Some Random Thoughts, Seven Poems, A Memoir and A Photograph


I have neglected my blog since a long time. I mean apart from the news and photographs and recipes I haven’t really posted any stories, poems, memoirs etc. The reason is I am working on the MS of the novella I am writing and collecting the short stories, poems etc for publishing. Also, I am desperately trying to clean myself of patriarchal bullshit. This whole year has been amazingly annoying and hurtful at the same time at many levels. It has also been a mixed year for writing. This  winter is going to be long and harsh..

Now, coming back to the BS I mentioned above.

Patriarchal bull shit comes in more forms than you can ever imagine and it can be very subtle. AND where should I put the increasing number of labels the men are honouring me with? you can trust some people to screw your life when you least expect. It makes my blood boil but just the slogan shouting and walking out as a rebel defying the system seldom helps. Don’t ever think you can count on support of natal home. Nah.. it turns toxic sooner than you can think. Unless you have a job security and/or a heart of steel you get fucked both ways. If you don’t have good health then it is the cherry on top. I know.

Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears. Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism and lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks them. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of ” solid evidence.”

Emotional Abuse comes silently most of the times camouflaged as “love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail, and marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘Thinking for oneself’ is not encouraged. It’s always conformity & herd mentality. The moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels, her condition is even worse.

This is the ground reality of majority of women. The woman who works for us said a thought-provoking thing. She said,” Middle class non working women are in a worse situation than others. The rich have other resources to fall back upon, like money and all that it brings, and we, the poor, can just leave an abusive home, make a jhuggi somewhere else and work in homes to sustain ourselves. You can’t do that. So, its worse for the likes of you.” I couldn’t have agreed more. I have shared this earlier too but now and again the reality of it smacks me hard on the cheek, reminding me to shake the muck that I am allowing to grow on me and move away. Where? How? When? I don’t know.

I also know the hawk-eyed snoopers are reading this right now and itching to set the grapevine ablaze. Go ahead all you pinch-brained nitwits. I don’t give a hoot. Some others may be steaming within and wanting to say something nastier than what they said earlier but don’t know how. If you burn the bridges you lose more than you can imagine. By the way I always wanted to ask, “who it was that taught you to speak bullets without considering the exit wounds, tell me who?” Oh I love this line from Flatsound|you said ok 

Rant over. Now some good things.

Seven of my new poems got published in Cafe Dissensus blog. The news made me super happy.

Sharing one of them here but to read the rest do click on the link below.  Do explore the magazine, it has some excellent stuff.

Void

loneliness curls in the spaces
between the notes of the rainsong,
the night bleeds neon, collects
in puddles near the wet sidewalks,
cigarettes, float like decomposed corpses
bloated with memories, voices, tense with
longing, rustle through the trees, possessed
and restless the midnight lingers.

I wrote a memoir long ago for Soul Curry that used to come in TOI but by the time I sent it they stopped that feature. It remained tucked away  in some folder until I chanced upon it sometime back, polished it and sent it to Readomania. for publishing on their website.

They accepted and here is the link.  The Old Black Trunk .

Do read and leave your views about these two in the comment section on the respective sites as well as here.

I will be sharing a few more poems soon and will try to keep the blog going.

Till then stay blessed.

darkness and pain?
well, that’s now a thing of past
now let’s look after
passions and
surrenderings
meanderings and
wanderings

Receiving And Giving – The Healer Friend And The Magic Of A Dream


This is a very special post for me. A token of love and gratitude to the friends who have made difference in my life. Once in a while you come across someone who touches your life in an unexplained way. Someone who is a giver more than a receiver. I feel that is very inspiring. Not many give so unconditionally and freely.

I came to know Penelope and Slim Chandra-Shekar via Facebook. I felt an instant energy exchange. Strange, isn’t it, how a social network can become a channel for healing, for receiving and giving, for sharing and expanding in all possible ways? That itself is indicative that life opens up many ways to heal and to blossom. Love changes forms, negative turns to positive.

