A Walk down a Montreal Memory Lane

(I started this about a month ago, immediately after the walk; and worked on it again over the last few days.)

The sun rose a few hours after we arrived in Montreal. As everyone went back to sleep for the early morning, I got R, and L into their stroller and headed out for a walk.

We went up Redpath and took a right on Dr. Penfield. The silence was stunning. Not one of us made a sound for many long minutes. We listened to the wind blowing through the trees, and to the birds chirping.

When we got to the statue of the two goats head to head, in front of the Stewart Biological sciences building I broke the spell. L and R would have to hear a part of our story here, at McGill.

Maher and I met on a snowy winter day at the indoor running track in the gym. He was running and I was on crutches. A mutual friend introduced us. I was there to support Sarah and her team in their indoor soccer game. Maher loves to tell the next bit of the story. In his version, our mutual friend Assad and he invited Sarah and me to join them for dinner. We didn’t show.

L and R didn’t hear that part of the story. It was a little simpler. They now know that I spent many hours and months in the Biology building, behind the goats that attracted their attention.

We kept going along Dr. Penfield, past the law building, the reservoir, past the Shatner building (which might have a new name now?), the McLennan and Redpath library where we spent many days, even nights during the exam period. They were tired, but itching to get out and play. I was excited by how easy it is to find soft green spots to hang out it on. We stopped to play with the birds and squirrels on the grassy patch right in front of the Macdonald Engineering building. A had a sudden flash-back memory of children playing there. Now I realise why. It’s the fenced-off only park area on the lower campus. I needed to contain the two children because I was alone, and they were in a discovering mood. The spaces around us seemed expansive.

Back to the story… They learnt that Maher studied in the Engineering building across from our little park. It was also close to where we were playing that Maher broke into loud song one day, before defending his honour’s thesis. He told Sarah and me that singing Oum Kulsum was the only way he could control his nerves. I was a little self-conscious at first, but then his beautiful, strong voice mesmerized me. I forgot all the students and teachers walking by, hanging out, and looking at us. I think a number of them sent him smiles.

I remember waiting for him on the stairs right across from the park we were playing in, ready to celebrate after his last exam ever.

L and R chased squirrels and pigeons in the wet, grassy area. They were intrigued by two squirrels that weaved around each other as they scurried up a tree. When one of them came back down and approached us, R waved, “allo”. A passer-by wearing a black and white long-sleeve hooded, checkered shirt beamed a smile. “Hello,” he said, “and good morning!” I smile, wave back, and reply, “good morning.” I imagine he is returning home from one of the infamous after-hours club. By then the squirrel had run back up his tree.

It’s a stunning tree. The trunk split into three branches, two of them curve around each other and extend outwards; an easy tree to climb. I remember people sitting in it. We picked a few leaves from under the tree; the ones that L chose were from another. Maple leaves. She handed me one. When we all had one in each hand, we did our Dance of the Leaves. This time we added a new sequence to the usual twirling and leaf swishing. The song goes “Up, down, up, down, up, down and around.” It’s simple, and lots of fun. Raise both arms and leaves up as you sing UP. Bring the arms down as you sing DOWN, three times, and finally turn around as the leaves swish to AND AROUND. We loved it, and did it over and over in the grass.

By then, they were quite tired, their feet cold from the wet grass, and both ready for some milk. I took off their wet shoes and socks, handed them their milk, and we continued on our way.

We went out the Milton gates and walked by familiar apartments, ones that my cousin had lived in, other friends’, not far. We saw Lola Rosa, the vegetarian restaurant where one of Maher’s engineering professors hung out every day for lunch, at least every time we went. The rumour was that he was deeply in love with Lola, the sexy owner.

It was about 7 am now. People were still scarce on the Saturday morning Street. A man riding his young son on bicycle in a front bike-seat smiled at us. The two or three other people we walked by also noticed us out so early in the double stroller. Some smiled, some greeted us with a chirpy “Good morning.” It felt good to be there. We walked all the way to the Second Cup on Park and Milton.

It was my favorite 24 hour café to study at, daytime or overnight. I drank a few too many hot chocolates and ate a few too many carrot cakes there.

We crossed the street, over to the blue-walled Iraqi restaurant that always played classical music, and smelled of burnt oil. It attracted the late night chess players, and other “intellectuals.” It’s a breakfast café now.  Maher, Nanu, and a number of my friends and I ate a number of delicious shawarma’s and salads there; sometimes over our text books, but mostly reading the street press, procrastinating.

I contemplated continuing on Milton all the way to St. Laurent Street, but realized that L and R were too cold, and almost asleep. And the story I was telling them had turned into my nostalgic walk. I had already strayed quite a ways from our apartment. I sped up; walked down Park towards Sherbrooke. Oh, our Japanese restaurant that served the best fish soup I have ever eaten was still there, right next to the 25 hour Pakistani depanneur where Maher bought my birthday cupcake the first year we met. It was after our trip to Mont Tremblant. Nothing, nothing at all was open on Christmas day in Montreal.

