Dhaka Diaries: December is a time to take stock

There’s a nip in the air – the kind you feel in a hill station. I’m enjoying my morning walks in the neighbourhood park. The sun rises these days at around 6.00 a.m. and we leave the house at 6.20 a.m. The gates to the park are open at this time, but the guard on our side of the park arrives later. The coconut vendor who sits at the entrance comes at around 7 a.m. He keeps the stock of unsold coconuts under a tarpaulin sheet overnight – it makes me think that this place might just be safe or how else could he leave his ware unattended.

I enter the park – it has the morning smell of grass, leaves, and tree bark. The girls who clean the park aren’t in yet, which is a good thing because it means that I can walk without breathing in the cloud of dust they create when they sweep the walking and cycling path of dried leaves. There are others in the park – a few early risers like us. We pass by a group of four women whose heads and faces are covered. Their abayas flow around them in waves as they walk. The wind blows the dried leaves to the ground – they twirl gracefully like gymnasts and gently land on the ground. If they were participating in competitive sports, that landing would give them a 10 on 10. I feel the wind on my naked arms – it gives me goosebumps. It’s the beginning of winter. A squirrel scurries across. It’s different from the squirrels in India – it does not have the three white lines running down its back from its head to its tail. I remember a story I read as a child. Lord Ram had stroked the squirrel, and the three lines represent his fingers on its back.

I have been feeling a little lost the last few days. I don’t know if it’s got to do with this time of the year and the questions the December wind carries with it. I have been questioning my existence – ‘what is my purpose?’ I know it’s a little too early to feel like this. I haven’t even touched fifty. I wish I knew the secret to how people find meaning in their lives in their sixties, seventies and eighties and nineties. What is it that gets them out of bed? I have not felt this way before, and I never thought I would, considering there have always been so many things I’ve wanted to do in life. I wonder if I left my job too soon. But, if I hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to live as a family together. One of us had to step back so the other could move forward, and so we could continue enjoying the little things in life- the things I cherish, like having our evening tea together, going on our morning walks, and being there for dad when he needed me. It wouldn’t have been possible had I decided to stay on. I don’t regret my decision. And yet, there’s a feeling of unease, a sense of loneliness, the feeling of things coming to a halt, and of wondering what’s next?

I see six magpies congregate in the grass alongside the walking path and I think, ‘One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for letter and Six for,” I do not remember. I want to take a picture of them, but I haven’t carried my phone with me. I don’t carry it on my walks generally. I find it distracting. It keeps me from soaking in the present. The birds are nibbling on something on the ground – fallen seeds, worms.

Maybe I need to lay low for some time to hibernate. Isn’t that what winter is all about – take stock, rest, and get ready before spring sets in. Maybe I need to focus on just being. I have decided to continue my walks, do yoga, meditate, exercise – anything to keep going, and I hope this feeling of despondency will pass. Nature has always been my saviour. Maybe it’s time to take a lesson from the greatest teacher and slow down – not stop, but slow down and reassess life, focus on things and relationships that matter and let go of all that only burdens the soul. My baggage is far lighter now than it was four years ago – I have lost people I love, and some I’ve let go of because carrying them along did not serve any purpose except create an unnecessary, fake commitment. There is still a lot of unnecessary baggage I carry in the form of expectations from those who have never been there for me. My children say it must be some karmic connection or why else would someone like me not be able to see right through. Maybe they’re right. These days there’s a lot I learn from the children and yet, sometimes, all the wisdom in the world is not enough for the heart to accept.

It’s 7.00 a.m. now. A few children have come to the park. It’s Friday — the first day of the weekend here. The children are playing in the play area – the sound of laughter fills the air and mingles the chirping of birds. Not so long ago, we, too, made it a point to take the children to the park and watch them play. We ensured it despite our busy schedules and with no external help to raise the kids. That was the interim period when they were little, and mom had just passed; before dad arranged for a nanny for the kids. It was always ‘dad to the rescue.’ Perhaps, that is the gnawing emptiness I feel. Especially at this time of the year – because it is when he breathed his last. I miss them very much. I’m flooded with guilt. I need to stop thinking as a daughter – that part of my life is over. I need to be the mother my mother was – be there for the children when they call and pray they become independent and find their path. That is my purpose – to pray. For who else can pray for a child as much and as generously as a mother. I told my younger one this a few months ago when she was having her exams. I said, ‘that’s an orphan’s biggest loss- not having someone who will pray for them selflessly.’ The other day when we visited the temple and we took nine rounds around the Navagraha, she said, she’s been dedicating one round to orphans the world over. ‘For someone has to pray for them too,’ she said. I was surprised. And I realized I still had it in me to mould two beautiful minds. That was and is my purpose.

