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My Mom, and my Garden dreams


March 13th, 2014. Twenty five years ago, today, my Amma, mom, passed away.
Sitting by the lake, watching the evening sun casting a silvery glow on the frozen waters, I remembered my mom’s silvery, wavy long hair. Wisps of hair always fell over her eyes as she leaned down to tend to her roses, and she tried in vain to tuck them away behind her ears. When I teased her about her naughty curls, she laughed; a soft bubbly laugh, not loud or buoyant, but hearing her laugh made you laugh too. Now, I think of her and laugh to myself knowing how she loved her roses.Mom and her sister had strong gardening genes they have passed on to me. I do thank them.
I took my pen out and started planning my summer garden.
1. I know my daffodils, hyacinths and tulips will return in spring to grace all corners of my garden.
2. I am hoping my roses have survived this harsh winter. If not I may have to replace them.
3. For my annuals, Verbenas are a must. Maybe instead of my usual Petunias, I will plant Dahlias this year. Red geraniums and Sweet Alyssums will certainly brighten my front walk.
4. Tomatoes, Potatoes, Cucumbers and red Spinach in my vegetable garden…..
By now the frozen lake was not silver any more. The sun had set, and the moon had not risen. One by one the lights from the homes on the opposite shore came on, casting long reflections on the darkening ice on the lake.
I looked up at the stars, now shining bright, and send a prayer and a thank you to mom, for my garden dreams.
Lake Geneva, WI
March 13th, 2014


The first snowfall ofthis new year


Happy New Year!
The first snowfall of 2014 has dumped more than six inches of beautiful white snow in my Chicagoland. While it looks pristine and the sparkling to begin with, I have not gotten used to the effort to get through the white stuff to get to the places wish to go to. Add to this the falling temperatures, now ranging from 6 to 12degrees, and it really makes life quite hard.
This takes me back to the snowstorm of January 1967.

A storm of the Century
At 2:30 pm on Thursday January 27th, 1967, it was announced in the Pathology department, (where I was a third year Resident) that anyone wishing to leave early can do so. An intense snowstorm had hit the Chicago area. It had snowed non-stop for almost ten hours, and it was not expected to stop snowing for many more hours.
My friends advised me not to drive home, because many of the streets were clogged by abandoned cars already. So, I walked the two blocks to the Lake Street El. I boarded the train going east, and settled down. About fifteen minutes later, when we approached California Ave., I rose from my seat, ready to get out. But the train did not stop. The passenger next to me said I had taken the wrong train. There were A and B trains and I should have taken the other one to reach California Ave. The next stop was Ashland. I got out.
Coming out of the train station, the size of the snowflakes and the speed with which they accumulated scared me to a stop. Stopping there would not be a very good idea, being a commercial and warehouse area for shipping companies, and so I turned south and started walking toward Ogden Avenue. I had a rough idea that it was a long walk, but did not know what else to do. Already cars were stalled and in many a corner the busses were barely making it around the stalled cars. No buses were running to where I wanted to go.
I was already freezing, my boots stuck to my cold feet and I wished for a ray of my southern sun and an ounce of heat from my tropical home to thaw me out. I had never felt so far away from the warmth of my home and the caring hands of my mom and my Ammachi, my maternal aunt. I started to pray. At first my head and my brain felt so frozen that I could not remember the words to my daily prayers. I just kept repeating “Hare Rama, hare Rama, rama rama hare hare.Hare Krishna, hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, hare hare.” That was the simplest and the earliest prayer taught me as a youngster, and I kept repeating the two lines over and over again. After a while I was tromping on the snow piled streets to the rhythm of my chanting. I was sobbing between the words I said, and between my tears and the blinding snow I fell flat on the road. Some kind man helped me get up. I thanked him and trudged on. It was certainly a good thing that I had a good sense of direction, and had a good idea which way my apartment was. As I regained my footing, I also regained memory of words to more of my prayers. I kept chanting pieces of different prayers, and although still cold, I regained my strength to keep trodding along.
Eventually the tall building of our Kling residence was visible, and somehow I made it home. My husband was ready with warm rags to thaw out my toes and fingers, and quickly helped me out of the wet coat and wet clothes. Bundled up in blankets and propped up by pillows I told the story of my ordeal to my curious three year old. She felt my cold limbs and touched my cold face. Then she walked over to the picture window of our apartment, overlooking Ogden avenue, not really a picturesque sight, and banged on the window, saying “bad snow, go away. Don’t make my mummy cold.” Righteous indignation from a sweet daughter.
My firm faith that our lives are part of a great cosmic plan, where all major events are really out of our individual control, helped to make sense of the happenings of the day. While it was very upsetting, I gained insight into the workings of Mother Nature, and built a great strength within me after the experience ended. My walk in the snow in the bitter cold night of January 1967 was a true test of faith.
Hopefully, I won’t have to see another storm of that nature.

