Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's just that way, sometimes...

Light showers early in the morning, lent a bigger chill to the day. The nip in the breeze was replaced by a bite. Ordinarily I should have pulled the ends of my mouth down and ducked under the covers. But not that this time; I went for a walk...a thoroughly invigorating walk in the crisp air and loved it. Sometimes...I shock myself and feel good about it!


Sometimes in the pre-winter/winter days, no book or cosy corner; neither tea nor coffee with aaloo parathas or hot samosas work to pump up my sagging spirit. Like a reptile I 'chill' and I mean literally freeze and get cold in my flesh, in my bones and long to hibernate beneath the fluffy, warm, soft covers of a comforter without feeling guilty of indolence, and sometimes I do...hibernate. Sometimes it's good to take a break and rest my aching self...


Sometimes, curling my hands around a hot bowl of soup comforts my soul more than the satiation of physical hunger does. Don't ask me why. I've never bothered to find out why. It is more than enough to feel warm deep inside.....sometimes...many times that's the way it is.


Sometimes I have those 'thank god' moments in the most unlikely situations! Why, just the other day a Dior bottle, may I add coveted Dior, fell out of my hands and landed on the glass top of the console. Although the glass was a thick gauge, it shattered and fortunately I escaped with a small but deep cut which bled a lot, but it wasn't serious! And no, that's not the gratitude moment...though normally one would think it should be so.
Mine was, "Thank God, the Dior didn't break...thank you God."
As silly as it may sound, sometimes, that's how things are!


And then sometimes there are those real life moments that make a Santa-Banta joke come alive! There was this gentleman, 'P', at a wedding, I attended recently. While everyone was attired in their formal wedding best, our friend was walking around in his shirtsleeves and a half sleeved one at that! So a member of the family took it upon himself to enquire about the out-of-place informal dress.
 
"For your kind information, I have a sherwani," retorted 'P', loftily, obviously offended by the question.
"I don't see it," said the relative.
"Didn't I say I have a sherwani? I've brought it along too."
"Okay. Phir kyun nahin pehna?"
"Ganda nahin ho jata? If I wore it these kids would have dirtied it. So you see, I have a sherwani for the wedding," 'P' answered triumphantly.

Hehehehehehahahahaaa! Sometimes we come across jokers who bring silly jokes to life!



At this time of the year preceding Christmas, I'm so full of the Christmas spirit of love, peace and joy. Everything looks so different...there's a newness in the sameness! But sometimes, like at this time, the only lifted spirit I have is in a bottle of Old Monk, as I pour it into the Christmas cake batter!
Sometimes, I suppose it's alright for my Christmas spirit to sag between the pins of hope and cheer, longing and believing, that hold it up in a tenacious grip.

It's normal to miss my kids especially at Christmas...it's just that way sometimes...many times...all the time.

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Glossary:

Sherwani.................................In India, the sherwani is generally worn for formal occasions in winter by those of North Indian descent, especially those from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabadi-Muslims. The sherwani is generally associated with Muslims while the achkan was historically favored by Hindu nobles. The two garments have significant similarities, though sherwanis typically are more flaired at the hips. The achkan was also modified into the Nehru Jacket which is popular in India.
 
The Hyderabadi Sherwani was the dress of choice of the Nizam of Hyderabad and Hyderabadi nobles. The Hyderabadi sherwani is longer than normal sherwani reaching below the knees. Sherwani originated in South Asia and was the court dress of nobles of the royals of India, before being more generally adopted in the late eighteenth century. It appeared during the period of British India in 18th century, as a fusion of the Shalwar Kameez with the British frock coat.
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

Okay. Phir kyun nahin pehna?.........Okay. So why haven't you worn it?

Ganda nahin ho jata?.......................Wouldn't it have got dirty?

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

It's 4.00 am...and I'm rambling!

I'm not the proverbial 'early bird' and this morning is just one freak early rising! Actually I have been up for a while with all sorts of thoughts running through my noodle box...so rather than toss and turn, I got up made myself a steaming cup of Horlicks and here I am.

It's amazing how numerous thoughts tumble out of nowhere at the break of day! Isn't one supposed to be groggy at this hour? Well, I'm not.

I have been going through old albums which I dug out of a storage box. Actually it is a box-bed. You know one of those ubiquitous things one can find in many homes in India. The beds are designed to have storage space beneath and though they may not be quite the thing by high standards, they definitely are a practical solution in homes where storage space is limited, which it is in my house. But I have diverged. I was talking about old albums!
 
Isn't it interesting the way conversations, be they vocal or a dialogue within the mind, tend to ramble off at a tangent, connecting with the end bit of added information, and totally unconnected with the subject of discussion? I remember taping a drawing room conversation among a gathering of family members and friends, of course everyone knew about it. However after a while of stilted dialogue they forgot about the tape and carried on with usual gusto. I just wanted to see how a general conversation flowed. Try it, it is not only interesting but very informative not to mention amusing as well!
 
Talking about conversations I am reminded that I rarely have any, of any respectable duration, these days. They are usually quick phone calls (I am not a good initiater of phone talk) or the even quicker "Hi-I'm good-how are you-let's meet up sometime-bye," kind of church exchanges. More often they take the form of short texted messages or the newer whatsapp chat, which  are sorry apologies for conversation; especially for one who can talk one to the dozen given the chance and a pair of ears!
 
You know I read somewhere that although people stop growing, ie. gaining height after a specific time, the ears and nose continue to grow. Are they kidding? Can it be called the Pinocchio Syndrome; after all we do go through life with lies...perhaps not big ones but small or big, black or white, they are lies and the nose grows...now where's the convenient smiley emoticon to show I am being sarcastic!
 
The emoticons are quite nice that way. Many fail to get the humour or light hearted banter with the written word and a round yellow face with a smile sure brings it home. Er... well not always. At times my eyes fail me and at times my ignorance shines through, and I hit a button that does not really say what I want to convey. But ever so often it is just the person's attitude that gets in the way...especially if they aren't so into me!
 
I guess we can't win them all. Should that matter? Nah.... I'm smiling you know, not because I can't "win them all" but because I started writing this to talk about my old albums and the memories they evoked...the happiness and the sadness and the loneliness, but I did everthing but that! So before I take off on another path I'll sign off and catch me some forty winks before it's time for bed tea!
 
If you've been with me this far, you can't say you weren't warned....it's 4.00 am and I'm rambling!
 
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Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Jodhpur Diary: Vignettes


August 24, Friday: Drama Queen


On the 22nd I made an appointment with an ophthalmologist. I have been having some problems...some minor and some sort of major....with my eyes. I decided to wait till I came to Jodhpur as I happen to know the 'eye' doctor in question.
 
We were advised to be there early or we'd be overtaken by an influx of patients and would have to wait for anything from three to four hours. We were parked, and at the gate of the hospital early along with a couple of early tricklers like ourselves.
 
