How the lotus came into being


Once there was a girl who fell in love. She fell in love with the green undulating, grass swaying on the riverbank. She fell in love with the ripples that lapped the wet shore, with the lovely golden oriole, with the open blue skies and the soft clouds floating by. She fell in love with the tall Jacaranda tree and the lonely koel that sang its song every morning and evening.

And then came a breeze laden with the moisture of verses that garlanded her very soul. Her being danced to the rhythm of the trees that swayed, to the waves that swished, to the bees that buzzed and to the colourful wings of the butterfly that flit silently past her. She had the magic to weave silence into her words…an amazing gift as words normally destroy quietness.

She spun a world of magic around herself with her simplicity and imagination. She lived dreaming of rainbows and unicorns till a strange steed flew to her from the skies and turned into a young traveller from a distant land where wild blew the golden sands. He had travelled through desserts and snows in search of his soul mate and at long last the lilting songs of the girl had touched his soul and he became again a man from a stallion. He had a story to tell too….

As he travelled through the Arabian sands, he was followed by a beautiful creature, winsome, doe-eyed with pale skin and jet-black hair. She had a perfect figure and a sinuous walk. She followed the young traveller from one caravanserai to another till he, who was still untouched by the wiles of the young damsel, noticed her. When she threw herself on him and declared her undying love, he turned his face away from her. For, in his soul, he did not love her. There was something in her kohl-blackened eyes that seemed to rankle in his pure heart. And he was right, for the beautiful, sensuous creature was a wicked Jinn who had escaped the confines of her bottle when a drunk looking for free wine in a caravanserai uncorked the ancient jar that had been her home for a thousand years. She had been tricked into the bottle by a clever magician when mankind believed in magic and magicians roamed the world. The first man the wily Jinn saw was our young traveller. He was so young, pure and handsome that she fell in love with him and started following him.

She was infuriated with the young traveller for turning her down. She turned him into a winged stallion who was forced to fly till the strains of his soul mate’s melody bought him back to his original form and life…

He had flown for a decade in the clouds, living on dewdrops and rainbows, till he suddenly heard the melody riding on the waves and touching his heart and soul. A strong draft of breeze came and carried him down to the young, innocent girl in love. Her song and innocence reached out to the purer and rare air where magic had led the winged stallion. This time the magic that had been woven by her song was stronger than the magic that imprisoned the traveller in the body of a stallion. As his hooves touched the ground, the winged stallion transformed back to his original self.

The maiden saw the young man and fell in love with him too. The two of them twirled and danced amidst the trees, sipping nectar of flowers, eating fruit and drinking from young springs.

Then came the mists of the night. They whispered through the forest as the young couple slept on the soft grass. The mists of the night were minions of the doe-eyed Jinn. She had cast a spell on them. They spied the young couple and saw that the stallion had turned back to the young man. They whispered the story to the Jinn when they visited the desert sands. The Jinn was furious. She turned herself into a crane and flew to the tropical paradise where dwelt her heart throb. She did not want anyone to have what she aspired and could not get.

She descended to a branch of an Angsana tree.

“Look, a crane!”cried the young girl in surprise. “How beautiful it is! Pure and black. I have never seen anything like it!”

The young traveller started. He had seen the worst of black magic in his travels and he wondered if it could be…the Jinn. As he thought, she transformed herself back into a beautiful woman with cloudy, wavy jet-black hair, red lips, a pale skin. The boy recognized the Jinn as she shouted, “What I cannot possess, neither can she. I will destroy her and you if you do not come away with me.”

The young man, with a downcast face walked over to the Jinn, to save his loved one. The loved one looked on startled and said, “Where do you go?” As she spoke, the Jinn cursed her to turn to ashes and dust and dissolve  into the marshes near the river. The spell flew out of her mouth and where the young girl fell sprouted a beautiful flower, so clean and pure that none of the mud or slush from the marsh could stick to it. The boy, astounded and stunned, fell to his death as he ran to catch his beloved. He fell right where the flower was sprouting and he turned into it’s leaves, which remained as unsullied in the marshes as the flower. As for the Jinn, she was so angry that she dissolved into ashes and mud and the marsh swallowed her up.

The daytime breeze that watched the whole drama carried the story to the village of the fisher folk. The fisher folk came to see the new flower and named it after the girl who fell in love, Lotus.

People from far and wide came to see the flower and said, “How beautiful is the Lotus with her unsullied purity and lush, clean leaves!”





Leaving China


Chapter 6

It is funny the way we pack our lives in boxes and suitcases and move on… all our memories in our hand phones or laptops. I always think of John Denver’s song Leaving on a Jet Plane

All my bags are packed

I’m ready to go

I’m standin’ here outside your door

I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

The sentiment is similar, except the goodbye is to memories, places and people one gets attached to… As Heidi said, memories are always bitter sweet.

The relocation agents packed our home in boxes two weeks before our departure. Earlier, the boxes could be packed on the day the expatriates were leaving. The rules concerning expat repatriation had changed a month before we were due to leave. The boxes and my husband’s passport had to be submitted to the immigration for a fortnight. Earlier, instead of the passport, they were happy with a photocopy. We were asked to wait for two weeks without our essential household things. As a result, we had to move into a hotel. This was a learning that rules can change anytime, anyhow. We just needed to accept the changes and adapt.

When the movers came, Surya spent all his time with Ali in his home or inside our car. The movers packed and moved all our belongings out of the house except for the suitcases which had our essentials for a couple of months and the children’s piano. The emptiness of the house felt strange. We wanted to hand over the keys to our landlord at the soonest.

