The Life Lived by Preeti Negi: Book Review

Title: The Life Lived… Memories of an Ordinary

Author: Preeti Negi

Genre: Memoir

The Life Lived is a lovely memoir, a collage of memories from various stages of the author’s life. The simplicity and the candid emotions are touching and the incidents are very relatable.

Review

The Life Lived is a collection of true stories from the author’s life, arranged alphabetically through A-Z. These memories range from her childhood, spanning her adolescence, young adulthood and her recent past.

The stories are very interesting; some are quite unexpected and others made me think of similar things happening to me.

I fell in love with farmhouses and secret places in Attic Raiders. Birthday on My Own showcases a child’s vulnerability. Reading of Preeti’s friends, I almost started missing my own circle. There are mentions of sibling love and rivalry. I also enjoyed reading about the festivals and the celebrations.

The places are brought alive in the book, be it her hometown or her maternal grandparents’ farmhouse or her paternal grandparents’ house in the hills. There are places that she has traveled to. I really enjoyed reading about the Kedarnath Yatra in Om Namah Shivaya.

Questions that I Never Asked made me think of all the times I have been at that kind of crossroads. I also loved the Tiny Tales of the ‘Baby Lions’. The Youngest Memories made me cast around in my own mind for mine.

What Works Well

The cover art is very good and quite suited to the content of the book.

Preeti’s writing style is very clear and she has a knack of bringing situations and incidents to life for the reader. The emotions are so candid that I felt an instant connection with her memories. There is also a thread of hilarity in many of the situations which made me enjoy reading about the incidents.

The best part is that the book is a bunch of stories, that you need not read alphabetically or in a sequence (even though I did go chronologically). Read the first few chapters and you can ease into her life, the main people and the flavour of her childhood and adolescence.

By the time I finished reading the book, I felt that I had known Preeti for a long time, such was the relatability of the book.

About the Author

Preeti Negi belongs to the beautiful state of Uttaranchal, India. Born and brought up in a small town of Uttar Pradesh, she discovered her love for books at an early age. Her love for reading enhanced her day-dreaming habit and she eventually started weaving stories in her own virtual world.

She can be found occasionally tweeting @preetispanorama or visiting her page
on Facebook. You can definitely catch her at Preeti’s Panorama.

Verdict

A collection of memories, some sweet, some tangy, making up a life lived fully. Read this well written memoir to relive your own memories.

Buy The Life Lived…Memories of an Ordinary from Amazon.

5 Ways to Bid Adieu

Bidding farewell is always hard, unless you are longing to move on from your present circumstances. Usually, the pull of ‘status quo’ is too strong and all we wish is to stay where we are, with people we are used to and with our routines that we have stuck to.
It has happened to me often that I have had to bid adieu to places. For all of my childhood and much of my adulthood, I have hopped from one place to another and in the process had a rich life of new experiences, different cultures and mind expanding circumstances. I am ready to move on, to adapt, to see the new, to view the different all because of the valuable experiences that change brings.

 
Due to a quirk of fate, the past few years saw me moving less and less. Although, I was always ready to leave, one foot in the door, always looking at what lay beyond, I had started putting down roots. But life is nothing but a movement and there is a time when we have to move on.
Even though it is painful to go from places that we invest so much in, it is also important to say goodbyes completely so that we can look back after a few years and remember only the good.
In the process of moving on, here are the things I wish we can do for peace. 

One
, say goodbye to the people that have mattered. Deep and close relationships are the bedrock of a stable and fulfilling life. Even though the world is networked as never before and talking to someone is as easy as the push of the ‘call’ button on the phone, yet to cease sharing the most insignificant details of your life with someone and let the frequent belly laughs subside because you no longer go through the same days can feel bad. So, acknowledge that this is going to happen and that your relationship is going to change. Say thank you to all those who have shared your world. And pledge to stay in touch and have a deeper relationship that defies distance.

Two
, say goodbye to the places as well. It may seem weird but we are as attached to the places we visit frequently. So, say goodbye to the parks you frequent, the restaurants you loved eating in, the theatres and the art galleries you have lingered in and the bends in the road that give you the first glimpse of your favourite landmark.

Three
, take memories with you. Of course, you have been making memories all along. Now, just gather them in your camera, in your scrapbook and as souvenirs. For you and your new friends.

