Dear India

Hi Mom,

So I am  a bit behind on this 21 Days of Abundance thing now, but how can you really be behind when it comes to abundance right?

I’m on Day 18 and the theme is Live in Unity.

The Assignment is to write a letter to your country of origin. In this letter, I am to express all my feelings about the country, remembering that all of my feelings are valid and approrpriate. I am to write everything that arises, it says.

I thought I would share this with you, Mom for a few reasons:

  1. We never really talked about India in particular, and I know you wanted to go see it. And I have never seen it.
  2. For me, India was partly what I saw of our Indian culture through you- the sarees, the bangles, the languages, the skin tones, the accents, the food, the family values, the celebrations. But another part for me was what I imagine India to be. What I dream it to be. And I wonder what you thought of India. If we had totally different views shared some. I’m sure we shared a lot of views, but it was a shame I never asked you about your thoughts on it. Maybe I can tap into your thoughts by writing mine down to you.
  3. To be honest, I’m running out of pens that work. It is still the time of the Corona Virus, and we are staying in as much as we can. So when I do go out, which is so rarely, it’s only for food, or a walk, or toiletries and that kind of thing, even though there seems to be no toilet paper available anywhere I go. And where there might be, the lines are so long. So then I forget that I need more pens. Oh well. This might be more fun and interesting.

holi-festival-of-colors-india-girlDear India,

You aren’t forgotten, I just want you to know that. I know that’s where I originated from. I know that my grandfather was born in India. I believe in a little town called Purbandar where Gandhi grew up, in Gujerat. But to be honest, I haven’t taken the time to really learn more about the different regions or history. I find that I learn more about a place when I get an authentic feel for it and that usually means going there myself. Being surrounded by it and the culture and the smells and the food and the voices, accents, and languages.

I imagine India to be so full of colour, and depth. Like the celebration of Holi, but not always so cheerful. In fact, I feel the heaviness of India when I think about it. Not because I think it is a poor country, or that the people are poor or have less than or are less than, but I imagine so many people there, and not enough rescources for them.

I know not everywhere in India is like that, but I think that it is true for some parts. And that I would feel overwhelmed by what I would see on the streets- beggars, kids, crippled bodies. Again, it’s not that I think that’s all that it’s about, but that’s what we hear about a lot, and not just from media. I read books by authors who were born and brough up in India, and they describe the conditions there. It is hard for me to even read, let alone imagine witnessing in person, and then to actually have lived that, I don’t know how people do that. The human spirit is amazing. I think India would be a testament to that.

And to be honest, I would feel ashamed in some ways if I was there. Not to be Indian. But ashamed to be living such a good life here in the west while the sons and daughters of my ancestors, the aunts and uncles of my culture of origin, could be living in such dire conditions. It humbles me. It makes me wonder how that gets chosen- where we live and grow up, what conditions we have surrounding us from a young age.

I think India must have such a depth of character and wisdom that is beyond most people here in the west. I imagine that like in Buenos Aires, the streets and walls ooze out secrets and stories of centuries ago. It is not something we could see, but sense in the air, and feel under our feet when we walk. I think we could breathe it in, without knowing what exactly it is, but knowing the taste is different. And swallowing that could change us inside forever, even though we might not be able to put a word to what it is exactly.

I know that visiting you India would be more than a visit. I know it would be a profound jounrey for me, even if I wasn’t there for a long time. I think it would be a mixture of feeling like coming back home, and also feeling so lost and out of place because of the kind of lifestyle I am not used to.

I feel we are spoiled here in the west That everything is so clean and proper and safe and cut and dry. I am not complaining. Not at all. I am so grateful for my life. But I think going to India would shake that normal life up for me a lot, probably in a good way, but it would still be overwhelming.

I imagine lots of flowing colours- silks and sarees, and bangles and gold and henna like artwork on bodies, on skin, on streets, and in the air and clouds. Like the country would be streaked of something deep and dark and red that would seep into our own skin whether we were getting a tattoo or not.

I think the different smells from the food- all the spices and curries – would mix together and confuse my nose at first, until maybe a few days in when I think I would be able to learn to decipher between different scents. I might not be able to name them all. But I would know that one is different from the other, or that I had spelled on yesterday in one market that I now smell on a completely different street corner or off of a person who walked by in a different amount than yesterday’s.

I think the foods would take some getting used to on my taste buds. I think I would want to try some, and want to stay away from others because the richness might seem too much for me or my stomach.

I would like to watch people eat with their families and speak in different languages, and laugh and love and hug and cry just as we would, knowing that we are all the same, even though we are so far from each other and call each other strangers at first.

I don’t know if you would take me in as one of you, India. Maybe you would, I think you would. But I might not fit in there fully. But in Canada, I don’t just think of myself as Canadian. And it’s okay. I don’t want to fit in in either one spot exactly. I like being a part of both, and the rest of me just being me.

I don’t know if I will make it to see you this lifetime around. I have trouble traveling just to places that aren’t as exotic or hot, or “different” as you. Walking is sometimes tough for me, especially in the heat. And my health has been so up and down. Just really sensitive to foods and weather and change of anything really, even flying long distances. But you are at the top of my list of places to see. Actually, I don’t have many places left anymore on my list. I used to love traveling and want to do it so much before.

But nowadays, I am happy to be home and build my strength and self up here. I do want to see you though. Forgive me if I haven’t yet or if it is still up in the air if I ever will be able to. I want you to know that I am grateful for you. For giving me culture, for bringing up my ancestors, for giving me colour and dimension and intrigue and language and depth. I feel you. I might not know you in and out, not even close. I might not know your street or city names or maps, but I trust you to take me where I need to within you, to get a sense of the you you want me to know.

