Forever Together

“This feels  com-ple-tely  weird

How the heck, did it happen?

Please, move over, I’m feeling claustrophobic. We are so, not the same size!

To me it feels like the two of us are crammed into a sleeping bag, just like the one we bought for you to go camping in England. If you curl a bit I’ll curl round you, like two spoons together. Yep, yep, that’s it.

Much better.

So you’re the Hindu, can you explain to me what’s happened?

Nope.

OK, I’ll hazard a guess.

I must say, as cramped as this is, I am so pleased to be with you, I know its not exactly physical, more meta-physical but I can actually feel you and its wonderful. I just don’t care about anything else. I lost you and I’ve found you again. Super!

Its also amazing how we can communicate just through thoughts. Are you thinking in Kannada or English?

A mix of both.

You clever dick. You’re the boss. 🙂

Ok so here’s my take on it.

I think it’s something to do with reincarnation. Once we die and we’re released from our body our spirit finds a new home, a new body and begins its next life. Agreed?

Well, there’s also a belief amongst some people that couples can be reunited in their new life.

Yes, I remember discussing this with friends and joking about whether we’d wish to be reincarnated with our husbands! Most didn’t seem to want to be.

I did though!

You and I have had some disagreements. I don’t think you realised how hard it was for me, at times but I loved you to the end of the earth, and beyond

Remember me saying that?

Of course

I love you too.

So how have we ended up here?

The last I remember, you had a second heart attack and you didn’t want to go back on a ventilator, you’d hated that the year before, even though it gave us another year together. So I asked the Doctors not to resuscitate and you died.

Afterwards, I was on my Enfield, squinting through the tears on my way back to Siddartha Layout, to sort things out so I could bring your body home, when ….

BANG.

A lorry knocked me off the two wheeler and next thing I know I was here with you.

Where is here? by the way.

I don’t know but I’m beginning to adjust, I’m not feeling bunched up anymore – I’m getting used to it.

I remember being in hospital and you made a joke about me not smiling so I giggled and smiled, last thing I remember I was complaining that my head hurt.

Then I was in a valley, having passed through a bright sun light. People were singing and dancing. I thought of you and whispered a message, that I loved you, to a passing dragonfly. Then as if by Magic, you appeared and I saw you through the crowd coming towards me.

Wow. So let me get this right, we’ve died within minutes of each other and somehow our souls have joined together, reincarnated into the same body. How amazing is that?

I feel that we’re gently melding together, we’re becoming as one.

Well, I didn’t read about this in the Bhagavad Gita! Did you?

Waahay, this could be fun. Maybe we could give a TED Talk.

looking for a home

everyone wants a home and needs to feel wanted

a short factly fiction tale, a monologue, written by Stephen, but its NOT him speaking…

………..

Isn’t she lovely…isn’t she wonderful, isn’t she precious’…… 

“Stevie Wonder, really got it right…. I feel good.” 

[Stevie Wonder’s ‘isn’t she lovely’ is playing in the background. Our own Stephen is out looking for something, but what?]

“It’s so crowded here and a bit too bright for my liking. It seems very orderly but I reckon that we’re held in a bit too tightly. How am I supposed to get noticed in the midst of all this? How can anyone see me, let alone pick me?

Here, what about me? Hello, Hello……, yes, me! Look here!

What’s your problem? I’m beautiful – obviously, bright – yes, I could just about be a star… reach for me!”

Isn’t she lovely, made from love….life and love are the same’, 

“yes Stevie, take it away. 

Hang on, Who’s this? He looks well meaning, clearly got purpose, we could make it work.

What is he doing? He’s got it completely wrong. No, not her, put her down, what about me? Come on get a grip.

I’m yours for the taking.

Hang on a minute, I’m getting attention from him. Yes, that’s it, pick me up, look me over, no no , you’re tickling. Oh no, now he’s putting me back. What an idiot!

Hey, he’s coming back, let’s look extra special, maybe if I send positive waves, he’ll appreciate my OBVIOUS charms. Yes, He’s looking my way again, picked me up, stroking me, yes, yes, you’re getting it. Now he’s talking to the nice lady, getting out his wallet, yes we’ve got a RESULT…. wonders never cease.

He hands a card over, payment is made, I’m nicely prepared and we’re off. 

Yipeeeeeee.

This is sooooooo exciting.”

I can’t believe what God has done’, 

“back to Stevie Wonder, this is so my song.

I’m with the guy who picked me and I really think I’m about to meet my life’s purpose.

But now I wonder, what will it really be like? I don’t really know this character, can he be trusted? Where does he live? He’s white skinned is that good or bad? Calm down. Peace man. Give him a chance. Less of the anxiety. It’ll be OK, remember those positive waves.

