Circular Dependency


On a hot and sultry Sunday, I step out to go to the market. It seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the local roads. Perhaps it has. In the daily hustle and rush to the workplace, subtle things go unnoticed.

Of course the roads are nothing subtle really. One misstep, and the pothole can trip you. It would probably by fair to call it an obstacle course. I wonder if professional athletes train on the by-lanes of Delhi.

But today is different.

Between me and the market, stands a bright, black strip of tar.

I never thought the sight of roads would be so delightful. Like a weary traveller in a desert, I rush towards, what is possibly, a mirage.

I take a step, and my shoes grip the road. The tar has not yet dried out. I can hardly believe that after so many years, we have smooth road. I walk along, sceptical of it all. A while later, I let down my guard, and begin enjoying every moment of the sticky grip the road had to offer.

But thankfully, it doesn’t take long for me to return to reality.

Towards the side of the road, there is a patch of road which has not received the fresh coat of tar. It looks absolutely dry, and almost perfectly circular. It is almost as if it was deliberately left out, just to prove that the road is, indeed, new.

This circular patch presents itself every few metres, like milestones—only much more frequently.

Strangely, I feel reassured. A new road was too good to be true anyway.

* * *

Can only go up from here
Benches in various stages of construction on Tiger Hill. Considering this is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the place was in shambles when we visited. On a positive note, it can only go up from here!

I’ve pretty much wasted my free time today listening to old Shania Twain songs. I have a bunch of ideas I’ve been wanting to write about. But today, all I want to do is listen to songs by Shania Twain.

Going through the drafts of my blog, I unearthed this post — written 3 years ago, but never published. Quite like the pot holes of our streets, my blog swallowed this one whole! Oh, well, it’s on lazy, slightly confusing days, like today, that a draft comes in handy.

So who are you listening to today?


Photo taken with Moto G3. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream.


This is post #10 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

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Stop


I read a blog post today that, at first, irritated me. I typed out a comment, pointing out that the article had a sectarian and elitist outlook. Then I stopped myself.

I stopped because I felt it would be useless. I have come to believe that certain thoughts are ingrained in our sub conscious, and any change in opinion can only be brought from within — a realisation, you may say — and not from preaching.

The author had written about not understanding a different culture, and still criticised it as being backward.

I wanted to write that making such assumptions without even understanding why things are the way they are, was not fair, but I stopped myself.

I stopped because I saw myself making assumptions about the author’s motives. I did not know what the author saw that made them make the observations that they did.

I stopped because I was doing that very same thing that I had set out to make ‘right’.

And that is what I learnt today.

That silence isn’t necessarily a bad reaction to negative thoughts. And, perhaps, that’s what we need in today’s hyper-reactive world of 140 characters (or 280), that jumps to conclusions based on partial information, and can’t wait to throw in a comment.

Sometimes, we just need to stop.


This is post #6 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Welcome view


Welcome to the view
The setting sun, behind the Aravalli hills, viewed from the entrance to the viewing area at Sajjangarh /  Monsoon Palace

I wanted to write about the stereotypical portrayal of Rajasthan – a traditionally attired instrumentalist, strumming his Ravanhatta and playing Raag Maand and perhaps the most popular, and misinterpreted Rajasthani folk song “Kesariya Balam”. But I’ll shut up this one time, and sit with the Rajput royals and look out for the monsoon clouds atop Sajjangarh in Udaipur.


In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Layered – explore the interplay of texture and depth.

Unacceptable


Sometimes, there are things we may like to do that are completely unacceptable to social norms. And so we avoid it.

For many, that is the way of life – to live someone’s version of life. Sometimes, that someone is a voice within us, fooling us into believing we’re in control.

What happens when you take the plunge and explore the other side of what is unacceptable?

Running away
From opportunities
From challenges
From suffering

Breaking down
Of the heart
Of barriers
Of walls

Streaming tears
Of sorrow
Of melting joy
Of realisation

What if, on closer inspection, what used to appear unacceptable, may in fact, be more acceptable?

Payasam for the independent Indian


On 15th of August 1947, the British left India. Atleast that’s what we like to believe.

Consider the following:

At a geopolitical level, we stand fragmented, perhaps permanently disabled, fighting against our neighbours, with whom we share a common heritage.

At an institutional level, we inherited a corrupt bureaucracy that mostly enjoys fat salaries for warming the bench; a political structure that upholds the time honoured divide and rule policy; large organisations that spew communal hatred to further their own interests; and a system of reservation for ‘backward’ castes which is supposed to end discrimination, merit be damned.

Even at an individual level, given that we want to teach kids only English (along with other European languages); dream of an MBA from a foreign university; drool shamelessly at NRIs during family get-togethers for matchmaking; and are obsessed with ‘fair skin’, I wonder, are we really independent?


