Enter Grandson Thomas

“When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals, you hovered

as a fragrance about it.

Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful limbs, like a glow

in the sky before the sunrise.

Heaven’s first darling, twain-born with the morning light, you

have floated down the stream of the world’s life, and at last you

have stranded on my heart.

As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me; you who belong

to all have become mine.

For fear of losing you I hold you tight to my breast. What

magic has snared the world’s treasure in these slender arms of

mine?”

Rabindranath Tagore

Thomas Alexander Glenn

Nickie with new born baby Thomas Alexander Glenn. 20 March 2017, Sydney, Australia

I had been reading a few days ago Tagore poems and thought this was so apt for my daughter-in-law, when I saw this photo. Today, when she asked me “Aren’t you going to do a blog for your new grandson, like you did for Freya,” I was taken a bit back by surprise! “That blog came up faster,” said the son, a tad accusingly. Achchi is the self appointed family historian but lately, the Achchi has been accused of laying bare her life on the blog and FB, being addicted to techie gadgets and teaching granddaughter to take selfies! Besides, Achchie has not been blogging for a long time but said “Sure!” A good time as any to get back to blogging and writing.(No matter that I accidentally deleted the first draft pics and all an hour or so ago!)

Photos had been coming in thick and fast today. Looking at them I had a little time to reflect on how times have changed. For all those who talk about the good ole’ times, I say these times are greater. Dads have evolved a lot more and mothers go to work, keep their careers but still find time to have babies, nurture them and hold the family sacrosanct. Fathers, when we had babies stayed well outside the delivery rooms and had to be told to send flowers the next day! But now they are in the thick of the drama armed with the ubiquitous iPhones. So the Best Photo award for this year goes to my son Suren for capturing this decisive moment , when the grandson took his first breath and yelled his lungs out. This was awesome, and yes this was how Thomas Alexander Glenn de Silva, arrived into our family.

First breath & cries

Thomas takes his first breaths & yells his lungs out. Photo copyright Suren de Silva

“I wanted to call him Thor after Thor Heyerdahl,” says son. Good thing they didn’t, that would have been more difficult to explain to the Sri Lankan family than Freya! ( Thor in Sinhalese is a less refined form of you – to put it mildly).

Suren, Freya & Thomas

Suren, Freya & Thomas

Freya had a long preparation to welcome the baby brother. Gifts from baby brother were brought, etc and that reminded me that I too did that and we bought a train set for Suren to say this was what his baby brother brought him. However, after an initial showing, it went to live on top of the wardrobe, for the father to take down and play, when the kids were safely asleep.

Suren & Freya

Father and daughter bonding and building a toy cupboard, the day before Thomas arrived. Photo copyright Nickie de Silva

Will Thomas one day ask as Tagore said ”

“Where have I come from, where did you pick me up?” the baby asked

its mother.

She answered, half crying, half laughing, and clasping the

baby to her breast-

“You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.

You were in the dolls of my childhood’s games. …” Maybe the big sister will explain as she is almost ready to step into that role.

Bathing Tom day 3

Nickie with new born baby Thomas Alexander Glenn, and Freya joins in bathing baby. 20 March 2017, Sydney, Australia

A baby is a miracle of life, that gives joy unbounded and a new lease of life specially to grandparents.

Liz and Tom

Liz Thompson, Nickie’s Mum and the indispensable Nanna with Thomas. Photo credit Jacqui Thompson.

I will take back unequivocally what I told a colleague long time ago before grandkids actually arrived: “I won’t go ga-ga oover grandkids, all my mother instincts are satisfied!” Just looking at all these photos I turn again to Tagore for so eloquently saying what is in my heart today:

“I wish I could take a quiet corner in the heart of my baby’s very own world.
I know it has stars that talk to him, and a sky that stoops down to his face to amuse him with its silly clouds and rainbows.
Those who make believe to be dumb, and look as if they never
could move, come creeping to his window with their stories and with
trays crowded with bright toys.
I wish I could travel by the road that crosses baby’s mind,
and out beyond all bounds;
Where messengers run errands for no cause between the kingdoms
of kings of no history;
Where Reason makes kites of her laws and flies them, the Truth
sets Fact free from its fetters.”

One last request for all those Techie guys out there – can you please hurry up and get the “Beam me up Scotty” gadget into the market!

Where Shadow Chases Light/Tagore

My shadow chases light. ... Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Chasing light in the morning. …
Photograph© Chulie de Silva

This is my delight,
thus to wait and watch at the wayside
where shadow chases light
and the rain comes in the wake of the summer.

Messengers, with tidings from unknown skies,
greet me and speed along the road.
My heart is glad within,
and the breath of the passing breeze is sweet.

From dawn till dusk I sit here before my door,
and I know that of a sudden
the happy moment will arrive when I shall see.

In the meanwhile I smile and I sing all alone.
In the meanwhile the air is filling with the perfume of promise.