On the basketball court, girls are playing in one half of the court and boys in the other half. A small man in a sky blue t-shirt, white beard, ankle-length pants, and a skull cap passes me. His steps are small and constant. It’s faster than a walk but too slow to be called a jog. He reminds me of the tortoise in the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ story we read as children. I’m inspired to break into a slow jog. There’s a banner in the park on some reading happening. They’ve put colorful crepe paper up as decoration. It excites me. The words, ‘stories’, ‘reading’ and ‘park’ sounds magical. It’s nice to feel like this way again.

I want to feel excited about life and feel inspired to write, paint, travel, and look forward to each new day. I remember back in 2019, eight months after I left my job, I was excited about the myriad things that I could do with my time. It’s when I began painting. I would look at work by different artists and feel excited about the amount there was to learn – I felt one life just wasn’t enough. I remember feeling as I browsed through books in the library – so many books to read – where do I begin? And when we planned our holidays – so many destinations to choose from. I felt alive in every cell of my body.

However, over the last two months in Dhaka, that feeling had gotten replaced with, ‘Who cares if I paint or read or write?’ and ‘What am I doing this for anyway?’ I began feeling disconnected. Saying it seems unfair to those who love me – my sweet girls (who make me wonder every single day what I did right to get them), my husband (who is kind, patient and simply the sweetest man) and my younger sister (who is a call away). I hate feeling morose all the time. Then, I think if the planets have an impact on us, then why not the seasons? I am fighting autumn and the loss of loved ones. But if summer and spring have to come, then autumn and winter must too. It’s life.

Around the corner is a cute tea stall. It looks inviting but it’s closed. I suppose it opens only in the evenings.

My mantra this winter is to repeat to myself, ‘I am relevant.’ I have had to consciously remind myself that my parents didn’t stop living when they lost their parents, and my dad carried on even after losing mom. I have to remind myself that having a job, being married, or having children did not stop me from needing my mom and that dad’s presence made me feel secure even when he had become feeble. It’s not essential to be ‘doing’ something to feel needed. Sometimes, just being is all that matters. Who knew I, of all people, would need reminding or end up being at crossroads like this? But, then who really knows the future or the next moment even? It’s important to tell yourself that no matter what you will bounce back even if you find yourself all alone. We owe that to ourselves and to the beautiful gift of life God has given us.

It’s 7.30 a.m. I step out of the park to return home. The bread man is standing on the other side of the road – the door to his tin container that holds the stock of bread is open and ready for sale. A few meters away from him, a lady stands with a flask. She’s selling tea. I take a turn into the lane leading home.

I’m feeling better. I work best with plans and goals. That’s just who I am. I have decided to set daily reading and painting goals for myself. I realize I need to discipline and train my wild brain to do all the things I loved doing before I began feeling this way. It may take time but given all the odds, I’m confident of being better at trying than most people I know.

The fact that I’m writing this post today is that I may have found some clarity to this existential or mid-life crisis I find myself in.

A picture of the park in the afternoon during the storytelling session

It’s the fifth day since I began the ritual of painting, reading, and writing religiously. I have sent eight poems to 3 publications. I have heard in the affirmative from two of them. But it will be some time before it’s published as it’s the end of the year- the time to close books, celebrate the year gone, and re-energize oneself for the coming year. I finished another oil painting – my second one (which I’ll share in another post). I wasn’t too sure about it, but those who’ve seen it said they liked it. So it must be okay. I’ve started reading ‘The odd book of baby names.”” I hope to finish it by Christmas eve before we travel to India for the holidays.

