falling all the way in
is the only way out.
time is all
that’s left between two people.
Everything else melts.
only the reflection are clear
rest is all distorted.
what is straight
the temple of love
just a deception.
the message lies
in the shadows and the dust .
the light doesn’t
guide you home.
the best stories
are written in the margins.
the drama isn’t
in the script.
run too deep for healing
the scars bleed.
Post 3 in the series ‘ From My Window’
The window on the first floor was not visible from outside unless you had keen eyes and knew the various facets of the house. The construction was old style, steep narrow staircase, high ceilings, a tin shed in the backyard, similar one in the front courtyard, a sweet basil plant in a corner(planted a little higher than the rest of the kitchen plants), wooden door with an iron chain latch that opened to two small steps leading to a clearing where the milkman, washer man and vegetable vendor etc. would come and spend some time chatting with the lady of the house who would sit on a woven chair to do daily accounts and keep an eye on the happenings of the neighborhood. Sometimes other women would join her , especially in the evenings, and the group would discuss knitting patterns, family news, recipes and other things. Modhas or peedhees would be pulled out for them and the kids would run around like little slaves serving them water, tea or sweets whatever their mothers would send from kitchen.
All this one couldn’t see from the window but I thought it was necessary to tell something about the house. The courtyard at the center had a hand pump where the domestic help would wash soiled utensils, clothes etc. Sometimes during hot summer afternoons when the humans would retreat into the coolness of the rooms the pigeons would come trotting to the tiny square around the hand pump to quench their thirst ,wash off the dust and grime and frolic in cold water. Rarely one would spot sparrows as they preferred early mornings when there was also chance of getting pieces of leftover rotis.
In the evenings the two young mothers would wash the dirt off their boys before setting them off to study. I always wondered how they managed to see properly from behind the long veil of their sari that covered almost three-forth of their faces. I guess it was an art they had mastered over the time.
I had found the window accidentally. The room with this particular window was the last on first floor and was mainly used by the younger son of the family with whom I was spending a month before heading to my granny’s home in Pune for summer break. The young man was a loud mouth, short-tempered rebel of sorts. Everyone kept their distance from him. One day while playing with the kids I discovered the bolted door and insisted on looking in. Though smaller than the rest of the rooms it had the best view of the world and as the owner was away on a college trip I decided to park myself there when I found time. The other kids refused to even step inside.
My uncle got the huge Semul tree pruned after a huge branch fell during a storm. It was a chaos outside the window on the day the storm raged and uprooted a small Neem tree, broke a few window panes along with a hefty branch of the tree which shielded the window from public view. Next day after a meeting the residents decided to prune the tree. I watched the three men cut the threatening branches while the birds protested in chorus from ledges and parapets. Suddenly a whole new world opened in front of the window. It now provided a wide view of the terraces of other houses, the white marbled temple top with a loud-speaker and a bright saffron flag that fluttered like hummingbird’s wings, the dusty playground where cricket matches went on all through the day and way beyond that the railway track which wasn’t visible but came alive when the local trains flashed passed twice a day camouflaged by the line of Eucalyptus trees. However hard I tried I never succeeded to count the number of carriages which flashed by like bolt of lightening.
In the mornings and evenings when the day was cool the old woman in a building on the right usually sat near her first floor window watching the flurry of activity, confusion and disorder of the world outside. At times someone would spot her and exchange greetings. The fruit vendors usually called her to ask if she needed something and a few times I saw her dropping down a cloth bag tied to a string in which she would put the money after serious bargaining with the vendor. He would then take the money out and put the desired fruits into the bag which she would slowly pull up. The old couple stayed alone in that house and though the old man came down during evenings she remained cooped up due to her arthritis pains. At times I saw her muttering mantras with a string of prayer beads in her hand. Her eyes looking into nothingness.
The neighborhood terraces were mostly empty during day time except for someone coming up to dry clothes or inspect the freshly made badis (vadis), or whole spices spread on a cloth for drying or to turn around bottles of pickles put in the sun for maturing. A network of hundreds of tangled electric wires dominated the landscape as they crisscrossed over them .
