Monday Memories 23 – Six Years Of Blogging And A Few Other Things


First of all Eid Mubarak to all my readers and thank you for the tremendous love and support you always give me.

Can’t believe I have blogged for almost eight years now.  A pretty anniversary message greeted me as I logged in today. Simple little things that make life what it is.

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1624 followers, 532,335 blog hits and Five years with Indiblogger. Incidently last year too the blog anniversary fell on a Monday.  🙂

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(Pic copyright The Book Club)

Today is a special day for many reasons.  The Book Club blog tour of my poetry book has begun and they posted their first review by Privytrifles . I will be sharing a post on the entire tour later.

This year’s highlight has been my book and you can read all about it Here .  Another good thing was the reading of Italian translations of my poems by Rachel Slade at the Cena Poetica di Samuele Editore  and another poem translated and displayed as part of the VerdArti festival in Italy.  New poems have been submitted to some cool online and print magazines and I am waiting.  Meanwhile there is a lot of reading and writing to be done. Both poetry and Fiction. I have not been too well and getting back my health is a priority right now. Reasons for less of blogging these days. Better days will come 🙂

This year also saw a change in my elder son’s life. He began working as a reporter with Hindustan Times (HT City) Aditya Dogra  .  A complete change from the Animation work he was doing. I am glad that he is following his passion and enjoying the new venture. Same with the younger one too who starts his winter training at the ITC Maurya, Delhi very soon. Nothing makes a mother proud than to see her children living their lives as independent adults. The boys are my strength and best friends. I wish them all the very best in life. We may not be living together but we are never too far away from each other.

It’s been four years now since I left my husband’s home in search of myself as a woman and as an individual. It has been an uphill ride but worth every obstacle, every heartbreak. These were just the tests, the build ups, so that I can go through to the next level of independence and self – control. I have realized that most of the times we are our own support system and the key is to never lose Focus. I still have a long way to go to accomplish what I wish, to have my place, to travel to the places I always longed to visit, to learn and write more, to completely shed all that is not me.  I believe the universe provides for us what we ask for. That our thoughts create our future. I am working on shedding the negative and visualizing all the good and abundance now in the present. I feel more centered. I have ‘reoriented’ myself and this has led to a more calmer me than before though I still panic at certain things. I also stopped mulling the old wine. I am not writing stuff full of angst and sorrow. At least I am making a conscious effort not to do it. I think it was acting as a block in my inner progress. Silencing the voices in my head was much-needed to feel the sense of well-being that is required to think right. I have begun to appreciate ‘little things’ that feed and nourish my soul and it has made a lot of difference in my life at many levels. I  have achieved a lot in last few years and I feel proud of it. There will come a time for me to talk about it more openly but for now one must just follow the heart and move on in the chosen direction. Keeping all the options open. Because I could not change the situation I was challenged to change myself.  It was a life saving technique  and it worked.

The universe has it all and I shall get my share. Thank you friends for standing by me in all the good times and bad.

I leave you with the serenity prayer that helped me chart my path,

“Dear universe, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

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.

Monday Memories 18 – You And Me – Absentia


The moment I opened the door of my home a sudden heartache hit me like a jab of an invisible knife. For a few seconds everything blurred. I held on to the door knob staring into the empty quietness that had occupied everything animate and inanimate. It was a home I cherished, my private sanctuary, a place of my own where I lived on my own but never felt lonely.  A place decorated with the imagined invisible tales of our love that warmed me and gave me company at all times but today it all seemed unfamiliar and surreal as if I did not belong there. Everything  gazed at me with mournful eyes. His brief visit had violently altered my side of the world. He had left but his absence still lingered, making itself more poignant with its presence.  I crossed the threshold stepped inside dropped the bag and the purse on the floor and began to assess the magnitude of the void which becomes more apparent as it gets filled and this one was rapidly filling up with missingness that was  flowing out from every pore of my body. Each step  more difficult than the last. The heaviness began to occupy me turning my limbs to stone. It hurt to be hurting.