Healing works through spirit guides. If you are open and receptive distances don’t count.   Even though I have known Slim for sometime, I met him, for the first time, in June. He was visiting India to celebrate his father’s 99th birthday in B’lore and after that for three days he visited Delhi to meet friends and relatives. His physical presence was such a joy. They say when the student is ready the master appears. It is the same with spirit guides. They will be there when it is time. In that short time we spent together, I learned some meaningful life lessons, had long conversations over good food, listened to his amazing story of life transformation and how he and his wonderful wife Penelope are touching one life a day to bring joy and love through their work.

The Magic Of Gayatri

You know, sound is a very powerful medium of healing. The vibrations can actually dissolve the negative in you within no time. You just need to be in right energy frequency.  I still carry the essence of the positive energy I received through our interactions. Slim is shaman, healer, nutritionist, hypnotherapist and a wonderful human being. You can know a little about him HERE. Meeting people who are selflessly doing healing work is a gift that life brings. Apart from the love, care and understanding Slim gave me a token of spiritual love that I will cherish all my life. The Magic of Gayatri.  Gayatri mantra has been part of my life since childhood and I am aware of the immense peace and light it brings when chanted the right way. You will find many versions of it on the internet but the reason I found this particular CD worth listening is the profound energy vortex it creates within you. The calming voice of Slim, the introduction to the mantra the soothing music and the sublime rendering of the mantra makes it a wonderful vehicle to meditate, relax or just be inspired. The mantra works at whichever level you need help – physical, spiritual or emotional. For me, it opens my mind and heart when ever I chant it.

This isn’t a promotional post and I am not being paid to do this. This post is in gratitude, in love, in honor of what I received from my friend. It is important to spread the magic of Gayatri so that more and more people can benefit from it. You can let it play in the background as you work or sit quietly and let  the words wash over you. Since ancient times people have always used and still use the sound-vibration of chants for healing purposes. Many of us just chant the mantra mechanically and are deprived of the true value of Gayatri Mantra. Listening to Slim explain it with such simplicity made me chant it with intent and with an open heart. I am not a religious person but this mahamantra is a universal prayer that spiritually connects us. Frequently listening to it creates a permanent template of peace in our consciousness and even if you are not chanting the mantra it stays in you creating the inner calm. This, of course is my personal experience. I believe that we are all energy beings and we are all fluid. it is in our inherent nature to flow. If we don’t we rot. We need to keep expanding our vibrations. I don’t know if this makes sense but do think about it. I also feel that one needs to be watchful about what’s being said or repeated and this is not just for mantras, chants etc but in daily conversations, the sounds we hear and produce for they impact us in a very permanent way. Gayatri Mantra is next to chanting ‘Om’. It unblocks a lot of energies as it permeates through consciousness. The knowledge of the science and philosophy of Shabd brahm is an integral part of Indian spirituality. The Gayatri Mantra has a specific sonic pattern coded in syllables and vowels to carry the cosmic energies of sound and act as a spiritual tool. I feel that the chanting of mantras scientifically helps in healing as well as strengthening our mind-body-spirit triad. Filling us  with eternal calm and love.

When I talk of calm and love my thoughts turn to Penelope. I have not interacted much with Slim’s wife but followed her insightful writing and lovely art work on FB. I think the meeting with Slim expanded my inner horizons to receive more. I had always felt connected to Penelope at a different level. Many times I would just browse her pictures with grand children, friends, her husband or look at her paintings and other artwork and it would instantly fill me with calm and strength. Beautiful and talented as she is, one can feel her paintings through the screen. Slim and Pen are perfect examples of people for whom age is just a number. It is an inspiration that one can pursue one’s passions at any age. You are never too old for anything.

Here is another example of how the fragrance of healing comes to you. When we are open and even when we are not or think we are not, we are in relationship with everything around us. It is for us to consciously recognise and choose the positive and be in it.

