New beginnings are disguised as painful ends

It’s late at night and the page is blank so I turn to Laozi and Pooh bear.

Actually that’s not true. I turn to you…… to help me get the ball rolling, to create and share my and Manjula’s story. It’s the age old writer’s conundrum. As you see I have a pile of full notebooks but how to get the blank page filled to begin to start the actual story. Can you help?

If you know Manjula and I or even if you don’t 🙃 what’s the key ingredients of our story that might interest you or a wider audience. What are the main themes that will interest people?

an open letter 

 

to our extended family, our friends from around the world, the community that grew around sharing our home

27th March 2020

Dear family,

thank you for your patience, kindness and support.

It’s been an awful twelve months since Manjula died, a pot-holed, rocky roller-coaster ride. Being able to speak to you directly, through my writing and sharing my feelings has been tremendously helpful. Your direct responses and visits have helped me through these difficult times. Thank you for those who’ve also been here to provide direct practical and emotional support, you know who you are and have made an impossible situation manageable.

Thank you for being a witness as Kessler writes:

“Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed……… they need to feel their grief acknowledged and reflected by others.”

As you know, I’ve shared and its helped. Thank you for letting me share with you, gain your support and help me to manage this tragic loss. I’ve most definitely been through the five stages (Kubler-Ross) of loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, often all at the same time and what I hadn’t realised was the anticipatory grief years before Manjula actually died that we also had to experience. 

Loss of a lover, loss of a life, loss of control, loss of the opportunity to do things differently, loss and the grief that results from it, is for me the hardest thing in life.

I also know now that: Grief unites us.

“You will never forget that person, never be able to fill the unique hole that has been left in your heart,” 

I’m so pleased you met and go to know my beautiful smiling brilliant wife directly through visiting us, or introduced through these pages. She leaves a wonderful legacy in what she created and leaves part of her in all of our hearts.

It goes without saying that she will always be with me and I know the grieving will never be over but I look forward to finding the right balance in Manjula continuing to be part of me and me finding meaning and growing beyond that loss, then ……….  “the time will come when memory will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes” (Kessler)

We’ve now recognised Manjula’s death anniversary with a Hindu Pooja ceremony and lunch for immediate friends on the 12th March (the official Hindu anniversary), shared the BIG photo album (a copy is on this site) then on the 23rd I cycled Manjula through the city, sponsored meals for older people at a local ashram, and had a few drinks here at home. We still have Manjula’s shoes carefully positioned around the house in case she returns and needs them. (Didion) 

Over the year I’ve been careful to do the Hindu rituals, placed flowers at her two main photos in our living rooms monthly, some times weekly, sited benches in our park and at a city museum. I’ve printed t shirts in her memory, hoisted bunting made from her clothing, created a memory tree (Teckentrup) (please ask how you can add a memory or wish) and given gifts of Manjula’s pens. 

We plan to celebrate Manjula’s life in August, around her birthday, please do join us in person or virtually, that’s when we’ll also re-open Mysore Bed and Breakfast, if we’re through these challenging virus times. I plan to keep this place going for at least a few more years (our first season without Manjula was bitter sweet but worked OK)  and so invite you to continue to share our home.

Manjula will always be here.

I have been trying to write to Manjula for months and failed, I need to share my remorse for things I feel I could have done better and more, to ask for her forgiveness and to thank her for our wonderful, funny, life enhancing nine years together. It will be posted soon.

I’ll continue to post on www.meandmycycle.com which is the best place to follow. Writings will be varied: about life in India, more factly fiction stories and I promise there will be a lot less of the grief. I’ve committed to Manjula to write our story.  I’ve verbally shared bits and people have liked it, I just need to write better to do it justice. Who knows when that gets finished and released, we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime there’s many of our times together and challenges of living in India already featured here and I’ll add more, including her funny videos.

Thanks for becoming Manjula and my family and I look forward to travelling together on the next chapter of our journey.