I was happily walking ahead when 'M' called out to me. That's when I noticed her standing next to a shoe rack, a big one like they have outside mandirs (temples) What! we've got to take off our footwear outside by the gate? I couldn't believe it. If there's one thing I dislike almost to the point of hating it is mud, dirt, anything even the tiniest grain of sand, stuck to my feet. It is a major irritant. Typically of me I began to babble....and muttered my way to the entrance. How do they expect us to walk barefoot all over the place, I can't do it, I don't like it, this is so, so.....'M' was ahead of me and as she pushed open the door, she heaved a loud sigh of relief.
 
"Thank god they have carpeted the place!" she exclaimed, "It wasn't there the last time I was here."
 
I followed her in and did indeed calm down considerably. But did I mention the sky was overcast with dark, ominous clouds that threatened to pour down visciously on my pretty red chappals that were lying out in the open in a horrible metal shoe rack? No, I didn't tell you that before. Well, now I had something else to stress about....my footwear getting drenched. I like that red pair; what will I wear if it gets wet? I'll have to walk back out the gate and into slush all the way to the car. Yuck!! I responded mechanically to the receptionist's instructions, paid whatever she asked, not actually registering anything. 
 
I hardly paid any attention to anything else until I was told: " Sit down. Put your chin here, and press your forehead against this metal band, Aunty."
 
"Aunty...???!!!!" All of a sudden I became very aware of the people around me, of the wobbly, round, steel stool on which I was trying hard not to wobble and of the fact that I had become the technician's aunt! I mean I know the way society functions in our parts, I'm 'auntyji' to cab drivers, my domestic help, the younger women who reside as my neighbours and anyone who thinks I'm worthy of their 'respect'...but not in places like hospitals, malls, restaurants etc, etc. Ridiculous....if my emotions and thoughts could be viewed as a film, I'd take the Oscar for Drama Queen! I was totally into all the hullabaloo I was making about nothing really. Come to think of it, I was beginning to enjoy the cultural differences I was encountering along the way. It's amazing how even city to city in India can give you a culture shock if you're not accustomed to the culture of the region. I had been away too long in a different environment and it took me a while to see the other point of view. 
 
I was on a roller coaster ride that day....and I had leeway for full-on drama. However, by the time I heard the final diagnosis I had spent myself and was tired. The doctor informed me I was headed towards Glaucoma and there would be a medical intervention...call it operation if you will. 
 
That did it. I had had enough drama for one day....

I took out my camera and we headed into the main city to just drive around, shoot and enjoy the ride in a light drizzle that started after I had retrieved my precious red chappals and was safely in the car....It didn't matter that there was a 'bandh' in the city that day. To my mind it was a minor event after my experiences!!
 
 
 
The Mall: Mac Donald's
 
I was happy to hear the city boasted of a Mac dee's (colloquial term for Mac Donald's) and we headed there. It's tourist season and there were a lot of foreign tourists coming in to have a bite. The place faces the walk way into the mall, and has a glass front. So people on either side could look in or out as the case may be.
 
No sooner had some 'goras' (Whites) settled in at the tables against the glass front, a horde of young boys collected outside and pressed their faces, noses and all, against the glass and began staring at the food much to the distress of two women. A man sitting all by himself was not the least bit bothered by this and I thought he must have been warned or was made of stronger stuff. But the two pretty young things were horrified. They found it hard to even lift a burger off the plate...biting into one under those staring eyes seemed almost impossible. We ourselves found it quite offending, but what can one do? The guards chased them away but they would sneak in again...short of tying them up there was nothing that could stop them. One more very new and different experience for me!!  
 
I decided to help the women out and told them to take our table which was further inside and would distance them from the unwanted audience. They were so grateful, because no other table was vacant. We laughed as we made the change and they were able to laugh it off too.
 
It happens, perhaps not only in India...I'm sure of that!


31st August, Friday: Nincompoop photographer

It rained with a vengeance today. I tried to capture the sheets of water pouring down onto an already drowning garden.....but realized you can only do that much and no more with a tiny camera and total ignorance of photography!! So the snaps came out with the rain resembling scratches on the surface, and I stuffed them into a folder thoroughly disgusted with my lack of expertise!

A drive and two hot paneer pakoras later, I was feeling on top of the world and a few wasted pics didn't make a dent on my restored good humour. There'll be other rainy days and hopefully a better camera and a more knowledgeable me.....till then I'm content.

 
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Friday, August 17, 2012

The Jodhpur Diary: Sunny Suraj

16th August, Thursday


"Suraj abhi tak nahin aayi,"(the sun hasn't come as yet) said 'M.'


"Isn't 'suraj' masculine gender and shouldn't it be 'suraj nahin nikla aaj'?(the sun hasn't risen today) I said showing off my very limited knowledge of Hindi.


My friend 'M' laughed and told me that she was referring to her domestic help named Suraj, hence the feminine gender in the verb 'aayi.' 

Suraj is a Hindi word and it means sun. We have a Suraj bringing in her sunny disposition everyday into the house. She's talkative, ever ready to help and she has an opinion about everything and doesn't keep it to herself. But she's not arrogant or obnoxious in her candour. It's just the way the local working class people are in this city. They are simple and uncomplicated. They have no compunctions in expressing whatever they feel and social etiquette as we know it does not exist for them.


So I met Suraj for the first time the day I arrived. She gave me the once-over. Staring isn't taboo for her and neither is eavesdropping, if she's within hearing distance. There was no conversation between us and that was normal for me, as my domestic help doesn't make small talk with my guests and that is the norm in our parts. However that wasn't the reason for Suraj's silence. Two days later, she decided to break the ice!



It was Janamashtami. This is a major Hindu festival which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. Usually the womenfolk observe a fast and eat one meal which doesn't have onions, garlic and common table salt. They use rock salt in food during fasts.


I was comfortably ensconced on a sofa in the sitting room, lost in a book and oblivious to the preparations going on for the day. A voice broke into my cocoon of silence.


"Vrat rakha kya?" (Are you fasting?) I looked up to see a pretty Rajput face smiling at me. Suraj had decided to speak!

"Nahin" (No) was my brief reply. She mulled over this a moment.

"Vrat rakhte nahin kya?" (You don't fast at all?) I heard the surprise in her voice.

"Nahin," another brief reply. She thought over this a bit longer.

"Teej ka vrat toh karte hoge" (you must be fasting on Teej) Teej is another major festival in Rajasthan.


Another short negative reply bombed her this time. She shut up. She walked away leaving me amused by her expressions and mannerisms. If I thought that was the end of discussions on the topic of fasting, I had another thought coming.


Later that evening while my friend's daughter and I were salivating over some hot snacks and going yummmm, our friend Suraj walked up to me and said, "Bhooke nahin reh sakte ho, par mandir toh jao," (If you can't stay hungry, at least you can go to the temple) and she walked away leaving us in splits. She must think I'm the biggest atheist in town. What a tiny world she lives in! However, I was not offended by her bluntness, she was genuinely flummoxed by my apparent disregard for God.


Today I was alone at home,the others were out seeing to various jobs. So it was just Suraj and I. She had observed many things since my arrival and was aware that I have a problem with stairs and generally avoid them when I can. But today she wanted me to have a look at the wooden floor in one of the bedrooms upstairs. Due to the wet weather it had swollen up in parts and she found it odd. I refused to budge. She wouldn't take a no. She held my hand and coaxed me to climb two flights of stairs as slowly as was comfortable for me! After she showed me what she wanted to show, and said all that she had to say about wooden flooring, she guided me down slowly, gently and full of concern for my condition. I knew that she would soon have something to say about my knees and my back and my general health. What I didn't know was how soon! I had barely seated myself on a chair and she started.