The ephimiraliity and uncertainty that has hovered around me while he was here had transformed itself into sorrow and a gnawing sense of disbelief. A  tumultuous place a few days ago the house seemed like an echoing tomb today.  I felt that if I stayed there one more minute the hollowness will gather and  bury me alive in this plastered grave. It’s strange how I felt the lack of him more than his presence which has morphed into my tortured existence and everything around it.

I moved like a lost soul from room to room unsettling the quite trying in vain to fill the space he has left. Up till now I had too little time but now there was nothing but time and I felt myself being engulfed by it.

I had lost all my sides to him and in this altered reality I stood completely stripped off. Exposed. The cold creeping up my spine, filling me from foot to head even though it was a bright warm day. Numb is a feeling too, I always said and in this numbness I wasn’t aware if my heart still beat. Everything had come to a standstill inside me as if I had entered a zero sensation space. I wanted to cry but tears had dried and turned to heaps of salt. Something had malfunctioned inside me shutting down all my senses and bringing it all to an irrevocable breakdown.

A whirlpool was swirling deep within me.  Unable to contain the surge of emotions I rushed out picking my purse and closing the door in one swift action. Without looking back I ran down the stairs forgetting about the elevator and briskly walked down the street shutting myself to all the sights and sounds. I could not understand what was building up inside  – sorrow or rage  or just a feeling of loss.

I wanted to unscrew and pull out the  corkscrew of absence that had gone in so neatly. I needed to push the rising deluge deep into some unknown depth and to do that I bought myself  the biggest tub of the Haagen-Dazs’ ice cream and parked myself  on a high stool in a corner away from the huge glass windows overlooking the street. I did not want distractions and dug into it shoving it in my mouth and almost swallowing it  with no attention to taste or chill that was sending waves of cold fire down my throat. After finishing three-fourths of it  I closed the lid tucked the tub in a paper bag and walked out . The market was flooded with weekend shoppers but I just kept walking through it all hugging on to the tub hoping it  would heal the sickening ache that had taken residence inside her gut.. I didn’t hear the honking from behind till a hand pulled me to the side. The car driver hurled some angry words  at me and all I could catch was “die”. Yes sir that would be really nice. I found the lump in my throat melting and rising up. I mumbled a feeble thank you , lowered my head and shouldered my way  through the crowd of local vendors, rickshaws, sleeping dogs, blinded myself into a few shoppers, got two portions of spicy, oily hot comfort food packed, picked two king-sized candy bars, a big bag of potato chips and walked back home. The ice cream box had become warm from the mid day sun but I felt  unable to trash it.

I emptied the food on a tray , threw the candy bars on bed, stepped out of my clothes and curled up in a corner, knees to chin.  and stared at the steaming hot oil dripping food and spicy pickle. A wave of nausea hit me and pushing the tray aside I pressed my naked body on the hard cold marbled floor and wept fiercely. crumbling and disintegrating as if I was invaded and shamelessly plundered through and through. I felt ashamed of stuffing my face with a thousand calories in order to stuff my emotions and not just that I had also bought a cart load of it home. Tears flowed freely again as guilt and regret hit me like a knife. I wanted to feel the pain not tranquillize it with gallons of  food. I wondered what was hurting me more, letting go or holding on to something unreal. One side of my body had gone numb. I had never felt so exposed. Slowly I picked myself up from the floor, pulled a Tee over my  tired body dragged myself to the bathroom and stood under the shower with eyes closed. Letting the water  wash away everything not needed by my body, mind and soul. I did not bother to remove the tee which clung to me like a second skin. There were no tears, no thoughts, nothing, just a calm one feels inside the womb. Water is a healer so is the salt. It is not just for any reason our tears are salty.

I removed the Tee and gently rubbed a handful of  Epsom salt  all over my body feeling it release the old pain and melt away all the hurt with every stroke of my hand.  I let myself soak into the universal healing and then patted myself dry, got into fresh clothes. Once in the room I shoved the food in the fridge making a mental note to give it to the house help in the morning. along with the candy bars. The bag of chips went into the cabinet. I unpacked, uncovered the Buddha and pressed it against my heart before placing it on a shelf  where I could see it from anywhere in the house.

