It’s a significant anniversary

Today, exactly four weeks after my beautiful died I’m at the old people’s ashram.

In memory of Manjula we’re gifting all today’s meals. I’ve arrived an hour early so it’s time to chill, remember and reflect and in a very limited way feed my addiction to share with you guys.

Back in Siddarthanagar smileys have appeared on the road, overnight.

Using stencils and water soluble spray paints they are another simple way to discreetly and publically remember and acknowledge.

There’s a fair amount of sweeping goes on at the ashram.

Checking out Manjula

Memories of Manjula

There are just so many….. photos everywhere (Manjula would complain that there were too many but I never believed her)

These are in prominent positions in the house.

This one with lots of her things as part of the pooja on specific days, they’re not always there!

The logo created by Punith.

videos ….

Article in the Guardian (photo is taken from the article)

The river Kaveri where Manjula said a prayer after our wedding celebration in the field on Srirangaptnam. A tender memory.

Facebook and blog postings, meals at the Ashram for the elderly residents ……. remembered happenings, and most importantly the piece of her that’s in my heart that will always make me smile, ( the T-shirt I gave her in recognition of this and the rosette I made awarding her best maid in Mysore after working for her for one year…. early signs of my love?)

the jokes, the giggles, bossing me around, the hair (she was losing it) I still find in nooks and crannies.

And what about this from Kate who came to stay with us years ago?

A lovely gesture, trees planted by treesthatcount.co.nz in New Zealand in memory of Manjula.

Thanks Kate, love it!

Walking Luci

We’re out on our morning walk and stopped to sit reflect and write in one of the many local parks.

There’s a guy wandering around the park. There are two friendly boys following.

What is he doing?

In his bag there’s a series of containers with what seems to be powders, seeds and maybe even snacky things.

He’s distributing little piles all over the park.

Piles of powder on the ground Crunchy stuff on top of the walls.

Got it!

He’s feeding the insects and the birds.

I’m assuming he’s a Jain, doing good things particularly for the animals and that can’t be too bad for his Karma and future incarnation!

Footnote

A kindly neighbour loaned me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita with a recommendation to read the section on death. It helps illuminate the ‘matter of factness’ of the Hindu approach. As wordly family we shouldn’t get too attached as the spirit lives on ….. the spirit moves on to another body and as it progresses becomes part of the greater whole. We’ve done the main rituals and send our positive vibes hoping Manjula has found her new home. We know she deserves a good one.

Help

With a little help from our friends we’ll keep Manjula’s creation going.

First, please do stay in touch and continue to read the postings at http://www.meandmycycle.com

Second, if anyone can come stay and look after Luci when I’m away that would be a great help and comfort for her. Possible timings are May, July and September.

Third, come and help out. In return for accommodation and breakfast help me keep the place going.

In my view this is a way to keep our home available, to share with the rich mix of people from around the world and maintain those wonderful connections.

Or ….. of course please do return and invite your friends to come as future guests of Manjula’s at Mysore Bed and Breakfast.

I write and postc this as Tom and Amy say hoagie bartini (see you again) and drive down the road with dogs chasing them away….. after coming to the rescue and supporting me for these past two weeks. Super troopers, thank you so much I couldn’t have managed without you!

and back to you guys….. I look forward to seeing and hearing from you.

Peas and love

Stephen and Luci

What’s this then? Twisted logic, you’ve got to laugh to break away from the tears. An imagined back to the future, reincarnation: Manjula as a 1940s Englishwoman and Stephen as an Indian sailor, mini size with Luci as the boss.

Herausforderung

I’m reading a very interesting book recommended by a recent guest: ‘Reinventing Organisations, a guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness.’ So there! Exactly the sort of thing that’s ‘up my street.’

I’ve just come across a reference to herausforderung a German word that means “being called to grow from the inside out” I like that and I immediately make a connection.

As Manjula shared her story with me (as I plan to with you through this portal/blog thing/website) I became aware of the incredible challenges she had faced as a child and through adulthood. She had shown strength and resilience through thick and thin to be herself and survive.

When we met after our initial stumbling communication with the help of a Vasanth. I provided a pictorial job description to at least get a basic understanding of what I needed, it was also important to me to share something of my approach to life.

I’m not impressed with the deference we find here and she’d been on the receiving end of the extremes of hierarchy and patriarchy as a woman from a poor background with limited education.

