What more can you ask from a holiday?

Back into the grind after my dream solo holiday. The only holiday with no photo ops 😛. A couple of flights and I was at this place where I didn’t have to lift a finger, was looked after every minute of the day, fed meals that seemed gourmet to me, as for a change I did not have to cook them for myself, got time to reflect, lied on a bed all day and night, did some senseless yet stress busting art and craft things, met briefly with some friends and family, but for most of the time was with just myself.

The other side of the coin is that I chose my own battle, sure I had some weak moments, tried to be calm and fought it out for myself. It was truly an experience of regaining my independent self after a long long time to manage myself, my way. Icing on the cake was getting some required attention by the best professionals to some long standing major wellness issues.

All in all, what else can you ask from a dream holiday?


Photo Culture..1

Continuing on with my musings, I wanted to share my thoughts on a subject that is very close to my heart: the changing trends in photo culture. I often think about photos because I enjoy taking lots of photos myself, especially of special moments with family.

I think one of the most dramatic changes to our society has happened because of the advances in technology that allow billions of photographers to use their smartphones to take trillions of photos every day.

Photos were once precious, and I still think they are. There used to be a time when we had to be very careful and conservative because of the cost of taking and developing pictures – they were reserved for those most special moments and printed to cherish the memories at a later time.

I still think that there are many benefits to everyone having a camera. This easy access has empowered many to showcase their artistic talents, capturing amazing images of new places or experiences and sharing them with useful information. This is so valuable for others that may not have a chance to travel or have those same firsthand experiences. Seeing such pictures is always a delight — it’s something I look forward to when using social media.

In my case, I love taking photos and capturing videos of my family. I think it is so important to keep these records of all the special events, family get togethers, travels and new milestones.

I also spend lots of time curating and archiving photos – many times getting frustrated with the Apple Photos app which I use to store and catalogue.

I like to revisit them to keep the best ones in my records and organize them in an accessible manner. I now have a reservoir of about 40,000 pictures capturing memories of 6 to 7 decades of the whole Mehra and Masand Families.

With many technological advancements over the years, I have found many ways to put these photos to use to create memories for family, friends and myself in the form of coffee table books, personalized daily use items, home décor items that carry pictures that we all love to see often. Memorializing pictures on these personalized items and coffee table books seems to be appreciated by almost everyone I know. Every time I have tried it, I have seen peoples face light up with that smile.

I am curious — how do others approach photos?

Do you take many photos? What do you do with them? Do you have any tips or tricks on curating or archiving the many photos we take? Any suggestions on how to best memorialize special photos or bulk photos?


Missing you so much..

mummy oct 2019.jpg
आज दो साल हो गए आपको miss करते हुए..
मेरे सामने की मेज़ पर आपकी यह फ़ोटो हर समय रहती है
तो लगता है आप पास ही हो।
फ़ोन पर तो बात नहीं हो पाती पर अब तस्वीर से ही बातें कर लेती हूँ
तो लगता है आप पास ही हो।
आपको पुरानी विडीओज़ में आपको जीवंत देख लेती हूँ
तो लगता है आप पास ही हो।
ढेरों कॉफ़ी table बुक्स जो बनवाती रही हूँ, उनमें आपको देख लेती हूँ
तो लगता है आप पास ही हो।
हर त्यौहार मौक़े पर आपकी बातें याद करती हूँ
तो लगता है आप पास ही हो।
आपके अक्सर बोले जाने वाले मुहावरे दोहराती हूँ
तो लगता है आप पास ही हो।
आपसे सीखा खाना-पकवान बनाती हूँ
तो लगता है आप पास ही हो।
पर असलियत तो यह है ना – कि आप पास नहीं हो।
आपकी सुंदर साड़ियों में आपकी प्यारी छवि बहुत याद आती है, मेरी हर साल की April fool tricks और मेरी बहुत सी और अजीब बातों पर आपकी हैरानी बहुत याद आती है, फिर पड़ने वाली आपकी प्यार भरी डाँट बहुत याद आती है, आपकी जीने की ललक बहुत याद आती है, आपकी हर नयी चीज़ करने कि चाहत बहुत याद आती है।
यह बात बहुत ही खलती है कि मेरी बातों का अब कोई जवाब नहीं मिलता।
कहाँ चले गए आप और इतनी जल्दी क्यों?
पच्चीस साल की थी जब आपके पास आयी थी। इतने ही सालों से कुछ ज़्यादा उम्र आप के साथ बिताने का मौक़ा तो मिला पर यह काफ़ी नहीं था। क्या है यार मम्मा …अभी हमें इतना कुछ साथ में करना था।
Your not being around is simply not acceptable- Come Back!