Abstract Painting is one of the gifts Penelope has. She works with acrylic and mixed media. Her art has this strange calling. There is much more that what is clear. Art as a medium to heal is a concept I love. I reviewed a book sometime back where a doctor has introduced and infused poetry, music, art with medical care. It is exciting to know people are opening up to complementing and alternate healing therapies along with the modern medical care. The mind, body and spirit need to be in harmony for a wholesome wellbeing. Art in all forms – dance, music, painting, creates that harmony. Neuropsychologists believe that art and music heal by changing the person’s physiology and attitude. It changes from fear and stress to deep relaxation and inspiration, helping the person to change his/her perceptions of their world. Art, prayer, music and healing come from the same inner source of our body and are associated with similar brain wave patterns, mind-body changes. They all are deeply connected in feeling and meaning and take us to our inner resources of healing as we know that all healing comes from within.

I am struggling with a lot lately. I have a nervous temperament and am very vulnerable to everything around me. Life is challenging when you are a woman, rebel and have a mind of your own especially when living in Indian society. The fact that I trust so easily and open too soon is cherry on top and yet that is all I know. I am still learning to consciously be attentive to my emotions. To choose which emotion to act on, which to drown in and which to let go. To love, and bring myself up again.

On one such day, caught between the emotional and health issues, I had a very beautiful and life affirming dream. It was about Penelope. She came to me as a mother, a confidante, a friend. Women, I think are born healers. Some of us may not know it and hence not use the energies in positive ways but those who know, do amazing work. I have never spoken to Penelope, nor interacted with her much but still she found me as I sought the spirit who could guide me and she responded, a healing inspiration across time and space. I am a lucid dreamer and have earlier also connected to spirit guides in various forms and each time is special. It doesn’t have to be a human. It can be a spirit animal.

Let me introduce you to Gyp at this point. She was a Dingo, an animal companion of my very dear friend and mentor, author and artist Kris Saknussemm. Kris introduced her to us on FB through photographs and little stories about her and I always felt a calling. It was as if she was there, in the shadows, watching over me. I told Kris and he was very pleased. She was an animal spirit guide for many who met her or came in contact with her in some way. I often go and read this Article Kris wrote in her memory. The moment I read it for the first time I knew why we felt connected. Another female spirit , brave and wild, who was inspiring lives through her energies. Do click on the link and read.

Coming back to the dream, I shared it with Slim over the phone and he suggested writing to Penelope. I was hesitant but at the same time excited. The love I felt needed to be shared so I wrote to her. Here is what I said,

“I have been through difficult times and am still dealing with challenges, trying to bring on the positive in my life and this dream is a new beginning, new insight for me. Positive warm thoughts coming from you.”

“In the dream, You were making a painting with bright blue, fluorescent colour butterflies, fireflies etc. A beautiful scene from around where you stood. Not sure of the place but it was some lovely hilltop. I am sitting on a rock watching you paint.
The creatures you painted weren’t around us. You said “Tiku, if you believe in goodness of life it comes to you. Even inanimate comes to life.” I said , I believe you Pen, but how can inanimate come to life. It can have a different life, an aliveness about it but it can’t live like us.

You said, “like this” and as you gave the final touch to a wing of a bumblebees everything you had painted began to fly out, crawl out of the painting. Birds, butterflies, fireflies, bumblebees, the air got filled with a fragrance I can’t explain but I felt it. The canvas became white again as I watched awestruck. The voice I heard was soft, motherly voice. Something I crave for. It filled my heart. Not a shrill sound but light as a feather.”

“Wrapped in the fragrance and the sight I slept but I remembered the whole scene after waking up. I felt relaxed and the message came to me so clear , to move on, to cleanse myself of all the negative about myself, people , places. All the while we talked and I watched you paint Slim was in my thoughts too, as if validating the good vibes we shared. I loved the healing bond we formed.”