Four
, plan to come back. Never say never. Life, with its unexpected twists and surprises may just bring you back. It has happened to me and with very pleasant results.

Five
, stay Grateful. Say good bye and at the same time, stay grateful for the wonderful memories and the learning. You were meant to be here and you were meant to move on. It is all a part of the Universe’s grandiose plan for you.
I just wish that this time I am ready to let go with grace and love. 

Dear Reader, tell me of the times that you have had to say goodbye to the things that mattered. Tell me how you managed. Tell me how to be accepting and graceful. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 


Places that we inhabit 

Image courtsey: jimleggitt.typepad.com

My life has been divided by ‘places‘. There are stages or phases in our lives. And we measure life in terms of age. I do all this; only I do it as the places I have lived at, the places I have loved and the places that have challenged me to grow. 
Each place has a different memory. My earliest memory is of the sea, the sand in my toes and my hair; the brittleness of the wind and the shaded yet hot verandah of the house we lived in. 

The other childhood home in another city reminds me of the butterflies chased in the hot noons when the adults were taking a siesta. I remember the cool baths by the tap and plastic pouches that doubled as water carriers. 

The longest I have lived at a place has been the small town and the big house of my adolescence. The house was rambling and it allowed my imagination to wander in the huge grounds and the lawns, behind the trees and the bushes, in the sand pits and the annexe that was my personal paradise. 

Moving to a new town with a completely different character was disorienting after the lyrical paradise and it helped me find my wings. The red letterbox was the tenuous link that connected me to my friends and the shower of letters and cards in the driveway brought much joy as I ran from the terrace down the stairs in sheer delight. 

As I grew older, the places were painted in the colours of my emotions. I struggled for peer acceptance and for the cool quotient. I plodded along, trying to do better in everything and failing miserably. I picked myself up and found new horizons. I found people and I lost them and in the process lost many bits of my own self. Years later, I would be here again and the struggles would be different and the disappointments hardening into something unpalatable. 

There are times and places in life that come around to challenge and teach and help you stretch yourself. Then, there are places that are a balm to the soul. Life may be difficult and life may be giving you lemons but for every trouble, there is an antidote. These are the places that bouy the spirit, that help you take the next step and the next till you are striding away at your own pace. 

I have been fortunate to find many such places that healed me and gave me new hope.

I  have also come back to these places years later, to visit and to muse on them. I have come back to them so as to spend longer periods, making my home there once again. But, the coming again seems awkward and the connection seems lost. The impressions of the places in the mind seem false, garishly colored as if by a child with a vivid imagination. I take a long time to rekindle the familiarity and the love. 

Yet, the places I have been to have defined me and in bits and pieces made me what I am. Through a coming together of the elements of space, weather and people, the places I have lived at have shaped me. 

The Virtual Coffee Date

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you how writing is on my mind these days. I would tell you of that November long gone by when I did nothing but write in the days and late into the nights and how that outpouring was one of the most fulfilling experiences I had. 

I would tell you how much I had cherished that sense of fulfillment and how that ultimately led to my attempting to write again with abandon. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you how sometimes the days look bleak and the weather hostile. I would tell you how the very hot days have mellowed into an autumnal coolness, the days stepping shyly into winter. I would tell you of the crunch of leaves under my feet as I walk along the tree lined roads. I would tell you how the trees shedding their leaves are making me think of bare branches and harsh silhouettes. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you of my quest for the perfectly brewed cup. I would tell you how I step into coffee shops only for the aroma of the freshly roasted coffee beans and bread. I would tell you how much I like fresh baked bread. 

I would tell you how I dream of bread loaves, unleavened which I can cut into thick slices and serve with a strong cheese. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you about the power of a paradigm shift. I would tell you of the little moments when I experienced that shift and the big changes they brought about. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you how loss in our lives catches us unawares. I would tell you that at times it feels that the pain would never go away but it dulls with time and the hurt turns to bitter sweet feelings as regrets mingle with memories. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would talk of the books I have been reading these days. I would tell you of the different worlds that I am exploring in the pages and the myriad emotions there that leave an indelible mark. I would tell you of my disappointment of not holding the books in my hands when I read from the screen and unable to smell them and I would tell you of the wonder of books that enthrall so much that I forget about the sensory pleasure of holding a book in my hands. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you of my delight at having discovered mindful moments in my day to day life. I would tell you how these perfect moments seem frozen in time and memories and how writing about them is akin to writing poetry. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you how connecting with long lost friends makes time stop. I would tell you of how the past and the present come together to coalesce when you are with the person who knows you inside out and for ages. 

