You are so good, mummy, that I forget it is my day too!

Mummy in August 2019

From my mother, I learnt piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.

Reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, his words about his mother resonated the most with me. If he had ever tried writing about my mother, the words would have remained exactly the same.

Like any other person about their mum, I too think that my mother is the greatest and most special woman. But when the praise for my mother pours in from elsewhere, from non-family members, then I need to write about her. Not one person in my life who’s also been in contact with my mum has shied away from mentioning the greatness and generosity of her. I find it difficult to cope with their adulation of her.

Today was one such day too.

On this mothers’ exclusive day, I learnt through a social media post about a young friend, Radha, who had lost her father some years ago, lost her mother in January. My heart sank. Thinking about her loss, and also knowing how we are slowly losing people. We grew up with these kids. We were like a big family of 18-20 different families that got separated due to moving, relocating, marrying and other such life’s reasons. But, to be separated by death is the hardest. Unlike others, who use social media as a tool to celebrate life or grieve death or illness, Radha chose to grieve in private. There was nothing I could instantly think of than to speak with her. It was her mother’s day too, and the first without her mum around.

Our conversation was all about reminiscing the good young days, of our recklessness, carefree late-night conversations, sneaking out, dance, music, movies we rented, games we played, windows we broke, scoldings we got, girls and boys. The call was about crying and laughing in equal measure. She told me that my phone call was the best mother’s day gift for her. It makes it the best mother’s day gift for me too, to make someone smile.

She talked about my mum, ‘Asha auntie’, as she called her. “The industrious, tenacious, brave, resilient and very clean person, auntie Asha.” She remembered, to my surprise, the smallest characteristics and quirks of my mum, like the gentle flicking of her hair locks or habitual moving of that one lock of hair away from her face with the back of her hand while working, the cocking of her head from side to side, her squeeky and sparkly clean home, her contagious laughter and continous preparation of food in the kitchen to welcome everyone, the introduction of the playground-sized gadda in the room where the whole world must have jumped on at least once, like it were a bouncy castle, and many other precedents set. Radha disclosed using the example of my mum in her own home too.

Now, this had to be the best mother’s day gift for my mum. Not only did her kids think she was great, so did the kids’ friends, and their friends and relatives, and the friends and relatives of my dad, and our new families, and the grandkids. Within months of getting married and moving to Pilani from Bombay, my mum had gained the praise and respect of the townfolk. She had learnt a new language to communicate with the new people in her life.

This is my mother, Asha. She grew up with the name Shakuntala (meaning ‘bird’), but dad decided to call her Asha, which means ‘hope’. My dad suffixed the name with Devi, meaning ‘goddess’. He believes that she has kept the house (read family) afloat, preserving hope, sanity and peace among chaos, exactly like Lord Krishna holding Mount Govardhan to protect his people from rain. She has endured pain and suffering with a smile. She has met triumphs and distasters without compromising on her character. She has always been truthful to herself and to others, even if the honesty led to her pain. She knew not what ego meant, for she believed that ego and love can never flourish together. She was approchable and unassuming, instilling courage in us, not fear. She made the effort to reach out to people. If people were wise, they would accept. Fools, she would be better without.

My mum is the strongest woman I have ever known. Mentally powerful and physically ready. She gave us freedom, she watched, but never pried, never imposed, never lied, never relied, kept our secrets, always helped. She is unafraid to ask anything, because she is unafraid to face the truth, and is willing to help. She thinks of today, not what tomorrow holds. If she cannot alleviate someone’s suffering today, what kind of mind’s peace can tomorrow bring, is her thought. She looked upto no one as she is content. A proud person that she is, she would, without thinking twice, give away everything that money can buy, but is very possessive about her soul.

The most secure memories of my life are the ones of returning home from school and finding my mum in the kitchen, getting our food ready. We never had to seek permission to bring friends over for meals. There was always a promise of abundance, without a frown. This was almost a daily routine. She was ALWAYS available for us. There were no worries in life.

