The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Thankfully I have finished the book and have some content for my post. Not that I did not have anything to write about . There were too many balls in the air and juggling them was getting a bit tough. I had so many thoughts to pen down but then laziness and lack of clarity held me back. 

Anyways now with the book review I intend to get my momentum  back. 

The book as the title suggests is about the journey of Harold . The synopsis states' When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea rage he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone . All he knows is he must keep walking . To save someone else's life '. 

In a nutshell it was just the kind of book I love. Of surmounting all odds and achieving.  It is the tale of the journey of an old man who has not got much to show as remarkable. It is the tale of the journey of someone who has never evoked any confidence from anyone else either. This would be his only chance to attain something . 

As he walks he gathers discouragement and doubt . But as the miles keep piling behind him, it changed to attention and even a fan following as one walks. The flashes of Harold 'a life are projected in a very interesting way. They do not have anything ground breaking but they are the stuff ordinary lives are made up of. The characters of Harold 's wife Maureen , his neighbour Rex , his don David are very well inter twined. We also catch glimpses of the personality of Queenie- the collegue Harold sets out to meet. Once he starts gathering interest is the point in the book where I started loosing interest . I wish the author had contained the characters. It could have continued in its non descript pace. Many a times less means more and the writer should have remembered that. 

The other thing that slightly annoyed me was the reference to walking as 'putting one  step in front of the other' It sounded nice once, maybe twice but after the third time seemed repetitive and unimaginative. 

The book is not remarkable but the idea is. It is not an amazing work but worth a read. The climax is very poignant. It is worth a read for sure if you happen to bump into it, but would not ask you to go searching for it :). 

As usual some quotable quotes :-

It's the job that's never started that tales longest to finish .

It surprised Harold how fast and angry cars seemed when you are not in one .

Life was very different when you walked through it.

'You'd think walking should be the simplest thing.' she said at last. 'Just a question of putting one foot in front of the other. But it never ceases to amaze me how difficult the things that are supposed to be instinctive really are. ' She wet her lower lip with her tongue waiting for more words. 'Eating.' she said at last. 'That's another one. Some people have real difficulties with that. Talking too. Even loving. They can all be difficult. She watched her garden, not Harold. 'Sleeping', he said. 

He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passer-by, he was in a place where everything not only the land was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. 

In walking, he unleashes the past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was its own. he no longer saw distance in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering.

He fell silent, and so did Martina. He felt safe with what he had confided. It had been the same with Queenie. You could say things in the car and know she had tucked them somewhere safe among her thoughts, and that she would not judge him for them, or hold it against him in years to come. he supposed that was what friendship was, and regretted all the years he had spent without it.

Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways. You could think you were starting something afresh, when actually what you were doing was carrying on as before. He had faced his shortcomings and overcome them, and so the real business of walking was happening only now.

He had been alone for so long he found it tiring to be constantly in the company of others. Their questions and their enthusiasm both moved and slowed him.

If we cant be open, Maureen thought, if we cant accept what we dont know, there really is no hope.

Hard times and some memories

The thing I hated most some 4 years ago was sneezing. The thing I hate most now a days is - the kid sneezing. She is just not herself when she is under the weather. She wishes for a lot of comforting and care which is natural of course. At the cost of sound un-maternal - it also disrupts our work schedules. Thankfully since I am working part time, I am able to collect her around 1430 and give her all the attention there after. But days when she is absolutely disconsolate, we have to take ad-hoc leaves - of which again the lion's share is taken by me. 

A couple of weeks back, Chiyaa had a sudden bout of stomach infection. She had diarrhea and vomitting. I took a couple of days off, but had to return on day 3. K was in a predicament since he too had deliverables vying for his attention.  He took permission till 1430 and scurried to work as soon as I was back. I understood it might have been hard for him to take care of an unwell child for 6 hours and then immediately get on with work. The next 2 days though she was not recovered, just because she was a bit 'better' we sent to her nursery. By the end of the week, though the stomach infection had definitely got better, there was a wicked cough which was giving her sleepless nights. She was put on antibiotics yet again by the doctor. 

The whole chain of events jostled us. With mil around, she had all the personalised care and was faring very well. But ever since going full fledged to nursery, her health was taking a toll. I was advised that kids take a while to get their immunity up and running. It seems it was a routine till they reached the age of some 5 years. I remembered my parents going through all this struggle themselves. There was a span of years when my mom was in a different city from dad and my sister and me. Being in a government job she did not have much of a choice. And my sister was really unwell. She had a fever which did not seem to go down. Mom would take a fortnight's leave and come to our place. As soon as mom reached she would be better, but a couple of days after mom left she would be sick again. Mom had a real hard time juggling and convincing her boss for leaves. The pain of being away from your sick child was  most horrible. She never told any of this to us, but I cannot fathom how my parents managed through that phase. Seriously being in their shoes only makes certain facets dawn upon us! 