What makes me cogitate?

I strongly feel that our generation is living through some of the most dramatic changes to occur in a span of three or four decades. From technological advancements and infrastructural marvels to fashion and new social norms – change has defined our lifetime. My sense is that most of us have actually adapted to these changes quite gracefully, so kudos to our generation! Some of these changes, such as those in technology and innovation, have been easier to tackle. However, changes related to our traditions or cultural values, and things considered socially taboo have naturally been far more difficult to adapt to.
I feel privileged that I have been able to have some honest and frank discussions with the younger generation. They have helped me understand their point of view and accept that we need to change our thinking on many of these topics to be more rational and progressive. This has made me think that we don’t have to just take everything that we have been told by our elders as absolute values that must be followed. In the same vein, neither should we worry about doing things just to please the people around us.
I have always thought that I have been somewhat of a rebel, especially in my childhood and youth. At the time, I questioned and challenged many of the norms and systems that I didn’t agree with. Because of this, I think it has been easier for me to adapt to some of the more radical changes. The rational reasoning from today’s young rebels has also helped immensely. While I would like to think that I have made my best effort to understand and accept the rapidly changing world around me, there are a few things that have been widely accepted in society, that I still find bizarre.
To me, it seems that in some cases, people are following new trends not because they improve upon a past practice, but just because they’re hip. People seem to have such a desire to fit in and be chic that they forego their own comfort, happiness, or personal preferences. In these cases, I don’t think they are being honest with themselves, rather just following the crowd. This applies across the board, including in many cases to both my own generation and the next. I actually expect much more from younger generations as I find them to be more confident and considerably smarter than us. So, at times I am disappointed when I see them picking up trends that just don’t make sense to me.
I want to continue my own journey in learning more about and perhaps even adapting to those changes that I still can’t seem to wrap my head around. To do this, I am planning to use social media to share some thoughts, and I’m hoping to hear what my friends have to say. At the very least, I hope to use this simply as an outlet to write and share my thoughts. It would be even better if, by putting forward my point of view, I could get a sense whether others agree with me or if I am completely off-side. So, I also hope to use these posts to get input and advice from my friends, and perhaps even change my mind! I would especially love to hear not only from friends from my own generation who can perhaps relate to me better, but from my younger friends who are leading many of the changes happening in our world.

Day 77

Mumma, I try to keep myself busy with things to do but every time I pause, I still think of you. When you left us, my grief knew no bounds. I felt completely devastated. I am glad I decided to stay connected with you for all of these days, recollecting your memories. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I knew it would be worth it. All this while it felt like I was with you, talking to you everyday just like we used to do before October 15.Day 77.jpg

This journey of staying connected to you does have an end, but it is the journey that has mattered the most. It was a journey to deal with pain that I did not expect many to understand, as it was not their journey to make sense of, it was mine. Manoj and the kids were with me all the time, helping me recall interesting anecdotes, picking pictures from archives, suggesting edits to my scribbling and just being with me in all of this. Having said this, there was a part of me that knew I’d have to deal with most of it alone. I also got a few people to join in sharing anecdotes in the last few days and discovered and rediscovered many fond memories of you.

I recall I used to tell you how I wished I could share each and every experience of yours – including the deadly health condition you were in, and you used to get annoyed. While this sharing was not possible, I know that you are no more than a thought away and will walk beside me unseen, unheard, but always near. I hate missing you and not being able to do anything about it. Missing you and not being able to see you is the worst feeling ever. I wish you were here or I was there or we were somewhere together!

