Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A familiar love

Missives from one side of the bed to the other

Dear Viren,

While reading through some of our first conversations on the Internet, I was jolted into the realization that I’ve known you for five years now. Wow, it’s been a while! And although I’ve been your wife for only three years and nine months of those five years, and perhaps do not qualify to be called an old wife, I certainly feel like one. But by old wife, I do not mean by way of sagging boobs or flagging sex drives; I refer to the feeling of an eternity by your side. We’ve often wondered if our relationship feels new or old, exciting or comfortable, and almost always have decided that it feels like both. But since the birth of Jishnu, our relationship feels more old than new, more comfortable than exciting. We are more mother-father than man-woman. Passion has taken a complacent second spot, even as familiar love rules the roost.

But re-reading those letters from five years ago reminded me of the person you really are, the person I married, and the person I had almost forgotten about, amidst diaper changes and midnight feeds.  He, who earned my respect from the first word uttered; he, who stood tall enough for me to look up to even with my head in the clouds; he, who earned so much regard that I believed I could spend the rest of my life with him, you are. You are the same man, who awed me with his mind, tickled me with his words, and humbled me with his self assuredness. You are the same one, who I so excitedly turned over a new leaf with. Yet in sharing the same house, same bed, same food, same people and same life with you day after day, everyday, I forgot the exhilarating beginnings of that sameness. Waking up next to you every morning, I had forgotten the privilege of getting to sleep with a man like you.

We have been through that difficult time most new parents go through, and sometimes it seemed we had drifted too far to ever be able to match wavelengths again. I snapped at you, raged, vented, and sometimes accused you of things you had never done, dumping ever so often my emotional excesses on you. You took it calmly – as I could never have, if our places were to be changed. You remained my bedrock, and I began to imagine you were obliged to be so.

But these old letters reminded me of that singular person you were, before you gave away so much of yourself to our family. You didn’t have to be kind, or loving, or understanding, or helpful, or supportive. A man with a mind as strong as yours, you could be the opposing force. But you lay low, played the good husband and an even better father, and you waited while I fought fatigue, sorted priorities, and found myself again. We stopped talking. I was always too tired. You sought refuge in your hobbies; I in my books. We sang this wordless duet for a while. I forgot how wonderful your voice was. But then I read those letters again, and realized what I have been missing. 

I haven’t written a letter to you in a long time. I haven’t told you how much you mean to me in a long time. I haven’t expressed my love in a sincere voice in a long time. So, this.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Impressions

Just as I was beginning to fret about the lack of good women writers, came along Vanessa Diffenbaugh with a tale so compelling that I willingly took back all my words. I picked up The Language of Flowers on my husband, Viren’s insistence. Our reading tastes are just about as similar as chalk and cheese, and I would never have considered reading a book with a title like that, assuming it had something to do with nature. The book indeed had a lot to do with nature, but it also had intrigue in equal measure. The latter satiated my taste, while the former, Viren’s. But the story binds these elements as seamlessly as a flower with its fragrance, and proceeds to tell the reader about the magical floral tongue.

The Language of Flowers is the story of Victoria, an orphan, who learns the primal message of love through flowers. The book resurrects ideas from Victorian era florigraphy, and unravels its many forgotten secrets through the flower-loving Victoria. But the flower-loving protagonist is also a mankind-hating one, at least when we first meet her in a community house for orphans on her 18th birthday. Victoria is a difficult and defiant child, who knows no better, growing up with a string of rejections and returns from several foster homes. She gives the hard world a deserved hard time, until she meets her match in Elizabeth. Elizabeth is determined in her love as Victoria is in her hatred. Elizabeth almost wins 10-year-old Victoria over, but circumstances pull them apart.

A parallel storyline has Victoria as a young woman leaving the community home, fighting hunger and homelessness until she lands a job as a florist’s assistant. Her knowledge of and instinct about flowers helps put right people’s pasts, and offers beautiful promises to their futures. Her fame spreads, even as she uses flora to beautify people’s lives in more ways than one. One learns how Acacia stands for secret love, Basil for hate, pink Carnations for eternal remembrance, Dahlia for dignity, Oak leaves for friendship and many others. While bringing people together through the language of flowers, she yet remains firmly aloof – her mistrust of humankind guiding all her relationships.

