Kinship of Words


Separated by seas, connected by literature

I had promised to write about James and our long distance impromptu poetry collaboration for Duets.  Today’s post is an introduction to a genius who has always kept a low profile.  It is also a prelude to the post on Duets and how we collaborated on it. I will post it in a few weeks. Waiting for my print copies to arrive.

I don’t know how to begin telling you about James. I thought it would be easy for me to just talk about mentors, writing experiences, friendships, publishing of my books, our friendship across time and space etc etc but when I am actually here I am unable to find words. What do you say, how do you explain an elusive person who is too modest and shy to talk about himself and his achievements ( which he calls”little things I did”? How do you explain a bond that goes beyond the boundaries of all distances, physical or mental?

I was rather annoyed that he did not write much about himself on the back cover of our collaborative book of poems ‘Duets’. I knew he won’t share his photograph in any case even after my relentless nagging. After a lot of discussion I decided to write about him here. People needed to know who’s the other poet behind the beautiful work we have created and how it came about. They need to know his literary background, “the things he did”. Nag nag nag .. and finally I got him to send me a list of his published works etc. I am pretty sure there is much more but I will draw a line and respect his privacy at this point. I am glad he opened up a bit. If you know James Goddard this is a huge achievement on my part.. hahaha..

I met James on Facebook via some mutual friend in 2012. He was not sharing much of his writings on his timeline but his monochrome photographs were so utterly gorgeous they could draw anyone to explore more. His visits to India and the magnificent photos were the connecting dots and with time our friendship grew stronger. We did have our fights, disagreements, arguments but in the end what emerged was a stronger bond. There is an immense love and respect I have for him not just for being my guide and publisher but also for being such a selfless, caring confidante and friend. He has listened to me and lifted me out of some of the darkest periods of my struggle. Listening is a dying art and not once he made me feel uncomfortable. He has a big role to play in my personal growth too.

James’s gracious presence, life experience and unbiased attitude continues to fill me with the energy I need as I battle my personal issues. Over the period of time he introduced me to other genres, writers, helped me polish my writing. Not just poetry but fiction too. I was also fascinated by his extensive travels in India, Middle East and Europe that he undertook in pursuit of photographs of ordinary people and interesting places. Here was a guy so talented and creative with great sense of humor and passion for life ready to help me with all he had. I felt blessed. As he began to share short stories, ditties, poems  or “little pieces” as he called them I realized what a brilliant writer he was. each of us were hooked to every word he wrote and waited with baited breath for the next one to be posted on his timeline on FB. A little birdie told me his interest in Science Fiction began at the age of twelve. Writing good stuff comes so effortlessly to him.

As day went by I felt encouraged to write more, write better, to explore new ideas, to send my work for online publication and then began another phase of my journey as a published author. A step forward from where Kris has brought me with his care and support of four years. He’s still around if I need him.

If you love my writing then you should know that it is the product of hours and hours of patient guidance and hard work irrespective of time and distance. I was as eager to learn as he was to teach though he may not call it teaching. A nudge in the right direction perhaps, “just suggestions”. Always there without being intrusive. Never culling my true voice. I think this is what laid the foundation for Duets.

I couldn’t have dreamed of getting my poems and short fiction published in print if James had not edited and published them. I owe them to him. You can see my LBP Author Page here

I am linking his profile here so that you can read his work that’s been posted on his TL and notes. Check his albums for some stunning photographs. His love of monochrome photography started with his first camera and he still firmly believes that only black and white images can bring out the beauty of the mundane. His photographs have been featured in the arts and literature annual, The Zaporogue , edited by Seb Doubinsky; Invierno: A Cantata of Spain in Winter(John Lewis) and on several book covers. James was born in Bournemouth, a university town and resort on the south coast of England, lived in London for a short time and now lives with his 10,000 plus books and three cameras in Driffield, a small East Yorkshire town.

I could go on telling you about our association if I had enough space here but I want you to discover his genius through his writings and photography. I request his friends, associates and co writers/editors to pitch in and provide more information in the comments.

Social media has its assets too. Its not always intrusive and addictive in a negative manner. For me Facebook was like a virtual home where we were all connected yet there was were spaces between us. That important space which we all need to evolve. It played a part in my learning, my friendships, my mental and emotional health and perhaps to a large extent finding myself. It is true and we’ll talk about it sometime. The writer friends tribe that I am part of now is all via FB. Each one a gem. I have written about many of them in my earlier posts.

