To reveal, or not to reveal?


A prominent feature of Rajasthani architecture are the windows with their characteristic floral silhouette. When visiting monuments in the region, it is hard to resist the temptation of framing the magnificent views with the window. Ah, what a feeling it must have been, living in those palaces!

Alas, for women, not a very good one. The queens and princesses had their share of riches and maids and all luxuries that a royal household could provide. But freedom? Trapped in a tower, looking out of the window was the only freedom they had. Called jharokhas, the beautiful latticed windows were built to allow women to look at the world outside, without themselves being seen.

Here is one such window at Bagore ki Haveli, Udaipur. I wonder what must be visible through those tiny windows within the main window.

Latticed glass window
“What a wonderful world”

My previous posts of the Jag Niwas Island Palace and the Monsoon Palace were my favourite (and best) shots of windows with great views.

So this week, when the Daily Post asked us to show windows, I felt cheated. But considering what it must have been like for the women who looked out of these tiny windows, I don’t have any reason to complain.

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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?

Transition


From established comforts
To starting anew

From being a part of one family,
To belonging to two

From the yearly hop between two cities
To a traveling spree

From figuring out two cultures
To switching between three!

From the spoilt n lazy brat
To greater responsibility

From an individual
To managing a team and a family


The image featured above is of “Lovers Meet” – the confluence of the rivers Teesta and Rangeet. The viewpoint is located somewhere between Darjeeling and Gangtok.

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 😀

Resolutions


I was desperate to get some rest, but sleep was the one thing that refused to come. Random thoughts and visions haunted me, interspersed with summons, as they were, directed towards me — by whom, I don’t know. I tossed and turned in the middle of the night, till I could take it no longer. And then I wrote this.

Resolutions
Resolutions

Read: Know and understand other people’s points of view. Interact often with fellow bloggers and chroniclers of the world.

Write: Share your world view. Even if it is going to be just you who reads it.

Draw: Complete the picture and fill it with colours of your choice.

Sing: Find your own voice and express yourself.

Jump: Make decisions and take that leap of faith.

Strangers in the train


Swiping away on my phone playing a popular game, I was sitting in the metro train. It was peak office hours and the coach was crammed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a young lady gesturing to the passenger sitting next to me. If she said something, I didn’t hear. Partly because it was a little noisy; but mainly because I had earphones plugged in.

I looked up and realised what was going on. An elderly lady had been standing next to my seat and the young lady had requested my neighbouring passenger to give the old lady her seat. I realised her efforts were in vain and I got up to offer my seat.

As the elderly lady sat down, the younger one thanked me. I couldn’t say anything. Here was a girl who cared enough for a stranger. And there I was, oblivious to my surroundings.

I smiled sheepishly and thanked her in my mind.

A Flower’s Life


You put in all your efforts,
I smile ’cause I’m impressed.
That is what you think.

To you, I am always pretty.
But it’s not because of you,
That is my ill fate.

You wait for me to blossom,
And at just the right time,
Cut me off my stem.

You give me sparkles,
A little water to drink,
To show me off to your mate.

I may cry before your very eyes,
But you choose to ignore.
For you, that’s my smile.

I wait patiently to get my own way.
That is not what you want,
And I must stay.

Soon the day will be here,
And I will become free.
That is the day you will throw me away.

The Journey


garden_pathShe took the longest route possible – the one which was perhaps the safest to take – and also the most dangerous one. The horned deer kept mostly to themselves. The foxes were unlikely to come her way – she had never seen them – even though she knew they were there. Perhaps the rabid dogs were the only threat. She had once faced them, but now she knew how to avoid them.

It was not the external forces that worried her. And it wasn’t those external forces that made others discourage her from taking that route. It was their lack of faith in her. She loved that route. And if she was going to go, she would not go any other way.

She’d walked so many times. But now her own family forbade her to go there. They said she couldn’t make it. It had been so long…

She was sick of others constantly doubting her, and could bear it no longer. She slipped away from the house.

The initial stretch was a long straight road, directly under the scorching sun. She felt the heat pierce her skin, so unused to light now. She allowed every pore of her skin to soak up the sun – the harsh sun, as they called it. But to her it was liberating.

Within no time, her first milestone was in sight – the thick forest. The entrance was just as it had always been – welcoming. The cool shade of the trees rejuvenated her – if at all she needed it. The dusty path coiled around itself, the butterflies leading her to the steep rocks – her second milestone.

She began her ascent. It was steep – and perhaps the toughest phase of her journey. She encountered the first signs of weakness. Out of the thin air, voices came. They grew around her, showing concern. She slowed down, breathing heavily. The voices grew louder. They were admonishing her for her mistakes. She should not have stepped out. They were warning her of consequences.

