Anita’s Attic

Sowbhagya arrived with Dosa for her breakfast. The dining table was converted to one of my four workstations but she managed to find space. She was trapped but I blame her. She did show interest. So I launched into the synopsis of Manjula and my story, written for Anita.

SB was immediately engaged and liked it. We both enthusiastically remembered Manjula: her character, her kindness, her fun. SB could see connections with her and other women’s experiences but also how she was especially adventurous, strong and independent in the face of so many challenges.

I’m encouraged.

Last Saturday was the first session of Anita’s Attic. A programme for writers — yes, that’s me, officially a writer, of sorts — over the next twelve weeks.

There’s ten of us in the online group: taught, facilitated and mentored by Anita Nair.

Anita is a famous writer of English novels, here in India. My own favourite is Ladies Coupe and I hope that our story will feature similar expansive characters to help us discover more of India and wonderful people I’ve been fortunate to meet.

Manjula forever giving

On Manjula’s birthday she’s provided the meals for elderly people, who might otherwise be destitute, at their ashram/home. The NGO also has a children’s home which we will visit.
There are now four benches in two different gardens.
Tea and cakes in the park on her birthday

We captured each other’s heart

Cycling Manjula around Mysore

Visiting Bamboo Bazaar slum where Manjula lived as a child. Sharing sweets and showing her photo. I wonder what they think of Manjula now and how her life changed so much.
Kanchana’s team have completed a few projects including this patchwork quilt from Manjula’s clothing.
It’s designed to go on the wall or the bed.
Manjula’s memory tree decorated by our team of old drivers and two young people.
Manjula gives BIG photo album (that’s for me) and shopping bags.
Manjula’s plaque on the tree outside our door.
Manjula gives steel lifetime straws and personalised pens in pouches made from her clothing.
Thank you Manjula for being with us on your birthday. I can’t say it often or loud enough and show how much I miss and love you.
In the future Manjula’s giving will be to support to specific projects in a sustainable way.

Waiting rewarded….

Happy Birthday Manjula we love, miss and cherish you.

We wanted to hear from you on your 47th birthday and we’re not disappointed. We have a lovely message… check the video…. below

Thank you Manj.

Manjula never ever let me down and together we created a wonderful life. Thank you Manjula for making me happy.

Lucie and I, are now missing our brilliant smiling light. The memories and intensity of her giving soul of a beautiful caring, compassionate woman lives with us still.

Expect the unexpected

Nothing ever seems to go to plan in India……

to help commemorate Manjulasness on her birthday we’d invited a few friends to celebrate in the park opposite where we’ve placed three benches.

But two days before, this happened…..

There’s now the beginnings of a new path. We’ll just about manage if it doesn’t rain and create a river of mud.

One or two great books

In Manjula’s library on grieving…..

Adult books. My two top picks would be Didion and Grief and Grieving.
and children’s books, that this child loves. Memory Tree and Heart and the Bottle are fab but they’re all great.

We’ve been time travelling again on her birthdays

Manjula wanted something a little less exposed to the wind than the open-topped machine, so I borrowed the Tardis (compliments of Dr Who?) to take her on another trip or ‘rounding’ as she used to describe our outings in our Ambassador car.

Somehow we became younger

Manjula loves this as it suits her highly developed (English?) sense of humour 😉

It’s not the first time we’ve time travelled like this. She was keen for adventures into the unknown. We also discovered parallel worlds at the WOMAD (World of Music Art and Dance Festival) in England.

I admit to being disappointed as we’ve not heard directly from her. There’s time yet and I still hope

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.

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

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