A thought reared its head in both K and my minds. K felt guilty to spell it out aloud. I could speak about it aloud. How about I take a break from work? Was all the struggle worth it? As I scampered every day to  the nursery with a child who was not so much up to it, I felt immensely bad. There was the endless house work and office tasks -in the midst of it the well being of the little one was bothering us a lot. The only thing that kept me going was - the kid would grow, and the phase would be over. I would not want to regret 'sacrificing'  my career and be rueful. 

Well, like all good things, all struggles too come to an end  - eventually. The kid slowly recovered. As she recovered, she started settling in nursery. We started getting on with our office work without a nagging worry about her.  As the weather warms up, I hope her health improves. I wish every cough, cold and tummy ache hit me even with a hundred times more intensity. I desire her to be the little tweety bird  chirping joyous tunes.

Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of The Ring

I was bowled over by the movie. I have a copy of the book for the past 6 years, but never had the time to read it. Finally yet again thanks to e-books, I was able to get my hands dirty with this splendid opener to an epic trilogy.

The book is a fantasy. My love for reading started with this genre. Enid Blyton took me to lands far far away where gnomes and elves abounded and toys spoke. My imagination used to run wild and books were such a pleasant escape from speed and distance calculations or the nuances of spelling and grammar. There has always been a huge fan following for this genre -given the sky high popularity of the Harry Potter series, Lord of The Rings, Game of Thrones et al. But I don't know when I 'grew up' and shunned fantasy books. For me contemporary books ruled. 

But the LOTR series has always been something I wanted to read. And as I read I found this book even more fascinating. The book is of the journey of a Hobbit Frodo Baggins to dispose a ring which can spell doom on all of Middle Earth (the fantasy land where the events are based). Frodo is an unlikely character to have such a great responsibility. Not only he does not possess the typical strength and physical prowess to carry on this task - he never had any inkling such a thing might ever happen in his lifetime. He was meant to lead an ordinary life when out of the blue - the ring came unto him! I quite like such situations where unassuming characters do something heroic and splendid! My love for under dog manifests in my utter liking for movies like Forrest Gump and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and books like the 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

But when an impossible target is thrust upon you, there are formed formidable alliances to reach it. The fellowship is formed of mighty mortals (Aragorn and Boromir) , an elf (Legolas) , a wizard (Gandalf),  a dwarf (Gimli) and 3 of Frodo's friends (Sam, Pippin and Merry). They set out to assist and support Frodo. The book is an interesting journey of these characters, the changes in their personalities, their pre-conceived notions of the other race and how these change over the course of their trials. 

The visual imagery of the book is simply splendid.But there are portions where the characters converse in elvish - which is a mythical and of course imaginary tongue. There are pages of songs in this language. There was an instance where I could skip 4 pages of a song. (Hobbits are quite fond of singing and making songs)I am not sure what the author's intentions were in  doing this. Maybe a different audience appreciates this. For me they were a waste of time and space. The book at 500+ pages was tad long and given my ultimately snail's pace of reading compounded with a toddler in tow - it took me close to a month and a half  to complete! (Go on - snigger all ye fast readers :(  )

Well - a review my style is not done without some famous quotes :-

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo."So do I" said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given,  us.

Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea.That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported , "a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all'.Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.
Somehow I got reminded of my parent's place in BBSR when I read those lines. There was a wave of nostalgia :( 

"The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths , as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw , yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know what each may meet upon the road."
"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens " , said Gimli.
"Maybe", said Elrond, "but then let him not vow to walk in the dark , who has not seen the nightfall."
"Yet sworn word may strengthn quaking heart," said Gimli.
"Or break it," ,said Elrond." Look not too far ahead! But go now with good hearts"
I quite like the liberty and the belief in conscience that is paramount in what Elrond says. I too feel rules tend to give rise to severance. It free will that leads to all good things.When people are left autonomous and their judgement is trusted -the environment is more enriching and rewarding.

I shall be delving deep into the subsequent parts. But for now I back in England following another "common man's" journey. I think  something inside me that used to devour fantasy is dead - but...... the flame has been rekindled for sure :)

The proverbial day?

Ps. A personal and maybe boring post ahead.. more like rants of a momentarily peaceful mind.

I still remember blue day vividly - the day when the little birdie started day care. It was horrendous. Our optimism was down in the dungeons. She was miserable and so were we. 
That is when I spoke to lots and lots of parents. I got the same answer - they get over it - in a week, a month, a couple of months, six months! But there will be one day when one can laugh about it. Huh! Not me for sure. I thought I was special case. Such things don't happen to me. They are too good to be true.