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you how much I like these virtual coffee dates where I feel like I am talking to a lot of my former and future selves. 

On Writing

Ever since I started blogging, there are a few questions that I ask myself periodically. 

Why am I here? Who am I? Why do I blog? 

I am here in search of beauty. I am here to carve out sentences and memories from words and impressions. When I see a bend in the road, or think back to the desolate man by the road side, and remember the colours of the ice cream cones I once had; I want to turn them into tactile and sensual experiences so that I do not ever lose sight of them. 

I write because I also want to forget. I write to get rid of the demons, of the impressions and the words I have gathered in my mind for a long long time. 

I put them down on paper, color them and sometimes even embellish them. I live those experiences again, this time slowly and deeply, feeling all that I missed in the rush of that moment. It is like picking up a favourite book again. I turn the pages of that book, run my fingers on the spine, thinking back of times gone by. Between the pages I stumble upon words and scenes I had lived before and I delight in them anew. When I write, it is like reading the book of life again; I go through it again to lay the memories to rest – having lived them fully and now only to be visited when I want to. 

I have lived an ordinary life. But it is the awareness of bringing in my viewpoint to all that has happened or is happening that prompts me to take up my pen or stylus. 

I wtite / blog for a validation. That validation is from my self, for the ability to put down in words, my impressions, my dreams and my aspirations. The turn of the tide, the silence of the reflected moon in the still waters of the lake, the whisper of the fronds; they are all a part of me. The immeasurably deep valley and the deceptively shallow brook, the curve of the grassy knoll and the trees as tall as the neck can crane are what fill my mind. 

I write for self expression. I write because I have to ‘be’. I write for my creativity to manifest itself as words. I write in order that I be a writer. 

And I want to write with a method to the madness of putting words on paper. I want to write of those who have walked with me on my journeys. I want to write of the bits and pieces that make up the whole me. I want to write and be consumed by the worlds I create; I want to write of the longing that my soul has never felt. I want to touch the despair of misery and the crest of happiness. I want to write, create and then live that world. I want to escape in that make believe world for a moment. I want to step into others’ stories feeling that I am part of the whole. I want to feel being a part of the mankind. I want to find the similarities and the differences between myself and others. 

I want to write for meditation and spirituality. I want to reach out and understand the universality of the human experience. I do hope and pray that my reasons for writing change over time but my pace does not. 

I do this exercise time and again: of asking myself why is it that I write. What I say each time surprises my rational self and the changing replies assure me that I am growing. 

Please share your reasons for writing and blogging. Let’s start a conversation. 

Some Coffee? 

If we were having coffee… I would exclaim at your changed appearance. I would notice that now you wear your hair longer and your dresses shorter. Your pudgy hands would be clammy still and you would rock back and forth in your chair in intense concentration, losing yourself in the conversation we should have had so many times in these years but somehow never got around to having. 

I would smile secretly at your tinkling laughter, reminding me of the little temple bells that ring every evening all over ‘your’ town. It is a town that you refused to acknowledge, drowning in the imagined shame of being a small town girl. Yet it has been something that defined you even in your refusal and casting away of your essential identity. 

If we were having coffee… I would listen to your stories in your low throaty voice that I have always adored. I would not want to interrupt you while filling your coffee cup unobstrusively, taking care of the milk and the sugar. I would know exactly how you like your coffee for we have shared a cup many times before. 

I would remind you of the cold mornings when we huddled together, bleary eyed over our lukewarm coffee, trying to clear our minds and gear up for the recommended reading for the week. 

You would wonder however how my coffee was now much stronger than I used to like . 

If we were having coffee… You would tell me all about your family. You would tell me of the holi celebrations back at your brother’s place where you go wild playing with colour. You would tell me of your midnight snacks of bread and crunchy bhujia as you watched mindless tv. 

I would remind you of the impromptu parties we would have back when we were living in that ship shaped building, our rooms separated by a narrow corridor that was the scene of so many whispered conversations. 