I wish all of you a very happy, introspective December. In case you’ll have been feeling like me, don’t get disheartened. Take a step back and see your life from the periphery- where you are and where you’d like to be. That’s what December is all about. Take stock. Whatever you do, don’t stop believing in yourself. Like P.B. Shelley said, ‘ Oh Wind! If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Love to all of you

Smitha

23 responses to “Dhaka Diaries: December is a time to take stock”

  1. dgkaye Avatar

    Beautiful sharing of your thoughts and your heart Smitha. I feel for you. I know a lot of your journey and the disconnection and everything else. And despite my grief, I’m up alone now everyday, and it’s been writing and wonderful friends in our blogging community that keep me engaged, along with my own circles here but have dramatically shrunk after my loss. You hit it on the nail with this: “I have lost people I love, and some I’ve let go of because carrying them along did not serve any purpose except create an unnecessary, fake commitment.” Sounds like we are both contemplating what the universe has in store for us. Holiday hugs my friend. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Thank you, Debbie, for the warmth of your words. Nobody can understand as much as you. I know from your writing and posts on Fb how you feel, too. And I find you an inspiration. Although it’s only by way of words, I feel I know you ( it would have been nice if it had been possible to meet some blogger friends like you. Then, I wouldn’t ever need to complain about being alone or not being understood 🙂 ).
      I hope the universe helps both of us achieve our purpose in 2023, and I wish you happiness and contentment in the coming year. Holiday hugs to you, too, dear Debbie❤️🤗.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. dgkaye Avatar

        Aw Smitha, I am so with you. You in your new world and environment, and me here in my new solo environment, I’d imagine if we lived closer, we certainly would be great friends together. Thank you for your beautiful wishes. I do hope all the same things for you in the brand new year too. New beginnings for us both. Happy, Happy New Year my lovely. ❤ xx

        Like

  2. Cheryl, Gulf Coast Poet Avatar

    Oh, Smitha, I am sorry to hear that you have been feeling disconnected! You have had many recent changes: retirement, an empty nest, loss of parents, and moving to a new country. Hopefully, the trip to India will restore your spirits. Be gentle with yourself. I am confident that you will find renewed purpose and fulfillment. I look forward to seeing posts of your poems and paintings! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Hi Cheryl, Thank you for writing back. It has been tough, and I am doing everything I can to stop feeling low. I hope this schedule I’ve set myself works. If it does, then surviving in this country for the next few years shouldn’t be so bad. I’m fortunate to have this blogging world where I have made connections with good,caring people like you. I’m going to focus on the positives. Thank you for your comforting words. I value it very much and look forward to staying more connected via WordPress. Wishing you a lovely year-end, Cheryl, and thank you again for hearing me. Sending you a big hug from Dhaka❤️.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lynnfay73 Avatar

    oh and p.s. Like you, I think I’ll be moving forward. I’ve been asked to contribute a story or two to an anthology from writing in the Upper Peninsula on fishing. They “only want the best” so they are soliciting writers they like). That will help me get focused after the holidays. Congratulations on your poems. Everything is going as it should.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      I’m so happy for you,Lynn. It’s such a big thing to be asked by a journal you know is exceptional.
      Yes, everything is going as it should. XO

      Like

  4. Toonsarah Avatar

    I was pleased to get to the end of this post and find that you are starting to shape your own answers to the questions you pose. I am in my mid sixties (although by my next birthday I fear I’ll have to say late sixties!) And unlike you I don’t have children. What gets me out of bed? Partly habit, but mainly that I have things to do. I may have planned an outing with my husband (he no longer works either) to an exhibition, the cinema or simply for a walk and a coffee. I may be seeing friends, as I did today. I may be going to my exercise class. I may be doing some volunteer work (my husband founded a charity when he retired and I help him with that) Or I may simply plan to blog and catch up with more remote friends online. I plan holidays, plan and cook meals, shop. My days are busy so I have reason to get up. You are right, I feel, to focus on the things that bring you fulfilment such as painting, and enjoyment such as reading. And if there seem to be too few of those to fill your days, look for new things to inspire you – a new hobby, a new interest, something new you could learn like a language perhaps?

