Poetry Prompts With Kaafiya


I am working on some poems and a few other things so not very regular here. Today while going through my drafts I realized I had not shared these poems with you.

Kaafiya had a Rhyme along with Adil Jussawalla poetry prompt session on their FB page as part of their #KaafiyaMilao series in May 2017. The Poem I submitted was among the four winning poems selected by their editorial team.

The Prompt was from his beautiful poem Turning Seventy  You can read his poem by clicking on the link.
Prompt – “My body is a pile of papers left behind on a bench.”

Here’s my poem :

 

 

There was another poetry prompt last year in April with poet / Writer Abha Iyengar. The prompt was a line from her favorite poem. Here is Abha’s poem which I copied from Kaafiya page .

Prompt-

Two poems
And a conversation

Poem-

What we have is
A table.
Two poems.

And a conversation
That neither of us began.

But as we speak the lines
We say everything in between.
We spill
Over the distance of the table
That separates us.

We move our legs back
Under and behind our chairs
Scared of touching
That which lies
beneath the lines.
Knowing that we will overflow
Over and above
The table
Knocking it over
Sometime
Anytime
Even as our bodies strain
To keep back
All that drives us forward.
Two poems
And a conversation.

 

And here is my poem that got selected along with four others.

This what Abha had to say about the poem,” “Tikuli talks of how an innocent outpouring of the heart into poems, and the doubts and assumptions that riddle a married life or a relationship bring an end to everything.”

This poem is also a part of my new book ‘Wayfaring‘ . I did a few changes to it before publishing  and I am grateful to Abha for allowing me to include it in the collection.  The book is available with all online book vendors worldwide so please go order your copy today.

Do look up the Kaafiya Page and follow them on Twitter to participate in their weekly prompts and other good things they do.

I will be sharing a few important posts soon. Just getting into the rhyme and rhythm of things around me.

Stay with me here and keep sharing your valuable feedback.

 

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Art, Poetry And Conversations


Many of my readers asked me why I have stopped posting poems and short fiction on blog and if I was making this a food blog. The answer is, No. It is true that I post a lot of recipes these days and that is because I send most of my poems as submissions. Almost all magazines accept fresh work so I can not post them here. As for short fiction, I am not writing any these days.

I am trying to take charge of the life I left behind and really working hard to get out of the vicious circle of anxiety, depression, fear and worry. It is a hard task for me but I am making those lifestyle changes that I can to be emotionally and mentally well. We will soon talk about that in another post.

One of the things that I found really therapeutic is art. This is the first of the Warli art pieces I did. Warli painting is a form of folk art from Maharashtra. Traditionally drawn by the tribal women belonging to Warli and Malkhar koli tribes.

Warli Art

I did some digital art and a few acrylic on canvas but never seriously pursued it. Since last few months I began to draw, color, paint and experiment with various mediums and art forms. I have not shared them here but you can view them on my Instagram page  . It started when a very dear friend began to share her Madhubani art. I was fascinated and asked her how she did those. Then through a lot of research on line and after watching videos on YouTube I made some and shared with friends. I found the process very calming so looked further and discovered Warli. A new window opened for me and in those dark hours of desperation I would immerse myself in those intricate  patterns and figures but something was still waiting to be discovered. My elder son is a fantastic artist and he’s been doing water colors lately. Now, I painted with water colors in middle school so it’s been 35+ years or so but the thought of dipping my fingers in color again was too tempting that I bought myself some paint, sketchbook, micro pens and brushes.  Adi was very encouraging and it gave me real boost to launch forth and just do something that would make me happy.

Again a proper research on techniques etc began and this time on Instagram too. For days I just watched wonder eyes the images emerge on the white sheets of papers, canvases etc. I was thrilled.

After a few failed attempts I am now beginning to get the hang of it. There is nothing more therapeutic than doing something you love. Art like writing has made me stronger though I still slip down and get those panic attacks now and then.

