Finding my own meditation space.

 

A space where I can meditate.

There is a rain-tree in front of me outside the window where I sit and write in my mom’s house. It must be atleast 50 years old, towering six floors. It is my metaphor for life. Sometimes in full bloom, sometimes shedding leaves, the ups and downs resonate with my life too.

I have spent all my childhood study time here at this table, often daydreaming the hours away while looking at that tree, that mamma squirrel scurrying through its branches in search of food, the flaming yellow golden oriole perching itself close to some yellow leaves, the constant hoom-hoom of a Bharadwaj and the crimson forehead of the coppersmith barbet peeping through the green foliage of the leaves. There is so much activity going on there, but its still very peaceful. Very calm. When a sparrow comes and lands on the branch, the leaves dance, the branch sways a little and in just few seconds it regains its composure and stands very still, ready for the next bird to land on it. The squirrel sometimes tiptoes to the end of the branch and I worry that it will slip and fall down, but in the last 15 years, I have never seen that happen. I am sure it never happens, even when I am not looking, not worrying and waiting for her to go back to the stronger branches close to the main trunk.

My friend used to live in that building opposite ours, just behind the tree. Sometimes she would come to the balcony and we would wave at each other. It is quite far away, you can barely communicate with hand gestures, but I could see her smile. I would smile back, suddenly conscious now that she is looking at me. But that feeling of someone out there is looking out for you used to perk up my mood. She is married now and stays somewhere else, but I can still see her mom, doing her own things, oblivious to me watching her in a trance.

The home that I went to after I got married was on the second floor of an old building. Shaded by the branches of tall trees, it used to be very quiet. Then we shifted to another apartment, on the seventh floor. Now we are above all these trees and how we crave for their company!

Sometimes I still come here to my mom’s house just to sit in front of the window. In front of my tree. When work, the child, different opinions in my head make to much noise, I come here and sit. Meditate. Not that type of meditation where you have to forcefully focus on the inhale-exhale, but a more subtle one where you just have to sit and let each thought come, process it and file it away. Eventually the thoughts cease, there is nothing more that can be processed and then you become one. With the silhouette of the pigeon cleaning its feathers, with those powderpuff pink flowers you hadn’t seen earlier, the gracefully arching branches and those tender new leaves, their colour so different from the other leaves.

Every year around December- January, the tree sheds all its leaves. With every breeze, there is a rainfall of leaves. The bare tree makes my soul feel naked. As if a blanket was removed. The sun shines too brightly, the birds fly away, the sticks of the branches feel poky. But then tender new leaves sprout and within a week the tree is loaded. There is slight nip in the otherwise hot Mumbai air, the leaves are fresh, birds start to chirp and life feels full circle.

At times, I worry about the death of that tree. Someday someone will decide to reconstruct the building and chop down trees in the compound for more FSI, or my parents will shift to some other place and I will feel rootless. That space, my zen, my piece of mind are in some way all interconnected. One gets chopped down and I will come crashing down. I was telling this to my business mentor the other day, and he nudged me to work towards creating that space in my head. Imagining things so that my roots are firmly planted in my head. So that the comings and goings of the world wont affect me beyond a certain extent. I find it hard to do. It is easier to worship and have faith in a clay statue of a God rather than worshipping an abstract concept.

But for now I am surrounded by trees and plants and the people I love and need. We are branching out, nesting and growing. Spring cleaning, shedding off unwanted leaves and giving scope for new ideas to take root. And this is all that matters.

Cheers!

Rutvika

What if I were to die today? I am not dying, and hence the orange cupcakes .

Whenever I am reading a book or watching a movie, I tend to empathize myself with some character in it. In fact, the movie or book becomes likeable only if there is a role which I imagine myself playing. Currently I am reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, a true story, where Randy, a professor is detected with terminal pancreatic cancer, and has about 6 months to live. With kids aged 5, 3 and one, he wants to be able to leave something for them, through which they will know their father later on and hence the last lecture which he gave is recorded in a beautifully written book. I had a stream of tears rolling down my eyes even as I read the first chapter.

It made me think. I am generally the one who would shy away from all discussions of death and dying. It makes me very uncomfortable. But his writing style is such, that I couldn’t help but think ‘what if I was in his place?’ What if I were to give the ‘last lecture or write a last blog-post’ of my life? Think for a second. Scary, isn’t it?