All these past 76 days, I have talked to you about your strengths and qualities. Mumma, your life was not easy, being born as a woman more than seven decades ago in India. This was a time when women did not have rights, were not expected to have their own identities or stand up for their dignity. A woman’s life was typically run first by her father and her brothers, then husband and later in life, by her sons. I know you went along with this rhetoric but you still held your head high and tried to hold your ground as much as was possible. Your strength grew in the moments when you thought you couldn’t go on but you kept going anyway. There were times I noticed that you were giving in and these were the times when I felt even more close to you and tried my best to motivate you to be yourself and not give in. It worked sometimes and not so much at the other times. But I can say with a sense of pride that you tried your best each time. I also recall how when I used to support and encourage the girls in the family to try out new things in life, asking them to be themselves, being confident in whatever they do, wear whatever they like and have fun without bothering about what others have to say. You used to lovingly say to me that “ तूने घर की सब लड़कियों को बिगाड़ दिया है, (you have spoilt all the girls of the family) by encouraging them to do things that were unheard of in our family like drinking alcohol, wearing short and trendy clothes, going out for late night coffees and traveling alone to unknown places and much more. Yet, at the same time you always supported me quietly in all of this realizing that the world is changing and we have to move along with it. I feel that this freedom of choice made our girls stronger and gave them the courage to face the world with confidence. I know you were so proud of all our little girls who have become beautiful, confident and empowered young women. Today, as I conclude this journey with you, I promise that I will continue to encourage them to walk untrodden paths and carry forward your legacy of being progressive. I will make every effort to ensure that women in our family have control of their own lives, be it psychological, physical or financial. They will have the freedom to think and decide for themselves. Due to your unexpected and untimely departure from this world, I know that you left some tasks unfinished that you discussed with me, I hereby undertake to work on getting them done as you wanted them done.

Of all the gifts life has offered me, you, Mumma were the greatest of all. I will hold you in my heart forever. चरणस्पर्श (warm regards) and a final adios on social media to you…

Between Day 76 and 77

My dear Mumma, while I am collecting my thoughts for writing the final culminating tribute to you on this 77th day, I have received more kind notes of your memories in the last 24 hours. These recollections are from Kamal जीजाजी (sister’s husband), Shani, Lata माँसी (mother’s sister), Annu मामी (maternal aunt) and Jyoti भाभी (sister-in-law).

Kamal जीजाजी appreciates your uncanny knack of striking a chord with everyone irrespective of age, gender or cultural background. Your formidable courage, your smiling face and your sweet nature were the only constants while you were undergoing treatment. You left an indelible mark on not only him and Neelu दीदी (sister) but also on their sons Shubh and Shrey. He says you have set an example for them to look up to.Day 76 77.jpg

Shani feels these posts have been a connecting thread for everyone in the family and have helped to rekindle your relationships and remind us all how remarkable a person you were.

Lata माँसी(mother’s sister) takes pride in being your sister and wishes that you continue to look upon and bless all your children and grandchildren from the heavens above.

Annu मामी (maternal aunt) recalls that you were more of a loving elder sister than a sister-in-law to her, Jaya मामी (maternal aunt) and बड़ी मामी (eldest maternal aunt). She has fond memories of the times when मामा मामी (mother’s brother and wife) were living in Delhi and had more quality time to spend with you.

Jyoti भाभी (sister-in-law) is feeling lonely without you and reliving the moments as I write these memoirs.

Your life has touched so many lives that it will go on forever. You gave us so much to remember; you are going to be in our hearts forever.

Day 76

Mumma, you had three daughters in law coming from completely different family backgrounds, speaking different languages (mother tongue), having different temperaments and with different professional training. You loved us all equally like your children. I feel like the three of us are the children that destiny forgot to give you.
Today’s tribute is from one of us who has been loved by you immensely as your daughter. For the last 25 years since Simmi was welcomed to the family she has been your guardian when it came to keeping you well and in good spirits. She also played a huge role in giving you courage to fight the deadly health condition that you tackled in the last few years. You loved to talk to her daily not just to be informed about what’s happening in life in general but also to be comforted by receiving answers to questions that no body else could answer. Sometimes she had to answer difficult questions but I guess that only strengthened your relationship with her and brought you two closer
Her tribute below is a testament to the very special bond that you two shared.