The sun was concentrated in a shaft of light in one corner of the drawing-room. I pulled the wicker chair in the pool of light and cuddled into it. I loved him and either I could stay trapped in what wasn’t or move freely into what is. The choice was mine to make.  I had decided to move on with him in my heart. It is never ‘over’ and I did not want it to be either. We were just living in two different worlds but I knew in my heart of hearts that he felt the same.  I smoothened the little silk cloth on my lap.  “Never too far away from you“, I ran my finger tip over it feeling the words pulsate with life.

The phone began to play a familiar ringtone. The heart skipped three beats then fluttered.

Monday Memories 17 – You and Me – Variations of love


Sometimes things simply are a matter of “is” ,” is not” and ” won’t be”.

It seems odd that a casual unexpected meeting with someone could bring about such a change in one’s life but that’s life , isn’t it? Since the day we connected on that nameless day  my each step has been to bring myself closer to you.  Some bonds are karmic . People are brought together on the checkerboard of life for a purpose, to accomplish something, to help each other evolve. It is as intense a relationship as any other but never culminates into anything.  A house that isn’t abandoned and yet is uninhabited. Only visited.

Karmic love is different from romantic love , friendship or passionate longing. These things may be a part of  that karmic bond but they are not the essence, they are just part of a bigger scheme of things. It is a bond of a lifetime and is understood only when the expectations are dropped.

I will tell you a little story here.

There was a woman devoted to the love of music and she practiced it all her life for a performance she would never give. It is the same with love sometimes. You can only keep on loving. There is nothing else to it. There never be a spotlight on you nor you will ever come in public view. Some loves stay on the backstage but that does not mean they wither , they blossom unnoticed. Sometimes the breeze may carry their fragrance to the beloved at others it may linger and spread far and wide slowly fading until only a hint remains.  Just like the smell of sweet pines in the mountains.

Hurt and ache springs from expectations. From a want to mold a person in the image you create of him. The moment  you fall in love  you believe that the universe has planned this for you for ever , that everything is a cue in that direction, you choose the characters, rearrange the scenery , guide the plot and do all in your power to make possible what is utterly impossible. Love itself has no power to conquer anything , it wants us to do it on its behalf and we do it all wrong. Smothering it in our wish to dam that whose intrinsic nature is to flow.

Some things are never meant to be and daydreams are fine till they do not take bearing on the reality.  At times when you find love unexpectedly and in great abundance you  become selfish and possessive but slowly over the period then comes a time when one is at a crossroad and there is light. Either you smother the self and the person you love with hopes, demands and expectations or set free each other and enjoy what is.

Over the time I realized that all this talk of unrequited love is nothing but expectations gone wrong. When the relationships weighs heavy on heart it is a cue to reflect upon it. It is a difficult process as it involves looking within in a totally unbiased way. Relationships should be a source of joy, not heartache.

Loving you is my feeling not yours and no one can take it away. You may or may not love in same way or not love at all. One can not force other person to accept your love, no matter how deep and meaningful it is to you. So either we form a karmic bond and do good, happy things or suffer the illusions.

If your love is deep and meaningful to you , you don’t push the other person, you let it flow and mean well and accept things as they are. Most of the time when we push we lose the other person, we lose a friend too and all that is sweetness turns bitter.

Karmic bonds are life long two people who respect and appreciate each other and yet do not smother each other. The degree of intensity of this can vary between the two people involved. The reasons too. It is better not to question because the answers usually lead to more questions and an endless process of speculation begins. Love is , as Rumi said, meeting beyond the ideas of our right-doings and wrong-doings. It is like a seed, you plant it in others with acts of affection, kindness and respect, you water it with your hopes, and it will either flourish so that you can eat the fruit that grows from the plant that grew from the seed or it will lie dormant, never to flourish. True love is the love of equals but there are occasions where love is unconditionally given because one keeps the ego below the relationship.