Your loving friend

Stephen

and Lucie

PS

Manjula would joke that I as I was bringing so many books into the house it would become a library when I was 75 and no longer leading cycle tours. Well, the quantity and variety of books have grown and grown and now include sections on grief and writing (guess why?)  and so Manjula’s library is now at our house. 😉 and no I’m not 75 yet. Do pay a visit or ask for recommendations.

The one’s referred to in the letter are:

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the five stages of loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

Finding Meaning: the Sixth stage of grieving by David Kessler

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion 

The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup

 

a wedding ceremony

a ceremony but where?

you already know, there was only one place to choose for our wedding and the formalities themselves were completed at the registry office 🙂

no it wasn’t in a glitzy bhavan with hall for reception (means a totally different thing out here – its the photo opportunity and gift giving session with the newlyweds seated on thrones on a stage) and another hall to feed hundreds, nor a band, althoug that would have been nice

instead, we decided on Srirangaptnam island, of course  …… my favourite place. As you may have seen already we chose a tree in a field

once we decorated the tree… all sounds a bit pagan 😉

we made final personal preparations at Satish’s house…

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there were around twenty guests: local friends and members of our team,

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Vasanth’s family (V was ill), Satish (project manager) and his family, Rakesh (mr energy), Lokesh, Babu, Vidya ( a good friend who transcribed Manjula’s recordings) Heechang and her friend and family (husband Justin was away picking Henna), Asha, my yoga teacher, her family and Suresh, (who arrived fashionably late so aren’t n this photo) and the friends from the UK: Mike and Sue, Tom and Amy. We’re sorry to say that Tanu, Vasanth and Vinay were indisposed with a heavy bug so they just had to watch the royal wedding ceremony on the TV (I’m joking, OK) and not together!

the ceremony itself

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we and the children used a traditional Mysorean Tonga (horse drawn taxi) to our next stop

20170304-DSC03432where we visited  one of the wonderful riverside locations on Srirangaptnam for a prayer  beside the Kaveri and to float our flowers

followed by lunch

and finally …. tea and cakes at Satish’s house

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here’s a link to the full set off photos of the wedding ceremony and here for the meal

it had to happen

 

so in planning for this project aka getting married, I didn’t use a broker, check her horoscopes, or caste, ask her mum (Dad’s dead), expect her to pay for the happening, confirm her status and job, check the flatness of her foot, ponder on her mum’s occupation, I did find out a lot about her, was impressed with her surviving a difficult childhood, her fortitude and stamina throughout life, her flexibility and adaptability in managing and thriving through uncertain and unexpected situations, her compassion and care after such an astonishing series of difficulties throughout her life, things that I couldn’t have even begun to guess about… I did fall in love with her as a person, her humour, her compassion, her beauty both inside an out, her thought for others. her active seeking to help others out, her tolerance of the stupidity of some around her, i hesitated for years as I was concerned that she was in a vulnerable position as employee, an ethical challenge of the first order, but eventually we did come together and i wonder now what did she check out about me…

 

its been a bit weird as we’re open about our situation with all our guests at Mysore bed and breakfast, many of whom have now become good friends, our establised friends here and abroad knew of our relationship but we have chosen to be discreet here in our own immediate locality and have kept our relationship a secret from her family. Not because of the cross cultural India/British aspects, they’re more easily overcome but because the neighbours, well they might frown upon it because our different societal positions (she’s from a poor background) and because if her family knew we’d never hear the end of it not least, with the constant requests for handouts.

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so this was back home immediately after the ‘registry’ office. A few days later a wonderful team came together to create a most memorable event most unlike anything that the majority of indians would accept as a wedding, but for us it was perfect.

Maid in India 5

so, to explain the job. Ok we don’t speak the same language, she’s probably a little worried and intimidated, coming to work for an unknown quantity: foreigner, male, living on his own, can be a bit loud and over-energetic… so of course, I used my well developed training skills. …… and got out the whiteboard, flapped my arms and generally danced around a bit. I seriously wonder what she thought. On many occasions she shown people the photo of my drawings. Promptly followed by sniggers and giggles.

So I wonder what she really thought of working for a Firangi!