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

Latest read

A lovely novel translated from the Swedish about a man coming to terms with a difficult new situation. Five golden stars.

A man called Ove.

I worried, as I started reading the book that, he was like my father and I was getting to be like that. Oh no! It didn’t quite work that way.

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

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.

Lovely quotes

Here’s a recent post from my Facebook page.

I admitted that I hadn’t quite got round to my letter to Manjula ( I still haven’t managed to complete it) and referred back to a wonderful review from a previous guest Manjir who visited years ago with her husband and daughter. Here’s the review. and original posting. It helps show why we loved sharing our home and will continue to.

Manjir has just written to me today, remembering Manjula, with kind thoughts and has shared a great quote from Rabindranath Tagore: “In the dualism of death and life there is a harmony. We know that the life of a soul, which is finite in its expression, and infinite in its principle, must go through the portals of death in its journey to realise the infinite.” Thank you for your support Manjir.

It reminds me of another quote I also found this week, which also resonates as I work through the pain of grief to discover my and Manjula’s love: “anyone who has experienced the passing of someone close knows that death is a portal to love.”

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?

Finding Meaning

I’m reading the book about finding meaning: the sixth stage of grief. I’m writing notes as Kessler talks about “the secret to remembering with love begins with accepting the pain not trying to deny it or ignore it….. love is on the other side of pain”

I’m reflecting on how I’ve managed this over the last year. As I write this I’m gently crying, sniffling just a little bit. Lucie looks up, stares with her sad brown eyes and squeals as if to draw my attention. I think she knows what’s happening and wants to comfort me. So we have a stroke for support.

At that very moment a black and orange butterfly flies into the balcony with a message: Manjula did feel my love and would have always known it was present.

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