Sometimes it is what it is.  There is no future or hope for any togetherness of a level one may dream of in a love relationship but one still gives.  It is meant to be that way and if one finds solace and joy in it then there is nothing more precious to live for in one life. Reciprocation, however longed for, is not the goal. Love then takes a spiritual form. A devotion. It is also a way to express gratitude for being part of the journey. Of evolution.  Sometimes two people are bound by events in their lives and all they can do it give in their own way. Sometimes in shot measures sometimes completely.

Not many people agree but to accept the things one can not change and give what is needed and receive whatever is there is also a form of love. If it doesn’t hurt either that is. For if it does then it is not love and maybe never was.

It is funny that we expect honesty and trust in a relationship but are ready to let the other person compromise it to love us back. It is true of the relationships where there is a third person involved but the moment you respect and love yourself and your love for the person it feels good. It feels good  not to feel the pangs of jealousy, of loneliness and want , or absence, guilt and whatever it was bringing. You accept your place in their lives and theirs in your life. There is nothing more than that to look forward to. Or is there? I think there is.  Someday you will know it too.

There was a time I would cringe at the thought of being outside the periphery of your world and lament non stop of the heartache it caused but it has all dissolved. For my love for you does not need crutches to stand. It isn’t dependent on anything.  I said once, “I wear your love like a scarlet letter on my being” but not anymore. I wear it as a warmth that was lacking all through my life and know it will see me through all the winters of my life.

Time is an illusion where your past and future lives run simultaneously in the present and in this present I am happy and content with the variations of love you have brought. Together in distance each in its own way for mutual growth and personal evolution. If the universe has brought us together there ought to be a purpose and it will fulfill itself at the right time. Till then You and Me will keep flowing like a river finding and charting its path in the landscape of our lives.

I leave you with Neruda’s Sonnet XVII from 100 Love Sonnets

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep

♥ ***************************♥

Monday Memories 16 – Five Years Of Blogging With WordPress



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Five glorious years of blogging with WP and Four as Indiblogger – 1,378 followers, 484,310 hits, 892 posts and 5,293 comments.

A Big Thank You To All Of You 

 This has been a great learning experience for me. A platform that provided me space not just to showcase my writing but also to heal from the turmoil I was going through.  What began as a release, a catharsis later turned into passion. Today I feel that my rooting years are over and the real word journey has begun. Through my blog I met people who enriched me with their friendship and love, some of my poems  and short stories got published online and in print, I was interviewed and featured on some of the known blogging sites and networks.  Indiblogger connected me to hundreds of other bloggers, a thread unseen but very strongly connecting all the extended family members of this wonderful blogging network. Thanks Inditeam.

I also thank BlogAdda for interviewing me and choosing many of my posts as their weekly picks.

I thank not just my readers but also those who recognized the spark in me and never let me slip back. My friends, mentors and my boys without whom my journey would have been devoid of some of the most amazing experiences. Growing up with them made me who I am.

Here are some of my most loved posts

Interview with Kris Saknussemm  If you are a budding writer then you MUST read this. Kris is my mentor and friend and although this is an old interview it is very good advice. I owe it all to him for helping me in those difficult teething years of writing.

I will one day introduce you to another fabulous mentor I have, Facebook has been a blessing for me. A post on that is overdue. Coming soon 🙂

Return  A very short fiction . Although dark and not much to the liking of many I absolutely enjoyed writing this. Do read.

Le petite Mort –  A 55r which is my all time favorite.

Temples of Khajuraho  –  A completely different take on the Temples of Khajuraho.  My best post in travel section so far.

There are a lot of issues close to my heart and I have very strongly written about them but these are the post I wish to share today. The inline link in it will take you to all the other posts.  On Being a Woman   and On being a mother

This is the first of the Monday Memories post and one of the two parenting posts i love  Bottomless Pits, Edible Weapons and more 

the other is Relationship Dysfunction  . AN old post which is based on a real experience Have it flaunt it  , I suck at humor but enjoyed writing it.