Meanwhile, yesterday, I made some payasam on occasion of a birthday—of a very interesting person. He is quite dark skinned and born to a community regarded as ‘Other Backward Classes’. He has a luxurious palace, but give him beaten rice and he’ll be absolutely thrilled. He used to steal butter as a kid, but I believe he has outgrown that, what with today’s salted low fat, low sodium stuff on sale.

He didn’t have any fancy MBA, but that didn’t stop him from leading a small group of warriors to victory over a mighty army.

His name is Krishna. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Oh you have! Quite the ladies’ man, no? Please do take a generous helping of this aval payasam—a delicacy made from beaten rice, milk and jaggery.

Aval Payasam
Happy birthday, Krishna!

Music on the move


Of all my childhood memories, our Saturday routine has perhaps left the biggest imprint. Every Saturday, we went to the Vinayak Temple and the adjoining market at Sarojini Nagar.

Appa drove his old Premier Padmini – we used to call it the Fiat – on the near empty roads. The FM radio in the car was always set to All India Radio 102.6 MHz – that was the only station back then. It was our only source of contemporary music, and it was all we needed. We would sing along in loud voices to distorted lyrics that our ears chose to hear.

Years later, the Fiat was scraped. Our Saturday visits continued – with a new in-car radio for company. We retained the Fiat’s radio system.

Apart from the controls on her face, there was little to cover the body of that radio, save a raw metal exterior and lots of wires hanging loose. Anna rigged her up with a set of small speakers and connected it to a plug.

Some years later, we relocated. For a while we continued to visit Sarojini Nagar. But that trip was long and tiring and we began visiting a different temple nearer to our new house. The old car radio, though, was still going strong at home. She became my faithful companion while I prepared for my final school exams, and subconsciously memorized lyrics of John Denver’s songs… I hear her voice in the morning hour as she called me.

I went to college and got my first feature phone – one with an FM radio. Over the next several years, more sophisticated phones followed. And today, my smartphone has replaced the need for a radio altogether.

I don’t know what happened to that car radio system. Maybe it was given away, maybe scraped, but certainly it is in a very different shape right now as compared to what she was back then – just like everything else from my childhood:

Many shops we visited in Sarojini Nagar have shut down or changed their line of business. The market is no longer our weekly grocery and vegetable market. The roads leading to it are choked, and the mad rush ensures we keep our distance.

All India Radio is not the only radio station in town. It is surviving, but their best RJs have moved on to private stations and even internet radios – including the one I’m listening to right now. 

As the internet channel plays a classic, all my memories gather round her… 

And John Denver echoes the sentiment

Radio reminds me of my home far away


In response to this week’s Photo Challenge. To see what the world is feeling nostalgic about, visit the Daily Post.

She looked something like this

Rain Dance


One of the jokes we’ve been cracking about Gurgaon for many years, is that just pouring a glass of water on the road is enough to cause a traffic snarl. So when the clouds above rained down, it came as no surprise that the city of Gurgaon virtually came to a standstill. With vehicles stuck in jams for well over 12 hours, walking seemed to be the only way to go anywhere.

Walk…

Or rather, with half-covered drains overflowing well on to the main road, we had to…

Jump over puddles
Climb over fences
Swing around car mirrors
Limbo under branches
Crawl sideways on narrow high ground
And when someone came splashing water
Quickly turn around!

…no, in the middle of the main road, we were not walking, we weren’t wading, and we weren’t weaving… we were dancing!

Drops of water streaming down narrow channels of a Spider Lily

To see what the blogosphere is picturising, narrow your focus on to the Weekly Photo Challenge

If winter is here…


Delhi’s winters used to be chilly*, with icy weather in the peak season of mid December to mid January. But over the past few years, the winter season has become shorter and shorter – no thanks to global warming. This year was a huge disappointment. The New Year was exceptionally warm with many people giving woollens a pass.

The harvest festivals (Lohri/Makar Sankranti/Pongal etc), which usually fall on the 13th-15th of January every year, mark the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. Even as we prepared to celebrate, the lack of a proper winter was a bit sad.

Perhaps the thick air carried our dejection, and precisely one day prior to the ‘official’ beginning of spring, winter finally showed up in full swing. The cold wave has been here for well over two weeks now, and seems in no mood to leave in a hurry!

Meanwhile, the bougainvillea plant in our balcony seems to follow a different calendar altogether. Even as the other plants geared up to brace the winter chill, this plant began flowering for the first time in our home last autumn. Throughout the season, there hasn’t been a single day without a shade of pink amid the grey haze and fog.


