Phoenix


For several years, we’ve had a lemon tree in our balcony. I don’t quite remember when it was planted. My guess is that it’s been with us for over fifteen years.

One of the oldest plants in our balcony, it had spread its branches wide. It occupied a lot of space, but not our attention. Not for the right reasons anyway. And like a child seeking affection, it tried to make its presence evident. Every time we went near it to hang the clothes out to dry, it would scratch our hands with its thorns.

Apart from the scratches, the only time the lemon came into our conversations was when our neighbour’s lemon would bear fruit. In its entire lifetime, ours never bore fruits.

My dad brought some fertilizers on the recommendation of our green-thumbed neighbour. Those chemicals were apparently for making the tree bear fruit. But that didn’t work. And so we gave up.

Perhaps it would never flower. It wasn’t supposed to be in a flowerpot anyway. It belonged to the earth. And so we began contemplating getting rid of the tree.

But we couldn’t bring ourselves to uproot it.

We heard our own voices, and it sounded like disappointed parents thinking about throwing their child away. Thankfully, my father refused to throw it.

As if expressing joy at my father’s faith, the following year, the tree surprised us with two small flowers. But that was it. The flowers fell off without turning into fruits.

Last year, a towel got caught up in the thorns of the lemon. Nothing unusual, except this time, the cloth caused our lemon flowerpot to fall and break. We quickly transferred the plant to another flowerpot. But the damage had been done. A few days later, the leaves dried up. Two weeks later, the tree was gone.

For many months, the leafless frame of the tree stood in the flowerpot, showing no sign of coming back. My father refused to clear it out. It would return, he said.

But my mother and I had no such expectations. We’d pretty much begun ignoring the remains of the tree.

Until a few weeks back.

Springing to life
Springing to life

The brown branches were beginning to wear a green coat, with tiny leaves peeping out from underneath the wooden blanket—after a long long winter’s slumber, the lemon was springing to life.

Whether or not it flowers again, it doesn’t matter. We’re just happy to have our lemon back.


The image featured in this post is my entry for this week’s Photo Challenge : Rule of Thirds. Check out more imagery at the Daily Post.

PS: I recently completed four years on WordPress :-D

The magic of Margazhi


Stone floor of Chidambaram Temple
Stone floor of Chidambaram Temple

While I was in Chennai last year, I received a message from a friend of mine:

‘So are you coming tomorrow?’
‘I’m in Chennai right now’, I replied.
‘Ooh Margazhi. Have fun!’

I didn’t understand what she meant by that. I had visited Chennai during the winter months a few times in the past, but apart from the pleasant weather, I couldn’t think of any other reason to enjoy. I soon found out.

The Tamil month of Margazhi* is considered highly auspicious. For those who are religiously inclined, Margazhi is a month of lots of pujas — temples open much earlier and devotees visit in large numbers for the special pujas. But that was not what my friend, an ardent follower of performing arts, meant.

Margazhi is a cultural extravaganza, a haven for fans of the classical arts, with hundreds of Kutcheries — music and dance concerts — organised throughout the month. Margazhi is, in fact, now synonymous with the music festival.

Chennai takes its music seriously, and audiences don’t clap unless the performance is very good. I found that out on our last day in Chennai, when we spent close to six hours in one auditorium, listening to back-to-back musical performances (for free)!

Even those not interested in the arts — and there are probably few of those in Chennai — cannot escape the Margazhi season, for the art overflows on the streets. Take a walk in the interior parts of residential areas. The Kolams that are drawn at door-steps of every house are much bigger and colourful. The kolams at the temples, though, were my favourite. These are from the Chidambaram temple:

And if you are not interested in art, well then there’s always the sea. The cool sea breeze, on the cool sand is the perfect place to relax.

Yes, Margazhi is the time to visit Tamil Nadu.

*Margazhi begins in mid-December and ends in mid-January. The Corresponding Sanskrit month is Dhanur. After the end of this month, the harvest festival of Pongal (which falls on Makar Sankranti) is celebrated. The festival marks beginning of Uttarayan – the beginning of the sun’s ascent, signifying the beginning of the end of winter.