She responded with such love. A new bond was formed. She was even inspired to paint the dream and trust me, it is exquisite.

Tiku's Dream

Posted with the permission of the artist. (Penelope’s painting)

What can be more fulfilling that this? A blessing from the universe. You ask and you

receive.

Life unfolds in so many magical ways. One can only be grateful for such events and imbibe from them. That is the true gratitude. To learn from what you seek and flow with it. Heart connections are always way above the geographical distances. I always believed in this and now it’s proven in yet another amazing way.

Thank you Slim for connecting me and Penelope. For bringing to me the Magic of Gayatri, for your friendship and for the tremendous love and light you bring in so many way to so many people.

Thank you Penelope for making me aware of the immense possibilities that lie within me, for the dream visitation, for the awesome support work you are doing to touch so many lives and for being a strength, a solace and a source of light.

Thank you universe for your benevolence and for the challenges that make me strong.

For the gift of vulnerability in me.

The more we journey inwards, the more we shine outwards.

Let us create more space for healing. Do please listen to Magic of Gayatri and if anyone who is reading this wants to help Slim in making the CD available in India, please leave a note in his ‘contact me’ on the site link above.

“The things you take for granted are the things others are praying for.” Be generous with  gratitude. Be in harmony with yourself and with all.

Digital art by me. All rights reserved.

Digital art by me. All rights reserved.

You And Me – Pause


Suddenly, I don’t know what to say. I do know what I want to say but when the moment comes to speak, I can’t say it or even write it. And yet…

It is that time of the year again when the memory of the days and nights when I knew who I was often come back to me floating through the night. Sometimes I want to touch you, just a bit. A bit of your skin on my fingertip, a bit of your warmth against mine. Sometimes I want to hear your voice. Not much, maybe a word or two just to assure myself that you are real and that it wasn’t a dream when like a tree in bloom I had released my blossoms on you all at once knowing that it would be a long time before the next blossoming. Maybe never. Then suddenly everything fades and I don’t know what to say or do and this overwhelming quiet that cocoons me becomes a constant reminder of my sudden isolation, Was it really sudden or is it that I had always felt the undercurrents but ignored them. Imagined that they never existed. Denied their presence. Denied her presence even though it was always there. Like a shadow. Your shadow. You said you loved me but the way you spoke of her always told me otherwise. Under all the disdain, regret, sorrow I felt a sense of pride with which you took her name.

Maybe I need  this silence to pull myself out of the wreckage of my own dreams. There is an old knot in my heart that I need to untie. I don’t want to hurt loudly now. I don’t want all that I feel to find its way to you. I want to become invisible as much as you want me gone. What you give comes back to you . I gave myself.

Sometimes it is difficult to make out if  it is loss of feeling or a feeling of loss. Sometimes it is best not to stir the embers of a dying fire lest some sparks turn to flames and consume you.

Some things are better not found.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss. For a long time the question lingered on my lips and then on a fateful day I asked, ” Whom do you see when you close your eyes?” “No one.” You replied. “Who was I supposed to see?’

“The person you love most.” I said.  Your silence, your  hesitation unraveled everything like a loose thread in a knitted sweater. A thread I should not have pulled.

If one is unaware of something it is best that it stays that way till one is capable of dealing with the deluge of hurt and pain it brings. There is a reason why we don’t know it all. The knowledge that one cannot do a thing to alter, change or rectify it can suck the meaning out of life and leave one dejected and defeated. Suddenly I feel exposed to things I wish I had never known. They have emptied my life of joy. Of love. Of trust. Once more leaving me fragile, vulnerable and alone.

I have decided to stay in the peace of my new-found quietness. Someday maybe I will find myself. Someday maybe you will remember all that was good between us and then look for me. Perhaps it will be the day when you will find yourself. I hope you do because I want to be found and I want you to find me with the credence I long for, the credence that has faded with time. Till then I will weave myself warmly in a cocoon and wait for the unfolding which will come from you.