"Aastha jante ho?"(Do you know about Aastha?)

"Haan, TV par dekha hai" (Yes, I've seen it on TV) I thought she was referring to one of the channels on TV.

"TV par bhi aa gaya!!" (It's on TV too) she sounded amazed. Then she added, "Aap wahan gaye kya?" (Have you been there?)

"Kahan?"(where?) was my monosyllabic reply

"Aastha. Ghar ke peeche hi hai."(Aastha. It's right behind the house)

I knew we were talking about two different things. But I kept quiet and didn't respond. She carried on, undeterred by my reluctance to continue the conversation.

"Ek jagah hai. Buddhe log rahte hain" (It's a place where old men and women stay)

"Achcha, par mere ko kyun bata rahe ho" (okay but why are you telling me this?)

"Achchi jagah hai. Kaam waale rakhein hain safai ke liye, khaana banane, kapde dhone, press karne. Doctor bhi aate hain. Bahut achchi jagah hai. Guard bhi hain...subah, shaam"
(It's a nice place. They have workers to keep the place clean, cook food, do the laundry and ironing. Doctors visit regularly. It's a very nice place. They even have guards at the gate...morning and evening)


I maintained my silence.


"Ek baar dekh kar aao. Badhiya jagah hai buddhon ke liye. Bachhe nahin rakhte hain toh yeh log yahan aate hain. Kabhi apna koi nahin hota toh yeh jagah sahi hai."
(Go and see it once at least. It's a great place for oldies. When children don't look after their old parents they come here. If one has no relatives it's the right place to come to)


Finally I got it. Her concern for me was touching though ill-placed. I assured her I had no interest in visiting Aastha and I'd take her word that it was an ideal place for oldies....but I didn't qualify as one right now, and by God's grace I had children who looked after me! This seemed to make her happy and she smiled a broad smile and went into the kitchen. I was off the hook and relaxed, but not for long. She popped her head out the door and asked, "Ramdevda mela dekha kya? Main aapko le jaoongi" (Have you been to the Ramdev fair. I'll take you there)


"NAHIN, nahin jaana hai" (NO, no I don't want to go) I said rather firmly emphasizing the 'no' as much as I could. She gave up without a fight.


So even though the skies remain overcast, we have our Suraj everyday...sunny, warm and caring in her own way!


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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Jodhpur Diary: A desert waiting for the rain

August 14, Tuesday

It's raining.

It's been raining since yesterday afternoon, continuously in varying degrees of intensity, from heavy downpour to mild showers to drizzles to needle sprays. There are few things as beautiful as a desert monsoon. It's magical....it's sheer revival, a return to vitality for a thirsting soil, and its flora and fauna. It's been great that my arrival coincided with the onset of the wet season. The garden my friend 'M' has so lovingly and painstakingly grown is a sight to behold. The flowers are blooming with brighter shades of red, pink, blue, purple....and the leaves are a greener shade of green....if you know what I mean!!

Imagine morning and evening walks in a fine, light needle spray shower, and getting thoroughly drenched in a heavy downpour just for the heck of it.....and there's Norah Jones singing:

Like a flower
Waiting to bloom
Like a light bulb
In a dark room
I'm just sittin' here
Waiting for you
To come on home
And turn me on

Like the desert
Waiting for the rain
Like a school kid
Waiting for the Spring
I'm just sittin' here
Waiting for you
To come on home
And turn me on

Holidays turn my world upside down. My days start later than I'd like them to and end later than what's good for me....but I'm not complaining...it's heavenly to forget routines and schedules once in a while. Especially when a late, late night can give you a scare and goose bumps!

It was one of those nights when I Skype with my son in Canada at around midnight our time. Alyssa gets back from playschool then and I get my quota of baby-watching and chatting. So here I was after one such session and it was around 1.30 am, and sleep was elusive. I decided to catch up with some pending work on the net. As I tapped away at the keys, I was distracted by a sound that didn't fit into the usual night sounds I had experienced in my new environs. Then came a waft of cologne. Who on earth would bathe or shave or whatever and use cologne at this hour, I wondered and decided the thought was as ridiculous as the imagined activity itself. But then it happened again and again.
Bandicoot rats in the cupboard I screamed silently...I had lost my voice as soon as the thought occurred!

I sat petrified in front of the lappy, my fingers frozen above the keys. The petrifying insanity lasted a few seconds and I was back to rationality. There were bandicoot rats around the place but none inside the house, I reasoned. What if one slipped in and was in a cupboard and jumping over cologne and perfume bottles and releasing the fragrance, said the other part of my mind that I sometimes listen to, especially at moments like these. One would think I wanted to heighten the prospect of fear and enjoy the goose bumps that had started to bump up my spine and arms. "That's the stupidest thing you've thought in some time," I said and continued with my work. But once you lend a ear to neglected thought processes they don't let go so quickly.

"It's a burglar at the door."

Oh yeah, he doused himself with perfume to commit a burglary. Pathetic!

"It's someone in the house who felt like having a bath...it's possible."

Haan, but highly improbable.

"I know, it's an apparition. Remember what happened in Mohali?"

Now, my saner mind was listening. That wasn't good. I looked toward the room to my left, and my own room to the right. Nothing felt wrong. I relaxed.

Rubbish. Your imagination is running wild.

"Oh yeah, then why aren't you looking at the staircase behind you?"

That did it. I just didn't want to look at the staircase behind me. Then it happened again...a kind of whoosh and slight crackle, and the fragrance. I realised it was closer and to my left. Was someone outside the side door?

I turned just as the whooshing sound occurred and it hit me! There on the wall above the wrought iron screen was the room freshner dispenser....I laughed my way to bed and deep slumber and the whooshing fragrant ghost kept vigil.

My holiday is so holidayish and lovely!!

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Westward Bound: The Jodhpur Diary

Wednesday, 8th Aug

It was 6.oo a.m and I had managed to catch a few hours of sleep. I am always jumpy and nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof, the night before I have to travel somewhere....it could be anywhere, even a three hour train journey!

I looked out of the window and groaned. The skies were overcast: dark, ominous clouds hung heavy with their burden. No, no not now. Not when I have to leave....a downpour was the last thing I wanted to happen.

The airport is a forty-five minute drive from my home, if I don't get stuck in long car queues at traffic lights and the toll gates. I had a 10.15 am flight to catch. As a person with special requirements (read assistance) I couldn't check-in online and that meant I had to allow for check-in time too. I had asked my nephew, V, to accompany me so I would not have any problems with my 'special' assistance! Later I would be more than glad that he came along.

I was ready, baggage weighed, locked and ready at the door. I made a last minute check on the to-do list stuck on my notice board....yes, everything done and now where was the cab?

