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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Good Bye and Hello

Good-bye, and Hello.

Three of our nearest neighbours moved away in October.  Though they moved just a suburb away, to senior living, I would miss them, especially my next-door neighbour Sue, with whom I’d chat on the phone, visit, commiserate, pray,go for an outing, and/or walk several days a week over the last twenty years.  Who can replace a neighbour like that?

Three houses stood empty for two months as we wondered what kind of families would move in, and when. For Sale signs were posted Cars drove slowly by, appraising curb appeal and the neighbourhood, Sunday viewings were held. A few days before we departed for India for the winter, a SOLD sign went up in front of Sue’s house. We watched in vain for signs of the new occupants. Finally, as we left for the airport around noon on November twenty seventh, we saw a car in Sue’s driveway. We would have to wait until our midwinter return to meet our new neighbours.

Our MSP-CDG Delta/Air France flight was stellar, smooth, calmly and efficiently attended. Wheelchair service in Paris was prompt, and the extra-attentive attendant narrated details of the route and every little routine during the transfer to our next flight. At the entrance of the second terminal was a glut of wheelchairs and second-terminal attendants,talking excitedly, apparently at odds about how to proceed, causing everybody a delay. Perhaps it was their shift-change time?

As I teetered on legs stiffened by hours of sitting, one disgruntled attendant, a woman, abruptly jerked my arm, pushed me into a wheelchair, plopped my very heavy carry-on in my lap despite my protests, and, with a parting rejoinder to the others, set off without first placing the footrests, careening around corners and complaining loudly to another attendant pushing a chair in the same direction.

At the gate for our next flight, this attendant unnecessarily and awkwardly'transferred' me to a chair. What a relief! As I sat there, I enquired from a passing employee about a customer service desk, although I knew that I had neither the time nor the energy to pursue the matter. Within a minute, however, an intermediary appeared and hunkered at my feet, enquired gently about my welfare and the incident, and advised me to report it, if only for the sake of other frail  (frail? who's frail?) passengers needing wheelchair assistance in the future.  The disgruntled woman attendant later re-appeared, all smiles and cheer, to wheel me right up to the door of the JET Airways plane. She’d evidently gotten the message. (I filled in an e-report form Air France sent me later, but then promptly lost it into cyberspace.)

 The Jet Airways flight from Paris to Mumbai was less than stellar, understandably so, considering the almost completely full flight, inadequately restocked with meals and supplies, understaffed by a very young cabin crew, too inexperienced , undertrained and/or tired to handle it all. However, to their credit, they tried their best, on their feet the whole way.  Two Indian women pilots (there may have been more) navigated a smooth ride.

After an awkward exit, with no wheelchairs at all, and a lo-o-n-n-g  jetway,  we tired travellers hesitated at the unmarked corridor encircling the perimeter of the new Mumbai terminal, confused  over which way to turn. Most passengers eventually headed to the right. Thankfully, we old geezers could embark on a cart which miraculously made its toward us through the crowd. But, what is this: we hold our breath and/or murmur, when it heads to the left, the driver assuring a querulous old gent that we’ll eventually get to the right place.  (I mean, how far could you high jack an air terminal electric cart?) Scolding loudly, old gent struggles to get self, wife, and suitcase down, continuing his diatribe as they join the trend trudging  to the right.

Meanwhile a scroungy looking, tall white ‘trekkie’ brashes his way along through the crowd, trumpeting his excessively self confident self as being “not like the rest of you bastards.”

'No, but worse!' I murmur, as our cart rolls in the opposite direction, My fellow passengers in the cart are bemused.  Our cart cuts through the center of the building, and we find ourselves at the baggage carousel ahead of the walkers. Memory hazes over regarding the remaining Mumbai-Hyderabad terminal transfer and flight. Two long flights have taken their toll on intended alertness. We doze.

Upon our arrival, Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport appears busy but running smoothly. We barely have to pause with a porter to claim our luggage, and head for a quick shower and few hours’ nap in a tiny room of the airport’s tiny, dimly lit Plaza hotel.  Never mind that there’s barely room enough to maneuver between bed, bathroom and luggage, we have all the amenities you’d expect to find in a full size hotel. And it’s squeaky clean.

Owing to the eleven and one half hour time difference between US and India, it is early morning on November twenty ninth. We’re the first to inaugurate the Plaza's Indian breakfast buffet, and eat our fill of upma and idli/sambar before calling Raghava, our driver, to bring the car around from the parking lot. A wide brass bowl full of fresh rose blossoms fronts the checkout counter as we depart.

We alternately doze and listen to current updates from Raghava during the five hour drive along an ever evolving national highway.  Oleander bushes line the median most of the way. We make brief  stops for tea and toilet at a small restaurant and gas station, a pause for a toll station, and a half-hour halt to say hello at the PUSHPA sewing center in Rajupalem, which is on our way, before finally segueing off the freeway and entering dusty, rush hour traffic on the edge of Guntur. We pass through the smog of a truck unloading area. Piles of rubble clutter the spaces in front of severed buildings in a neighborhood awaiting road-widening.  We gradually begin to recognize familiar streets and lanes.  One final turn brings us to the cream colored gate of Mary Shree, our familiar, cream color apartment building named after my motherinlaw, Mary Margaret Gummadi. 

Our watchman ambles out to open the gate that is already ajar, Raghava glides the car through, and we disembark at last, glad to stretch our aching bodies and limbs. We nod to the watchman and his watching family,  press the button, and pull open the double gates of our tiny elevator. A diminished but familiar, disembodied female voice greets us with her stern unfailing admonition, “Please shut the DOOR!”

As we rise to our fourth floor, we see, first, feet, then bodies, and finally the smiling faces of half a dozen family members and the housekeeper, waiting and ready to greet us with smiles, hugs, and a hot, late lunch. .It’s good to be at home again, in India.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017, Day Twenty Two: A Double Elevenie

You thought
I'd lost track of the time
my dear,
But I was just writing a rhyme.
It seemed
to be raining outside
or not,
but I was staying close to home.
Would it
make any difference
if I were as tall
as you?

You were
the compatible one,
the one
fulfilled all the requirements.

Friday, June 23, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Twenty One: I hear things

Today's NaPoWriMo challenge is to  to write a poem that incorporates overheard speech. It could be something ... heard on the radio, ...remember(ed) from ..childhood, even ...overheard a coworker say...! Use the overheard speech as a springboard from which to launch (a)poem. (The) poem could comment ...on the overheard phrase or simply use it as illustration or tone-setting material.

OK, I heard, at a party, somebody describing a particular kind of party:  "It's all in fun. Everybody visits and plays games and somebody wins.  Nobody loses because they all get a turn. It's great fun."

Asking about the food:  "How do you make this?  I want to get the recipe.  I'll invite _________ over to make it and watch how she does it.