An early bird dressed in a hooded sweatshirt walked into Chez Cora for his breakfast. It’s quite possible he too, had not slept all night.

The cold was worrying me. The wind on Sherbrooke was typically strong. R was asleep. His feet ice blocks.

A few blocks on I decided to avoid the wind by going through the student ghetto again, and across the campus, back the way we came.

I laid R and L on the mattress next to our bed. The household was slowly waking up. My parents and D2 would have to wait until the evening to play with L and R.

Nanu the avocado

1pm yesterday afternoon. Calgary Court House.

Maher tells Rahul, “Au jourd’hui on va a la ceremonie. Nanu devient avocat.
Rahul says “cado.”

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7 pm this evening. Nanu’s apartment.

Maher to Rahul : “Tu veux manger un avocat?
Rahul says,”Nanu”

Maher asks L and R: “Qui veux un peu plus d’avocat?
Rahul  says,”cado.”

Raksha bandan – bond of protection

When I lived in Zambia my family celebrated Raksha Bandan, a North Indian festival that honours the love between sisters’ and brothers’. It falls on a full moon in August every year.

My parents, aunts and uncles took a day off work, we a day off school. We dressed in traditional Indian clothes and jewelery, and gathered at one of the family homes.

My mum, aunts and I picked out beautiful rakhi’s weeks in advance. There is a range of choice, from simple threads to more extravagant ones with mirrors and gold fringes. A few years ago there was one that even played a popular Bollywood song. This year the fashionable rakhi’s have green, red, and shiny diamond-like stones on them. I usually chose the simplest threads and tied one around each of my brother’s and “cousin-brother’s” wrists. This gesture was to symbolise my love for them. In return my brothers’ had the duty of protecting me. From what I wasn’t always sure!

After I tied the rakhi, we hugged each other. I always whispered an awkward, “What are we doing guys? Do we need this string to symbolise our feelings?” I was the pain-in-the-ass, no fun girl who wasn’t into rituals, or Bollywood kitsch for that matter because it was over-done and the dances were corrupted versions of classical dances. So after the hugging, we fed each other sweets that my mum and aunts had prepared over the last week or two. My brothers’ then proudly offered me envelopes packed with notes.

Then it was my mum and aunts’ turn. They would tie rakhi’s around their “cousin-brother’s” wrist. He was the only one in Lusaka. They sent the others to India by mail, without fail.

My dad received his two rakhi’s in the mail, usually in good time. Since his sisters lived elsewhere it was my job to tie them. I got two envelopes from him as well.

Once it was all done, we’d have a big meal together, and spend the rest of the day together.

When I left Z at 16, I forgot all about it. One July, my mum called to remind me about it. She asked if I’d sent all the boys a rakhi.  I replied that I hadn’t so she quickly bought some on my behalf.

On the day, she called to say that my little brother refused to wear it since it was my mum’s choice, and not my initiative. I was taken-aback. I had no idea that this really meant anything to him, or to any of them.

I immediately apologised and ever since, I’ve made a special effort. I don’t always send them a rakhi in the mail, but I call or at least email.

This year, my mum only “reminded” me about it yesterday. There is no way I can get them rakhi’s in time. Phone calls will be in order, and a promise of more planning and organising for the years to come.

In my mum’s typically thoughtful and unimposing manner, she says “I’ve sent you a rakhi that L can tie around R’s wrist, if you guys want to do that of course.” I can’t wait to see the mini-rakhi!

My brothers, (cousins and brothers-in-law), are dearer to me than I can express. I do in fact feel safe, supported and strong when they are around. So why not have a special day that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers?

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Links I came across:

How to make a rakhi
Buy a rakhi on-line!

Yoga and coconuts in Samui

Our week in Samui is zooming, blue skies, sunshine, and swims in the sea. Lots of yoga and coconuts.

Maher drives us to Yoga Thailand every morning. I practice while he plays with the children in the “Kids club.” Sean and Dylan’s out-grown toys and mini playground are more than enough to keep L and R occupied for the two hours I get to breathe and move at my pace.

It’s been two and half years since I did six days in a row of mysore (self -practice). Half-way there now. It’s wonderful that I have this opportunity and I am grateful to Maher for it.  I’m beginning to trust my body and its ability again. The softness is slowly seeping in from the energy in the shala (room), the sincere practitioners, and experienced teachers around us. The practice is becoming natural. I’ve almost regained my all of it, posture-wise. I am still doing half the jump-back, jump-through vinyasa’s and not planning to add them back in yet. Even the drop-backs are back. Assisted of course.
Slowly, slowly… The practice reminds me of this if I slip.

This morning I was running out of steam. Three days in a row after a month of every other day at best, is quite a jump. No matter how hard I tried today, all the jumps back and through were steps, Chataranga (Plank pose) vinyasa’s to Up-dog were with knees down, and the focus was wavering. It’s really no use pushing too hard.
Again, pole pole as Nanu would say.

