Glide outside your comfort zone…

“Oh gosh, I just feel inundated with this desire to draw every detail of every building onto a piece of clean, perfectly crisp white plain paper with my black fineliners – preferably 0.2mm but 0.1mm will do also. I just need to unleash the sound of the linesand shapes I’m seeing in front of me and make it all come together serene and sensibly before my brain explodes. I may have replaced my intense sadness  with this need to create art but is that really so bad? I feel everything in the ink that flows from my pens right now, I need this as much as I need water, nutrition, sleep. Maybe even more than I need sleep. It is so very frustrating that my mind cannot outperform my body and just keep on going and going and going. Although never would I have thought it probable, I have always been aware that it is not impossible to feel this way. I need these colours all over my pages.”

Now that’s an extract taken from my diary on the 19th March 2015. I wrote that at around 2am when I thought I was literally going to burst with all the things going on in my mind. It has been four months since my Father passed away. He had suffered since 2008 with Motor Neurone Disease and he finally just felt like he had to go I guess. I can’t blame him. We all watched what he went through and it was a tad traumatising to say the least.

It is strange when I really think of his passing and the symbolic nature of saying goodbye to a human being so close to my heart.I watched him die, I held his hand as his soul left his body. As the machine beeped slowly, eventually flat lining until the Doctor pronounced his death. Very sad. But then again it was very beautiful. Why? Because the degradation of the human body caused by this horrible disease was no more. He passed away leaving us with memories of his integrity, his strength and his perseverance to be the best Father he could have been. And so after watching his last moments, how can I live the carefree life of others my age that I have wished to have all these years. There IS an urgency to Life, and so I resigned from working in a school I loved because that school was my comfort zone. And I’ve seen enough to know that at any moment, we can literally become ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

I know that…

“You will be waiting for me,

For an interval somewhere very near, just around the corner,

All is well. Nothing is past; Nothing is lost.

One brief moment and all will be as it was before.

How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again.”

– Henry Scott Holland

So instead of goodbye, I choose to say goodnight Young Man. And one morning when I decide to wake up, from the dream that is this Life, I know that I will see you again. X

You cannot escape from a charging wild buffalo…

My Father has had an incredibly eventful life. These are just a few anecdotes from a small chapter of it. The Motor Neuron Disease has caused the loss of most of his coherent speech, and so it took quite a while to get this information. I have tried to write exactly what he has said in first person – but as he became rather tired, some of the events recalled below are from what I can remember him telling me over the years.

In 1980, my Appa (Dad) started managing a 1000 acre agriculture and animal husbandry farm. The farm land, owned by a huge company named Ceylon Theater, was surrounded by jungle and situated near the ancient Tamil villages in Othiyamalai, Sri Lanka. He recalls the four years he was there as the best time of his life (other than the day I entered this world of course, haha). From his adventures it’s pretty clear to see why.

Appa lived on the farm in his own quarters, along with all of his employees and their families. He looked after both Sinhalese and Tamil employees and so spoke both languages. Remember, 1000 acres is a lot of land and so they produced rice in the paddy fields as well as hundreds of other crops. Everything they ate, they grew themselves – even the meat. The farmers tended to the needs of the usual farmyard animals; chickens, cattle, goats, sheep, etc… except he mentioned once that they looked after over 800 chicks alone, so these animals were there in unimaginable abundance.

Appa in his late 20s

He told me to stress that it wasn’t easy being in charge of all of this. Work started around 4am for him and often finished very late. Although the farm had men prepped with guns on night-watch, Appa always took one night time gun patrol himself around the farm to ensure no jungle animals were on the grounds trying to attack the people or the animals. He absolutely loved it . He said it felt so free to be outside in the hot sun and even though he was always working (yep, he never just sat back and let his employees do all the manual labour), it didn’t feel like work.

Due to the space on the farm, Appa apparently decided to teach himself how to drive a tractor and a motorbike. Yep. He used to tell me stories of how he rode his bike through the dirt roads in the jungle, so often and so fast, that he would become partially deaf every now and again from all the dust particles. He said that once when he was on these travels, he had a dangerously close encounter with a lone elephant. She was in the way of the dirt road he was on, so his only option was to head back. BUT the noise of the engine would be so loud, that it would scare her into running and undoubtedly killing him.  The only thing he could do was wait. After a while, the herd arrived and they all crossed the dirt road into the jungle depths. This wasn’t the first or last life and death situation he encountered though;

“I was a keep fit man from a very young age… I used to run in the afternoons with the dogs around it. One day I was running through the mango grove, when suddenly the dogs who normally ran behind me leapt in front and started barking. I looked down and saw a viper camouflaged in the grass, waiting to strike at me. My dogs saved my life.”

My Dad’s side of the family are immense dog lovers; Appa had four VERY loyal beagles and around twelve mixed breeds who used to travel with him around the farm and jungle area;

“Another time, I was running with the dogs and I saw a tiny buffalo calf looking at me. I thought it was abandoned so I walked towards it. Then the calf started making a noise and it’s mum came out of the jungle, like a bullet, trying to attack me. I started running as fast as I could, but you cannot escape from a charging wild buffalo. Luckily my dogs started barking and running towards the buffalo, taking her attention away from me. My dogs saved my life again.”