The most interesting activity took place on the terrace of red building on the left of the window. Almost every day around noon the owner’s daughter came on the terrace and lingered around pretending to rearrange clothes on the clothesline or water the plants (section of their terrace was full of potted plants), after a few minutes a boy would come on the adjoining terrace, look around and jump over the low wall and land on her side. They would stand in the shaded area holding hands and talking. Usually the boy would stay for not more than fifteen minutes but on some days the couple would be more relaxed and sit on the parapet chatting merrily. Maybe on those days there was no one to intrude on their secret meetings because on other days they would bid a quick adieu and disappear from where they came at the slightest noise.
On holidays boys would fly kites or play on the terraces oblivious to the heat and sun. Their excited voices would reverberate in the stillness of summer days.
During the evenings a servant in the building opposite ours would throw buckets of water to cool the terrace and then place charpoys for the night. As the power cuts were a routine during summers people preferred to sleep under the cool night sky. Sometimes the families would come up during the evenings and sip tea over local gossip and household discussions before heading back for dinner.
Not much changed outside the window except the sky.
Years later when I visited the house again, I found that the room with my favorite window was now converted into a store-room and the view was once again permanently blocked by the branches of the semul tree. The girl who secretly met her boyfriend had married and moved to Delhi. The old couple had died a couple of years ago. My uncle lost his mother too so the gatherings at the main door were just a memory now. Much to the relief of people the priests had brought down the temple loudspeaker after the authorities slapped a notice for using it during restricted hours and causing noise pollution. So much had changed over the years but one could still hear the lonesome sounds of the trains passing behind the Eucalyptus trees.
I love raw as well as ripe Jackfruit and apart from being full of vitamin, minerals, electrolytes, phytonutrients,carbohydrate, fiber, fat and protein, it is not only a good source of calorie but contains no cholesterol or saturated fats. Jackfruit flesh, when ripe , has a distinct sweet aroma and is delicious in taste. It is called Kathal in Hindi and Phanas in Marathi.
Today we will use raw jackfruit for this recipe. We make Jackfruit vegetable in variety of ways and one of them id Jackfruit Koftas Curry which can be as delicious as the Keema Kofta curry. Many people refer to it as vegetarian mutton because of the resemblance of their texture. Will post the recipe one of these days.
Jackfruit kebabs if done nicely can put any shammi kebab to shame or let me say it is difficult to distinguish between the two. This is my personal recipe and I would love your comments once you have tried it. I am sure you will love this preparation.
To make Kathal (Jackfruit) kebabs you will need
Raw tender jackfruit (diced with seeds) – 2 cups
Bengal gram Split (chana dal) Soaked – 1 cup
Ginger – 1 inch
Garlic – 4-5 pods
Green chilies – 2 (according to taste)
Clove – 3-4
Green cardamom -3
Black cardamom -2
Fennel seeds – 1 teaspoon
Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
Mace a small piece
Black peppercorns 5-6
cinnamon stick – 1/2 inch
Salts- to taste
Garam masala- 1/2 teaspoon
Amchur (dry mango power) – 1 teaspoon
Boiled potato – 1 (mashed)
Oil – to shallow fry the kebabs (they can be grilled in the oven too)
Fresh green Coriander – 1/4 cup
First peel and dice the raw jackfruit into equal size pieces. Soak Chana Dal for at least 3040 min after washing. Once the dal is soaked drain the water.
In a pressure cooker put the jackfruit pieces, dry spices, green chilis and soaked chana dal, one onion peeled and roughly chopped, garlic and ginger pieces, a little water and salt. Let it cooker under pressure on medium flame. ( two whistles is enough) .
Let he pressure cooker cool. Once done, remove the content to cool completely.
In a food processor add half of the content and give a few turns. Then add the rest to give a rough texture. (Too smooth won’t taste or look good)
Take the mixture out in a mixing bowl once everything is blended nicely. Add chopped coriander, dry mango power, red chilli power, finely chopped green chili and test the salt. Add more if necessary. At this stage add the previously boiled and mashed potato for binding. You can use a raw egg also instead of boiled potato. Add home-made garam masala.
