Bhaj to share

In my new world I sometimes find myself in places or read things I wish I could share with Manjula Vellada

So I share with you.

I’m reading about ’Kabir’ in Incarnations by Sunil Khilnani . I quote from page 90 about Bhakti and Sufi movements that “both embraced the idea of a personal relationship with God. Priests or mullahs didn’t matter, precise ritual didn’t matter; caste didn’t mattter.” which remind me of the question she once raised with me: “if God is in everyone, why do we need Temples?”

That’s my thinking MAnjula and reflects our home — where caste wasn’t recognised and we were all equal.

Manjula’s Gift on her birthday

We celebrated Manjula’s birth anniversary, on the 21st August 2022 with a day crammed full of activity of cycling, games, music, storytelling, singing, drinks, cakes and cookies for the forty visually impaired young women who live at Divya Jyothi Charitable Trust.

Our day was a rich mix of sounds and fun: laughter, singing, clapping, some hesitancy — then enthusiasm, excitement, care, trust and beaming smiles. 

Organised by Manjula’s Mysore with our partners: Mysore Storytellers Network, Vishnu Sharma Company, in memory of Manjula.

The young women especially liked the game ‘What’s in the box’ identifying objects through touch and smell, organised by Gauri Nadig. Then we all shared songs with Poornima singing and Vishnu Sharma playing guitar, Sridevi teaching songs, accompanied by Sarvesh on his Cajon clap box

Shahana told stories

Aditya Swarup and his group filled the room with unusual music by playing singing bowl, Handpan drum, Didgeridoo, and tweeting clay bird

Cycling was a big hit with Tusharr and Megha, volunteers from MyCycle tours giving rides on a tandem (cycle for two people). For all the blind women this was their first time on a bicycle. LINK

Sowbaghya and staff from the centre looked after us all day. Satish presented Manjula’s Mysore and Sarvesh was event organiser.

Stephen, Manjula’s husband, smiled throughout and enjoyed it all.

We ended the day with cookies and cake, after listening to Manjula sharing her own stories from recordings made in the last years of her life. “Hearing Manjula speak.” “Learning about Manjula.” “Finding out she was like us.” “Her love story” were some of the comments we overheard from the young women.

We all learned a lot from our day together. We found out about and better understand, what life is like for young women who are visually impaired. Realising how resilient they are to face their daily challenges. The confidence and trust they quickly develop to get the most out of a situation. Their positive joyful attitude from which we can all benefit.

This was also a celebration of Manjula who would have been 49 on the day. This strong woman created Mysore Bed and Breakfast and is now known throughout the world for welcoming international tourists to Mysore until her untimely death three years ago.

Our thanks to each of our partners and the support of local bakers SAPA and Aroma.

Observations from behind the scenes.

“We could tell they loved taking part.”

“There was a buzz throughout the day amongst the young women and our team of organisers and entertainers.” 

“Waves of smiles and chatter passed through group who sat crosslegged on the mat as each entertainer began”

“The enthusiasm hit the roof with the games and sing-a-long.”  

“Once they felt comfortable and confident. They oohed and aahed with beaming smiles on their faces as we cycled around the area.”

Manjula’s Mysore will continues to do good, reflecting Manjula’s kindness, through partnerships of NGOs, business and with our team of community volunteers.

Manjula seized the opportunity to set up Mysore Bed and Breakfast with an English guy Stephen and they fell in love. On getting engaged it was her wish to give gifts to people rather than receive them herself. Kindness from the very beginning.They began by gifting bicycles to organisation working in the community a total which has now almost reached 50. 

Her business has now evolved to become “Manjula’s Mysore’ providing accommodation to tourists through Mysore Bed and Breakfast and MyCycle tours, which has been available for the past ten years. But now with the added extra of working with young people, to help them grow, develop and thrive.

Durdle Dor in Dorset England

A wonderful place to visit in south of England.

I’ve been here before with ‘you know who’.

This time it’s not raining

There are always one or two other people but not on the scale of India

While sitting in a cave reminding me of my teenage trip Crete and Joni Mitchell but it’s the family camping visit here to commemorate my eldest son’s wedding and my 60th birthday and with my beautiful wife-to-be makes me happiest.

It was our second big trip together in the U.K.

Baby Dor

above all adding to my magical memories of time spent with my MAnjula

Making different connections

Great things happen unexpectedly, just when you need them.

I’d just finished packing my bags, here in Vancouver, ready for the flight back to London, when Sharon — a friend of my son Oliver — came calling to say farewell.

What a wonderful surprise.

To be able to have an open conversation of the trials and tribulations of dealing with our lifelong unwanted friend yes….. grief

No one can ever know what it’s like for another but we’ve come pretty close.

It isn’t about ‘getting over it’ … both of us remember and celebrate — not only in our hearts — but also the physical reminders, the photos, the wonderfulness and the flotsam of souls grown together. We have both kept our original house and are surrounded by the loved one we fondly remember, deal with the difficult times, but also continue to laugh together.

A sustaining gift for my journey.

Thank you Sharon, a great new friend

It’s good to share, as I have done personally and online. As reflected in this article.

Vancouver

Reminded of this wonderful city, visiting my youngest son Oliver, first time in three years.

Well done Ol, great success, I’m so impressed

As everywhere it somehow stimulates memories of elsewhere. I last visited shortly after Manjula died.

