The Spotted Devil and Permaculture

I have never seen mum so happy to get back from a holiday and needing a holiday from a holiday.

She has been glued to her favorite soaps trying to catch up on what she missed, whatsapping her fav. people, having hot water showers and just putting her legs up.

Grandpa is busy strolling around our house with a wistful sigh at times. He misses the greenery and the cicadas and the sound of silence.

As for myself, I still can’t get over the fact that I actually managed to trace Gummalapur and be a part of this awesome experiment of giving back to nature what rightfully belongs to her, the forests!!

Meet Navzer and Shahnaz Kotawala, the sprightly, bubbly Parsi couple with ever-smiling faces and a warm hug to all their visitors who come to volunteer at their forest farm.

Navzer & Shahnaz An ex-Air Force officer, Navzer is the brain behind this venture, while Shahnaz is its heart.

Located nearly 54 kilometers away from Bangalore at the edge of the Thally Forest Reserve, Navzer and Shahnaz’s forest farm – Gowri Navadarshanam- is a part of the Navadarshanam campus and ideal for people who want to get away from it all.

The reward: you are away from any wisps of modern technology and right in the lap of nature. And you get to taste some yummy Parsi food, home made jams and pickles.

It is back to basics.

You learn to sleep listening to the sounds of the Cicada and the rustling of leaves.

There is no AC or fan. Phones don’t work and neither do laptops and i-pads. The farm is powered by solar energy.

You will not find leaky faucets here nor hot water taps. Every drop of water is precious. Rainwater harvesting is the main source and the farm is monsoon dependent.

Your day starts at 6 am or earlier if you want it to. You can help Navzer in his daily chores around the farm or help Shahnaz prepare the breakfast and clean up the garden.

Irrespective of what you opt for one thing is certain, this is an authentic experience.

The farm itself is spread over 6 acres, of which the couple has inhabited nearly 2 acres with their beautiful English-type cottage, with high ceilings, a huge kitchen, a well-appointed living room, a lovely loft, their sleeping quarters, a guest room and  a room stacked high with carton boxes, groceries and other precious items that makes surviving on this farm easier.

Thanks to Organic Terrace Gardening and Shankary I was fortunate to experience permaculture at close quarters and in a very small way contribute a wee bit to reforestation. Permaculture, a concept propounded by Bill Mollison, Sepp Holtzer and David Holmgren,  is a contraction of the word “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture.” What Navzer and Shahnaz have tried in their forest farm is be true to the principles of permaculture. They grow their own food, conserve ecology and our precious natural resources.

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If you think it is easy, just think again.

Imagine having to look after poultry, milk cows, feed ducks, fend off poachers who try to lop off sandalwood and teak trees on the wilder part of your estate; lack of water due to 2+ years of bad monsoon means you create your own drip irrigation system, a system for rain water harvesting so your vegetable patch and fruit orchards receive enough water to give you tomatoes, broad beans, french beans, different types of limes, okra, cucumber, lettuces of different varieties, oranges, guavas, pomegranates, pumpkins, papayas, onions and herbs such as thyme, dil, basil, mint, coriander and curry leaves; wash vessels with the precious little water available; tap solar energy to cook and power the few equipments you have on the farm; wake up every morning irrespective of ill health and do all this with a single farm hand to help!!

Incredible, but true. And this is what Navzer and Shahnaz do. You can read more about this dedicated couple here.

They welcome volunteers to help. You can write to them at nfkothawala at gmail dot com or call 86757 88769 (handset) or 92436 04508 (fixed line).

EPILOGUE:

On my last day of the farm I took out ‘In The Jungle’ by Kenneth Anderson, an Indian born British writer who wrote about the Jungles of South India. I was deeply engrossed in Ghooming the jungles when I felt a tap on my shoulder and jumped.

The previous night, mum had said she saw two fiery greenish-gold eyes stare at her from the windows. I told her it must have been the family’s pet calico cat but secretly hoped it was either a leopard or a panther she may have seen.