 

From My Window – 3


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.

 

 

Do read Post -2 

From My Window – 2


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 

From My Window – 1


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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

 

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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.

 

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(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.

Monday Memories – 20 – Hot Tandoori Food On Delhi Winter Nights


Some years back I did a post on Dhaba food  which is an essential part of North Indian culinary culture.  Today while looking at some old posts I remembered the roadside tandoor, a two feet by three feet hole dug out in the ground and plastered with clay, where at least once a week I would go and get fresh tandoori rotis made. An old woman owned this roadside tandoor and one had to keep the container of whole wheat dough in a line and wait for our turn. The tandoor remained covered with an  old tin sheet throughout the day and as the sun went behind the buildings the old woman took her seat on a patched rug beside it and people poured in with or without the dough to take the rotis for dinner. One roti costed 10 paisa if you got your own dough and 20 paisa if you took it from the her. Mostly people got their own dough as hers was mainly a mix of whole wheat and  all-purpose flour (maida). Some even made balls for the roti (the size of a tennis ball) to save time,  keeping in mind the number of rotis consumed by each person in the family. Many bachelors or students staying alone just came and told amma ( as she was lovingly called) the number of rotis they wanted and then sat on the small charpai near the shed while leisurely waited for their chance. Warmed by the heat of the tandoor they exchanged news, the events of the day or just relaxed. New associations were made over tea bought from the nearby tea stall which did a brisk business along with the tandoor.

Amma was very particular about her rules. Those who had rolled out the dough into ball came first in the line, then came the turn of those with plain dough and then the rest.

She would prepare the tandoor by lining it with charcoal and once it was lit and reached the right temperature she would wet her hands, cut the dough expertly in neat sections and roll them into smooth balls,  flatten the ball a bit, dust it with dry flour,  clap the flattened ball between her hands like a skillful artist  turning it around to get the prefered  thickness, dust some more flour to avoid sticking and place it on a small cushion and slap it gently to the inner side wall of the hot tandoor. She would quickly make more rotis and place them one by one in the tandoor.  In a few minutes the smouldering embers and the heat retained by thick dry walls made the  upper side of  roti brown and air pockets began to form. At this moment she would take a makeshift skewer , a thin iron rod hooked from one end to lift the roti from the tandoor, and flung the roti straight into the clay surface surrounding the tandoor. She would count the rotis, pack them in the container brought by the customer and take the money. This process went on till about ten in the night and then the tandoor would close for the day.

Some days the crowd was less and on such days she indulged her clients by making small talks or sometimes throwing tantrums about the consistency of the dough etc.  Most of the time she remained chirpy and warmed by the heat of the hot tandoor her wrinkled face glowed with happiness. There were times when the slightly burnt or extra roties were given out to poor children who waited patiently for the business to close for the day so they could get their share.

On special Sundays one would get the lip smacking dal too. The split gram dal cooked to perfection on slow fire could beat any dal makhani served in hotels or even roadside Dhabas. One could either take the plain dal or get famous panjabi dal fry or dal tadka ( tempered with seasoning of onions, green chilli and tomatoes) . The very aroma of freshly cooked dal and hot rotis made me drool. It was the best food one could have. We had to take a container for dal which she sold on a fixed per plate rate. The simmering dal was kept at the side of the tandoor in a huge aluminium pot. Those who wanted seasoned dal had to wait till the delivery of rotis was complete. Once done amma would hold the frying pan blackened from outside due to constant use, add a spoonful of oil, toss chopped onion, green chillies and tomato , add a dash of some secret masala (spice mix) she kept in a small box and give it a quick stir. The flames would sometimes flambé the seasoning and as the aroma would begin to fill the air she would add a ladel ful of dal in the sizzling pan and then pour the dal in the container. As a garnish sometimes she even put freshly chopped coriander but this was only for those who ordered in large amount.