There are many more which I can link here but  won’t it be nice to explore and read on your own 😉 ? I will look forward to your comments, suggestions  and critique.  Please feel free to honestly express your views as each one will help me improve my writing.

Let me leave you with two short poems from a new collection not yet on blog

what once was entwined 
is now entangled 
masks shed
knots
cracks
bared 
love is many a splendorous thing

**

words
tangled up in knots
someone else has tied
part broken
part whole
– a poem
restless with hopes and fears

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.

Monday Memories 11 – The Chess Players


I love the game of Chess. There is a certain beauty to it. The flow in the movement of pieces, the emotional and intellectual attachment with each move , each piece on the chess board. The riveting and aesthetically stimulating strategies and a well planned positioning and combinations.  It is an art  just like painting and music.

My dad’s family had expert chess players. In fact the Kayastha families were known for educating their women and for their passion for art and literature and for having some of the best chess players. Mainly Urdu literature as Hindi or Hindustani was considered as just a spoken language.  My grandfather was known as a good chess player in the Mohalla ( an area in town or village) in Allahabad. My father was the only child but all is cousins played the game. Many of my aunts were players in their own right though women usually played the game indoors among themselves or with men in the family depending on their relationship with them.

I never went to my paternal grandparents’ home but dad used to tell stories about chess competitions in the Mohallas and how it was a matter of honor to represent certain families. The chess players were revered and hero worshiped by the beginners who were learning the art of chess playing.

In my grandfather’s home there used to be a paved veranda before the main door to the Baithak ( A room where guests were received. Mainly men occupied this area and it was also called mardana ( for men) Women stayed away from this area.) This veranda was usually cemented and on those cemented slabs there used to be two board games permanently painted. One was a chess board and the other was Chopad ( an ancient game of dice).  The stage would be set for the game and slowly a crowd would build up around the chess players.  The rule was to remain silent. If a seasoned player was at the board it would be more fun to watch. The game would go on for hours sometime and it wasn’t just the players who would be involved in planning the strategies of the game, everyone’s mind would be equally involved but no one would help the players. It was a matter of pride and honor.

I learned chess from my dad at the age of six. I remember how fascinating I found the game. In the beginning he would patiently sit with me and explain about all the chess pieces and their role in the game. The best part were the stories that went with the learning sessions. A good teacher is one who can keep the interest of the student going. My dad was exception that way.

I remember many evenings when I would finish my home work and rush to him with the tin box rattling with pawns,  knights, rooks, elephants, bishops, kings and queens ready for a battle. Sometimes he would oblige at others I used to be satisfied with a self game which was more of a self story telling session than a proper game actually. There was anther kind of fun in playing with my other self. Makes me laugh now as I think of how I used to play that double role. Dad would sit on a chair nearby reading some book and keenly observing my antics. Sometimes he would join and help one of “me” to win. 🙂

It took me some years to master the game to an extent that I could defeat him. It was one of the most memorable day of my life as a girl. To beat my dad in the game of chess was like winning an international title. I could see how proud he was of his little girl and it doubled the joy.  Monsoon was the perfect setting for a good relaxed game of chess. The rain , the cool soft breeze, the hot pakodas with spicy chutney, sometimes a glass of hot chocolate or coffee at later stages and a gleaming chess board between dad and me. Some memories are just too precious. Mom would obviously not like it and complain about loss of study time etc but then mom’s complain and that’s a fact. I do it too. :p

When I grew older dad was hardly at home so he made me member of  Botvinik Chess Academy at Russian Cultural Center. It was a whole new experience for me and I realized how different it was to play under professional coaches. Dad and I used to play two variations of the game – Indian and International but this was something very different. I learned the finer aspects of the game there but missed the warmth that two chess players shared. For me the game of chess was not just about winning or losing it was much more than that. It was a bond that the players formed over the chess board.