Hang on. there’s another man with him who I hadn’t noticed. I can just about make him out. He looks like Father Christmas, big white beard and belly. Now this is a bit weird. Does that mean, you know, that they’re together? an item? Oh no, that’s not my idea of bliss. I’m not judging others, you’ll understand, it’s each to their own but if I’m moving into their place I need to know the set up. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m modern, I’m fresh, I’m new, I know that gay marriages, partnerships, people living together without getting married are all the rage but I just need time to adjust. 

It’s not what I’d expected. I’d wanted a more traditional thing, I ooze tradition, obviously. OK, OK, Don’t prejudge, let’s calm down and see.

So, where are we now. Back home, I expect. It looks big, difficult to tell as I’m so small. There’s plenty of space, loads of plants, we could make this work even if its not what I expected when I was brought into this world.

Hang on. What do I see, through a crack? There is a woman, Now as Stevie Wonder says I’m lovely but hey this woman is something else, she’s absolutely beautiful. A gorgeous tasty chocolate colour, unlike the pasty white guy. The other guy I now realise, was just a friend. Pheeeew…

Isn’t she lovely…isn’t she wonderful, isn’t she precious’  Stevie Wonder, I imagine, would sing and now there’s two of us!’

I get it now. The first guy who picked me up, and bought me and the woman are clearly together, there is a soft warm vibe that I feel. I’ve always been complemented, by the others, of being ‘in tune’ and understanding the humans.

Yes its happening, he doesn’t hang around. Non of this waiting for the best time, he’s straight at it.

‘Manjula’… he says, then I can’t quite catch the rest…. blah blah blah….get on with it man. blah blah… Wow what a smile she’s got, I’ve got a full view of her now. Now she really is a star. I could get to like her. What did she say? I didn’t quite catch it.

She’s acting very shy, coy even, which is probably not surprising in the circumstances.  

So what was that I heard? 

Yes! 

Spot on, wonderful that’s made my day…  no, my year, my whole life… I hope this means happily ever after. 

…. she’s beaming at me and him, I suppose, and let light into the whole room, Ok I admit, probably accentuated by the fact that my box is now fully open. Whatever, its love all around, I’ve come to a wonderful home. Yeeeeees!

She takes me out of the box, Strokes me. She’s radiant, I really really love this, and her, I’m going to be so happy.

He slips me on her finger. She had said yes, I’m over the moon.

This is absolutely wonderful. I have my very own family.

Life settles down to a sort of normality, a routine. I’ve been her engagement ring now for over two years. I’ve travelled to England (where he is from), been photographed so many times, shown to what seems to be absolutely everyone, mainly foreigners admittedly. I’m not always on her finger, only on special occasions and when she has on her ‘sunday best.’ But it’s then I’m at my best. We were made for each other.

Otherwise I’m placed back in the box or wrapped in a tissue, and tucked away in a warm place in her bra, under her mattress, in the midst of her many many saris or bedside drawer. 

Since that very first day it’s been an absolute joy. This is a very happy house with many people from Mysore and around and from all over the world (whatever that is) constantly coming and going and I’ve even got used to the big black dog.

I had expected a companion, yes a wedding ring but it seems like its not their thing. There was however the crowning glory and yes, eventually TWO YEARS LATER they did get married (twice), so we all had our day of celebrating their love.

Manjula was at her most beautiful, whether at the registry office, in the field, on the Tonga, by the river or for lunch hotel, she beamed like a constant smiling beacon, a lighthouse lighting the way for us all.”

Epilogue

“So what’s happening today? It’s almost four years since their engagement and over a year since they married.  Everything is out of sorts. Manjula’s husband who I now realise is called Stephen or maybe Stevie, but he’s not a wonder! As you will soon see.

Manjula left the house yesterday in the Ambassador car with Stephen her driver. She left me at home so I thought it was maybe one of her regular trips to a clinic or hospital. Its unusual as she’s pretty much been been here constantly for most of the last year and she hasn’t taken me!

So what’s he doing now? Stephen has come back on his own. Well he’s clearly sad and his eyes are wet.

I’m wrapped in tissue paper, I think I’m under the mattress, which he’s lifted.

Hey! I’m here, be careful! Stop whatever you’re doing. Woooooooaah I’m sent flying through the air, roll along the floor and come to rest in the corner of the room. 

The mattress followed by the cot, the bed itself are taken out of the room and outside, what is going on?

Whatever, I’m in the corner of the room and he has no idea that I’m here.

Hey You? Steeeephen,  your klutz.. I’m here. Here in the dark in the corner, under something. Come and pick me up. Please.

I give up. It’s been hours or maybe days I have no way of telling. How will he ever find me?

Hang on someone is coming. It’s not him, Stephen the careless. It’s a woman, not my Manjula.