Even when Victoria meets Grant, a man who understands florigraphy and loves her, she stays apart. When they eventually come close and Victoria gets pregnant, she runs away, fearing she will destroy the relationship, as she has done several times in the past. But a switch in her flips when she becomes a mother, and gradually love blooms in Victoria’s bosom.

All the characters in this book are extensions of Victoria – people with tough pasts, their love dammed in one way or another. But isn’t that true of us all? We are attracted to and finally surround ourselves with people who are like us, and will therefore understand us. Every character is deep, intense and broody, and plays their part – no frills. Major characters like Grant, Elizabeth, Meredith, Renata, and Heather and minor ones like Natalia, Mother Ruby, and Marlena stay in their mantles, never trespassing Victoria’s fiercely guarded private space. The language is terse, and throughout the book I kept marveling at how much was being conveyed and how little was being said. The content is emotional from the word Go!, but Victoria’s struggle with her new parenthood is what wrenched my gut the most, for personal reasons. Even in its ardent emotionality, it is extremely dignified – a rare quality in a book. Read it for these many reasons, and find some more of your own.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A fiesta of silence

How a mall-hopping city girl discovered the joy of doing nothing in an idyllic village near Mangalore

When the plans for the short family holiday to Thottam in Karnataka were being made, I began to panic.

“Would there be a Western loo?”
“Would there be an attached bath?”
“Would there be a bath at all!??”
Panic. Panic. Panic.

My kind father-in-law gauged my fears and tried to convince me that our stay would be comfortable. I nodded politely, even as I envisioned giant mosquitoes airlifting my two-year-old son during one of those notorious power cuts that Indian villages are plagued with.

I’d never been to a village before; so I packed every conceivable necessity, imagining perhaps a wilderness where nothing could be bought. After all, it is impossible to survive without toilet paper, isn’t it? I prayed that the several packets of mosquito repellant creams and coils, and anti-tan lotions, and instant noodles that I had packed would be enough to tide us through three days. At one point I even considered packing some eggs along, but if Hindi movies are to be believed, all villages have chickens (and hence eggs). Phew!
The day of the journey arrived, and I resignedly sat into the car that was to take us to the Mumbai domestic airport. I imagined being stuck in a remote setting, with no comforting commercial hubbub, and rustic villagers for company. I couldn’t be more wrong.

But the end of the hour-long Mumbai-Mangalore flight brought with it the first of many surprises. Mangalore has a table-top airport (called the Bajpe airport) and appears from nowhere as your eyes are busy scanning the ground from the airplane window, still many feet below. The view is beautiful after the landing, as is the 60-minute taxi ride to Udupi town. The major attractions of Udupi include an old Krishna temple and the large Manipal University.  And if you take the same road as me, your driver may even point out the Kalmadi village, from where the shamed politician, Suresh Kalmadi, hails. Our stop, however, was the tiny coastal village of Thottam, which takes about 20-30 car minutes from Udupi.

A narrow, winding road finally took us to the ancestral home we were visiting. The rest of the day was spent in introductions, and yes, discreetly checking out bathrooms. I was almost thrilled to see a Western toilet with running water and even a toilet roll! After our ablutions, we slathered on generous quantities of mosquito repellant, had a sumptuous fish dinner and retired to our rooms, where we slept on cane mats and thin mattresses.

By the time I awoke, the village was beginning to grow on me. The first thing that struck me was how incredibly quiet it was. Living in Mumbai I’d forgotten what my breath sounds like. I could hear some persistent crickets, punctuated sometimes with the crowing of roosters, a few barking dogs, and yes, the sound of crashing waves! I woke up my sleepy husband, and persuaded him to go for a walk with me to the beach.

The beach is one of the cleanest I have ever seen. With few or no tourists, it is as pristine as a private beach. The clean sand was strewn with shells, and the sea, gentle. October to February is probably the best time to visit this area, as the coastal heat isn’t too harsh. My nature-enthusiast husband took much delight in pointing out to me various kinds of shells and birds as we walked along the beach. At a little distance, the port of Malpe can be seen, where a fair number of tourists are to be found. Interesting things like fish auctions also take place at the Malpe beach! The beach walk became a morning-evening ritual, with little else to do.

