Passing On…

For as far back as I can remember my mother, she wore gold bangles on her left hand. They are at least as old as, if not older, than I am. There were five of them to start with- thin and hand made, but hiding an unbelievable strength. The cuts are not in perfect synchronism as in case of modern ornaments; imperfections are clearly visible.

She never got gold ornaments replaced periodically to match the current fashions. So the last two survived intact; the other three having gone on to become thinner, fashionable and more elaborate avatars for her daughters’ marriages.

And she continued to wear these last two bangles, till she no longer had any use for them.

They are not glittery; gold does not tarnish, they say- but these, they are old and do not shine brightly like their younger, more modern cousins; nor do they call attention to themselves. They are self-effacing, like she was.

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There was a time when her voice used to be my personal news bulletin every Sunday- who died, whose son or daughter got married and to whom, what the wedding was like. Babies born. Whose child did well at school and whose did not. What the rains were or were not like that year. How the summer temperatures kept increasing (in her opinion) each year. How the weather was becoming unpredictable, like people themselves. Enquiries as to my children and how they were performing at school.

Being very less educated herself, she set a great store on education. “What is Malu doing now?”  she would ask. (In those days, my daughter was studying at her Plus Two levels and was glued to her text books.) “She is studying, Amma”, I would reply- a response which met with her approval. “And the little one?” “He is playing”- would be the standard reply. (Which is the truth even today; he has just moved on from toy cars to CoC). “Always playing, whenever I ask. Doesn’t he have anything to study?”, she would retort. I would mumble, “Amma, he is young.”

She never wavered from the faith of her ancestors; finding peace and solace in the familiar prayers, intonations, rituals and hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

As dementia claimed more and more of her memory, the range of those conversations kept shrinking. I trembled inside- what would this be like? this loss of brain cells, loss of identity, loss of perspective? She also lost weight; yet her skin remained amazingly soft to the touch.

Those last two bangles- I wear them today on my left hand- barely distinguishable from the skin tone of the wrist; they are tarnished, flawed, imperfect- like their present owner.

Have a safe journey, Mother.

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On Grace …. and Compassion

In her book “Eat Pray Love” Elizabeth Gilbert describes the chatter of her mind, when she is trying to meditate; chatter which goes something like “Yeah, but you are such a failure, you are such a loser, you’ll never amount to anything”. Then right there, cutting off this flow in the middle of this sad litany, comes this lion’s roar from within her heart- “YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW STRONG MY LOVE IS!!!!!!!”

Elizabeth writes, “the chattering, negative thoughts in my mind scattered in the wind of this statement like birds and jackrabbits and antelopes- they hightailed it out of there, terrified. Silence followed. An intense, vibrating, awed silence…… and in that regal silence, finally- I began to meditate on (and with) God”.

I believe her- totally; because I too have heard this voice once.

In 2007, a strange fancy struck- I realized that even though I have lived in India all my life, I have never seen the holy river Ganges -Ganga- ever. I worried that if I were to die in six months, it would be without the Ganga darshan, which seemed a pity. Suddenly it became of vital importance that I had to see the holiest river in India, right now.

My husband looked at me as if I had lost my mind. And refused to come haring across a vast country, on a whim.

“Okay”, I said, “I will go alone- I have to do this; I will leave the children with you. You take care of them.” He agreed- the children did not. From their point, they seemed to be missing out on a lot of fun. My daughter was twelve years old and son, five.

The destination was Rishikesh- located in the foothills of the Himalayas; to a small Ashram, where the teacher was a lady, a scholar of the Bhagvad Gita, who dressed in lavender robes. The month was December- the harsh North Indian winter was nearing its peak. Not exactly the right time for a visit to the Himalayas.

My son, small and frail, coughed continuously on the long train journey, despite all the bundling up in warm clothes. We reached the Ashram, this strange trio, and were received with love and kindness. The weather was bitterly cold.

That night, I lay awake in bed, listening to the laboured breathing and continuous cough of my sleeping son. It broke my heart; it scared me. I was alone with two small children, for whom I was solely responsible and whom I had carted halfway across India, headstrong as always, despite the disapproval of their father.