Here, look this way!

She is scanning and has eagle eyes, finds me, picks me up, I’m up up and away… and puts me in a warm place.

Whatever next?”

Factly Note

My friend Brian, from the UK, and I bought Manjula’s engagement ring at a jewellers in Mysore. On that very day I asked Manjula to marry me. Thankfully she said yes. That was four years ago. We’d been together in one way and another for nine years until she died earlier this year. On the day she died, as part of the Hindu rituals, she was brought home and laid on her bed, that I’d placed outside the house for people to visit, show their love and do the necessary pooja.     

I have no idea if rings can appreciate whats happening to them.

The ring is now lost. I have no idea what happened to it. Maybe it was tucked away under the mattress and I lost it when I lifted the mattress then someone else found it, maybe it was taken in the chaos of that day when people were in and out of our house, I just don’t know. It’s not important now.

I’ll be posting ‘creative’ fiction and Manjula’s own actual story, a memoir, over the next few months on http://www.meandmycycle.com

Stephen

Mysore, July 2019

stephen.Farrell@flourish.co.uk 

 

 

 

The magic roundabout

a factly fiction tall tale….

The first thing to hit us were the smells. The burning of fuel to create the steam that drove the machines. Next, as we turned a corner, we saw the blur of lights like snakes curving through the air,  the sounds quickly followed, the clanking, ch ch ch chuffing, and what sounded like church organ pipes playing, the screaming, bodies rushing in an out, up and down, turning all around, the laughter, jolly music, a breathless stomach churning cacophony.

Carter’s fair was in town.

A traditional fair of rides and entertainments from maybe a hundred years before. The imagined town was a temporary set-up on a country estate in Wiltshire as part of a weekend music festival.

We’d attended this world music fandango for over ten years as a group of twenty or more, our extended family. A misshapen circle of tents was our home for the weekend. An event shelter acting as our dining room and lounge and another tent as our kitchen. We followed a rota to take it in turns to cater for the whole group and that with occasional guests, often previous visitors to Mysore Bed and Breakfast, completed our little communal village. The cluster of tents, since we first arrived to open fields, had been overtaken by the expansion of a quickly growing metropolis. We were in the midst of an incredible mishmash of temporary homes. Ranging from the very basic young persons festival tents that would be lucky to see a second outing, to the grown ups frame tents and the trendy bells. Nearby in their gated community were the glampers.

It provided a respite from our hectic urban lives and a golden opportunity to catch up and connect. We were excitedly looking forward to our weekend fillip.

Gina, aka the ultimate networking organiser, our captain, had helped pull the group together, an extended family of comfort, an incredibly rich mix with her husband, Angus, from the Caribbean, together with Sharon, Claire, Ruth, Mags, Alice, Ben, Poppy, Liz, Grant, Jenny, Peter, Jane, Barbara, Megan, Dave, Ann, Dean, Manjula, Stephen, Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert Dibble and Grubb.

It’s the first full day of the festival and time to explore. One small group ventured off to find the steam fair.

Poppy, the youngest, was the star of the group. Age five and three quarters, she was, of course, mature beyond her years. It was her very first music festival. She’d heard and seen evidence of them in Finsbury Park, close to her home in north London but this was her own opportunity to see, hear and smell it for herself, first hand. She secretly hoped it would rain, just a little bit mind, so there would be the funny mud she’d heard so much about. Maybe some slip sloppy falling people. Her full time assistants were in tow, namely Ben, the chef entrepreneur, her dad, hailing from the alternative town of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire and Alice, her mum, the creative jewel, originally from Poland but settled for years in London. This small group out following the trail to the fairground included Manjula and I. We’d married the year before having set up and run a Tourism business together over seven years in South India.

Manjula, from Mysore in South India, and I had opened a Bed and Breakfast business as an open house that welcomed thousands of guests from around the world. Since the very beginning it was number one in our city. My bit of the business was guided cycle tours. I’d belatedly realised how well told stories could provide valuable insights. How history was so precarious and could easily have taken an alternative route. Close to our home was a place that presented an incredible cluster of potential historical turning points. With the slightest change of circumstances it could have resulted in dramatic changes of history for India, Britain and continental Europe. In the midst of all this we’d created a great lifestyle, jealously admired.

I’m Stephen, from North England, Ben’s dad and officially known as Grandee poo by the energetic articulate granddaughter. I was on cloud nine as we were altogether for the weekend and had earlier in the year, visited my youngest son Oliver in Canada. I’d missed them all as we were all living in such disparate places. My previous partner and Ben’s mum, Liz was also here that weekend. We had been together over twenty years and retained a supportive relationship. In fact Manjula and Liz has become close. Liz a strong woman, caring mother another key connector, remained back at the encampment hanging out with others in the group.