My mum is the most successful woman. She wanted to be a good mother, lover, wife, friend, daughter, teacher, sister, daughter-in-law, aunt, sister-in-law and so on, and she made a huge success of all that and more. People say that girls turn out like their mothers, and I see that we both have. Only, my sister is a better person than I am. So like my mum. I don’t know if my life would have ever been what it is had it not been for these two beautiful women. A friend of my sister, who’s pretty successful in her own right, recently asked me if Sheetal was willing to adopt her. Other people have expressed desire to be adopted by my mother. I am proud to be the biological daughter of the woman who, through her entire life, remained a fierce fighter, and advocate of truth, and still continues to be so. She can never be defeated because her strength comes from her character that no one can conquer.

My regret is I can’t be near my mum whenever I want. Lucky are those who can be near their mums. Unlucky are those who squander that opportunity.

But I am my mum’s girl. I am trying to be for my children what she is to us. It makes my every day when my girls want to do everything right by me. I am proud to be like my mum, even if slightly, as even a slight trait from her magnanimous nature will make me stand out.

Unfortunate are those mothers whose children don’t want to be anything like them. The selfish and self-serving mums who only know how to take advantage of their children’s weakness or kindness, to want to look great at their expense. These mothers are like their own mothers who left the disturbing legacy. Such mothers spend their entire lives in unrepentant connivance, dishonesty, deception, gossip, snooping around and bitching – all the essential traits of uncharitable, mercenary, unscrupulous, self-absorbed individuals. Traits that destroy and divide families by doing irreparable damage. Such mums exist too, sadly. They are the control freaks. Shortsighted, they cannot see the long-term implications of their lies and actions. They remain so oblivious and disconnected that they cannot see or feel the pain and suffering they’ve caused their children, one from which some children never recover. Their children don’t aspire to be like them, but are too weak to break free from the trap their mothers have laid out for them, until they assume the same personalities as their mothers. On the rare occasions, the most independent minded, the ones with their own brains, will free themselves from the trap. The rest of them will never have any life, will resent the independent minded, and will propagate this behaviour through their future generations and there goes the cycle “like mothers like their offsprings”.

Pavlov, obviously, proposed his theory based on human interactions and observations.

I want to be like my mum. She is my hero. She means so much to me that I cannot envision a world without her. I’m continuously learning from her.

Jehangir, despite his reticence, and completely out of the blue, one evening, expressed to my mum, “you’re very nice, madame.” My mum started laughing, appreciatively. Jehangir’s compliment meant a lot to me as he never flattered anyone. My friend, Siddhartha, said that she was the most down-to-earth woman he had ever met, that she had everything she wanted, but it never came in the way of how she treated people. She has always treated all alike. Yet another friend in London once said to me, “your mom is a ‘real mummy’, my mom is just a mom.” This friend had not even met my mother, but derived the conclusion only by listening to my telephone conversations with my mum, because she had never had such a warm conversation with her own mother, she said, let alone repeatedly.

That sums it all.

Happy Mother’s Day, mummy! You are so good that I often forget it is my day too.

….. Sapna Dhandh-Sharma

Because it’s there!

Stonehenge| Wiltshire | England

There has been a sad shift from art being created to it being questioned. The photographs were meant to be created as visual delights. A new process, technique, or aesthetic appeal. Words were for writers as they didn’t paint. They explained in thousand words what a photographer could in one frame. 

Then came the period of mass-manufacturing of cameras and photographers – the wave of ‘every person is a photographer’. 

They were. 

Are.

So if everyone is photographing the Stonehenge, then someone who is making a big deal out of photography will now need to concoct some cock-and-bull to somehow convince the world that only their photograph of the monument is worth hanging on the museum and living room walls over the millions of other photographers’ images of the same scene.

That’s all it takes.

People are attracted to the poorly lit/composed image because they are made to believe it’s created that way on purpose, for a reason. It’s deliberately pixelated, and not because the amateur forgot to adjust the camera settings…. The Mosaicy Feel – first ever. Even a bad day of photography got sold.

This not only compromises the effort of a real genius, but also encourages mediocrity as those who shout the loudest get heard, get sold. Mediocrity rules. 

Though, a few geniuses have learnt to shout too. The professionals are having to adapt. 

If my photographs are good enough, then why am I not considered close enough? How did Capa get away with it then?

