Sunday, January 13, 2019

Friends Forever

It has been 10+ days since I returned from my whirlwind trip to
India. I am now 95% caught up with sleep, 85% caught up with laundry, and about 75% done with unpacking.

Mural on a wall in a community center in India

And before I fondly remember my best of 2018 (I am 100% late to that party), and share my goals for 2019, there is something else I want to share with you. Warning - It is a long read.

It was March of 2001. The day I received an appointment letter as a Java programmer was also the day I walked out of my troubled marriage. I sought accommodation in a working women's hostel located in Juhu, Mumbai. The building had three floors. The ground floor had the administrative office, the kitchen, the dining area, seating space and one television.  The two upper floors had rooms on either sides of a poorly-lit, skinny corridor.  Shared toilets and bathrooms were located at the ends of each corridor.  We hand washed our clothes and the wet clothes were spread out on the clothesline in the corridor. The water dripping from the clothes overhead meant that the corridor was usually wet. Some girls threw newspapers on the floor to absorb the excess water. Everything about the place was dark, depressing and constricting. The only good thing was the location. It was a ten minute walk to the beach. Most mornings, I would do just that - take a walk on the beach.

Our room was on the first floor, overlooking the road. The room was tiny and had three occupants - Sujata, Biju and me. After three single beds, three cupboards and three small tables, there was barely any space left.  We kept our suitcases on top of our cupboards, and the buckets and shoes under the beds. The hostel provided tea and breakfast in the morning, dinner at night, and lunch only on weekends. The food was vegetarian and passable.  The highlight was the Sunday lunch - beans, rice and yogurt.

I lived in this place for a year and it was the worst year of my life - emotionally, financially and physically. My marriage had come to an end. I was dealing with court dates for an impending divorce.  I was a Java programmer for four months before the dotcom bubble burst.  Of course I lost the job. One of the managers offered me a short-term telemarketing position in advance of an event. I took it. Then I slipped on the staircase in the hostel and fractured my foot. My leg was in a cast but I could not take any time off due to the nature of the telemarketing assignment. So I hobbled to the bus stop every morning, climbed the bus and hobbled from the bus stop to my office, where I tried to keep the foot raised, if possible.

It rained that day. The road was full of puddles. As I hobbled back from the office to the bus stop, water entered the cast but I did not realize it. In the middle of the night, I felt as if my foot was on fire. Sujata and Rohini took me to the hospital, where the doctor on duty cut open the cast to reveal the sole of my foot which had turned white and wrinkled with water absorption. I cried. That was the worst night of my life. I thought - if I can get through this night, I can get through anything.

I completed the assignment, resigned from my job and went to my mom's place to recover.  I returned two weeks later to a new job and things begin to improve. The new job was much better, closer to the hostel and less stressful. I was free to organize my appointments. Sometimes the last appointment of the day would put me close to Sujata's office. On many such days, Sujata and I would catch a movie after work, followed by a dinner at a restaurant. The divorce proceedings were coming to an end. And I had begun to think about my life's goals, life after divorce, and pursuing my dreams that had been quashed due to a loveless marriage.

Shravanti, Nina and Sujata in 2002

That is Shravanti, Nina and Sujata standing behind me.  Nina and Shravanti also lived in the hostel and had become close friends. And these women made those very painful days bearable and gave me a reason to smile when I was absolutely miserable. When the time came for me to leave, the four of us made a special trip to the photo studio in Andheri, a suburb in Mumbai. The studio had a little rinky-dink room in the back, with a mirror and a dusty comb, a flimsy curtain separating it from the storefront. I remember taking turns in front of the mirror to check our hair and make-up.  Sujata and make-up do not get along. Nina was the expert and still is. Shravanti was above these worldly pursuits. The picture was taken. We went back to collect the prints and I am sure we each got a copy.