I am posting a list of James’s work that I could gather by stalking various pages, sites and pushing him to reveal some facts. Do look up these links or books on Google as I do not have all the links to lead you to them.

JAMES GODDARD 

  • Published the first attempt at a bibliography of the fiction of J. G. Ballard. It was called  J. G. Ballard: a Bibliography 
  • Edited and published the SF fanzine Cypher (early 1970s) attracting contributions from many well-known writers including Brian Aldiss, Kingsley Amis, J. G. Ballard and James Blish. Cypher was the first fanzine to receive an element of Arts Council funding, via Southern Arts. 
  • A short interview with Ballard is published on the Ballard page of British Library Website
  • Published some poems—in an obscure publication, titles forgotten
  • Published a short story in the magazine of the Leeds University Science Fiction Society—title forgotten
  • Short Fiction A Dish of Devils in  Science Fantasy July – August 1964
  • Contributed three of the major themed articles to The Visual Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction  edited by Brian Ash (Pan Books, 1977 in paperback, Triune Books, 1978 in hardcover) . The articles were titled – Cities & Cultures, Sex & Taboos, Cataclysms & Dooms.
  • Co-edited with Interzone editor David Pringle, the J. G. Ballard festschrift  G. Ballard: the First Twenty Years (Bran’s Head Books)
  • Contributed articles and author interviews to the magazine Science Fiction Monthly and was also instrumental in acquiring several works of fiction for that magazine. Here is one link 
  • Read and advised on science fiction for Fontana Paperbacks
  • With others set up Kerosina Publications, published limited edition books by prominent science fiction writers including Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, Philip K. Dick, Gene Wolfe and Lucius Shepard
  • Acted as British secretary to the UK chapter of World SF for several years during the same period and also edited the World SF Newsletter.
  • Worked as a bookseller specializing in science fiction for some years
  • Worked as a freelance book editor for a number of publishers
  • Set up and managed the website of author Brian Aldiss
  • Wrote a ‘remembrance’ of author Keith Roberts which was published in the UK, USA, Japan and several other countries
  • Set up and managed the website of author Ian R. MacLeod
  • Established the small publisher Leaky Boot Press and, with Seb Doubinsky, Weirdo Magnet which publishes what Seb calls “New Edge” literature, that could be defined as provocative, mind-bending and outside genre.
  • Photographs of Spain included in the book Invierno – A Cantata of Spain in Winter photographs by John Lewis, Patricia Lewis & James Goddard
  • Subject of an ‘appreciation’ (for photography) by Marcia Marquez Rambourg in the French language online journal La Revue des Resources
  • Published stories and photographs in Le Zaparogue edited by Seb Doubinsky
  • Published poems and photographs in online journal The Arabesques Review
  • Set up online photography portfolio
  • Published a story in Silence is White (Weirdo Magnet), an anthology edited by Chris Kelso
  • Compiled a book of his own short stories, Dolls, as yet unpublished
  • Published a book of collaborative poems, Duets (Leaky Boot Press), with New Delhi based poet Tikuli
  • Collaborated with Canadian singer/lyricist John Lyle in this beautiful song. You can see some of James’s photographs’s here.
  • You can find James Goddard’s contribution of actual Ballard documents from his extensive collection, a total of 56 pages of Ballard’s handwritten text, interview corrections, lists and more from JGB’s intense and experimental late 1960s and 1970s in Rick McGrath’s The J.G.Ballard Book.
  • Cover Art – The Roads (2005) ,The Dead Orchards (2006)
  • There are some more of his essays and reviews that were published but I am unable to track the links.

He is an avid collector of science fiction first editions by a select group of authors. He is also a master of truism 😀 ( that is something no one else knows I am sure.. hahaha) I am tempted to disclose more but perhaps I can leave it for some other time. He is such a fun person to be with. If you live in those part you may sometimes find him hanging around The Butcher’s Dog Pub enjoying his beer.

I write this with deep affection and respect. I am not reading it again to edit or improve. Ours is friendship I cherish and hope it flourishes in the coming years. I also hope we see some of his recent individual work published and read.

I always tell him that the World of British Science Fiction needs to recognize and honour him for all the brilliant contribution. I hope that day comes soon.

We are already thinking of Duets 2 and many other things. Meanwhile do read him and you can thank me later.  Support his independent publishing project Leaky Boot Press. Buy the excellent books they have published. The link to the website is provided above and you can also find them all on amazon.

You can order Duet, Collection of Chaos and Wayfaring from any online book vendor.

For those in Australia Book Depository is a better option. They have free delivery too.

