maybe less. The guard at the barricade told me I can probably make it to the train and as I punched out, I saw the train guard standing out, keeping a door open and urging me to hop into that cabin. I foolishly tried getting into another wondering why the door did not budge open. He patiently called out, “Madam, this one! This one, I have it open.” That’s when I realised I had to get into that compartment and I gave him the most grateful sheepish look I could. The next train was a longer route and 20 minutes away and meant missing my first meeting with a senior at work (who probably would have kindly understood my predicament but that would have made me really guilty throughout our meeting). Anyway, I hopped in, he gave me a small smile as if this was nothing.
As I got off at Waterloo, I walked up to him. He probably thought I was lost and meant to ask for directions. And when I told him, it was beautiful what he did and am so thankful, he gave me the most beautiful smile and shrugged with a, “Ah no problem. Don’t worry about it.”
Almost always when I walk away from such people, the world around me stops. I have tears from God-knows-where spring into my eyes. I tell myself repeatedly, how beautiful people are. It makes me so emotional that I spend the next hour or two smiling at everyone and creeping them out. K has seen me do this multiple times. But really, it made my morning. I have lost count of how many times I have said this, but the people in train stations and the staff who work for the London Underground and South Western Railways are absolutely fabulous and everyday heroes. I mean every one of them. They have let me in when my app conked off, sometimes walked me to the correct exit, drawn a virtual route on their palm to show me the way, redirected me to better and shorter routes and just been absolutely wonderful with other fellow travellers every time I have passed by.
I thought long and hard about how I must title this happy event of mine that happened this morning. I quite honestly could not think of any way to do it. It really is as simple as that and yet so profound.