Sunday, December 29, 2019

Yin-nish

I have been home for a while.
My last travel was in October and that was quite a road trip – a trail from Gwalior to Satna through Chanderi, Orchha, Khajuraho, Panna and Rewa. An immersive, intensive experience of northern Madhya Pradesh. Simply fabulous.

Since then, I've just been home, writing up the stories and... simply being home. Domesticity is a never ending job and I find that the concerns of the domestic life are what you might call choranaptyxic in nature – able to grow or shrink in order to fit available (mind)space. They diminish when I have 'bigger' things on my mind, but grow fairly demanding otherwise. I have taken care of a pile of leaves in the corner of the garden, hosed down a termite mound that was predating on the jasmine climber and I have made plans for the beetroot that are a week old and sitting heavily on my conscience. I am ahead of the curve.

Just the time for this quotidian observation from the Lucknow poet Sushma A. Singh.

winter chill
  I press harder
on the rolling pin

A feminine slice of life. 
About the little things. 
A small detail, a small blip in the pattern with an activity that is repeated perhaps every single day.
It is colder. Even if you have mixed the atta with a little tepid water, the dough is hard. Rolling out the rotis calls for a little extra.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Floof love

I think I have a problem. Rather, two. I have an addiction and I have a scarcity of the substance I'm addicted to.

Like everyone on the planet with internet access, I watch cat and dog videos. And panda videos. You know you have to get into the piece you're working on, there is no time for a K drama, but you can fit in a 7-min break featuring a cute labrador, can't you? Of course you can.

Re dog breeds, I'm very much in the middle of the pack. I thought Golden Retriever Labradors were my most favourite type but that was before I was introduced to the Samoyed. An utterly gorgeous double coated creature of cold climes, this ancient breed has a laughing face and a temperament to match.

It started innocuously enough. I watch quite a bit of content from Korea, so YouTube thought nothing, I assume, of pushing originating-in-Korea dog and cat videos at me. It started desultorily enough but I got inveigled into following their daily lives and now there are three that I cannot live without: MilkyBoki, mochamilk and HoyaDanchu.

All three feature Samoyeds paired with other dogs and cats in some combination or the other. Milky of MilkyBoki lives in Korea but the other two are Korean-in-Canada. They are individually and collectively adorable.

This is Milky, all flat out at the park:



 This is darling Wooyoo (Korean for, yes, Milk)

 And the baby of the lot, Danchu (Korean for button)




These are enormously popular channels and, I suspect, hugely lucrative. They celebrate subscriber milestones, they receive marketing merchandise for placement. Wooyoo and Mocha of Mochamilk even have their own book out. These fellows are celebrities of a kind - a phenomenon that I'm old enough to be amazed by. This Internet-worked world is throwing up unimagined scenarios.

Now I've watched them all, more or less. Nothing new till there's another update on just how much fun Danchu had in the snow.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Insane

I needed to clean up my inbox and so went quite naturally to the oldest mails. More than a decade old. Work mails. Messages from friends who've fallen off the radar. Messages about things that must've been important then but I don't give a damn about now. Shifting priorities, different preoccupations, different contexts. And then, there was a friend request on orkut. *facepalm* (I loved Orkut!).

I was there then, watching this parade. And I stand here now, watching what passes in front of me. Always watching. Why then did I think I was those things? That those things defined me? Why then do I still think I am these things that I look at? Am I mad?

Monday, September 30, 2019

Wind Up and Wind Down

Is talking about one’s maid too démodé? But, Goddess help me, I must.

L___ amma has a rather loose idea of her employment with us, and tends to take off rather frequently. Her reasons are varied – some warranted, some extremely frivolous. She has a difficult life, and I never know how serious a matter it might have been that kept her from turning up the previous day. Once it was a violent husband, once a sick grandchild, once a bereavement in the family. But also, she considers her frequent poojas and family gatherings sufficient reason, and enjoys a startling assortment of ‘noppis’... pains and aches in the head, back, legs, feet... all of which add up to several casual leaves. She lays the ground the previous day and I am required to pick up on her complaints of an oncoming fever or somesuch and anticipate a dumma the next. Once I demanded the reason for her absence and she said – most disarmingly – that she had overslept.

I like to be harmonious, and have a preference for subtle messaging while L___amma banks on her considerable charm and cajoling to keep me sweet. Her voluble chatter about the minutiae of her life holds me captive for some length of time daily, and her favoured weapon is an extra chirpy ‘Good Morning, Madam’ which she has picked up from one of the offices she works at.

Our arrangement as she understood it did not work quite as well for me – and it wasn’t getting across. Plus, I particularly abhor being let down during the Navratri festival. So I worked myself up into a froth and yelled at her this morning. Sadly, method acting has its downside, and I am still attempting to bring my breath back into its normal easy cadence. In the throes of manufactured emotion, I oversalted the bhaath.

I know my anger was feigned, but my body doesn’t. How right is my Guru when he says, “Resentment, anger, hatred are poisons that you drink and you expect somebody else to die. Life does not work like that.”