The days were spent in perfect idleness, with some intermittent TV-watching (yes, they have satellite TV and Internet), and downing large quantities of seafood delicacies & booze. I sat back and relaxed as I hadn’t in years, and realized the pleasure of doing absolutely nothing. I desisted from even reading a book, allowing my mind to simply take in the peace of my surroundings. I was happy watching the ants walk along the many trees, and hearing the harsh-sweet calls of peacocks, and realized not when three days had crept by. 

I bid goodbye to my generous hosts, promised I would return, and meant it.

This article appeared in the Mumbai-based tabloid, The Afternoon, on October 21, 2011.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seven Sacred Rivers by Bill Aitken: Impressions

I picked this book up for 20 bucks from a raddiwala and the many times Mr. Aitken's views angered me, I wanted to fling it out of the window, knowing not much money would be wasted. But because Mr. Aitken is a mad man (like all men of faith are), he struck a love-hate chord with this mad woman. His oscillation between reverence and philistinism had my opinion of him swinging equally wildly. One page, I would be smiling at the Scotsman recognising the sanctity of our rivers, and the next page would have me raging, because how dare this foreigner criticise our ways?

But slowly I softened as I realised how uncomfortable Hindu discriminations - that we take as the normal order of things - must feel to an outsider. I began to understand the resentment he felt for our commercialisation of religion and nature - a worshipper as he was of the pristine. But what I did not agree with till the end was his condescending tone. Perhaps it is how the white man thinks/speaks, but to me he sounded only like one extremely ungrateful guest.

So this guest, in his sojourn across India, sought to understand our seven sacred rivers: Sindhu, Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, Narmada and Kaveri. As he tried to follow each of their courses, he encountered more than just geological entities. Each river brought forth lessons in culture, history, geography, religion, nature and whatnot. While Bill Aitken's writing is a tad cold and objective, one cannot help but feel the warmth of a human touch here and there. Laced with wry humour, the author tells of the many adventures and misadventures of a solo traveller on a shoestring budget.

One laughs and frowns at many an interesting account. His experiences of ashram life and Gandhians are mixed; he admires the likes of Sundarlal Bahuguna, while the 'pompous' Vinoba Bhave he loathes. North India turns him off with priests being obnoxious, small businessmen being greedy, and everything generally being unclean and poverty-stricken. His admiration for South India is obvious with him finding the states cleaner, better organised, and the people better educated. Among the rivers too, he loves the southern Narmada better than any other, although he describes well his short romances with every river he meets.

Aitken is impressed by the Ganga and the Indus in their beautiful settings and might, whereas the Yamuna and Saraswati let him down. The Kaveri and Godavari cast their respective mild impressions on him, but Narmada has his heart. He goes off on trails of several other uncelebrated rivers and questions their religious statures, or lack of them. He traces several historical chapters, whereby ancient Buddhist pilgrim centres have either been seized by the Hindu order, or cast away in a bid for religious supremacy. He talks about several interesting religious cults and practices that have become strongly associated with each of these rivers.

However, Aitken's travels are too extensive and his account too hurried. Before you can drink in the locales of Kerala, he has already moved on to Ladakh. His fast-paced name-dropping is too dizzying even for a resident of India, and there is little time to savour the beauty of any of the rivers. Nevertheless, one is carried adrift in this journey - languorously, beautifully, pitifully, adventurously, mightily, crazily, softly or raucously - at different times with different rivers.          

Monday, October 17, 2011

Live from London by Parinda Joshi: Impressions

Remember that infamous comment Sir V S Naipaul’s recently made about women writers being inferior to men? I was reminded of it when I was reading Parinda Joshi’s debut novel, ‘Live from London,’ and was rather ashamed because I too am a woman writer of sorts. I seem to be drawing the wrong lot from Blogadda’s lovely book review program, and this book disappointed me as much as the previous one – also written by a woman. I hope I get lucky the third time around.

My undisguised contempt for chicklit may have much to do with me being in the wrong side of the twenties. I am no longer able to sympathise with the nailpolish concerns of a 21-year-old – the protagonist of ‘Live from London’. Well, the book does have more than just candy floss, as it accords a tiny glimpse of the music industry. The protagonist, Nishi Gupta, hurtles along the pages in a series of fantastic events that finally lead her to stardom.

