“It’s raining it’s pouring, the old man is snoring
Went to bed and he bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning.”
Trust me, some mornings I do want to behave like that old man Jose Feliciano sang about. Waking up early in the morning when the overnight temperature has dropped below the teens, there is strong temptation to stay in bed just a bit longer. This lassitude is more pronounced as a result of cycling the evening before, jousting with a strong headwind, a steep incline or worse, both together!
Unlike aging humans, nature’s cycles can go forth and return, ebb and flow. The glorious not-so-hot summer I enjoyed this year has not yet completely surrendered its hot temperament, although it does feel now that nature’s diktat is nudging us towards an early Fall. Some two or three weeks ago, a dear friend in Ottawa wrote that “The summer is coming to an end soon; I saw leaves that had changed colour today on a walk in the neighbourhood. Geese are squawking early in the morning over our little house; could they be migrating so soon?” Our granddaughters, who were over for a sleepover this past weekend also pointed out a few yellowing leaves on our maple and inquired if it was already Fall. I wish I knew.
All I can say with certainty is the absolutely wonderful time we’ve had with our grandchildren over these past months, enjoying trips to farms, splash pads, soccer games and concerts etc. This summer we welcomed several new “starter” families who moved into homes around us. Figuratively and literally, my wife and I are now among the three oldest couples residing on our street. This year we joined the ranks of the “grand old folks” on the block. Ensconced in the garden chairs we had set up on our front lawn under the proud, agelessly upright maple tree, my wife and I spent our summer evenings reading, sipping tea/coffee and listening to music as we literally “watched the grass grow,” while boisterous kids cycled or ran around. We enjoyed chats with neighbours one mostly doesn’t see all winter. Oh yes, and my wife also happily accepted gifts of and tips on caring for perennial and annual flowers.
These moments reminded me of similar special times in Delhi. I can clearly picture my mother sitting in her favourite, decades old cane-bottom cushioned chair, pulled out from the living room into the small verandah abutting her tiny lawn. She would sit back contentedly soaking up the warmth of the winter sun wrapped in a shawl and almost absent-mindedly massaging her woollen-socked feet. Glasses perched on the tip of her nose, she would softly recite the Sukhmani and Japji Sahib (prayers from the Sikh’s revered Guru Granth Sahib) while also scribbling her satsang (congregation for a spiritual discourse) Guru’s daily thoughts and teachings in one of several notebooks she would fill up in her neat handwriting, each week. Neighbours passing by, would acknowledge her presence with a smile and a “Namaste,” briefly exchanging pleasantries and updates on family members, or tarry a little to vent and seek her counsel. She was famous as the “E-Block waale Mataji” (E-Block’s Mother-figure).
Pottering around in her sun-drenched lawn, she would straighten a stray vine clinging to the parapet here, snip off a few dead leaves and dried flowers there and then settle back in her chair, calling out gently to her houseboy and companion Rattan, “Beta, agar kaam kar liyaa hai, to ek cup chai ho jaaye. Tu bhi lele, bread ke saath.” (Son, if you have completed the chores, let’s have a cup of tea. You have one too, with some bread.)
Hawkers would troop past the house, pushing their carts laden with fruits and vegetables, shouting out testimonials to their freshness and the special pricing being offered. Bandarwallah madaaris (street performer/juggler with a male-female pair of trained performing monkeys), bandwallahs (members of music bands that typically accompany wedding processions) and jhoolewallahs (hawkers pushing a wooden mini Ferris wheel or a small garishly painted cast-iron merry-go-round) would come around, making a racket to get the kids’ attention. Whether paying for the purchase of wares, a performance by the monkeys or a ride for assembled neighbourhood kids, “Mataji” would act stern to negotiate a discount for these services. This was a ritual that all bargaining parties adhered to and abided by, ending with a nonchalant shrug and a gracious smile. Her grandchildren would typically stay behind the safety of the grilled garden gate until coaxed out by Rattan, who, although around 17 years old at the time, would be equally excited to participate and holler for his younger sister Lali to join in as well.
Like a mother hen, my mother would keep an eye on our young daughter and toddler son as they played on the lawn or under the adjacent covered, tiled driveway. Patiently, she would peel oranges or slice apples and lovingly feed her grandkids, calling them over to her side, one bite at a time. After we came to Canada, she had to wait for 9 long years to see us again, the grandkids too old to climb on to her silent lap.
My wife has taken over this family tradition of similarly nurturing her grandchildren. Unlike my mother, she is able to see our grandkids frequently but still records their videos which she then watches on her iPhone several times each day.
Seasons metamorphose and yet, their defining characteristics remain unchanged.
Bob Dylan though, feels that the Times They’re a Changin’