Unkindness

This situation is something of an analogy.

Manjula was the kindest person I’ve probably ever met yet she’d be let down badly by people throughout her life.

I also try to be kind and considerate and I’m beginning to realise it doesn’t work well when others are insensitive, thoughtless, can’t appreciate the ‘other’ and are ultimately unkind. I know, I know I’m a naive 63 year old.

I’m now isolated, in quarantine at home, the street is blocked by fencing on either side of my house, the washing machine is disconnected, I’m unable to shop. Lucie is confused and I can’t walk her. I’m disrupted.

Sowbhagya who works for me is also in a difficult situation quarantined with a sticker on her door confined to a postage stamp house separated from her son.

On the positive side I am in a comfortable home, received home deliveries, stocked up the freezer, Lucie is a street girl and can figure things out. I am extremely fortunate, there are people in terrible situations and have been for months. I should complain less and be sensitive to their situation.

This situation is however completely unnecessary and could have been avoided with a little thought and care.

Two weeks ago the owner asked if they could use the downstairs house for a couple of months. I readily agreed as we have no guests in the current situation. I use it but can manage. There’s one of me and counting the ground and first floor house it’s four bedrooms, library, two lounges you know the sort of thing. Help others, share it out.

The five members of family: grandparents, parents and daughter were living in an apartment in Bangalore and were concerned about the increase in the spread of the virus. At least one of them has underlying health conditions, and the elderly are from a vulnerable group. Once we discussed a few conditions primarily about looking after my stuff and complications about shifting the washing machine plus getting confirmation this was a temporary arrangement (many of my friends were suspicious it was a con to get back the houses) but I checked that one out specifically.

It was a hard thing to do emotionally. Manjula died a year ago. This is our home. She moved and properly set up the Mysore Bed and Breakfast when we took over the downstairs house around eight years ago. But I could so I should help. They could exclusively have the downstairs house with me and Lucie upstairs, separate entrances etc.

They moved in ten days ago.

The adult son of the owner who I deal with now informed me after six days, he’d been tested positive for coronavirus and would go into isolation in hospital.

The rest of the family and I were tested the next day. It seems that the only one other who tested positive was his daughter and she’s now with him in hospital.

Of course it’s just one of those things we have to deal with the best we can, everyone around the world has the same challenges. However, we’ve spent almost three months in lockdown being careful not to get the virus. That care paid off as we’ve had no cases in our layout Siddarthanager, until now, that is.

Now we have what seems to be a completely avoidable situation. Were they suspicious that they might be carrying the virus? Probably, otherwise, why go for a test the day after arriving?

If there was a suspicion a test should have been taken before shifting from Bangalore or gone to their isolated rural farmhouse rather than completely disrupting our lives.

It’s a practical problem but was quite an emotional pull letting them use the house. Manjula’s room was downstairs and for her last few months we created a lovely set up for her. This was her place I was letting go. I’d asked for her picture, the one on which we’d placed flowers every day for a month and then every month to be left on the wall. I discovered they’d taken it down and stuffed it in my storeroom down there. It’s now upstairs with five other pictures of her so maybe a bit over-the-top.

It’s now reflected, when I said at the beginning, kindness met by at the very least insensitivity, to me and my situation and to Manjula even after she’s gone. People don’t care for others enough.

The world is in a sorry state, we just don’t care. The virus, climate change and our responses are actually symptoms of that malaise.

Sally

Sally is one of those guests that you’ve no idea when they first arrived and keep popping up so much you wonder if they ever leave. She’s clearly become besotted by India.

Sally is a creative who works in broadcast media in the UK on one of the most iconic soaps as Costume Designer. But can turn her hand to many things: design, textiles, writing, costume making, continuity, tours, and her beautiful home and garden, all while supporting her mum.

I’ve lost count how many times she’s been to visit and has now set up her own business providing carefully curated textile travels in south India. She’s also on Facebook and as Textile Travels

On Manjula’s first holiday to the U.K. we had an amazing adventure with Sally and her partner Mike in a narrowboat adding travel along the canal to Manjula’s list of great experiences in our all too short time together.

We have a lot in common, not least that we both recently lost our loved ones. Recently she’s taken the lead in helping us design a patchwork quilt and appliqué banner from Manjula’s clothes that will soon appear at Mysore Bed and Breakfast.

I look forward to her return and the way she’s going think she’ll spend more and more of her year in India.

Sally is a diamond gal (what does that mean Stephen? Your writing is supposed to be improving – the gentler Ed) officially now ‘family’ and has joined those who’ve returned here to provide incredible support over the most difficult time in my life.

Thank you Sally

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.

months pass

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Manjula peeking, its been seven months now.

Why are my videos upside down? Is somebody trying to tell me something?

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at least the photos are the right way up

Man’s best friend.

It’s been an exceptionally challenging time and continues to be. But it’s important, for me, not to forget how difficult it is for Lucie. It’s been turmoil. She’s lost one of her closest friends, who like a mother would care for and support her. One of the distinctive smells and presence, in so many ways, is no longer with us. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for her. Lots of action then her world is turned upside down and then having to rely on that unpredictable man.

“Where’s my routines and familiar friends. she cries!”

She was and continues to be sad. We’re adjusting in what turns out to be a long long road.

There’s a posting here in recognition of our supportive friends.

Maybe we share a broken heart

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