At this point keep a small pan on flame and in a tablespoon of oil brown finely chopped onions. Add those to the mixture.
Mix everything nicely and make small balls. Flatten the balls a little with fingers to give them a cutlet shape.
Heat a non stick pan and put a little oil for browning the kebabs. place the raw kebabs in the pan and let them brown nicely on slow flame from both sides.
Once the kebabs brown nicely take them out on a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.
In a plate arrange the well done kebabs and serve them with Green mint and amla chutney .
You can mix tomato ketchup in the mint chutney to make Pakistan sauce (someone gave the chutney this name, can’t remember who)
Serve the kebabs hot. You can half cook the kebabs and freeze them for a day or two. When you want to use them you can thaw the kebabs and shallow fry or grill them till they brown from both sides equally.
Do let me know your experience if you try this recipe.
You can make kebabs with raw banana or Yam in the same way. They too taste fantastic.
Post -2 in the series ‘From My Window’
Today I will tell you about a one window house where I stayed for a short period. Before I take you into the world outside my window you must know something about the house.
The flat was on the upper storey of a two storey building in a congested, filthy locality meant for sweepers and lower staff of a government hospital. How I came to this particular house is another story. It was the first year of my marriage and I was seven and half months pregnant with my first child and the stuffy, humid post monsoon weather was no help. There would be unpredictable dust storms, heavy relentless rains or just intense heat. The house was filthy, unkempt and most of the places near the sink and balcony had algae growing in various shades of green. The ceiling was high and the only bulb that provided light to both the tiny cubicles called bathrooms was fused. I could not by any given chance change it.
The high point was the big rats who infested the house. Day and night they would practice high or low jumps and destroy anything that they could lay their teeth on , from suitcases to bedding to clothes and food.
I would sit there watching the scenario with brimming eyes, trying to protect myself and the few things I had. None of the neighbors spoke to me as they found me “above their level” and were strangely surprised to see us move in. With no help and long hours of loneliness I would stand near the window or sometimes pull a chair close to it and look out.
The window opened to an open patch of land between all the buildings and apart from a tree , some small saplings and a tiny patch of grass held nothing. I would stare at the vacant patch that resembled the emptiness inside me. I would wonder how I will manage once the child was born? How will I ensure its safety , what will I feed the baby, who will look after me? Why did the father of the child bring me to this hole? Why wasn’t he there? What went wrong? I sought all the answers from the world outside my window. No birds came there but I could hear their calls from nearby trees. One could also see other buildings that surrounded the dry patch. Plaster chipping off the walls, dirty water flowing out of the pipes, piles of garbage tucked in corners, mothers yelling at kids and kids yelling back. Sometimes one would even spot a drunkard trotting around in the fading light of dusk.
Mostly I had to keep the window close to keep away mosquitoes and other pests and from the hazy glass panes the view outside blurred to a dusty brown.
Even after rigorous scrubbing the glass panes remained dull and depressing. Most of the time I would feel sick and had no energy to even eat but the little life inside me nudged me gently to get proper nutrition. In the mornings the milkman came on his bicycle ringing the bell to announce his arrival. The sight of milk made me vomit but I still went to the window to watch the women from other houses take milk from him. That was one ritual that connected me with other humans. I listened to their conversations , watched the kids running around and for those 15-20 minutes my mind took a flight someplace else. I dreamed of fresh air, clear sky, my baby and a life outside the cell I was imprisoned in. Not that I could not or did not go out but due to my condition and lack of resources I stayed home.
In the afternoon boys would play cricket and scream and shout at every run taken and every dismissal. Rarely I watched the game. Evenings brought more people out of their houses. Men, back from work, gathered to exchange daily news, children came out with their elder siblings or mothers and rode their bicycles or played while mothers gossiped.
Usually a fruit or vegetable vendor would venture into the area but mostly I would hear them call from the road which was not visible from my home. Sometimes I could also see the thin elderly man who sold chana poori on his bicycle. He had a small stove, a pot and a basket which contained plates (dona) made of dry Banyan or Sal leaves). For a few hours during lunch hours he would set up his little food joint at the corner of the building. I could never see who bought the food from him but he seemed busy from his actions.