Anyways recovering from the fright, I looked up to see Navzer standing with a smile, “Wait here, I have something to show you.” I was still trying to recover from the tap when he walks in, holds out a diary, points to an entry and asks, “Who do you think this is?”

In bold script was written the legend, Don Anderson.

I nearly fell off my chair.

The DON ANDERSON, actually stayed at their farm a few years back.

Don Anderson is Kenneth Anderson’s son and features very prominently in several of his stories. In fact, I had completed a chapter in which father and son go hunting a leopard. When I reveal this to Navzer, he smiles indulgently and asks, “Do you remember crossing Gummalapur?” “Of course, I do. How can I forget since you used it as a landmark to direct us to your farm.”

“Well,” he says, “This is the very Gummalapur where his story the Leopard of Gummalapur is set in. In fact, Devinakottai is located close by from here. ”

And to think I had pestered the members of the Kenneth Anderson Society to help with tracing the routes of all KA’s adventure, and here I had, inadvertently stumbled upon one of his maneaters!!!

The Maneater of Gummalapur: The Leopard of Gummalapur, also known as the Spotted Devil of Gummalapur was a maneater responsible for the deaths of 42 people in the villages of Gummalapur and Devarabetta in southern Karnataka. There is a wiki. KA was summoned by the District Magistrate to hunt down this leopard and he was successful in his third attempt.

While I was unable to go to Devinakottai since Bambubhai had to drive us back from Anekal and hates night time driving we plan to make it the next time. Watch out for a post devoted to the KA circuit soon……

Till then, Happy Ghooming 😉

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Work Ethics

The earliest memories of my demure, 5’4″ mosima (grandmother) are always associated with sunrises, woody smoke, cotton sarees and the fragrance of Charmis cream. 

I’m nearly five I think, my summer holidays have just started and I burrow myself deeper into the thick blanket mosima has wrapped around me.

No books to be bundled inside my canvas bag, no homework to be checked by a hawkish uncle, no poems to be learnt by rote and no tests around the corner.  I will away the chirping of the sparrows, the woody smoke from the kitchen and the  morning light I knew awaited me. The chill of the morning along with the rhythmic snoring of my grandpa was enough to make me glide back to sleep where I knew I would dream of books piled high along with hot samosas and Boost.

But rain or shine, holidays or school my dearest would be up before the cock crowed. Yes, we had roosters at every corner in Bangalore then along with cowsheds. My city was truly a garden city. My road was lined with yellow and orange champa trees, their fragrance intoxicating and heady in summers; gulmohars in resplendent red during the monsoons and always, mosima pottering around the house like a goddess. She was omnipresent.

In the kitchen, making breakfast and packing lunch for a family of 8 that sometimes expanded to 15 and more. In the garden, watering her beloved papayas, pomegranates, banana, jasmine, hibiscus and all the other myriad bushes and trees that dotted our small plot. In the veranda giving a bowl of egg and milk to a stray dog we had adopted. She wasn’t a dog lover but there was just no way she could refuse to care for yet another creature. To her all of God’s creatures were to be loved and nurtured. She would be in the backyard serving coffee to the old lady who helped with cleaning vessels and washing clothes. To the market she would go with her cloth bag and me in tow. At times, I would accompany her on a 6 km hike to our ration shop to buy the monthly groceries of rice, dal, oil, sugar and wheat.

Till the day she was admitted to the hospital where she breathed her last my dearest never wearied of fulfilling her duties to her family, her neighbors and the ones she cared for. 

Always the first one to wake up and the last to sleep. Non-complaining, ever-smiling, quick with a hug and a patient ear. Non-judgmental and driven, to be the best she could for us, her thankless brood. 

Now as I pour over management books and read articles galore I realise my dearest had the traits of a successful entrepreneur and an inspiring leader.