I am very happy to have finally found my linchpin.

Meanwhile two poems got published it my favorite magazine Cafe Dissensus. Always happy to find a place in this fabulous magazine. This is my first submission after the release of Wayfaring.

Here’s an excerpt from one of  the poems :

“the river hears her hurried footsteps
with rapt attention, at its bend
under the shade of the mangroves,
a boat and a promise patiently wait
ready to carry her away.”

You can the poems HERE.

Wayfaring is very special to for many reasons and if you haven’t got your copy yet please do. I would love your feedback. The book is available with all online book vendors worldwide including Amazon.

Here is an excerpt from a recent review that got published in The Sunflower Collective .

Poet/Journalist Abhimanyu Kumar says,

” Organised in seven sections, the poems cover a wide range of emotions and experiences. The book opens with the section called Trains. The poems included in this section set the tone for the rest of the book, in a sense.”

Do read the full review.

Blogging is still my first love and many of you know that I won the Indian Blogger Award for poetry recently. I finally got my certificate from Indiblogger and here it is. Makes me so proud of my journey as a blogger/writer/poet. Now you can call me an award winning blogger 😀

The Indian Blogger Awards IBA2017 were announced at BNLF and Valley of Words International Literature and Art Festival, Dehradun in Nov, 2017

I won the special VOW award for poetry and got my certificate today. The Google Chromecast was received by an author friend on my behalf on the day of the ceremony.

I’m humbled by this recognition. Thank you team IndiBlogger, jury members and all those who appreciated my work and still do.

It’s been a great journey so far.  My second book is being read and appreciated world over. Some poems from the books were read by Poet Dominic Albanese in Open Mic in Florida where he stays. A much awaited review is coming up soon and some more publishing news is awaited.

I will be starting the Monday Memories series again and try to be regular here so keep visiting and do please leave your feedback in comments.

Let’s hope it rains soon till then I am watching the changing color palette of the sky.

Travel Tales – Of Wild fruits and Pink Lotuses


Recently I took a short weekend trip to the mountains. The idea was to simply get away from the scorching heat and the pressures of city life. After a lot of research we settled for Bhimtal, Uttarakhand and we took off early morning in a friend’s car. Summer is a bad time to visit any of these tourist destinations and I would have preferred a quieter offbeat place at this time but the time constraint and other factors made it impossible. So, as it is with every road trip there were old songs and conversations, reminiscence of  good ol’ days and dhaba food as we drove to our destination.

We made our first stop at Gajraula for a late breakfast or rather brunch of Hot aalu parathas, curd, pickle and kulhar tea. The place had good washrooms as the huge signboard declared. You can read about the entire route in my previous post HERE . We again stopped for tea at New Amritsariyan Da Dhaba just for sentimental reasons. The place isn’t the same since the old sardar ji passed away. One can see the next generation halfheartedly carrying out their duty. Though the food is still better than many places. The dhaba is very close to Rudrapur.

We reached Bhintal late in the afternoon but the Airbnb homestay we had booked took away all our tiredness.

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This property owned by Sanjay and Ekta is nestled among the Pine, Oak and a few fruit trees very close to the lake. They started this venture for the love of travel and food last year.  I had booked The Woods on a recommendation from a FB friend Kalyani Mirajkar who runs a beautiful eco-friendly Bhimtal Birdsong Cafe just a little further away down the road.

The two member staff was exceptionally helpful and immediately arranged for some lip smacking homely food for us even though we had reached past the lunch time. Good food always wins my heart.  Himanshu needs special mention for this and for guiding us about local places. Despite heavy rain and other demands we always found him smiling and eager to help. The property had all the amenities and the beautiful deck overlooked the lake. It was raining and I found the setting extremely beautiful as we sipped our excellent chai and munched on hot bhajias. We could see the lake from our room window too. 

The rain drenched Bhimtal lake

The approach road is slightly steep but in good condition. We were given clear directions by the owner who was very gracious and helpful at all times.