Right on cue, my phone rang; the cab had arrived. The baggage went down, I went down and everything went into the car. Now it was time to ring V. No answer....one more call.....two more calls later, I discovered he'd fallen asleep. Who wouldn't after a long night's work followed by a long drive back home!! I was grateful he had agreed to come with me. A short wait and he was in the cab and we were airport bound. I checked the time.....we were good with about fifteen minutes to spare above the forty-five minute time frame for check-in. I relaxed.

Just as I was beginning to enjoy the drive I heard a sound and saw the driver's left foot frantically stepping on a limp clutch....a school bus was honking on our tail. My heart sank. The clutch cable had snapped. We rolled to a halt and I whispered....a stage whisper mind you....."I'm going to miss my flight."

"No, no, we'll make some arrangements," said V very confidently.


That's one of the reasons I wanted him to come along. He's resourceful! I settled down with a deceptively calm exterior and waited, while the cabbie called for another vehicle. V was making some calls of his own.....a vehicle would come eventually, but would it be in time? But V was still sure I'd be on that plane and I believed him. I am sure I would have had a coronary something, if he hadn't been there!

Another cab arrived just when nephew dear decided to use his arrangements. Transfer of baggage, and we were airport bound. I looked up and saw the driver looking at me in the mirror.

"Don't worry ma'am," he said, "I won't let the flight go without you."

Tall claim, but I knew what he meant! A quick look at my watch and I knew we'd cut it very fine, but I'd get on that flight. A consolation short-lived. I was on a diurectic, and it kicked in just then....I had to go and I had to go right now....major emergency! We were approaching a traffic light and there were a whole lot of vehicles already there and more coming behind us. The driver made a snap decision and took a left turn into a slip road. I knew what he was doing. He knew English and had obviously understood my condition and urgent requirement. A right turn brought us to Ramada and the necessary facilities.

My nephew and I walked in and while he engaged the receptionists with queries, I located the washroom. Time was running out! Still we walked out laughing with our own discoveries. The nephew was thrilled with the brunch/breakfast tariffs and I was happy with the maintenance of the washrooms. Silly things to rejoice about at that time it would seem! We looked for the cab, it wasn't where we left it. A quick search and phone call and we were on our way again. There was very little time left now. We had lost the fifteen minutes of extra time. I was seriously on my knees again. Please Jesus we don't need a rush at the toll plaza, no traffic snarls and I would like to be on that flight. It was all answered.

We got to a lane with few cars at the Toll, and traffic was light. I made it to the check-in counter just as it was closing. If I wasn't one of the special requirements person (read wheelchair required) the lady behind the counter wouldn't have been so accommodating and pleasant.


Now began my long wait for a delayed flight. A half hour delay was quickly followed by huge relief on boarding. The tiny craft was packed and I felt like a sardine. We must have been air-borne for a quarter of an hour before we hit bad weather. It's horrible to be seated in the tail section when there's turbulence...worse when you're in a small plane, which I was in, and it's added drama when the buffeting brings on loud creaking sounds....


The Captain announced our arrival at Jodhpur and before I could even complete my long sigh of relief, he announced that landing would be delayed due to some Air Force exercise or something (my hearing was impaired by then)...so we circled the Jodhpur sky which was heavy with dark clouds and quite windy. But eventually we did land and I was able to complete my long sigh of relief!

I had made it and I sent my Big Friend a 'thank you' note and Amen!



PS: It rained heavily AFTER we took off from Delhi. It rained continuously AFTER I reached my destination in Jodhpur. What more can one ask for.....except hot pakoras, gulgullas and ginger tea!!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Such Is Life....one day at a time!

I pick myself up and will my fingers to the keyboard. The white, blank page or more accurately box opens up on the screen. I'm supposed to be adding a new post; at least that's what my mind tells me...."Am I?" I wonder. So what was it I had to write about, talk about....I try to get my thoughts together, as my fingers slowly start moving willingly and more quickly over the letters on the keyboard. It has been a long, long time since I wrote anything here. But I have been thinking many things, pondering, wondering, googling for facts, explanations....how strange that my mind was frantically active in its quest even while my body refused to keep pace. Did I just say "pace"? Forget pace, I just allowed myself to blend into the stuff around the place....a piece of furniture, a wall flower, a curio, a stuffed bear...lying around doing nothing. I cooked, I ate. I ate, I slept. I walked, I sat, I answered the phone, I laughed when I had to, I spoke when I was spoken to; I could well be a robot...hmmm quite a good one, if it weren't for my mind that continued with life on a different plane. I guess that's what maintains equilibrium. Ennui can get you real bad if you don't get the best of it fast.

There's so much I would like to write about, and the only way I can do that is to sit down and write. I just allowed myself to succumb to the bane of erratic and long power cuts which also meant no internet. I suppose it is okay to get bogged down once in a while, provided one can pick oneself up and out of the doldrums too, without any serious implications or repercussions of depression!

On the brighter side I have been working on my cooking blog www.chef-on-the-run.blogspot.in which is all about quick, simple and easy everyday cooking. And then a bit of FB where I maintain a page D Stepladder 2 Hope, with illustrated quotes and such. 

I'm looking to many changes in my life, and as I'm not a person who likes changes too much, I guess the waiting and not knowing pulls me down at times. Actually there is a big contradiction in my mind towards change. I get bored of mundane routine in anything and look for changes which I welcome and adapt to quickly and happily. And on the other hand I don't want certain things to change within that old framework!! I resist it, I fight it before I finally settle into and accept it. Is that a bad thing....I don't think so but it certainly makes things complicated!

Anyway for today, there's no inertia and I'm brimming with energy and getting into seriously tackling the writing plans and tasks I have set  for myself. I know there will be dips again when I won't have one thought I can translate into words; a writer's block or mental block, whatever. That's how it goes and c'est la vie!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

God give me an Ark, puhlese...

With both my elder sisters in boarding school, and just my brother and I at home, I took the full brunt of Mummy’s disciplining. My brother was a meek soul; quiet and docile, who wouldn’t question anything mom or dad said. On the other hand, I was a fire- brand. I’d have to ask ten thousand questions before I’d do anything, and if my questions were not answered to my satisfaction I’d argue my case endlessly. If my mother got exasperated, I don’t blame her. I must have been a handful for her. She blamed daddy, poor man, for my argumentative nature and endless questioning. I would go into a fit of giggling as she’d grumble how my tongue was growing faster than I was. This only added fuel to the fire.


Ours was a legalistic, religious home. My biggest rebellion against religious restrictions arose from the ban on singing anything other than hymns and choruses and I wanted to belt out ‘Travelling light...,’ ‘Lipstick on your collar’...,’ ‘One and a-two, I love you..,’ So I retaliated by refusing to pray out loud. I would say that I wanted to pray in my mind. Daddy was fine with it, trusting that I would pray but mum knew it was a ruse. Anyway, my enthusiastic participation in singing at evening family prayer mollified her. I remember once she caught me in one of those rare, pliable moods and cajoled me to pray loudly. I did. It went like this....


Jesus bless mummy, bless Daddy, bless Faith sister, bless Ruth sister, bless Jasper brother......” and I proceeded to name each of our uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, friends and call blessings on them. She tried to interrupt me, but I was so caught up with remembering names I refused to listen. Finally, when I had done with the names I had to end the prayer but I was loath to do so. I was having such a good time. So I decided to “bless the people who were in, and bless the people who were out, and bless the people who were in and out.” By the time I reached ‘Amen’ my mother's expression was unreadable. She never coaxed me to pray aloud again.