  1. She worked harder than the rest of us, whom she united as family
  2. She never asked but gave willing of herself and commanded us with a gentle smile, never a tear or a threat
  3. She was always willing to give a second chance and yet another chance till proven wrong
  4. She was driven by an inner moral compass and higher principles
  5. She never advised without being sought
  6. She never sat on judgement but stood by your side to pull you up and get you going

As I look around me at  papers piled high, clothes strewn around, empty bottles of water and the clock ticking by I see a sweet lady pick up and arrange with nay, a murmur nor a rebuke.I hear her sing, cook and clean with never a care for her aching body or thankless brood (smaller though it be) and I think to myself, I can’t go wrong. For my mother carries on where mosima left off.

I have a long way to go but I know the work ethics I have imbibed from the women in my family run deep within me.

As I trace my career,  adventures in living, challenges and triumphs I realise it is my mosima I look to for inner strength and retaining my authencity of who I am and being the best I can be; of staying true to myself and bouncing back every time I fall.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be gorgeous, brilliant, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. …As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

 

 

 

 

This chapter in my life is called…making new beginnings

Reading The Last Lecture from Randy Pausch has me engaged on a subliminal level.

As I turn pages stopping at times to have a aha moment, I realised I’m in a chapter of my life I call..New beginnings.

I have dealt with whatever cards life offered and tried coming up trumps. Most of the times I have and some times I haven’t for a self-defeatist self-fulfilling prophecy that I wreak on myself !!

Starting afresh on a new chapter, here are a few truisms that  held me in good stead thus far……..

Believe in yourself: There will be times when the world is dark and bleak, when circumstances conspire to defeat all your good intentions, when your loved ones push you to the brink, when nothing goes right……………stay calm. Look deep inside, there is a reservoir buried that only you can unleash (good memories, good times, skills that have earned you a job, anything at all that will keep you hoping and living for another day). Hold on steady, hold strong.

There is an angel waiting to give you wings.

(I found two when I was all alone in a dark hole, where I had no self confidence and sense of self; when I was suffering with physical, mental and emotional hurt with no respite in sight. Unbeknownst to me they gave me shelter and hope to hold on to till I found my inner self, strength and belief).

Never be obnoxious, mean or cruel: From a selfish perspective remember those who you trod on or hurt along the way will be those you meet sometime, somewhere in the not-so-distant future. They call it schadenfreude, and boy are people these or what.  So if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut up. Better to be boring than vile; better to be a good heart than Cruela De Ville!!

Sell yourself: Plenty and more cliches out there about not blowing your own horn. But every once in a while, and more blow your horn. Make your virtues, merits, uniqueness heard and felt. Whether it is in personal life or professional world, build your network, make it work for you and sell yourself. You never know where the next opportunity awaits. You never know when your other half or that loved one has taken you for granted. This also means that you will never let yourself go aka Keanu Reaves. Not all of us are born with diamond studs and tiaras, so make the most of what you got.

Build a strong network: Though a few of us would love to stay in a deserted island with a dog for company and a few books or mayhap Henry Cavill or Megan Fox..sigh, life isn’t as easy. We need to interact, and while we are about it what say we build a strong support system. This could be your professional or personal network. Give more than you get and a trusting relationship is sure to follow. I hate it when folks reach out only when they have work in hand, but then I realised I do the same thing. With the social media taking over live human interaction it is easy to make excuses. STOP!!

Call that friend you haven’t spoken to since you left school or college. Reach out to your family member whom you vehemently avoid meeting. Life is short, but yay yay why make it miserable.

Upskill: Easy to turn 40 and think you been there, done that. Even easier to turn 25 and think the whole world is waiting at your beck and call. Wake up friend. Competition is a killer. With the world’s population crossing 6 billion and counting, there are plenty of folks out there willing to do more to get that job you want, that boy/girl you crave, live that life you dream. Upskill, if you mean to thwart competition. Join a web building course, teach yourself Mandarin, visit all the places on your bucket list, do something, anything but live your life acquiring new skills that will enable you to live life more completely.

GIVE: Give of yourself without being asked. Not only will your house remain more livable, uncluttered and manageable but giving things is the start of a life long journey of giving. Give of your time, give of yourself, give your skills. All of us live to die some day. What if we give little of something to that child, that old man down the road, the morose colleague at the office, the stranger on the bus……something as simple as a smile or a hello to start with.