" Y ou've been here before? We're all seeing it for the first time."

"The Party"

It was great fun, she reported,
You really, really should have come.

But this poem had to be written,
the words had just started to come.

When you're hot with an idea,
there's no question of 'just begun.'

Inspiration has no recipe
to follow until it is done.

Invite inspiration over,
when she visits make her welcome,

Serve her food that she likes, play games.
Listen to her comments and then some.

Ask her whether she is comfortable,
and whether she'd like some iced tea.

Watching her reflection, I learned,
that my best inspiration is me.

Friday, May 26, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017, Day Twenty It's Just a Game

Day twenty's challenge is  to "write a poem that incorporates the vocabulary and imagery of a specific sport or game. Your poem could invoke chess or baseball, hopscotch or canasta, Monopoly or jai alai."

I made my choice of a common sporting game and began to write.  As I go along, trying to create a poem, it seems to be unfolding as more riddle-like than relevant vocabulary laden. So I am following that lead. Here's the beginning--let's see where it takes me! (Can you guess yet what game is being described??)

When You Set Out

Start in the middle, always the middle, or as close to the center as you can.
If you're first to depart, take your time, and take heart
Remember, the journey, whether easy or hard, will only endure for a span.

Keep a pine cache before you, just so, that its treasures enchant only you.
Though your choices may be moot, sometimes it's a hoot
and a holler to discover the unexpected and, thankfully, true. be continued off line

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Nineteen: A Neo Creation Myth: A Beginning...tbd

That's the writing challenge on day nineteen.  Something absolutely new, or fictional, or experience, re-imagined...I'll try my hand at mythologizing a story that has its  real place in my memoirs.

How the Sweet Tooth Came to Be, by Shirley Smith Franklin

Actually, the tooth was there from the beginning.  
And the child, a girl child, somewhat fragile, content to spend early childhood days shadowing her mother at home whenever she was't reading a book held in one hand, eating an apple held in the other, she was there too or, failing an apple, sucking on her thumb..
It was such an ingrained habit, that sucking of the thumb.  At first it had seemed a good and valid way to avoid over-eating.  But when she became  seven mother said it was time for that sort of habit to stop.
It was post-war (doesn't really matter which war, every war  has its contingencies), so understandably there were some tightenings of the belt, limitations on the family budget, and extra work required in order to create, at home, flour-sack clothes, knitted mittens, and canned produce from the victory garden. A night out for the parents was always as modest as visiting friends, attending a church choir practice, or community square dancing.
And what did the girl child do when parents were away? If you paid attention before, you will have guessed reading.  Which is only partly true.  Read she did, in the attic where nobody would disturb her, and thus the story, on days when it was fair and warm.  Not too hot because that would be insufferable among the stuffy rafters, clothing and decorations stored until their season came due; not too cold, because after a sweater became not enough, a winter coat was too clumsy to wear up the narrow and twisty stairway and amidst the boxes, besides being not enough still to prevent the chill of a Northern Minnesota winter a way into the bones.
Night times in the attic were out, because the one feeble light over the twisty stairway was not sufficient with which to read, at any time of year.  And after all, who would want to be so far away from the world on a night when mommy and daddy weren't even around to know where you were.
No, at night she read in her room, or, strangely comfortably, sitting in a straight chair, at the dining room table.
Now the dining room,my dear, next to the kitchen, may not seem one's first choice for reading. Unless, of course, one has strong associations with food. Strong associations, nay longings, for certain types of food.  Desserts, perhaps, or, as the little girl was often prone to think, candy. All of which little or none was ever found in that house.  Desserts, okay, they were sometimes had, and could be excused as being part of a meal, Sundays or special days.  And they would never be left over.  Two older brothers made sure of that. Certainly there were not desserts everyday, and most certainly no candy.  What would happen to the children's teeth, for heaven's sake!
Every time the asked her mother or father to buy some candy, one or the two of them would definitely say one of two things: Father: We can 't be frittering our money away  on something  that we don't need. Candy is a luxury.(Ironically the word luxury itself was a kind of riches, the smooth beginning and simple ending surrounding that almos- un-American sound, 'ksh'.) While mother would say It's nothing but butter and sugar.
And so it happened that one night the little girl looked up from her solitary reading and thought, I'm hungry for candy.  As she glanced toward the kitchen and thought of how her mother would stand there, cooking and baking the most delicious things, she became aware that her sweet tooth was wanting some candy, and it wanted candy right soon.  And so it occurred to the girl that it might, just might, mind you, not be all that difficult to make some candy herself......After all, hadn't mother said it was only butter and sugar?


Saturday, May 20, 2017

NaPoWRiMo 2017 Day Eighteen: To Be or Not?

My immediate response to today's challenge, to write  a poem incorporating a neologism, was not very enthusiastic. Nothing came to mind.  So I did what all intentionally creative people do:  I waited until something did come to mind.

My first thoughts turned back to my childhood home, where playful language was frequently employed, especially, and though sometimes unintended, to the annoyance of other family members. (AKA teasing, namely me ). Sometimes even as a bargaining chip to allow a little sister to join in family games.  Certainly there must have been some neologisms among the epithets? (According to MerriamWebster, an epithet can be understood to be the part of a taxonomic name identifying a subordinate within a genus. Hmmm.)

I typed and thought about this assignment day and night. Still, the neologisms were neither coming nor coming back to mind.  My thoughts turned to nicknames, the ones my family sometimes used for me, as perhaps the next closest thing:  Mom: Te-za-leet 'ree, Tabut'ta boggala, Linti-linti (which I thought was Finnish for 'little bird' (the feathered kind) but evidently means 'tape'--go figure--presage of  my later marrying a 3-M-er?). , and the inevitable mommy choice, Princess; Dad: Squirrelly (which may've been a reflection of my early childhood's chortling attempts to wriggle away from extreme tickling upon his return from a work week away.)  Brothers: Shy (may've been a fact, but not if you knew me personally.  More likely this one was just an abbreviation of my name.)

You may not be tempted to employ these or similar nicknames yourself.  Please make up your own, if you would.  I feel as possessive of these being ''mine' as any adoptee feels possessive of his or her children, their own flesh and blood newly come into the world. Well, maybe not AS fiercely, that one's a joy to behold, this one just 'is.'

Later in the day a neologism did come to mind...I will add it here when the slip on which I jotted it surfaces!

But the question remains, are the nicknames  neologisms or not?  I vote some yes, some not. But just considering the question was fun.

Coincidental sidelight: My comment regarding Finnish narration of a short video I came across today:

 'Can't tell you how delightfully the Finnish narration falls on my ear, even though I can't follow it. I haven't heard it in years but it echoes of uncles (and other relatives') conversations,' background music' to childhood visits at grandparents' house. It must be awfully hard to translate to English, vis the fractured results of so many attempts out there. I applaud my mother, in retrospect, for the translation work she was able to do for others, years after there were few/no others around with whom to speak it. (Thanks to Ingrid, there was at least one!!)