What has struck me about some of these new Indian authors is their reliance on larger than life plots to cover up for their less-than-impressive writing. The end product is a forgettable tale with sketchy characters acting out improbable situations. What separates them from good writers is that very marked skill of writing extraordinarily about the ordinary.

The most apparent impression of the protagonist Nishi Gupta is that of a typical young NRI, with starry dreams. She could be straight out of the factory of American soaps. The same could be said for the other characters – her best buddies Ria, Sarah, and the rockstar boyfriend, Nick. Her parents, her bosses and the sundry have all been painted in clichéd light. The only exception is the minor character of one of protagonist’s friends, Zac, who is surprisingly different, hence memorable.

The plot, as I’ve mentioned above, is in the fairytale league with good fortunes landing in Nishi’s lot one after the other. Minor hitches have been inserted, as if like afterthoughts, in an attempt to make the plot seem more plausible. Nishi getting a music company internship, finding a rockstar boyfriend, having a covert romance, getting a big break, followed by a breakup, and finally a makeup pretty much covers the plot. There’s one situation in the book in which Nishi accuses a friend of being full of clichés. This book isn’t far from it either.

I must give Parinda Joshi some points for her talent of humour. But she tries too hard in some places, and the reader has some eyeroll moments. She definitely has promise, and should she concentrate on humour writing, there might be some memorable stories inside of her. Finally, one wee bit of advice to the writer: Find someone else to design the cover of your next book. This one is hideous with that big guitar and that loud blue patch bang in the centre. It could easily be mistaken as a tourist guidebook to London. I have rarely been so put off by the design. Until you’ve become a famous writer, Parinda, people WILL judge your books by their covers. Good luck!


This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda: Impressions

Autobiography of a Yogi is, in the least, extraordinary. Little wonder that this book has been a consistent international bestseller for a number of years. The book, primarily written for Western readers, discloses the fascinating life of a yogi. But it will astound a modern Indian reader as much as it will his Western counterpart – equally far removed as we are from the ancient spiritual lifestyle of India. Page after page, I have been surprised, awed, and even faced moments of disbelief, as the yogi shared his life’s journey with me. And although I’ve read a fair bit about Hinduism, never before have I come across such details about the life of a Hindu spiritual seeker. Swami Yogananda also says in the book that most yogis live highly secret lives and are loathe to publicity, because their exalted ways may appear at best unbelievable or ridiculous or both to a common man.

Swami Yogananda goes to the West (primarily America) and writes this book in compliance with the order of his guru, Swami Yukteshwar, and indirectly, the order of his param gurus, Lahiri Mahasaya and Babaji. All these gurus’ life sketches have been given in the book – each more fantastic than the other. Babaji, the author tells us, is the undying Mahavtar, who is perhaps centuries old, but looks like a young man. He travels the Himalayas with a small band of followers, and materializes at will before his disciples whenever he wants to give them a message. Lahiri Mahasaya, the yogavatar, following Babaji’s command spreads the art of Kriya Yoga – a scientific yogic method that accelerates spiritual growth - among the masses. Swami Yukteshwar, the jnanavatar and Lahiri Mahasaya’s disciple, is the stern guru, who guides the author through the mystical bylanes of realization. Swami Yogananda speaks freely of the miracles these saints performed, and gives glorious accounts of their amazing spiritual attainments and powers. The reader will discover many such amazing details within the pages of the book.

Swami Yogananda also recounts the life of various other saints and great men and women he has met in his lifetime, elucidating their respective spiritual achievements. These other illustrious personas include Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, the great horticulturist, Louis Burbank,  and various saints who don’t eat, sleep, kill tigers with their bare hands, and perform such everyday miracles.

But before his travels lead him to these exalted souls, the author writes about his origins in Calcutta, the finding of his guru, Sri Yukteshwar, days spent in rigorous spiritual training with his guru at his ashram, his academic course in severe strife with his spiritual one, and his own gradual growth from a spiritual sapling into a big soul-tree, replete with his own daily insights and sometimes, miracles.

The author then sets sail, with much trepidation, to the West to fulfill his guru’s command of spreading the message of Yoga in the spiritually-parched West. Despite his limited command of English, Swami Yogananda sets forth on the arduous path. But with his guru’s blessings, he not only delivers a series of very successful lectures across countries over the years, but also sets up various schools of spiritual learning.

