Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Tiny Cottage in Paradise

Those who have lived in a village or town filled with green spaces but have later had to move to a city for work, as very many humans have to do, continue to miss the green and open of countryside. A viable option for some is, if they have the savings for it, to purchase even a small farm of a few acres or a small building plot of a few hundred yards in a picturesque mountain village and build their own tiny dream cottage on it to visit in holidays or even move to for longer stays in retirement if conditions permit. One on sale may already be available but renovations cost a lot and one may never figure out where the kitchen drain leads to or how to fix the leak in the roof.

Earth is not paradise but bits of it lie scattered across the Earth. If one looks around one can locate one such in most any country, at a location that is not difficult to access. It may be pointed out that investing in land is likely the best option in these uncertain economic times. After having acquired the land, one needs to build on it and building just a tiny cottage that does not cost an arm and a leg to build and another arm to maintain later is enough if required for holidays or even longer stays in retirement. This blog has proposed several designs for such tiny homes and cottages in some earlier posts, here is yet another one.

The new design emerged when recently my Godson, Shyamu purchased a small plot of land near his ancestral farmlands where he hopes that in the years ahead he could build a small cottage for his old age. He is only 36 now but following in my footsteps he has realized it is a wise thing to begin this task while one is still young and active. Since he had managed to save enough money to purchase the plot, he went ahead. The task of designing the cottage fell on me and after struggling with dimensions of the area and his needs, a design emerged as shown here as one of the designs. It is shared here for anyone out there who may be interested because I felt the design is attractive for most anyone. All the details are not described here but a discerning user would be able to figure that out from the image. The total covered area is a little less than six hundred square feet. There is no internal staircase in the design but there is an external one possible from the outside at the back as suggested in the figure. However the plan can be extended to include an internal staircase as shown in the second figure. In this case the covered area would increase to a little less than 800 square feet, Around 30 feet x 28 feet, and yield additional spaces in the home.

For some reason, some of the grid markings were lost in conversion to a jpg image, nevertheless an architect or engineer can deduce the dimensions from the ones that remain. The walls have been shown as one foot thick here but they could be a little less or more depending on the construction method. The reader may note that unlike small urban one-bed room flats, here the bedroom is larger than the living room. The reason for that is urban dwellers especially younger persons need a larger living room to entertain and a small bedroom suffices because they spend little time there except to sleep or to do something that is done just as well in a tiny place. However, for retired persons these needs reverse and must be kept in mind.

There now, you do not need to blow money on architect. Take a print from this blog and finalize the details with a contractor. Best wishes.

Design for a country cottage by Dr. Ashok 2018

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Song of Birds

Birds sing all day around my home, day after day, year after year in ever changing compositions. Here is a brief recording I made of them yesterday morning

The birds begin their chirping very early in the morning while it is still dark, here is another one recorded at that time yesterday

Friday, February 23, 2018

Last Days and Moments with Mother

In life one shall come across humans who habitually create stress, conflict and hate while there are others who are peacemakers and spread love and peace. I have intimate experience of both kinds. My father who retired as a Colonel from the Indian Army was of the first type while mother was of the second type. She was indeed a godly soul if ever there is one among humans. Much of her life was spent in smoothing out obstacles and conflicts father would create for himself and others in the family, until she breathed her last on April 25th 1999. They loved each other nevertheless because life creates attraction of opposites. Moreover, she had confided in me that when she fully realized that at a young age, she had infant children on her hands and there was no question but to stick by him for the sake of children. Her own mother and father had passed away when she was still barely 23 years old. Further, our father did exert to become a better human, husband and father but there are things we are born with and not all can overcome them within one lifetime.

Her official name after marriage was Nand Rani Malhotra (nee Sahni) but through life she was known as just Nando. She descended from one of the finest families of Northwestern India with relatives who occupied the highest of position in governance in the land. The present Comptroller and Auditor General of India is the husband of one of her nieces whose wedding she oversaw herself while the niece herself has served as one of the senior most officers in the Indian Government.