Even more coincidentally, guest musicians in church the next day played and sang a Finnish song!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Seventeen

                                                                                                         May 18, 2017
Who said the month of poems had to be written within one calendar month?  As April went on, and the world became new, life happened, and so it continues, new from day to day, PTL. So this year's Poohcetera's NaPoWriMo will continue as it happens, throughout the spring, whenever time and thought conspire!

Today's challenge is to write " a nocturne. In music, a nocturne is a composition meant to be played at night, usually for piano, and with a tender and melancholy sort of sound. (The)  nocturne should aim to translate this sensibility into poetic form!"

Ironically, I start this page in the middle of the night, or, (is this?) more accurate(ly) in the wee hours of the morning.

Sounds in the Night
or, Writing the Wee Hours Away

Keys clack under bent fingers.
Tinnitus, tiny mimicry of sound
fills the ears' small channels.
I sniff.  A footstep. Mine. Clack, clack.
A click--my back. Shift posture, stretch.
Black computer tower hums.
Rain rushes, smattering my window,
splattering sidewalk, deck, the drive.
Thoughts jostle in the mind,
rush to places I would go,
places where I must,
routes I then must take
when it is day. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Is it possible, I ask,
to hear my thoughts?
Sleep, sleep, til it is day.
Ho hum, a hum, furnace, frig
or air conditioner.
Sounds combine as one,
become irrelevant when, finally,
bedsheets and softer blanket,
jostle, rustle near my ear,
sleep, sleep til it is day, they say.
And I obey.
                ----Shirley Smith Franklin

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Sixteen, The Letter

Dear Journal,

You must think I'm neglecting you, but you can be sure I remember you.   I think about you every day, but somehow the time slips away or something or someone else comes up and -- there you go. Today's NaPoWriiMo was to write  poem in the form of a letter.  Well, let me start with the letter itself, a letter to you that's long overdue. Here's a short one...

When was the last time met; do you remember?  I know for sure it hasn't been since last year, because I had a knee replaced last summer, and I don't think you even know about that. I think we've only met once since that year in Sweden when my husband and I stayed at our friends' cottage on that pristine forest lake I especially remember that, how we laughed in the sauna because my husband gamely joined our host family, steaming in the altogether, while I, one of her very best friends despite living a third of a globe of distance, insisted on wearing my bathing suit and steaming on a lower bench.

Across the Bay of Bothnia, in Finland, our relatives had declined to heat their sauna at all in that hottest of Augusts ever. There we'd dined on soups, and at tea tables with egg butter, piirakka, crisp rye breads and strawberry tortes. In Sweden we ate steak, along with mushrooms my friend had picked along her morning walk down the sun spackled shade of the forest road. I went with her one da, and found out that there really are mushrooms with bright red, white-spotted caps!  Until then I'd assumed them to be figments of children's book illustrators' imaginations. (Don't eat them: they're poisonous, as many pretty things are!)

I could go on...more discoveries and imaginary figments every day.

Figment...'must add that to my list of interesting of the distractions from getting back to you, my journal friend, on a daily basis.  Although, alas, I've begun neglecting her too.  The list, that is.  And I do have lists: to-do lists, grocery lists, call-back lists, bills-to-pay lists, things to take along on the trip list.  They all add up, subtracting more and more from what ideally would be my 'quiet' time. My rest time.  My catch up with my friends time.  Receding, receding, receding....

'Have to go now...I'm pretty busy living the day-to-day, these days.  'Nice talking to you!


P.S., I think I want to try re-writing this as a poem...At least. this here's  a start....

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Fifteen, The Natural Middle (Unfinished poem tbd)

Day Fifteen's challenge is write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something. The poem could be about being on a journey and stopping for a break, or the gap between something half-done and all-done. Half a loaf is supposedly better than none, but what’s the difference between half of a very large loaf and all of a very small one? Let your mind wander into the middle distance, betwixt the beginning of things and the end. Hopefully, you will find some poetry there!

Whatever you do
     mother would admonish me
     that I still hear her voice
     never ceases to astonish me

do with all your might
     she tried with motherly might
     at home, at church, at school
     to distinguish wrong from right.

a job done by halves
     whether homework assignment
     or setting table for dinner
     or enduring a long confinement.

is never done right.
     according to my brother
     .......    Oh mother

if you could only see me now!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Fourteen, Short and Sweet

Day Fourteen's challenge is to write a clerihew, a four line biographical poem satirizing a famous person. Similar to a limerick, which has five lines and does not (necessarily!) refer to real person.

Here's mine:

And now folks, here's Stephen Colbert.
For skewering news he has a flair.
*He's a profound proclivity
for satirizing civility.
                                 --Shirley Smith Franklin

* I realize there's the possibility of interpreting this as He IS instead of  He HAS, as I intended.
   but it's all just in fun---so go figure!

**Okay, you're right, an outright HE HAS would work better.  See? That's how (I would guess most) poems get written (and re-written, and re-written...), a little at a time, one step forward, two steps back, until it finally tells the author it's done.  And yes, I call it fun.

NaPoWriMo Day Thirteen 2017: What I've learned about Ghazals

Day Thirteen:  What I've learned about Ghazals So Far

Today's  prompt is to write a ghazal, a form NaPoWriMo says originated in Arabic and Persian poetry. According to,  the ghazal "is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous."  There are other modified definitions out there, including using the same or similar second line throughout. I just use what works for the ghazal at hand. The form of simply a series of couplets, seems to be becoming more popular in English language writing these days, --I enjoy the ghazal because it has some discipline of a given/chosen/defined form, along with the freedom to combine a variety of thoughts, line and poem lengths,  and the option to rhyme or not to rhyme. 

 I've written several perhaps a dozen of ghazals, a couple of which, I think, 'work.' Although, one writing teacher paused at the fact that my poems seemed to address themes, rather than consisting of relatively random, unrelated verses not, or not related beyond sharing a topic or mood...(what's the difference between that and "a theme"?!)

Ideally, "both lines of the first couplet end with the same phrase or endword, [which] is also repeated at the end of each couplet...[and the poem includes] internal rhymes[,] a reference to your own name in the final couplet." (from NaPoWriMo Day Fourteen challenge).

Ghazals have traditionally consisted of laments, thoughts about love, or drinking thoughts (?). One tradition in writing a ghazal is to include a question, request, plea, or lament addressed to God or a higher power in the last couplet, as well as incorporating the author's name or reference. Modern or American ghazals often take more liberties (those Americans!), but retain the couplet format.

Oh, and did I say that, ghazals can be fun?!