As far as negative chatter goes, I am second to none; I am the sort of person who does not need an external critic, because there is one always with me, living and breathing inside my skin. My critic is extremely intelligent and knows what exactly to say and when to say it, so that she has me in a sorry heap in no time, in silent uncontrollable tears. “You are no good; never was, you are a fake, a lousy mother/ wife/daughter…. stupid too- all said and done, nobody loves you, not responsible/knowledgable/good enough….” .

So this was a good time! My thoughts ran in circles. I should never have left home. What if he worsens? What do I do? Why did I want to see the Ganga? Thoughtless, selfish… as always.

And then suddenly, interrupting that mad race of thoughts, I heard a voice. “Heard” is the wrong word, because it was not an earthly voice. It was both in my ears and inside my heart. It was a voice with an amused and indulgent smile in it; it felt like the voice of a man. And it just said, with that smile- “I am the Lord of the Universe; you have come all this way to Me. Why do you worry?”

My thoughts stopped as if a curtain had been drawn across them. I stared at the darkness in utter disbelief- where did That come from? Who is This? I thought I had come to see the Ganga and the lavender-robed teacher, who had spoken on phone with such an abundance of love- “my daughter”, she had addressed  me. It was a long time since anyone had spoken with so much love… But to whom did this voice belong?

Then suddenly, I experienced a peace, a compassion in my soul, as if all the weight on my weak and quivering soul was lifted and tossed aside in a moment. A peace that truly passed all human understanding.

That night, held in the comfort of that smiling voice, I slept. And in the morning, my son had no trace of the cough at all. He skipped along in the Ashram gardens, a thin but happy little boy, admiring the flowers and birds.

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The Ashram overlooked the Ganga. There were rocks on the river bed, just below the Ashram, where there was a slight curve in the river. The Ganga had a music all of its own at that point, flowing turbulently over the rocks. The water was greenish blue, almost the shade of the Shivaliks in the distance.

I did see the Ganga- and I did hear my Lord’s voice.

Silences, Sounds and Scents

The silence of late night is not really a silence. If one listens carefully, so many different strands of sound slowly start to reveal their identities. Standing under the inverted bowl of a black night sky, I listen.

First comes the incessant music of the crickets. Various voices, pitches and tones. Some loud and insistent. Some subdued. I remember with surprise that I have never really heard the crickets since I was a child. Crickets and fireflies need wilderness and darkness, which our cities have taken away both from them and from us.

The earth lies in folds here. There is always one Tilla (rise) to complement a Loonga (depression). (Both are however are in imminent danger of extinction and would soon become level ground to cope with the pressure of housing; I’d give them another ten years, at the most.) The Loongas are veritable tangled forests, where no braveheart dares to go.

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When I walk at night with my son, my eyes are totally trained on the earth, not because I am particularly demure or am living in a Taliban ruled country, where a woman is not permitted to look a man in the eye, but for the simple reason that I do not wish to have a disastrous rendezvous with night travellers from the Loongas, who unlike me, are equipped with poisonous fangs. But the night music from these dangerous zones is mesmerizing, incessant and undulating. I wonder what is it that they have to say to each other, each night. I long to understand the language of the crickets.

The Cicadas were less in evidence this year; they come into their element immediately after the winter cold recedes. For such small creatures their decibel level is quite deafening- still I missed them and for a long time kept hoping for cicada encounters, only to be disappointed.

The tall trees towering inside and over the Loongas are home to a thriving bat colony. The bats have a daily routine of wheeling-dealing-free-for-all on early mornings and evenings. They have wingspans comparable to that of the Indian Jungle Crow, which is not a small bird. The bats also are great at communication; the sky is filled both these times with literally hundreds of hunting bats, who seem to become afflicted with talkativeness as well as restlessness.

Then there are the winged ones of the night- Owls are sacred birds; sacred to goddesses of the East and ancient Egypt. They have a peculiar unnerving and unblinking stare that seems to see right into the soul, which probably contributed to the sacredness. They sit silently in utter stillness and then suddenly swoop down and up in one single fluid, graceful moment.

There seems to be multiple species of owls here, to judge from their hoots and the feathers I find lying on the ground. Most of the nights in July and August I am forced to fall asleep to the sound of what can only be described as communication via wild screeches.

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The darkness settles comfortably like a warm and scented wrap- the summer air is wet on most evenings, thanks to the Indian monsoon, and is perfumed by the night flowering jasmine and frangipani. The land sleeps and slowly, the inhabitants too.