There was divine touch in her hands and works. In the sixties she took leave from all of us to build a home for the family in Delhi. She said it was necessary so that the family may not by chance end up on the street someday. Our earlier family homes had been left behind when they migrated to divided India in 1947. Soon after that the family moved to Nainital, one of the loveliest of towns in India with good schools for kids and later elsewhere as we grew up but in rented or official homes. We could not live in the home mother finally built in Delhi except for a few odd days because father had to live in official housing provided by his job but she rented it out to pay back the loan raised to construct it. The person who used it then went on to become the President of India (Shri V V Giri). He  was saddened to leave this small home to occupy the vast Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Presidential Estate in India, constructed by the British Empire for the British Viceroy while they ruled. He said it was a home made with blessed hands and it was because of that he rose step by step to become a President. Seems the then Prime Minister India Gandhi had to visit him in our home in C-243, Defence colony then to urge him to move on to the estate quickly now that he was the President. The newspapers of the time described it as a yellow house. My father and mother too went to visit and congratulate him then because my father's official residence at that time was only a few hundred yards away, He stood up to receive them at the gate and bowed to her. His daughter with whom he stayed gifted my mother with a sari of rich South Indian silk in pastel green with a maroon border and gold thread. Other leading personalities have done similar. A political leader, who became Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar gestured to touch her feet when a common friend, Mrs. Tarakeshwari Sinha, introduced her first to him as her older sister at a wedding ceremony in New Delhi. It was because of the aura that surrounded her that some could see through despite her utter simplicity.

Of all my brothers and sisters my mother was closest to me although she cared for and loved all. Often children do not realize that because each child is different the love parents express for them has to be in different ways. She confided in me most confidential matters of the family and from her life. This closeness was a source of sibling rivalry and my brothers and sister could not understand what was different about me for her to be closest to me. In later years, there was some justification for it too because they felt they were doing more to serve her in her old age than me. The reasons for this last were circumstances that were beyond my control. Part of my professional career had taken me to distant lands and in part because of conflicts with father, assisting her had not always been easy. It had been precisely so between him and elder brother too until he was compelled to leave home and country behind at a very young age, something that my mother perhaps never fully forgave him for, reminding him about that with tearful eyes from time to time while she lived.

In 1990 a severe pain developed in her spinal chord accompanied by paralysis in lower half of the body and she had to undergo surgery. The doctor had warned that surgery was dangerous and not all survive it. I prayed to the Lord to save her. Being of a spiritual bent of mind, I have resorted to prayer in the direst of emergencies in life and my experience has been that the Lord always did listen to me in such situations. She survived the operation but a partial paralysis remained in her legs. The last eight and a half years of her life were spent partially confined to a wheelchair. She nevertheless retained a lot of her cheerfulness and continued to serve the family from her bed, phone and wheelchair rescuing family members from any crisis that developed from time to time with her huge abilities and contacts with some of the leading powers of the land. In this state, she managed to rescue my younger brother from a serious crisis that developed in his career in the Indian army and he went on to become a General later. She had done similarly with my father's career too saving it from grave crisis twice, once in the late forties by going to the British for it and the second time in the late sixties for which she had to approach railway clerks first along with her best friend through life from her college days, one Mrs. Bishna Mathur (wife of an army Brigadier) and next by approaching her brother P. N. Sahni who was well connected to corporate houses of North Western India of the time (about her brother Prem Nath Sahni here on Wikipedia).

In 1998, I had joined my Alma Mater at the Indian Institute of Technology as a Visiting Professor in engineering and moved to an accommodation on campus reserved for Visiting Professors. My parents then lived in a different part of the Delhi region. I would visit every weekend reaching her home on Saturday afternoon and leaving on Sunday morning after dinner and a night with them.

One Saturday in April of 1999, father and brother informed that mother had suffered a cardiac problem and been moved to hospital. I immediately rushed there. She was on oxygen in bed but cheerful nevertheless. She then told me some things that a parent might who is about to depart from the world, warning me of some dangers in the family that she had not spoken of earlier for it was not in her nature to speak ill of one family member to another. After a few days she returned home. The following weekend when I was about to return to campus on Sunday morning, she surprisingly said, what is the hurry? Why is it necessary to go so soon? This was most unusual of her. I do not recall her doing any such thing at any time during my adult life, always letting one have the freedom to come and go as one chose just for  few days or even a few months or years to distant lands. I have later realized that it was because she knew the time for her to depart had come and she wished to spend a little more time together.

On this last morning with her, she mentioned that my younger brother was complaining to her that I had taken away one of his trousers from the closet reserved for guest and left an old one of mine. All of us left a few dress changes in our parent’s home for convenience during visits. It is things like this that my younger brother or father often resorted to in order to shake my mother’s intense faith in me. Being the very last conversation with her while she lived, I remember this conversation fully and clearly. I told her that was not true and she laughed and said, of course, it is not true and your brother is way shorter, his trousers will never fit you. She was similarly cheerful all through that morning and came up to the door to see me off in her wheel chair, which too was most unusual.

On the evening of 24th of April 1999, I received news that mother had slipped into coma and been moved to hospital called R  & R, one of the finest medical facilities in India. On rushing there, I found her in bed unconscious and breathing very rapidly. I caressed her cheek briefly with the palm of my hand for solace before leaving. She seemed to say,

 “I have waited until Saturday-Sunday before going because I know you visit on Saturdays and Sundays.” she said while moving one of her fingers slightly from where my sister had removed a ring of gold while she lay unconscious in bed.