Many times there would be nothing to cook at home and on one such day the father of baby decided to bring food from outside. To my amazement he decided to try the same chana kulcha. The choice was clear, either go to bed hungry or eat what is served. Thick red oil floated on top of the chana and it smelled strongly of kerosene. With great difficulty I managed to eat a bite or two. Drowning away the sting of chilies and hurt with water. From then I would get an imaginary smell of spiced kerosene from the window. Only a good spray of mosquito repellant all over the window would drown that smell. Or maybe not.
Rain or dust storm would bring havoc as the window would struggle to fly free from its latches. I would struggle from the other end to tie a string to the two handles to keep the shutters from opening. Dust and water would still trickle in. It would enter from every possible place. The rats would hide till the storm raged but I was always able to hear them lurking behind things ready to launch forth.
My baby would be still too urging me to rest while I could. I would communicate with it and pray for the storm in my life to settle. Once the wrath of the weather gods would end I would open the window again and smell the wet earth combined with various other undesired smells but it was still better than the caged stuffiness that lay on this side of the window.
A cable ran across from the side of our building to the opposite one beyond the patch and usually it did not attract any visitors but on one particular day a sweet melodious sound brought me to the window and I saw a tiny black bird merrily singing. Oblivious to its surroundings it slowly swayed on the cable hopping to the right and then to the left as if dancing to its own tune. It was the only brightness the window ever brought into my life and a signal to something better for me and my unborn child.
Within days of that beautiful sight we moved out of the place to another house that would change the course of my life forever. It was a forced decision which I took for the sake of the safety of my baby who was about to arrive in this world within a month and a half.
One day before we moved out one side of the window pane crashed as the cricket ball found its target. The impact not just broke the glass it also shook the frame from its hinges. The whole day as I packed my meager belongings the window door rattled swayed and banged against the wall and the remaining part of it whole. A monotonous requiem for all that died before it had chance to live.
We bid farewell to the broken window on a still September morning never to return. Though I do feel an urge to take my elder one there once for some odd reason.
Do read Post -1
Last evening there was a storm and as I gazed from the window of my room at the rapidly changing sky and at the drama that unfolded nine floors below at ground level I remembered reading a marvelous book by Matteo Pericoli titled ‘The City Out My Window‘. ( Click the link to view. ) The book has 63 views on New York with a little description below them. It was an interesting read which took me back in time and I thought of writing about some of my favorite windows in the houses I have lived in and my memories of the world outside them.
Here is the first post of the series I call ‘From My Window‘
This is the only window photograph I have and a precious one too. Me sitting pretty near the window listening to my brother. Ma says it was my favorite place in the house. I must have been seven- eight month old. The photograph is taken at our home in Nainital where I was born. The photograph is taken with a box camera and beyond the mesh you can see part of the the rolling hills. Our house was on a height and this room was on first floor.
Since childhood I had no power to decide where to live and we moved from place to place depending on where mom got transferred. Mostly we lived in government colonies and the windows mostly opened to many other windows or the balconies of the irregular buildings opposite or adjacent to ours. Not much of a view you would say but stories are born even from the most mundane.
(This is not the tree outside my window but it reminded me of that.)
We had just moved to Delhi and lived on the first floor of a two-story private house. I was in primary school then. This particular window looked out to a flamboyant Gulmohar tree with delicate green leaves which caressed its glass panes on breezy days. The tree was right beside the side entrance from on the road to the stairs which led to our home. The year we rented the house the tree was so small it barely reached our first floor window but within a few months it shot past it.
Earlier the window offered a wider view and one could see a piece of sky crossed by power lines and other houses, section of the park where children played at almost any time of the day and the main road that separated our colony with the commercial complex but as the tree grew bigger and spread its branches the entire view got blocked. We could get a glimpse of it through the sparse foliage during autumn and winter but in summers the view from the window changed dramatically as the tree burst into a glorious silken vermilion red.