 

 

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New Poetry Book – Cover Release And Other Stories


I am again in process of shifting houses. Still searching for the home that doesn’t seem to exist and in between the chaos a good news floated in like gentle breeze.

Rain is generously filling the empty pockets of the streets. From scorched to sodden, the city struggles to cope with monsoon woes while the nature blooms with joy.
Mogra, raat ki rani, champa, chameli, sadabahar and many more traditional flowers are blossoming across Delhi. Parakeets are making a racket outside my window. They are looking for nesting places.

Cover Release 

Duet is a very special poetry collection in many ways. I will tell the story in detail later but there is something I need to share here. It is a collection of collaborative impromptu poems James Goddard and I wrote during our daily chats on Facebook Messenger. There will be a separate post with all the details about how we managed to blur the individual lines and the distance that separated us.

I am so proud of this joint collection.

Here is the full cover of the book.

Duets - Leaky Boot Press The book will be released this November but the pre-orders have begun on all online book vendors. Here is the link DUETS  

And for the readers in India DUETS 

Now you must be wondering who the other collaborator is. 🙂 Many of you know him as the publisher of Leaky Boot Press, my friend and mentor who writes those fabulous poems and short stories he prefers to call “little pieces”  and a photographer par excellence but there is a lot more to James than he decides to reveal. I will be doing another post just to introduce you to his work. One of the most brilliant writers who unfortunately prefers to underplay his writing and the role he has played in the lives of many of us writers. Stay tuned.

In another news my other poetry books Wayfaring and Collection Of Chaos  reached Poetic Justice Books and Art  in Port Saint Lucie, Florida thanks to Kris Haggblom and Dominic Albanese who is a friend and fantastic writer.

I am feeling chuffed to see my books featured along with some of the finest writers. The shelfie is a sample of their small press section and includes LBP too.

A few friends have bought some of the books and are reading them. I am eagerly waiting for their feedback.

Meanwhile James gifted me with my favorite multilingual print edition of Le Zaporogue XVII 2017-18 . I have a wonderful short fiction titled El Pino Ruins in this edition.  The book has some excellent works of writers/artists/photographers. These are a few more editions that have my poems and short stories. So honored to be in this exquisite company thanks to editor-in-charge, poet, author, academe, Seb Doubinsky. The printed books are available on lulu.com and you can download them for free too.

Now for another review news. Ampat Koshi is a well known writer, critic, editor and theoretician. I had gifted him Collection of Chaos long ago. A few days back to my surprise he posted a note about the book and the effect a particular poem has on him. It deeply touched me as a woman and as a writer. I am grateful to him for voicing his thoughts that mean a lot to all women in today’s time.

I am sharing here the full note in quotes.

A review of “Collection of Chaos” by Tikulli Dograi

This review is probably the most painful one I ever wrote. It is not a review but an apology. It is about my failure as a critic. Long back Tikuli gave me this book to review and I never did it though she said good things are worth tarrying for.

The reason why I never gave her the review for which she must have written me off and added me to her list of proofs as to why men are evil, rightly so, is for a simple reason. She wanted me to read the book as a book of poems but though I started that way I soon came to a poem that made me stop reading and drop the book for the opposite reason from what one may think – meaning I did not drop it as her writing was bad, – she writes beautifully – but as I could not handle the emotions in that poem. After reading it I could not proceed. As a writer I came up against a brick wall. I did not want to write a review any longer but a letter, a letter asking her to forgive men but could not bring myself to do it. And it was anyway not what I was supposed to do. We drifted off from each other but she continues to write prolifically and even won a best blog award some time back. I do not know if she is still on my list or not, but probably she is not, and rightly so, if she unfriended me for breaking my word about giving her a review. If still there, apologies again many times, sincerely, Tikuli.

The truth is I have many friends on my list who have faced varying kinds and degrees of abuse at the hands of husbands, ex or not. I mean not just emotional or mental or spiritual or physhological abuse which is bad enough but also downright physical abuse, the worst sort. Apart from betrayals. Shashi Deshpande talks of domestic rape but there is also the issue of being beaten up that many women have faced. I guess I am writing for all of them also here, for all of them, for what it is worth which is not much, not as someone who understands all this, but as someone who at least once in his life was brought to a complete standstill by reading a poem by Tikuli. A painful one. Where she speaks for all of them.

