The past continuous is a curious tense in English. I was walking down the road ... for example ... says neither this nor that about the who, why, or wherefore of the act of walking. And yet, it is a complete sentence. The past is, in a way, a completed sentence in the book of life. And yet, it is incomplete without a look at it from the present, or a cast-out of a line into the future, much as a fisherman (or fisher-woman, if you will, in this politically correct age) does.
When I look back at what I left behind when I climbed onto a flight that took me from Mumbai to Delhi, and then, from Delhi to Saudi Arabia, approximately 1389 days ago, I realise that most of the things I left behind are still here for me to pick up and move on, after a brief look at what it is. I have lost some significant things, though. Let me see ...
Ah, here's a thread with the names of my patients. Some of them are still in touch with me, though few, if any, actually call me to ask about the care of their sick children. They are now friends on social media, or email me with some of their own stuff. For example, one avid patient emails me almost every week to ask me to sign some petition or the other. Another one, clearly a doting father, keeps sending me fresh photographs of his child every few months. Yet another one wants me to come back to India forever ... but without a clear agenda for me to follow. These patients, all of them, whether they are in touch with me or not, are my most favoured lot. I miss the smiles of the kids and the satisfaction on the face of the parents. I miss the camaraderie I shared with them in the past. I am sure many of those patients are now grown up and do not even need a pediatrician in their day-to-day illnesses.
What's this, here? Oh ... it is the thread that signifies my family. There are a lot of knots on this one, and a couple of frayed pieces. My father passed away in October 2012, just a week before I was to appear for the first of the three parts of the UK-based MRCPCH examinations. I did not know what to do, because I had already invested so much time in studies. I decided to fly back to India AFTER completing my exams, and so, I did that and missed Dad's ziyarat by a few days.
Mom is reasonably well. She turned 82 a few weeks ago. Living frugally, she has kept all her illnessess in good control. Her companion, Sakinabai, continues to stay with her.
Inas is now a senior hair-stylist in a unisex salon (Juice) in Mumbai. She is very happy with her progress. As a make-up artist, she is part of the Juice's outreach team that goes to dress up the rich and the famous for social events.
Hannah completed her BMS, and is currently studying the GMAT in preparation for further studies abroad (read United States of America). She is quite ambitious and hard-working, and I see her as the best person from our family to go and study abroad.
Nishrin continues to work out of her salon as proprietor and main beautician-cum-hair stylist. She feels, though, that her best years are behind her and she will need a little change in her life-style to find a meaning to the coming years.
Next, I am about to pick up this thread signifying my finances. Of course, they have improved! I became debt-free within a year, and was able to finance several new projects for my family. We went abroad once - to Singapore and Malaysia - in January 2014; we also did several Indian holidays - to Himachal Pradesh, to Sikkim, to Rajasthan ... and a few smaller ones, such as the one to Matheran. We renovated our house in 2014. I increased my exposure in the stock and mutual funds market, and although not all of those investments have multiplied much, I am now more comfortable investing in those markets than I was, say, 5 years before.
What else has happened? Mumbai has grown more vertically; prices have spiralled up; the Modi sarkar has achieved little in their first year in office; Rahul Gandhi has been universally ridiculed; Salman Khan remains single; the Hindutva brigade has succeeded in causing some anguish among Muslims and other minorities in some parts of India - witness the ban on cow slaughter in several states of India, and the rearing up of the Morality brigade; rains have played the truancy game again, and Mumbai is reeling under a 15% water cut; onions are the chief item of discussion on Whatsapp, now in second place only due to Indrani Mukherjea - the socialite who is suspected to have murdered her own daughter by a previous marriage; and, to end this partial list, today was the first Janmasthami in more than 50 years of my conscious existence, when I did not see a single dahi-handi being broken by the govindas on the streets in Mumbai!
These, then, are some of the threads I have picked up. A lot more need to be looked at. My faiji (father's sister, Zehrabai Attarwala) passed away a few days ago, and today, I visited her sons at their Marol residence to condole her death. It was a good visit, as I stayed with them for over two hours. Shabbir, the elder son, who has managed both her parents' illnesses over the last several years, is clearly very sad; Yusuf, my age-mate, school-mate, friend and cousin, stays in the U.S., but is here until tonight. I had lunch with both of them, after which I returned to my own place by half-past four in the evening.
I have yet to contact so many of my relatives and friends, and over the next few days, my official and unofficial work is all set to zoom high ... so, please excuse me if I do not blog.
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