I am so grateful for you being my family tree, and leading to my grandma and grandpa getting together and having my mom come from your roots, even though she was born in another country. Thank you for letting her still be Indian in Africa, and for letting her be Indian in Canada. And for giving us roots and magic and natural healing and spices that take me back to a home that I have never been, but long to return to just to see and feel it again.

Thank you, India.

Thank you, Mom.

Thank you, Mama, Bapa, and all my ancestors especially from India.

I still feel you.

Love Tas

 

 

License to Believe

“Believe.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in the One who believes in you.  All things are possible to she who believes.  Blessings on your courage.”- Sarah Ban Breathnach

believeDear Mom,

I’m trying to find things to make me believe again.  To hold on to something that gives me faith in something, after losing so much of it once you were gone.  It’s hard. I don’t know how you did it. I know you had this strength and resilience in you that came down to a unshaken sense of faith.  But I feel like the way we lost you has made me come undone, especially my sense of what I believed in.

I try to keep reminders around me to keep believing. Even the sign above, which hangs on the back of my door so that I can see it every time I am about to leave my apartment.  I try to spend time with people who keep me believing. And I choose to spend time alone when it seems that somehow, the people around me seem to be more non-believing than myself. God knows THAT is the last thing I need. More non-believing attitudes.

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Sometimes, it’s not actual people or anything breathing that I look to to grow back belief. But signs.  Sometimes, they are billboard signs, sometimes, they are quotes or book covers, or inspiring Facebook photos.  But for awhile now, I’ve been looking to numbers, and license plates in particular, as little glimmers of hope.

Awhile back, just after you passed away, I remember driving and feeling lost, or maybe I was feeling lost, so then decide to just drive aimlessly somewhere.  I remember asking myself or the Universe to give me a sign that we are still a family together- you, me, and my brother. And I started realizing that often, in those moments, I’d see license plates with the exact initials of our names LTR or TRL or TLR around me, and for some reason, I felt that this was… hopeful.  That it was somehow reassurance that we are still together in some way or another, even if you are not physically here with us.

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I know, it sounds ridiculous. Even as I type this, I feel like rolling my eyes at myself.  But even when I would ‘forget’ about this little game of hope I had created for awhile, it would show up again,  at the moments that I felt most lost, or sad, or confused. Hopeless. And then there, out of nowhere, a car would pass me and it would be another combination- maybe RLT this time. Or I would find myself parking behind a car with some combination of those three letters. Or I’d be driving in traffic, frustrated or wondering why I took the route I took, but then there it would show up again- TLR. And so I decided that each time this happened, it was your way, or the Universe’s way, of telling me everything was okay. That you were okay, and that nothing can really split us three apart, not even death.

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One of my new favorites that comes up is the LMR license plates. I make believe that it stands for Laila Mama Rajwani.

But like many things that we can’t see and we have to just believe in, I do often find myself disappointingly reminding myself that it’s just coincidence. Child’s play. Adult Make Believe.   I mean, how can the Universe plant certain license plate combinations conveniently in front of me all the time, right? And who is this Universal power, magical being anyway, right?  Come on, Tas, I tell myself.  Maybe those letters are just very popular on BC License plates. Or maybe it’s just that my eyes see them more because I WANT to see them, but that they were always there anyway, and therefore, don’t signify anything.

I was in that kind of extreme frame of mind last year sometime. Really really down about beliefs and life, and almost mocking myself for making up these silly signs to try to alleviate my hurt over losing you.  Who am I kidding, I thought? None of this is real. None of this is proof of anything, I told myself.  And that night, I was so angry and just late for everything. I was driving around, trying to find a parking spot to make it to my dance class. Why am I even dancing when my mom is gone? I remember thinking.  What is the reason for any of this? How do I know where I should even be going or what I should be doing? Maybe I shouldn’t be here. I should just go home and give up on all of this.

And then I turned one corner, and there was one parking spot left on the side street a block away from the dance studio I was trying to get to.  So I parked, a little flustered, but relieved that I found something.  And as I was getting out of the car, I looked ahead, and became still for a moment. My mouth must have dropped, I’m sure. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, or shrug it off as nothing again. But I couldn’t this time, because on the license plate directly in front of me were the letters TAS.  My name. Or at least the shortened version that a lot of people would probably called me. But in particular, I thought of the way you said Tas [Tus] that really melted my heart, Mom.

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And it came to me in my head- you saying my name- at that moment, in your voice. And I imagined that you were calling out to me.  Telling me that if I am not going to believe in the RTL, TLR, TRL licenses that the Universe has been planting all around for me, that maybe this one would be a lot clearer that YES, we are still together. And yes, everything is going to be okay. And that you, my mom, are so well that you are able to plant signs, and even license plates, on the roads all over the place, for me to see and to assure me that I’m on the right path.

This might all be so farfetched.  It could be.  But I do still hold on to any of the moments when I’m driving or walking and see those letter combinations.  A couple of months ago, I was walking with a friend in downtown, a new person who had come into my life. I wasn’t sure about him or what the night would hold for me or us. But again, on a completely different road, in a completely different area away from the other dance studio site I had been the year before, I saw another TAS license plate. I smiled and told the guy I was with that I needed to take a picture.

Was it the same car I had seen the previous year? Was it the same license plate?  Or maybe it didn’t matter because all that did matter was that it was the same sign- to keep going as I am, because you, my mother, are still with me, calling out my name whenever I am needing it.

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Belief is a difficult thing. It is hard to prove. It is hard to stick by when you can’t see it physically or hold it in your hands.  But I realize it is all I really have now, to go by. And so I better take what I can- the signs that happen to cross my way, and hope that maybe, just maybe, my mother has planted them all along to let me know that she is still continuing on this journey with me. That THAT will never end.  And that she is able to look out for me and my brother now at the same time. So the three of us remain together, though on a different level, still together forever.