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Nineteen, How ____________ came to be

Today's NaPoWriMo challenge is  write a poem that recounts a creation myth. It doesn’t have to be an existing creation myth, or even recount how all of creation came to be. It could be, for example, your own take on the creation of ball-point pens, or the discovery of knitting. Your myth can be as big or small as you would like, as serious or silly as you make it.

Oops, didn't get around to it. Sorry.

Friday, April 14, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Twelve: A Litter of Alliteration (Consonants) and Assonance (vowels)

NaPoWriMo Day Twelve's challenge is simply to write a poem containing alliteration and assonance, which I'd describe as playful efforts to load the poem with words containing similar consonants and vowels.

This is fun.  I've enjoyed it in my own school days. Though it sticks in my mind as something to which I was introduced during junior high school, it's really what little children do spontaneously as they develop their vocabulary, ritually chanting words and phrases that fascinate them.  First graders, of whom I've taught quite a few! like to get into the alliterative mode, in particular.

I enjoyed, though I labored some over, the following poem.  Is it a heart cry?  Hmm, 'may be a good match for others I've written about writing...tbd.

Is this just a draft -- or final copy? (I think it is wanting one more line. Oh! I've got it! But I won't write it here so that what you see is unfinished and, augmented, presumably can be submitted as 'never published.' Look for/listen to me at the Open Mike Night at Bloomington Old Town Hall on Penn and 90- somethingth, this April 20th!)  

A Litter of Alliteration
by Shirley Smith Franklin

A little alliteration, they said,
try a little alliteration.
Authors pondering upon day twelve
the depths of their minds will have to delve,
forced to foray into the very interior,
evaluate their verses, whether sup- or inf-
rior, their valuable verses, whether they rhyme,
whether verses validate, are fine or absurd    
or simply evoke a celebratory word.
Consonants and vowels with a smile or a frown,
wander the alphabet up and down.
Such slight sounds volley words fine or absurd,
I invoke God, my muse. I must be heard.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Eleven

Day Eleven:  The "(optional) prompt for the day is the Bop," invented by poet Afaa Michael Weaver. It's a hybrid of a sonnet and a song." Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition."

 In the basic Bop poem,
             followed by a one-line refrain.

    The next,
             followed by the one-line refrain. 

    or concludes 
    the problem, 
            followed by the refrain. 

"Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar."  
                     I don't know whether NaPoWriMo's examples will open for you from my blog. Let' s both try, and learn something in the process. (Note: They did open, for me.)  I was especially taken with Ravi Shankar's poem,  with a refrain taken from another writer! The poem reflected my morning moods this week.

                     The Bop sounds like a very fun and do-able form. I will have to table it until several current priorities in my life progress to a certain point. I'm checking them off mhy list, one by one. Staying focused. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 10, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Ten: You Were Important to Me

Today's assignment:  Write a poem that is a 'portrait' (not necessarily describing looks) of a person important to you.  Wow, it might take a long time to zero in on just one.  For some reason, it occurs to me to write about someone who once was, but no longer is.

When I Needed You

It was then, on the cusp of adulthood
You were always there when I needed you,
Learning to spread my wings would have been good,
You were always there when I didn't, too.

It was there, in the unguarded moments,
You were very there when I needed space,
accompanying my ordinary
You were also there when I needed grace.

Despite the time I poured milk in your lap,
always there when I needed rescue, truly.
Careening into cusp of adulthood,
you were there to consider options, coolly....

{rough draft of first verses,  more to come and be revised.}.

You were important to me then, not  now,
no, not even then, not now, not ever,
I'll forget you til memory fades forever.
you were never that important to me.
                          --Shirley Smith Franklin
Good bye.

Typically spare, bare, my poetry.  How can I infuse metaphor, color, gut-feeling into this poem which is like so many of mine, presented in the abstract, with  not a whole lot of context to draw upon....Although the subject is a therapeutic one for me...helping me offload nagging negative memories that only time has lessened so far.

It looks like it wants to be disciplined into a 'form,' a form that nags at you, yet ends with a resolve... too...I will want to follow up on this one.

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Nine: A Nine-line Poem

Today's prompt is simply to write a nine line poem of any kind.

NaPoWriMo shares a discussion of nine line forms from The Poet's Garret (a dot com, evidently from Australia), I find a table of forms the names of which are unfamiliar except for the Spencerian stanza, which is nine lines, eight  in iambic pentameter (10 syllables) with the ninth line in iambic hexameter (12 syllables); in an a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d-d end-rhyming pattern.  Another page about Spencerian stanza gives the end-rhymes as a-b-a-b-b-c-b-c-c. (I'm not sure whether the difference is just a careless mistake on the part of the author, or due to entries made by two different poets, or whether both schemes are equally valid Sp. forms.) Some of the other nine line forms look like what I might made up by instinct, working on my own, some times.

I digress.

If you were to write to this prompt, would you lay out the end-rhyming words of the pattern first?
Would you start with a theme, i.e. the subject matter and just write, superimposing the rhyme scheme later?  Write one couplet, trusting the rest to follow?  I've used all those and probably other ways as well. 'Feels to me that the second and third way of composing have more integrity than the first.  But then who's to say?

It has been noted that Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha," which my mother loved to read, and later recite, to me while I was growing up, is written in (CORRECTION!) trochaic tetrameter, as is much of the Finnish epic poem ( or, poem epic) 'Kalevala."  She was Finnish, which accounts her love of "Hiawatha" and other poems in that meter. It has been noted that Longfellow was also a fan of the Kalevala.

From Wikipedia: "Trochaic tetrameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line of four trochaic feet. The word "tetrameter" simply means that the poem has four trochees. A trochee is a long syllable, or stressed syllable, followed by a short, or unstressed, one."

Saturday, April 8, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017, Day Eight: Repetition, repetition, repetitiveness...

As you might have guessed, today's prompt is to use repetition in some form, any form, short or long form, just be sure to use repetition.
If you like.

I will think on words from an old (like, 1940's) song: ---- for starters. The song goes on to describe and extend the first idea, but I'm thinking of repeating the first few words to create a list of similar statements (this will not appear online.)

You can try, too: email me your results, or post them as comments here.

The following is, obviously, not a serious poem, just setting the wheels in motion for developing the above exercise later.   I see by other poems written to today's prompt take the repetition idea much farther, literally bathing their poems in a single word or phrase and variations thereof.  I didn't go that route...'just a little will do,' in mine, vis:

Good luck to you,
luck to me,
luck to all
who hear pen and paper's siren call.
Writing is a lucky task,
writers are lucky too,
though if it weren't for readers
what good would writing do?
I write for me
but I also write
to be heard.
To be heard,
in a word,
is a kind of bliss,
and I'm hoping you find some
in all of this!            ---Shirley Smith Franklin

Friday, April 7, 2017

NaPoWriMo Day Six: A Favorite Pet, or, Failing That, Favorite Food and Day Seven: a Haiku

Day Six: OK, even as a child I disliked being asked what was my favorite anything.  I mean, all the colors are beautiful; how and why should I choose just one.  A box of crayons was one of the most wonderful
things in  my seven year old world...but that's a story for another time.