My interview at WTTW Chicago

Last August I was interviewed by Mr. Eddie Griffin at Channel 11, WTTW, Chicago for two hours.
I think you all remember how excited I was to share my memories of Chicago, (I am always enthusiastic to share my stories with any one who cares to listen).
The program will be aired later this month.
Remembering Chicago, 70s and 80s
Channel 11, WTTW
Date: November 26th, 2012 Monday
Time: 7.30 PM
I believe it is a two hour presentation, and about seventeen people were interviewed.
My photos are included, I am told.
There will be pitch for donations for WTTW, as usual.
Most likely, there will be three or four quotes from me.
Still, I thought you would want to know.
Remembering where we are when Social, Economical, and Political events happen, and sharing our experiences with our children and grandchildren are important for many reasons.
In case of positive outcomes, the stories of our own celebration on the occasion  will make more of an impression in their minds than reading about it in the history books.
In case of tragedy, our reactions, and how well we survived, or could not survive, will give them intimate insights as to how they can react to events in their lives.
So, we will find out soon whether the tales I have told will make an impact or not.

Summer breeze


Shaku, sister Shanti and Ammoomma (Grandma)

Summer Breeze  

Summer breeze
warm and wet, from the seas
waving, moving, my hair set abreeze
running running
sand in my eyes
sand in my toes

sandals thrown , lost in the sand
echoes of my ammoomma’s voice
leave your sandals in the car, lost in the wind
too late too late, they are
gone in the sand
sand everywhere

winter breeze
dry and cold from the snow
boots dig deep
heavy steps dragging dragging
chills my bones and bogs me down
tries to stomp my spirit

pick up your feet, go on go on
life’s to be lived, and love’s awaiting
I call on the summer breeze
come blow, and blow
and fan the fire within me
warm up my soul, my body and mind

million miles from summer
million miles from sands
is it too far for the summer breeze to flow?
will it blow, will I grow?
I know I will, ‘cause
the summer breeze lies within

Shakuntala Rajagopal

August 15th, Indian Independence day


In 1947, when India gained Independence from Great Britain, Mahatma Gandhi was against splitting the country into two Nations, Pakistan, and India.
In support of Gandhiji’s views, My father had these photographs printed in the local papers. I am wearing a Nehru Cap and carrying the Indian Flag. My sister Shanthi is wearing a Muslim outfit, and carrying a Pakistani flag. We are standing, united as partners, side by side over a relief of the combined India- Pakistan Map. The accompanying article carried Gandhij’s message pleading the leaders not to split us up.

As history has shown, they did not listen to him.

One more workshop


Yes. This was a workshop that was truly different from all others I have taken.  Not only did my mind get fed to a sumptuous feast of information, my body was fed nourishing, delectable food by a special lady in the kitchen.

I am speaking of a StoryStudio  workshop held at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois.

The written and spoken material made me think, the students and staff encouraging, and the grounds at Ragdale inviting, all adding to a very productive workshop experience.

I can’t claim I accomplished pages and pages of writing, but discussing works by Anne Lemott and Joan Beard have set me on a path which I hope will soon lead to measurable progress in my current memoir, “The Song of the Mountains.”

July fourth, 2012

   Fourth of July, 2012                                   


What is this day without fireworks?

I would be insulting the land I have grown to love.

So, I joined my grandson to

sit by a field and watch the fireworks.

Got to the park early and claimed seats in the grass,

and as we impatiently waited for it to get dark,

we played a game ,throwing a nurf ball


A huge golden moon stood sentinel at the east

horizon.   It added mystique.

When, finally the show began,

blasts of red white blue and green

filled the skies in front of us,

giant sparklers rose one after the other

in rapid-fire sequence.


Now the show was all white, turning to gold dust.

It was a tossup; hard to decide

which one was more beautiful?

All colors or just white and gold?

Tough decision, but lucky for our eyes,

All colors were repeated, and white explosions

that melted into a golden lamé draping the skies





Closed my eyes and remembered.

Indian Independence came in August 1947.

Within two years the Indian Republic formed

first Republic day Parade in January 1950,

at the Pangode military base in my town,

Lord Mountbatten came to say goodbye

before he left for England for good.


Prancing white horses leading,

the tricolor orange, white and green flag flying high,

and the new national anthem sung loud with pride.

My dad had already taught us the words

from poet Tagore’s rendering.

Then came the fireworks, dazzling and deafening

I held tight on to my dad’s hand.

Free.  We were free at last

to define our own destiny.

And mine was to come far far away,

across the seven seas to this land of the free.

Initial heartaches disappeared when I

learned to love, respect and care for my adopted country.

And, here I stand proudly,

hand over heart

in honor of the great red, white, and blue