Recently I attended a function to celebrate a lady’s 80th birthday. My wife and I were quite early, so we sat at a table of four .
Soon guests started trickling in . We were happy when a lady joined us . Later another couple joined us . We adjusted with our seating and were joined by a second couple rather late.
I’ve not been too familiar with these friends who are part of a community I have just joined . Initially only formalities were exchanged.
Very soon as the party progressed we exchanged hilarious incidents. The jokes started pouring in .
Other guests known to us , wondered what was the secret of all the laughter.
The answer was simple ….humour to laugh even at ourselves.
Two incidents were about mistaken identity .
I was a visitor staying with a community of Brothers . As is the norm each person prepares his own breakfast .
While doing so , I heard footsteps approaching. I turned briefly and greeted him “Good morning Don”. To my surprise the person responded gruffly “I’m not Don , I’m Steve.” He happened to be the senior among the Brothers . That evening I was the but of jokes as the Brothers (gathered for the evening of fellowship) all teased me about this .
The second amusing incident was related by the other guest . At a training seminar they dispersed for an interval . As he was walking in the corridor, the main speaker whom he did not know came towards him and gave him a hug “Oh , it’s wonderful to see you after so long.” Later many young people asked him “ How do you know this speaker?” , as it was a privilege to connect with renowned speakers. With a broad smile he answered “ I don’t really know him , but enjoyed the moment.”
A third incident was recounted . The lady had traveled to Edinburgh to collect her graduation certificate for a course she attended . She then planned to return by train to Glasgow where her husband waited to meet her .
At Edinburgh station she grabbed a quick coffee at the station and jumped into a train as she heard ‘Glasgow’ being announced. She telephoned her husband “I’m on the train”Normally such a journey would take 1 hour , but unfortunately this was a slow train which stopped at all stations . So after a prolonged journey she arrived at Glasgow where her husband waited anxiously. This accounted for their late arrival at the 80th birthday celebration. She learnt a good lesson ‘look before you leap’.
The amusing incidents recounted among others helped to put all into a good mood .
Surely humour goes a long way to look at life and laugh.
The thrills of kite flying were immense (this was in the 1960’s )
Evenings were a time to fly kites after returning from school. We bought our kites and thread with manja from a shopkeeper called kite man .
He had several sizes of kites
6paise a medium kite
2paise a tiny kite
12paise a bigger kite called a daboo.
The manja, is thread coated with a glass powder . This would be at the front part of a flying kite , which is used to deal with another kite flyer in a kite fight. This manja and thread would be wrapped on a device called a firki..
Strong thread would be at the rear part of the flying kite .
I liked the 6paise kite as it had wax lines on it . The daboos were also waxed .
We had names for the various wind directions .
Evening breeze was generally from west to east .
Morning breeze was from east to west
Afternoon breeze was from north to south
Night breeze was from south to north .
We flew our kites in the wind direction.
In those days , many youth flew kites and the sky would be full of kites .
Some kite flyers were skilled in kite fights . I would take great care to ensure any flyer would not ‘pull’ me from behind.I.e. cut my string and lose my kite as it sailed away.
In the same way I would be ready for a kite fight and enjoy it with those in front or on the side .
There would be another set of youth who would only be interested in catching the kites that lost their fight and went sailing to land and get caught by them .
As a young guy , I would get thrilled when my eldest brother joined us to fly kites .
There were interesting incidents
when one of my daring brothers climbed the roof of our house to catch a kite . I too ventured to climb the neighbour’s roof and was reprimanded ‘Who is there on the roof’ by an old lady.
Another incident was quite serious . My brother caught a kite that floated near our home . He began pulling it but a sudden pull from the other end , caused the ‘manja’ to cut through his arm to the bone . Blood flowed as he got back to our home and was detected by my aunt . My father (a doctor ) was immediately contacted . The first thing he did , was to give my brother a spanking and then took him to the hospital where he was stitched .
On the 14th January , a kite flying festival is held called Makar Sakranti. Young and old participate in flying kites on this day .
At the end of October on a certain feast day there was a legend that kite flyers would release their kites in the sky which signalled the end of the season .
We were sad when this happened . We missed our evenings of kite flying .
The season spanned between end September to end October .
Sadly we now don’t see kites being flown . Youth have other pursuits .
We all know about legends ….the ones who have struck the pinnacles of life . They are the ones in every field who do well and are avidly followed . There comes a time when the person has to step down from the stage and give way to the younger stars . Then is it easily accepted by the legend ? Some of them have left the field at the top of their careers . They know when to retire . An outstanding example is Roger Federer . Others still persist and gradually fade away when the younger ones make their appearance . The world acknowledges these persons and they go into the record books or the archives . How does it feel or what happens to them. It’s not easy . Some have made their careers their very lives and then don’t know what to do thereafter . There have been cases of depression and the need for counselling . Those who have discovered other pursuits somehow go through this stage of life in a better way . When you speak about legends , have you and I thought about ourselves . We all have to leave the stage as time goes by. Younger people then take over . The term used is retirement. I think one has to prepare for this season of one’s life . There are many avenues to get involved in . Writing offers a way of bringing back memories . Some write their memoirs. Others go into story writing . Some who are fond of music either play a musical instrument , or compose or just listen to their type of music . There are some who become advisors or coaches and pass on their experiences to younger people . Some are voracious readers . Some pass their time with friends for a walk or visiting quiet places at gardens and beaches . Life changes need to be accepted. What we do with ourselves is to prepare for this. The old adage of ‘mellowing with age ‘ is so applicable . We can continue to use the talents we are blessed with . The best way is to have a life of daily prayer and seek the Lord’s guidance . Life does not end, but changes . Eternity beckons . Am I ready for it ?