I'm going to reclaim a bit of time to catch up (it's actually Day Seven already) and I'm going to take a pass on the favorite challenge.  I trust that any real 'favoritism' can will emerge in any and all of my writing, though not named/claimed as such.

See you later...

Day Seven: Haiku (This one's a 'beater', but maybe it led me 'somewhere.'...))

They say a haiku
is a poem about nature
five, seven, and five.

That is, if you count
all the syllables in it
exactly, just so.

We say that a haiku
can explore any topic
succinctly stated.

If the word count goes over
or is ordered wrong,
who cares.

What matters is the thought                          I'll have to work harder on mine.  This one is just
described, condensed so purely                    an exercise: 'heartfelt' has more power and, hopefully,
it takes your breath away.                             stays with you throughout the remainder of day!

Thoughts may be humorous,                        NO, scratch that comment; good ones often come easily,
joyful, wry, or sad, bottom line being,         if more leisurely. That's one way I know they're 'good.'
haikus that make your heart glad.                Okay, two ways :-D
                 --Shirley Smith Franlkin

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Four, Just rough notes toward an Enigma

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). One of the most popular British works of classical music is Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The “enigma” of the title is widely believed to be a hidden melody that is not actually played, but which is tucked somehow into the composition through counterpoint. Today I’d like you to take some inspiration from Elgar and write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly. 

You thought you knew
what it was I'd do and
why I wasn't telling you 
wasn't even couldn't be a topic for discussion.
I had agreed
though not without regret
temptation called --> choose better word
and what  I didn't tell you
You wheedled, cajoled.
put your arms around me
while all the while 
behind my back 
it wasn't you
that held my attention
. . .

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Five: Observing Nature, An exercise in elegy (rough draft)

Somewhere in the different napowrimo sites this week was a prompt to write an elegy--Here's a nod to that exercise, written after hearing a writer friend read out a hilarious anecdote about a child's first time watching grandma slaughter a chicken on the farm.

Unfinished...draft only

Elegy to a Dead Chicken

Regal in living, once of
ample breast and wings in ermine
struts on tiny golden stilts,
forays through the kingdom,
crimson crown askew,
eyes, lighthouse beams probing
for delicate gold in the sand.

Ignominously dethroned,
rudely hobbled, pinioned
too briefly upon a rude column
itself a sacrificial tree.
How swiftly fallen from glory,
how bravely fought, the end,
annointed, this demise, in crimson.

Once royal, this body, cast aside
in favor of another, hopelessly
lunges toward the trajectory of every drop
frantic wings flailing to and fro,
fruitlessly seeking the nest.
Alas, no more fluffy chicks
will dry under that ample breast.

Silenced of cluck and shriek,
spared the hunt and peck,
endure the humiliation,
the defrocking, the burning fire.
Could I but bring back
the vision and the strut,
the purity of that royal court.
And then there's the whiff
of a fresh fried, pan fried
sit-down chicken dinner....
                               Shirley Smith Franklin

But oh (then) the (charm )--->need stronger word here-- allure, temptation, oilifactory siren song 
(allure is renewed, an olifactory siren--tantalizes--feast)
 that first whiff
of a pan-fried chicken dinner.

Monday, April 3, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Three suggests writing a poem with a line in a foreign language  Is one line enough to introduce a cultural feel, a feeling for another culture, evoke something of that 'foreign' culture? Does it require translating in the poem?  In a footnote?  Or can the context carry it?  I wonder whether there are instructive writings about translating....

               The Pact

When they were first married,
they had made a pact
that each one would
kiss the other, and say
I love you,
before they left for work.
He in his American suit,
in winter a fine woolen overcoat
which would seem out of place
in his homeland, a uniform,
it would seem, in the new world,
showing this world that he belonged,
that he knew how to wear his clothes,
that he was an okay guy.
Driving home from work
at the end of  day,
all she thought of was
when she would see him again
and would she have had time
to prepare dinner and herself
be ready, waiting for the answer
to her morning refrain,
"Marri eppudu wasthaavandi?"*

---Shirley Smith Franklin    *Telugu: When do you come again?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Picking up the pieces,NaPoWriMo 2017 Days One and Two

Well here it is March, and we still have blogs about a wedding, visiting villages, and a few other little things from our winter sojourn to India, like to tidy up and post.  I can and I will. So that will be the ongoing picking up of the pieces.

Now that spring is upon us, sunshine is mellow, I'm getting better control of health/exercise, and the discipline of writing moves back to the top of the list, esp. the poem-a-day challenge for the month of April. is the site if you want to learn, read, and/or try the challenge yourself, each day this month.

Because posting my poems makes them 'published,' and thus unacceptable for many magazine editors, I won't be posting my finished poems for you to read this month, but you can find my musings and comments on each day's challenge, my own musings on  it, and/or exchanges with other poets, at my blog: with the prefix https://..

Day One, NaPoWriMo 2017

Today's challenge: a tightly rhymed poem, with some interior rhyme, in the style of.a participating poet  whose work was given as an example.  I take 'tight rhyme' to   characterize a certain poetic terseness, as it were, every word a 'meaning' word, the meaning of the total content compressed.  Hmm, isn't that something poets aim for, bringing a sense of urgency, wonder, or some significance that draws the reader in?!

Some of my doodling in search of an idea for today:

The house exhales. is exhaling.  Next to me a computer is humming. hums
Neighbor one  or who lives next door
Sue literally dance-walks her dog every day
Dogs who live on a leash
are intensely interested in other dogs,
 especially  those who eat a common their food and their posts
(do dogs have blogs?),

Generating lines of any significance often  will require  'play time'. Today the 'recreation leader' did not show up.

Day Two, NaPoWriMo 2017

Today's prompt is to write a poem inspired by or in the form of a recipe, real or imagined.  I do want/need to practice poetic forms, but this assignment gives me pause.  Perhaps recipes should comprise a genre of poetry.  Certainly not many things give rise to more praise and satisfaction, or speak to humanity's common need, as cooked or baked foods and the love and care that go into them.

Ingredients that might go into a poem about a recipe-as-poem... (This is not intended as a poem, just me
generating ideas for writing one... but, yes, copyright by me, as is anything else in my blog.)

