Thursday, January 22, 2015

778

 Today I parked my car in the usual spot. I sat inside waiting for the song on the radio to finish. I really like that song. Somewhere ahead, the shadow of a tree lay on the brick-laid road like a pool of comfort. A crow hopped into that shade. I think it decided to fly but then it decided not to. So just as it had taken flight, it soared a feet above the ground, then fluttered somewhat and landed again. That moment, when it soared - with its wings pointed down, en pointe, it looked as if it were doing ballet. It's body is a little taut with the shade of the tree creating a diffused halo around it. That moment when it soared, it wasn't a bird with black feathers. It was a quiet bird of paradise that simply showed the feathers it liked best.

Beauty echoes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

779 - Completing three years in Pune

Today I complete three years in Pune. It was a good decision, to move out of Bombay. I wanted an experience that was new, fresh, and expansive. Three years in Pune has not been easy. In fact, it has been far tougher than in anyother place I've stayed. Well, the other cities have been Bombay and Delhi. But then I stayed in three different places in Bombay. So in a sense I've been around.

I was in Pune when I had decided to marry. Last year, I was in Pune when I got divorced. So much has happened but in some sense, things have come a full circle. I have learnt a lot here. Having my own house, having the experience of walking to work, of having a hill close by to walk to, learning yoga, slicing a kiwi for the first time, sitting in the balcony with a steaming cup of tea with nothing but sunshine, birds, and treetops for company...yes, it has been good.

Three years in Pune. If the experience had a shape, it would be lots of colourful dots arranged in a circle with the loop not completely closed.


780

Last night, I had driven to Koregaon Park with a friend. It was a spur of the moment plan. It's nice to have a car that works, a tank that's full(ish), roads that are reasonably empty, and a place like Koregaon Park with street corners and lanes that seem to be in a different time-zone altogether. There, it seemed like Christmas was still trailing in. It felt like a couple of weeks before Christmas when the world is just winding down and getting ready to put on something sparkly and head out. We had an Egyptian dukka fondue at Moshe's and then some malai ice-cream and strawberries at Naturals. That combination of snow-white and plush red is so gorgeous! Looked better than it tasted but I'm not complaining.

It was a sweet night.


Monday, January 19, 2015

784,783,782,781 - Fiction: There comes a time (an adaptation of the Draupadi story)

Ember turned the snow globe. Soft snow bits swirled around the tiny Berlin wall. She ran her fingers across the inscription on the glass: ‘The things that are most important must not be at the mercy of things that are least important.’ - Goethe.

What was most important was that book in her head, “5 ways to a rainbow.” What was least important was her list of to-dos that she’d scribbled into her Moleskin. Every undone item from the day before would percolate and spill on to the next day’s list. The usual suspects were mainly two:
(1)    Write one chapter
(2)    Contact Ma

She would underline point no. 1 and put stars around it every single day. All this living in lurches and bouts – she believed – was to ultimately help her write that book. She even had the premise ready and all that. It would be the coming-of-age story of a little girl who grows up in a small village. During her life, she sees how a library and a pawn shop changed her village and the destiny of its inhabitants. The library would…oh wait, there’s no point in writing about this because Ember hasn’t written about it yet. Her ideas ‘5 Ways to a rainbow’ stayed in a corner of her being- ships with folded sails by the shore.

The second item, ‘Contacting Ma’ was a little tricky. It had been 8 years since her mother had last visited her. Ember had opened the door and stood trembling with her fists clenched. In a voice choked with pain and fear, Ember had said, “Either Papa or me, Ma.” Her mother had kissed her and left. Ember hadn’t responded to her mother’s texts or calls after that. A few months later, the communication had stopped. Sometimes, she would sit in front of her plot notes, getting ready to type out her story. And the memory and hurt of her mother leaving would roll over her heart and gut, blocking out any kind of words that may want to come out.

At times, it would pain her so much, to sit like deadweight in front of a story, not being able to even look at the page fully because she’d see it unformed and helpless. Every day, a hundred demands on her time would undrape the one thing she valued so truly. So much.

She’d get up and make coffee. Or glut on sliced cheese. Or peck at the trivialities that Twitter and Facebook fed her. With each detour, time would slip. The sky would turn pink and orange, the sun would set and it would be time to call it a day.