I’d moved to Mysore in South India nine years before. Manjula was introduced to me and came to clean and cook pretty much immediately. Over the years we fell in love, carefully reconnoitred the employer/employee relationship minefield with a wedding in a field. This followed a ‘formal’ marriage process, in which we couldn’t quite figure out when we’d actually ‘tied the knot’ in the official office where ninety-nine percent of the activity were the exchange of land and building contracts!

The only cloud on the horizon, let’s call it cloud number ten, was Manjula’s ill health. A few years ago she’d been diagnosed with a chronic lung condition but other than a very serious time in hospital a year ago from which she recovered, she seemed to be strong and thriving. It was predicted however to ultimately seriously affect her life chances and mobility. Manjula was from a very poor background, worked in service as a maid, had faced many challenges including a previous abusive husband and had lost a baby through illness. This had helped create a strong confident woman who had a great ability to empathise and connect with others.

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The group arrived at the fairground to the usual mix of rides, stalls and entertainments, including Manjula’s two favourites. Poppy and Manjula were ecstatic, it’s not the sort of thing we’d see in South India. The absolute favourite was the carousel. The girls mounted their steeds, held on tight, clearly worried yet unused to the gentle riding of the horse, as it sedately circled. Manjula beaming her usual radiant smile was especially bright. The ride came to an end. I helped Manjula down from the horse.

“Can I go on again?” She squealed.

“Ok Madam, of course” I saluted!

Manjula and I walked further round the carousel to find a vacant horse each and ride again. Up she got, smiling insanely. Madam (she was known as Madam English, amongst our neighbours and local shopkeepers since our first visit to the UK ) held on just as tight. I thought this was supposed to be easy going. I felt as though I’d been on a bucking bronco. I felt a bit sick, this will not do!

As the carousel came to a stop we alighted and walked round to find the rest of the group. We couldn’t find them anywhere. They’d walked off.

I still felt under-weather, a bit weird, still sort of sickly but told myself to man-up, it was a carousel for God’s sake.

I looked at my watch. It was 1.30 but I remember it being that time when we first got on the carousel with Ben and his family. We seemed to have gained more than twenty minutes. Odd. Or old age… I’ll have mis-read my watch.

No problem, Manjula had one more favourite place to visit. The slot machines.

In an amusement arcade in Dorset she’d become addicted to a particular machine. You’ll know it. It eats two pences (next to the smallest value English coin). The point is to knock coins off the edge, then they become yours.

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You put a two pence in the slot at eye level. The coins zig zagged their way down, hitting alternate pins, until landing at the very bottom. If you were lucky the coin lay flat and was then pushed into the pile of coins which just might tip them over the edge, down the chute and ultimately into your sticky mits. A completely random-luck-filled-game but the excitable giggly girlish Manjula loved it!

Pennies were lost and won, I’m sure we’ll be back.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Ben, Alice and Poppy arriving at the Carousel. They got on it…. again! We went over and were reunited once they’d finished their ride, only to be asked why we hadn’t joined them on the carousel, when we had maybe forty minutes earlier. Strange? What’s that all about? It’s as if we were in a bubble of lost time, as if things had not happened. It was completely incomprehensible. I can assure you we had had no wacky baccy.

Manjula and I wandered off, utterly confused and arranged to see them back at camp. Manjula, the mature, strong, calm who was by the turn of a coin, an excitable little girl, was having an absolutely wonderful time and had no idea what time it was anyway. What does it matter?

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We had a couple more things to do, such as visit the Ferris wheel and check out some shops. We’d ridden the Ferris wheel during Manjula’s previous visit to the U.K. at this very festival. It wasn’t your traditional wheel, it was much bigger, slow, sophisticated. It afforded a wonderful view over the country estate in which the festival was based. In the distance we could see the country house, the fields of tents at least three hundred and sixty degrees, around us.

“Look, look, see our flags” exclaimed Manj.

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Next to our tent, we had a flag pole and flags of Grenada and India to help people spot and return to our camp in the midst of hundreds maybe thousands of tents. We could even see them from all the way up here.

On the other side we could see stalls and vehicles selling food, clothes, furniture even. At times, it felt like home as there was such a lot from India. The woodland area gave healthy lifestyle, including: yoga (laughing and otherwise), massage, carving wooden spoons (I’d carved one for Manjula), a children’s play area and then throughout the site were music stages of different sizes, some acoustic, others electronic, tents for dancing and DJs, where world music could be found every day over the weekend.

Waaaaah, this was wonderful. I could feel the beaming heat from Manjula’s smile, her joy, and still there was no rain. Great! I suddenly, felt sick again, maybe it was all too much excitement and action for the old man!