Once dad stopped playing I yearned to find friends who played chess but there were none at the places I stayed.

It was later that I found friends with whom one could have a stimulating game of chess. One of the friends was extremely good and close to me too. We had many chess sessions at home when my boys were small. They would hover around and play their own games while we would immerse ourselves in a complex game over rum and vodkas 😀  there is a certain joy in getting checkmated for love 😉

We carried this love of chess on all our trips to the mountains and each evening there would be a chess session much to the annoyance of others who considered it anti social and waste of time.

Two of the most treasured memories of  games of chess are from those trips. One in Dharamshala, where under the moonlight in a German Cafe I and a friend of mine played the game till the clouds darkened and the beautiful full moon tugging the corner of night disappeared behind the mountains. Much can happen over a game of chess especially when you are in such exotic romantic surroundings but I won’t go into that.. leaving it for the reader’s imagination 😉 psst… I have written a post about it somewhere. You can look for it under memoirs :p

I don’t know which one of us won that day but at the end it really did not matter. The memory of it is unforgettable. One of those rare moments in my life when I really knew what happiness meant.

Another incident is from Kinnaur. There were six of us including Kid 2 in that gorgeous Kinnar camp at the banks of Baspa river. After a sumptuous meal around the campfire we decided to open up the chess board to the disappointment of some but we were riding high on something or the other and determined to play at least one game if not more. It was around midnight and under a swaying yellow light which made our shadows dance on the tent walls two of the male friends began to play. The rest just rooted for them and there was so much laughter, teasing and a serious game in the midst of all the din.  The game went on and on till we lost the track of time. A few of the lot fell asleep where ever they could but the players still concentrated on the few pieces that were left on the game board. It was fascinating how silence quietly crept in and no one bothered about the leftover rum in the glasses, the cigarettes that slowly burned out and turned to ash. Suddenly the players were locked into a complex game with a few minor pieces on the board. I could hear the low rumble of the mountain river near by and the heavy breathing of   those who had passed out for the night. By now even my eyes were becoming heavy with sleep and it was an effort to pay proper attention to the game but the two guys were wide awake and totally engrossed in the game oblivious to everything around them. That is the beauty of  chess, it takes you to another level. I call it Nirvana.

I don’t know who won that match and when did it finish but I can bet it went on till the wee hours of the morning for when I walked into their tent in the morning the chess pieces were all collected in a heap on the chess board with a black pawn guarding over them and a white king trapped in a corner.  That told the rest of the story of the game. 🙂

I miss those days of togetherness and playing with good chess players. Playing chess on computer is no fun although I did it for many months against virtual players through an app on FB.

The chessmen wait, dust motes dance in the shaft of light that falls on the chess board each afternoon, I watch  and remember the good old days thinking how much life has changed since then.

Gary Kasparov was one of the greatest chess players ever. Here is my favorite quote by him  from his book How Life Imitates Chess –

 “There is no one that can share your responsibility. It it is your responsibility you must carry it on and you must be responsible for your actions. At the end of the day we all are being challenged, sooner or later, by our destiny. And it’s up to us to make all the difference in this life. If not you, who else?”

Monday Memories 10 – Storytellers


We are all storytellers. Sometimes we know it sometimes we don’t. Each story we tell becomes a catalyst for another, it becomes a vital tool of healing, of reconnecting with each other and with past. Telling stories completes us , it makes us whole. Sometimes holding a story within can be an agonizing experience, a story sometimes seeks release so a person can live. It is cathartic as well as therapeutic to share stories. Memories form a large chunk of story telling. Growing up listening to  “memory stories ” as I called them helped me connect to my parents’ legacy , the life and times they lived in. It brought alive people, events, places, smells and aromas transporting me to  another time another place. It was a very liberating experience. These “memory story” sessions are one of my cherished memories. My father was mostly out-of-town and I had  working mother so there weren’t many opportunities of spending quality family time.  Many times something would trigger a conversation about some old memory and dad or mom would narrate something that happened when they were kids or in college. My parents especially my father was very interactive and we would sit and talk for hours. Even the most mundane events would turn into an interesting story and we would laugh and ponder and chortled over the incidents that took place years ago. Ma seldom got time for long conversations when I was a girl but later we spent a lot of time walking down the memory lane.