I also visited Kalyani’s Birdsong cafe but unfortunately could not eat the fantastic Kumaoni thali the cafe offers among other things. The little cafe is tastefully done and is surrounded by pear trees. She also grows some vegetables and one can always see the place full of seasonal flowers. I recommend both these places to everyone travelling to Bhimtal. 

Another gorgeous property is The Retreat owned by Paddy Smetacek. It was booked when we contacted Paddy but she was extremely helpful and I totally love the work she and her family are doing there for local women and environment apart from running such a lovely place.

Let me completely the food story before coming to the two lovely surprises that awaited me.

On our way to Sattal we stopped at I Heart Cafe Himalayas. It was wonderful to meet Liz again and savor the delicacies she and her team makes. I will do a separate post on it in a few days. Don’t miss the place in Mehra Estate on Bhowali Road if you are in that area. The cafe is what I would have loved to owned in a quaint hill station.

You can read about the three lakes of this area in my post HERE. Not much had changed since we came here two years ago except that the otherwise quiet Naukuchiatal had a lot of water activities going on this time. It was a real heartbreak to see these beautiful places slowly losing their natural charm to these touristy activities. Sattal had already succumb to huge crowds, noise and eateries that have mushroomed at the lakeside.

 

What caught my eyes were local vendors selling the summer fruits. I was elated to see kafal, hisalu, small local yellow and orange apricots, the tiny babbugoshas (a pear variety), peaches and the deliciously juicy plums. Some other wild fruits that I remember from the past are bedu, ghigharu, kirmoli etc. but one doesn’t see much of them these days.

While the others enjoyed the scenic view of the lake waters I decided to gorge on these.

The Kumaon and Garhwal region of  Uttarakhand are known for these awesome local wild fruits. Many of them have medicinal values too.

The sweet and sour Kafal or Kaafal is called Bayberry in English and is a drupe. Considered as the king of wild fruits in Uttaranchal it matures in month of April to June. Kafal resembles the raspberry but has a big seed and thin layer of flesh. Mostly its eaten with rock salt and red chilly. We also make sharbat from them just like the phalsa sharbat. Slightly acidic in taste it has a high amount of Vitamin C. Mostly the fruit is grown between the altitude of 100-2000 meters above the sea level  in the foothills of Himalayas and has a very short shelf life. It also indicates the change of season. In local kumaoni language this fruit is called kaafo and is celebrated with beautiful songs and stories unlike any other in the region. The vendor was selling 10/- a cone and I saw many kids happily sucking on them near the lake. I ate them after a gap of many years so it was a real treat. I came to know that it is also found in Nepal. A poet friend from Shillong told me it’s called Soh phi in the Khasi Hills.

I was telling the couple friend we had gone with about these fruits and wondered if we would be lucky enough to savor the other fruits too and we were. At Sattal I saw some vendors selling Hisalu. I had not seen them since so long. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes as the season for these berries was about to end. I bought a few cones to relive the memories of those simple pleasures of my youth.

 

Soft and tangy Hisalu is also known as the Golden Himalayan raspberry or the yellow Himalayan Raspberry. These are the actual “Organic” fruits. Straight from the trees. These little berries used to be the source of energy to the travelers going uphill in olden days. The fruit is juicy and very flavorful. It is difficult to describe its taste as it unique to the berry. People make jam from it just like the raspberries. It usually ripens from in March-April and perishes very quickly after being plucked. An old friend from Rawalpindi told me that he found some of these fruits during an off track hike on Margallah hills a few years ago. So many stories came up when I shared the pix earlier on FB and Instagram.

I also happily snacked on the locally grown small and juicy plums, apricots and peaches. I saw a few fruit laden trees in the villages but we were on the move so couldn’t take photographs.

The Woods, where we were staying, had pear trees but the fruits were yet to ripen.