Recipe as Poetry

the naming of recipes
images evoked by food
verbs associated w. preparation,
serving, eating, cautions.

surprises, wonders
quirks, amusements
nutritional analysis
materials needed
genre of food, suitable times,

seasons, time and temperature
tips and pitfalls
measurements, equipment
microwave version

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A visit to a Pushpa school--tbr

January 12, 2017  

On the first Friday of this year's India trip,  we make our first visit to a PUSHPA evening school (only in this case the teacher, Sudha Rani, cannot come later in the day, so the Medikonduru Pushpa community has agreed to send their children for sessions in the early morning. Sudha Rani has been with Pushpa evening school here for six years.  She is a business student, currently studying for her MBA in a town on the other side of Guntur.  Quite a commute, to look after our school as well!

The sky is pink, foggy and polluted as we set out after a snack, at 6:30 in the morning. After a mile or so of narrow neighborhood lanes, we have to drive over, then around and through a tunnel under a highway overpass, much like the I94/Hennepin/Lyndale interchange in Minneapolis. We enjoy a three and then two lane highway both directions for most of the way, with little traffic. Trucks are fueling up at a series of gas stations near town.   Gray dust coats everything as we descend another bridge into the quarrying town of Pericherla, where a pair of gray hills on one side has been chipped in half by stone cutters over the years.

Cotton and chilli fields are interspersed with huge cold storage warehouses.  The scraggly branched cotton fields look harsh and unforgiving. Acres of harvested chillies redden the ground where they are laid out to dry before going to market.  The approach to Medikonduru is over a brand new, low, two-way bridge over a narrow stream. In the past cars have had to wait to cross one direction at a time,lone car at a time.Today's passage is seamless. That we are entering  Medikonduru town proper, is recognizeable by narrowing of the highway, walls of older homes literally sitting on the edge of the road, (nor uncommon in lanes of cities and town, but this is a national highway!).This part of town, where wooden doored walls flanked by narrow ledges,( 'sit-outs'  in lieu of verandahs), line the edge of the road let us know, every year, that we are in Medikonduru.. A few older residents hjunker down  on narrow stoops just outside their gates, with cars passing by a few feet away..

Then the roadside opens up, and we pause at a pair of tall  crude concrete posts with a sign announcing the name of the neighborhood where our community lives.  We turn into the narrow concrete lane which people use freely as though it were part of their yards; children at play step aside, a man calmly rises and moves his chair out of the way, other neighbors sit on their steps and chat. At the foot of a surprising sharp-angled dip, we cross over a murky sullen stream where two women are washing clothes. At the intersection of another narrow concrete lane, which looks impassable for our crv sized vehicle, our driver deftly turns, inching methodically forward and backward as I try not to look fearfully into the open drainage along the compound walls  and drops us off near the government school where Pushpa children are gathering on the verandah. We walk unsteadily up a stony incline; neighbors' are ready and willing to help anchor our steps.  Chairs are brought for us to sit facing the children seated cross-legged on the slate, verandah floor.  It is chilly.  The school is locked.  Two chalkboards are painted on verandah walls.  

The teacher, Sudha Rani, has not arrived yet, but children from four to about ten years old form rows, sorting themselves by class (grade) as they come. Franklin quizzes some of the children to test their knowledge.  They are shy to answer.  But when Sudha Rani arrives they scramble up to exclaim "Good Morning, Teacher!" as children do in classrooms all over India.  She nods; they sit.  A pair of students, groomed and readier than many of the children who've come just as they are, presents us with a pair of paper flowers.  We wonder how they knew to be ready with them; Sudha Rani said they knew we'd come some time this month. This boy and girl are a bit more awake for, and forthcoming, answering, simple introductory questions: What class are you in?  What's your favorite subject? Are you getting good marks (grades)?

Franklin leads a lesson in question words, who, what, when, where, why with painfully elicited responses from the students.  (After two or three attempts in different schools and the teachers' meeting in February, we realize the TOEFL process has to proceed, for all classes, not to mention teachers, at the most basic level.)

On a little rise next to the verandah, a family has set up housekeeping in a blue relief-issue tarp hut. They are just waking up. A toddler walks forth; gradually at least three generations.  The child, about three years old, stares.  Two lambs, one snow white and one coal black, climb up, then tentatively test and step down with cute awkwardness, on broken building stones tumbled between their small yard and us. A man, perhaps the father, dressed in a banyan and lungi, emerges, and appears nonplussed. The adults all go about their business apparently unperturbed they are 'on a stage' for us as much as we might be for them. Only the three year old stares, as three year olds are wont to do..

I read a story of 'The Town Musicians of Bremen" to the class, translating as best I can, with Franklin assisting, Sudha Rani quietly prompts and corrects us and the children when we're stuck..  It will take more than one reading, and I promise to come back and re-read it with the children repeating (yes, by rote, as it is, like it or not, the commonly accepted practice in most Indian schools.) after me the next time. (A promise, unf. not kept, this season.  Next December, perhaps?)  I give the book to Sudha Rani to review with the class when she has time..  We need to liven things up.

Given the morning chill, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" is a welcome exercise, for us adults as well as the children.  We review the names of the relevant body parts. Now all the children are quite awake and attentive. (Note to self: Never depart from starting out a visit with lively interaction. Get husband to be on the same page.  Each of us tends to be direct, though in our own individual ways, himself with interviews and direct instruction, myself with stories and songs.)

Sudha Rani shares a sheaf of drawings by the children. She'd provided the paper and colors on her own. We expressed our appreciation for her resourcefulness in stimulating young minds as well as on the individuality and quality of the children's work--flowers, a peacock, a house, national icons... Using a few children's drawings as examples, we do a  Q/A review of the question word WHAT , with their pictures serving as answer cues.

The PUSHPA motto:  "Helping People Help Themselves."

Note to blog readers: More about Sudha Rani at and after The Teachers' Meeting, a visitor's life in India, and THE WEDDING  in other posts after a week or so.  Travelling towards home, starting  tomorrow morning

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sankranthi, a Harvest Festival

On the heels of the new year, just as schools are gearing up for classes and/or midyear exams, along comes the festival of Sankranthi, part harvest, part religious, part zodiac and sun- related.  Wikipedia says it's the only Hindu festival observed according to the solar, i.e. fixed date, calendar.  Occurring every year on January 16th, 17th, and 18th, Sankranthi has a separate name for each day's observance. Although different communities may divide it up differently, they are, approximately: Pongal, when a sweet rice pudding also called pongal, is served to family and neighbors; Makara Sankranthi, and Bhogi. The observances and names vary a bit from state to state. You can find them further described at:

Traditional festivities at this time of year bear resemblances to art fairs, sand painting, rodeos, country fairs, midsummer celebrations, and, of course, the ubiquitous emphasis on food specialties associated with the season. At Sankranthi time,a  housewife or helper will elaborate the muggulu, or usually simple, white powder designs arranged on freshly washed ground before a house or gate: For a week or so, you can drive along a virtual 'gallery' of bright colors, floral and geometric designs created fresh every morning, right on the street.