We were in Cochin (Kochi) those days. This city is in Kerala and situated on the coast of the Arabian Sea. It never rains in Kerala, it pours cats and dogs. The thunder-storms and lightning scared the daylights out of me. My brother would sleep like a log through the worst storm but I’d cower in my bed or then roll into his. When Daddy wasn’t home I’d run to Mummy and climb into bed with her, clinging so tightly to her that she’d have to loosen my arms. One terribly stormy day, it was very bad. I lifted my head and peeked through the window. I couldn’t see a thing for the sheets of rain water pouring down. I lay down again, my little heart was skipping a tad too fast. I shook up my brother.


“What is it?” he asked sleepily.

“It’s very bad outside. I haven’t seen so much of rain ever. What is going to happen? Will there be a flood?”

“Could be,” he mumbled and dropped off.


I had to know if there would be a flood. I jumped out of bed and stood at the window. The garden was water-logged and I couldn’t see the low shrubs. We’re going to drown, I thought. I panicked because I did not know how to swim. At such times for some unearthly reason, the mind recalls the most impossible things. Mine called up the story of the flood from Sunday school. ‘Everyone had died except Noah and his family,’ it prompted me. Think girl. I thought. Right there by the window, I folded my hands and said my first sincere prayer, out loud.

“Dear Jesus, you promised not to destroy the world with floods. I learned that in Sunday school. I know I have been stubborn and I make Mummy angry, but I am a good girl. So please give me an Ark like Noah had. I promise I will listen to Mummy. I will pray. I will not sing the songs I shouldn’t be singing. I will not even use those bad words I use sometimes. Please give me an Ark. Thank you.”

I was so exhausted by the end of it that I slept... as peacefully as a baby.

My prayer was answered, God gave me my Ark..... Faith! This was a turning point in my spiritual life. My Ark of faith has brought me through many a storm and kept us safe and afloat! Prayer is such a wonderful way to connect with the Creator.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Letters In The Wind




I’m in my balcony every morning, early, when the birds and chipmunks are at their talkative best; the Koel has begun her riyaaz and cool breezes make you forget you’re in the middle of a North Indian summer. It’s a great place to pray, to meditate, because nature’s morning raga brings so much of serenity despite the cheeps and chirps and twitters.


My mind was at peace as I gazed over the tree-tops into a beautiful clear sky, when swirling and twirling a feather came into view...and then another and another. They were in different sizes but all looked the same; like quills writing letters in the wind!

I leaned over the wall and looked up. I couldn’t see from where they came, but guessed the wind had flicked them out of some pigeon’s little nook. They were caught in a current, erect like quills, turning on their own axis, moving on invisible paper as if an unseen hand was writing in the wind, and I wanted those letters to be mine!

Though they spun wildly, they remained vertical and floated slowly to the ground, buffeted gently by the breeze they swayed to the whims of the wind and bobbed up and down. They were happy quills, busy quills!

I thought of my camera, then decided against it. I would have missed that beautiful sight and eventually not caught anything on film or video. It was one of those brief moments of exquisite, sweet, pain that tugs at your heartstrings with a yearning for something inexplicable, yet perfectly understood by the soul.

The sharp intake of breath at the first sight, the joy, the smile that involuntarily played on my lips, the words that came as a whisper: What do you write with such joyous strain? No camera could have captured that moment the way my mind did.

The little joys of life are so great.


Glossary:
Riyaaz..........to practice. Usually used when refferring to the training or exercise of classical singers, dancers.

Koel.............It is a bird which sings beautifully

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I'm adding things....

I'm taking too many breaks from this blog, too many. Is it good? I don't know perhaps it isn't good (for the blog) but the time not spent here has definitely been put to good use. I have started a new blog called chef-on-the-run and I would like you to visit it http://www.chef-on-the-run.blogspot.in/ It is new and hardly a week old. But I like working on it and hope you will step in to read and motivate me.

I have a birthday coming up this month! Am I looking forward to it? Well, the answer is I have mixed feelings this year. After celebrating two birthdays alone, I'm pretty sure it isn't much fun without my children and grand daughter, and I would rather not make any attempt to have any parties. I am extremely alone at them, even while I'm flitting around talking one to the dozen and grinning from ear to ear!

This year I will celebrate quietly. I will celebrate:

- my journey thus far...it's been anything but boring; it's been a joy

- me...I am Joy

- my family...they give me joy (even over the distance)

- my alone-ness...the solitude has strengthened me and built me up spiritually and that's a big source of joy

- my work...for the joy it gives

There's so much I can be happy about and so much to celebrate! So bring out the cake, a good book, a good movie and, some good music.....I want to bathe in it.


I am planning on giving this blog a new look, you know spruce it up, make it look crisper. Can I do that? No, not now, I can't. I'm technically lame so as soon as I get a friendly crutch you'll see some changes for the better. Till then... I'll continue adding things: Blogs, years, pounds....!?

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Before I Kick The Bucket ?!


"Dream small that your dreams may come true.  Dream large that you may always have a dream." (Robert Brault )


I have a list of things I'd like to do in my lifetime, and it grows longer each year! The more years I add, the more dreams I have. It doesn't matter that ground realities make most of them highly improbable and near impossible. Before I added any more this year, I decided to pick out the top ten....actually it's only the first nine that I really want to happen....the tenth is a fun thing that makes me laugh, but if it does happen wow!  So here goes.....

This one has topped the list ever since I wrote it....a house of my own!

To compile a cookbook with family recipes that have come down the years, for posterity.

Publish some of my work....small would also do.

Finally make a friend; a 3.00 am one; one who has no personal agenda attached to the friendship except being a friend in the truest sense of the word, who will be there whenever needed come hail or sunshine!!





Spend some time luxuriating at Ananda spa in the Himalayas




Take the Orient Express through Europe...bliss!






Fly business/first class round trip.....to wherever I want to go!








                                Stomp grapes in France or Italy.






Start a small business of my own!









                                                                             



This last one is self explanatory....:))











Note: I do not own any of the pictures.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The 'Awesome' Of You




A few remarks about me made by a few people I reconnected with after years and years, got me wondering about the manner in which people think and comment with such insensitivity, and the way these remarks could affect the person they were aimed at. Not only do these people have nothing worthwhile to comment on or talk about other than my weight gain and why I had allowed myself to become "like this" (which translates to overweight) but they also avoid meeting me in person, because they "refuse to recognise the present you as the old 'awesome' you."



Thankfully such things are like water on a duck's back for me, but is that how it would roll off another person without any negative effect? To me being or feeling awesome has nothing to do with physical appearance and most importantly never ever dependent on another's perception or yardstick or socially accepted benchmark. But not everyone would think the same way. Confidence levels vary, self perceptions are influenced when approval matters and such thoughtless remarks have the potential to damage a person's self esteem. I was ruminating on the subject when I happened to read someone's thoughts on the same topic. It is simple, honest and seems to come from one who has experienced directly or indirectly the harshness of social disapproval. I am sharing the note whose author remains anonymous.