The images in this post are my entries for this week’s Photo Challenge. To see more symmetrical images, check out the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Vote’s up!


This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Scale. Today, the Capital of India went to polls. My vote—a small drop in the big ocean of voters—is my interpretation of the challenge.


On my way back home after work, a colleague asked me whom I was going to vote for. I thought for a little while, and replied “I don’t know.” And to be honest, I wasn’t sure even at the time I actually pressed the button.

Voted

In the run up to the Delhi Elections, several thoughts—all disconnected, but deeply disturbing—have been going around in my head. Facts and perceptions created by different media, rampant hypocrisy and boot-licking…

One party has ruled for decades and divided the country ruthlessly, making hideous amount of money at the expense of taxpayer’s money. And the other party which has replaced it, drips with arrogance and testosterone (not to mention more criminals).

Indian politics is brutal, and severely patriarchal. Those who work for the welfare of the people often end up being penalised. A Chief Minister who transformed Delhi and was re-elected twice, became a sacrificial lamb as her own party let her down miserably. The mismanagement of the head of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games was entirely forgotten, as a certain bureaucrat singled out the CM for a smear campaign. In case I haven’t said it before, the Commonwealth Games in 2010 were a huge success—those who focus on scams probably never saw the Opening Ceremony, nor attended any sporting event of the Games. And Delhi is just about as unsafe, as any other part of the country. It’s just that other places don’t get so much media attention. After a 49-day stint, the muffler man hopefully realised that making tall claims and staging protests against corruption is one thing, running a Government is quite another.

Two thousand kilometres away, a similar story unfolded. Within a few months of emerging as the third largest party in the general elections, the party head was handed out an exemplary punishment, effectively ending her political career. Scams and scandals of Members of Parliament of the previous Government, of course, have been completely forgotten.

While the Congress is still living in a son-inherits-father’s-throne mentality, the royal son-in-law’s shady businesses are blindly ignored (anyone else noticing a pattern here?). The BJP, on the other hand, is trying to paint a false reality by glossing over women empowerment to please the American President. Their Chief Ministerial candidate admittedly commands a superstar presence. At least she used to. But by exploiting her popularity for political mileage, her image has probably taken a dip, and I only wonder if she is going to become another sacrificial lamb.

In such a scenario, is there anyone worth voting for? The enthusiasm with which Delhi voted 14 months ago faded by the time the General Elections came. A glimmer of hope vanished within months. And today, it seems, Delhi is back to its old ways, with voters becoming indifferent.

With these thoughts in my head, I went out to vote. Neither this blog post, nor my opinion is probably going to make much of a difference to anyone. And my vote is definitely not going to change Indian politics… But a tiny part of me (0.000001% to be precise) has a little bit of hope. A hope that the collective power of votes may shift attitudes. Whether or not that happens, we will soon find out.

Update: It turns out, I was quite wrong about voter indifference. The people of Delhi came out in large numbers to vote. More than 8.9 million people voted—the largest number of Delhiites to have ever voted for any election in Delhi. And the verdict was an unprecedented sweep by a party wielding a broom!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely personal. I am not affiliated to any political party, nor is this post intended to spread any form of hatred directed towards any one person/party.

Further reading:
Meet India’s newly elected
Sheila Dixit’s letter to PM
Women’s political representation lagging in India

Which colour do you see?


There are some who look at the world in black and white.
Others see the world in shades of grey.

Some see bright colours.
And some, muted hues and pastel.

There are few who can see everything.
There are fewer still, who can see the complete picture.

And then there are those rare beings who can comprehend the meaning of it all.

Jigsaw Puzzle
Trying to make sense of it all

The drawing featured here is an old abstract drawing I pulled out of the cupboard recently.

Depth


The Deluge
‘The Deluge’ – pencil sketch drawn many years ago

A few months ago, as I was cleaning my cupboard, I came across two drawing books. They were from my school time, and I had long forgotten about them. As I flipped through them, I wondered why I no longer drew abstract drawings. Perhaps it is a lack of creativity. Or a lack of inspiration. Or perhaps it is the fear of being judged. I doubt I ever showed these drawings to anyone. For this week’s photo challenge, though, I dug them out again. Here is one of them.