Then there would be days when she would start writing. But a phrase here or a plot formation there would remind her of things: past storms, friends on a swing set, painted nails that got chipped when she’d helped her father fix the door. Door. Father. “Either Papa or me, Ma.” And the writing would stop.

Then, of course, there was the insomnia. That scratchy, restless piece of itchiness that spreads through the blood, thickening, tiring muscles, knotting up fatigue and anxiety and in general, being a nuisance every night. There she’d be on the bed, breathing and feeling her throat. Her father, as a joke one evening, had tied a string around her neck and asked her to get down on all fours. “See, I told you”, he’d shown her mother. “She is my pet.” Ember was six at the time.

Ember found it unfair that she should find it so hard to come out with her damn story. It seemed as if, somewhere, at some point in time, her being had gambled with the Gods and what was at stake and lost was her ability to write. It wasn’t all downhill though. Sometimes, Ember thought that help came in the form of ordinariness. Of days that kept streaming in, cloaking her life with 24 soft-hours in which she could do anything. If she just let it all unravel – the pain, the shame – things would get better. Day would follow night and night would follow day and within the points of that certainty, some days would bring magic. In simple, ordinary ways, she could simply let that ordinariness cloak her. On days that Ember did not kill herself, she would write.

One morning, she did. She asked the demons to wait. She asked the gods to stay out. Ember dusted off the half-chewed, mostly forgotten story and very haltingly, wrote one word. And then another word. And then one more after that and so on. Hours later, a quiet moon shone through the window. Ember got up to warm some soup on the stove. Tomorrow another day would come. Hopefully, she’d remember that things that are most important should not be at the mercy of things that are least important.


She turned the snow globe again. The bits of snow swirled around Berlin. Hadn’t that city brought down the wall?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

785

I stepped out of the house at 7:15 a.m. - nearly forty-five minutes later than I usually go for a walk. It was freezing. The cold sucker-punched me. I yawned and there was a little cloud of fog floating out of my mouth. It always seems like magic. Maybe one day I'll take a different turn to the main road and I'll find a snow-capped mountain in Pune. Who knows? Cold days crackle with magic somedays.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

786 - Moshe's at Koregaon Park

A great dinner at Moshe's last night.

My friend and I drove down there after work which in itself felt like a novelty. The drive was of course lovely because it was Koregaon Park and it was also Tuesday and there was a sweet breeze shimmying through the skies. At Moshe's, we tried a cheese platter which is quite lovely. There are slivers of some four or five slices of cheese, nice warm bread, crisp wheat-crackers, olives, and a stalk of asparagus that we nibbled off later. The cheeses were really good. I don't like cheese so much but the varieties that were offered were really good. Mostly mellow and smooth, although one of them had a slightly sharp taste. There was a side of fried potato skins which were also crisp and nicely seasoned.

The dessert platter came with some very tiny, dainty looking things which seemed to have been made in a doll-house, considering the portions. All of them were non-chocolate options – some kind of a pistachio financier (yes – that’s a type of dessert apparently – wish I’d known that when I studied Economics – would have taken the sting off many things), slim rolls of baklava, a white chocolate ganache, and this – THIS – was a surprise – two thin blocks of kulfi with a dried rose petal syrup. The kulfi and the syrup were spectacular! The kulfi was the thickest, creamiest kulfi ever – with no bubbles on the surface, so smooth – and strongly spiced with cardamom.

All that washed down with a robust, hot coffee.

Will definitely visit again.

Monday, January 12, 2015

789, 788, 787

And just like that, January 2015 has slipped into two digits. Yesterday I sat sipping tea on my bed, looking at the floating constellations of motes dancing on a sunbeam. It feels like the year has hit it's stride. From now, one day will roll into another. Smooth, easy, unremarkable, nice. But let's see.

A year or so ago, I was filled with so much anxiety about what's coming next, what's the meaning of it all, when will all this end. I don't know why I put myself through all that. It felt as if some cosmic memo had come to everybody on earth and I missed it because I had gone to the loo. Anyway, to mitigate all of that drama, I was reading a lot of self-help books. Many, many of them. Poring over pages expecting text to leap out and tell me that it was all going to be okay. The books, themselves, weren't too bad. Your Soul's Plan by Robert Shwatz was particularly moving. You Can Heal you Life by Louise Hay is one of my favorite books. If you do get this, begin with the last chapter - the part where she writes about her life. There is so much kindness there. I hope that someday when I look back at these days, I'll remember them just as kindly.

