Love in the time of virus

It’s occurred to me today that there were three layers of love, with ‘you-know-who.’

The first was when we were ‘falling-in-love’.

it was all too much for Lucie

The second was when our relationship was recognised by us and our guests. (Some noticed before us)

The third layer was after she slipped through my clumsy fingers and left for her new life.

Over time I get to know her better and love her more.

….

our big photo album

…….

with thanks to Gabriel

guests become friends

……. become family

Meet Jean-Yves and Nathalie from Paris came to share our home, meet Manjula, me and Lucie. It was our first season after Manjula in her strong independent way slipped through my clumsy fingers but we all felt her presence.

Jean-Yves is a nurse and works in an ‘addictology’ department in a hospital. Previously a psychiatric nurse, he likes and is very committed to his job. He always raises questions about society, inequalities and he is waiting for the Grand Soir for more social justice.

Nathalie, is passionate about human relations, also has a strong conscience and ethics who is responsible for social action for the archaeologists department. She likes to participates in and creates actions for the climate and social justice.

They live in a small apartment in the XIVth district of Paris, in a charming little cobbled street. They like to walk together for hours in Paris and enjoy travelling to countries like India. Together they are looking to broaden their insights and gain a more accurate view of the world.

It was fun and a real pleasure getting to know Jean-Yves and Nathalie while welcoming them to our home. They are an interesting, thoughtful and caring couple. We had a great adventure together on a mycycle tour but I’ll let them tell you themselves about their visit through their wonderful online presence. There are two entries here:

All Change

Part One

Our Garden has been a wonderful addition to the home we share through Mysore Bed and Breakfast. It’s been a memorable part of our life.

todays team shifted the plants to the ground floor

the owner of the house has arranged to resurface the roof as after nearly forty years and a garden for ten it’s letting water in.

He’s understandably nervous of the plants going back on the roof. It took six of us around four hours to shift them. So we have a new arrangement.

I can feel the nervous worry of guests around the world.

Don’t worry, we’ll have it ready soon and Madam is keeping an eye on things.

The work continues

over the next few months we’ll have three smaller more intimate super gardens and Manjula’s stone benches in the park opposite.

Meet SB

Sowbhagyhya aka SB aka lucky lucky (I’m not passing comment on her good fortune in finding a job here, it’s what her name means) has now been at Mysore Bed and Breakfast almost nine months. SB’s responsible for cleaning, preparing rooms and tolerating the English guy and has now realised that her job grows and becomes more interesting.

SB has watched Manjula’s cooking videos (check here and here) and made a great meal last night. She’s realised one of the ways Manjula made wonderful tasty food is to not cook too much. We look forward to reintroducing Evening meals over the next season. That’s October through to March, assuming we get any guests in these uncertain times.

Thank you SB for doing a great job. I know you’re happy to be here and I’m happy we found you.

As you’ve found out today, with your role in managing the gardener, your role, your tasks, your appreciation and fun will change.

Why write?

I’m trying to create something new in my life since misplacing the beloved one.

It’s to try my hand at writing, specifically to share our story.

Last year I wrote a few short stories posted on this site as factly fiction. They were to help me learn, improve my writing and find my voice (it’s still lost).

As a trainer and guide I’ve been telling stories anyway and I’ve realised that writing is an extension of that to share ideas and insights.

One example of a fictional story is the Phoenix Coup. I was taking ideas of how we could organise differently. Shift away from endless growth, decentralise control and localise our activities. Some of the changes we’ve seen and need to see more of at this ‘time of virus’ such as a guaranteed minimum income, reducing the working week, more active participation in organising things themselves are being reported on. For example local labs or a town that has sorted out its own testing for the virus

So why write? It’s to share ideas and connect with people in a different way.

I hope you find some of interesting and even entertaining.

Consistently inconsistent, that’s my India…


1 Bearded ladies

Bearded ladies, I’m joking, it’s about people wearing face masks, they do sometimes look like bearded ladies. At lockdown 90% of people walking the streets were wearing facemasks, astonishing to see that level of compliance, it wouldn’t happen in England. Now that lockdown has loosened its 80%. That’s worrying as over the next few weeks expecting thousands of repatriated Indians from abroad should be even more careful but credit where it’s due people are unusually for India, following the rules.
bearded lady with a disguise.

2 mobile phones

not driving while using the phone, haha, you must be joking… on a carefully calibrated sophisticated sampled study, yes random cars driving past me standing on a corner, before the ‘time of virus’, over 50% were using their phone. Hardly any were on hands free and a fair proportion were even texting. and the number one loser was a policemen.

