A day to remember family

Jadhav family over the years

Nine years ago today, Dad died in a car accident. I’ve obviously had a long time to grapple with that; life continues, some memories don’t fade, teachings and spirit live on, legacies remain.

But so does a bit of sadness. For catharsis, I turn to this photo of photos that tracks so much of the Indian side of my family. The collage was created for my grandparents in India; I digitized it when I stayed with them during my semester of backpacking around India in 2004.

Dadaji passed away in 2005; dadiji died in August. Since the photo was made an uncle also died (another passed away more than two decades ago).

The large-file, high-res version is linked above. Both grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins, Dad, Mom, Anna and I all feature in different snaps and clicks, to use the Indian parlance.

This indeed is where one half of me originated.

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Dadiji: A woman of faith

I will never forget the words of dadiji, in a moment of utmost tragedy, when my father, her son, had died suddenly several years ago. She implored, over a scratchy phone connection: “Be strong. Have strong faith.”

God will provide and care for us, she said.

Raised an orphan, married in the Indian fashion to a man she didn’t know, weighted with the load of four step-children and four more of her own, hardly blessed with substantial resources, Mohini Jadhav’s life was a marathon, an endurance trial. For more than nine decades, she faced her struggles — including attacks on her family over religion, a husband who ruled at times with an iron fist and various bouts of domestic strife — with an unwavering faith and delight in God’s grace.

It was that faith that reached out to me from thousands of miles in the darkest of moments. Over many years, she stressed that we can only feel happiness at the life God (he/she/it/they) gives, even as we stumble over hardship.

She died yesterday, succumbing, finally, to old age. I will miss her faith and joy.

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Nearing the end of her days, but still happy

A faint smile

I went to visit my dadiji in Pune earlier this month, perhaps for the last time. She has become successively weaker in recent months after a fall in January confined her to bed.

But she was mostly in good spirits while I was there. She told me that I should get married to an Indian girl, offered to make me biriyani and pickle, quizzed me on my Hindi and again told me to marry an Indian girl.

Her memory fades in an out, but she told some stories from her past. And I showed her some pictures and sat with her holding her hand as much as I could. The photo comes from the morning I left.

And, yes, I promised I’d marry an Indian girl.

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My favorite weed

Invasive pest

Lantana, a plant I remember my father carefully cultivating when I was a child, is actually considered a weed and pest in many parts of India. There are entire fields claimed by the voracious, scrubby plant.

It seems able to sprout anywhere on the in the tropical regions of the subcontinent. As it did here in this gully in Pune, all but overlooked.

It’s surely some part nostalgia, but I find it beautiful. And I will grow it in our terrace garden one day.

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Petrol pump pop philosophy

Wise words from... a gas station?

I spent the last weekend in Pune meeting family. Every time I go, I pay a visit to the city’s old bazaar area known as “Camp.” On my walk from the bus stand to the main market lanes, I always pass a petrol station that dispenses wisdom — sometimes — from an old chalkboard.

In Hindi and in English.

Inevitably, there are a few people crowded around reading. Or, in the case of this man, taking notes. Or, in my case, taking photos.

Among the gems in English on the board:

  • “When we work 4 a strong purpose… hard work is not an option; it’s a necessity.”
  • “Running away from any problem will only increase the distance from the solution.”
  • “Change the texture of our thoughts and life will change. The future is not something we wait, it’s something we create.”

Unfortunately, I can only translate bits and pieces of the Hindi.

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Random party breaks out on long train journey

Impromtu train carriage show

During a train ride from Delhi to Pune in November, the berth just opposite my bunk happened to be filled with random musicians. WIth encouragement from much of the rest of the carriage, they took to song for several hours in the middle of our overnight journey.

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Actually sang me to sleep at one point. Click play above to listen.

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Brickmakers of Akurdi

Placing charcoal

Family of brickmakers

India’s construction boom requires bricks. Bricks are labor intensive. They are carefully molded and dried in the sun. Then they’re intricately stacked amid charcoal, for firing in what is essentially an open kiln.

Here, a family of brickmakers are getting ready to fire another batch of bricks (more photos below).

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Holi cow! Well, not really…

The streets will run with color

Holi is my favorite of the Indian holidays. Everyone celebrating gets good and messy and good and messy — throwing “color” (powdered paint or dyed water balloons or oily goo or normal paint or mud or ash) at each other. I’ve been in India twice for the festival, held in the spring to, among other things, herald the coming of the warm season.

This year, I rocked through Pune briefly to “play Holi” (read: get messy and take photos) with my cousin. We covered a lot of ground around the city, but it was a rather sleepy, subdued day. We got a late start, and Pune is a bit tame when it comes to Holi. (A recent bombing at a high-profile tourist hangout that also killed some local college students didn’t help the mood.)

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Six months out, not looking back

Looks like he's having fun, doesn't he?

It’s been six months since I said good-bye to U.S. soil and, as much as I do miss the wonderful folks back home, I’m looking for ways to stay out here a good deal longer.

No need for a recap just now; it’s all here on the blog anyway. A photo of me cheesing it up from Holi should suffice.

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Are you ready for some Holi?!?!

Jabalpur 2002

We’ve got less than two weeks until Holi, and I might be getting a little excited.

The religious festival, this year scheduled for March 1, involves people getting a bit out of control and painting each other with colored water and powder and paint and God knows what else. It’s symbolic of spring’s triumph over winter, good over evil, and the open future over bygones past.

More photos after the break.

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