Tom and Amy

img_0246Tom and Amy first keep to visit us what to them might seem like a hundred years ago. They were introduced to us by the lovely people at Indiasomeday which continues to be our favourite agency.

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After that first trip, we decided to designate them as our adopted children as we got on really really well. On their return home they got married, resigned from their jobs and became nomads.
They now have an exciting adventure filled life as itinerant travellers working then travelling, travelling and working.

 

Tamy have become part of our lives. Amy was our celebrant at our wedding and Tom took the photos. They continued to be with us during Manjula’s difficult times due to her illness. When she died earlier this year, they immediately changed their plans, rode over the hill to the rescue….. well, flew back to India to stay with me for a couple of weeks. I hadn’t realised how important that was to me, they were a godsend . They’ve now visited three times, this year alone and some guests have come to think they actually live here.

We meet up to eat a vegan when our paths cross in London.

They’ve created two lovely videos of Manjula and I and our work here. Please check here for the videos and a link to their own seeking skies site.

Manjula absolutely adored them, Tom and Madam’s witty banter and humour fed off each other.

Did I mention they’re vegan? Real activists who live their beliefs, working hard to try and save our planet, to show the older generation their mistakes and provide a positive path to the future.

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Thank you Tom and Amy for helping me survive this incredibly difficult time.

 

SF

11th August 2019

Telling Stories

Dear friends,

I’m used to telling stories as a cycle tour guide and as someone who facilitates workshops. I’m told I can be good at it. Writing stories; fiction or otherwise is quite a different matter.

Here are my first attempts, more will follow:

1. The first example is, a Mysore View, posted in June 2019. You can read it here

2. The second, Magic Roundabout, was posted in July 2019 and can be found here

After some feedback I created a revised version of Magic Roundabout, you may wish to go straight here.

3. and here’s yet another one Looking for a home, who is it about?

4. Forever Together …. stars a certain beautiful, smiling woman

please provide feedback to help me learn to improve.

Improving my writing skills is a new challenge and a different way to connect. Learning proper English is a big enough challenge from a guy from Yorkshire! 😉

I want to relay Manjula’s story to a wider audience. It’s part of managing my new situation, keeping going on this rocky path and holding Manjula close to all our hearts.

To try and do Manjula and her story justice I’ll be completing some online training courses and so I invite readers to give critical feedback to help me improve.

Please do feel free to comment.

Thanks

Stephen

Mysore

July 2019

The following appeared elsewhere…..

“Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment there is. From campfires and pictograms—the Lascaux cave paintings may be as much as twenty thousand years old— to tribal songs and epic ballads passed down from generation to generation, it is one of the most fundamental ways humans have of making sense of the world. No matter how much storytelling formats change, storytelling itself never gets old.

Stories bring us together. We can talk about them and bond over them. They are shared knowledge, shared legend, and shared history; often, they shape our shared future. Stories are so natural that we don’t notice how much they permeate our lives. And stories are on our side: they are meant to delight us, not deceive us—an ever-present form of entertainment.”

From New Yorker 6th July

Magic Roundabout

a factly fiction tall tale….

Manjula’s life takes an unexpected new direction

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, was Manjula’s ill health. 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. She’s an incredibly warm, welcoming and giving person. Tolstoy might say she had discovered “the good way of life” as she had the “great inner force, calmness and happiness” to which he referred.

DSC02240

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, to the gentle rising of the horse, as it sedately circled. Manjula beaming her usual radiant smile was especially bright. Once the ride came to an end, I helped Manjula down from her horse.

“Can I go on again?” She squealed.

“Of course, 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. 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, all very unexpected, what was happening to me? 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 must have 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.

DSC03109It was 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. They asked why we hadn’t joined them on the carousel but we had forty minutes earlier. How weird is that? How could it have happened? We’re we in a space/time vortex? Manjula had been on the carousel twice the first time with Ben and Poppy but they had no recollection and they’d just arrived. What’s that all about? It’s impossible, it’s as if we were in a bubble of lost time and 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. So, what does it matter?

DSC07880

 

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.

DSC07873

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 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, 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, tents for dancing and DJs playing, 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 had become 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, Sadhus, Gurus, offering hugs, insights, predictions, everywhere and anywhere in India. 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.

The three of them are by now speaking Hindi (it’s not the local language where we live but Manjula knows it and at least three other Indian languages).

Well the 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 sit and get a chai.

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. She tried to explain as best she could, what they’d said.

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. She went on…

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. I smiled from the memories of my beautiful and how she’d blossomed since our time together.

These two really knew all about her, and us for that matter.

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, they declared that 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 and mystically switched tracks. Maybe the rides on the roundabouts… the carousel and Ferris wheel had created something magical and dramatically changed her life, who knows? It’s almost as if we arrived at a crossroads and something happened to switch her onto a different track a parallel reality.

So what does it all mean?

Well it seems that she’s had a dramatic unbelievable change in her life, some of her previous experiences didn’t happen and have been erased from her life. Her previous marriage has gone, just didn’t exist, same goes for her child that died, and most wonderful of all her chronic illness has been expunged. Poof, gone, disappeared in mid air. 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?