I would wait eagerly for Sundays to relish this sumptuous meal. As we usually made Maharashtra or UP food at home this Panjabi tadka was a much awaited treat. I was in my pre-teens at that time and learning to cook. Urad dal dhaba style was one of the first things I learned to make. For two years we enjoyed the delicious food made by amma. Simple dal and roti whose memory still lingers in my mind. As i write I can feel the taste of the meal cooked with love and passion. She was a frail old woman, maybe in her early sixties, but the energy with which she worked on the tandoor was amazing. A true artist, experienced and adept at her art of cooking. We didn’t know where she lived or if she had any family but the shopkeepers and even the policemen on duty respected her and she never faced any issues with her clients.

I had seen her putting an extra roti or an extra ladle of dal for the students who came everyday to take food. A generous person even though she lived on her everyday earning.  She even believed in ‘ladies first’ or “ladkiyan pehle” as she mentioned before starting the work. The men had to wait it out till all the women were gone. Slowly I noticed that more and more  little girls began to come with their containers. The older women hardly came unless there was no one else to fetch.

I have eaten at many roadside eateries and dhabas but the memory of those meals is unforgettable. There is a certain pleasure in simple things.  A simple smile, a simple word or even a simple meal cooked with love.

We left that government colony when mom got transferred to new place and amma was missed sorely. I don’t know how long she continued serving hot rotis and dal at such low-cost or if she was able to sustain her little means of livelihood in the midst of growing number of food joints and rising coal prices but where ever she is I want her to know someone in a corner of world remembers her fondly.

I miss those roadside tandoors. One hardly sees them in the city anymore espcially in the area I live in but I make it a point to go eat at a dhaba once in while just to keep the tradition alive. Eating out on Delhi winter nights is incpmplete without dhaba food and I encourage all of you visiting Delhi is experience it at least once.

You and Me – Four Seasons


In memory of that love which was there and yet not.

I lost all the four seasons in an autumn I don’t even want to remember and now it is winter and my heart is filled with the agony of untold stories. I no longer understand their alchemy or follow their plots,  the strange portals that lead to them remain closed or obscured behind a dense fog that has settled inside my head. I have known these characters from the days of their inception and now they refuse to obey. The words sound  trite and concocted. Devoid of joy the projects choke for the lack of air. Outlines fill the pile of drafts.

I am beginning to understand my limitations, my insanities. Beginning to feel my cracks. my fragments and the dislocations in myself. My vials of love have dried in the environment filled with ache and isolation. I have lost the elixir of life from which were born my stories, my poems . The cup is empty, the papers blank. Their voices mute. The strings inside me have broken, a pearl has slipped away into the dusts of time. Soon others will scatter too unable to hold on to the flimsy thread. It doesn’t matter When.

They say I look anaemic, that I have lost blood. A ghost of my former self. A writer’s blood is the ink and her tongue the pen with which she fills the blank papers. I let myself loose on paper and spilled the stories of love, pain, joy, terror, apprehensions and all that was me. I  squeezed myself in each droplet of ink till there was nothing left. I have nothing more to give, nothing more to tell.

Till then read those words that await in their shadows for you. They may seem just lifeless markings on a plain white sheet to you but look closely and you may see my heart and soul stapled to them. You may feel a pulse, a breath, a drop of crimson and salt in some of them. They may cling to you, ride on your mind, make you think, look within. They may crackle under your feet like autumn leaves that died and fell from the trees and like parts of me. Don’t forget to remember the colours they brought. It was a grand finale to something very beautiful. Gather those scurrying leaves rustling with the breeze. Listen and they will tell you the stories. Each colour, each crack, each pattern a cascade of nostalgia. Words, mysterious and magical even in death.