If we were having coffee… I would tell you how little I have been shopping for myself these days. You would not be very surprised for I have always struggled with it. You would remind me of the all black outfit that I bought for the party. We would talk of the time we went traipising though the narrow by lanes of the old city to the impossibly compact clothed shop, hunting for something that was eye catching. You would laugh at the way I was always wearing black and ask me why I had started leaning towards pastels in my wardrobe. 

If we were having coffee… I would ask you hesitantly if you wanted something to eat. I would listen to you carefully just to gauge if it were the right time to unburden myself. 

I would apologize to you for not replying to your letter to me that you had sent right after I moved away. I would tell you of the blue inland letter envelope that I still had tucked in the pages of my book. I would tell you that I do not read that book now, do not flip through its pages incessantly and absentmindedly. I do not turn to it for comfort. Yet, I would tell you that the book is part of the memory of a great phase of my life. 

I would tell you, in little words and through contrite pauses, of the anger I had held onto for so long. I would hint at the perceived wrongs and my furious response . I would tell you that how I had never intended to reply to the letter. I would also tell you that with time our perceptions change and some introspection is all that is needed to bring purity back to our hearts. 

You would wonder at how long I had held on to the hurt. You would then hold my hand and murmur that it does not matter really, in the long run. 

If we were having coffee… You would smile kindly at me and take out the brightly coloured hand made paper folder from your bag and hand it to me. I would gf out my hand happily for this would match the papier mache boxes you had bought for me many years ago. 

You would be delighted when I tell you that they have graced my cabinet for all these years reminding me of her and the future that was yet to be. 

If we were having coffee… We would promise to meet up once in a while for coffee, a lot more frequently. 

Small Stones (5)- Memories

The whiff of cool winter mornings

the rasp of a scratchy scarf

sunlight dancing on the leaves

delighted squeals

bittersweet beginnings

explode in memories

when I look at the frame on the wall 
What are small stones?

A small stone is a short piece of writing (any style) that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment for you. The process of discovering small stones is as significant as the finished creation. Searching for small stones encourages you to keep your senses on the “alive and alert” status. Involve yourself with a new set of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, fingers, feelings and mind. This is Mindful Writing at its best.

Let us Walk

image

If I could take you with me for a walk, I would take you to places that have mattered to me. All I have liked to do here in this town is to walk and to explore. I remember the energetic morning walks of my childhood with my dad who has been an avid walker. The air would be cool and quite a respite from the sweltering heat that swept the north Indian plains for much of the year. We walked in the deserted lanes which would soon be bustling with cycles, scooters, rickshaws and school goers. When we were lucky enough to live in the vicinity of parks, we would walk there, moving along at a brisk pace, walking the length many times.

We walked this way in each town we lived. When I went my way in the world after my studies, I continued to walk the places I now lived with friends. In times of crisis, it was the only way to keep sane. I walked miles, covered familiar and unfamiliar neighbourhoods, walked to the vibrant vegetable markets, walked through lively trimmed parks and superbly kept suburban streets.

There are days when I walk with a friend and catch up on all that is happening and the only way to do this is not in a stuffy restaurant, over stale buns and tea but in the cool, fresh air where nature’s vibrance brings alive the music in our hearts. We talk as we make our way back to our homes.

I also walk alone. I take in the sights and the smells, look at the trees shedding their leaves that slowly flutter down in the breeze and at the wild, blooming marigolds on the hill slopes. I hear the birds, the rustle of the wind in the trees and the temple bells.

And now, I would like to walk with you. I want you to see the bush where I first saw the lilies and the little kitten mewing. I want you to stand on the edge of the forest and hear the wind blow so hard that it sounds like a river rushing by. I want you to see the jagged ends of the houses teethering on the uneven hill slopes, the sun making the shadows dance. I want you to see the geometric poetry of the lodges with an old world charm. I want you to see the shuttered up windows of houses that are long abandoned. I want to walk with you to the fringe of the market where the porters bear the goods on bent backs and walk like mules. I want to climb the dated, pitted staircases with you, shadowed by the overhanging balconies of the buildings that had seen better times. I want you to hear the church bells chime competing with the psychedelic music from the new shops. I want to take you to the old book stores where time seems to stand still in the musty odour. I want to walk down with you to the ice cream parlour where the cool refreshment is accompanied by a hot discussion on the spiritual legacy of the patron.