Rabindranath Tagore

Clouds and Waves

Children play with a ball at sunset at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Children play with a ball at sunset at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Mother, the folk who live up in the clouds call out to me-
“We play from the time we wake till the day ends.
We play with the golden dawn, we play with the silver moon.”
I ask, “But how am I to get up to you ?”
They answer, “Come to the edge of the earth, lift up your
hands to the sky, and you will be taken up into the clouds.”
“My mother is waiting for me at home, “I say, “How can I leave
her and come?”
Then they smile and float away.
But I know a nicer game than that, mother.
I shall be the cloud and you the moon.
I shall cover you with both my hands, and our house-top will
be the blue sky.
The folk who live in the waves call out to me-
“We sing from morning till night; on and on we travel and know
not where we pass.”
I ask, “But how am I to join you?”
They tell me, “Come to the edge of the shore and stand with
your eyes tight shut, and you will be carried out upon the waves.”
I say, “My mother always wants me at home in the everything-
how can I leave her and go?”
They smile, dance and pass by.
But I know a better game than that.
I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore.
I shall roll on and on and on, and break upon your lap with
laughter.
And no one in the world will know where we both are.

Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore for today: Sing the song of the moment. …

What better way to start the Sunday, than read again a poem by Rabindranath Tagore I had ferreted away. This photo taken in my house on the 1 January 2010, as beautiful as it is, is a constant reminder of the fragility of moments, and why we need to let our laughter flush in meaningless mirth. ..

Lotus flower. 1 January 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Lotus flower. 1 January 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Sing the song of the moment in careless carols, in the transient light of the day;
Sing of the fleeting smiles that vanish and never look back;
Sing of the flowers that bloom and fade without regret.
Weave not in memory’s thread the days that would glide into nights.
To the guests that must go bid God-speed, and wipe away all traces of their steps.
Let the moments end in moments with their cargo of fugitive songs.

With both hands snap the fetters you made with your own heart chords;
Take to your breast with a smile what is easy and simple and near.
Today is the festival of phantoms that know not when they die.
Let your laughter flush in meaningless mirth like twinkles of light on the ripples;
Let your life lightly dance on the verge of Time like a dew on the tip of a leaf.
Strike in the chords of your harp the fitful murmurs of moments.

This poem originally appeared in the June 1913 issue of the Poetry Magazine.

I cannot remember my mother

For all of us who remembered our mothers on Mother’ Day, there are an equal number or more of children who didn’t for reasons of their own. This beautiful poem by Rabindranath Tagore, is for them with love. …

 

Blue skies through the coconut trees at Siriniwas Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Blue skies through the coconut trees at Siriniwas Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

I cannot remember my mother,
only sometime in the midst of my play
a tune seems to hover over my playthings,
the tune of some song that she used to
hum while rocking my cradle.

I cannot remember my mother
but when in the early autumn morning
the smell of the shiuli flowers floats in the air,
the scent of the morning service in the
temple comes to me as the scent of my mother.

I cannot remember my mother
only when from bedroom window
I send my eyes into the blue of the distant sky,
I feel that the stillness of my mother’s gaze on my face
has spread all over the sky.

Unbridled thoughts on Tsunami Anniversary

Today is the 8th Anniversary of the 2004 tsunami. Stuck yet again in Dhaka — unbelievably, for the 3rd year running, its easy to let my mind run free, raking up the images of the tsunami from the past.

... with burning eyes and outstretched arms we cry out to the sea....beach at Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Photo©Chulie de Silva

… with burning eyes and outstretched arms we cry out to the sea….beach at Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Photo©Chulie de Silva

On December 19th this month, Tharaka Devinda had left this message for me  “Years later your blog continues to echo through the hearts and minds of people. I wandered off here from a google search. Epic tale this one is! “Even this day will pass into memory”. what an idea to have in the mind when going through such times. …”
 Yes, it’s passed on to memory but it is still a memory that is fresh in my mind.

The lone armchair at Siriniwas, back verandah. Hikkaduwas, Sri Lanka, 21 August, 2012. Photo©Chulie de Silva

The lone armchair at Siriniwas, back verandah. Hikkaduwas, Sri Lanka, 21 August, 2012. Photo©Chulie de Silva

He was my kid brother, Prasanna. The only one who died on our stretch at Hikkaduwa. The only one who was born into this house I loved so. As a kid I was envious of that fact and that he was precious in my mother’s eyes. It mattered naught as we grew up. My last memory of him was sitting in this chair and reading his favourite Sunday Lakbima newspaper.

He was a bratty brother that we all loved so. He was my lucky mascot. Thousands of memories floated in my mind these last few days filling up  spaces disturbing my concentration as I tried to write. I remembered how at siesta time we used a long stick to slide under my grand aunt’s pillow to hook and steal the keys to get at the cupboard that held delicious sweets that were made in Panadura. We tucked in and  would return the key in record time before my aunt woke up. Or the time I had to stand outside the store room while he another cousin and a young domestic boy tried to make a stink bomb we could release under the chair of another grand aunt who was grumpy.  One could say now no chemicals were involved and it was a natural process of a good old farting that he was forcing himself to do and catch the fumes in a tin!!!. He was the one who got the shiny red bike for his birthday. Girls only got dolls and not bikes those days and there I was arguing why not one for me! But when he went to boarding school I was the one who got to enjoy the bike most.