Friday, September 06, 2019

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Retreating Mango

I was a bit unhappy that my father brought home bananas this morning but no mangoes! A week or two is all we have before the bounty retreats from our markets. A gorge of two, maybe three a day should keep us till next summer.

+++

What we get plenty of in Hyderabad is the luscious Banganpalle aka Benishan. A golden fruit, creamy pulp, almost without fibre and generous with size and flavour. S___, my neighbour and childhood friend is something of a mango connoisseur and has an arrangement with Ali, the fruitseller. Ali knows where to lay his hands on some of the rarer varieties, and when he gets a crate, he comes by. Does he holler his wares on the street, urging the populace to sample these exotic types? No sir, he does not. But discreetly he rings S__’s bell to sell him the story, and a few kilos.
And I benefit. When I see Ali’s skull-cap lurking in the garden next door, I make haste and pick up some too. Once it was the elegant, subtle Himayat and this time, it was Langra. A lime-green to leaf-green mango. It turns a reluctant shade of yellow when it ripens but that’s all. But the ripe flesh is a gorgeous orange and the pulp a touch astringent near the skin. It’s wonderful! I have a tub of those in various states of development but I still want a few Banganpalles while I can get them.

++++++

I learnt later that the Langra comes from regions around my beloved Banaras. As if I needed more incentive to love it.
But isn’t it strange that I should have loved Varanasi so? I have been there only once, and that was last year. Some old karmic connection, do you think? Have I lived in those gallis, bathed in the river, sat by the ghats as the sun went down? Or maybe the being is so mature, it could see at once (what I cannot see)... that it could perceive the magic of Kashi, the fount of spiritual input and infrastructure there? Or perhaps just a travel writer, whose imagination was caught by the spirit of an ancient, ancient city?

++++++++++

The Langra has inspired a colouring theme for my book. The page I’ve chosen is full of swirling leaves and fronds and I’ve decided to do the whole thing in greens and yellows. I have two sets of pencils to work with and one of them is a set of 48 water colour pencils. Mostly, I use them like colour pencils, but I’m going to use them here as water colours. Smudge the edges and corners darkly and brush the pigment inwards into paleness.
My other set is a fantastic array of straight colour pencils with beautiful names for each shade. Amethyst, Jade, Periwinkle, Plum, Pumpkin, Honey... how would it be if we had Kesar, Totapuri, Langra?

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Meta Moment

This evening, as I undertook the somewhat womanly chore of fumigating the house,
I moved from room to room
with an outstretched cup of lit incense,
smoking out the demons from the corners where they are wont to sit when no one is looking

I caught myself in the slanting golden light from another room:
The shadow on the wall stood out starkly.
Hair framed around my face,
my silhouette both particular and generic
But the intention conveyed itself.
Tendrils of dark smoke rose steadily from the shadowy hand

I looked at this woman.
Encapsulated in a slice of cinema. A sharp moment of awareness.
A moment infused by the now.

Tutored by my influences to find that romantic, I did.
But every moment, they say, is that way.
Every moment, if you can look at her.
From a little distance away.

A little distance.                            Away.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Booster dose

You tried to prop me up
Run on my own steam, you said.
Devised a propeller for my use, a conduit to rarefied fuel
and it does well
for the most part

I thought we were okay
Why then, did it feel like I was living on the breath you had given me last we met
That I was running out
subsisting on the last few painful drags

You came yesterday, I looked upon you, and you looked (sidelong, fleetingly) at me
and you did that thing
the being inflates with the pleasure of fresh life
like parched earth squirming to life at first rain
like leaves nodding in the south-western breeze

We’re ok now

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Heap of sand

Trickling away a grain at a time, the sands of life.
An unconscious moment here, a compulsive thought there
Too much attention to the incessant circuits of the mind
Too much staying
with the mundane, the cyclical
with the body's pains, its myriad niggles
with the same thought that has come around again because I ogled at it when it went by last

Adding up to a heap of sand in the hour glass.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Megha chhaaye

Cusp of a fresh new season and it is time for that almost obligatory change-of-season post.
So we take down this reference to vague, internal worries and wonder all over again at the clouds of life that drift, drift, drift as we stay constant.

The new haiku on the header goes:
cloud animals—
the summer slowly
drifts away


How the Oregon-based poet Clayton Beach knows the ways of our Indian monsoons, I don't know. But he does seem to sense the mood of the monsoon's approach this year. Not thunderous, not dramatic but gentle, almost. Already, the advance guard of clouds is nudging the summer away.

A few more days for Hyderabad, it is almost time.

Status: Arrived

Listen:

You don’t have to put any kind of strenuous practices
upon yourself in order to realise the Self.
The Self is the most natural.
It is the mind itself that is both entertained by
and entangled in so-called spiritual practices for self-realisation.
Though some practices are good and necessary,
many are aimed only at the ego.
Left unnoticed, they will keep you in a limited state of mind,
perhaps a spiritual mind even,
whereby you believe you are merely a 'person'
on the road to becoming the Self.
Your true Self however, does not need to practice anything,
for it is unchangingly perfect and timelessly present.

~ Mooji