Renewal…

Where I live, Spring  starts out like Autumn in temperate zones. Once the stillness and chill of Winter begin to recede, most trees go into a flurry of shedding their leaves- a flurry, a frenzy, a hurry….. It is as if they cannot wait to shed their old leaves and give birth to the new life waiting inside them, rising up towards the sun.

The tall Ashoka trees are the most proliferate in this new burst of activity- my yard is never leaf free. A freshly swept yard soon looks as if the owner has never taken a broom to it!

The huge Peepul trees, holy and venerated in India, which are not planted  in homes, only near temples and public places, turn totally  bare in March. So also most trees, whether large leaved, small leaved, long leaved or tiny leaved. There is no flaming orange Autumn in my country- the transition is from dark green to pale green, with the exception of some trees whose young leaves are a delicate pink. And then- one fine morning, one notices that the bare tree of yesterday is not quite the same. It is young again- living, vibrant, ready for another year, ready for blooming. And then the flowers and fruit follow!

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(Hibiscus- but not the well known variety- these  flowers do not open fully. )

As a part of the process of renewal, we get thunderstorms in April. This year there were three nights of hailstones too. I have seen hailstones perhaps once, while growing up, and never subsequently till last year, and again now in April. In my language we do have a word  for hailstones- Aali-pazham- but it has always been a sort of abstract word- one with no real form to go with it, except as described by others.

The hailstorm was not brief and insubstantial this time. The ice pebbles rained down in a cacophony of sound on the tin roof, bounced down to the earth, glistened in the fading light and melted away silently.

Last night was another one of thunderstorms, but not of hail.

Yesterday I saw the wind and the power of the elements.

All elements can be violent- the Wind is no exception – at least one huge tree is uprooted and flung down by the winds each year.

Last year this time it was the turn of a giant Gulmohur tree. The Gulmohur is also called the Flame of the Forest, because its flowers are flame coloured- orange-red and prolific.

One day the tree was standing- covered with its flame flowers and the other day, there was a huge gaping hole in the ground where it had stood and the tree lay on the ground- mangled, on a carpet of its own flowers.

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(Another Gulmohur in the background- Can you see the flowers?)

This year it was another tree, whose name I do not know, which shaded the school compound. It was not a young tree, judging by its girth and  canopy. Perhaps it was planted in the late 1970s, when the school was constructed. The violence of its uprooting was palpable and raw. While I do recognize that the old has to give way for new life, new growth and that death is as much a certainty as life itself and that both engage in a dance which sustains creation, I touch the fallen trunk, feel the roughness of the bark and say goodbye to the spirit of the tree. I wish it well and a safe journey to wherever it may be going.

To return to last evening- Bolts of faraway lightning were already flashing across the sky by the time I reached home. The light was brown and strange. Before long the wind rose from the West- stripping branches, dried and not, whirling down the last stubborn old leaves from their hold on to the mother tree.

And the rain followed- icy cold and torrential. The wind drove rain in sheets across the landscape. The tall high mast light tower swayed dangerously to and fro on its feet. I silently hoped and prayed that the Civil Engineers who designed its foundation knew what they were doing!

The wind also flew down hidden cobwebs from their corners, raised dust and banged doors.

A child and a child-at-heart ran out to the verandah to feel the chill of the rain and the sharp points of water tipped needles on the skin. And marvelled to see the trees dancing and swaying; the earth rejoicing; Lightning flashing across the sky. Life renewing itself. And experienced a moment of unity with the Elements in all their glory.

Earth. Air. Fire. Water.

A Spring in the step again!

the-pilgrim-s-thanksgiving112513Can safely say now that Lady Winter has said her goodbyes. And her cousin, Spring, has stepped across the threshold!

It has been a procession of  sunshine-less days; with the exception of a few hours of watered down, chilly (yes, chilly- believe me) sunshine for an hour or two in the afternoons. On most days…

Afternoons which are lost all too soon to the darkness which descends by five in the evening.

Days when I would pull on two pairs of socks on feet which still feel like blocks of ice and regretfully remember the evening while the aircraft was taxi-ing for take-off from the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala, in mid January, marking the end of our sun-and-sands winter holiday.  My watch had shown 6.25 pm; the visibility excellent, dusk slowly starting to fall and the weather warm……..

