This, my dear readers, is where I live, with my two cocker spaniels (K9 cuties) Biskit and Pepper. We have a cozy apartment in this imposing building situated on the edge of a pine forest.
A large, sunny playground , hedged by deodar, juniper and pine trees, is the stage for a daily glorious winter sunrise…Fit and feisty men exercise and practice their games in the morning sunlight. By the time the sun floods the apartment, the field empties out and the road activity gears up..Buses and trucks lumber past, local taxis and visiting 4WD tourists cruise past, youngsters on bikes zip past, women-with-firewood-and-grass and school kids chatter past. Men sit on wobbly benches in the tea-stall next door and soak in the sun, play cards, watch the traffic and share gossip. And, of course, we have our star mutts, Tinku Tiger and Kajal, sunning themselves in the field. Evenings and nights are for staring at the moon rising from the deodars, the frost falling and crisping the grass, big rabbits and jackals foraging the field and the occasional big cat encounter.
While the front balcony overlooks all that activity, the other balcony belongs to the opposite end of the spectrum…It belongs to this rolling, dense pine forest which sways with the wind, smells divine, is home to birds and butterflies, flowering weeds and mushrooms and shrubs and goats and everything in-between. The mighty Himalayas greet me there, the setting sun bids goodbye to the day there and the forest silence stills all confusion within me. I just have to sit on the wooden swing and stare at the swaying pine branches and blue sky , the scarlet minivets and the mynahs, bluebirds and kites, the gleaming stars and glowing mountain villages …and gratitude creeps in.
In between these two balconies, is home. A linear, lovely home with comfy cushions, a big TV, an ergonomic rocking chair, lots of wool stash, appetizing aromas, warm sunlight, wandering gusts of wind, dog hair and books. It’s just how it was meant to be. This is where life is being lived. And this is where knitting rules supreme, with crochet and stitching and reading vying for the second place. Favorite nooks and corners abound, occupied by the doggies, or me, or the sunlight—it all depends on the time of the day.
The sparkle and glow and air-flow is the labor of love by Hema, our charming, honest, hard-working, plain speaking and caring house-keeper. 2 years of having her in my life and I still have to take her optimism, value systems and devotion for granted….Her life partner is unable to keep a job ( his mother thinks he is too good for any work which comes around here); she had to watch her young brother-in-law, hopelessly into substance abuse, break/sell/pawn off everything in the house; her smart little son couldn’t be sent to the local school for the lack of money to get his uniform or books; and her mother-in-law kept them from dying of starvation on her widow’s pension.
Too proud to go back to her parents, too consumed with the desire to educate her son and daughter and too sensible to let old social norms come in the way of living life, Hema came to our house with no idea of what she was signing up for , but totally ready to learn and work. She had no idea of how an iron works, how a microwave oven heats up food, how to put things on a table, how to wash whites and colored clothes separately and no idea of time!! Two years down the road, we have learnt to work and function like the two hands of a clock…She spends hours cleaning and dusting the house, and we both love to stand and admire the mirror-like floor in the afternoon sun. I eat wholesome Kumaoni food for lunch, cooked and prepared with love…if I crave for pasta/biryani/dosas/anything non-Kumaoni, I can always prepare dinner! She can handle 20 guests for lunch, as long as I do the cooking and she does the serving and clearing..I get frank updates on my (poor) fashion sense, heartfelt and heartwarming gratitude for the good times in her life, and a fierce love which makes me and the dogs her priority in life.
Hema has got her children in school now, she knits these amazing long scarves while walking the 3 kms to the apartment, has got a TV and some furniture for the house, and sings through her working hours. Of course, I know exactly how to rattle her when things fall off her plate and that helps to keep things in perspective. She is one of the many angels in my life, and I couldn’t have imagined a happier and sweeter one than her.