I also read copiously on chakra meditation and stuff. Maybe it was the panic with which I was reading that robbed me of the pleasure that reading normally brings. But things change. Slowly, days would begin without me getting angry or anxious over whether my help will show up on time or not. (They didn't and I let them go.) Or be very upset because someone at work wasn't following my directions. (They hadn't understood me clearly.) Slowly, days got a teensy bit easier. That's when I picked up a novel - all drenched in characters and plots and moods and narratives and voices and dialogues. A novel. All that self-help literature where I had to take responsibility for my thoughts and feelings and whatever had parched me a little. And then the novel plumped me right back.

I love fiction. It sustains me. Whatever I need somes from in there. Always has. I don't know why I forget that fiction, for me, has always been enough. This year, I'm going to glut on my storybooks. 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

790 - The Kindle story of love, loss, longing, life

There was a glitch with my Tab. There was some kind of a short circuit and the people at the service centre said that it had to be reformatted. I didn't have back-up because I am the sort that never does. All my books were gone. All. my. books. I had bought some from Kindle and downloaded some from the Internet and some my friends had passed on. And I lost everything. I wasn't so worried about the pictures. I don't like taking too many pictures in any case. But books. Books on my Kindle App. I'd bought Anais Nin and had downloaded Oleander Girl and ripped through Gone Girl on my Kindle. No.

Then I got my tab back and there was no data. So I had to get data. My debit card is not working so I had to withdraw money. There was only one cheque in the cheque book and so I had to go to the bank to apply for one. I don't do Net banking. Anyway, I finally got my prepaid Vodafone to work. Whose 3G services, I must say, are spectacularly unpredictable here. But it worked. I downloaded the Kindle app. In the time that I have not been online, apparently Samsung has its own Kindle App that gives you a free book every month. I checked. I got my books back. They were there. The world feels soft and smooth now. Bliss. Gorgeous bliss.

When I thought I'd lost all my books on the Kindle, I thought that even though so much was gone, I got the clean slate that I had wished for towards the end of last year. It just came true with regard to something else. But then I wanted them back. Even though I was thinking that it was finally a chance for me to get a proper curated collection. Still, somewhere every time, I touched my tab, I prayed. For the books to come back. And today, I turned on the Kindle and there they were.

I know it is not a magical thing to have happened. I know that it is probably routine. But when I found my books on the Kindle again, it felt like everything I had loved and waited for so much - all of it just crossed the road and came back to me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

799, 798, 797, 796, 795, 794, 793, 792, 791

In the time that I have been away, a year has changed. Work schedule has not. Tough decisions were taken and now, a certain quietness and gentleness emulsifies a few odd hours in the day.

But 2015 will be a beautiful year, I think. Something about this year suggests that it has come with a mission - to make us happy and to get us to be courageous enough to be that happy.

Happy and sweet and brave new year, everyone.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

801, 800

What all has been happening:

After disabling comments,  found out about at least one anonymous commenter. Strangely she was in my circle of friends on Facebook.  That was a new low, I think, when you use personal information you are privy to, to comment on someone's blog. But apparently it's okay because one has to be 'kind' to one's readers even if they have been doing  this sort of thing. This girl wasn't even in my radar. I guess we used to travel to work together and I think we had discussed books one time. Nothing suggested that she would do this. Somewhere I still don't think that she's the kind who will comment on how I should dress modestly or have more sex or less sex or make disparaging remarks on my family. And then be surprised when her feedback was not being taken on board. Which basically means that I should agree to whatever was said. But maybe I am in denial. Didn't think I could be friends with such weak and petty people.  But I suppose I was. Now if I can only figure out how to block people, my Facebook circle will be pruned. Also maybe time to weed out the Hindutva and Islamic fanatics. It's really annoying to hear all those denouncements against secularism.  How can there ever be a way forward without it?

Pune is cold and lovely.  I threw a Christmas dinner the other day and a friend helped me with it. We had mulled wine, slurpaceous warm, spiced apple cider, tortilla chips with avocado and pomegranate dip, a dip made with hung curd and garlic, an assortment òf sausages, pasta and butter garlic and mushrooms, cookies and gulkand icecream for dessert. Awesome that evening was. On the day, when people behave so badly that you wonder who you are associated with,  its good to have a dinner with people who may not be really close to you but you yare decent. Many strong things can be built on the basis of decency.