START LIVING. STOP BEING!!

Finding Nemo

Most of you must have seen Finding Nemo not once but a few times over. I did the same as well.

N

I’m revisiting this Disney-Pixar classic again ‘coz I find I’m Nemo now.

I’m lost and trying to find my way back. And I’m out hunting myself.

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?!

After living life to someone’s perception of who I am, I’m discovering who I am and I like what I find. Hallelujah….all those years of carefully cultivated masks are peeling off, surely but slowly. This is but a start. And in the process, here is what I figured:

  • Respect yourself before you expect some one else to respect you
  • Love yourself more for some one else to love you a little
  • Be honest with yourself even if you aren’t with anybody else
  • Speak up, for if you do not, nobody else will
  • Blow your trumpet, it makes for pleasant music but don’t blare it out ‘coz then it becomes noise
  • Forgive yourself
  • Ask for help even before you get lost
  • Frown, sulk, get angry; you don’t need to smile all the time
  • Don’t rush in to fill empty spaces and places

I’m beginning an exciting new journey filled with frown lines, crow’s eyes, saggy skin, effervescent humor, sunshine smiles, greying hair and open, childish eyes.

 

 

Con-fused-duh!

“Why do you want to do this?” asks C when I inform I plan to go walking to Tirumala from Tirupathi.

For those of you who follow my blog (which hopefully, a few do) you must have noticed that strange connect between Balaji and I.

I immediately launch into a long-winded explanation about finding myself in the chaos that is Tirupathi and Tirumala…how every Hindu does it since a child forcefully and then most-times by design …how it is about faith…spirituality…

But even as I launched into the explanation, even to me it sounded hollow and illogical.

I actually had no idea why I had agreed to do what I did but only that I did not want to say no  to Babaji, my friend when he suggested this.

And anyways, I told myself time I started following my credo more often… I will try anything once.

So googling ‘Walking up Tirumala Hills’ I came across several gems including a spiritual journey, some useful tips and poetry too that were sublime and took me on the arduous15-km walk trek uphill even before I started.

Well, this post isn’t about how to do the climb or get there or even the sublime bliss I experienced after doing the unthinkable (at least for me) – I managed to walk uphill and not drop dead or getting His darshan or handy tips on walking the 3583 steps to reach the peak or finding spirituality.

Here is a list of  “Don’ts” I learnt the easy way (well, after I hauled my heavy self towards step 253; fainted at step 1080; lumbered on at step 2200 and walked easy at step 3338 to finally touch 3583- my wow moment):

Do not conduct extensive research and read too much (you set yourself up for failure even before you begin. It’s just like entrepreneurship or anything else in life. Just Do IT.)

Do not carry bottled water, rucksacks filled with emergency medication (if you need this, then you certainly SHOULD NOT walk up that hill), i-pod/music/telephone (the whole idea is experiencing this walk with all your senses)

Do not walk alone (it is easy to give up and take the first available vehicle up or down unless you happen to be one of those pig-headed sheer grit individuals one reads about in those self-help books)

Do not wear shoes (not because the stairway to heaven is sacred – which the devoted smear with haldi/kumkum/burning camphor – the last bit dangerous if you fail to notice it) if you want to walk steady without feeling like you are carrying bags full of coal and not your feet

Do not compete with yourself (your body knows how much of strain it can take -listen), your walking companion (if you are then you have the wrong buddy alongside) or the other devotees (some of whom have probably done this for the millionth time and know how to pace themselves or used the elliptical trainer for a whole month before they attempted the walk or have more faith than you do)

Do not guzzle water (plain water i.e., but lace it with Glucon D/Electral/ORS instead) but sip it (else you will know what is meant by waterboarding)

Do not have heavy breakfast or even light (remember you do not want to know what it feel likes tohave an elephant in your belly) 

Do not look up (you will feel like Jack who climbed up the bean stalk only to find the giant is happily slumbering away and is actually quite friendly while you did all the hard work and built up rage and pent-up frustration)

Well after I finished step 3583 (forgot to mention I got tagged for the divyadarshan token during the trek) and walked another 4 kilometers I entered the complex proper only to see huge signboards showing ‘Footpath pedestrians DivyaDarshan’ and an arrow mark pointing this-a-way and that-a-way to barricaded entries for the real Q starts elsewhere and the million rupee question (given current forex fluctuations) is WHERE?!.