Her eyes began closing. She paused. For a brief moment she looked up. A peacock was taking a stroll. A mongoose quickly ran across the path. Were they worried about her inabilities? Perhaps. Were they unaware of her abilities? Likely. Were they scared of her strength? It was that thought made her shake.

She took one step at a time. Every step growing more and more painful as the voices tried dragging her downhill. She fought everything – the voices, the forest, and her own body.

Until she became numb. She took one more step. And then looked around her.

It was a sight she had longed to see – the forest, and all its life, stretching as far as her tired eyes could see. She had reached the highest part of the slope. Her fourth milestone.

The plateau was bustling with activity. But no one bothered to look at her. They were far too busy in their own lives. And she couldn’t care less about them either. She was busy with her own journey. And then came the fork in the path. She knew which one to take – the one on the right. Her fifth milestone – the garden of the most exquisite flowers – greeted her with bowed branches. The scent in the air was mesmerising.

It was a downhill path. A winding one at that. One which was also notorious for trapping travellers. She knew it was a misleading path. Few people actually crossed it successfully. And she was one of those few. At least that is what she believed.

She heard a faint sound in the distance. The temple bell.

It grew louder as she walked along the winding garden path. She felt it coming from somewhere very very close. She kept on walking. The bells kept ringing. She walked, for what she felt, was eternity. She had taken the route so may times in the past. Why was she taking so long? It was the temple bell which kept her believing she was on the right path.

And she was.

At long last, she saw the last milestone. The opening at the edge of the forest. She left the forest with the energy of a little child, eager to enter the temple – to see those bells which had been ringing for so long.

But the moment she exited the forest, the bells stopped ringing.

She stood between the two entrances, facing the temple, her back to the forest, in a state of confusion. Why did the bells stop ringing the moment she was about to reach?

It was then that she realised, that the bells were the sixth milestone. The bells had drowned out all voices of doubt. And she had not felt even the slightest hint of discomfort. She had undertaken that route to the temple several times – and yet, this was the first time she had truly taken the journey.

And that realisation led her towards her destination. She felt light. She was at peace with herself.

Music began playing the moment she entered. Her family had been waiting for her, and they welcomed her with open arms. The festivities at the temple had just begun.

* * *

Even though this post talks of a temple, it is not intended to be interpreted as a religious post. You could easily substitute the temple for any other spiritual place.

Image Credit: JamesDeMers Public Domain (pixabay)

Taking Payal Home


She was standing at the base of the stairs leading up to the main road, in the subway*. She wore a checked kurta and salwar. A neatly folded dupatta was slung across her shoulders formed a ‘V’. Her hair was braided, tied with ribbons. A huge school bag completed her school uniform. She may have been in middle school. It was lunch time, so it was not unusual to find school students wandering about, and I would have never even noticed her presence.

She held on to the railing, and took one step on the staircase. She dragged herself slowly, up one step. It was then, that I observed her. Her entire body was shaking, as if she had Parkinson’s disease.

I tried not to make her feel like she was out-of-place, and pretended to have not noticed her. I suppose I failed at that. As I walked past her, she spoke, ‘Excuse me Didi! Time kya hai?‘ I looked at my phone and informed her of the time. She then asked me, ‘Aap ek  phone call kar sakte ho?‘ I agreed immediately. She called out a number, and asked in Hindi, ‘Please ask my father to come and pick me up… My name is Payal^.’

She was still holding on to the railing of the staircase, taking one slow step at a time. I dialled the number she called out. It was unreachable. She dragged herself up, and I walked beside her, trying to match her pace. I tried to call the number a second time – still unreachable. Perhaps the network was poor. Maybe I could try once again after exiting the subway. A young man climbing up the stairs looked back, and enquired what the matter was. He seemed a little sceptical, and asked if she came this way everyday. He kept looking back, as I called the number once again.

Once we were on the footpath of the main road, with no more railings to hold on to, she held on to my hand. The young man asked in Hindi, ‘Shall I put her in an auto**, so that she can reach home?’ I ignored the man. Even though I had just met her, I felt responsible for Payal.

I asked her where she lived. ‘I live just behind that’, she said, pointing towards a bend in the road. Her father’s number was still out of reach. ‘Shall I take you home? Do you want to go in an auto?‘ She paused, and then nodded her head. She said we could walk.

She had just met me, and she trusted me enough to put her safety in my hands. I held her hand and we took a few steps. It didn’t take long for her to realise it would be a very long walk. In a soft voice, she asked, ‘ham auto le len?’