He was in his fancy big SUV/Jeep type police vehicle, driving along the double road (dual carriageway) with his arm out of his window texting on the phone. Bad.

This is normal in a place with normality, that’s NOT following the rules.

This is not to say it doesn’t happen elsewhere in the world, this just happens to be were a live, it may be exactly the same everywhere else, it just isn’t

3 Drinking water

Now this is the most consistent thing I’ve ever found in India. When drinking an unbelievable 99.9% of people don’t let their lips touch the glass or bottle and this, in the land of inconsistency. Apart from being a great safe practice, this is probably number one example of people in India following an ‘unwritten rule’ seriously. It’s true, even where water is in a jug at a chai shop , or yes, on a wall alongside a construction site, everyone does it. Astonishing!

Why write to Manjula?

Thank you for your kind responses via messages, phone calls, Facebook and here on this site, to my two letters. It’s been important for me to share and feel your support.

In passing through the grief portal of pain to love, to understand and know Manjula better. I’ve found a few useful books.

The letter to Manjula was me talking to her to recognise my loss, and share with her, my remorse which I wasn’t able to before she died. It’s part of a process outlined in the grief handbook the book on top of the pile.

Is the latest I read, especially useful as there was a distinct loss of meaning and still is to an extent.

I’ve maybe written the letter a dozen times but it’s only now I’ve felt able to share it with her. In therapeutic groups or pairs they’ll often read their letter out to each other.

It’s quite interesting to shift from focussing on her body/ego to her soul spirit wherever that might now be.

It’s been quite a journey from the devastation I felt through to recognising my absolute love and devotion to Manjula. There’s now more sweet and less bitter and my first thought is now more likely to bring a smile, than a tear.

I now know her better, partly as I’m researching and writing our story.

Meanwhile Mysore comes back to life. There’s been an unlocking. Here’s a few shots from our morning walk

Taking home a palm branch for his fire.
Any opportunity to sell and survive
Lucie in our park after today’s walk. Determined to keep away from me and entice ticks.
Ha ha this one isn’t from our walk 🙂 it’s one of Manjula’s favourite flowers and now a tattoo.

a letter to Manjula

My dearest Manjula,

I’ve written this letter many times but non have been right. I think it’s now time to just do it. I’m writing to say sorry and thank you.

You’re everywhere, with me, with Lucie, all our friends and always will be but where’s your spirit now?

We’ve done all the Hindu rites to help you on your way. I hope your beautiful compassionate spirit soul will be closer to your moksha as you were so positive, good and kind in this life, even with all it’s difficulties.

I wish you were here with me now. I’d be looking into your eyes and be able to tell if you hadn’t understood any words so I could change them for you. We were amazing together and you are the most important thing to me in my life.

I’m devastated by losing you, I will always love you. You made me happy but I got some things wrong and for that I’m so sorry.

When you died, I felt a lot of pain and still do. I wish that things were different. I feel guilty and wish I could swop places with you. You’ve left the most unbelievable gap in my life, nothing can ever be the same but the good thing is you’re still here and always will be.

I’m sorry for letting you down.

When you were diagnosed: I should have contacted more people for advice and got you to a doctor in England; got married straight away and if need be, moved there. I wish I’d tried everything to help you live longer and have a good life. I trusted that they would sort it out here and I was wrong, maybe nothing else would have worked, we just don’t know. I now have to accept what is.

Overall I should have been less the action man, taking charge and been more in tune and sensitive to you. You had a terribly difficult time but you were so strong, positive and caring, and didn’t show how hard it was for you. The last months and especially that final week I didn’t know what to do for the best.

On the last Friday night you had a heart attack and they brought you back to life. The Doctors said that if you had another they would need to use the ventilator and might not be able to get you off it. You only wanted to be on the machine for one day so when you had second attack, I had to ask them to let you go.

That is and will be the most difficult decision in my whole life. 

Your illness and all that followed was also difficult for me, I was numb by it all and not as aware as I should have been. I was grieving a long time even before I lost you, we both knew that was happening but I couldn’t recognise and deal with it, it was all too much. I often didn’t know what to do.

I am so sorry that I was angry with you that last Tuesday when I realised you hadn’t taken your tablets. There was never any problem affording the drugs, hospitals or doctors, I told you but I realise now you’d had enough. I hadn’t been properly listening to you. I wish I had done more and better.

For these things I am so sorry, I let you down and now because of that I don’t have you with me.