Temple authorities are busy testing your smarts (not your smart phone since google maps are of no use here coz you have already surrendered your mobile phone by now – after all you are a conscientous, hard-working pious devotee – on reading the warning notices pasted all through the complex).

Being pious gets you nowhere coz heaven is not for the hard -working but the smart-working ones. Remember, Divya Darshan (for the footpath pedestrian) merges with the Sarva Darshan (free) and this means you double your waiting time.

Pay, pay, pay your way to see the World’s richest deity and temple.

A 300 token means a 6 hour waiting time while a 500 token will have you waiting for 3-4 hours (All tokens in Indian currency).

So as the Lord smiles and waits inside the sanctum sanctorum ready to bless you, the hard-working pious devotees are busy getting conned by systems within systems. Gates that were non-existent earlier are opened and you are ushered from one corridor to another winding gate to yet another corridor.

Duh?!

And you thought you were inside the complex proper all ready to meet the smiling lord.

Gotcha!!

Here’s another Don’t : Don’t ever visit during the busy months when all the Utsavs are on – Kalyanotsav, Brahmotsav, etc…unless you have nerves of steel.

Well, we walked four hours to reach Tirumala; walked 45 minutes to figure out the Q; walked 1.5 hours to reach the Q proper; waited 4.5 hours in the blistering hot sun to inch along the Q; asked around trying to find a shorter way in (remember we are Indians and jugaad is our right) and got snuck into a shorter Q only to realize this shorter Q will take us into the compartment after 6 hours of waiting!!

No, I’m not the pious devotee nor the smart devotee. What I was, was a frustrated devotee seething with fury at making something as simple as sighting the smiling one such a painful process.

I left dazed and fused out…..No darshan nor wanting one.

I returned to my hotel….hungry, spent, angry, frustrated.

I see a face familiar and smiling. It was my package tour guide, whom I met on innumerable trips, when I was herded and shepherded to reach the finishing line – the sanctum sanctorum.

I narrated my (mis)adventure.

He smiled, asked me to meet him at 3 in the morning. Hah! I said. He was insistent.

So 3 am the next morning I stand in the lobby, waiting. The guide has arranged for me to be dropped off at the bus stop from where I have been instructed to board to Tirumala. 

I do.

I walk into a Sheegra Darshan Q at 300 with estimated waiting time of 4 hours.

It is 4.30 am and the breeze buffets my hair and fans my hot cheeks (the mind you see never forgets) as I remember the Q from the day before. I’m suckered in.

6.30 am and I can see the golden gopura in the distance and myself walking closer to it. A gentle breeze blows into my face, teasing me.

7.45 am and I’m surrounded by humanity shouting Govinda Govinda. I’m inside the Garbagudi (Santum Sanctorum) and there he is …freshly scrubbed, annointed with hues of different colors, bedecked with flowers and jewels and stones…. and smiling, smiling at this frail human.

I stand there as the mass around me shifts and swirls.

Govinda, Govinda the shouts reaching a frenzied crescendo.

Hands push me forward and I carry the smiling visage with me.

I’m pushed forward towards the prasadam counter where a leaf bowl of hot, sweet pongal is thrust into my outstretched palms.

I break into a smile.

I lick the leaf bowl dry off the last grain of rice.

Hot laddoos are given and as the smell of ghee, raisins, cashews and laddoos fill my nose.

I’m filled with love.

Love for self. 

Just pure, blissful love.

I look up and the skies are clear.

I’m back home now…bruised feet, sapped body but soaring spirits 

WHY, I hear. Why? 

I don’t know and don’t think I ever will…..but I know I can Do, will Do what my mind and heart are intent on doing…perhaps, there was a lesson there somewhere…

Blazing a Different Path

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ah, Robert Frost and his Road not Taken, standard English textbook fare for most of us who studied in the 80’s.