Well, I am 28 right now. I have a supportive family, an amazing husband, good career, and a hobby worth pursuing. If something were to happen to me right now, why am I circumventing? , lets face it, if I die now, it would be a terrible shame. If it’s a fatal accident, it would be easier on me than on others, but I wouldn’t have said my last good-byes. And if there is a prolonged ‘about-to-die’ period, the good-byes would become nausea-tic. So I don’t know which is the more convenient method, but dying at such an age, is quite a disaster.

I am yet to have kids, yet to hold my baby in my hands and feel its soft touch on my skin. Yet to talk gibberish to the little one and look at those inquisitive eyes and try to answer his/her questions. Yet to bake birthday cakes for my little darling and I haven’t even thought of a name to call him/her, which I can repeat a thousand times before I can no longer do it.

But then I think, it would be pretty bad to leave a little kid after me and not be there. So rather than me having these little pleasures of life, it would be easier if the kid didn’t have to go through life not knowing a mother. So I pass on that one.

Apart from an unborn kid, I think my husband will miss me the most. And I , him. Since we got married, about three years back, we have done several exciting things which I hadn’t done before. Traveled different countries, hosted several family functions, went on high-altitude hiking trips, attended a dancing class, experimented different foods, and yes, got closer each day. I learnt to be much more patient than I ever was, and he learnt to feel different emotions based on the weather, the surrounding aromas and the aura of the situation. He is a handsome, smart guy and wouldn’t be difficult for him to find another girl. But I know him. He wouldn’t. And he would miss out on the joys of growing old together with someone. I don’t know if my ghost would be happier knowing that my husband did not replace me, or sad thinking two lives were wasted. He could have lived his life, and lived a little for me too.

And then I think my mom will miss me severely. I am her first-born, birthed prematurely in the seventh month. She had to nurse me with more care than her peers, as I was in the negative scale of health. From there, she brought me to where I am now. My dying at 28 would mean all her extravagant efforts at preparing me for the life to come had gone in vain. Our parents live through us, fill their hearts with our achievement and their eyes with tears for our sorrows. It would be traumatic for them to lose kids, at any age, be it 10, 20 or 70. I can see that.

My friends and family will also miss me. I don’t have too many friends, but those that I do have, are very close. Someone might even name their child after me, and perhaps my name will keep resonating in the world even after I am gone.

And lastly, I will miss myself. I have so much to do yet. Write, bake, learn a new language, sit with a stranger old lady and have her home-cooked food, and again, write. Of stories and people. Of adventures of life and of mishaps. Of love and of life.

There is still a lot to be.

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : I cried while writing this post and I had to remind myself that I am not actually dying. This is a hypothetical discussion. But I cry nevertheless.

P.P.S : An astrologer had predicted that I would live to be 88. Precisely.


Whoa! That was some deep shit. Let us lighten up the mood with some orange cupcakes with orange frosting.

The orange flavor is scintillating, and the juice gives it an amazing moist lightness. The frosting is made with very little salted butter and a lot of orange juice along-with icing sugar.

Orange cupcakes

Orange Cupcakes with orange frosting

Makes about 18-20 cupcakes.

What you will need:

  • 1 and 3/4 cup (200 gms) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, separated, whites beaten stiff
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 100 gm softened butter

For frosting :

  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp grated orange rind
  • 2-3 tbsp orange juice

What to do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease and line a muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla and cream together thoroughly.
  3. Mix flour and baking powder together in a separate mixing bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients – 1/3rd at a time, alternating with adding portions of orange juice to the creamed mixture.
  5. Then fold int he beaten egg whites.
  6. Spoon the batter into cupcakes till 1/2 full.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be careful to not over-bake.
  8. For making the frosting, mix all the ingredients together starting with 2 tablespoon of orange juice. If frosting is too thick add additional tablespoon on orange juice.
  9. Spread the frosting over the cooled cupcakes with a pastry bag or with a spoon.
  10. Decorate with orange rind.

cupcakes with frostingNotes :

  • I added a tiny bit of orange food color (just the tip of a knife) for the orange frosting. You can totally skip the added color. likewise I used fresh orange juice, you can use canned juice, but without added sugar. And these cupcakes taste delicious even without the frosting.
  • If using unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt to the frosting.