He would take in abandoned animals he would find on his travels around the jungle area to keep as pets, rather than for food; below is a photo of him with a deer he found as a baby and reared himself. I call it his ‘disney princess’ photo haha (oh come on Appa, you’re stroking a deers face with a leaf?!)

Appa with the pet deer he found abandoned and reared.

Appa with the pet deer he found abandoned and reared.

Because of Appa’s experiences such as the ones above, his advice to me when I was small was hardly the usual, ‘be kind, be good, don’t bully anyone, stay smart etc…’ He has always said things like;

‘…stay out of the way of an elephant when it’s alone – it is by far more dangerous than a herd, because the chances of them attacking to protect themselves are much greater.’

and

‘…if a black bear attacks you, remember to stay away from it’s front paws. They are very strong. Don’t run. It will always be faster than you. Grab a stick and attack the back legs because they are its weakest point.’

Haha thanks Appa, very sound advice for a kid growing up in the city… your words actually made me want to go and live in the jungle.

He recently told me that once when it was far too hot to sleep in his quarters, he went for a midnight walk around the farm, taking his gun with him just in case. When he eventually got tired, he went to sleep in the grass next to the huge reservoir which nourished all the crops. He said that he woke up to a herd of wild buffalo who had gathered around the water, drinking it. To me that seems like such a surreal, breathtaking experience. To him it was just his life.

This extraordinary chapter of his life ended in 1984; by this time, the Tamil people had been persecuted by the Sinhalese government in Sri Lanka for decades, resulting in the Civil War between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) – my parents have many stories regarding the things they witnessed growing up (but I’ll leave those for another post).

News was traveling around the Tamil populated area near the farm that the SLA were on their way. So Appa ordered his workers and their families (both Sinhalese and Tamil) into the jungle, but some refused to leave with him. Appa told me that as they left via one route, they could hear the Army coming through another. He said that he had his trusted dogs with him as they escaped, but the dogs started running and barking in the opposite direction of the way they were traveling. The Army followed the noise – the dogs were the reason the Army did not follow them all into the jungle. Those dogs saved a lot of lives that night.

On their way through the jungle to the nearest village, Appa said he saw a few of his workers- his friends- returning in the direction of the farm from errands they had been running. He begged them to go with him, but they did not believe the SLA could have got to the farm so soon. On the 1st of December 1984, the SLA entered the farm.

As soon as Appa heard that the SLA had left the farm area, he went back to the farm with a few others. The army had burned thousands of animals alive in their cages with none to spare, along with acres of crops. The workers who had refused to leave and those returning to the farm from errands whom Appa encountered, had been burned to death. And then there were his dogs who had distracted the SLA – all shot and killed. Appa said that when he saw the scene, he knew the land was dead and gone. There was nothing. I researched all of this online recently, and found that the SLA had also paid visits to some of the Tamil villages surrounding the farm that week, with equally horrific consequences for the people there.

On the morning of December 1st 2013, the first thing Appa said to me was, ‘today is the 29th anniversary of the attack on the farm. If they had killed me back then, I would never have met you.’ At this point I’d like to mention that his mind is completely fine- he knows I’m his kid, although from the way we talk to each other it does sometimes feel like we’re friends rather than parent/child. I will always remember the look in his eyes when he said this sentence though, of deep nostalgia, despair but also love. In all my life, he has never mentioned the date it had happened before. I think he was feeling pretty emotional.

Well, that is that. Remember, it’s just a small time frame of Appa’s life. Like many others from back home, my parents are filled with stories to tell. But I’ll leave the chapters of their youth AND of how we managed to travel through Sri Lanka in one piece to come to London (I’m ABSOLUTELY going to have to paint it), for another time !

Appa says thank you for listening to him. I say adios Chicas and Chicos, until we meet again. X

You know me right?

 

Just to warn you – I don’t post every week – or usually even every month (although I have been doing so a lot more recently). I only write when I just feel physically inundated with expression in the space between the bottom of my heart and top of my belly. Eek. It does feel like I’ve got about five peoples creative energy shoved into my body sometimes – but I don’t hate it. X

My letter to a brilliant Human Being.

Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Today my Dad said, ‘I almost stopped breathing many times this week. Tomorrow I want to call everyone and say my goodbyes.’

Young man, remember the last time we said goodbye to each other? I was boarding that plane with Amma and Sis to leave Sri Lanka. I thought I would never see you again. Recently, you told me of how I cried, ‘Appa! Appa!’ back then and didn’t want you to leave my sight. I can’t remember when you finally arrived in London a few months later to join us, but I can imagine my elation.

You and Me

You and Me, on a Welsh beach. 1994.

You are the most brilliant human being I have in my life. You just seem to know everything. You make me laugh so so much, and, somehow you always seem to realise when I’m down. Then you post something on my facebook wall to make me smile again haha.