He was an all rounder….good at sports , an ability to speak with flair , good at sales , a family man to the core and was able to get along with people .
As a sportsman, he was good at cricket hockey and athletics. In his younger days his bowling was comparable to the Indian medium pacer Ramakant Desai. He was told by one of the Indian cricketers, that he could try for selection into the Indian team. However Joe was more interested in hockey and there were slim chances of getting into the Indian team which was the best team internationally. I remember playing table tennis with him and just could not take his spin service .
His ability to speak helped in sales and being a success in insurance work . He was the leading sales person for the Encyclopaedia Britannica , which earned him trips to Mexico, Austria and Egypt.
An interesting aspect of his speech was his ability to speak in the way we speak in India with a typical clarity in delivery , but then break into the accent of the British when in England.
He studied in Pune at the St Vincent’s High School and won many awards in Athletics.
He then did his education at the University in Bombay .
Just like his father , he moved to East Africa where he served for some years.
When the trouble started, and non Africans were forced to leave , he moved to UK. He settled well facing all the challenges of starting life in a new place. His family consisted of his wife Margaret and three children , Clifford , Daphne and Valerie.
My early memories of him was his stature. He looked a bit like Ted Kennedy and I was happy when any of my family told me , that I looked like him .
There was an interesting incident when he visited us in Bombay (now Mumbai) without informing us .
It was late at night and he rang our door bell . My Dad , a doctor , enquired ‘Kaon hai?‘ in Hindi (Who is it ?) He replied “ Mai , patient hoo “ ( I’m a patient ).
My Dad never liked night calls and went only for his patients he knew . So he replied . “Doctor nai hai “ ( Doctor is not at home )
Joe broke into laughter and said “ Micky it’s me Joe “ and we all had a good laugh .
His home in London was always open to guests from all over the world . London happens to be a convenient stop for the guest travellers who visited him .
He enjoyed sea food and fresh fruit in Goa . He and Margaret also stayed with us in Mumbai but preferred Goa.
In his latter years he visited Goa from October to March, and just loved it , thus escaping the winter.
My wife and I were privileged to visit him and the family in London a few years ago. All my extended family had already been his guest .
He was a brave person and faced the challenges of failing health well . My last words with him from India was praying on the phone with him Psalm 23 ,
‘the Lord is my Shepherd.’
He then passed away peacefully . I was surprised that he had prepared the readings from scripture and hymns for his mass. I will never forget him …the dashing and brave person .
Our journey commenced from Glasgow Central . My wife Anjean and I were accompanied by a Jesuit priest Fr. Vincy Vaz visiting from India.
Our cab dropped us at the main bus terminal . However we had booked our trip on a private tour bus . It was quite a challenge to find this bus stop. After making a few rounds of the area , we finally found the bus parked not far from the main bus terminal .
The time was 6.50 am and the bus was scheduled to leave at 7am . We just made it to the bus where our guide cum driver was waiting. He gave us a warm welcome .
Having him to drive and also be our guide was the best part of the journey.
He was funny and had a lot of stories to share as he drove along . He looked a personality from the movies with long hair tied behind and a beard .
We left Glasgow before sunrise , and gradually saw daylight creeping in .
Our first stop was Loch Lomond . The lake is beautiful. The sunshine was brilliant and made a good opportunity for pictures . A few people were boating on the lake.
We had a quick cup of coffee and tuna sandwiches that Anjean had prepared for this trip. The mince samosas , an Indian snack also prepared by Anjean would serve as lunch along with the sandwiches and cheese biscuits.
Our next stop was at Ardlui . We stretched and walked around . The slope of a hill made a beautiful backdrop with the rust coloured trees ,greens of the others and the frost below .
We then moved on the through the Scottish highlands into Rannoch Moor and Glencoe . Glencoe is considered the most beautiful glen . We passed beneath the Ben Nevis en route through Glencoe. Glencoe is a village in Lochaber which is famous for its natural beauty . It has the Ben Nevis the highest mountain in Scotland . There is a memorial installed for the soldiers who died during the 2nd World War and those thereafter . The nearby valley is very steep .
The mountains were breathtaking!
There is a small village at the foot of the Glencoe . We passed by Fort Augustus and Fort William until we reached Loch Ness. Fort William is the main town at Lochaber.
Loch Ness is famous for the monster that is supposed to live in the Loc. There are two sets of people , one group firmly believes in it’s existence and the other does not believe . In Scottish forklore she is known as Nessie and is believed to make an appearance periodically.
There was an option to join a cruise on the lake . However we were happy to enjoy tea and cakes at the quaint restaurant near the lake. A gushing spring with a bridge across was a sight which caught my eye .
We then drove on , passing through Inverness . With the sunsetting , it became dark and there was not much to see. So our driver cum guide quietened down and drove speedily back to Glasgow . On the way we had to detour because of road repair . With the help of a passenger and google he found his way back on the route . We did see a beautiful scene of a bridge over the lake just before sundown .
So our day’s trip ended giving us a lot to remember.