I’m far from being a genius, but also far from being a mediocre. So, if an image I create evokes awe, then why do I need to explain it? 

Should my answer to why something was photographed be not as straightforward as Mallory’s reason for wanting to summit Mount Everest? 

“Because it’s there”?!

…..Sapna Dhandh-Sharma

My Fonts From New York

My initials were signed in
the ‘KISS’ font – Die Nasty

When we build or buy a home, we forever keep changing the layout, the design, the colour scheme, the decor, and so on. The same applies to a website, it is a form of our online personal space, our identity. We forever keep changing the design, the layout and the fonts until we are satisfied, which is never. We might build something we really really like, until we like something on some other site, and we go back to make further changes on ours. For this reason, my site permanently reads on top ‘Site is undergoing changes’, precisely because it is always going to be changing. Not only new pictures will arrive, but also new colours and fonts and gallery designs, until I am satisfied, which will be never.

From an early age, I have signed my initials ‘S’ in the style of New York rock band KISS’s signature font, Die Nasty, or what I thought was their signature style…

…until I saw it being written on Nazi propaganda banners, on which the Schutzstaffel’s ‘SS’ was styled in exactly the same way. I read somewhere that KISS adopted this font for the German market. I highly doubt that they supported the SS agenda (more on that at the end of this page), but anyway…I simply love the font for its sharp and sleek style and not for anything else. I also loved how my entire name SAPNA could be spelt in this font pretty neatly, as I have no ‘O’s or any other softer or rounded alphabet in my name. Anyway, enough of my name.

Coming to my website title (which is again my name ha ha), I probably must have tried every possible font available, and so it went…Until…New York artist, Xiomáro, asked me to check his new website out early this year. There is no denying that his website needed some refurbishment, and I said so to him as far as 5 years back. Not because it was not pleasant already, but because it was built very early in his photography career and since that time he kept uploading more and more stuff without making other changes and, so, navigating was a constant struggle for a visitor like me during my research of his work that was featured in my magazine Aspect Ratio .He did promise me that he will be updating everything soon, which was 5 years later 😀 when he finally found some time in his very busy schedule. So, rewinding to…..Xio asked me to check his brand new website. It was neat, of course, but I cannot place my finger on what was missing, or what it was that I didn’t quite like. It was a very ‘busy’ site, naturally, as being a highly accomplished artist-author, he’s covered countless projects over the years, so I might have to come back to read all the stuff on there some other time, I thought, and also told him.

Then one day, as he and I were discussing something online, he shared with me his old letterhead, and there it was…the font. The font he had used on his earlier website title was missing on his new site. That was what was wrong on his new site. Wrong, not in the literal meaning of the word. Wrong, as in changed or missing, when I checked his new site. His new logo is pretty cool too, but we all have our preferences. So anyway, upon enquiring, he told me it was Tall Films font that he’d always used. It was too late to change back to original as he had made changes on all his sites, and it was a lot of work to undo everywhere, especially as he was short of time already.

Okay then, it worked out best for me. I had already exhausted all the available fonts, so, “May I have your font, X?”

He was amazed at my question, and felt honoured too, he said.

He promised to send me through email. And he did.

Point to be noted. He ‘sent’ me the font instead of pointing me towards Mr Google Search.

I know how to get fonts. He knows I know how to get fonts. I know he knows I know how to get fonts.

But he sends me through email. Because it was his, and I wanted it. From him. Officially. So now we know, I didn’t copy him. He generously let me have it.

‘Tall Films’ font- Courtesy of Xiomáro

It went on my website head immediately. I just realised that I haven’t changed it for some time. I must really like it. Also, because it is a gift from him, so it’ll stay until he tells me he’s bored of seeing it. And, I don’t mind hand-me-downs from those who hand them down to me graciously.

And since I really liked Die Nasty for my initials, I changed my favicon (website tab) to ‘S’ in that font in red, my all-time favourite colour.

The other thing that’s absolutely fascinating is that both my favourite fonts were originally used by New York artists, KISS and X.