Dig deep into other pictures over at the Daily Post

Expressions of Faith


We were on our way to the Vaitheeswaran Temple, when we decided to take a short detour. The magnificent gopuram* of the ancient temple was visible from afar, and it was on an impulse, that we decided to visit the Chidambaram temple.

Kolam at the entrance
A part of the large kolam at the entrance of Chidambaram Temple

Opposite the entrance stood an intricately carved wooden structure, being prepared, perhaps, for the grand pooja which was to take place only two days after our visit. A long row of shops – selling flowers, pooja items, idols of Gods, colourful kolam powders and filter coffee – lined either side of the path leading up the entrance. We deposited our slippers with one of the shoe-caretakers (for lack of a better word), and stepped inside.

Beautiful kolams greeted us, followed by the grand gopuram which we had seen from afar. There were more gopurams inside the premises. Hundreds of devotees had come, mostly in crowded buses, from different parts of the country. We followed the crowd.

After a long walk from the entrance, we entered the main shrine. Devotees who were closer to the sanctum sanctorum, bent over the railings; those who were behind, stood on their toes; children sat on shoulders of their fathers, all of them waiting to get a glimpse of Nataraja, the lord of dance. As the curtain was pulled apart, temple bells and folded palms filled the shrine.

This ancient temple, spread over 40 acres, is one of the largest temples in the world (fourth largest, to be precise)**. Intricate sculptures of deities atop the gopurams, stone panels depicting dance postures, halls with high ceilings, all supported by massive pillars embellished with floral detailing. With several shrines and tanks, the temple priest told us, it would take one full day to properly visit the temple complex. An hour, was hardly going to be sufficient to soak in the magnificence and grandeur of the temple.

Every year Bharatanatyam dancers converge in this temple during the annual festival to worship, their offerings in the form of dance. I can only wonder what that atmosphere would be like. Hopefully I will visit the temple once again. And on that day, I will spend more than just an hour.

Chidambaram Temple
Devotees heading towards a shrine, Chidambaram Temple

More Expressions here: Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge : Express Yourself

* Gopuram is a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of any temple, especially in Southern India. This forms a prominent feature of Koils, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style. They are topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial. (Source: Wikipedia)

** The three largest temples are, in order, Angkor Wat, Cambodia; The Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu: Akshardham, Delhi, India (Source)

Further Information on the Chidambaram temple: Chidambaram Temple on Wikipedia

Death by chocolate!


A sweet entry
Large Candy at the exit of Chennai Airport

Being late December, it was no surprise to see Christmas Trees decorating the airports of Delhi and Chennai. But I should have known the large candy sticks at the exit of Chennai Airport were more than just festive decorations – they were a sign of things to come!

We ate out almost everyday. And for every meal there was dessert! Adirsam, Mysore pak, Jangiri, Badusha, Kesari and many types of Payasams accompanied the traditional meals.  We tried out the local soan papdi sold by a street vendor in Mylapore. And ice cream at the beach was a must.

One particular day, we had a double doze of chocolate. One of the desserts was a sizzling brownie, topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, at Haven Sampoorna. The other was ‘Death by chocolate’ at Tangerine.

It was hard to resist the temptation to dig into these beauties. And after eating, I couldn’t help but wish for more! There never really can be enough of chocolate, can there? ;)

Serenity


Every time we go to Chennai, we make it a point to visit the beach as many times as possible. Our last trip was no different.

We visited the beach mostly in the morning, when it was empty. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore, the softness of the moist sand between the toes and the pleasant sea breeze worked together to create magic.

The water was cold and I was quite content walking beside the waves. The sea, though, seemed to have other plans!

Footsteps in sand
Footsteps in sand

For more serene imagery, check out The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

Do not disturb!


It’s a cold winter morning. The blanket is cozy and you hate to come out of the warmth. You take a look at the clock and think to yourself, ‘just five more minutes.’

This street dog reminded me of my own reluctance to get out of bed in the morning!

Can someone turn off the lights please? I'm trying to get some sleep here
Can someone turn off the lights please? I’m trying to get some sleep here