Trastevere

I recently returned from a trip to Italy where I spent time in Rome. One of the areas I visited while there was Trastevere where part of my novel, Not By Design, was set.

Not by Design

We cross the River Tiber and approach the archeological remains of rooms that were once baths made of black and white mosaics. My guidebook tells me that these were made in the first century AD. It’s hard for me to grasp that over two thousand years ago there was an entire civilization living on the ground I am standing on.

We are walking along the delightful district of Trastevere.  In Trastevere one will get glimpses of the “real” Rome. Marco and I have been here many times. To eat in their famous restaurant area, go to the theatre, the cinema or just mingle with the Romans in clubs and bars. Today our mission is different. We are visiting the church Bridget reserved for our wedding.
Marco and I are holding hands as we pass by boutiques offering handcrafted wares and clothing stores with magnificent styles.

As we approach Piazza Santa Maria with its spectacular fountain I stop to take in the church in front of us. It is a stunning Medieval church. Its façade glows with its series of faded mosaics honoring the Virgin Mary. I can’t think of a more romantic setting for our wedding. Even before entering the church I know that it is perfect. Except for one thing. “I can’t believe that my father won’t be here to walk me down the aisle,” I say.

 

Travestere (2)

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Sincere Condolences

I have known one person who died from the Covid-19 virus. Her name was Doris and she was 86. I regularly visited her with my dog, Bau, through the Caring Paws Animal Therapy Association.

Bau and Doris had a special bond. As a patient who suffered from Alzheimer, Doris had lost much of her ability to verbally communicate. However, with Bau she tended to speak more and became joyful. Her sad mood lifted and Bau was always excited to see her. This is what animal therapy can do.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Millions of people have died from this virus and millions more have had their  souls and hearts ripped apart because of loved ones suddenly gone.

When my mother died I wrote Don’t Bring me Flowers, an essay which is in the Mourning Has Broken collection. In the weeks which followed my sister’s death, an urge to write an essay about her also emerged . It was at page eighty that I realized the essay had flown off on its own and that I’d given myself this mission: for one year I would write about mourning as I went about my life collecting memories as  myriads of emotions assailed me.

Through it all, I explored the meaning of life and the changes of my own beliefs, taking me through a journey of sorrow, guilt, regret, joy and hope.

 

Composite-Cover

Available as e-book and as paperback

With sincere condolences to all those who have lost a loved one through Covid-19 or otherwise. May your memories of your loved one comfort you.

 

Golf Traps

Sand trap

On Wednesday, it was Canada Day and I went golfing with my brother. Some Canadian Geese decided to show up to mark the occasion and add to the sand and water traps. Dreadful obstacles.

The geese seemed to have more confidence that I did about airing my shot over them. They were perfectly oblivious to my presence.

I, on the otherhand, had little confidence. I picked up my ball and called it a good Canada Day.

Happy 4th of July to all my American blogger friends

 

 

Bau: I Need A Haircut

 

Haircut

This is my Covid-19 Hairdo. It’s a mess, I know, and I can hardly see. I’m just grateful for my exceptional sense of smell!

A dog’s sense of smell is its most powerful sense…It is so sensitive that [dogs can] detect the equivalent of a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

You can read more about my amazing sense of smell HERE.

My India: Juhu Beach

The photos in this post were taken in Juhu Beach, an upscale neighbourhood of Mumbai.  Juhu beach is also a preferred destination among filmmakers for the shooting of a lot of Bollywood films and therefore home to many Bollywood celebrities.

The area surrounding the Juhu beach is home to the houses of some of the most popular Bollywood celebrities including Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Ashit Lathia, Anu Malik, Mahesh Bhatt, Alia Bhatt, Anil Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Dharmendra, Bobby Deol, Sunny Deol, Hrithik Roshan, Anupam Kher, Shakti Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, and Varun Dhawan among a lot of others. It’s the same reason why Juhu is often referred to as the Beverly Hills of Bollywood.

In: Times of India. 

Not knowing any of these film celebrities, I was content to sit in the lobby of the hotel, either sipping tea or a beer and reading The Times of India and The Mumbai Mirror.

I was so exhausted from the stimulation of India that all I wished to do was absorb where I was. The only roaming around I did was in the area where I was staying.

Off Tara Road in Juhu Beach

market

A typical alleyway

Juno beach

Entrance to a Jain community

Jains community

According to Wikipedia :

  • Jainism is perhaps one of the most ancient religious traditions of not just India but the world.
  • Jainism is the only religion wherein all followers, both monks and practicing lay persons of all sects and traditions, are required to be vegetarian.
  • Jains have been an important presence in Indian culture, contributing to Indian philosophy, art, architecture, sciences, and the politics of Mahatma Gandhi, which led to Indian independence.
  • Mahatma Gandhi took many walks at Juhu Beach.