Through these walks, I want you to see the place with my eyes. Maybe we can walk together often.

A train of thought

Thinking of my countless train journeys, in my mind’s eye, I see a kaleidoscope of memories, of people I met and the places I saw, of the undeniable beauty that unfolded mile after mile, of the shouts and cacophony of railway stations and the silence of the nights, and the looking out of the windows through unseen eyes.

Recalling, I can almost feel the cool breeze when we are near streams and rivers, the wheels thundering over the bridge and I can think back vividly of the unbearably hot afternoons and the landscape broken occasionally by the lone tree. I remember the verdant meadows and the delicate yellow mustard in the fields. I can only imagine the swish of the golden sheaves of wheat as they sway in the wind, the clatter of the train drowning out the gentle sound.

I think of the times I had walked along the rail tracks with friends trying to get to someplace when we were not sure of where we were going.

I can recall Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as she sets her eyes on Vronsky and her destiny for the first time on a railway platform.

I can think of the incredibly crowded trains where people jostle for space. I sit with Margayya of R.K.Narayan’s Financial Expert, watching as a man tries to enter the train through the window just to get a seat.

I recall the many snippets of overheard conversations on the railway station and on trains that have stayed with me over the years, my mind still turning the phrases around to make sense or to understand the context.

I think of the entire gamut of human emotions that I have been fortunate to witness in those places where humanity is bursting at seams.

Over all other means of transport, it is a train for me every time. I have had so much time to day dream during those journeys.

The stories we tell

Our lives are stories that we live. Each of us has our own reality, a story that we create of which we are the protagonists. Often, we step into each others lives, even when we are not related, even when we do not share the same social, economic or recreational spaces.

We are bonded to people of our choosing. From birth, we are given parents, siblings, relatives. As we move out socially, we choose whom to relate to, who to make part of our clique. Later, we choose our community based on religion, ethnicity, interests. It is when our paths intersect with different people that we encounter the most unexpected stories.

I have been fortunate enough to step into many such stories.

Most mornings, A. looks calm, patiently arranging his books, guided gently by his teacher. In the school, he studies in a special classroom for mentally challenged children. His classmates make a varied group in terms of age and learning disabilities. A. spends the longest part of his day with his teacher, who during school hours is his teacher and a caretaker in the after hours. His parents pick him once they are back from work in the evenings.

His face lights up when he spots me. He first checks my hands to see if I have my phone with me. And then, as on most days, he immediately asks me to take a photograph of his. He proudly poses next to the cleaning supplies and if I omit the broom in the photo, he insists on another photo in his barely articulate voice. He gestures to tell me the highlights of his day. His struggle to communicate breaks my heart, as does his gentle smile that endears him to me.

I am grateful to be sharing his world, offering a modicum of comfort in his hard life and knowing a part of his life’s story.

S. looks the peaceful, elderly lady, looking a comforting grandmother as she crosses the street, walking slowly and painfully up the stairs to her hardware store. When I pass by, I stop to talk to her. She never complains about her life which is full of hardship, having lost her son and raising her grandchildren. I hear her words of encouragement and her wisdom handed down to me with a twinkling eye. She is always ready with a smile hiding her own worries. A talk with her raises my spirits always and I draw strength from her cheer.

I daily meet the ready-with-a-smile cobbler. And then there is this garbage collector who is in and out of jobs for most days, yet his energy and cheer are infectious. I talk to the young mother selling vegetables by the roadside in a makeshift shack, whose face lights up at the hint of gossip.

The shy schoolgirl in blue ribbons and a scrubbed face half hides behind her mother as she spots me. Hurrying towards her school, she mumbles a good morning and skips her way to school.

I feel grateful that I could step into the story of the migrant labourer family who lived in a small shack behind my house. In bitter cold, they would make a fire and drag a gunny bag which held their meagre kitchen supplies. Their smiling faces made me look at my spacious house, stuffed with every material comfort and wonder whether money and prosperity really brings happiness to the hearts of people.

There are my belly-laugh girlfriends who listen to my obscure ramblings and give their honest advice, the bus conductor who gives me the correct ticket each time without me telling him anything, the temple priest who looks out for my daughter, the people who call out a greeting to my son.

The stories that I hear from them and the people I know by faces who pass me by nodding a greeting are the ones that make up the fabric of my life. At some point, our stories intersect and we learn from each other.