One wonders how Swami Yogananda could ever have been deficient in English, considering the book has been written in a fairly lofty language. His childlike wonder, however, stays intact as he unravels various treasures of the spirit and this planet. While his accounts of the West are informative, it is the narration of the various Yogic phenomena that is the high point of this book. The chapter on ‘The resurrection of Sri Yukteshwar’, for example, has some jaw-dropping spiritual secrets in it, and the reader is left with hair-raising recollections for several days.

This spiritual masterpiece has been more than a book for me. It has sowed a tiny seed of restlessness in my soul, and my eyes are now ever on the lookout for a guru, if one be assigned for me by Providence.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Dead Soldier's Wife

The annual Honour festival had been held in her village ever since she could remember. When she was a very little girl, there had been a big war (which she didn't really remember), and from then on every year, year after year, the hilltop fair would commemorate the bravery of their only village hero, the martyr, R. Hearst. Like all other children of the village, she would wait eagerly for the fair, where dolls, and sweets, and trinkets would be sold. In the colourful rush of swings and hawkers and holidays, the blood of war was forgotten. A quick customary prayer, an even quicker speech extolling the virtues of the great yet young Captain R. Hearst, who had laid his life down for his country, and the fair would be thrown open. The drummers would beat their drums loudly, the trumpeters would play their horns loudly, as if to drown any sombre remains of the fair's grim origins. At the end of three days of feasting and fun, Emily would return happily to her village at the foot of the hills, a doll in one hand, candy in another, and R. Hearst's grave would wait again for a year to pass.    

Years, fairs, and Emily's childhood slowly passed by. There were newer children now, newer visitors, newer stalls - much bigger. The celebrations during the Honour festival continued, but Emily began to be drawn to something else. Suddenly, the opening sermon, praising the good Captain R. Hearst, sounded sweeter than the fair songs to Emily's ears. For the first time in her life, 16-year-old Emily visited the grave of the brave R. Hearst. Beneath the mounds of customary flowers, lay a simple stone grave, with a simple epitaph engraved on it:

Capt. R. Hearst
(1889 - 1911)
That brave, beautiful man,
who died for us 

The music was louder than ever, but Emily just stood and stared. The pastor smiled at her indulgently (for people rarely revisited the reason for the Honour festival) and then left to join the others. The inscription was  dusty. She stepped up on the grave and dusted that ornate faded gold lettering with her hand. That was when they first touched. Her sisters came calling, and whisked her away to the fair, but a part of her heart secretly stayed behind.

From that day, Emily's feet were drawn to the hilltop, where amidst ash-brown leaves, lay the brave and beautiful R. Hearst. At first, she carried little wildflowers, to pay his grave homage. But the leaves and the dust and the cobwebs bothered her, bothered the grave, so she carried a little broom along on her daily visits. The villagers thought it odd that the blacksmith's youngest daughter should go up alone to the hilltop everyday, and odder still that she should carry a broom along! But they just laughed and said nothing. What else could it be, but a little eccentricity? But there was more; something they would later call morbid and sordid. But there was more; it was probably love.

Had a curious soul followed Emily up the hill on any of those many days, he would have seen her either sitting solemnly, looking down at the village, or sweeping the grave fervently, or lying on her grave - her smooth, warm cheek against the smooth, cold stone, or talking to the tombstone, or smiling or crying. If he went closer, he would have heard her address the tomb of R. Hearst as 'Darling'. He would have heard her musing loudly what the R in R. Hearst stood for - Roger? Robert? Renee? Raphael? or Richard? He would have heard her impassioned voice and seen her adoring eyes. And if he could go close to her heart, he would discover a strange, terrifying desire that was taking shape therein. But no one was privy to the desires of the village blacksmith's youngest and prettiest daughter, and Emily went about the world, her heart full of a dangerous kind of love. Almost a year rolled by.

The Honour festival's opening sermons had always spoken about the virtues of R. Hearst, but had never spoken about R. Hearst. He was a traveller, who turned soldier, who fought in a war, and who died protecting their village. No one knew from where he had come, and where he would have gone. No one knew who he was, and how he came there. No one, but the pastor, knew. R. Hearst, the stranger, had come to the village church one snowy night, spoke little about himself, thanked the pastor in the morning, and left to join the battalion. Emily saw this in a vision one night, and knocked hard at the pastor's door the next morning. She demanded to know everything there was to be known about Capt. R. Hearst, the soldier who had died for this village, and in whose memory the Honour festival was held each year. 