I wanted Manjula to understand that I saw everyone as equals, yes we’re different with varied life experiences, different skills and aptitude’s but to me we’re all equal. In a word egalitarian, not a word I could use in this situation but which explains it well.

So it was important we set out on the right footing. She seemed to understood and responded to that.

I firmly believe that the opportunity we were able to jointly create was an example of where she was able to ‘grow from the inside out’ to be herself, fulfil her potential and she did exactly that. She blossomed!

She started with what she knew. Building on years of serving people and their houses. She’d make sure it was clean, the house was spick and span, laundry was done, kitchen was established, amazing meals were prepared. She’d always strive to improve by watching cookery programmes and always trying new things. Then she made it into a home. In some ways a typical Indian place: open, accessible, a hive of activity with a rich mix of people. She’d grown into her role, created the shared open space that is mysore BnB and made it her own with her strength of character and confidence, on the way, learning English, showing astonishing wit and insights, and of course, managed and taught me…. (more later) blossomed, bloomed, and shared her petals around the world.

Give a little

So what’s next?

Manjula was always keen to give through sharing our home and leaving a little bit of herself when connecting with people. When we got engaged we gave presents such as cycles to the children of drivers in our team.

As part of commemorating Manjula we have sponsored a meal at an Ashram or old people’s home for people who have no other choice and otherwise might be destitute. A neat way for the organisation to raise funds and for us to remember Manjula and her generosity.

It’s something she had specifically mentioned.

So we’ve been to the ashram and arranged to sponsor a meal after the eleventh day, Tom and Amy have also provided lunch on the 23rd (exactly a month after she died) and on the 20th April all the meals will be in her name.

Today was the first of those days. As the residents arrived for lunch the manager explained it was in Manjula’s name and we passed around the photobook of our wedding.

Then the core team went for our own lunch and I shed a tear for my Manjula

Satish ‘the reliable’ aka project manager sorted it out.

The eleventh day

Fresh from the Pooja

We travelled to the 11th day pooja. Held by Manjula’s brother in the village maybe four hours drive away

I’ve already relayed some of the sensitivities when we met to plan this Pooja. Here. They’ve shifted the day so our closest Indian friends Tanuja, Satish and Vasanth aren’t able to come, bugger. To support me I do however have Tom and Amy, and two other friends Steven (thanks for the photos) from Australia and Imran, who was going to prove to be a godsend, as he’s the only one to really understand and be able to interpret!

The Pooja or ritualistic prayer is mostly a request. The 11th day Pooja is part of the process of helping Manjula’s spirit be released from her body and the here and now. This helps her break away and start her new life in a new form or maybe hang around a bit!

As we arrive the cooking of curries (plenty of meat) and rolling of the Ragi balls is being completed.

We’re ready to rebuff any attempt to try hang on to her jewellery. Within minutes they’re asking for it to be left here until the morning. As agreed I’ll be taking it with me immediately after the Pooja.

Raju, Manjula’s brother is having his head shaved. I’d floated the idea of me being shaved but this was dismissed out of hand by my Hindu advisors Tanu, Satish and Vasanth.

Together with anyone else wishing to express an opinion, there was a clear consensus. It would be toooo complicated. A sort of Indian open house has spoken. (Everyone has an opinion about everything, of course)

Manjula’s photo was the centrepiece she was garlanded and then surrounded by offerings. Of things she liked, maybe.

I placed my garland, her Mangal

Sutra and ankle chains on her photo.

We took it in turns to do twirls with the incense and fire.

It’s obviously an important ritual for a Hindu. It’s also an essential part of bringing communities together.

As one of our party said. There were two people there with tearful red eyes. Manjulas cousin also called Manjula who you can see in a couple of photos here and her brother, Raju. Otherwise it seemed like Manjula was just a quiet voice almost incidental to the whole thing.

On reflection

We now have a clear view of what would have been Manjula’s life if we hadn’t met and fell in love.

She was brought up in the Bamboo bazar slum in Mysore so not a village but most definitely this level of poverty

But it’s not the living conditions or the poverty that seems the greatest challenge but the harshness of some of the people. the sister-in-laws branch of the family are astonishingly direct and focussed on money, Manjula doesn’t really seem to figure

It was time to go

Relatives were asking for Imran’s cell no in case they needed help ie money and so they could make a call if anyone was in hospital or otherwise needed help.

We’ve done our bit and it’s time to go and now realise how hard it was for Manjula and how she’d escaped this life and blossomed in her new one from nine years ago.