Housekeeping has become the focus of my life, for a while now. Its taken precedence over almost everything else. I did manage to make it to Couture Week and also do research and write a couple of articles. And I'm currently engrossed in discovering the story of Muslin, whenever I get time after the housekeeping chores. But work isn't happening in quite the same way as I've been used to. The mundane act of drinking tea, which inspired an enormous body of textile art, has now been overtaken by much more mundane tasks necessary for everyday living. The ordinary is demanding my attention. I am finding creative ways to tackle this facet of being, but not without my fair share of griping and bitching, yelling and crying too. But it's got to be done, there's no-one else, so I've got to do it and relegate needle and thread to another life-time, it seems.
What I find the hardest to handle, is the staff. The thing I've discovered is that no-one listens. If you give instructions, the attention is clearly someplace else and things never get done as specified, which is soooo annoying! It’s not really a workable solution, but I now insist they look at me while I speak and then make them repeat my instructions back to me. In doing so, whenever I remember to do it this way, I have found some reprieve. I'm reassured that I've been understood and black will be black and white, white. I've been used to writing down what needed doing but at this point none of my staff are literate and it is getting very difficult. But, having said that, there are also some fun moments in the midst of all the frustration.
This evening, I needed to get some packing tape. I was expecting someone to come see my work, which had recently returned from my exhibition in Kolkata. I would need the tape to repack the art-works, once I had shown them. I'm not a frequent visitor to the local market, so I wasn't sure where to go to get this. There is a Vyapar Kendra close by but it is very strangely built and on the odd occasion that I have gone and discovered a shop that's useful, I've not been able to locate it on my next trip. And, I almost always get lost on my way out. Not wanting to go on a wild goose chase when my energy is not quite up to speed, I looked up Google for a shop I'd been to with a neighbour and knew that they stocked stationery items. There was a number to call, which I did. Thankfully, they had what I needed and kindly said they'd send someone to the outer gate once I got to Palam Vyapar Kendra. My neck and shoulder had been playing up and daily physio was helping but I was advised to cut down the swimming. I hadn't felt like swimming this evening, in any case, so I decided to cycle to PVK, as the market is commonly called. It's about a 12 - 15 minute walk, so it didn't take me any time at all cycling there.
When I called the shop, as planned, the call wasn't answered. I tried four times and eventually got a female voice who said it was the wrong number. Strange, I thought abhi toh meri baat issi number se toh hui thi. I walked into the only shop I know in this market and asked for directions for Memory Point, the stationery store. They very kindly sent someone to escort me there, which was gratifying.
I got my tape, clarified the phone conundrum, got their card for future reference and was heading out, when I spied a fruit and veg store. I didn't have my wallet with me, but there was some change left over from paying for the tape. It was enough to get 6 peaches, 1 kg Mussambi's for juice, a large beetroot to make a cold soup, some inspiringly aromatic pudina, ½ Kg pumpkin to make a delicious roast pumpkin salad with, some kundru for lunch tomorrow and drumsticks for sambhar. I just love drumsticks and the rest of the sambhar is incidental. I picked up an ample bunch, paid my bill and headed out with my bhajji shopping to my cycle which was parked outside Suraj Store where I generally buy the electronic stuff I need. I stuffed up the painted pink basket that my cycle has upfront, it was packed tight. The long drumsticks sticking out quite awkwardly.
As I hopped on the seat and began to pedal, I giggled to myself, imaging what I probably looked like to passersby. I mean it isn't exactly your everyday sight is it, to see a curly grey-haired woman in culottes, cycling down the streets of Gurgaon, her pink cycle-basket stuffed to the brim with veggies, is it?
It was dark but even though the white culottes must have been clearly visible, sleepy Palam Vihar didn't seem to blink an eye. Or if they did, I didn't notice.
I've been feeling quite frustrated at having to give so much attention to things I hadn't done for over a decade. In order to function with some measure of equanimity, I've been telling myself : " I love housekeeping!" Repeating it over and over, allowing myself to feel a sense of pleasure doing the chores as I meditate each morning. Sometimes, like this evening, I surprise myself by doing things I haven't done for decades - and bhajji shopping is one such, where I've either ordered over the phone since the 1990's or someone's been around to do it. Today, I picked each peach myself, making sure they were just right to eat. I savoured the aroma of the mint leaves as I lifted a bunch off the shelf and realised that in telling oneself that you enjoy doing things you don't relish in the normal course of living, and you do end up doing just that! I had enjoyed the veggie shopping and loved cycling back home with my basket, full to the brim.
An ordinary became extraordinary, not just because I've not done bhajji shopping for a while and thus savoured it. But for being reminded just how one can work successfully towards mastering the mind in small but significant ways. It was this which made an otherwise uneventful, ordinary day, into a memorable one.