    Of course it’s easy to advise from afar and probably of only limited use, but those are my thoughts for what they’re worth!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Dear Sarah, Thank you for sharing what inspires you to get out of bed every day. I see it’s the sweet, simple things that make one happy – reading your comment makes me realize that I don’t need to overthink it and complicate life. This is how I envision and hope life to be once my husband stops working and we are in a place where we have friends. I think I need to focus on the good that’s come from the move and not think too much of ‘making friends’ here. It will happen when it has to. I will take up your advice and see if I can learn something new. That should keep me busy enough, and I always have blogging and all of you to talk to and bounce my ideas with 😊 when I need it. Thank you for being there, for replying. It means very, very much to me. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  5.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    Wonderful post. I could connect with it since you echoed the thought process I am undergoing these days. Keep writing to get over the hints of existential crisis. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Thank you, Uncle, for reading and writing back. I’m not sure if should say I’m glad the post resonated with you. I hope we get through it and can continue to inspire each other through our writing. Thank you for your warm wishes.

      Like

  6. rajkkhoja Avatar
    rajkkhoja

    Very nice interested you sharing your morning walk the neighborhood park. Beautiful photography. Very nice details of the park.
    You have to good knowledge & experience.
    Very nice you write your past memories. I like.
    God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Thank you for reading this and for your blessings. It is very kind of you. I’m very happy to know you enjoy my writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rajkkhoja Avatar
        rajkkhoja

        Thank you so much. Iam happy 😊

        Like

  7. Mick Canning Avatar

    Well, I’m in my mid-sixties and retired. What gets me out of bed in the morning? Writing, for a start. There are certainly times it doesn’t go to plan, but I plug away at it and occasionally manage something creative. Are you trying to finish writing projects or start new ones? Maybe a new home, a new experience, can lead to some creative writing in a new setting. So too with the painting. And I read a lot.

    Another good idea is to learn something new, whether it be a language or some other subject.

    And have a good December yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Hi Mick, I read your comment and thought I’d replied back. First, thank you for engaging in this conversation and sharing your experience and wisdom with me. You specifically asked about writing – I think one of the reasons that I’ve gone into this mode is probably because I’ve not heard from a publisher as yet on my book. Maybe unconsciously, it’s affected me more than I’ve allowed myself to believe. I have things I wish to write about but am unable to until I hear about that book.
      I’m going to take your advice and read more and learn something new. Thank you so very much🙏. I appreciate you taking the time to guide me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mick Canning Avatar

        I hope that works then, Smitha! Maybe it might also be worth thinking that whenever your finished book is published, you’ll then be embarking on a new writing project. Perhaps the book could then be put to one side awaiting a publisher while you take the first steps on some new writing?

        Like

  8. lynnfay73 Avatar

    I’m going to read this more carefully in the morning. Just commenting on you wondering about your purpose. I think– really– we go through that over and over and over in our lives and the problem is we have to keep reinventing ourselves as we age. I think it was in some ways worse when I was in my teens and twenties, and I hadn’t really settled on my path or distilled my dreams into the best choice.

    (I always wish I had three others lives or more so I could be that dancer, run a B& B, or a CSA coop farm, raise my horses longer than I did –take more philosophy–and not just be a writer. I had envisioned volunteering more but didn’t know I’d have a handicapped child to care for all my life. I “volunteer” full time. Or that I’d ever fancy myself a political activist (as a writer, it’s terrifying they are censoring us–something I never thought we’d see in America).

    Though I did some things I never thought I would: get a masters (MFA degree) and teach at the university level. Never would have believed that. Been a caretaker for my son and my dad. Never envisioned that.

    But I’m going through exactly the same thing. I will say it gets a bit harder for each decade simply because we know there is less in front of us and more behind. And you know how hard it is to adjust to the loss of a parent. But in your case–plenty ahead. You are away from home and that’s likely what’s doing it more than usual. How much longer are you in Dhaka?

    I’ll keep a good thought for you and read this closer over my morning coffee.