I gush and I gape whenever I meet someone who I feel/believe has taken the road less traveled by. It has been an aspiration for therein lies the secret to living a fulfilling life, a contended one.

And today, I met 2 incredible human beings who are living my dream, of blazing a new trail ……

I stumbled upon both by chance. The first through a friend who liked the FB page and the second coz of the first.

The Puzzle

When I browsed the FB page, I did a double take. How can some one be so foolhardy I thought? This is escapism taken to its extreme ran another train of thought. Perhaps this person has really been hurt or is running away from deep emotional trauma cried a voice from the inner recesses of my head. What motivates this man to travel the length and breadth of the country on his cycle stopping at remote communities and then staging a theatre act (street theatre style)? Doesn’t he read the papers? How can he survive without a toilet, without money, without his family, without comfort, without all the bare necessities like a roof over the head, 3 meals and more, friends to hang around with and so on and so forth?

The more I followed his travel and read his updates, the more intrigued I was….to analyse, arrive at a conclusion, understand, fathom what made this man undertake the journey he did.

The Solution

So when I found out he was dropping by where I stay I literally hounded him to meet up. The first was a washout thanks to an unexpected attack of the migraine but I got second time lucky. And how!! Not only did I get to meet The Cycle Natak, I met another intrepid explorer Andre Unger as well….

And so came 2 inspirational hours of freewheeling conversation with Andre and The Cycle Natak, who shared his journey with candor  humor, humility and a seeming sense of the unself-conscious self!!

Of course, I have to take you along this journey my dear reader and share the fascinating  nuggets I stashed away as I walked back to reality……..

The Cycle Natak

Over pepper sausages, a ham sandwich and chai, cold coffee and mosambi juice The Cycle Natak unraveled his secret to a happy life and his unquenchable urge to explore and travel. I will not dwell upon what motivated my friend ( I consider him that for he let me share his journey, if only for a while) since you would perhaps want to meet him and hear his story in his own voice. 

His 2 and a half year journey has obviously been adventurous, but what entices as this 24-year old speaks is his maturity and wisdom, something you would expect from a 70+ wizened sire who has seen, experienced, cherished and lived.

“It is not the destination but the journey that makes my travel interesting and gets me going again and again.”

“People are good. It is when you project goodness that you get goodness in return.”

“It is the truckwallas who have time and again let me hitch a ride with them that makes me feel good about getting back on the road again. They are honest, and would share their last piece of bread never expecting anything in return…..It is the laborer who takes me to his home and heart after just speaking with me for a few moments, happily sharing his frugal meal, which is not even enough for one….And then, I have had rich folks give me a 500 rupee note and ask me to take up lodging at a motel … And then, there is a villager who takes me to his home and gives his bed..”

“You learn to take the moment and live in the emotion of that moment but after it’s over, it’s over. You move on to a new one, a new moment, a new emotion.”

“At times, you have to just let go and let the dam burst because the more you carry with you the more dangerous the outburst. I remember sitting on the road in a particular phase of my journey just crying, venting out my frustration but then I had to shake myself off and move on..hoping there was something better ahead” (This when I asked him if he felt frustration and negativity at seeing how society was, how little progress we have made in spite of the India Shining chimes that play on)

“The condition of women is pathetic but it is far better that what it was so you can imagine how miserable it must have been…….women still think they do not have a right to conjugal happiness, that they owe it to their husbands to sleep because that is their duty.”

“Being a Muslim is not as issue when you get people to see you are a traveler, a human and not a caste.” (When I asked him if he found it difficult to get access to shelter or food because he was a Muslim)

“You have to feel empowered to be empowered. I was in some tricky situations but the fact that I spoke LOUD, spoke with Empowerment got me out.”

“You are answerable only to your (inner) self not anyone’s sense of what you are or who you should be….”