After we’d left the Ferris wheel, we wandered sort of aimlessly along the grassy routes that passed between the stalls. The crowds were getting larger, it was the first full day and the place was filling up.

The usual stalls, that we’d seen over the years, were here; mostly selling Indian or African products and every type of international food you could imagine.

Manjula was drawn to a particular stall, she is an intrepid traveller with an open mind, she always finds endless things to attract and entertain.

All I could see at this stall was an Indian guy sitting cross-legged on a rug, the sort of Persian style, with hanging colourful reminders of home. His wife sitting behind in the inner recesses beckoned Manjula to join them and spoke to her in Hindi.

There was the liberal sharing of Namaste. It all felt a bit mysterious. To me they looked like northerners. There didn’t seem to be anything for sale. For those of you who haven’t visited India, it’s worth pointing out that it isn’t at all unusual to find fortune tellers (palm, star or card readers, parrots, anything is possible) or an incredible usual mix of spiritual types: Swamys, poojaris, offering hugs, insights, predictions, everywhere and anywhere in India. I think these people were mystics of some sort.

Hindu’s are open to finding God via any of the multiple paths that exist in life. Me I’m also open to the varieties of India but I’m also from Yorkshire (north England) so retain a ‘healthy’ cynicism in life. So the three of them are speaking Hindi (it’s not the local language where we live but Manjula knows it and at least three other Indian languages). She’s also learned English since we met but always insists that she learned from the guests and not me! Me, I only have a few words of our local language known as Kannada so I’m completely lost. Manjula has proven to be my key to Indian life in so many ways and not just languages. She has astonishing insights.

Well the Hindi conversation goes on and on. That is also not unusual in India. It’s a right old mix, of intensity, exclamations, even laughter, the look of shock, I worry that there seems to be the odd tinge of anger or is it disbelief? I’m completely lost, but absolutely trust Manjula. She seems Ok with it all. So after what seems an age we leave, we all stand and there are the usual Indian gestures of farewell. Manjula looks both pleased and confused. We venture on and find a place to get a chai, sitting on one of our collapsible camping chairs (I had been in trouble during our last visit to the festival two years ago, for not carrying chairs so that Madam could sit as and when needed, I’d learned my lesson).

Manjula was very pleased, I was receiving the full force of her inner sun beaming through her golden smile.

Now, I’m intrigued. That’s not particularly unusual as India never ceases to amaze and surprise.

So this is what, I think, they’d discussed.

Manjula was astonished, bowled over, that the two people knew her story. Her poor background and the many challenges she’d experienced, a dysfunctional family, life as a maid, her first husband, her baby that had died, our meeting almost ten years ago, the business, her chronic lung illness, our life together. Wow, even the cynic was surprised.

How was this possible? Life in India teaches you to ‘go with it’, you have to deal with paradox and uncertainty and not always question too much.

Now you also need to understand. Manjula’s English was really good but we’d sometimes lose things in translation so here’s what I think was said.

As I predicted it’s unexpected and mystical.

The couple also knew how much the challenges in her life had helped create a strong personality with an open caring attitude that brought people together. I’d seen this in so many ways, not least how she related to our guests and our staff. They also confirmed her own wishes for reincarnation, to come back as a tree!

I know I know, this is so beyond a westerners experience and understanding.

Well anyway to cut a lifelong story shorter, the bottom line is, Manjula’s life had been given a whole new direction. A sort of half reincarnation without having to die. She’d arrived at a turning point in life. Maybe the rides on the magic roundabouts… the carousel and Ferris wheel had changed something, who knows? or is that my own fantastical imagination?. It’s almost as if we arrived at a crossroads and something happened to switch her onto a different track, an altered state or parallel reality.

So what’s the result and why did it happen?

Well we’re still here at the Music festival, obviously. It seems that some of her previous experiences didn’t happen. There was no previous marriage or child that died, and most wonderful of all her chronic illness has been expunged. It’s gone totally. She doesn’t feel any strain on breathing at all, she has a new strength. I’m tearful, overjoyed, this is so wonderful. We both have a new life. How lucky are we?

And why?

So remember there maybe some misunderstanding given I don’t speak Kannada and English isn’t her first language.

It’s a sort of mystical reward. In her life she has had to endure a seemingly endless series of challenges any one of which could have broken her. Instead she not only emerged strengthened she has developed a warm openness that bridges to others and creates bonds of care and compassion. So it seems that as a reward for her goodness and the extremes she’s faced there has been an expected a sort of half reincarnation, a twisted surreal karma, a crossing over to a parallel reality.

Well of course it’s unbelievable, but eh, as I’ve said in India we learn to be adaptable, not question too much and suck the best out of whatever happens. In this case, it means Manjula has a new lease of life, we ain’t going to complain.