I’ve never had regrets before and I’ve cried so much I think I might need a top up of salt.  😉

I miss you so much and wish you were here. We will connect again.

What’s important is, we found each other, fell in love and created a wonderful life together. Thank you for giving me a life lived with love and joy, sharing yourself with me. You are the kindest person.

Here and now I’ve just lost more salt. I wish there was more hugging you, kissing you, touching you, listening to you, telling you I loved you and more honeymoon (Kama) together.

Our friends have been wonderful support, Lucie has taken your place as my new boss. I know, I know, as we both said, we were equal.

You’d like the things I’ve done: gifts of Manjula pens and steel straws to our friends, four, yes four stone benches in parks to remember you, for all the people to use, meals at the Ashram, I’ve cycled a giant photo of you around Mysore, made a memory tree and even got Manjula flags in the hall made from your clothes. I’ve told everyone in the world that we were married and I love you, which I always wanted to do. I’ll do more.

I promise to write our story. As I write it and better understand your recordings, I realise how you had such struggles throughout your life. Maybe we thought they were in the past when we met up but the illness created even more problems. It must have been especially hard for you for those last few weeks. I’m sorry I wasn’t listening enough, providing better support and showing my love more.

One of the many wonderful thing about you is even though you’ve had all those difficulties throughout your life, you’ve always been kind to people helping whenever you can and so many tell me, you lit up their lives (and mine) and blessed them with your bright wonderful smile.

So this letter to you is to say and I’m sorry and to thank you for being with me and the wonderful nine years we were together, when I know you were mostly happy.

But it isn’t yet the end. It’s the beginning of something else. You aren’t rid of me, there is unfinished business.

I miss your smile, your wit, our fun and love,

Love from your forever  husband,

Stephen

x

Virus 5

On your own in lockdown? Who do you talk to?

First and foremost MAnjula. In the morning, last thing at night and as I write, aspects of her story. This is her favourite colour and one of her chosen flowers. It’s on of five crore and one memories. Roses were for specific events such as birthdays or just to say I love you. Yes, me, fab.

On solo lockdown I’m here walking with Lucie who together with the crows and squirrel in the tree by my balcony are my feathered furry friends.

I’ll say hello to neighbours and pass the time of day but my closer friends are further away. I get regular calls and emails to check I’m OK

Zoom and FaceTime are of course essential. Particularly to be in touch with daughter-in-law (aka family lubricant) and sons Ol and Ben. Oh and of course my granddaughter when she has time in her busy life and is telling me to wait. 🙃🙂😉☀️☝️

Don’t forget the plants

Or create an entertaining video about the very subject.

Or see how untouchability serves this new situation and helps create a new other

Social distancing

Social and physical distancing, our new normal, in this time of virus has different cultural implications here in India. For more, check this article

Manjula has helped illuminate, for me, something of the prejudice arising in society related to religion, caste, class, race, gender and colour. Aspects of this will feature in our story.

The virus and society’s response highlights those inequalities. This isn’t solely about two distinct groupings of the untouchables and the non- untouchables (savarnas) It’s far more complex and relates to a finely layered strata that’s not confined to Hindus and India.

The right wing shift experienced in most of our societies, does by its very nature exaggerate these differences for political advantage. The social, economic, political distancing is therefore a tool which we’re now reinforcing.

So here’s the next giant leap. This prejudice, elitism, separation of the haves and have-nots, call it what you will, is nothing new, fact is it’s obvious and everywhere and been here for aeons. It’s fundamental to all our societies but it doesn’t have to be.

The factor that connects all these seemingly dispirate disconnects is the way we organise ourselves, our hierarchy, dog eat dog mentality. It might have served us in the past (that’s debatable) but it (yes including brutal free market ways of organising focussing on growth regardless of consequences) is NOT fit for purpose.

It doesn’t serve our needs.

By ‘our’ I mean everyone and not just the self appointed master class or the people in the ‘developed’ countries and not just humans. Another interesting article in two parts here and here covers this.

It’s no accident that the poor in the UK have been demonised in recent decades to support and reinforce a range of political policies including ‘austerity.’

We’re in a sorry state, in so many ways which are clearly interrelated and need to realise it and act. We have opportunities now.

.

Says he, sitting on a balcony in south India who can’t even activate himself to do yoga.

Our separateness politically, economically, socially, spiritually is not sustainable. Rant over…..

And I’ve just found a New Yorker article helps illustrate aspects of what I’ve tried to cover.

Another article here helps illustrate how extreme this was traditionally in India and how a new ‘other’ forms