As I understand it…. 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 a sudden change in her life, a golden reward, 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) of Karma. It seems to me 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, once you die. 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. Wow!

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’m reminded of a Kerouac quote from a letter to his wife: “practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realise you’re already in heaven now” that’s my Manjula and her life.

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, elated to our sort of Trumpton camp where we find Liz and Gina who’ve been caring for little Manju, 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 unfortunately didn’t have this experience and died of a heart attack in March 2019. She 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

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.

DSC02240

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.

DSC03109

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?

DSC07880

 

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.

DSC07873

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

Can there be too much?

As if we don’t have enough already! That was Manjula’s general attitude when I brought new things home, especially new art. She’d usually complain that there was NO MORE ROOM. There always is of course.

Well she also used to comment that there were too many pictures of herself, Madam English being a bit of a Madam. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. I can’t get enough of them, whatever she’s doing. 🙂

So I’m very pleased that even though she’s moved on, severed her links with her last body and is now well and truly making a massive impact wherever she is now….. I have the consolation…… of sorts, of wonderful memories, cool shared friends, super videos and still shots, tattoos and look at this

……. just like buses, some things come in twos. And these are the things that at this difficult time, are aspects of Manjula that can actually grow 🙃 what superb painted portraits of my beautiful wife. They really do her justice. How grand are these? I hope she’s looking now

You’ve already seen this one that was waiting at home when I returned, it’s from Johanna in Switzerland who visited us late last year, quickly followed by her mum and dad.

And this painting arrived a day after I returned home ….

It’s from Janie (Amy’s auntie, Amy is one half of the lovely couple and was our celebrant at our wedding in 2018) in New Zealand who visited us early last year, who’s already immortalised Manjula in black and white. See below.

Thankyou to J and J, you’ve made a sad man very happy. How amazing to come home to be greeted like this? Thankyooooooooou both so much.

Our guests

Thank you …. thank you …. thank you.

Friends, yes guests who have always become friends and all our other worldwide friends have been wonderful supporting me through email, messages, likes, you name it.

I’ve been in London less than a week, managed a days work, granddaughter sitting and met up for wonderful support from four different sets of guests. Amazing!

OK we’re English so invariably beer is involved.

What happens after we die?

A letter to my Granddaughter Poppy.

I’m staying with her and her mum and dad.

It’s her dad Ben’s birthday.

This morning on waking Poppy gave me sweets and asked if Manjula liked them and if we could telephone her.

So she doesn’t know about what’s happened, or maybe she does and she’s looking to me for further explanation and understanding, hence this letter to be read out….. to her, which I’ve just done after supper

Manjula has died.

When people’s bodies become tired and can’t manage anymore they stop working, they die. Usually it’s when they are older, sometimes when they are younger.

It’s OK to be sad, to miss her and to cry. I do a lot of the tIme. She’s still with us in our hearts and in our minds.

We don’t know what happens to their spirit when someone dies because it’s not happened to us yet. Most of us believe part of us, usually called our spirit carries on.

Manjula (and I and lots of people in India) believe that part of us carries on and usually comes back and lives within another body. So that would mean we never really die, nobody really knows.

In India when someone’s body stops working it’s cremated and the funeral ceremonies are about helping her spirit move on….

Some people think that afterwards they hang around in a beautiful place, like a valley, where they sing, dance and have great fun.

Some believe we’ll catch up with each other again, hold hands continue to be friends and carry on.

Some people believe that butterflies or dragonflies are messengers or they find some other way to pass a message back to their loved ones.

I know Manjula’s spirit is still alive – where exactly I don’t know – maybe waiting for me, maybe waiting to be the spirit once she finds another body.

We know she was loved and gave love and we can’t ask for anything more we still love and miss her.

I know she had a happy life when we were together, she was a very good person, looked after others wherever and whenever she could. I think and believe our spirits will meet again somewhere in the future.

So it’s sad because we miss Manjula but it’s also happy because she’s left us with wonderful memories, she’s still in our hearts and her spirit lives on.

Follow this link for picture book suggestions.

Asthi Vasarjan

Manjula died just before 11am on Saturday 23rd March of a heart attack. I’m asked if there were any last words. Not as such, we had in fact not been able to discuss the situation and what to do.

I’d complained that since the night before she hadn’t shared one of her beautiful smiles. So she obliged and gave me a smile and a giggle. Not her usual standard or the right circumstances but exactly what was required. My lasting memory amongst millions.

As a dutiful husband and with our closest friends we’ve now by Wednesday fulfilled what’s required for her Hindu faith.

We’ve helped continue the process of being released from this body and to go to the next.

On Saturday we brought her home, laid Manjula out on the Divan that’s been her bed for for the past year.

Family and friends gathered to say farewell.

Next day, Sunday, Manjula was taken to the crematorium and finally to the auspicious river Kaveri to immerse her ashes on the Monday.

This is the ritual called Asthi Virsarjan more info here

We will be certain to do more …..

My thanks to all our friends for making this horrendously difficult time slightly more manageable.

Thank you to Faizan for creating this wonderful video