“Mamma ,
All three of us have been truly fortunate to have had you as our mother in law. You’ve always been so open hearted and progressive. In fact you were more of a mother and a friend than a mother in law. It is very difficult and painful to accept that you are no longer with us. This void can never be filled and the loss so huge that words fail me. Day 76.jpgI remember when I said bye to you on the 15th night, not for a moment did I think that this was my last goodbye to you. You were unwell but we were all sure you would sail through. None of us could anticipate that the end was so near. It was shocking and traumatic to be told in less than an hour of leaving you that you had suffered a cardiac arrest and were no more. The regret of not being by your side will for ever remain with me.
You and I really grew close during the course of your illness. I would look forward to travelling to Delhi from Bathinda to accompany you to Referral and Research Hospital either for chemotherapy or follow-up. You would have so many questions pertaining to the deadly cancer you were afflicted with. I tried to answer most of them being a doctor but there were few I chose not to answer since they would have unnecessarily disturbed you. However there was one question that I had no answer to. You once asked ” why me?” Are Diabetes and heart ailment not enough ? I guess God knew you had the guts and courage to fight them all. You never ever gave up Mamma. You fought till the last day to emerge a Victor and a true champion.
I would like to narrate an anecdote to prove what a gutsy lady you were. So this happened last year when you, my mummy, Aditi and I were in Bathinda for a short trip. Pankaj insisted that we all accompany him to Bikaner as he had some official work to attend to. We had to catch a train next evening for Delhi. The train was to leave at 5.15. so we reached the station at 4.45, well in time . As we reached the station a train which was going to Delhi started moving. We mistook it to be the one we were supposed to catch and complete pandemonium broke out . There was confusion, chaos and panic..We were told to just run and board the train. Imagine दद्दा (paternal grandma) and नानी (maternal grandma) boarding a moving train. It took us five minutes to catch our breaths and the same time to realize that we were in the wrong train. Lucky for us that the next station was close by so we all deboarded and hurriedly caught a tempo to go back to Bikaner station. In the mean time the station master was requested to delay the train for a few minutes as we were on our way. He said he could not hold on for more than five minutes.To our utter dismay on reaching the platform we saw that this train too had begun to move. We somehow managed to board the last coach which happened to be a general compartment. So in a span of half an hour we boarded two trains both on the move. Kudos to दद्दा and नानी to have accomplished this feat. You were 76 years old then, frail and weak from the illness but nothing stopped you from catching that train. You are and will remain our hero, forever inspiring us . Your loving presence and your endearing smile will be missed by all of us. Praying that you will continue guiding and watching over us from the heavens above.”

Day 75

Mumma, today’s tribute is from Pallavi, the youngest and your favourite granddaughter. She was the dearest to your heart, especially as she was the one who got to spend the most time with you as your roommate and partner in crime in Delhi. Your love for Pallavi was unparalleled, whether it was sharing your only पराँठा (Indian stuffed bread) with Pallavi on the Nepal trip, or offering her the first pick of your heirloom treasures, she was always your most beloved grandchild. Knowing Pallavi the best, you fondly said was “इसके तो तीन ही शौक़ हैं – खाना, घूमना और सोना” (she loves just three things – eating, going out and sleeping) and that “यह तो क़िस्मत की धनी है (she is rich in luck).” May your blessings and good wishes continue to be showered on Pallavi. Here is what your Pallavi has to say to you:

“15th October 2017 was undoubtedly the worst day of my life because that was the day
when you left me. I’m still not able to believe that you are no longer with us. I never
ever thought that this day will come so early, अभी तो हम पाँचों में से किसी की शादी भी नहीं हुई थी (none of your 5 grandkids had even been married yet). As the youngest member of our family and the only single child, I always wanted a sibling and you were the one who said ‘why do you want a sibling when I’m here and you literally proved it. We used to fight, play and love each other like siblings. Day 75.jpgFor me you were more like a sister than a grandmother. Now, as you are no longer with me I am actually living a life of a ‘single’ child and you have no idea how much I miss you. You were my roommate, my selfie partner, my partner in crime, my support system, my motivation and definitely an inspiration. You have taught me so many things that I cannot thank you enough for. I still remember whenever I used to fall ill you used to say ‘तू तो जल्दी हार मान जाती है, देख मैं कितनी strong हूँ’ (you accept defeat too soon, look at me, I am so strong) which used to give me strength. Your mantra was ‘TO NEVER SURRENDER’ and I promise, I never will.
This is the first new year without you. It is completely unbelievable for all of us to accept the fact that we no longer will be able to see and talk to you. Whenever I enter our room I realise that you are no longer waiting for me to come and switch off the light and TV. I used to say goodbye to you whenever I left for college but now when I turn back you are not there, you are not there to wish me good luck for my exams. I miss those times when I used to take a break during exams and you used to say,’ कोई ओलमटिटी कर के आ जाएँगे तेरे दो चार नम्बर’ (you will surely get a few marks with your hanky panky methods). I miss those times, when you were not able to sleep and sing कबीर के दोहे (couplets written by a famous poet Kabir), and I used to fight as I wanted to sleep and you wanted to sing. But now I promise I won’t fight with you or stop you, please come back and sing those songs for me, please. We had made so many plans that are now incomplete without you. We we’re supposed to get a pet puppy, we were supposed to go to Bali….
You were the closest person one can ever be to me. Is this actually true that I will never be able to talk to you? I won’t be able to love you?
Shubham is incomplete without you. Not only Mehra परिवार(family) but every person who has met you even once misses you like anything. God has done the worst thing to us by taking you away. It’s really tough for us to pass every single day without you. If there is any way to get you back we are ready for it.
Keep an eye on me and show me the correct path, give me strength to deal with all the difficulties and problems which will be coming my way. I promise I will achieve
everything you wanted me to, but then you also have to keep your promise by coming back to me in the form of my baby, as you were my baby. I have tried to express my love through this, but obviously this is not enough as we have uncountable memories of you which cannot be expressed in words. All I wanted to say was, I LOVE YOU and I MISS YOU, you will always stay alive in our hearts and memories, FOREVER”.