    XO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Thank you, Lynn, for such a thoughtful reply. I read your response in the morning and it’s now night here. I have been thinking of what you said about ‘reinventing ourselves as we age.’ I needed to hear that what I was going through was normal and that there was a way out of it. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your journey with me. Reading your comment felt like I was having a conversation with you.
      You’re right…it’s probably the place, not knowing anyone here and not being sure if I’ll meet likeminded people here. We’ll be here for another five years, so, I need to have a solid plan to make this work. There’s no running away :).
      You’ve done so much. Just reading all that you’ve done and how you’ve taken everything thrown at you in your stride, is inspiring. I feel grateful for this connection. Thank you for thinking of me. Much love to you.
      P.S. Will wait to read more from you when you’ve read my post with your morning coffee. Hugs.

      Like

      1. lynnfay73 Avatar

        This was just beautifully written. You are such a great writer. Your scenes just come to life and I am right there with you. That takes a lot of talent that can’t really be taught. It’s so synchronistic what you wrote because I hadn’t read this carefully and I was just about to write that as you age, you feel more “irrelevant.” Funny you used that word. But really maybe we were ALWAYS relevant and irrelevant all along. Why are we any less relevant? I think that is an illusion of youth that we were ever very relevant.

        And yes, it’s time to slow down. Emotional pain is just like physical pain. Just like you should move your hand from a hot griddle, you need to make some kind of change–physical or emotional. Yet the sorting time is important, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling ill at ease.

        And of course, you ARE relevant to your family and those who matter. As much as you ever were.

        I watched my dad shrink because he felt so useless. And I hope it was the Parkinson’s doing it because he sort of left me years before–he couldn’t accept what was happening to him emotionally and realize I still needed him that way. And he could have been there. He never asked me how I was or tried to be there for me because I think he thought he was completely “irrelevant.” I hope I don’t make that mistake. His mother never lost being there for us, but her illness wasn’t so prolonged, either.

        I really didn’t even get my masters and teach until I was your age, so you have lots of time.

        But you are right to wonder what gets older people like me out of bed in the morning and of course it’s FAITH. I write about faith a lot in my work because even if people don’t believe in a higher power, it’s faith that gets them to put one foot in front of the other, faith in each other and in some sort of plan in the world we can’t comprehend.

        I tend to feel just like you describe after the holidays. February and March are very hard for me as I sort what’s next. We used to get to warmer weather but with my dad ill (and now some financial issues) we haven’t done that in about four years. So I anticipate a few problems.

        But it is as it should be. All is as it should be.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Smitha V Avatar

          Lynn, hearing you say this about my writing is encouraging. I’m always doubtful of it as I have not majored in English. I graduated in Accounts and Business. So, thank you🙏. It’s huge, more so when it comes from someone who’s done her MFA and has been an academician. I’ve thought of studying further and moving into teaching, but I’m just not sure if I have it in me to go through the rigor of studying.
          I liked what you said about being ‘relevant’ and ‘irrelevant’ at the same time and that it’s really our perspective. I guess it’s about being useful. Like, you know, when I was working, I felt I was contributing to the family, or until now, I felt I was raising the girls – I had a responsibility. But, like you said, that responsibility doesn’t end. Your dad’s mother proved it.
          Thank you for taking the time to share all of this with me – your journey and the importance of having faith. I’m grateful for it and for you.
          I hope this Feb, March will be better for you, and the problems you anticipate will dissipate.
          Sending you early Christmas wishes, a big hug, and thank you for listening❤️.

          Like

          1. lynnfay73 Avatar

            Smitha, even though I taught as an adjunct for ten years, I’m more of a creative writer. I, too, had my first book published before I even finished my undergrad work! I was self- taught or had natural ability–just like you. I often think getting the degree was a mistake though I loved the students. You don’t need to do it to learn the craft, trust me. I ended up with lots of publications in many literary and national publications and two books–and none of it had to do with my degree. I had been published more than almost all my teachers. And only one contributed much. When you wrote about that hair appointment and your walk in the park, it was so real I was right there with you. And even though you’re a poet, you know not to clutter up your work sounding flowery and smart. All natural. If your goal is to teach, though, that might be worthwhile. I have students I still have contact with, and I think I made a difference in their lives. But the administration and dealing with that was frankly horrible. So there you go.

            Liked by 1 person

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