So I create my own narrative, to try and understand what’s happened.

For what it’s worth, my limited understanding (apologies to my Hindu friends for this distorted understanding) in the midst of multiple explanations of Karma. It seems to me, (bear of small brain, poo again) that Karma is a bit like a bank. Good deeds, lead to deposits in the bank that are subsequently cashed in when determining your next life at reincarnation. In this case Manjula has used some Karma cash mid life to create a new path and delete some of her previous life and current problems.

So we must have crossed a historical turning point during our rides on the magic roundabouts, landed in a parallel universe and have super new opportunities, ostensibly as a reward for Manjula being such a star.

I turned to Manjula lifted her high (she’s small and light), hugged her until breathless… and kissed passionately. We wouldn’t of course do that publicly in India but hey we’re in a brave new world.

“I love you Manjula”

‘I love you three”

We return to our sort of Trumptown camp where we find Liz and Gina who’ve been caring for little Manj, our unexpected daughter and share our amazing story

Note

This is a reimagined story, written by Stephen. It’s his second so clearly, as you now realise, he has a lot to learn.

Manjula died of a heart attack in March 2019 and so was unable to visit the U.K. for a planned third visit. Her daughter from her first husband had died just a few months old fifteen years earlier. She leaves her husband Stephen and their dog Lucie at the Bed and Breakfast she helped create and that together with MYCycle tours, continues.

Manjula’s story, the real one, not an imagined one, will be posted in instalments at http://www.meandmycycle.com over the next few months.

Follow up

Feedback and further comments, check here

Missing Manjula 2

It’s fifteen weeks now.

There have been so many goodwill messages I’m stuck for how to share them all…

Here are a selection from friends around the world.

“To live in other’s hearts is not to die”

Isn’t that wonderful?

a Fante Ghanaian quote

………

Hi Stephen

In the very brief time I knew Manjula she made an impact on me with her kind nature and cheeky sense of humour.

I saw how much she was loved by people within the community.

While going through her serious health problems she still went out of her way to see if I was ok and enjoying my trip.

I was so saddened to hear of her passing and my condolences and warmest wishes are with you

Lawrence

x

Such sad news Stephen. We loved our time with you both at the BnB. Manjula was a beautiful person…. she will be missed by many.

Sending you lots of love Ruth & Alan xx

such a beautiful funny lady so very sad ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️xxxxx

So sorry for your loss, Stephen. Manjula was an angel and is shining her light and love over you, always.

So so sorry to hear of your loss. Have followed your beautiful journey thru FB…She spread her radiant smile far and beyond….Even to the unknown. Wish you all the strength.

Farewell Manjula.

You always had a smile and an impish laugh, for everyone.

Will miss you, as will everyone you touched.

Steven Robert Heath

……..

I’m so sorry Stephen. Manjula bought such a ray of sunshine to all she met.

Her beauty was both outside and within.

Her killer humour, her untold skills and cleverness.

You had the enormous joy to share this.

Your memories of her trip to UK.

Everyone who met her loved her.

She will always be in our hearts and yours.

With such sadness. Libby and Andrea Smith.

Manjula, dear, funny, clever, beautiful inside and out. You are in my heart forever 💕💕💕

……………..

……

A truly inspiring couple… And am gald to have met an amazing and radiant soul in Manjula…

Prayers for her sadhgathi…

And your feelings and thoughts are so well penned down Stephen…

Prayers n much luv…

Guru Dutt Bharadwaj

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Some people come into our lives very briefly but leave a lasting impression ; Manjula Vellada was one such person #flyhighlovelylady

Mo Willot Hunstone

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I’m sure the house is feeling very lonely without her warmth! You two inspired a lot of people around the world … me included! You are loved by so many people … please hang in there! So many in life never get to experience the kind of special connection you two shared – feel blessed for that! Hugging my hubby a little tighter tonight … and sending you all my love! 🤗 😢

Emily

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Love is Sweet! and life changing, Noah Jamilu

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This is such a heart touching tribute to an extraordinary woman. Manjula will always be synonymous with Mysore and the beautiful memories we made there. Her dry humour and hospitality will live on… Ankara Anson

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Manjula was that little spark of surprise in the day, her food was delicious her face could light up a room, I am so sorry for your loss Stephen. Love and kind wishes Vicki and Ron

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One moment at a time.

One hour at a time.

One day at a time.

You will get there.

I feel blessed for having met you both.

Love and Hugs.

Chris

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Dear Steve

Please accept my sincere condolences for your deep loss, and indeed the world’s loss. I can’t imagine your pain but I can feel your love for Manjula. According to a fante (Ghanaian language)saying, ‘to live in other’s hearts is not to die’. I know this to be true Steve, and I hope will bring you some comfort. I am sure your Manjula is smiling and watching over you, with endless love.