Day 74

Mumma, you dreaded this grand daughter of yours for her fury and temperament. Yet you adored her for her sweet, witty and open nature. Aditi used to be called तीखी मिर्च (hot green chili) by you. I recall how you enjoyed talking to her and then used to narrate all the interesting conversations to me on our daily phone calls. Your narrations would usually start with “मरी बता भी सब देती है…इतना मज़ा ले ले कर..”( sweet girl..she doesn’t hide anything..and tells all in good spirits..). I recall how I could hear laughter and happiness in your voice whenever you talked about her. She made you smile all the time. Here is a letter from your Addu.

“Dear grandmother,

As I wait at the airport to catch my flight to Delhi, it hits me that Delhi won’t be the same anymore without you! I didn’t realise that calling you up and saying “Dadda I am home! कब मिलने आ रहे हो? (When are you coming to meet me?)” and your classic response “अभी आ जा! क्या खाएगी? पुलाव बना दूँ।(come right way. What will you eat? Shall I make Spiced rice?”) will be one of my most cherished memories now! One of the things I will miss the most hence forth.Day 74.jpg

But because you asked me to always remember you with HAPPY memories, here goes-

There was a drastic change in our relationship as I crossed my teenage years! From looking at you as my grandmother, it moved towards finding a friend in you and then there was no stopping!

How much I miss, your laughter when I would crack those silly jokes and those lessons which shall remain with me for life!

You made me believe that life is beautiful and that success must be celebrated no matter how small or big!

Whether it be you dancing in the rain with me or wanting to go to India gate on days you weren’t keeping well, it all exemplifies how much you enjoyed your 77 years on this planet! Your love for life can be summarised in your last words to me which were “बेटा pray करना की मैं ठीक हो जाऊँ। (My child, pray for me so that I get well).”

Dadda, my love for you is immense and I can never thank you enough for believing in me each time I did not! Not to forget, your genes that I shall forever be grateful for! 😀

I know for a fact that you are spreading happiness wherever you are and that you will continue to shower your blessings on us.

Love always
Your granddaughter!”

Day 73

Mumma, as we embark into the new year with a hope to create more magical moments and unforgettable memories, this note is from Peihu, the सबसे सीधी सुशील लड़की (the most simple virtuous girl) as you called her. You believed in her, you encouraged her and you loved her immensely. In her words:

“Daddu-ji you were my favourite story-teller. Growing up, every night that you were in the same country as us, you committed to telling me a bed-time story, no matter how tired you were. Day 73.jpgSome had morals, some were silly and some recounted complicated Indian mythology, but they all had one thing in common- a grocery list embedded into the storyline somewhere. To explain- when dadda got sleepy while telling a story, cuddled up with a grandchild in the dark, she often deviated from the core plot, and started listing off things we needed to buy- आटा,टमाटर, खीरे (flour, tomatoes, cucumbers). At this point, I gently jostled her and whined “दद्द्द्द्द्द्द्दा”(daddaddaaa) she would snap out of the grocery dream and back into the bedtime story without missing a beat. It was a hilarious and surprisingly consistent occurrence during our nighttime ritual. Despite these brief sidetracks, your stories were full of wonder, excitement and life lessons. You told and retold them to me so many times, I still remember each word for word- the monkey and the alligator, the boy and the roti flipper, the monkey and the queen, the frog and the crane, and many more. I will make sure these stories are not lost with you. I miss you and falling asleep to the sound of your voice drowsily reciting fables and shopping lists.”

Missing talking to you mummy and getting your आशीर्वाद (blessing) so much today, on this 1st day of the new year.