"There was a time when you were five years old, and you woke up full of ‘awesome! You knew you were awesome. You loved yourself. You thought you were beautiful even with missing teeth and messy hair, and mismatched socks inside your grubby sneakers. You loved your body and the things it could do. You thought you were strong. You knew you were smart.



Do you still have it.....the ‘awesome’? Or did someone take it from you? Did you let them?



Did you hand it over because someone told you, you weren’t beautiful enough, thin enough, smart enough, good enough? Why would you listen to them? Did you consider that they might be wrong?



Wouldn’t it be nuts to tell a little five year old that in another five or ten years she might hate herself because she doesn’t look like a starving or photoshop(ped) fashion model? Or even more bizarre, that she should be sexy over smart; beautiful over bold. Are you kidding me? Look at that five year old...look at her, she is full of awesome!



You were once and maybe you still are. Or maybe you are in the process of getting it back. All I know is that if you are not waking up feeling like this about yourself, you are really missing out!"

(Anonymous)



It's a pity most of us can not see the child inside; can not feel the awesomeness of the 'being' we are. Do you wake up feeling awesome? Do you look at the mirror and see an awesome you?

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Holi - the festival of colours

This year Holi fell on Women's Day: 8th March. Holi is a Hindu festival of colour, celebrated mainly in the North of India. We don’t celebrate the festival, but the kids used to like colouring their friends and having water balloon fights when they were young! I have never liked the colouring stuff. Now I’m not knocking something without trying it....I did join David a couple of times when he insisted I join the revelry with his friends and colleagues. I didn’t like it one bit though I acted like I did.


However, with Hindu daughters-in-law coming in, I began celebrating the festival cooking. There wasn’t much that was different from traditional foods cooked at Christmas, so I enjoyed it. That was my participation and contribution. This year one of my daughters-in-law was here so I made some Indian sweets and savouries and added some baked dishes too, which are certainly not traditional!


What you see here is samosa(The triangular savoury)It's stuffed with mashed boiled potato, peas and cottage cheese. The little squares are called 'besan ki chakki' and is a sweet made out of chickpea flour. The third savoury is called 'mattar' and it's made out of refined flour(all purpose flour)


The empanadas had chicken sausage, diced potato and cherry tomato filling.


This was filled with zucchini and chicken mince


Picture courtesy: National Geographic News

Kids with the 'colours of holi' also called 'gulal' smeared all over!

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Anarkali


Picture Courtesy: National Geographic




My experiences of the close kind with animals, especially in my childhood and youth, have been with the young ones rather than the adults. Whether it was a murgabi (wild fowl) or a chipmunk, puppies of some breed or no breed, rabbits, and yes even snakes, tadpoles, frogs, fish; I rescued, adopted or simply kept them to observe their growth and development. The latter part of that goes for the tadpoles and caterpillars. Caterpillars which of course would specifically be insects, but a butterfly would come under animal too or wouldn’t it? It really doesn’t matter as I’m trying to get to the point. And the point is Anarkali.


Anarkali was a pachyderm in the Amber Fort in Rajasthan. She was one of the three (or four perhaps) elephants, which were used to give rides to the tourists. Sometimes to transport them up to the fort along the long winding path from base point in the town. Since I didn’t fancy a ride up, up and up to the fort (it looked frightening from below) we didn’t go the elephant way. However, I allowed myself to be cajoled into an elephant ride around, and inside a dedicated area at the Fort.



Picture Courtesy: National geographic



Anarkali, a huge female elephant, and her mahout were assigned to us for a couple of turns around the elephant route. The way to board her was to get up on the rampart, against which she stood, and climb a few wooden steps then get onto her back and seat yourself in a sort of rectangular seat which was strapped onto her. It had guardrails on all sides and one had to stick one’s legs under these and hold on to the rails. So we sat with our legs dangling over the sides of our pachyderm friend. Did I say friend?


I need to go back to the pre-boarding stage, when my fear and hesitation prompted the mahout to show me how friendly, and intelligent and courteous Anarkali was. She was told to kneel before us and she did. Then he said something and she lifted her trunk and brought it down to bless me...only she didn’t get to my head, which was her target, because I jumped away with a scream. The mahout admonished me, very respectfully of course and reassured me there was nothing to be afraid of! Then she performed a little jig for us, trumpeted, went up on her hind legs (that was terrifyingly awesome!) Finally, he told us to pat her trunk. I stretched out my hand but didn’t actually touch her. See, how friendly and tame she was! There was nothing to be scared of. Therefore, I was on her back with three others. The majestic animal began her leisurely, swaying walk. I peered down. We were quite high up, jumping off wasn’t an option. I resigned myself to the ride. What an idiot, I said to myself; these elephants give rides to so many everyday and have been doing so for a long time. What could happen here in this controlled environment?


That rhetoric question tempted fate.


Suddenly there was a shout from the mahout on the elephant a few metres ahead of us. He was yelling “bachche, bachche,”(children, children) and gesturing for us to turn back. Ours began to shout too and there were other workers yelling. Mingled with all the frantic yelling were the voices of excited children as they rushed in through the entry gates, and began spreading out at random. There were men, mahouts or workers, running towards the kids in an effort to herd them away from us. By then Anarkali was in a rage. She was stomping, stamping, trumpeting and shaking herself angrily, and if our hearts weren’t in our mouths we would have been screaming too. Someone managed to find a voice and ask what was happening. “Yeh bachchon se chidti hai. Is ko bachche achche nahin lagte. Is ko bahut gussa atta hai,” (Kids aggravate her. She doesn’t like children. She gets angry)yelled the mahout as he struggled to pacify Anarkali and control her.


Then he was shouting orders at us above the din. “Jor se pakkad ke baitho. Kudne ki koshish mat karo. Kuchle jayoge. Kuch nahin hoga. Main isko sambhaloonga. Cheekhna nahin. Chup baitho. Yeh zyaada gussa hogayi toh khadi ho jaayegi. Pakkad ke baitho.” ( Hold fast and sit tight. Don’t try to jump off. You will certainly get trampled. Nothing will happen. I’ll control her. Don’t scream. Keep quiet. If she loses her temper she will rise on her hind legs. Hold on and sit tight)


We didn’t need instructions. We were petrified. My throat was dry; I was mumbling prayers, and kicking myself for getting into this situation, and clutching on for dear life. I was also wondering which side I’d fall if she stood up! I had already pulled my legs half-way up, careful not to pull them up all the way and free myself and risk tumbling off without the rail support holding me in place.


I do not know how long it actually lasted. It seemed like eternity. Time is irrelevant at these times...even a few minutes seemed like an hour! Anyway, the kids didn’t need much convincing, they ran in the opposite direction as soon as they saw Anarkali and realised it was a temper tantrum and could be dangerous. The mahout managed to calm her down. The ride was truncated and she turned around and went back to the starting point. We dismounted as fast as we could on trembling legs.


My big animal adventures began and ended there. This happened sometime in the early nineteen eighties! Almost three decades later, I find that the closest I’ve come to them since then has been with my pets...a Lhasa Apso, a Dachshund, a golden retriever...and it was divine!