Nina, Sujata and me in 2018
Over time, we all left the hostel to go our separate ways - better jobs, better opportunities and better accommodations. Sujata bought a condo - a cute little place. I stayed with her this time. Nina changed jobs as she pursued a successful career in insurance underwriting.  Shravanti received national recognition for her contribution to pharmaceutical research.

with Nina (I am wearing the same outfit from 2002. Yes, it was on purpose.)

with Sujata

And now here we are in 2018. All but Shravanti who was in US for a conference. We spent time shopping, eating, laughing, reminiscing old times, recalling incidents from the hostel life, the movies we watched, the jokes we told, and how all of us went our separate ways. Stayed in touch and reconnected.
Crispy Coating, Soft Paneer

Masala Pomfret

You are probably thinking that I made a quilt for Sujata. No, I did not. I thought about it. I even came up with a pattern and a suitable name. But other things happened.  And even if I HAD a quilt, I had absolutely no room to take it. May be next time.


Color is everywhere

Between all the gifts that I packed, all the items that mom had requested and all the gadgets Sujata had demanded, there was absolutely no room for her quilt. I was carrying two bags to check, one carry-on and my purse.  Imagine my horror when my bag was over the weight limit.  Sprawled out like a hobo in front of the airlines counter, I hurriedly moved stuff around.

New Blouse (one of many)

While in India, I shopped like a crazy woman. I bought at least ten new outfits (ethnic), received several bangle boxes worth of pretty jewelry, and brought back sweets (for sharing) and flatbread (mom insisted I take for Paul). And in spite of all this, I returned with a whole bag less.

Obviously exports way exceeded the imports. But I digress.

Remember Rohini? Rohini is an Ayurvedic doctor who also specializes in acupressure treatments. She was the one who (along with Sujata) took me to the hospital on that horrible night in 2001.
When I was visiting Mumbai, Rohini was out of town. By the time she returned, my visit was over. She came to the airport to see me but by then I had checked my bags.
STUPID RULE 1- Once you get your boarding pass, you are not allowed to leave the airport. STUPID RULE 2 - If you do not have a ticket you cannot enter the airport.
So, Sujata and Rohini paid entry fees to enter an intermediate area. Now we could talk but over a glass partition. Like we were in prison!!!! This was unacceptable. I had to do something.

with Rohini at Mumbai airport

I went to the desk clerk and gave a performance. Choking back tears, body heaving with sobs barely held back, I said - I have to see this friend of mine. It has been 20 years and I need five minutes. I proceeded to create a scene that would make Meryl Streep proud. Next thing I know, he was scribbling me a note. I ran outside and held Rohini  in an embrace for as long as I could. I went back inside only when some airport official told me I had to get back in. I came in but we continued talking over the glass partition for another 20 minutes.

Meeting with Sujata, Nina and Rohini was the highlight of my trip to India. I firmly believe that the friendships we make in the difficult times are the strongest. And contrasts (be they in life or in fabric) heighten our conclusions.

From Mercy Hospital in Sacramento

Warms my heart
I came home to find this card. It so warmed my heart that I immediately got started on a new Mercyful quilt.

A new beginning

Design Wall
Thank you Bernie for this initiative. The contrast of kindness in times sorrow makes such a huge impact.

Speaking of contrasts but in fabric, I attended a quilt workshop with Debby Kratovil. I made a Modern Vortex Quilt top.
First Quadrant

Half done

It was my first workshop and first time using a Dresden ruler. I completed the four quadrants in class. The workshop/pattern was so engaging that I came home and finished the center.  Took pictures and instantly posted on IG. Yes, I am that thrilled with it.

So happy. New quilt on the design wall in the background
Do check out Debby Kratovil's site and teaching schedule.  She is a veteran quilter from pre-internet and pre-rotary cutter days, has a wealth of knowledge and offers several workshops with several tips and tricks. I highly recommend her.

Modern Vortex

Do tell me about the contrasts in your life or fabric. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I will be sharing with all my favorite linky parties, see full list on the sidebar.