From the air, the Arabian sea appears to gently lap the coastline, but the sea is anything but gentle in her unexpected, wilder moments. The memory of the rogue wave, which knocked my son off his feet while the rest of us held each other (and him) tightly for dear life makes me smile now, though not then.

The enchantment of the sea has to be experienced- the waves (turquoise? green? blue?) following each other to the shore. Sometimes the receding wave cancels the force of the progressing one. Sometimes it adds to it. Either way, it is difficult to break away from the timeless magic of the sea, till darkness fully cloaks the beach.

Anyway, I remembered the warmth, continued  wistful musings and pulled on another layer of clothing to ward off the chill. The lifesaver rosebush is still doing fine and abounding with pink roses; I feel grateful for small mercies and count days to the end of winter. Determined to outwait the chill and confident that the Great Wheel has to turn again!

At such junctures, I miss my various old lives and start the game of remembering.

Memories of childhood December nights leading up to Christmas is one special treasure trove. The paper star would have been tied midway on the tall coconut palm tree standing in front of the house and would be lighted up throughout the night, starting from before Christmas and well into the New Year. The crib would be prepared with fresh straw and the gaily coloured figurines of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph accompanied by an assortment of angels, farm animals and the three wise men would be brought out from the attic chest and installed lovingly in the crib. Carol singers would go around the neighbourhood  each night and would be rewarded with a few coins for their pains. The high point for children would be the night of Christmas Eve, when crackers and fireworks would be lit. Since Deepavali was practically unknown to the children of Kerala in those pre-TV days, Christmas and the harvest festival of Vishu (falling on the 14th of April) were the only two festivals which involved large scale fireworks. The other major festival of Onam in Kerala did not call for fireworks- the emphasis was more on the elaborate food, new clothes and the Pookkalam (circular flower pattern) which had to be created afresh each day leading up to the Thiruvonam day.

The custom of setting up the crib disappeared from my life even while I was still at school; the figurines too must have been thrown away when the house got pulled down to make way for the newer modern house, and have passed on into the realm of memories. The problem is that one realises the value of things only once they are well and truly lost. I really don’t think I mourned or even registered the loss of this quaint ritual  at that time.

Another poignant memory is that of baking.

I am an average sort of self taught cook and can claim no great culinary legacy from grandmother’s kitchens; my father’s mother had passed away long before I was born. I had known my mother’s mother briefly- she passed away when I was twelve or so. She was a tough woman who had no great love for her daughters or granddaughters; all her affections flowed down the male line! Strange but true- there indeed were (are?) women who seriously  favoured sons over daughters!

Kerala’s tradition of sweet dishes are in the line of various payasams (liquid sweet dishes) made with milk or coconut milk with jaggery, rice, vermicilli, almonds, sometimes  jackfruit, and so I grew up alien to the sweet traditions of the rest of the country.

Leaving home at seventeen, and before that always having a book in hand, (my college library was vast and venerable), I never learnt any culinary skill worth mentioning from my mother. My entire cooking repertoire has been gleaned from an assortment of cook books and websites including the ISKCON website, specialising in sattvic (evoking higher spiritual vibes) vegetarian cooking.

So shortly after the birth of my daughter, to combat my feeling of inferiority in the conventional cookery department (and secretly to blunt the sugar coated but sharp jibes  on the subject), I decided to learn the skill of baking. It was the start of a passion!

Much has been written about the process of baking- I can only add that of all the hours I have spent in the kitchen, those hours could only be described as meditative. The churning of fresh butter, the preparation of the pan, lightly buttered and dusted with flour, the assembling of ingredients well ahead of time- so that the butter and eggs are of room temperature, the oven to be kept heated and ready so that once the dry and wet ingredients are mixed, the cake mixture  can go immediately into the oven, instead of  waiting for it to heat up- all require mindfulness.

And the reward- apart from the soft and light cake, the most wonderful aroma permeating the house, which cannot be replicated in any other way. It could be the aroma   of chocolate, bananas, apples or carrot-and-dates, depending on which cake I’d be baking that day.

Of course I have my own idiosyncrasies- even if a cake recipe calls for a pinch of salt, I will not add it; and equally stubbornly,  will use only fresh and unsalted butter. The latter compulsion has contributed to my baking recipe book gather dust now; the only type of milk available here is the long life, ultra high temperature treated milk, which does not lend itself to extraction of butter.