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm not 'Lucky'.......

"Happiness is dependent on success and success depends on luck," said a friend. I didn't agree. Soon the conversation veered to 'what is luck?'


The question was thrown at me and since I had not thought about it I had no answer. I'm no believer in luck. So I sat down and thought it over. The word I would at times use instead of 'lucky' or 'unlucky' was fortunate or unfortunately. A dictionary would tell you 'fortunate' means (n.) Coming by good luck or favorable chance; bringing some good thing not foreseen as certain; presaging happiness; auspicious; as, a fortunate event; a fortunate concurrence of circumstances; a fortunate investment.
(n.) Receiving some unforeseen or unexpected good, or some good which was not dependent on one's own skill or efforts; favored with good fortune; lucky. Look up synonyms and you would have these:Favoured, hopeful, golden, rosy among some others. So where was I not in sync with the word 'Lucky? I don't seriously refer to any good fortune, or unexpected favourable outcome as our being lucky just as I don't tag an unfortunate or disppointing result as unlucky.


I personally believe, what is generally referred to as "luck" is actually 'blessing' from above. I approached the point from my own perspective...luck is nothing because we don't pursue it, we don't work for it, it has no source and it isn't the outcome of anything. It didn't seem to answer the question. I was certainly getting tickled by this one. What I'm saying is, being happy and staying happy is no mean task. And since happiness is in 'being' it cannot be set as a SMART goal to be achieved. Similarly luck is not something that can be acquired. While happiness is in 'being' one cannot in any conceivable way 'be' or 'become' lucky.


I texted a friend: "What is luck? Is it pivotal to success and happiness?"


He replied he would rather go with luck. His rationale was that if he were lucky, success and happiness would follow.


But wasn't that true in the inverse, too. If you were happy, wouldn't you feel better equipped to reach your goals and be successful? Where did luck fit in? It's almost like the question...What would you prefer, an egg today or a hen tomorrow, with arguments that an egg would hatch into a fowl anyways. Well the pros and cons can be thrashed out till kingdom come. This swing makes us try to reach out for both all our lives, like a pendulum in an eternal to and fro motion, sometimes in your grasp, sometimes slipping through your fingers. To misquote a quote....'Blessing (Luck) is the pseudonym God uses when he doesn't want to sign his name.'


Whenever people tell me I am 'lucky' I correct them with , "I'm blessed." Being lucky to me indicates that I have got something which I didn't deserve. Like being born into wealth or royalty. Even these people can not rely on that stroke of luck to sustain them. When one puts in one's best in every way, one leaves the rest to God; on His will. If it has to be, it will be. When one achieves beyond expectations, then to call the person 'lucky' is in some way demeaning. All the person's hard work is trashed and luck is given the credit. On the flip side to tag a hard-working person 'unlucky' would only shrivel the soul and demotivate. William Gaines says it well in these words: "Most of my major disappointments have turned out to be blessings in disguise. So whenever anything bad does happen to me, I kind of sit back and feel, well, if I give this enough time, it’ll turn out that this was good, so I shan’t worry about it too much."



I use the word 'lucky' for those who get what they don't really deserve. When a person gets away with some wrong-doing, then I suppose, to say he is lucky is fitting. (We don't say the person is blessed!!)The person doesn't deserve to get away, but nevertheless has. However, at some point luck runs out. As opposed to this there is no end to blessings.



Often not achieving what we have worked for is a blessing in disguise. Many of us on hindsight, can recall instances where a failure turned into an advantage.One has to look into what one is working towards; whether it is the right direction, and the right time. Making wrong choices, moving in the wrong direction, faulty perceptions will end in nothing. People either approach things the wrong way, or have bad attitudes and blame luck for the bad results. 'Unlucky' is what they say it is. So which ever way one views it luck has to do with unworthiness. Luck is a convenient scapegoat for losers.



It makes it simpler to decide between the two if one would renounce luck and seek blessings. Blessings don't appear as elusive and ephemeral as luck does. I mean one can actually count one's blessings! Blessings can be asked for and received (* conditions apply)The fact that there are rules and conditions signify an entity who has blessings to shower! One doesn't seem to know what to do to get Lady Luck to come a calling. Waiting for luck doesn't even kindle a spark of hope. After all who do you ask for luck and whose is this largesse to distribute? It does nothing to strengthen the spirit, and causes more hopelessness and resignation in those who are not favoured. Whereas, blessings have a giver who we can address. It kindles hope and keeps the spark going. A believer in blessings may be down at times but never beaten. The believer grows stronger with every challenge, and patient in hope and trust. How fulfilling it would be, if we worked towards blessings......give me my blessings any day, it's a package deal........buy one get one free.....happiness with every blessing.



To sum it up in John O'Donohue's words: "If you live the life you love, you will receive shelter and blessings. Sometimes the great famine of blessings in and around us derives from the fact that we are not living the life we love; rather, we are living the life that is expected of us. We have fallen out of rhythm with the secret signature and light of our own nature."


Simple, but sensible. Forget about luck, give your best shot in all endeavours. Even if you fail, you'll be a happy person knowing that you gave it your best and more! Perhaps you're on a divergent course, pursuing the wrong goals. So go get your blessings there's always one at the end of the day for everyone.


Stay Blessed!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hundred Percent Country; Hundred Percent Real

When my father put in his papers for a pre-mature retirement, I was only ten and didn’t understand the implications of moving from a city life and up-bringing, to a small town in Punjab. I was excited because we were going to a new place and for a girl who was a tomboy, well that spelt adventure with a capital ‘A.’


I wasn’t disappointed, three months into our stay in my father’s hometown, the Indo-Pak war rattled my world, my bones and my teeth. I witnessed a dog-fight over our house and the Pak plane go down in flames not too far from our house. Bombings became more real than the II world War stories my father told us. Paratroopers were no figures in the war comics I loved to read. I discovered how real when gunshots went back and forth between them and us. I learned what collaborator meant when a neighbour was under suspicion. I learned what courage was when I saw my grandmother walk through the night with my father as they kept vigil around our boundary walls, while my uncle had his post on the roof with sand bags and his rifle. She would not get into the trench as all of us did, including Grandpa.


Grandma is the one I want to talk about. Her courage and fearlessness was unbelievable. Nothing fazed her. To look at her one wouldn’t believe it. She was five feet, not an ounce of fat, small frame and a shock of snow-white hair. She smoked a hookah openly, and besides all the other activity that kept her busy the whole day, she loved to walk in the garden and talk to the fruit trees.


It was a big garden with many fruit trees. Mango, jamun, sweet lime, mulberry, big green ber, peach, lime, tangerine,Papaya, goonda (we called it “snotty fruit”), kachnar, drumstick, sapodilla...Gulmohar and her favourite flowers May Blossom. I would walk with her from tree to tree, bush to bush and wonder at the way she’d communicate and take care of the plants and trees. She would water the garden all by herself pumping water out of a hand-pump.