  1. what an interesting post - I have first found you a short while ago so do not know that much about you but through this post that you have shared I have found out a lot - now I need to look back and see how you ended up in America and married and children I think if I remember right from another post. You have come a very long way and yes your performance at the airport sounds like it was deserving of a Meryle Streep award!!

  2. Thank you for sharing this lengthy post which surely must have taken a while to compose. Welcome home and hooray for long term meaningful friendships. And I, too, am preparing to make a couple of Mercyful quilts for Bernie's project.

  3. Preeti, your posts are always great to read. I enjoyed the history and story of you and your friends. I agree those friendships started so long ago are precious. I am thrilled you were allowed 5 minutes Rohini, it would have been such a disappointment to have gone so far and been so close.

  4. How fortunate that you could visit your mother and your friends again. It sounds like you saved each others' lives. Very smart of you all to get a group photo. A blessing that you had a safe hostel for refuge. Who'd have realized how well you all would come through that difficult time.
    Donations like Mercyquilts are an important way to connect with our fellowmen. Good for you for participating.
    A vortex quilt is on my list, too.

  5. Hard times show us what is inside and hopefull fill us with compassion for those unable to get out and up. Your friends sound like wonderful women. Making and giving Comfort quilts can never exceed what the recipients have put into their lives as a result. I am humbled by the opportunities I have been given.

  6. Just to add what all the others have said. Enjoyed you post so so much.

  7. I'm so happy that you were able to see your friends while in India! In contrast to your 5 minutes with Rohini, I missed seeing a dear friend on a trip to England. She had been there for a year, but flew home to Sweden the day BEFORE my arrival. :o((

  8. I love this, what great memories.

  9. Hi Preeti! Wonderful post that moved me to tears many, many times. I firmly believe that good friends are priceless, and no one can ever have enough of them. Bonds formed can never ever be broken but rather just separated for periods of time. Oh, how I would love to take a class with Debby. Your vortex finish is lovely and your proudly smiling face is even more so. {{Hugs}} ~smile~ Roseanne

  10. You are so blessed Preeti! You have amazing friends that know your struggles and triumphs. Many of us don't know hardship like you. Thank you for sharing a very deeply personal part of you with us!

  11. Thank you for sharing this, Preeti. It makes me like you even more, for the strong woman you are, to go through all of that. Good friends are a blessing in life. I enjoyed seeing your smile as you spent time with them. And then those quilts -- that vortex is just so amazing.

  12. That’s quite a story, Preeti, and well illustrated with pictures so that the reader feels present. I’m glad your trip was successful and you were able to reconnect with your friends, even if only for a quick hug. Twenty years, wow! Your quilt is going to be so appreciated and your Dresden is so pretty!

  13. Thank you for telling us your story, Preeti! I am so happy that you got to see and spend time with these special women in your life. Your vortex project is really amazing - I bet that was a really fun class!

  14. Thank you for sharing such an insightful post Preeti! How wonderful that you still have these women in your life and got to spend time with them. Love the vortex!

  15. Such a lovely story to start my day! Thank you, Preeti. I’m glad you were able to see your friends.

  16. Beautiful story, Preeti. Lovely that you have those friends. Thank you for sharing your life. My Dad just entered heaven, so I'm on that journey.

  17. What a memorable trip you've had. I wish I was there for the Meryl Streep-like performance :-) I can relate to everything you write - from the bonds with friends to the bucket under the bed in the hostel. I have a similar group of very close friends that went to college together. Our hostel was similar to the one you describe.

  18. What a beautiful story, Preeti. I'm so glad that long and hurtful journey has brought you here. You're a blessing to so many. Welcome home!

  19. This is such a wonderful testament to your good friends and overcoming hardship. What a wonderful gift to see them again and enjoy their presence. They have been a true gift to you and each other. The way you got around security is too funny! Glad you are safely home and already cooking up gorgeous quilts!

  20. those really are friends for life. You have all been in a situation that only you four can really relate to , and that sort of friendship lasts where ever in the world you are.
    ps love your web, but not good for vertigo sufferers like me.