It was on 25th November 2013, that she started day care. The day care was very well recommended. It was clean, the staff seemed dedicated and we did not have much qualms in leaving our child in their care. But, Chiyaa was crestfallen, she cried her heart out. I tried to give them some pointers to help her settle. I sent one of her favourite toys,  a teddy bear with her. 

It was a matter of 2 weeks before we were to make our trip to Paris. We thought we would somehow steel ourselves to get through the 2 weeks. But she took a turn for the worse at the  end of week 1. She fell ill with very high fever. With an imminent travel, we decided to keep her at home and let her recuperate.  So on 17th December, it was a start from scratch. She was very upset. She would cry when I dropped her and would be crying when I picked her. She would have refused most of her food. Sleep would be barely for 30 minutes. She used to be famished when we got home and would gobble down food. I would fell torn apart seeing her in that state. And she would jump into her bed and sleep off like no tomorrow. I so wished I could always keep her cocooned. 
The trend just continued over the week. I kept counting days. 
I got feedback that she used to be better after her nap. But she would get upset when she saw adults around - when parents came to drop their wards or members of the staff passed through the room. She would expect her mom or dad and come running to the door. I was assured that she would get better. It was going to be a month (though she had not been regularly) and I was seeing no end in sight. 

Her grandparents were way worried too.  Being back in India and incapable of any action, they felt even more frustrated. The only thing they could do was pray and hope for things to turn around. That was one of the things we did too... since we had no other recourse either.

Soon the nursery would close for a week for Christmas vacation. While one half of me was happy to have her around, another half was dead scared at scarring her when she rejoined in January.

In the new year, she was a bit under the weather. I sent her to the nursery when I thought she could cope. She did not eat much, she did not sleep much, she did not play much. A week of January had gone through.We were sure our kid was going to be one of those who take half a year to get acclimatized.

What cant be cured must be endured. So we treaded on  - passing through the harrowing farewells in the morning, getting not so positive feedbacks during the day and seeing the kid being zapped of her strength in the evening.

In the middle of the second week of January, we received this note.
'A little more settled' was definitely a very good thing! One small step for the lil one, one giant leap of faith for mom and dad. We kept our fingers crossed.
The next day, she had been 'lot better'.That was positively an improvement. The food was still erratic and sleep was surely not there - but did we complain? Of course not! She was atleast having a 'better time'! 

That was when one of the carers recommended getting her blankets from home for sleeping. She thought that maybe Chiyaa wanted that reassurance of something familiar. Sometimes that helped. I had never given much importance to the blankets she used at home. She slept just as well outside or in hotels when we traveled, I assumed, she was just fine without them. But we think we know all about our kids don't we? 

Since it was suggested,I brought over her blankets the next day. Like magic, the sleeping time climbed from 15-30 minutes to 45!

As she slept better, she played better, and as she played better she ate better. Hmmm...what a lovely little circle *Touchwood*

The morning started getting better too - she would wave me goodbye somedays. She would be sad when she saw me leave, she would be better consoled by some particular members of staff - but she was being herself. She was being her boisterous, naughty and lively self. Were we feeling alive or what? 

Come February, the staff also started to know her - her likes and dislikes, her moods, her characteristics. Earlier only some particular and experienced members would handle her. Slowly everyone got comfortable with her and she with every one else. She did not ask for a particular person though she did get close to her key person Abby! But I would see her giggling with everyone else. There would be times when while bringing her back, she would run away to play with the elder kids outside.

I was still working part time. I had thought of going full time in January.But since she was not settling, I had given that idea a miss. I decided, I would carry on part time as long as I could. At least I had the consolation of taking 'good' care of her after my working hours. But then came the days when she would not run up to me when she saw me. She would see me, her eyes would twinkle, she would start coming to me, but then get distracted by something. Perhaps it  was time for me to also start letting go, for my little girl had started :) 

As she started settling, her carer started introducing her to new things. They rejuvenated her potty training. It was not instant success, but then there was scope to try.

She started enjoying playing outside a lot more. She started engaging with other kids. Somedays I would see her sitting in the middle of a circle and enjoying a snack.Then on others she would be seated with one of the carers and be painting. Yet some day, she would be playing on her own.I loved seeing this reviving independence in her!

She started getting more and more involved in group activities. I saw her difference outside nursery as well.She used to get very anxious with strangers.She would cry and throw a fit.While for others she would be very docile.I could not fathom why she behaved in a certain manner with certain people. I know - kids tend to behave like that. But as she got more used to the day care, she started getting more comfortable with strangers as well. One of K's colleagues even commented that there was a distinct change in her and attributed it to day care.

