Falling in love again…..

It’s time.

This might sound like self imposed torture, (our initials were S&M!):

-reading through the transcripts created by Vidya from Manjula’s Kannada audio recordings, or

-watching her talking to video camera in English,

-having conversations about my love with Tanu, Satish and Ina with the help of Faizan and Sumukh who are researching and recording.

I miss and don’t want to lose any memories, of course she’s with me and to you my friends it might seem a hard thing to do, even masochistic, it’s very difficult, but it’s also wonderful in the sense that I discover even more about Manjula and fall in love all over again.

Out walking with Lucie I was bushwhacked attacked with sad feelings and tears, as if from nowhere.

Only to arrive back home to be greeted by this….

Hello Stephen, This appeared in my mind when I thought of you and Manjula: “Beautifully she lived and lives in your heart and soul, She sings through the world around you, “Express your love for me by living a kaleidoscopic life” It is written as it appeared to my mind and I felt I wanted to share it with you. Love, Kali

Sweet ….. Sour …… Sad

I’ve experienced an incredible mix of feelings since Manjula set off on her new journey.

It’s sweet because of our wonderful time together, our incredible memories and her presence in my heart

It’s sour as it’s awful losing one’s love and dealing with the hole she leaves

It’s sad as it leaves me stressed, anxious and depressed.

However….

Manjula and I, always looked at things, with a positive view of life….

“Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire”

“I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

by Viktor E Frankl, who knows a thing or two about dealing with horrendous situations.

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On the 21st Manjula will provide meals for the older people at the Ashram we’ve previously supported. We will meet for a celebratory meal at Roopa.

” The soul is neither born,, nor does it ever die; nor having once existed, does it ever cease to be. The soul is without birth, eternal, immortal, and ageless. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.” Bhagavadgita

It’s been five months now that Manjula’s spirit has left her body. The feelings I’ve shared, from these months, can be found listed on the following two pages. Here and here .

Can there be too much?

As if we don’t have enough already! That was Manjula’s general attitude when I brought new things home, especially new art. She’d usually complain that there was NO MORE ROOM. There always is of course.

Well she also used to comment that there were too many pictures of herself, Madam English being a bit of a Madam. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. I can’t get enough of them, whatever she’s doing. 🙂

So I’m very pleased that even though she’s moved on, severed her links with her last body and is now well and truly making a massive impact wherever she is now….. I have the consolation…… of sorts, of wonderful memories, cool shared friends, super videos and still shots, tattoos and look at this

……. just like buses, some things come in twos. And these are the things that at this difficult time, are aspects of Manjula that can actually grow 🙃 what superb painted portraits of my beautiful wife. They really do her justice. How grand are these? I hope she’s looking now

You’ve already seen this one that was waiting at home when I returned, it’s from Johanna in Switzerland who visited us late last year, quickly followed by her mum and dad.

And this painting arrived a day after I returned home ….

It’s from Janie (Amy’s auntie, Amy is one half of the lovely couple and was our celebrant at our wedding in 2018) in New Zealand who visited us early last year, who’s already immortalised Manjula in black and white. See below.

Thankyou to J and J, you’ve made a sad man very happy. How amazing to come home to be greeted like this? Thankyooooooooou both so much.

Back home

India never ceases to amaze.

On the plane before we landed I’m watching an episode of Fleabag. A hit TV comedy in the U.K. that’s managed to pass me by, until now. In this episode, the family are at dinner and after a fight, almost all of them have bloody and bleeding noses. At exactly the same time the traveller in the next seat starts to have a nose bleed. I’m not making it up.

Off the plane and immigration are their useful helpful best and the finger print machine isn’t working so I have to wander off to find a different desk. That one isn’t working either. The Babu squeezes and rubs my fingers, squirts hand hand cleaner on my hands and manages to get it in my eye, gets me to rub them (the fingers that is) and try each finger one by one while chuntering on about how dry my hands were! He gives in.

This is all pretty irrelevant, I’m avoiding thinking about returning to an empty home without Manjula. I need to be tender and tough at the same time.

Shafi is waiting for me to drive me home. It takes ages as the Jains have got a big three day event that’s blocking the main highway between Bangalore and Mysore. Lots of people in white with their masks on to stop inhaling and killing living things, thousands of others venerating them.

I explain that over the years I’ve probably arrived in India over forty times. All bar one feeling very happy to be back. This time I have mixed feelings of being both sad and happy. We’ll have to see how it goes.

The place seems pretty messy. Rubbish everywhere. It doesn’t compare well with the three countries I’ve visited. I think it’s the longest time I’ve been away from India since moving here nine years ago.