  21. You are a master story teller. Thank you for your long, newsy blog post. some of the hardships we endure are truly amazing. And you stayed in touch despite long distances and busy lives. True friendship. Your joyous smile predominates in each picture. The latest block, Vortex, is different than your previous work. Good for you to push yourself in a new direction. I am so impressed by your courage and perseverance. You are truly a hero.

  22. What a wonderful post Preeti. I don't think I knew all these details about the time preceeding your divorce. I love the message on the card and I can see why it spurred you on to make another quilt and the modern vortex is divine.

  23. Your vortex quilt is stunning and thank you for sharing the story of your reunion with your old friends. You have persevered to reach a satisfying new life in America.

  24. What a great story...thanks for sharing. Friends are the greatest. I visited Pune in September. I don't have plans to return, but if the opportunity presents itself, I will definitely go back. I think I would have put on the same performance to see a friend. LOL

  25. Oh Preeti, what stories you have. Forget Meryl, I'm proud of you! lol
    Every woman deserves one (or several) true women friendships. Those that last. Did you find that you just picked up the friendships as though you'd seen each other only while ago? I feel like that every time I get together with girlfriends of 30 years. Even though we get together only one or two days.

  26. What a beautiful story about the magical, life-changing power of friendship and new beginnings! I am so glad you found your way out of that unhealthy marriage and made your way to where you are now. I love you even more than I did before -- and I'm so happy that you got to reconnect with your friends on this trip!

  27. I almost forgot -- I'm saving the photo of that wall mural to my Applique Ideas Pinterest board. How cool would it be to do something like that in fabric?!

  28. Preeti, your post is such a reminder that without pain or darkness we cannot fully experience light and joy. I have also had periods of struggle and pain but we are strong and we get to the other side. I am proud of you and also feel like this post allows us to know you a bit more. It is an explanation of why your smile shines so brightly now. I am happy you had a chance to reconnect with your friends and to remember all you went through to get where you are now.
    Thanks so much for working on another Mercyful quilt. I can't wait to see it!!

  29. oh Preeti! I love these stories about real life. This is why you radiate sunshine all the time, you know what it is like to be on the other side. I am so glad that you were able to spend time with your friend - I would have liked to see that performance - ha ha - hugs my friend!

  30. You are beautiful on the inside and it touches everyone that comes in contact with you. Walking together with friends through the bad and the good times, create lifelong bonds. Never forgetting the journey and always considering others, thank you for sharing your story, it takes a special person to let their guard down and show not just their good, but also their struggles through life. Your quilts always make me smile, I enjoy reading your blog.

  31. I loved reading your post Preeti! You are an amazing woman, and an amazing quilter.

  32. Thanks for sharing such a great friendship story! Very inspiring! I thought it was fun seeing you in the same outfit YEARS later. I don't think I could fit into the clothes I wore that long ago. PLUS I always enjoy seeing your quilt projects. I just love your taste in quilts!

  33. Life long friends are the best, especially when you've gone through so many things together. So glad you were able to see each other for a visit. Your new quilts are beautiful!

  34. I'm so happy you were able to make that trip and hug your friends. Love me some Dresdens! I'm impressed you were able to wear an outfit from 20 years ago!!Such a fun post. mary

  35. I got tears in my eyes reading your post, Preeti. So heart felt, so much to overcome and amazing companionship throughout by amazing strong women all of you. What a reunion!

  36. I read your post, am so moved and have totally no idea how to respond. But... I love the photo you four took in 2002. And call me really impressed that you still have the outfit and had the forsight to take it with you.

    Many hugs to you, your friends & family - for hopefully many blessed days!

  37. I am so happy to hear you had a chance to reunite with all these beautiful women. What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it with Oh Scrap!

  38. A whirlwind trip indeed, but it looks like you made a lot of happy memories. That all of you preserved through the hard times then to be the successful women you all are now is pretty amazing.