For as long as I have been seeing my psychologist in Switzerland, I have told her about the Shivpuri White House and used my experiences made here, through trips long and short over the past two years, as fuel for everyday life. On a practical level, Switzerland is the perfect place to live of course. Being in India does put into perspective how we take enough water and reliable Internet for granted a lot of the time. But despite long periods where a “Facebook detox” is enforced by flaky connections and I therefore go long periods of time without the comfort of my fangirl bubble, I find it the best place to build upon my non-existent sense of self-worth.
As chronicled by my articles two years ago, my extended stay and days helping at Happy Days were some of the happiest of my life. Not necessarily for a great love of teaching, but for the overwhelming acceptance and love from those then fifth grade performers. It was a massive and much needed contrast to my own school days. Meeting them two years down the line with the highlights of The Peepal Tree as vivid for them as for me was an incredibly gratifying feeling, despite the limited communication and brief phase of formality when we first reunited.
More has changed around here than just the ages of my favorite students in the last two years. The biggest difference of course is the loss of Max two months ago, which shattered my heart when the news arrived in Switzerland. In all the stories I shared with my psychologist this past year, he and Chloe were the shining stars and I was so grateful for my photography obsession two years ago when it came to material I had to create collages with, as I do lately to express feelings.
That was the last time before this burst of inspiration that I tried to put into words the pain I felt, but it proved impossible. I think the difference in Max and all the other Shivpuri dogs through the years was our being there when he arrived in Delhi as a little puppy. I still remembered how scared Cindy was of the lost little furball he was, missing his mother and seeking affection from one who lived with her own mother too long to develop the maternal instinct.
The shock of losing him from one day to the next was sort of combined with the realization that those memories are fourteen years old, as he was. So my now regular trips to the much-expanded dog cemetery in our peaceful yard became about more than breaking the denial that he’s physically gone. Back home I am very lazy about walks, but circling the driveway here that holds the red gravel I apparently demanded as a souvenir when I was a kid, I feel a sense of peace almost impossible to describe. I have even worn a hole in my only pair of socks on these brief evening walks, but going around in circles would not feel so therapeutic anywhere else I think. Seeing Nana with his new walking stick this year, I am reminded of how he would keep track of his number of rounds with a pebble placed on the stone pillars flanking the steps to the lawn. Perhaps shamefully considering the seventy year age difference, I never did that many more rounds than he used to.
But tuning into songs with lyrics of solidarity and about not being alone on those rounds is somehow the most at peace I ever feel. Life has been the furthest thing from stressful this past year, but it has taught me that even the laziest people need a reason to wake up every morning. On this trip I have been alternately urged to cook and write something almost every day and the prospect was intimidating. During a whole afternoon spent on my feet in the kitchen, I probably had every negative thought in the book. I never thought of myself as a person who craves other people’s approval to the extreme, but this trip has taught me that it’s more the fear of how disapproval affects my shaky confidence that I can’t handle. That is something to work on, I suppose, thicker skin as Arjun put it.
I may not be as productive as the knitting squad for our “family baby” yet, but I can barely remember the last time I was this excited about something. My contribution so far has been pumping Sam full of my brownies to give the kid a sugar rush, because feeling it move is the most amazing thing ever. I can’t wait to tell Durga Prasad about how Arjun has been Sonya’s “father” since the age of sixteen, according to her kindergarten classmates in awe of his height. And of all the changes to this home and our family in recent years, I’m going to be biased and say Sam is the best one. I’ve had some low points recently but my Bhabhi Jaani has always been the one with the most epic pep talks, great Mom in the making. Two years ago, I wrote my last article here as Rina Didi and in some ways I still feel like that girl. But I hope that this time I can hold on tighter to the happiness I find only in Shivpuri and become D.P’s favorite Bua. This kid has plenty to learn about the art of fangirling and I happen to be an expert.
As the gorgeous Robert Buckley, my One Tree Hill hero I sometimes just call Abs Man once wisely said “I’d take failure over regret any day.” My goal now is to be brave enough to accept failures and not let procrastination and fear swallow everything I am. I have a family baby to impress!