She had two favourites among the mangoes. She called one Krishanji Maharaj and the other Jungli. The former was her most favourite. She told me how she christened it. The trunk was very oddly shaped. From the base it branched out in two trunks with one crossed over the other like one would cross ones legs at the ankles. Above two branches grew out and turned slightly in, like two arms and they. It really looked like a person playing a flute. This is why she called it Krishna after the Hindu god. It was quite a leafy tree, and bore the most delicious mangoes in such abundance that it took care of pickles, jams, and chutneys as well.


Jungli got its name from its ‘desi’ species. She explained that it was unkempt, the mangoes had hairy seeds, and weren’t very big in size but they were sweet, very sweet...like most unsophisticated kids. I didn’t understand her of course but I was intrigued that she could talk to plants. She was like someone out of a book. She told me the history of three of the guava trees as she lovingly touched the leaves and patted the trunk. And that’s how I developed a friendship with an amazing guava tree. It bore guavas with red centres on its left branches and white centre ones on the branches on the right! It wasn’t very tall and had strong branches that spread out in all directions. In this tree I would spend many afternoons with a book, a pillow and something to munch if guavas were not in season. Ensconced comfortably between two branches that made a great lounger for me, I’d try to communicate with it like Grandma did.


With fields all around us needless to say we had reptilian visitors like vipers and others. We also had a cobra couple living on the premises. But none of us was ever bitten. Grandma explained that her presence “blinded” the snakes as she was the first-born child. So strong was her belief that indeed I saw snakes just waiting still, while she got up, brought a stick and smashed it. This was magic and Grandma was a magician!


Then the inevitable happened. Grandma died. The garden looked morose. Krishanji Maharaj and Jungli didn’t bear fruit for the first time. The first season most of the trees didn’t bear fruit and those that did bore poor quality fruit. Soon the fruit trees stopped bearing fruit. The tangerine, peaches, guavas, lemon, sweet lime dried up.


That’s when I realised that this was not fiction. It was not something I read in books, this was real. She was real, her beliefs were real, her courage was real, her insouciance in smoking a hookah openly; her sitting down with Grandpa’s friends to a challenge of Pacheesee, her poultry, her dog, and her interest in me, was real. No longer would the garden and her precious trees hear her sing her favourite hymns. No longer would snakes go “blind” for the first-born had gone. It was all so real...

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Monday, February 13, 2012

You Sang To Me (Re-posted)

I am going to celebrate Valentine's Day with golden memories, like these!



It all started when I was eighteen, at a dinner hosted by my parents. Mrs Joel had called up to ask if she could bring her brother David along. He had arrived that afternoon to join a new job in our city. My parents said he was welcome.



As the party progressed, the youngsters present began to sing and dance. David joined in. He asked if he could do a solo number and we cheered him on. Soon we were rolling with laughter as he sang the most hilarious parody I had ever heard. That was definitely the first time I 'noticed' him. I never met him again for months, till the big Convention. Mr Joel, who was incharge of the choir was conducting auditions. I didn't think I'd make it but I did get into the sopranos. David was singing bass. Singing practice had never been so enjoyable before.



Then the week-long Convention was over. I got busy with college and David with his job and teaching guitar at weekends. It was some time before I ran into him again.



The Youth Fellowship had to conduct the Sunday service and desperately needed someone to sing bass in the choir. One day to go, no luck. We resigned ourselves to what we had.



Each one of us was assigned some work in preparation for the Sunday Youth Service. I had to see to the flower arrangements on the Altar. The fresh blooms arrived in the evening and by the time I carried the big bunches of flowers into the church, it was already getting dark outside. I'd never been in the church at this hour and looking down at the rows of empty pews, from where I stood on the altar steps, gave me an eerie feeling which I should not have felt considering I was in a church! So I gave myself a mental kick and set to work.



Did I imagine it or was that a guitar I heard ? I turned around slowly. The pews were unoccupied. I looked further, at the Choir Stand - no one. Ghosts ! I thought and then shook myself. Can't be. This was a new building. That was a reassuring argument!! It took all the courage I could muster up, to walk down the aisle and cautiously peer into the Choir Stand. There on a bench, doubled over his guitar was David.



" It's you," I exclaimed more with relief than surprise. " What are you doing here?" I continued. He stopped strumming and raised his head and looked straight at me, he was so handsome and the way he looked at me just took my breath away.


" Playing for you," was the simple reply which got me flustered and at a loss for words.


" Oh," I blurted and turned and walked away, so that he couldn't see the puce colour that was spreading all over my face. What's he doing here was all I could think. He doesn't ever come to church. I walked back and continued with the flowers. He continued to play, and the melody seemed to seek me out as it reverberated off the walls and filled the void. So I was startled when I heard him speak just behind me.



"I see you've almost finished. Can I help you with the bucket?" he said and without waiting for a reply picked up the bucket with the left-over flowers, and walked out. I walked behind in a trance.



That Sunday the Youth Fellowship choir outdid itself with the new bass singer.



It was back to study and exams. I didn't see David for three months. With the exams finished, the Summer holidays loomed over my head in a rather dreary way.


" Would you like to play the guitar ?" asked Daddy.


" Of course, if I could that is," I laughed.


The next day my mother announced that my guitar lessons would be starting on Saturday. I gaped at her.


" Well isn't that what you wanted ? You better be punctual for practice. Mr Joel is very particular," she said.



On Saturday, as I was getting ready to leave for guitar classes, the doorbell rang. David stood there with a guitar case.


" My brother-in-law will not be able to conduct classes for a while, so he has sent me to teach you at home. And here is your new guitar. Can I come in ?"


I realised that we were still at the door. I mumbled an apology and told him to come in.



My heart was beating like a bongo. This Adonis was going to teach me how to play the guitar! It seemed like the entire universe was indeed conspiring to create some magic here.



At some point the guitar lessons took a backseat as our conversations took over. Then it was cycling, walks, movies, sitting in the coffee-shop nursing our coffees that had long turned cold.



A year later David sang the Hawaiian Wedding Song to me on our wedding night.



The years that followed were full of fun, laughter, song and romance that made the ups and downs that much lighter. At every get-together with friends and even at parties David was always asked to sing. He'd pick up the guitar and while he checked the notes and took a while to decide the song he should sing, his eyes would surreptitiously seek me out. This was our little secret and our very special moment. Because wherever David sang, whenever he sang there was always a special song for me. He would catch my eye across a crowded room and silently dedicate his song to me.



And then one day, the angels came.



David joined the heavenly choir above, leaving behind a neverending interlude. How was I to survive in this vacuum, I thought to myself. I needed strength and right then I didn't feel very strong. Neither in mind nor in body. For years he had told me over and over again that I was his strength......now I looked to him to make me strong.



I dredged the past and picked each special moment. Like pearls, one by one I strung them on the thread of melody that had bound us for fifteen years. And as I battled with denial and then depression, I managed to hang on to a sliver of sanity that kept me and my two little boys afloat.



My beautiful string of pearls will always see me through. When despair threatens to drown me, I shall finger each pearl like a rosary.



PS: I still love that old melody he was playing in the church....

Ek ajnabi hasina se, yun mulakaat ho gayi.

Phir kya hua yeh na poochcho, kuch aisi baat ho gayi....

(I happened to meet a beautiful stranger. Don't ask me what happened next, it's hard to explain, it was something like that...)






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