Sue

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I stumbled upon your BnB when looking for some experiences around Mysore. Never happened to visit you guys but have followed you ever since. Feel like I have known Manjula and her inspiring life over the years through your posts; thanks for sharing your journey Akshay Surve

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My dear Stephen

I am so sorry to hear this. I hope you are bearing up well. It sounds like you were expecting this.

I only met you and Manjula over a couple of days whilst staying in your home but I feel we have continued the friendship by the power of the Internet. You have kept in touch with your blogs and posts and I am sure I am not the only one who feels your loss.

Not much I can say but if you’re ever in my neck of the world you have a friend and a bed available.

With kind regards and sadness.

Stuart

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I am so very sorry for your loss. I followed your page with the hope of coming to Mysore one day. Manjula has been a luminous presence in your posts: such warmth in her smile. She was beautiful in so many ways. My deepest condolences sulwen

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Stephen I always harbored this small hope that Manjula (with you of course) would some day make it to my part of the world. Alas that will not happen but that sweet, dear face will always be a part of me.Diane

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Steve This is a very beautiful tribute to a very beautiful woman. You were both so lucky to find one another and have those years together. What a unique and special relationship it was and what a huge loss for you and the hundreds of people who met her and through you and your love of her grew to know and love her too. May she be sitting peacefully somewhere watching over you and feeling proud to have been your wife. Emma

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You were both so lucky to find each other and share those years even though they were surely not enough. They love you shared shone out so bright and clear and was wonderful to be around.

I can’t imagine your home without her spreading her warmth and I send you strength to move through the days. We send our love to you.

Your friends in Oregon.

Abby and Dean

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Farewell Manjula.

You always had a smile and an impish laugh, for everyone.

Will miss you, as will everyone you touched.

Stephen Robert Heath

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Our thoughts are with you; we had the chance to meet both of you last December and we will cherish this memory of you and her together in your beautiful garden. She had such a warm smile and a gracious presence.

Marie Andree Dubrule

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I’m filled with such sadness of the passing of Manjula. However whenever I think of her I do so with remembrance of her positive spirit, her wonderful smile and her sense of humour. She has left an indelible mark of joy in all of us. — with Manjula Vellada.

Thank you Stephen for sharing! I‘ve met Manjula and you only once a time in my life but I still feel really in a relationship with both of you. I have a lot of tears in my eyes, believe me … Again a lot of power for you! Be grateful that you find each other 🐝

Sabine Willers

I am so sorry Stephen both Lorna and I have happy memories of staying with you both some years ago. The laughter and happiness in the house created such a wonderful atmosphere. Our thoughts are with you David Cross

Stephen how lucky you are to have found each other. My heart goes out to you. xxxxx Libby Sandbrook

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Dearest Stephen

Yesterday Varis and I did a puja for Manjula with a Baba in a temple at the foothills of the Himalayas. I picked some wildflowers and threw them in the waterfall coming down from the mountains and prayed for Manjula’s soul to fly free. We prayed for you too, to find the strength you need to help you through your loss and heartache. They call this place the Land of the Gods. If we couldn’t be with you in Mysore, I’m glad we were here in this special place to pray for Manjula’s soul. Sending you love and healing light 🙏🏻 — at Palampur Catherine Cullen

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A star on earth is now a star in heaven

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Dear Stepen, we are very sorry to hear about the death of Manjula. We remember Manjula (and you) with great love. We stayed at your BnB for 3 night almost 5 years ago, and for us, this is one of very few places in the world which made us feel like home. We wish you all the best and may you find some comfort by knowing she made an impact on people all over the world. Take care, Oren and Ofra from Israel

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Stephen Farrell these photos came up on my memories today from 2 years ago. Just check out Manjula’s cheeky smile!! I know you probably have the originals as you took the photos but wanted to share them again with you. I’m so glad we had the chance to meet her (and experience her wonderful cooking!!) Hope you’re coping okay, be strong my dear. Sending you big hugs and love. X — with Manjula Vellada and Paula Calder.

Kerry Hague

An important ‘date’, a big event

It happens but once in a lifetime

It takes a fair amount of preparation.

The proud father.

Some are already finding it all too much

Satish explains that both he and his wife are from villages where it’s still very important to celebrate this event

On the day itself he rushed home

It’s now a couple of weeks later on a specially chosen auspicious day. Hundreds of family and friends are expected. There will be a ceremony, gift giving, photos and a slap up meal.

I think that close proximity to the only foreigner at the event might be what’s worrying them.

It’s filling up…… it’s like waiting for a performance.