On a lazy Sunday morning, I peep out from under the rajaai**. The curtains are only half drawn – there’s no need for them. The fog and frosted glass guarantee privacy. And the sun hasn’t been showing up for work for a few days. I coerce myself to get up, if only to wish my friend. I walk up to the balcony door. It’s all white and grey. A few plants are struggling to keep warm. Most of their leaves have dried and fallen. But one thorny plant stands there defiantly. I step out gingerly and wish her a good morning.

She wishes me in her own way. It’s cold for both of us and she doesn’t mind me going back inside. As I turn around, she smiles knowingly.

If winter is here, can spring be far behind?

bougainvillea
Hope ‘springs’ eternal – even at 5 degrees C!

* No, we don’t have snowfall or blizzards but day time temperatures of 7 degrees C are quite ‘normal’

** a thick blanket, usually stuffed with cotton

For more optimistic pictures, gather around the cozy fireplace of The Daily Post.

Homecoming


The shrines at every street turning.
The fifty square feet kolams.
It looks beautiful.

The yelai sappaadu and the million varieties of everything.
The nongu and manga inji.
It tastes exotic.

The aroma of freshly ground coffee.
The incense and malligai.
It smells heavenly.

The taalams of the kutcheri audience.
The rustling of the Palm trees.
It sounds familiar.

The waves rushing towards me.
The sea breeze and the sand.
It feels like home.


coconut-eyes

“Do you like Delhi or Chennai?” My cousin’s grandfather asked me in a soft childlike voice.

“Both!” I replied.

“No, no, no. I won’t accept that. You have to choose!”

“That’s like asking a child to pick a parent!” I protested.

“Of course! And you must pick one” he replied with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Well, I prefer Delhi. But Chennai comes a very very close second.”

He smiled. It was impossible to tell if he was happy with my answer or not.

No matter where you are, or where you’re headed, wishing you a year in the company of friends and family.

As for us, we spent the New Year in both cities 🙂


Glossary

yelai sappaadu/ilai sappadu: literally, food on a leaf. A traditional platter typically served on a plantain leaf. For a more humorous explanation, check out this video.

nongu: Asian palmyra palm, toddy palm, or sugar palm (in science: Borassus flabellifer)

manga inji: literally, mango ginger.  variety of ginger that tastes like raw mango (in science: Curcuma amada)

malligai: Jasmine. Ladies adorn their hair with garlands made of Jasmine

taalam: beats of a musical composition

kutcheri: musical performance, typically used with reference to Carnatic classical music. Audiences across Tamil Nadu can often be seen tapping their hands to the rhythm of the musical piece.

On top of the world


You must see this old bungalow, before I leave. There’s also a beautiful park nearby. You’ll love it!

The rooms of the old bungalow were given out on rent to college students, and we had a chance to see the room occupied by my cousin and a few other girls.

On the wall next to one of the beds was a post-it note with the words ‘Veni Vedi Vici’
veni_vedi_vici

* * *

At the beginning of this month, I took up a challenge – to post something every single day of November. It’s what they call NaBloPoMo. A blogging friend wrote several inspiring posts and a fellow blogger whom I hadn’t known at the time gave me the courage to participate. But I did not believe I would be able to successfully complete it, and so I never registered for the Official Blogroll.

To motivate myself, I began drafting the last post of the month – celebrating my achievement. This note, an affirmation of conquest before really conquering, seemed most appropriate.

Today is the 30th consecutive day of blogging. The past month has been a fascinating creative experiment – completing long forgotten drafts and reliving stories from my childhood; recalling random conversations and writing poetry about mundane events. When the words dried up, I dug into reserves of virtual archives and pictures from travels. All of my posts were published on late nights. And I almost never knew what I was going to write till the moment I began typing. Even when I returned home late from work, despite the heavy eyes, I made it a point to write.

And tonight, I can say with pride, I have succeeded.

* * *

‘Veni Vedi Vici’

I never met the girl who wrote that note, but I imagine she has big dreams. She has come to the biggest city of the country. She’s most definitely seen many days here. And making it through her graduation may well be the beginning of her conquests.

I’m guessing the girl has no idea that I snapped a picture of her note-to-self. If you are that girl, I hope you have made many a conquest.

* * *

Even with weary eyes, the view from the top is beautiful.

view_from_the_top
The view from Dadhikar fort – the mist rising and dissolving above the shallow valleys

“Veni, vidi, vici” is a Latin phrase popularly attributed to Julius Caesar, who supposedly used the phrase in a letter to the Roman Senate around 46 BC after he had achieved a quick victory in his short war against Pharnaces II of Pontus at the Battle of Zela. The phrase translates to ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’


And now it’s time for a short break!

Many many thanks to all the wonderful people who have been a part of this journey, for reading, liking and commenting. I’ll see you soon!