As a girl, mom and I would go to my maternal grandmother’s home in Pune and every evening and after dinner  all the uncles and aunts and cousins would gather and talk about their time in Banaras (Rajghat Theosophical Society where mom and her siblings were born) and the conversations would turn to their childhood games, music, friends and neighbors and the bonding that everyone shared in those times. Everyone had time for each other. We children would either gather around , keep out heads on comfortable laps or just laze around on mattresses neatly arranged on the floor, and listen to the tales from their lives.

Sometimes we would get bored and have our own sessions of  memory sharing.  One kid (mostly the cry baby) would become the target of leg pulling and all those funny embarrassing moments from his/ her life would start pouring out in the midst of laughter and tears. For days we would tease the poor cousin. I was the lamb of sacrifice many times and was teased to death by older cousins.

I miss those times terribly. We were happy when we were young and then sadly we grew up.

I had those story telling sessions with my boys too. They had so much to share and I would listen to them and interact with them and maybe that is the reason we shed all inhibitions of being “mother sons” and became friends. These storytelling bonding times brought us closer. They instilled the trust and a feeling of security between us. A feeling of being there for each other.

I didn’t have my grandparents living close by and had none from dad’s side but my boys were lucky to have both sets of grandparents living nearby. Two completely different sets of people with vast cultural and social differences. They even belonged to different communities, different states and were a treasure-house of “memory stories ” . I think my boys had the best education at home. They learned what to shed and what to incorporate in their lives through the memories of their parents’ and grandparents’ life stories.

I believe sharing memories , good or bad , enriches our lives. These stories tell us of  human lives, hopes, dreams, joys and sorrows  across a vast spectrum of life. These memories help us to cope with loss, with our insecurities , with our past so we can live better today. They help us heal and know those we love better. They help us shape our own stories. These voices from the past help us understand so much about where we come from.

I always hunger for these “memory stories ” from people’s lives. Have some friends who have introduced me to people from their lives in such a way through their memories of them that I feel as if I have known them personally for years. They are the greatest storytellers. That is he impact of a good story-teller. To bring out a life incident in a story from that people can listen to or read and feel part of it is an art. My life is enriches by such people.

I love street stories too and the waiting room stories.  I have met interesting people on the streets –  street vendors, daily commuters, homeless people, locals waiting for public transport, workers on construction sites, rickshaw-pullers and cab drivers, people  in waiting rooms of doctor’s clinics, hospitals, railway stations, hotel lobbies, restaurants, beauty parlors, malls and many such places who have recounted events from their lives, their memories of places they have been to or their experiences and trust me this people are the best story tellers. You will be surprised that the elderly are treasure chest of stories and very eager story tellers. They have so much to share and no one to share with.   These people are the ‘human manuscripts’ that combine all the genre you can think of.

If you are a good story listener then you will never be alone, never be lonely and even if you hesitate someday you will be telling stories too. It goes hand in hand.

You just need to be receptive and a story will find its way to you or pull you to it.

I will tell you some Memory Stories in the next few posts and you can tell me your memory stories too.

Monday Memories 9 – A Childhood Reading List


We lived in a house full of books. The range was vast and some of the books were  rare editions which had gone out of print. Reading and story telling were part of our daily life as little children. I inherited a treasure of children’s literature from my elder brother and many new books were bought by my parents to encourage reading habits. I have faint memories of  my mother reading out stories from beautiful colorful picture books and then slowly graduating  to the magnificent tales from all kind of children’s books from across the world. Most of the books were shared and rotated among family friends who had children of readable age.