I agree this still does not qualify as a review. I could quote the poem but prefer you people buy the book and find it for yourself. Maybe I could pose with the book and post a selfie. I do not know if that would help at all.
But what I can do is post the link and hope some of you buy it and read her and appreciate her bravery and searing art which are both rare qualities these days. Worth fostering. And if you get to see this, Tikuli, forgive me for such a late response. I am literally writing this to clear my conscience and try to do justice to something I probably cannot ever do justice to. With this assurance that your art is not in vain as such poems will definitely lessen the cruelty and brutality of men to some extent.

There are two more book news in line. I will update the moment I get to know the details.

Will be posting a few recipes too.

Till then keep sending your love and support.

Anne says,” Krudtuglen really knows what is good. 😻🌹” 

You can trust the cats.

Collection of Chaos

 

Two New Poems


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1. SOLITUDE

I linger unperceived
in the labyrinth of solitude,
not knowing the onward path
or the path of my return
I see a flight of stairs
a portal to a past forgotten
the contours of shadows
create a landscape of dreams
something forgotten stirs,
a lost memory returns
from between somewhere and nowhere
seeking something nebulous
that is always out of reach

 

Copyright Tikuli

2. INSOMNIA 

two a.m. on Delhi’s post-rain Sunday
I try to wash away the sleepiness
from my insomnia laden eyes
pick a fresh sheet of paper
spread clean water till it sheens
like fresh snow on a sunny day
clean and load the brushes with colours
drop and watch in wonderment
as the colours bleed and waltz
into the white stillness
the ripe colours of autumn,
a drop of sea, the harvest fields,
the washes of sunsets layer after layer
and a moon laid on lake waters
a tender breath of green
a river filled with apparitions,
here now—then gone
wet roads winding around echoing hills
the crisp autumn breeze
floating across the valley
steam rising from a coffee left at the deck
my eyes closed I feel the calm glow
of lights at the water edge
the silent shadows
the peace of the submerged river banks
I dip my brush again as the pigeons rise
followed by the squirrel
and the upstairs neighbour
pounding fresh ginger for morning chai
the trees rise, the day rises
night slowly walks towards summer morning

एक शहर ये भी – कविता 7 – रात आईना है …


 

रात आईना है इस शहर की बेख्वाब आँखों का
शाम ढले जब धुप का आखरी उजाला
पेड़ों की टहनियों में सिमट जाता हैं तो ये शहर
किसी पेंटिंग की तरह रहस्मयी हो जाता है
बची खुची रौशनी लैम्पोस्ट के नीचे
सिमट जाती है और समय अँधेरे कोनों
या भूले बिसरे हाशियों में छिप जाता है
सूखे ठूँठ सी खड़ी इमारतें अपननी थकी आखें
बंद किये अँधेरा ओढ़ अचेत सी सो जाती हैं
और फिर उभरने लगते हैं अक्स उस दिल्ली के
जो दिन में अपनी तन्हाई समेटे ताकती रहती है
टुकड़ों में बंटे एक अजनबी से आसमान को
शहर की इन बिखरी सड़कोंऔर सुनसान
चौराहों पे मैं भी इन्हीं अक्सों में ढूढ़ता हूँ अपना
खोया हुआ वो अक्स जो अपना सा तो है पर
है फिर भी बेगाना, ढिबरियों सी टिमटिमाती
रौशनी में आता है नज़र आता है स्लेटी खंडहरों के
खूँट पे टंगा तनहा सा इक शहर उतार फेंका था
कभी जिसे और आती है नज़र एक सांवली सी नदी
राह भूली बाँवरी सी, पेड़ तोड़ देते हैं क़तारें
स्याह सड़कों के किनारे, चहचहाते डोलते हैं
पंख सी बाहें पसारे, सप्तपर्णी सी महक
उठती है हवा, रात में ही सांस लेता है शहर
थकन की चादर बिछा कर, फ़िक्र ज़माने की छोड़
है कोई सो रहा वो देखो चाँदनी को ओढ़
कुछ ख्वाब औंधे हैं पड़े उस पुराने बरगद परे
गीत कोई गा रहा है याद के पनघट ख़ड़े
सड़क किनारे बैठ पी रहा है कोई ख्वाबों की चिलम,
उठ रहा है धुआं सुलगते आलाव से कहीं
लिए सोंधी सी महक एक गुज़ारे वक़्त की
दिन की दमकती जिल्द में क़ैद सफहों से
झांकते हैं सूखे हुए लम्हे, कुछ भूले हुए
रुकए और मिटटी के सकोरों सी बिखरी
हुयी कुछ यादें, रात आईना है उन्हीं तवारीख़
के टुकड़ों का, तुम भी कभी खाँचो में बंटे उजालों से निकल
थाम लेना स्याह सा कोई इक छोर और फिर मिलना
उस दिल्ली से जो कभी हमारी थी

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Peach Lemonade & Peach Iced Tea


 

I love fruit iced teas and make a lot of variations. Any over ripe or bruised fruit goes into these delicious summer drinks. We sometimes make fruity cocktails too.