Lovely flowers filled the entire window and one could almost touch them if one extended the arm out a little pressing the face against the cool grill. It soothed the eyes to watch the fresh shades of greens. There was a lot hidden behind the green and red. Various birds rested in the shade as the summer sun-scorched everything that it touched. Many a time one would spot mynas, barbets, parrots and other birds hidden in foliage of its wide-spread branches. Once a pair of green pigeons made a nest in the tree. The pair would drive off bullying mynas all day to protect the two beautiful white eggs.
I would lie on a straw mat during the afternoons , belly exposed and watch the sounds and the colors outside the window. Mostly my elder brother, who was in charge of me in the absence of my working mother, would lie on a mat next to mine threatening me with dire consequences if I did not sleep. I would close my eyes in obedience and wait. When I was sure that he has dozed off I would open one eye to inspect the scenario and finding the field clear float into my favorite world, eyes wide open. On occasions when I quietly tried to sneak to the window , a quiet stern voice would freeze me in my tracks and I would return to the mat and feign sleep.
It was not that he did not enjoy the view outside the window but to watch a fidgety younger sister in the peak of summer afternoon was a daunting task. He devised a few strategies to keep me at one place. One of them was to slowly move the palm on the bare tummy in circular motion. His theory was that doing so made one sleepy. It worked at times but mostly it was him who dozed off while demonstrating. I found the activity immensely pleasing. I still sleep like that :p
When the strong, dry hot summer afternoon wind (loo) menacingly whooshed past the buildings the window would stay shut, mostly with curtains drawn, and I would lie there under the fan swirling at full speed gazing at the swaying curtains to catch a glimpse of the flaming tree outside. Sometimes a squirrel would land on the window sill and chat with the other habitants of the tree. I bet it spied on us through the slits during those chat sessions. Maybe they even talked about us and missed seeing me at the window.
Very often there would be a power cut and on those days I would lazily sway my woven straw hand fan (pankhi) trying to decipher the cacophony of the tree dwellers and then there would be days when not a thing would stir. Indian summer can suck the soul out of anything. A solitary crow would sometimes come and inspect the scene from the top branch and begin its soliloquy much to the disgust of the squirrels who would scurry up and down the tree trunk cursing it in a chorus.
The road under my window mostly remained empty during summer afternoons but once in a while a tired vendor would come selling phalsa or jamuns and he would call in a sing-song voice urging people to buy the cooling fruits. My mouth would water at the thought of the juicy purple fruits sprinkled with salt and special masala and I would look at big brother with beseeching eyes who in turn would keep reading or turn and snore. Life can be tough for little girls and on such days I wished mom was home.
I don’t have much remembrance of what I saw outside my window during other seasons. Maybe because the Gulmohar flowered only in summer and in winters I would be curled up in the other room or soak up the sun on the attached terrace.
Some of the best summer afternoons were spent by that window reading, drawing, sipping cool lemonade or just watching the world go by.
In the coming days I will bring to you some more memorable window stories.
Those who wish to share their stories can leave a link to their posts in the comment section of this post.
(photo credit Shubhang)
is the light
and the light
and in between are
the slats of the shutters
cut my shadow into strips
as you slammed that door on me
I stood there
on the sunlit sidewalk
my fragmented side
Last of the winter flowers
a carpet of crisp yellow leaves,
days filled with calls
of ravens, crows and sparrows,
Kites circling the clear skies
as squirrels scurry around
and dogs sleep in shades of
flaming Gulmohar, the Coral and Silk Cotton trees.
Soothing lavender blooms of Jacaranda,
and the glorious Amaltas (laburnum),
a blaze of yellow,with golden chandeliers hanging down.
Stark branches tipped with myriads of colors
like gigantic brushes
painting the heavens,
and it is not yet summer
in my city
A winterized spring
summer still waiting
at the threshold
Who has cast the spell
on the seasons?
If it was not for the
Autumn within me
there would be no poems.
just the quiet slithering
the smell of
tree shadows burying
themselves in the deep dark
illuminating a puddle