A bit about why KISS decided to choose this font…

“Frehley created the now-iconic logo, making the “SS” look like lightning bolts, when he went to write the new band name over “Wicked Lester” on a poster outside the club where they were going to play. (Some of Wicked Lester’s artwork included one lightning bolt for the “S” in Lester.)” …. Wikipedia

Sapna Dhandh-Sharma

!

Times are tough. For everyone.

Stuck indoors.

No fault of ours.

Lockdown here.

And also there.

Modern times, seem like another era from the past.

Parents so so far.

So are siblings. Three of us, in three different parts of the world.

Helplessness turning into sadness.

No guarantees. No certainty.

Will we live! Will we not!

What beyond?

Will we meet in next life?

Will we stay together then?

No foreign land we shall explore.

Or we do it together.

Promise?

Do you like me so to make me a part of your life again?

Have I been a good person for you?

Or just a burden for all?

No Regression. No Stagnation.

It’s right – “The only constant in life is change”. No change feels good to start with, but it becomes a part of us sooner than we think. It’s bound to. That’s how we survive and even thrive.

Change is sometimes voluntary (e.g. holiday, foods, friends), but sometimes enforced (e.g. jobs, illness, accidents, deaths, breakups) sometimes pleasing, other times painful. But all of these feelings are transient. They pass.

The things we woke up, looked forward to, slept with, no longer remain important. They are not part of our routine post change. The change becomes the routine. It starts to feel normal. Before long, the old routine is forgotten. The things we had to try very hard to forget become very hard to remember, and then they become a distant memory. We thrive under those new changes, exactly how we did when life threw the past change at us and we never wanted that to change. But it did. Like every other change before that. It made us stronger, better and flexible.

We shouldn’t become too comfortable in a situation, I think. So when change is imposed, we make the most of it and move on to another temporary phase.

We must remain ready to embrace the change. A time comes when we no longer want to step back into the past phase. We have to look forward to the future and the many changes yet to come.

Life Is Short, But Can Still Be Worthwhile

This morning I had stopped outside a shop when I saw a hearse carrying a coffin. It read “brother” on the funeral wreath. I felt sad seeing someone’s brother being taken for funeral that early in the morning. I paused to pay my respects (out of childhood habit) like my father taught me, “Say my hello to God.”

As I drove home a couple of minutes later, I saw a gathering of people outside a house. The hearse parked in their drive. I knew the people in the house. The lady’s children attended the same school as my girls. At first I thought her father-in-law must have passed away. We all have to go one day, I thought. I paid my respects again and continued driving.

But why “brother”?! I’ve usually not seen a really old sister requesting that when there are several family members in the man’s own family – wife, son, daughter-in-law, one grandson and two granddaughters.

Oh my!!! Is it possible that it was her husband? Absolutely possible, as I don’t even remember seeing her father-in-law ever. Maybe he’d gone long ago. Not sure. But her husband was not that old. He looked stressed though. Affluent guy, but stressed. He never smiled when our paths crossed. His stress probably killed him. I won’t know until I meet the lady again. There is only one kid of hers in school, and the kid is not a friend of my daughter. Kids usually don’t approach other kids to enquire such things. Never. Her other two kids are slightly older, and at university.

Oh my God, it later struck me!! Could it be the young boy? The “brother” of the sisters? Why not, some said! Anything is possible.

Of course, anything is possible.

Life is indeed very short. It gives no chance for goodbyes and yet there are people who would hold grudges, agendas, hang-ups, excuses. Many value monetary success over a successful relationship. I’m sure such people are built differently. They must surely find contentment in their actions, or they won’t take them. Until their chase for the kind of success they valued more consumes them. Like it did in this man’s case, if it’s him who died. Chances are, it is him. He took nothing he worked for with him in the end. None of us will. After some time, people tend to forget them too. That’s how the world is designed or one cannot move on in life. If we can forget people when they are alive, then so much easier when they are gone.

This is why I’m glad to be the way I am. My madness is for the people I love, not for what I can gain from them. In return, those who can appreciate my passion own me. I don’t want to die miserably like that man. I want people to say upon my death – “Sapna had plenty of time for us and she never made false promises.” This will make my life, and also my death, worthwhile.

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