I know how much you’ve suffered the last few years. I still remember when you first got the ‘possible diagnosis’ of MND. I, stupidly, pretended as if it did not affect me. But that sunny Summer afternoon in 2008, I cried and cried and cried at the gym. It seems ridiculous that although we are aware of death, I never thought I would lose you so soon. We weren’t close back then so I didn’t tell you this – but you knew how much it affected us all (Mum told me that you didn’t want me to come with you to your first hospital appointment because it would upset me).

It’s odd because when you thought you were the ‘boss of the Family’, I didn’t really have much respect for your typical Asian Dad mentality – and I imagine you had certain expectations of a daughter which I definitely didn’t uphold.

But when you were diagnosed, everything changed. And we all changed as Human Beings, for the better. We became a real Family. Just like in the movies. This disease has taken away your physical strength, but it has humbled you to the core. In the face of a terminal illness, You found your spirit and imagination. You’ve become my role model in Life.

I admire and honour you so much Appa. You are SO mentally strong, which we’ve both realised stands for much more than any amount of physical strength. Your consistent humour throughout all the changes your body has gone through – from losing the ability to walk to losing your speech – is such a powerful testament to your character. Your character. I don’t want your character to leave my Life. There’s no-one else like You here and I know there will never be again once your physical presence in this World has gone. I know your greatest fear is that you will be forgotten – but you should know that I, and many others whose lives you have touched, will never let that happen.

You saw so much horror back home and risked everything to give us a better life in this country by putting us on that plane. I know that you did not think you would be around to see your cousin or your niece get married, to turn 60 or even to see your youngest child graduate. But you made it this far, and with that huge smile in your eyes. I wish you could stay here to witness the doors you opened for us by bringing us to London. To see me get married (yes one day it MAY happen – God help my husband lol). To see your *ahem* adopted grandchildren. To carry them and tell them the jaw dropping stories of your past yourself. To watch us turn 30, and then 40 – as your parents have seen you do. Those are my wishes – but I fear that my wishes are selfish and will just prolong your suffering. I know that you are scared to leave us three alone but I will look after Mum and Sis. And God has always looked after me, so don’t you be worrying about that. You have taught me more in these last few years about what makes a noble human being. And for what you have done for us I am eternally grateful. I know you love us. And I sadly will never have the guts to say this to you in person (you know how I feel about people seeing me cry) but I love you too Appa.

Do you remember this photo? Of course you do, your memory is better than anyone I know. I will always cherish the memories of our last Family holiday together, and all the ones you took us on as soon as we got our passports haha.

Kanyakumari, August 1st 2010

This is you Young Man – waiting for me to sit with you and watch the Sunset at Kanyakumari, India. Sunday 1st August 2010, my 21st birthday.

Over the last few years, I’ve already missed the many things we used to do when you were well; cycling in the park with you every day of the Summer holidays or you driving us through the countryside to get horse manure for your garden. But when you leave, there is so much more that I will miss… watching animal documentaries with you, your stories of back home, you saying ‘make me look beautiful’ after we brush your teeth, you telling me the best gardening techniques and especially waking up to your 2am facebook posts on my wall (when you should really be asleep).

You told me once that you know Life was meant to turn out this way for you. That God put you in this position for a reason – to bring you closer to Him. So I definitely can’t keep asking Him to let you stay. But, around 20 years on from the last time I had to say goodbye to you at Colombo airport, I don’t know how to say goodbye to You again. I don’t want you to go – but when you feel like you need to, I guess this is me saying that it’s okay for you to finally relax Young Man. I will wait for the day to come when we can watch that Sunset together again. With All My Love. X

Pressing the DELETE button.

“Forgiveness does not mean I invite you to sit at my table again. It means that our chapter is finished. Now go away.”

– Maya Angelou

Cutting someone from your life does not mean you hate them – it means that you simply respect yourself more.

 

Give Your Mind a good Spring Clean…

Hearing myself speak again still feels surreal.

I have drafted this post SO MANY times and never could quite get it right. Then I realised I was including too much nonsense information when all I need to say is this…I lost my voice repeatedly for six months due to ‘intense stress’. At first I welcomed the voice loss – it meant I didn’t have to deal with things. After more than two months with it gone, I deeply missed it. I talk now. I feel recharged and brand new. My mind does not feel as if it will explode anymore. I am good.

If you feel a little overwhelmed talk to someone- ANYONE. In the words of one the eight year olds at my school, ‘if you were sad you should have just told the Government. They would have done something.’ Well kid, I actually started talking to a stranger (something you should never do until you’re a grown up!)- and she is a Blessing who came out of the blue.

Who is Christopher Poindexter?

His work took me by surprise when I first stumbled across it on facebook… such eloquent, romantic language in this slang infested era. I thought he was ‘an oldie’. A poet/ author from decades past. To my surprise, he is around my age I’m guessing from his instagram account, with over 100,000 followers. I will continue to be in awe of his words.

The  Universe and Her and I #251 written by Christopher Poindexter. This poem is inspired by the positivity of @fillthe_soul ‘s page. Check her out sweet ones!

Check out more of his work here; http://instagram.com/christopherpoindexter#