Slowly as she neared her second birthday, she started being taken upstairs to the older kids (2-3 years). It had been noted that Chiyaa did not seem intimidated by bigger kids, so the staff were very confident that she would settle down soon in the new room.And they were right in their expectation :) She loved being upstairs with the bigger kids and quite enjoyed her time!

Her birthday was celebrated with a lot of fan fare. I had taken some snacks and cake for the staff and they appreciated it a lot. They had sung happy birthday like a zillion times. Chiyaa was quite amused and puzzled at the same time :) 

A day later - it was her last day in her room. Her key person Abby wrote a really cute note that it had been fun to work with her. I know it must have been quite harrowing for her. She being a young girl herself, it must have been very challenging to take care of an adamant kid who cried for mommy all day long. But Abby persevered, and my kid accepted the perseverance. Abby had been with her to the room with the elder kids, and they had had lot of fun.They were confident it was time that she went on and participated in activities more attuned to bigger kids like rhymes, numbers and some other curricular skills. 

It felt like my child had graduated! 

Would you hire me?

Recently I attended a job interview.This is how it went....

Interviewer - Bla di bla di bla tra la la la la la oompa loompa doom-pa-dee doo
Cherrie - (thinks When will this company history get over)

Interviewer - me through your career since you left education.
Cherrie - I started my career with company 1. I worked in the retail and hospitality domain for a US client. Was involved in web development and database development. Then I left company 1 to join company 2.

Interviewer - Why did you leave company 1?
Cherrie - The domain did not make much sense to me. I feel one needs to know the business to be able to code well. But I was lost with what is the difference between a condo and an apartment.

Interviewer - What is the difference between a condo and an apartment ?
Cherrie - I don't know and never understood .

Interviewer - Stupid Americans and their terms. Both are places to  live 
Cherrie - Exactly. So in company 2 I was in the financial services domain and worked on a voluntary rewards application for my client . Then I left it to join company 3 for personal reasons. Then in 2010 we moved to the UK and I joined company 4.

Interviewer -Why did you move to the UK?
Cherrie -My husband came here and I followed him (thinks tongue showing smiley :P)

Interviewer - So if I asked your current employer to describe you in 3 words what would he say?
Cherrie- Hmmmmmm (for 20 seconds) well...(for 10 seconds) I think he would call me a team player.

Interviewer - Thats 2 words
Cherrie - Hmm okay

Interviewer - Ok I give it to you, 2 more words.
Cherrie - Has good object oriented concepts and good business knowledge

Interviewer - (smiles) 
Cherrie - (smiles)

Interviewer - If I asked the same question to your husband what would he say?
Cherrie - Hmmm.. (60 seconds) (Thinks What the.... Starts day dreaming about K ;)  )

Interviewer - You have to be quick.
Cherrie -  Hmmm..he calls me assertive.(Pauses for close to a minute)

Interviewer -  You have to be quick you know.
Cherrie - He calls me a good cook and also a travel agent since I research holiday plans.

Interviewer - So he eats what he is given and goes where he is told.
Cherrie - He definitely does NOT eat what he is given and seldom goes where he is told. ( Where the hell did that come from? ) 

Interviewer - So define how your worst day would be? A day from hell.
Cherrie - Am I in office? 

Interviewer - Maybe.
Cherrie - First up I am late to work and my mild OCD kicks in and I start thinking how other things are going haywire because I am behind schedule as per my personal timescales. Then there is some network and firewall issues. I have no clue about them since I am a mere programmer but I have to coordinate with networking and security teams. I am answerable but situations are not under my control.That is the day from hell.

Interviewer - At the end of such a day how do you unwind?
Cherrie - I walk from work to home. I hear music at a volume which could turn me deaf. Thats my unwind mechanism. 

Interviewer - And if it the best day?
Cherrie - I am on time :) There is an appreciation email from someone. Something I have been researching or trying starts to work. And people don't  bother me.

Interviewer - (Emphatically writes down something and says 'don't bother' I think that is what he writes down)

Interviewer - Where do  you see yourself 5 years from now ?
Cherrie - There is the idealistic plan and the realistic plan. In an ideal world I would love to do an MBA. I know friends who have done it and they are changed individuals. 

Interviewer - The change is called confidence. 
Cherrie - Maybe. The realistic plan is I would still be coding and hopefully knowing much more than I currently do.

Interviewer - Hm.. so  do you have any questions for me? 
Cherrie - (Thinks no let me go my kid is waiting) None that I can think of now.

Some usual exchange of pleasantries and the interview ends.

So would you hire me?