Lately, I have been visiting the Someshwar temple with different sets of friends each time and depending on who I am with, I see a different facet of the temple.

With one pal, I spotted inscriptions on a really old wall. With another,  I saw big ripe fruits of some kind hanging from a pretty enchanting tree at the entrance. The third friend and I discovered a new route to someplace from there which took us by the creek that was all green and glassy. Visiting a place with different people is like re-reading a book at different points in time. It means so many different things then.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

802

Merry Christmas.

Wish all of you peace. Wish all of you a map to navigate your wounds. Wish all of you all those quiet pillow moments when your heart finally convinces you to let yourself off the hook. Wish you poetry, the kind that is the result of pain's alchemy. Wish you the sturdy love of pets. Wish you freedom from whatever holds you down. Wish you freedom from whoever lets you down. Wish you a great, flamboyant birthing from the old; one that will salute your recurring resurrection on account of simply having a life.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

803

Usually I have a cup of black coffee before I sleep. It's instant coffee and I would take a few spoons in a large mug and add hot water to it. A couple of nights ago, a friend made coffee differently. He first boiled the water and added coffee powder to it. One wouldn't think it would make a difference but it does. For some reason,  it was really tasty. Tonight I will enjoy a cup made that way.

Water to coffee, coffee to water...simple joys.

Monday, December 22, 2014

804

Today,  at work, I gave away a few books- Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Outsider by Albert Camus, Dr.Sleep by Stephen King, No one writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez,  and Picnic and Such Like Pandemonium by Gerald Durrell.

Feels very good to pass on books. Right up there with receiving them.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

808, 807, 806, 805- Yes, you

 For the longest time,  I had thought that people who comment anonymously are people who are simply choosing to conceal their identity.  It's not like they are weak. But some time ago, there was someone or some people who posted something nasty and then said, "I know you will post something on anonymous commenters or someone like me so I won't come back." It's a little difficult to not consider that person chicken. And just so I understand, if you have commented anonymously and yet you are afraid of a backlash, what exactly did you accomplish?

When I was in college,  we had a symposium where Shabana Azmi, Kiran Bedi, and Flavia Agnes were the guest speakers. At the end of the lectures on rights to free speech and all that, the house was open for questions. The college had arranged for us to write our questions, without signing our names if we so wished, and have these conveyed to the judges. Then Shabana Azmi took the mike and said, "If you want to seriously get answers about rights and freedom, have the guts to stand up and ask the question. " Of course, not everyone who witheld was weak. They were just shy. I did not think earlier that the gutless commented anonymously. I have, after all, received some very generous anonymous comments also. But good or bad, somewhere I think there is a fear of being caught out. What are you so afraid of? Especially the snide, nasty commenters...what really are you so afraid of? You couldn't hide your resentment or your lack of courtesy or your viciousness. You only hid your name and thought that it masked your identity. And then scurried off pitifully.   That's why I have closed comments on the blog.  I am aware that the fake email ids will get made and all that to write and respond to this post.  But that's okay. I will do my bit to make it difficult for the cowards to speak up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

812,811,810,809

I am back from Geneva and it has been the sweetest, loveliest trip. Work was good and so was rambling through the city at my own pace, taking in the lights and the fog, stopping somewhere for an expresso, browsing through Christmas markets and just running my fingers down some crystalware. On my last night, I tried the hot wine - wine spiced and hot. I also tried a really nice Swiss wine which was sweet and was the perfect thing to sip while reading Marquez's 'No one writes to the Colonel'. Interestingly, there's a line in the book, "He loved December. One felt that one was made of glass." (Or something like that.)

Marquez wrote it and I agree. Fully. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

813


Tonight, I spent time in a boulevard by the Rhone. Browsed through a Christmas market where I saw dainty Christmas ornaments in white ceramic by local artisans. There were drinks in a floating restaurant where I sampled some hot cherry cider. Wisps of Christmas light and stars reflected off the water. Had fondue in a little inn where the fondue fork had hand-carved wooden cupids (made sense since we love cheese). And a creme brulee while listening to some ruddy-cheeked kids play the harp and sing about the battle against France. They say that if you don't have wine or if you don't eat meat, Europe is a difficult place to visit. Don't know about Europe but Geneva certainly isn't. In fact, it's better. When you're not focused on what's on your plate or in your glass, you notice what a moveable feast this city is. In a different period and in a different place, had a Hemingway moment.