Years ago on one hot summer day after being knackered by housework and my crazy kids I just mashed one of the overripe peaches and added it to a big glass of chilled lemonade (not the usual shikanji with kala namak etc. This was sweet one). No one was willing to eat this orphaned peach and I wasn’t in mood for iced tea.

The lemonade tasted different and nice but not what I was looking for.  Many days later while making peach compote I added the warm sugary muddled peach pulp to the lemonade. It turned out absolutely divine and thus began my love for fruity lemonades. I then experimented with many fruits and till now these remain my favorite over the plain lemonade. Who said lemonades were only about lemons.

I had added sugar to that one but later I didn’t feel the need or the urge to sweeten the drink with added sugar. As I often used organic honey to make the lemonade. Adding it to the simply muddled warm peaches seemed a good idea. I evolved the recipe and made it differently many times with ginger and mint, with basil, with vodka and gin, with sugar instead of honey, blended or with chucks of peaches in it. I even froze lemonade in ice cube trays with soft peach pulp in it and added those to the pitcher. Sometimes adding the preferred alcohol to it.  Each tasted differently. My favorite is with soft muddled peach pulp along with some peach and lemon wedges. Simple and refreshing. Too many flavors mar the drink.

Here’s how I made it. There are two ways to do it and I will tell you both.

Ingredients :

2-3 large ripe juicy peaches

4 cups water

1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 inch Fresh Ginger Slice (crushed)

Few Fresh mint leaves muddled

2-3 tablespoon Organic Honey

Peach slices and lemon wedges to add to lemonade and to garnish

Steps – 

Method 1 :

Wash and cut the peaches in small pieces with the skin on. Discard the stone.

In a pan add those pieces and simmer on medium flame stirring constantly. When they become soft lightly press them gently with the back of the spoon and take them out in a bowl. Once they cool add honey and mix well. Keep the mix in the fridge for chilling.

Meanwhile, make lemonade by mixing lemon juice, ginger, mint and cold water.

Add the chilled peach pulp to the lemonade and throw in some slender peach slices and lemon wedges.

Keep the lemonade in fridge so it chills well. I avoid adding ice for it dilutes the drink. Sometimes I make ice cubes from the same lemonade and add those.

You can put it in the freezer for sometime and then crush it to make the drink super chilled. Spoon in some peach pulp in the glasses when you serve. You can make it as a slushie too.

You can keep the peach pulp for a day more in case you wish to make peach iced tea like I did.

There was some cold brew iced tea remaining from day before and added some of the pulp to that. I let it seep in the fridge while enjoying my peach lemonade. The resting gave a nice flavor to the tea and we had it later in the day.

Method 2 :

In a bowl add peach pieces and sugar. Mix and let it sit for some time. Heat a thick bottom pan and add the peach sugar mix. Keep the flame medium low and stir till the mixture becomes pulpy. Remove from heat and cool. Blend it in a mixer or blender and add to the lemonade. You can also bring to boil peaches, sugar and little water then cool and blend. Add this mix to a pitcher of cold water, add lemon juice , muddled mint etc and serve chilled. Use two cups of water for the peach syrup and two cups to add later in the pitcher.

As I use honey I don’t boil the water but warming the peaches brings out some nice flavors.

For the tea I sometimes just roughly chop the peaches and tip into the cold brew tea. Sometimes I make the tea by adding hot water (not boiling) over tea leaves and then straining it to desired strength. I chill it and add the peach pulp, lemon juice, lemon wedges, peach slices to it.

See, how many different way are there to enjoy this fantastic homemade summer drink.

Do try the Peach lemonade and / or the peach Iced Tea and you’ll see how refreshing and amazing it is. You’ll never go for the synthetic one again.

Spiking 1 liter of lemonade  or Iced tea with 60-80 ml of alcohol is good way to make a tipsy version. It depends on your taste. I add a little less vodka than peach schnapps when making the alcohol version. These are my preferred choices but you can add whiskey or gin too. A good peach vodka goes well with both the iced tea and the lemonade.

Do let me know if you make any of the the two.