Evening news on TV shows animal rights activists protesting cock fighting (and betting) and bull baiting 'sports' practiced especially in rural areas, at this time.  Though cock fighting, where roosters are set to fight each other, is illegal, it is carried out anyway, even blatantly pictured and reported in news media.  Jalli Kattu, or bull baiting, especially prevalent in South India, consists of contestants vying to ride or tame a bull in order to win a bag of money tied to the animals' horns. Inevitably a bull runs amok, causing panic and sometimes injury amongst the crowd of onlookers.  In Tamilnad, the state south of Andhra, it was temporarily banned this year, but the resultant public outcry ("It's an ancient tradition!" "The bull is not really hurt, it's the contestant that risks everything..." ) and massive demonstrations gained a reprieve for people (not the bulls, sorry) this year.

Here and there someone burns a log at night in the street on Bhogi. Neighbors enjoy a reprieve from mosquitoes for night or two, thanks to the smoke. Meanwhile, streets and shops are thronged with shoppers taking advantage of Sankranthi sales.  An auspicious wedding season will begin and last for a few weeks after Sankranthi.

A caste based welfare society takes over a nearby schoolyard and installs painted styrofoam pastoral scenes next to a stage where speakers and an occasional singer hold forth for one evening and night. Though their amplified voices dominate the neighborhood airwaves, a periodic burst of drums overpowers even those. Neighbors and guests come and go.  Outside the gate, a billboard sized sign features a prominent member of the group, and invites one and all to a 'community' meal.

Two groups of costumed (well, one group's costume consists solely of a white lungi covering the lower torso and legs) drummers alternate with each other, processing guests to and from the gate. Robust young men of the white-clothed group stroll, beating vigorously on long, rich toned drums slung at the waist.  The bright blue and yellow clad group of slighter build, circle and bow with a backwards/forwards/sideways step, all the while beating large hand drums which they raise and lower as they play. Conversations crescendo and/or pause until the enthusiastic noise abates.

Feeling like gate-crashers, but welcomed by drummers and a couple bulls brightly caparisoned and bowing near the entrance, we wander into the floodlit venue to see what's up.  There are hundreds of chairs set out, with only a few dozen people seated to hear the speakers and singers.  The nieces and nephews pose with the decorated animals, and donate a few coins to costumed alms-collectors bearing copper alms pots on their heads.

It's late, and we turn toward our apartment, just three doors down the street.  An event host catches up with us at the gate, and implores us to stay and take part in the meal.  No, thank you, we've already had our dinner and an anniversary cake, and it's time (at least for us older folks) to retire; we demur. My husband pauses to chat with the greeter for awhile. They compare names of acquaintances likely to be members of the sponsoring group. We take leave, thanking the greeter again for the invitation.

Soon after reaching our apartments, a fireworks display begins, bursts of color against the night sky.While viewing them from our balcony, I see that a scuffle briefly holds forth just outside the gate of the event, but it is soon calmed down. Cars park along the street for a block or two on either side of the gate; guests continue to arrive and depart until midnight, when the strong lights and the highly amplified sounds fade into the darkness at last.

Sankranthi being generally celebrated as a harvest festival, a more subdued observance is also conducted in Christian churches.  I'll be travelling homeward next week, when the program is scheduled, but remember our neighborhood church's harvest festivals from the past. The sanctuary would be decorated with stalks of grain or sugar cane alongside the pews and offerings of produce at the front.  The church yard would be lined with booths featuring snacks and food items prepared by women's and youth groups, a health and wellness mini-clinic, besides the usual Bible, hymnbook, calendar and literature stall. Special speakers would come in for an additional worship service in the afternoon.

And we all have much for which to be thankful.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sounding Boards

Though we manage a great deal of jet lag recovery, reconnection with relatives, and two visits to PUSHPA village evening schools, our first and following weeks in India this year are preoccupied with the run-up to the wedding of our niece later this month. Numerous discussions occur within and among the families, and the bride's father and her uncles meet daily, sometimes twice, to debrief and update. Although he disavows being 'in charge,'my husband, as the eldest member of the extended family, is the default reference for innumerable decisions: lighting, catering, menu, extended guest list, venue, groom-bride family get-acquainted visits. In other words, a sounding board. The others are 'point' persons for go-to information.

After we go for a lunch to meet 'the boy's' family in another town about an hour away, things seem to calm down a bit.  The visit is short and sweet:  We all tell teach other our names, prayers are offered, and a wonderful meal is served. On the way and at home, everyone has an idea and/or assignment to pursue, going forward: some shopping, some tailoring, some doing comparisons of vendors.

Meanwhile, we make village visits to touch base with families, staff, students in several evening tutoring schools which we sponsor. Here, too, my husband is the sounding board for teachers and our ngo staff.  He uses their interviews, and more with the children, to gauge the needs and progress of each evening 'school.' But more of that in other posts.

Then, the week before the wedding, things really start to intensify.  Last minute shopping and tailoring orders, and every little thing we think we need to have done suddenly seem to have become urgent business.  The bride, having so far politely deflected all attempts to learn her preferences, begins to show her mettle.  The uncles' suggested, modest floral church decoration idea is set aside in favor of a commercial one coordinated by her sister and brother in law.  This is something she has looked forward to. (It was lovely.)

We want to schedule one of the prenuptial events on a certain day. Though it inconveniences the host, our bride-to-be defers to her mother and aunts' new found rule that once these events begin, she must not leave the house again before the wedding: she wants her freedom for as long as possible! The event is postponed for a day.   She goes along to the jeweler to choose a set of his and her wedding rings.

We go shopping together for a dressy dress.  My idea is to make her  a present of something light and lighthearted. like her personality. She would have only a heavier ensemble because  "uncle said he liked (i.e. was impressed by) it."  Well, hmm, she will be living in Minnesota, hm, the dress will probably be practical there.  After alteration: She is smaller than the women's 'small' clothing size.

A saree is a more traditional gift for the bride, and, accordingly, our bride-to-be receives several. Not to be left without part of the ensemble, she promptly has each 'blouse piece' (which comes attached to a new saree), as well as the new dress, sent out to a tailor who keeps her measurements for reference. In all of this and the events to come, her best friend takes the part of a true bride's maid: being at her side, advising, errand running, accompanying, debriefing, just 'being there.'

