Age appropriate holiday for Nidhi.
Recently I turned 70. Nandini & Raxit and Rohini & Sundeep gave me a special treat to celebrate the event ! All of us, a total of ten were at the Disneyland at LA. Some, I am sure, would be surprised that a seventy-year-old was given such a treat. But Nandini thought that it was appropriate. In fact, I had a whale of a time at the Indiana Jones ride. (Which means I was scared!)
I suppose I should go back to the time I turned sixty. Nandini with Raxit had arranged a trip to Yellowstone national park to celebrate my birthday. We were six of us then, Rohini and Sundeep joined us from Houston. Thanks to progress in medicine, getting to be sixty is no more considered a notable achievement. In the US you cannot even retire without a special reason, in fact they do not even think you are old.
It was different in India in the early days. The Shastabdhi poorti function when you turn sixty is also an abbreviated marriage ceremony which the children organise and the grand children have fun by sitting with the grandparents through the ceremonies. I do not know if the ritual has a Vedic sanction.
I suppose after this celebration the man would actually be all set to relinquish his worldly responsibilities and go on a pilgrimage with his wife. Could even be called a second honeymoon, except that there was no first honeymoon those days. In fact, it probably would be the first time the couple would go on their own for a holiday! For some reason we did not have this ceremony for my parents.
Walking on the fragile volcanic areas around the hot springs or having the darshan of the old faithful ( I had seven of them) was as fulfilling as a religious ceremony for me. Just being under blue skies and gazing at a horizon which stretched for miles in all directions was awe inspiring. I had just then decided to retire from my working life and the surroundings added to my feelings of being as vulnerable as the earth below our feet at the hot springs.
I am also reminded of two more events which influenced me. One was the view I had of a lone leafless tree surrounded by snow at a resort on Lake Superior one early winter morning. Hari and Anita had driven me to this resort, another treat I still cherish. I felt one with the tree at that moment. I thought it was mutely waiting having served what I deemed a purpose in life.
All of us want to know the purpose of life in general and more importantly our own. It is a very a confusing period when you have stopped working and are out of your comfortable routines.
Then it was the trip to Badrinath with Raghu and Vatsala. The Nara Narayana range behind the temple was very enticing. We did trek for an hour with Rohini behind the temple and could see the edge of the glacier. I had heard the story of Adi Shankara walking on towards the peak never to be seen again. It made sense to me at that moment that he decided to move on, and I did indeed feel the pull of the mountains. In fact in early days a Badriyaatra could well be the last one!
Having now reached another landmark, I realise the last ten years have been fulfilling in a very significant way. From a family of six we are ten. We are also fortunate to have been adopted by many more and thus we really have a much larger family. ( We do miss those who are no more with us.)
I have now realised that the lonely tree was trying to teach me acceptance of my circumstances. The enticing Himalayas were really telling me that I could walk away from routines and still find a meaning to my life.
Vedanta tells us to learn to be with the present always and experience it. There is no better way to do this than being with small children. Rhea who is seven months old has taught us acceptance. Every change in her mood is like a law for us. Leela who is just four does not let me think of either the past or the future when I am taking care of her.
I had the similar feelings when I was with Neil and Nikhil while they were playing with the waves at the Newport beach. There was no way I could move away from the present while keeping an eye on them and the same time having all the fun with them. I am indeed grateful to have the opportunity to learn from my 'baby' gurus.
Yes it was a fun holiday. I must add that I did participate in a Pooja (This would have pleased my elders!) at the Malibu temple and it was indeed wonderful to be with Malathi, Hari and Ambi who brought back so many memories of my younger days.
I must also mention about the dream wedding of Menaka and Chris we attended at an exclusive club on the Santa Monica beach. Wonderful setting for a simplified Hindu style marriage. Rama and Gopi, parents of Menaka had invited us as early as last year. This, in fact gave Nandini the idea to combine our family holiday with our participation at the wedding.
It was wonderful to be reminded of from our Pune days meeting Varadraj & Sharat, Geeta and Vinay and a very delightful Riya. The walk inside the Cal Tech campus was very enjoyable as was the attempt by the 4 year old Riya to scare me by pretending to read a book full of monsters and crocodiles! Nice also to meet Ram and Shakku there and dear neice Priya also at the wedding.
It was also a pleasure to spend time with Nandini and Raxit's friends Ketan and Shilpa, their parents and daughter Priya, and be part of Shaan's second birthday party.
It was indeed a good way to celebrate the commencement of living my bonus years. It is my first year and I hope I am able to retain the childlike enthusiasm my grand children have taught me thru the years which are given to me.
(I saw this news the next day we returned from LA: Earthquake Forces Evacuation Of Disneyland Rides. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake located near Chino Hills struck at 11:45 AM today and resulted in the evacuation of all attractions at the Disneyland Resort. This is standard operating procedure for Disneyland, and it is unknown when the attractions will reopen.
I think we were indeed lucky, It would have been a real let down to come back from the park without taking all those rides! Also worrying considering that we had kids ranging from 7 months to 8 years with us.)