Shafi kindly points out that Manjula was very lucky to meet me and especially as she had two trips to the U.K. and her medicines paid for. I point out that I was also very lucky to have met Manjula, to be looked after by her and had such happy times together. We buy some flowers for Manjula’s portrait, just like the ones on my tattoo. Their aroma now fills the house.

The other flowers also featured on my tattoo have already bloomed and died as they last just one night. We used to have bets on which night they would come out.

Lucie is not here. I whistle manically and eventually find her at someone’s house and we go for a walk. I keep catching Manjula out of the corner of my eye. No one is like Manjula of course, but just with a glimpse, the colourful saris can easily confuse.

I wonder what Mangla the cleaner has been doing while I’ve been away. The place is the dirtiest and dustiest I’ve ever seen it.

We have a parcel on the sideboard, from a lovely young couple, Johanna and Piero, who visited us last year from Switzerland. Johanna has painted and sent a beautiful picture of Manjula. How cool is that?

Doddery

I’m stepping over stones into my new world.

As I prepare to return to Mysore after almost two months away it seems daunting.

I’m tired and it’s exhausting dealing with the turmoil of my emotions.

I really don’t know if I’m ready to go back. I need to but I worry what it will be like. Maybe I should have planned to be away longer but that would mean putting off the inevitable. I need to follow my own insights and advice and remember our wonderful time together over nine years, our fun growing together and creating something special.

Wherever I am whatever I do, I carry Manjula with me. I’m always bumping into memories of Manjula. I miss her so much. I wonder if I will ever move on from all this and if I really want to. Am I going about it the best way? Am I expecting too much too soon? I just don’t know. For much of the time I’m not really motivated to do anything. I think about her constantly, miss her terribly, I have lovely memories and overwhelming sadnesss. It’s a friggin nightmare.

But it’s not the total picture.

It’s as if……

I’m crossing a river.

I step gingerly, stone by stone, crossing the unwelcoming swirling white water. I step on a wobbly stone that pushes my heart into my mouth and brings tears to my eyes, others are unpredictable being partially immersed, others shift erratically with a manic intent to topple me into the churning waves. If I was to fall in at this depth it would be of little consequence but in this current state it’s maybe a challenge for which I’m not equipped.

My muse, Manjula continues to stimulate, encouraging me to act and move forward. I find a firmer footing. I feel her support, her arms hugging me, she whispers her love. I realise that we choose the routes we take.

I can look back and can see that there might have been different approaches to the challenges we faced. An alternative might have rescued my darling from this untimely death but we just don’t know and have to go with what we did choose and hold our wonderful memories close.

I know she forgives me and will always be with me.

Three stages

Our (Manjula and my) friends are really really cool and warm.

After three months I can appreciate (wrong word if it ever implies like!) three distinct and overlapping stages (not quite the right description) that also still exist, often all at exactly the same time.

The first is raw, extreme grief that fills your every moment when not concentrating on physical practical action things such as rituals and sorting things out. It still raises it awful ugly head and manifests itself in salty wetness every single day. Needless to say it also involved anger, pity, it was frankly messy. Sharing my feelings and the support of friends around the world was superb. Overall though it was and still can be really shitty. More on the three buckets of grief can be found here.

Second stage became more obvious and vivid when I was at Liz’s house (big ex, mum of my boys and still a great friend of Manj and I). On a small corner table was a photo from my eldest son Ben’s wedding with Manjula in the group. During the evening I found myself looking away from her picture as I was overcome by sad feelings. At that moment I properly realised what I’d been doing and what I needed to do next. The sad memories of the difficulties she experienced, particularly at the end and of her being snatched away needed to be and were being replaced by lovely memories of our time together, the adventures we’d created and how much of a difference we’d made in each other’s lives. I therefore spent more time Looking at her photo, appreciating her beauty; remembering the joy and the wonderful life we’d created. Things slowly start getting better.

Third stage. I’ve now met up with our friends in India, UK, USA and Canada to share our memories of Manjula. People’s care, kindness and compassion has been immeasurable. I now feel that whilst the above ‘stages%’ are still very much part of my life, and things will continue to be raw for some time, I need now to start pulling things together a bit, get a bit more focussed. To move from any regret to remorse, check article here. A critical part of that will be to confirm and clarify, speak out to Manjula, ask her forgiveness for the things I didn’t do, or wish I’d done more of or better, and recognise the amazing things we did do, thanking her for her time with me (that continues) and being an absolute star.

I love you Manjula and always will.