The pastor recounted that cold night from years ago, painting from his mind's eye a picture of Capt R. Hearst. A young man, not more than twenty and five, with broad shoulders, and bright eyes. He called himself R. Hearst. Dressed simply, in the manner of common country folks, the man had yet a noble countenance. He had the most brilliant blue eyes, that would not be dulled by the night's cruel cold. Food there was none, so he ate only the meager bread and wine, that the pastor could offer him from the church's cellar, yet his voice was deep with gratitude. He was a single man, carrying no burdens upon his being, save for the love of his motherland. He slept little that night, but was fresh of appearance, when he awoke. He finally bid the pastor goodbye, with what the pastor thought, was a mild tear in his eye. He had no riches nor horses, and the last he remembered of the living R. Hearst was a handsome figure walking down the village road on a wintry dawn, receding into the horizon. The next the pastor saw Capt. R. Hearst, he was in military finery, a neat bullet hole on his heart, and a proud, dead face inside the coffin. He had performed the last rites.

Emily had smiled through most of the story, 'seeing' for the first time the man whose image she had long sought. But by the end of the pastor's narration, she broke into a uncontrollable spate of tears. The pastor knew at once that it had more to do than with his story-telling prowess. He remembered suddenly that he had a picture of him, that the young, dead captain's sister had given to him, when she had come looking for her brother, and found him gone. She had never come back. He almost gave Emily the picture - for what would better pacify her? - but decided against it when he thought he heard the words 'My love' between her muffled cries. Emily left, and the pastor prayed. He prayed, for the first time, that the Lord God may take away from someone what they so desired. He prayed that Emily wouldn't come back, but he knew she would.

She did return; the following Thursday - two days before the Honour festival. Her eyes seemed red from crying, but they were now bright with resolve. She waited until the villagers left after the sermon, and then approached the pastor. She held a neat, large bundle under her arms. A bundle that was big enough to contain a wedding dress. The pastor knew he was about to enter an argument, he would not win. So he listened to her patiently. He told her it could not be done, but she looked at him with imploring eyes. There was no other way she would have it. What would her parents say? What would the villagers say? She only shook her head. The only other recourse would be to join Mr. R. Hearst in his grave, she said simply. The pastor agreed to hold the wedding on Sunday - at the Honour festival.

The villagers assembled in hoards again. The fair ground was set. The stalls were set. There were toys and trinkets. But there were no colours. The villagers didn't know if they were going for a wedding or a mourning. Some wore white. Some wore black. They had talked and talked and raged and begged and threatened, but the will of the blacksmith's daughter was unbending. The choice was simple, she said: A wedding or a funeral.

The sombre father of the bride walked her down the aisle that led to the grave. The sombre bridesmaids stood still. The parishioners sat grim. The service began. The rings were exchanged. She put her own ring on her wedding finger, and hung her husband's ring by a simple chain on his tomb's cross. She kissed the familiar stone stab again, for the first time before others, when the pastor asked the bride to be kissed. She smiled when he asked for the vows to be said. She said he would be by his side while her life lasted, and then forever together with him when she finally died. The pastor gave her a wedding gift - her husband's picture. She wept for joy. The guests cheered hesitantly, their hearts heavy. She said she was happy - the happiest she had ever been. She asked the fair to be continued, for she was now the hostess. Now, the guests cheered heartily.

She brought her other things. Her lone broom now had company. A house grew around these things. The grave became his shrine - their home. Years passed. Her love grew. Capt. R. Hearst, whom she now called Roger, lay silently by her side in the night, as in the day. She passed on, united finally with her one true love. A life from the past, and a life from the present converged, till history acknowledged them as one.     

Today, when the Honour festival is celebrated, there still are dolls, and sweets, and trinkets. There are swings and hawkers and holidays. There are celebrations and venerations. But the festival starts around not one graves but two. No one suspects that there ever was just one grave. The older-looking grave belongs to one Capt. R. Hearst, and the second grave says,

Mrs. Emily R. Hearst
(1908 - 1940)
That beautiful, brave woman,
who lived and died for him