I think I began reading in Hindi first. People’s Publishing House in Connaught Place sold awesome soviet children’s literature in English as well as in Hindi. A whole generation grew up on these books. During the soviet era the two countries had strong ties and many of books were translated and printed to Hindi and English from Russian. After disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, book exchange went down dramatically. In ’91- ’92 I was able to still buy some editions of children’s literature for my son who was just an infant then. It was a bargain that paid off because soon the books went out of print.

I had thin paperbacks called ‘shyama kali par ujle par wali’ , “masha aur bhalu’ , ‘Tolstoy ki kahaniyan’ , ‘Roosi Lok Kathaye’ and many more which I would read again and again. The books had lovely illustration too mostly by Ivan Bilibin. Similarly the books in English were ‘Babushka and the three kings’, ‘The Frog Princess’, Masha and the Bear’, ‘The Lion and the Dog’, ‘ The Firebird- Russian Fairy Tales’  which I had in Hardcover with a gorgeous phoenix on its cover ( One of my favorite books that remained with me will I was in college), the thrilling tales of Baba Yaga were  the most read I guess. I even bought many of these books for my elder son and they are still with my children. A heritage passed on from one generation to another. I had collection of Russian Folk Tales (many were Slavic folktales) and easy to read abridged versions of stories by Tolstoy and Chekov. One of he books I loved to read as a kid was ‘Wash ’em clean’ a 1923 poem about a small boy who does not want to wash by Chukovsky. It had some characters lie the crocodile from Chukovsky’s other books.  It was hilarious and had such wonderful illustrations. Both my boys loved the book too. Alexander Pushkin was another of my favorite author and his book ‘The Tale of the Tsar Saltan, of his Son, the glorious and mighty prince Guidon Saltanovich, and of the fair Swan-princess’ had beautiful illustrations by Ivan Bilibin.

It is unfortunate that most of these books are either out of print or not available easily unless of course you wish to read them on your computer.

Apart from the favorites from PPH there were other treasures like ‘Little women’ ,  The Famous Five’ and ‘The secret seven’ series and the ‘Enid Blyton Mystery series,  series of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys all handed down by a family friend (which were originally my brother’s given to him for reading). By then I also began reading more soviet classic literature.

Books by A. A. Milne, Roald Dahl, and James Herriot (All things bright and beautiful and All creatures great and small’), Lawrence Darrell  were read and read again.

Apart from these I had children’s magazines called ‘Lilliput’ which were part of my mom’s childhood book collection. Unfortunately many of the rare books  were given away to scrap dealers by my maternal uncle’s family without us even knowing about it. They included many classics and author signed copies too.

There were some exceptional books by British Author Arthur Mee, ‘The Children’s Encyclopedia’ and my favorite ‘ One Thousand Beautiful Things- chosen from The Life and Literature of the World’ . The book had wonderful poetry, prose and illustrations.  I remember distinctly a Peter Pan pop up book which was  a smashing hit with all of us.

I have forgotten the names of many more books now. They come to me like picture postcards from the past sometimes. I gave away many of the books to a library and some were passed on to my boys. I can name hundreds of others which I read and loved as a young girl.

I had a large collection of books and children’s magazines in Hindi too. Mostly paperbacks. When Kid1 began to read I got him books from SAHMAT  . Adi loved the simple narrative and his favorite was Bansuriwala by Safdar Hashmi.

I highly recommend these books for younger children. Regional literature for children is a good choice for reading. It connects the young minds to their culture and surroundings.  Buy such books and magazines for kids.

I have only two books now remaining from my childhood collection – Now we are six and In Poem Town- 1 ( The 7 remaining volumes  of this book were just given away as scraps by my uncle’s family 😦  )

In Poem Town is from my maternal grandfather's collection, handed down from mom to me.

In Poem Town is from my maternal grandfather’s collection, handed down from mom to me.

My boys are grown up now but I hope they will keep those lovely companions of their childhood days.

Do share what you read as a child and what books your children read.

Storytelling is a dying art. Please read stories to your children. Inculcate early reading habits.

Children’s books are portable magic , open the minds of your young ones  to this magical extravaganza.

Select them with care for “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” C.J. Lewis