It seems that although most humans do not have much choice in choosing when their life shall end, the spiritual among them do have some choice in the matter especially with the Lord for a few days to complete a cherished task. Long visits were not permitted in her ward. On returning to my lodgings I sat down in prayer. This time I was wiser. I did not pray to the Lord to save my Mother but just do the best by her. A divine blinding light flashed through my mind in answer. Soon after I was informed by phone that my Mother had left for her heavenly abode. The time for her worn out physical body to leave the world had come and it was time to acquire a new fresh one. Just as clothing for the body ages so does it age for the soul.  I held her lifeless body on the floor of the van headed for the cremation ground, all dressed in a sari of fine gold that had survived from her wedding days and accompanied by roses I had freshly procured. She loved roses and flowers much while she lived, more than gold and wealth infact. Her soul survives as does the soul of all of us and the soul of those we love remains ever in communication, in this body or others.

While in Canada in 1986 a photographer on Alma and Broadway in Vancouver had snapped a nice picture of me. I sent her a copy and she had immediately put it up on a wall. My Father and younger brother were very jealous. They complained to her that why was my picture on a wall when theirs was not. She said, they have not sent any to her and she would put up theirs too if they did. They complained to me in private too asking me to take it down but I answered it is not I who had put it up; I gave it to her, she had done that. On their own they did not dare to annoy mother and take it down themselves. But within days after she passed away, they took it down and put it away somewhere. I have other copies of it though for my own use. Yesterday, I found a copy on Google photos, a bit worn out with age. It is shared with this post.
In a part of this post, I felt shy when mentioning name of Prime Ministers and Presidents, it sounds so much like name throwing, but it was essential to set her character in proper light. The persons mentioned were not the only ones. An earlier post had mentioned that how in 1947 the Premiere of then undivided Punjab, Khizere Hyat ( spelling?) rushed aid to her at an hour of need. on a phone call to him while Lahore was under curfew. There were many others not mentioned here including some from the British when they were still in India. The truth is that as per need, whoever it was, from a beggar on the street to the highest powers of our world came to her aid. The simple fact is that there are Laws of Attraction in the Universe and the Universe comes to the aid of souls that are in harmony with it, for all their needs. When her end came a former Director General of the Indian Armed Forces (General Harish Puri) rushed to her side to arrange her last bed for the last few days of her life in the finest hospital and bed available in the country, where this body of her breathed her last.

An old picture of Nando (Nand Rani Malhotra, nee Sahni) around 1950 with her first born Deepak Malhotra
She lived this very simple message in life, that happiness lies not in pursuing one's own desires but in serving others one is thrown with in life, in love, truth and simplicity, in being content with whatever the Universe provides from time to time in His Infinite wisdom and not in our limited one, and remaining cheerful in whatever the circumstances if it is a hut of the poorest or a mansion, in poor health or good, in poverty or prosperity, if it is in fine clothing and gold or in simple garments of the poorest, just exceedingly clean as per her habit, that she chose mostly at home when guests were not around. She washed her own clothes and that of the family with her own hands early every morning before anyone else was up at home, despite having aides for as long as she was on her feet until 1990. May her soul rest in peace and continue to shine the light for others in need of it.

Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation. - Rumi

A Post about the early life and family of Nando is at the following link: 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My Love, My Flower

California Poppies have come to my garden

While our conscious minds contain some knowledge, far more is knowledge is contained in the depths of our being. It is from here that intuitions, sixth sense and feelings arise. We may not be able to explain or understand the source of our feelings but they drive us much through life. One of these feelings is what is known as love at first sight. This love at first sight does not take place for another human only; it can take place for other things too such as flowers. Two flowers that have grabbed me thus in life are cosmos and California poppy. I had chanced upon a bed of California poppy in childhood somewhere and it grabbed my attention much. Everything about it - ferny leaves, pointy buds like hats of some elves in story books and delightful gentle flowers were delightful as is with everything about someone we love deeply. Even their flaws add a special charm as long as we remain in love with them.

In the years since I have grown lovely cosmos flowers in my garden but as regards California poppy either opportunity did not arise or I could not chance upon seedlings or seeds. For much of my life I have lived in India and it is not a common variety of poppy here. However some months back, I procured poppy seeds in a packet that showed pictures of the red, white and pink poppies and planted them. Some days later tiny hair like leaves of the plant appeared and I immediately knew they were the California poppies. One may recognize a loved one from the tiniest appearance often.

Now a small patch of flowers has begun to bloom beside a path in a garden. It has taken more than half a century for the Lord to grant me this love of my childhood. He always does in the right season and at the right time if the love is a true one, a love just the sake of it and not any other selfish interest.