I agreed and stopped an auto on the road. I asked the autowallah# if he could take us to her house. I pointed towards the bend in the road. No autowallah would travel such a short distance. The expression on his face, upon looking at my new friend, changed. ‘Baitho,’ he said, gesturing towards the seat. I asked him for the fare. He waved his hand, as if to say, ‘don’t worry about it…’

We hopped in. Payal began feeling a little comfortable around me, and attempted to speak in English. She asked me my name. ‘Its a nice name. You going to office? College?’ She gave directions to her house. It was perhaps a kilometre, and I wouldn’t have minded walking. But for Payal, it would have been a huge struggle. I asked her which school she was in, where it was, and how she ended up at the subway. She told me her school bus dropped her off there, and she was waiting for her father to pick her up.

When we neared the apartments. She smiled widely, and said, ‘Welcome to my home! Please come home.’ We got off the auto. I asked the autowallah how much was the fare. As I paid him, Payal cried, ‘Wait, I will get money from home. No you don’t pay.’

I told her its okay. He had charged only the minimum fare.

I gave Payal a silly excuse to leave. She repeated herself, ‘Welcome to my home!’ I followed her up to the doorstep of her house. Her mother stepped out of the house, and clearly alarmed, asked Payal how she came, who I was, and why she didn’t call. It’s hard to tell if she was angry, or if her natural tone was like that. She tried to give me an explanation, for why no one was there to pick her up, as if she were, in some way, accountable to me.

I hastily said goodbye to Payal and left. On the way back, I couldn’t help but feel sad for Payal. She was such a small girl, and she had to face such huge challenges on a daily basis. At the same time, her courage to put up a brave face, and smile so sweetly, was inspiring.

As I walked back, I caught myself smiling, just as I had caught the autowallah smiling, when he was about to leave.

*  *  *

^Name changed
*subway : also known as underpass –  a walkway that passes underneath an obstacle such as a road (Wikipedia).
**auto : short for auto-rickshaw; also known as a tuk-tuk – a three-wheeled vehicle.
#autowallah : the driver of the auto rickshaw.

The Rare One


If the value of the three paisa coin has appreciated, then I am perhaps responsible for the fortunes of another girl 😀

Coin Album
Coin Album With An Index

I loved collecting coins as a kid. I’m not sure when and how it began. Perhaps it was the discovery of a small bag of coins at home, or a few foreign ones left behind by visiting relatives. At first, it was restricted to ten paisa coins and cents – we had an abundant supply of them.

As word spread of my interest in coins, friends and family members, who had been travelling abroad, generously donated currency. I was even given a coin album. It had clear plastic sheets with small pockets to store individual coins. I arranged my coins and added small notes about the country, year, and the symbol and slogans on the coins.

Three Paise
Three Paisa Coin

I had big plans! I thought the collection would grow very large. So using my foresight, I made an index of the countries and currencies to manage the treasure.

I even began keeping coins and notes, which were still in use – I was a ten-year old, and I was already investing in currency!

Close Up Of Page
Close Up Of Page

Even as different countries resided within my book, I discovered coins in my own home – one, two, and three paisa coins. I had only one one-paisa coin. But I was more delighted with the three paisa coins. Three was an unusual denomination for a coin, and I took pride in owning two of them!

I spent nothing, and yet owned a lot. My successful collection, soon got to my head. I boasted about the large variety of coins I possessed – far more than I should have. Once, I even took some coins to school, as proof. And that’s when it happened.

A classmate of mine was very impressed with my coins. She asked, in the nicest possible way, ‘Can I take one of these?’

And like a fool, I gave it to her. To this day, I regret that action. I could have traded it for something else – but no! I had to act magnanimous. That’s what happens when you allow ten-year olds to handle so much money!

One Paisa
Holy Coin! One Paisa

A few years later, deep within the depths of my eldest aunt’s huge cupboard, I uncovered a gem – the 1 pice coin. It was older than the Indian democracy, and it had a hole in it! Nothing could have been better than that.

I’m sure there are lots of people who collect coins – and would buy old coins like the one with the hole. In old Delhi, I found coin sellers selling such antique coins on the pavement. The realisation, that the coins I had, were all gifted to me, made me feel great. But my coin collecting days were numbered.

The European Union was formed, and I grew up. The album was relegated to the cupboard, and my collection, nothing more than a lost memory.

A chance discovery of some coins in a piggy bank made me pull out my album, and I found that my foresight was rather too great. I had one, two, and five rupee coins and notes stashed up inside – which I could still use today! Time to add the ten rupee coins I suppose 😀

*  *  *

I had posted some photographs of coins a few weeks back. One of my favourite bloggers, pointed out the scarcity of the three paisa coin… This story was supposed to be a part of that post, but now, is also in response to that comment, and today’s prompt on The Daily Post!