My recipe book also has a page on which a childish scrawl has jotted down a special recipe for God-knows-what: Dal pani, Gajar ka pani, Bas thoda. (Lentil water , carrot water, just a little). The scrawler was my daughter- seven years old in 2002 !

As a pay-it-forward in gratitude to my various teachers of cooking, all of whom are ignorant of the existence of this student, and in compensation to having shelved this passion temporarily, I share a simple and wonderful recipe here, with the guarantee that it will turn out fine, if anyone is of a mind to try it; (hoping someone would!). The other guarantee is that it will really disappear, especially if kids are around.

Disappearing Cake

White Unsalted Butter : 1/2 cup

Sugar (powdered) : 2 cups – can be tweaked to 1 and 3/4 cups

Vanilla Extract: 1 tsp

Eggs: 02

Flour: 1 and 3/4 cups

Cocoa: 3/4 cup

Baking powder : 3/4 tsp

Baking soda: 3/4 tsp

Milk: 1 and 3/4 cup

Salt : 1/8 tsp (can be omitted, as I consistently do)

Method:

  1. Oven to be preheated to 350 Deg F.  Cake tin to be buttered, lightly dusted with flour and kept aside.

2.   Sieve all the dry ingredients together at least thrice. This is to incorporate air and ensure good mixing. Keep aside.

3.  Beat together butter and sugar. Once mixed well, add eggs. Beat again and then add vanilla   extract.

4. Add the sieved dry ingredients at (2) to the butter-sugar-egg mixture, little by little, alternating with milk, mixing well (so that maximum air can be incorporated) after each addition. The end result should be smooth.

5. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Another recipe another day….

Roots….

Cinnamon-and-CoffeeBlossom-country days are here!

Leaving for Kerala, to my village which is no longer a village, today- so goodbye to all virtual friends till we meet again in mid- Jan.

Have a blessed New Year!

The Liebster Award

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The nomination of the Liebster Award from Mary Kendall (A Poet in Time- A weekly poetry practice: http://apoetintime.com) was a pleasant and unexpected surprise! Thank you Mary- I apologise for the delay, but better late than never!

Being a curious sort of person,  I looked it up and discovered that the Liebster is an internet award which works like a chain and which is given by bloggers to other bloggers. The concept is very positive and aims to encourage new bloggers. (Incidentally it is a German word  and the meanings include dearest, sweetest, kindest etc.)

Blogging changes one for the better- I have been fortunate and honoured to have interacted with many kind and generous people in cyberspace. As a result, today, as the year slowly draws to a close, I feel enriched in life and happier and creatively fulfilled, knowing I have touched a stranger’s life and perhaps enriched it in turn.

The set of rules involved in accepting this award are brief:

1.  Thank the blogger who nominated/ awarded you.

2. Link back to their blog.

3. Copy and paste the Liebster logo onto your blog.

4. Answer the eleven questions put to you by the person who nominated you.

5. List eleven random facts about yourself.

6. Nominate and link to at least three other blogs which you enjoy. (the nomination upper limit is eleven)

7. List eleven questions for your nominees.

8. Inform them by leaving a comment on their blog.

So, these are the eleven questions that I was asked by Mary and my answers to them:

1. At what age did you realise you liked to write?

Quite late. When I was about seventeen. One day I saw a purple coloured wildflower and was moved enough to write a poem. It never saw the light of the day, but that was my defining moment.

2. How important is family to you? 

My children mean the world to me, because they are the closest relationship that I have ever had. Seriously, there is nothing in the world that I wouldn’t let go for them.

3. Which languages do you speak and which do you wish you could speak fluently?

I speak three languages reasonably well- My mother tongue: Malayalam- the first language I learned to understand, read and write. English- my great love and gateway  to the world. Hindi- the lingua franca of my working life. I can understand Tamil and Gujarati a bit  when someone else speaks them, but cannot speak these languages myself. I wish I understood Russian- so that I could have read Tolstoy, Pasternak and Dostoyevsky in original. Of the Indian languages, I would choose Bengali- it sounds sonorous and I love the way it flows.

4. What would be your favourite vacation place?

Scotland. No idea why, but I love Scotland. Even the cold- but only from a distance!