The Pearl River (a Chinese brand) piano had to be either abandoned or given away. Moving the piano overseas would cost more than buying a new one in Singapore. We wanted to give the piano to a child who would love it as much as our sons. So, we asked around and one of the expat families was happy to take it for their lovely four-year-old daughter, Saba. They were a Turkish American family with roots in California. David and Sabrina, the parents of Saba, had organised the movers. They lived within our compound and were very friendly and nice. Their house was about 500 metres from ours. But both the houses had staircases and the piano was delicate. We decided to organise professional help so that the piano would not be damaged. Sabrina organised a local mover. He promised to come at 10.30 a.m. Sabrina and David came over at 10.15 a.m. We waited.10.30 a.m. went by. We waited. 11.00 a.m.went by. They telephoned David’s secretary to call the mover as he spoke only Chinese and had been booked by her. She called back saying he said he was almost there. We informed the gate, we were expecting a lorry. Nothing came. Then, Shireen, Sabrina’s mother-in-law called up. The mover was in their house. Sabrina ran back to get them. After sometime, she returned walking! We were all surprised! We had thought she would come in the mover’s lorry. But, she came walking!

We all looked at her in askance. “He has not got his lorry. He is coming here…on his e-bike,” she explained.

As she finished her sentence, an e-bike drew up in front of our house. A tiny dwarf of a skinny man got off. He smiled, nodded and greeted us, “Ni hao.( how are you)?” We all greeted him back. He swaggered in as if he had come on a social visit to entertain us. He walked towards the piano. Aditya, our translator, told him we needed to move the piano from our home to Sabrina’s. He responded by saying that he needed ten men to lift it. When Aditya asked him about his lorry, he responded by saying the lorry would break under the piano’s weight!

We were astounded! He told us the piano could not be moved that day as he would have to get ten men and they were busy. He stayed for fifteen minutes trying to explain how impossible and unreasonable it was to move the piano that day itself. We needed to move the piano that day as I would be handing over the keys to the landlord the next day. So, the mover came, saw and left!

Aditya said, “This guy is bizarre. Only two of us moved the piano at school on a trolley.”

“But, we don’t have a trolley. And we need to move it today,” I said.

“We could do it by sliding the piano on a rug or a carpet,” said my husband.

The movers had taken our rugs and carpets away. Sabrina got two rugs from her home. We roped in Wolfgang and Mr Hu to help us. So, David, Aditya, Wolfgang, Mr Hu and my husband panted up and down and up the stairs of Sabrina’s home with the piano and rugs. It took quite some time and a lot of effort. It was fun to watch the amazing teamwork but I am not so sure that it was fun for the team to heave and shove so as not to damage the piano.

Shireen and Sabrina organised huge jugs of lemonade for all the movers. Aditya inaugurated the piano in Saba’s home. Now, we were officially ready to hand over the keys the next day.

IMG_0005The landlord came with his wife this time. They told us they would have liked us to continue as long as we were in China. They were very kind. They loved what I had done to the garden. His wife was thrilled seeing I had planted a Chinese flowering plant, called the Yue Liang Hua (the moon flower). She said this flower was associated with Shanghai, where she grew up. I knew this flower had a heady perfume and my driver often used it inside the car instead of a car perfume.

They were equally excited with the fishpond, where the koi had bred and now I had nearly two dozen fishes.

We had to stay in the hotel for almost a fortnight! And that was a long time for us. We are always more comfortable and happy at home. Staying in a hotel has always been a trial for my trio.

I recall the time Aditya first stayed in Sheraton in Hong Kong. He was four and did not like the hotel food. He asked me if I could cook for him. In Hawaii, when he was six, he threw up on an exclusive hotel meal in a six star resort, where we were having an official gathering!

Surya was not much better. When he was one-and-a-half, we were staying for a long weekend in Johor, Malaysia. He shook his foot so much in delight while seated on a high chair in the 24-hour coffee shop of the hotel that his shoes came off and landed on somebody in the adjoining table. Seeing the ruckus it created, Surya decided to fling his shoes every time he was put into a baby chair in the restaurant. It became a nightmare for us. The hotel staff was terrified whenever we entered the coffee shop. They put us in a corner table and emptied it of all cutlery and napkins as they didnot want Surya to exercise his throwing skills on their wares or aim his shoes at their customers!

When we moved to China, we had to stay a week in a hotel while our home was readied for us. There two-year-old Surya had discovered the joys of a rotating door. The doormen were terrified again and requested us to keep him away from the doors! Surya also protested being cooped up in a luxurious room where he had no freedom to practise his sporting skills. He also wanted to catch the fish in an indoor koi pond!

This time Surya was ten and Aditya seventeen-and-a-half. They were a little better adjusted in the hotel than eight years ago… except Surya had the whole security on my tracks when I got a little delayed in the lift one day. I had gone to get his swimming goggles when he discovered he had left them behind in our room. I told him to get changed and wait by the poolside while I fetched the goggles. The lift was a little delayed. The lifeguards and attendants stood around him when I returned to the poolside. It seems they could not reach me when they tried to call my mobile. And I had been gone only about ten to fifteen minutes!

We had a beautiful view of the Jinji Lake from our rooms. The sunset on the lake against the silhouette of tall buildings was spectacular. Aditya had a separate room. We spent our time doing last minute visits to different places, going for walks along Jinji and eating out. Most of our friends, except Salma had left for their annual home leave. Salma was also leaving Suzhou two weeks after us. She was in the process of packing her home in boxes too.

Leaving is always sad. But, this time tinged with sadness was a sense of relief. The wonder and acceptance that was evident in the local attitude towards foreigners when we came in 2006 was being replaced with a feeling that did not seem so friendly. Too many changes were taking place…