The beach is also famous for many Mahatma Gandhi walks as a protest during independence struggle.

There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.

 

Juhu Beach

This is the end of My India posts.

Thank you for sharing your precious time with me.

 

 

 

 

Why I Wear A Mask

why I wear a mask

In a few weeks I will turn 70, which places me in a vulnerable age group for being infected with the Covid-19 virus. Also, I have a blood disorder.
A recent Bloomberg article listed blood clots as a symptom of Covid-19.

Blood — fever and inflammation may disrupt blood vessels, rendering blood cells more prone to clumping while interfering with the body’s ability to dissolve clots. That may trigger a clotting cascade that can lead to blood-vessel blockages in tissues and organs throughout the body. Life-threatening clots in the arteries of the lung, known as pulmonary emboli, may occur even after symptoms of the infection have resolved. Damaged blood vessels may become leaky and prone to bleeding. In children, inflammation of veins and arteries triggered by excessive immune activation may cause an illness similar to Kawasaki disease, an inflammatory disorder.
Masks are not meant to protect you – the person wearing it – but to protect others you may come in contact with. Since this virus can be asymptomatic, I consider wearing a mask a sign of respect and civic duty.
Do masks keep the virus from leaking out of one’s mouth? Not completely. If you are wearing a mask your particles can still reach me but there are less of them. Dr. Yuen Kwok-Yung, a microbiologist doctor at Hong Kong University, conducted an empirical research study which showed that the rate of transmission through respiratory droplets or airborne particles dropped by 75% by using masks (May, 2020).

What a mask does is that it decreases the momentum of the virus in the air. If I come in contact with someone wearing a mask the virus in the air decreases by 50%. That’s pretty significant.  And if everybody wore masks (because we now know that the virus can be asymptomatic) the chances of the virus in the air decreases by 80%.
Check out Dr. Yuen Kwok-Yung’s study on this video.

There are some who advocate not wearing a mask, nor confinement, nor social distancing so that we all can get the disease and therefore, we all can be immune to it. This approach presumes that everyone is healthy and no one has underlying health problems. One of my niece’s grandson has Kawasaki disease and in the past was hospitalized because of it. What would happen to him if he got the Covid-19? What would happen to me? Would I get only a little cold? What would happen to all those with heart conditions?
Another issue with this “lets all get the disease” is the capacity of our hospitals to be able to handle when everybody gets sick at the same time, thus spiking up the curve. Already as of May 22, 2020 , Medscape’s Corona Virus Resource Center lists healthcare workers who have already died from this virus. This list includes more than 1000 names from 64 countries. The youngest is 20, the eldest 99.
Go ahead, have a look at this list. These are real people. Someone’s mother, child, father, husband, wife, best friend.

Do we really need to overburden the health care system by overloading it? Flattening the curve is the main reason for these measures- which wearing a mask is one of them.
Of course, wearing a mask is not a full proof protection. You still have to use other precautions such as good hand hygiene, not touching your face and keeping social distancing.

I live on a beautiful and spacious island by the St Laurence seaway and when I go out to walk my dog, I don’t wear a mask and make sure to get fresh air into my lungs. Nor do I wear a mask when I am alone in my car driving.
But I do wear a mask when I go to the grocery store, the drugstore or even when picking up my coffee at Starbuck’s and any other place where there are people around. The person serving me wears a mask to protect me. It is only common curtesy, I feel, for me to also protect her or him.
I realize that there are those who will disagree with me and think that wearing a mask is a joke. If I got infected with this disease because you did not believe in wearing a mask I would not be laughing.


Finally, some people may find that wearing a mask is unattractive. My friend, Lomer, made me a few, including the one I’m wearing on this post. It has two layers of cotton separated by mesh. I like wearing it because it’s pretty and hides my wrinkles! 😊

My India: Varanasi

Let me begin by apologizing for not responding sooner to all your warm and encouraging comments on my India series.  For some inexplicable reason, WordPress did not show your comments. Then, I discovered that all your comments were pending! Sorry.

Now, on to Varanasi, which was the most fascinating of all the places I visited in India.

Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, is situated along the sacred Gange River. It is here that the Hindus come to bathe in the holy water and to cleanse their sins.