Being a sounding board. A key role in a society where consent and consensus trump independence, and crucial to navigating neo-independently through the intricacies of multiple hierarchies. If you think this sentence is a bit difficult to untangle, well, welcome to India.  Daily life in the context of constant social complexities can certainly sharpen the mind...perhaps that is one reason that techies flourish here. And a reason to remind you that, even in the socio/political turmoil back home, yes, you can...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wedding Plans and Preparations

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Our housekeeping has been set in motion, faithful Raghava and Pushpa at the ready, full and half time, respectively.  It's deceptively easy to slip into our daily routine, with them doing things we usually do for ourselves in the 'states: meal prep and cooking, serving tea (frequently throughout the day and when a visitor  drops in, which also takes place frequently), garbage and recycling, cleaning, laundry, transportation, and errands we don't even have to do at home, like taking washed and line-dried clothes to the iron g man, heating and filling a bucket of water for a bath, swabbing the floor daily with a disinfectant.

Sounds luxurious, right?  But it's common enough in middle class and/or joint families in India. Life can be hectic here too, but seems less so when there are at least pockets of leisure, with common tasks out of the way. More time is available for other things we have to do; we are able to make two village visits, the first week. (More in other blog posts to come.)

By the end of our first week of this year's winter stay in India, we have exchanged visits with five Gummadi siblings who are from the 'states, or live in town.  A sixth will arrive from the states next week. Lots of chattering and the opportunity to visit with a niece, still at home for the Christmas holidays with her fiancee' from the UK. But the focus soon turns toward the upcoming marriage of another niece. 'The girl,' as the bride is referred to here in India, lives in the U.S. but wants to have a 'traditional' wedding in the church she attended as a little girl.

The planning and preparation for our niece's wedding are elaborate, and need to be thoroughly vetted by various family members.  The stairs and elevator ("Please shut the door!" has toned down a bit since last year, but the mysterious voice inside the elevator still exhorts us, day and night, to be sure to leave the elevator available.) are busy as family members interact among the three apartments where most of the us are staying this year. The five Gummadi uncles in charge of the basic arrangements take to it with enthusiasm, conferring and shopping and vetting vendors and preferred procedures morning, noon and night.  Shopping is especially good because this is the season of a major winter festival (more of that in the next blog); stores are brimming with fresh stock and potential sales.

So what goes into this Indian wedding? The bride's and the groom's families each have their own idea. The groom's family comes from their town an hour away just to say hello.  Tea.  The bride's extended family goes to visit the groom's family. Lunch, along with a couple dozen of their relatives and friends. Protocols are fine tuned. What pre-nuptial rituals will be observed? Whose opinion or preference will prevail defaults to uncles and the couple's parents. When and where will the marriage occur? The couple being Christian, may ignore horoscope considerations, but family trees and customs are compared. The availability of church and reception venue are verified. Where will the bride and groom spend their first night?  The next several days before going on a short trip? Who will provide what? Each side prepares a list of don't miss items the other side should provide. Lists are exchanged. The bride professes no opinion on all of the above.  So far. Presumably, the groom, still at work in another state, does not weigh in, at least that we know .

Each side of the family designs and delivers (in most cases, by hand) a wedding invitation to family and friends on their side of the family. One of the men delivers our invitation to 'the boys' side.' They reciprocate.

I host an American type shower for the women of our side of the family to share the gift of memories and blessings on behalf of my Attamma (mother-in-law), the bride's grandmother, who was a remarkable woman, but no longer with us.  (MAJOR boo-boo.  I forget to invite Attamma's younger sister. I am ashamed of myself, but am counting on the sister to be more gracious than I. There will be other events)   We send the men off, and have a hilarious time playing shower games, then open our hearts to share fond memories of a Godly, and generous woman. Tea follows.

The same day happens to be the wedding anniversary of one of the uncles and aunties, as our generation is/ are known, so a cake is duly fetched from a bakery for an impromptu, obligatory 'cake-cutting.' For reasons of her own, Auntie disavows the celebration this year, so the joint family members all troop into her room to sing 'Happy Anniversary,' and share a cake and prayer anyway. Auntie is nonplussed.  Uncle is good sport about it all.

A sister-in law reminds her siblings to have a group photo, since one can never know when the seven will meet together again.  The siblings oblige.  Nieces and the sole nephew clamor and clamber over each other and the sofa opposite,  each seeking to take the best group photo. I lend extra led lighting to brighten the visage of  dark faces.  Hilarity crescendos, and the Anniversary Uncle suggests that we take it to the Sankranthi program being noisily conducted in the school grounds, a few doors down the street. There, costumed drummers play lively rhythms, welcoming and accompanying guests into the venue.

Wedding banns are announced in church on the first of two Sundays preceding the wedding. Then comes a lull of five days while conferring, shopping, and planning continue. Flower vendors are sampled. Decorators and designs are chosen for the reception venue: how to please and yet conserve. Dispense with carpeting over the grounds lest it wrinkle unsafely. Flower pillars to do double duty in church and at the reception. Caterers are interviewed; one is chosen and the menu agreed upon. Bargaining throughout, with an eye on the budget.  Everything seems to be more expensive than expected. But on one point, all the uncles and family are agreed: the meal has to be excellent.

A week before the wedding a niece and husband who live in the 'States host a rooftop barbecue for all of our side of the family. Strings of lights including several IKEA fixtures, (real) potted palms, and a boombox provide atmosphere, along with the evening breeze. (It was 90 degrees f, earlier today.) Dinner is served up from a buffet created upon the rooftop utility room stairs.

As we are getting ready to go up for the barbecue, the groom drops in to meet family who have not met him previously.  He seems open and down to earth. He and the bride-to-be have a brief opportunity to talk face to face for less than an hour.  Total time they've met in person thus far, a couple of hours. ("Introduced" by family contacts, betrothed in the presence of a few elders from both sides, they've been face-timing and phoning only for several months.) They go downstairs to wait for his car. After he leaves; we tease her for coming late to the barbecue. Her dad appears relieved that she has re-appeared.  "He's gone, for now anyway.  Good." We laugh. And the party continues with photo opps and Qubani ka meetha, a festive dessert of apricot sauce on ice cream, traditional in Hyderabad, the former state capital.

Later one of the uncles perceives an element of disrespect in that 'the boy' appeared. unannounced, however briefly, at 'the girl's' side's party before the marriage. I am taken aback. Was it disrespectful? With so much variation in expectation from country to country, family to family, and sub-culture to subculture, religion to religion, not to mention person to person, that I wonder whether it is ever possible to arrive at a common acceptability of manners. Times are changing, have changed since 'our day.' Our elders are gone.

Without them, we are new elders, brainstorming and comparing notes as we make our way through new times in old territories. A brief encounter at a party thrown by his age group peers (most of whom live in the U.S.) seems innocuous enough to me.  But I am the foreigner, the outsider, here; what do I know? 'The boy' lives and works in a more progressive Indian city.  'The girl' lives in America, but, being a dutiful Indian daughter, wants to have it 'the traditional way.'  But nothing is as it was, and, for sure, the Indian experience never turns out quite as one expects.