5. If you could time travel, where and when in time would you go?

Assuming time travel in both directions is available, I would choose to go into the past; specifically to a period before the Industrial Revolution. Reason – humans lived closer to nature, more in sync with the seasons. Activities were need based and not want based.

6. What makes you very happy?

Predictably, getting lost in a book.

7. Describe the earliest memory you can recall.

Being held up high in the air as a small child by one of my older brothers. He died tragically young at the age of twenty two or so of jaundice;  I was two or three at that time. I also remember his hospital room and trying to climb  up on the white painted metal bed.

8. What is something that really bothers you?

Hypocrisy and all forms of dishonesty.

9. Tell us a fact about you that most people do not know.

I was a painfully shy child and had great difficulty interacting with people. In fact visits from relatives were such agonising events that I used to hide in dark corners, in the hope that they would go away. (No one would believe this of me today!)

10.What is your favourite treat or indulgence?

Books. Chocolate comes a close second!

11. What book character would you like to have as a good friend?

Tess in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Her innocence breaks my heart.

12. Who is an important influence on you? (This seems to be a bonus question, being the twelfth! )

Mother Theresa. I read “City of Joy” at the impressionable age of twenty and fervently wished to devote my life in the service of the poor and homeless, as a volunteer. Unfortunately, things worked out differently because the city of Calcutta was a world away from my small village in Kerala and my parents flatly refused their consent. I am also a great admirer of the Hindu saint Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Unfortunately, no one who is currently alive.

Eleven Random Facts about myself:

  1. I have difficulty assigning a name and form to God and always felt vaguely guilty about it. Now I know better and understand that it is okay.
  2. My blog post of February 2014 was the first creative writing I did after 1989. A shocking 25 year gap.
  3. I have become interested in Wicca- as a nature religion and not at all in a structured and organised way. As a result I observe nature and the cycles of the moon with much more attention than I used to. In fact, it was really like coming home. There were no outdoor lights when I was growing up to interfere with moonlight and I remember how I used to love walking in the moonlight, or just sit on the edge of the verandah, gazing at the full moon. the flaming orange sky of our tropical sunsets also fascinated me. Both were strange and odd pastimes- I remember my family being curious and asking me what I was doing. Of course, there was no satisfactory answer!
  4. I wish I sat down to meditate regularly- unfortunately I am not at all regular in it.
  5. I do not fear death at all- because I believe it is just a gateway to another realm.
  6. Keeping one’s word is important to me.
  7. Cotton is the only fabric I like to wear. I used to wear clothes stitched from Khadi (the rough homespun cloth made famous by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Independence movement) for some years. Availability became an issue and so went back to wearing cotton.
  8. I am a vegetarian by choice since the age of seven. Killing a living being is impossible for me. (Exception: Mosquitoes, which we have in plenty here in India).
  9. I have accepted the fact that it is impossible for me to totally believe and become a follower of any religion/doctrine/teacher/guru.
  10. I am a Third Degree Reiki practitioner; I first learned Reiki in 1997.
  11. I love to make new friends- it really does not matter where they are or if I may never be able to meet them physically.

My nominees for the Liebster Award-

1. Sacred Space: For the meticulous research and excellent writing.

2. Live on Impulse: For the genuineness of emotions and writing.

3. Gratitude: Covers a range of varied topics, architecture being the author’s favourite.

4. Thinking Man– Brief and brilliant!

5. Swathi Manoj– A young and promising talent.

Here are your eleven questions:

  1. If you could meet one person from the past, either an ordinary person or an important historical figure, in whose company you could spend one day, whom would you choose? And why?
  2. Do you have a favourite quote? If yes, which is it?
  3. In which part of the day do you feel a natural delight?
  4. Given a choice between the seaside and the mountains, where would you choose to live? Why?
  5. Do you remember your first day (okay, early days will also do) in school? What are the memories which are in the forefront?
  6. Do you remember when and where you first watched “Sound of Music”? (If you have not, then you can substitute any movie which you loved).
  7. Can you pick five words which would describe you best?
  8. Which is the most important quality that you seek in a friend?
  9. Do you love old houses? Why?
  10. Which is your favourite genre of music?
  11. If you are inside a fairytale and the good fairy grants you the wish of having a lifelong, endless supply of ONE thing, what would you choose?

I know the writing may seem a little daunting- but it is fun and you end up knowing more about yourself too, when forced to think aloud.