It’s ….. Sukrutha, Satish daughter’s coming of age, traditionally in villages it would be very very significant as it would signify that a young woman was ready for marriage.

it’s still very important for Sukrutha and an added advantage is, she can now wear big earrings. 🙂

Manjula would have been very sorry to miss this important event in a girl’s life. When Manjula reaches the same age. She had no idea what to expect and when it happened knew absolutely nothing about it. It was an altogether different experience. There was no family there let alone a gathering. She was working away from home as a maid and her madam spotted what was happening, cleaned her up and explained that she’d started her periods.

It obviously came as a major shock to Manjula. What a difference with a stable family and caring parents.

Farrell Factoid

A girls’ first period, known by some as a ‘date’, would traditionally signify that she’s ready for marriage. Clearly not the case nowadays but still incredibly significant stage as she becomes a woman. The celebration of the event is a great opportunity to bring people together and create community, still especially important in village life.

Manjula’s very different background meant she was already out working at someone’s home separated from her family and without prior knowledge of what was to happen. Where was her mum in all this? Look at how early she was working away from home all on her own.

women’s role models

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From a few months ago….

As I wait for today’s cycle guests. I’m chewing the cud with one of my Ganjam friends who is aged around 11,  she’s a neighbour of Satish’s where I store my cycles. We’re wondering why in India, most girls stop cycling when they become women. There are plenty of positive women role models cycling around the world and of course on our MyCycle tours. There were two from U.K. and Australia yesterday, two from Germany and Switzerland today and some very slightly older women from the UK and Australia tomorrow. Well done to them for setting a superb example! its really noticed by the girls as we cycle around.

But it’s VERY rare (exceptions above, prove the rule!) to see Indian women cycling and when we do see it, its clearly a change in society that comes from the growing middle class. That’s of course superb but we don’t see it often enough. Why?

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Yes, why do Indian girls tend to stop cycling when they become women? Another conversation might help provide some insight.

 

 

Manjula tells me that part of the attractiveness of the opposite sex, (in addition to the usual rigours of determining suitability for an arranged marriage: caste, wealth, stars, parent’s occupation and much much more), there are certain physical characteristics that are looked for. (This doesn’t of course mean it applies across India’s diverse groups!) You know the sort of thing. Small feet for women etc. Well a novel one she’s just told me relates to foot arch. Men’s arch needs to be clear and distinct, women’s feet should be flat! really? its a patriarchal minefield.

My point is, this preoccupation with attractiveness and that includes all sorts of pressure to be perceived as ‘normal’ includes the barrier, the challenge, the tradition, the clear message that cycling when a girl gets older,  makes her less attractive or desirable as a poteniutal bride.

Another friend of mine, who will remain anonymous, as a young women, did some really innovative community projects, in terms of helping poor families. When it came time to look for a husband she had to ditch that work and commitment and hand over to others, to ensure she was able to find a husband!! Otherwise, she might be seen as less desirable with all that baggage!

So likewise, I reckon a woman’s desirability, eligibility, acceptability vis-a-vis marriage is enhanced if she DOESN’T cycle! What a shame! Its so the wrong way round.

Now I’m all for sensitivity to cultural difference, I pride myself on having designed and created many projects in tune and partnership with the communities they served BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical of tradition, there are also many things that should change. Patriarchy and oppressing the ladies to conform is one of them. Here’s to the different approach for these future women!

but I do realise that there is such a long way to go…

To be fair its an intenational challenge, women around the world face barriers to taking up or maintaining cycling. A previous guest and our good friend Tiffany Lam has written on this very subject, please follow the link here

to find out more.

Strength to the girls. (and women)… keep on cycling!

Well she can’t

Wedding update….

On the very next day we get news that the father of the boy has called the girl to ask what her fathers job is and to how much money will be given by them as dowry.

It works out that the boy’s family is quite rich, the dad is a civil engineer and they have cars and maybe three houses.

So it’s off. There is a mismatch on wealth and occupation. Quite why this wasn’t sorted by the broker before they even met, who knows.

So mum is a bit sad, daughter says she doesn’t care, even if she doesn’t ever get married.

So the apple cart is upset. This must be a very stressful situation. The individuals involved must feel the rejection very personally and familially.

So whilst it might be illegal, dowry is still a BIG issue. I think it’s just one of the ways that suitability and comparability is clarified. It’s a short cut. Back in England in the upper classes, the man would approach a woman’s father to ask for her hand in marriage. Their suitability would also be determined maybe by their wealth, and income but above all by class. Is this really much different?

In life, in India, caste is incredibly significant. It not only reflects one’s position in life and how one will be treated by others, it will affect life chances and experiences. And as we’ve seen with this example, even caste alone is not good enough to determine someone’s suitability.

In my view it’s one of the most corrosive things in Indian life.