Nothing burns like cold. Find the winter in those words. The melancholy of lonesome nights. The deepening silences. The snow flurries. The long hours of waiting. Words ice locked gripped with bitter cold. You will see them trembling inside some story, invisible under a curtain of thick fog.  Numb. The air burning with their Fragrance. Our fragrance and the fragile familiarity of it.

Watch them cling to the sadness of things like droplets of dew. On a sunny day you may even see a prism of our dreams and hopes in the morning dew as the sun fills their lives. Jewelled words, a verse, a tale on wires, grass, flowers and leaves. Evanescent  as love.

Of endless summers and flirting springs I shall not talk, for you will find them as you rummage through that autumn  long forgotten this winter. I lost all the four seasons to it, the words turned strangers just the way you did and the story-teller disappeared in her own story.

Video courtesy You Tube. All rights to the owner.

Monday Memories – 14 – You and I – Absence


rambling thoughts

rolling

like a pebbles

directionless

homeless

gathering dust

gathering memories

now stuck between

a rock

and hard place

it is raining incessantly

It had to pour

Something has shifted

since the time silence

fell upon us like a sword

so cold, so sharp one could cut oneself on it

A silence

that has rendered

me invisible

and

in this chaos of sadness

memories have turned green

under the

the empty aching blue

of your absence

and my heart

from this great distance

watches helplessly

nostalgia was supposed to be about

moments shared

memories created

laughter, kisses

endless conversations

songs hummed together

in different continents

pictures, poems, stories

waking up in each others arms

being silly

arguments. lovers quarrels

even silences

and

make up sex ( in whatever way it was possible)

Never Ever in my wildest moment

I believed

It would be

YOU

personified

I existed at two places

here

and

where you are

with miles and miles

of ocean between us

I drew you into my world –

 real  and imagined

painted pictures in words

but didn’t know where to draw a line

there are times even now

when I can’t decide

which one of us is missing

I don’t know which pain is

more excruciating,

the shock of what happened

or the ache of what never will be

I know it is over

as simply as it began (and I am trying to convince myself even now that THIS is a mirage not THAT )

THAT which is real

in my heart

throbbing

pulsating

a wound

which is

as much yours

as

mine

(Ah! the joy of pain we so willingly endure)

there are many words

you left unsaid

many questions

 you never asked

(maybe they were things you were afraid to know)

and many went unanswered

in your hesitation

I found all my answers (so I believed)

each of us

for all our lives

live

so bitterly

misunderstood

I listened to the friction within you

of wanting and not wanting

missing and yet not connecting

I heard it all

but my heart

it deliberately chose

selective hearing

and imagined a glimmer of hope

in the slithers of sun

that warmed like  love

and tickled me in glimpses

 between the veiled Autumnal shadows

that loomed large

closing in from all sides

nothing haunts us like the things

we never say

(sometimes also those which we so carelessly say)

I would not have left you

on that September afternoon

had I known it would be our last

 the regret pains my heart

now among other things

I dream of lost vocabularies

that may express what we no longer can

but even tough the words have turned stranger

it is alright

for I know

what we are

and what

we could not be

there wasn’t a  closure

No goodbyes

and I hope (there is still a hope)

that one day

when you  make an inventory of lost things

you will find me and remember

what I meant to you

till then

I will do what I do best

move in the rhythm

with your ebb and flow

All of  You and Me   

I collect your whispers and arranged them in tight sentences (lest they flee) try to make sense of it. In your absence sadness of things speaks for you. Your abject indifference has seeped in and taken shape of everything around me. Words have long since turned strangers. The cell phone has turned into a paper weight. No, if you think I am saying all this because I miss you you are wrong. One doesn’t miss oneself but gutters too have limits when the sky pours it’s rain .

Monday Memories 13 – The Kodak SIX – 20 Brownie (Model -E)


My mother had just completed her intermediate when my grandfather gifted her the Kodak SIX- 20 Brownie Camera Model – E.