Varanasi Gange

As one approaches the river, the streets are lined for blocks with men and women amidst roaming cows, motorbikes, cars, rickshaws, pilgrims and tourists. I cannot imagine how social distancing can ever occur here. People are crammed as they are, practically on top of each other. It is extreme chaos. And, yet, amidst all of this there is an intense spiritual mood as they make they their way to the banks of the river for the evening Aarti. Aarti is a Hindu spiritual fire ritual performed by Brahmin disciples to honor the holy river, Gods and deities.

Every evening, seven Brahmin disciples, using lamps, incense and chants face the river as they worship the goddess, Mother Gange.

aarti

Further down the river is where cremations take place. There can be as many as a hundred cremations a day. Mourners line up for their turn to dip the body shrouded in cloths and on stretchers into the Gange. The principle griever, dressed in white,   registers the body and picks up the wood necessary for the cremation. This dipping of the deceased in the Gange and then purified by fire and throwing the ashes into the river is meant to liberate the body from the cycle of life and death and thus move on to a higher plane of being.

Varanasi burials

Sunset on the Holy Ganges

Varanassi moon

What would India be without its sacred cow

sacred cow

Cows are considered sacred by Hindus in India. They were the favorite animal of Lord Krishna, and they serve as a symbol of wealth, strength, and abundance.

 

My India: Agra

The car ride from Rishikesh to Agra took us through some of the poorest parts of India. It was about a ten hour drive going through one village after another which looked pretty much the same.

towards agra

And then there was the magnificent Taj Mahal- one of the Wonders of the World – a Mughal architecture which combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian styles of buildings.

This ivory-white marble mausoleum was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to her fourteenth child. It was built by the Shah after Mumtaz’ death in 1651 as an expression of eternal love for his favorite queen.

taj

When the Shah met Mumtaz Mahal it was love at first sight. The name Taj, meaning “crown” is of Hindi and Sanskrit origin. Mahal, meaning “love” is of Japanese origin. Thus, one can say that The Taj Mahal is the crowning symbol of love.

 

 

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My India: Rishikesh

Leaving South India and landing in the north is like being in a different country. While Southern India is much like a touristy-vacation spot, North India is what I have always imagined India to be and more, and why, as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to travel here.

Rishikesh

The first stop was Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world. There is a yoga studio almost every block offering different styles of practice. Although many offer teacher training courses and retreats most welcome drop in classes.

Yoga rishikesh

Rishikesh is along the Holy Ganges River at the bottom of the Great Himalayas mountain chain.

Hymalas with snow

The water in the Ganges here is sparkling clear. Certainly not at all like what I had heard and read about the Ganges.

Gange

It was here in Rishikesh that I had the fortunate experience of staying at the Yoga Nikitan Ashram (a stark room with only a cold shower, no heat – in February the temperature was still cold- a bed without sheets and a blanket under which I slept with my jacket on). The ashtanga yoga classes (based on Patanjali yoga philosophy), given by swamis or gurus (I’m not sure), were some of the toughest I’ve had, but also some of the most satisfying and spiritually nourishing.

While I was here Jivasu, the founder of the Naturality Movement was giving a workshop on A Natural Path of Awakening.

If you follow others, you will miss yourself.   

Although I was not registered for the Naturality workshop and was leaving Rishikesh the day after Dr. Jivasu had arrived I was privileged to be able to attend his opening session and only wished that I could have stayed for the entire workshop.

jivasu-pradeep-kumar

 

Naturality is a process of accepting life in its totality, which encompasses fear and stillness, sorrow and joy, turmoil and peace. It is an effort to know one’s own nature and the nature of the external world, two sides of the same reality, rather than following a system or a teacher.

 

 

“The most beautiful book to read is the book of our life”
– Jivasu  

My India: Pondicherry

This pretty French influenced city is located along the south-east coast of India on the Bay of Bengal. Its architecture is cheerful and colorful.

Pondi pretty house

Kolam art is very popular in Pondicherry. A kolam is drawn with white rice powder every morning in doorway entrances in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi (Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune) and to bring harmony and joy into the house.

Pondi Happiness

 

The black stones are a feature of the beach.

 

Pondicherry Beach

In the evenings people dress up to walk along the Seaside Promenade. It is a beautiful site to see the women in their colorful saris. In the afternoons it is deserted under a hot Greek-like blue sky.

Pondi boardwalk

Sri Aurobindo Ashram is in Pondicherry and it is here really where my spiritual quest took a leap forward. No photographs are permitted inside the Aurobindo Ashram. Having taken off my sandals I stepped into a beautiful garden overflowing with flowers.  People sat in a circle and meditated. I felt like I was touching the spiritual heart of India.

aurobindo ashram