A monkey brigade one day decided to indulge themselves on the deck facing the lake and the staff had to drive them off with sticks. Unafraid these moneys have become a menace since the langoor money population has dwindled. The two don’t see eye to eye.

There was a Timla (Ficus auriculata) also called Elephant fig or wild fig tree right opposite the property but the fruit was unripe too. Timla produces a unique fruit which is actually an inverted flower. It is an important fruit in the hills and has medicinal benefits too.

The I Heart Cafe had a Lychee trees along with pomegranate, figs, pear, guava, apples etc.

I

I saw some unripe lychees on the magnificent that looking tree in one corner and couldn’t resist to click a photograph. There were also some gorgeous Hydrangeas spreading a riot of colors in their soothing green back garden. Here’s a favorite

The other juicy treat were the tiny babbugosha pears we picked from the local hawkers. Absolutely divine in taste. One can never eat enough of these luscious fruits.

A friend who was visiting Sattal at the same time managed to get hold of these very rare berries. I asked around for some information about them but couldn’t find any.

I had eaten these way back and never bothered to ask the name. Paddy Smetacek told me that these are quite rare Gyuwaaien which used to grow in her forest but disappeared from there. She is trying to grow them again. I have used this photograph with permission from Nandini Rathore. Both the photographs ( one here and the other in the link) are credited rightfully to her.

After a long research via FB, Google search and WhatsApp to experts I found that this particular berry is indeed Giwain in local vernacular. It’s botanical name is Elaeagnus angustifolia Linn. The berry has many medicinal benefits and the carotenoid, lycopene content in these is sometimes seven to seventeen times higher than that of tomatoes. It is known for its anti inflammatory, analgesic,antimutagenic and antioxidant properties.

It is also known as Russian olive or Japanese Olive as someone mentioned. It is a shrub found in mid hills. The fruit is eaten raw or ripe.

As if the joy of relishing these fruits wasn’t enough. To my surprise Kamal Tal or the Lotus Pond was flooded with pink water lilies or gulabi kamal. The sight was breathtaking.

On our last visit the taal was in bad condition but this time it looked clean and well maintained. The boat we saw last time had sunk in the midst of lily pads. You can see its edges in the photograph.

Kamal taal is located in one corner of the Naukuchiatal. Enjoy some of the photographs from there. Some people compare them to the lotuses that bloom in Mansarovar lake. It seemed like Monet’s painting The Lily Pad. The photographs don’t really do justice as I have a not so good phone camera.

We had a plan to visit some other places beyond these lakes but due to heavy tourist inflow, traffic snarls, rain and a fair at the Kainchi Dham we decided to return early.

As we still had a whole day to us we decided to take the longer yet scenic route via Corbett National Park ( Corbett Tiger Reserve). We stopped at the Corbett Museum and spent some time remembering the childhood favorite, the legendary hunter turned environmentalist Jim Corbett. The museum was one of his homes. The other one is in Nainital. Beautifully located in Kaladungi, Choti Haldwani it is surrounded by a lush green compound that has a souvenir shop in one corner near the entrance. I will do a separate post about this place.

The heat of summer was catching up as we hit the plains so after lingering for a while we headed back to Delhi via Bazpur, Kasipur – Moradabad route. We stopped at Bazpur, Udhampur for a delicious meal at  Gill Brother Dhaba. This is a longer route but has less traffic and is scenic too.

There were some things that got left undone. Perhaps I may plan to trip again when the trees get laden with apples and the sunsets become more breathtaking over the snow clad mountains. Some time needs to be spent with a few friends who live in this region and in the next trip I just night do it

For now I am back in Delhi and the grind of daily life in the city where summer has taken a permanent refuge. My eyes are glued to the skies for the monsoon rains.

Meanwhile I am painting with water colors and other stuff to add some color to the mundane gray that is lingering like mist somewhere between the seen and unseen.

I have some poetry news and other things to share too. Stay tuned.