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She remembers it costed forty rupees at that time and it was a huge amount to spend for her father on such a luxury but my granddad always appreciated hard work and never stopped anyone from pursuing their interests. My mom was the eldest of  six children and even though the earning were not so high she was gifted this beauty which has come to us as a legacy.

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This box camera was manufactured till 1957  and then it topped being made.  So it is one of the collectibles. It came with meniscus f/11, 100mm with portrait lens, a single blade shutter, two brilliant view finders, 2 pin flash contacts, tripod sockets and cable release socket, metal winding knob and release button and shutter safety catch.  Mom says she used 120 and 620 films which gave 12 images.  It was manufactured by Kodak England  in the early 1950s and had two built-in filters. One is a yellow filter and the other one is close-up filter and they both pull in/out using a lever on the side.  It was a relatively  low-priced, point-and-shoot, hand-held camera that even children could operate.

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The camera traveled everywhere with my mother and she captured some of the most memorable moments with it.  She fondly remembers a picture she took of a caravan of camels crossing the chambal river in the ravines as the sun slowly made its descend behind the hills.  Most of the family pictures in Banaras where she lived were clicked by this little wonder. The whole family life of her friends, siblings, parents and relatives captured in images that are now neatly placed in bundles marked by year, date and time.  Later the smiles & tears and the memorable “first” moments of her children ( me and my elder brother) were also captured by this camera. Slicing of a moment and freezing it forever in all its vulnerability. I think it was her sketchbook of intuition and spontaneity.

I was very small when the camera developed some light problem and even the films became unavailable.  When mom used to open the black trunk in which she kept her valuables I as a little girl would sit with her exploring the treasures, the heirlooms, the albums surrounded by the scent of old cotton sarees of my grandmother mixed with a mild fragrance of cloves tied in small bundles to keep the bugs away. Those times were full of stories and myths that each photograph told. For hours we would sit with old yellowing pictures and this box camera in my lap remembering days from a distant time, distant era. Events that could not be reproduced but for those B&W images. The process sometimes became self revelatory.  one begins to find a part of oneself in each person who is photographed. A bit  like alchemy. As a little girl I would click imaginary photographs with it, people, places, and spin stories around them. Most of the pictures were hand drawn sketches but were appreciated as perfect photographs. Such are the joys of childhood when you aren’t judged for anything.

The camera still has its original brown leather with a metal clasp though it is opening up from the seams now.

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Some days back I found a large bundle of old letters and photographs and along with them this camera which lay forgotten among the past relics. I did  some research on the Brownie cameras by Kodak and came up with this interesting article The history of the twentieth century cameras   . It is amazing how the technology has advanced. The model -E is rare and not many sites feature it.

Today as mom and I sat looking through the pictures again I wondered how this little device gave us memories some unforgettable events in our lives.  Nostalgia gripped her as we talked about the advancement in photography.  Not many young women had the luxury of owning a camera of their own when mom got it. The printing and film cost were not very high but pursuing a hobby still added to the expense.

Its been a long journey full of kodak moments. The camera is not in use now and has become part of the memories it created.  A collectible that is part of  history as well as our personal lives.

Here are some photographs taken from the camera. Most of the photos are of mom’s family and many of them are tucked away in cartons.

These were with me so uploading. One picture is taken in 1953 at Kanyakumari in which mom and her two sisters are at the sea-shore.

The first close up with a baby is mom and my brother, the second is me and mom . The lake scene she can’t remember but it could be Nainital.

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Now we have moved to much advanced  DSLRs, digital cameras and mobile phone cameras but these bittersweet moments are all we have of times gone by. The time before digital photography. The heyday of Kodak with the famous slogan ” you push the button we do the rest.”

Kodak pioneered in home photography and now after a hundred and thirty years of making memories the company has stopped making cameras.

I am looking for some experts In New Delhi, India who can correct the fault with the camera and provide the 620 film roll if possible. I want to bring this memorable device to life. Suggestions are welcome.