Our lives have been so interlaced with the sea, the house and cherished by the love of our extended families. The years of childhood play, the disquieting teenage years, the 20’s when I had my kids, consultations over car repairs and the last months of my father’s illness — days and links, forged over laughter as well as trials and tribulations we had shared had formed bonds that went deeper — more like searing of a stamp into flesh.

So what could I do in Dhaka — miserable and cold in an empty house? Dredge up photos from the past?  Could a photo capture the joy, the fragile moments of happiness?

Padmini, Matheesha, Prasanna and Kanishka at Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa. c. 1990s. Photo©Chulie De Silva

Padmini, Matheesha, Prasanna and Kanishka at Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa. c. 1990s. Photo©Chulie De Silva

I had searched and found this image I had taken sometime in the early 1990s with my little Olympus camera –pre-digital, pre-Shahidul/Drik era. No knowledge except focus and click. As I look at it now I see that I am not there but yet I am there — in the back garden with them, in this garden where we first played catch and then cricket. The nights we were up during my father’s illness and then the funeral. The hilarious time we had preparing for my father’s first almsgiving. Prasanna kept plugging the cook he had hired with liquor and the man was up the whole night cooking and Prasanna was up too joking cajoling the man and ever willing to taste the food. The man cooked an amazing feast complete with two huge trays of wattalappan.

The cry within me silently says “I can’t let you go..”

As Tagore says it’s the oldest cry, the saddest lament…

Since creation’s currents
Began streaming relentlessly towards extinction’s sea
With burning eyes and outstretched arms
We’ve all been crying out in vain endlessly,
“Won’t let go, won’t let you go!”
Filling earth’s shores with laments
As everything ebbs inexorably away.
The waves up front cry out to the ones in the rear,
“Won’t let go, won’t let you go!”—
But no one listens. . .

The sea through the cinnamon stick fence that I never tire of photographing. Photo©Chulie de Silva

The same spot in 2012 — sea through the cinnamon stick fence at Siri Niwasa. Everything ebbs inexorably away. . Photo©Chulie de Silva

Remembering Lisa with love

Portrait of

Rezwana Chowdhury Monalisa

Photograph by Saikat Mojumder

 

When my days are done, my leave-taking hushed in a final silence, my voice will linger in the autumn light and rain laden-clouds with the message that we had met.” — Rabindranath Tagore.

Lisa my dear colleague at Drik passed away in Dhaka on 30 March 2012 after a bravely fought battle with cancer.

Lisa was the first one to come running out of Drik to greet me when I first arrived in 2010 September.  The first to come to see me when I fell sick soon after arriving in Dhaka.  First to take me shopping and the first to buy me a gift of my first Dhaka saree. First to teach me the Bangla phrase “Chole Jabo Sri Lanka” meaning I am going back to Sri Lanka — my oft repeated Bangla phrase. Her caring love and laughter was the balm to my homesickness. But I never thought that the first funeral I would attend in Dhaka would be hers.

Fragments of the old Johnny Mathias song haunt me  “…. You try to hide the tears inside with a cheerful pose. But in the hush of night exactly like a bittersweet refrain Comes that certain smile to haunt your heart again.”

Prelude to twilight at Hikkaduwa beach


Prelude to twilight on the seashore of endless worlds . Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. 11 January, 2012. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

I have roamed from country to country keeping her in the core of my heart, and around her have risen and fallen the decay of my life.”

“Over my thoughts and actions, my slumbers and dreams, she reigned yet dwelled alone and apart.”

Birds return home at twilight. Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. 11 January, 2012. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

— Gitanjali/Rabindranath Tagore

The flower says. …

A flower blooms in monsoon rain. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The flower says

Blessed am I

Blessed am I

Upon this earth…

 

The flower says

I was born from the dust

Kindly kindly

Let me forget it

Let me forget it

Let me forget.

 

Of dust inside me there is none

No dust at all inside me

The flower says.

 

The words are the first section of a song composed by Rabindranath Tagore for his dance drama Chandalika, the untouchable maid.  The drama was modeled on an ancient Buddhist legend describing how Ananda, – Gautams Buddha’s  disciple—asks  for water from a girl belonging to an indigenous tribe.

Sunset at Galle

Sunset at Galle. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The sun of the first day

Put the question

To the new manifestations of life –

Who are you?

There was no answer.

Years passed by

The last sun of the last day

Uttered the question on the shore of the western sea,

In the hush of the evening –

Who are you!

No answer came.

From “Last Writings” by Rabindranath Tagore.