Since we got to Samui, the children have woken up at least four times each, every night. Tonight they are sleeping well and I am up surfing the web, Facebook, YouTube, blogging. Not exactly prudent. Back to the sleep story though. We were down to one or two wakings a night. Recently they’ve gone through some crazy separation anxiety for both “mama” and “papa”. It can hit around eighteen months I read. They are twenty months now. Close enough. Travel, new beds, a different routine and probably dehydration from playing in the sun all day add up. They wake up to drink, and then to pee!

I wake up to a cold coconut every morning. Maher bought three bags from the Tesco in Lamai the other day. He drinks one in the morning, one at YT, and one after his run or practice. Me? Don’t ask. I claim sustenance on them. I have no case studies to back this up. Well, a Canadian friend Steve, also of some Indian heritage was doing just that when we met in Mysore. I’m not sure how long he went, but he was on a self-imposed satvic (balanced and pure) diet. Yogi’s are meant to eat healthily, neither too much nor too little, not only one kind of food either. So I’m not sure where he got it from. I wonder if it works as a detox though, if done for a short period?

Coconuts are certainly perfect thirst quenchers, and the one’s in Koh Samui are particularly good. Coconut juice is abundant in minerals. It is Maher’s natural sports drink. A lot of the food here is also coconut based. The research as to the health benefits of eating and drinking coconuts is on.

If you’ve got any thoughts and ideas on this please share!

Related articles: Health benefits of coconut oil, water, and more

Elevator ride. Part 2

A couple of days ago Leila and I took the elevator down from the 20th floor. She was in a single stroller. Two well dressed women started a conversation with and about L. Ms. Pink and Ms. Blue seemed to be working in offices in the building. Of course the usual “How cute,” and “what curly hair,” came up. I figured that at least since I was with one child, the sensationalism would be reduced considerably.

Our building has recently exploded with new offices. Taking the elevator has become tedious. With the double stroller we sometimes have to wait for two or three full-loads to go by before we can squeeze in. And there are three usually-working elevators.

I did a geeky Nanu-type calculation. There are 3 buildings in the complex, 29 floors in each, and 6 apartments on each floor. I picked an average of 4 people per apartment during the day. Some apartments are uninhabited, others house families with parents and maids, and some are offices with employees. The ground floor is the first floor. So 28 floors. That makes 672 people in each building, with a total of 2016 in the complex. Let’s say 2050 people in and out during the day if I include the management staff, cleaning team, security guards, delivery people etc. In some countries we could call ourselves a town.

It’s heart warming, baffling, and irritating at the same time that in such a large community, people manage to recognize others, communicate and gossip with them. Ms. Pink and Ms. Blue continued their conversation all the while curiously and admiringly looking at L. The elevator was dark, crowded, and lacked air. I dazed off for a moment. Except for the loud chatter L was almost asleep.

When Ms. Pink announced that L is a twin, I was abruptly snapped out of my hazy mood. It’s not the first time that someone has said that. This is one of a “pair” of children. The last time it was in the street just outside our housing complex. Ms. Pink then said that one of the long / feung tai, dragon / phoenix twins which represents boy / girl twins here, must still be upstairs! I nodded, smiled meekly and we fumbled out.

It’s always refreshing to get out of the building, to see the wind blowing through the trees, the water in the fountain, and feel the sunshine. Some days at least.

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Elevator ride

FW: The mayonnaise jar and two beers

Reblogged from OnoLisa

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When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar…and the beer.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full.
The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends,your favorite passions— things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.
The sand is everything else—the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play with your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.
Play another 18.
There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal.

“Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised their hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled.
“I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.

Nanu and Rohan, Ahmedabad Jan 2011 (by Saloni)

Restorative day

With slight fever, a head ache, and general fatigue my first thought is “rest day”. That is with respect to asana of course. A typical Ashtanga practice is out of the question the way I am feeling. My muscles and joints feel like they have sat through a ten-hour flight. It’s a holiday weekend so there is no help from the ayi. L, R, and M are all a bit sick too. The children need to eat and have their diapers changed regardless of my dull aches and malaise. There is a feeling of stagnation, as though prana isn’t getting to the extremities, heels, arches, fingers, knuckles…(I think I developed plantar fasciitis, same as Nanu and mum, after the bed rest and immense weight gain during pregnancy) The practice has kept it at bay so far. So a rest day, and there have been a few too many in the last two weeks doesn’t seem to be the best solution.

A twenty to thirty minute restorative session is. Long and gentle breathing. One to three minutes in each position. Sun salutations or not, (today is not), any “lunge” types asanas, kneeling postures especially with the toes curled under, a long down dog, child’s pose, pigeon, relaxed baddha konasana including while on the back, a gentle supine twist on both sides, and whatever else comes up along the way. Some viparita karani or legs up the wall. A nice long savasana.

Such a short and simple session can be balancing and invigorating. I seem to have some life in my arches and toes again. Headache all gone.