Andre Unger

Thanks to The Cycle Natak I also connected with Andre, an intrepid explorer, a risk taker by conventional measures. Giving up a well paid job Andre just took off on his bike traveling from Kanyakumari to Ladakh.

He hasn’t gone back to corporate sludgery by choice and instead opted to become an entrepreneur to “take off when I want to and not have to work 12 months to earn that week of well-deserved break.”

“We set off on a journey wanting to discover ourselves but what we don’t realise is we are who we are, no different from what we were..just more conscious of the self.”

“We are conditioned to eat 3 meals a day when we should actually eat when we want and not live by convention.”

“Being content with what we have and leaving a little for the rest will take you a long way.”

“Do what you want to do before you say it’s too late.”

“You don’t need to have an answer or an explanation or a reason for everything that you do, sometimes it is the doing that matters.”

………

Wow, I could go on but I won’t. I hope it has tweaked some part of you that wants to do something but is waiting for the right time, the right moment, the right sign to pursue your dreams..to pursue that elusive Will-o-the-wisp….

And even as I write this, I realize blazing a trail doesn’t have to be something dramatic or unconventional it could just be that one small step you have dreaded to take for an unknown fear, an unspoken taunt, or perhaps an unconscious inner barrier…

Stop….

For now is that time, and that time will never return.

And to all those who have taken that small step every day in a small way….Cheers and More Power To you…..

To Sit or Lie

PART I TO LIE

Ok, so a while back a close relative commented: “Why do you share your private life out there? You facebook, you blog, you twitter, you comment, why you twit? Why do you randomly seek attention instead of just living your life?”

Ok, so admittedly I was perhaps going overboard. Not that I was tweeting or facebooking about every single loo stop or vocalising the existential angst that hits you living in a city that corners you with its filth, aggression, numbness, insensitivity and so on and so forth..

But yes, I was quick to share my thoughts, and happiness and the angst that came at times as I see a (sane) society I once knew crumble and erode.

No longer was I safe to take my nightly strolls alone or even accompanied by my mum or go out for a drink with a male friend or catch up on a movie in a dark cinema hall or visit the coffee bar down the road or go jogging in the neighbourhood park.

2 eyes weren’t sufficient any more.

I needed compound eyes.

I was equipped with a pepper spray, a taser gun (i wish), a marriage certificate, a mangalsutra, toe rings, a ferocious dog on a long leash, headphones to plug into my ear, coolers, a bottle of bisleri, a heavy handbag…..

And no items listed above were not for seeing/quenching thirst/pleasure/answering curious looks/questions/exercise.

Oh no, these survival articles were to maim and mutilate; to deaden the senses; to ward off any male that leered or pounced in the dark or otherwise.

And I did go off facebook and twitter and didn’t blog as much. After all I’m a girl, ok, a woman – the weaker sex….and I didn’t want nor crave unwanted attention.

5-year old girl raped; 23-year old brutalised, raped and succumbs; 25-year old raped; 3-year old molested; and I lost count after a spell. Age didn’t matter and neither did the fact that they were ‘accompanied by male companions’ or were ‘decently dressed.’

Skewed sex ratio across the country; increasing rich-poor divide; mass migration to urban centers and exposure to urban culture resulting in culture shocks; shift in male-female roles; lack of education; north vs south; societal change; changing moralities; regressive society; confused rural male/uneducated male/unemployed male; changing female mindset; independent women waving a red flag to CRM/UM……and so on and so forth went analysis after analysis on the sudden explosion in violent sexual crimes against women.

Part II – To Sit

Do I join the protests?

Do I vent my anger?

Do I sign up and share links?

Do I pray to God that when I get pregnant it shouldn’t be a daughter in my womb so I don’t unleash this insane world on her?

Or do I harness my strength as a woman and unleash the generations of collective wisdom and empower my child irrespective of whether it has a XX or a XY chromosome?

Teach them the to Do the Right Thing, Stand Tall, Believe, Be Good, BE A MAN (in Kipling’s words) and Be the Best of whatever they chose to be or do

Sensitise them to a new world order where gender equality can be real and not dictated by khap panchayats and politicians seeking to bank roll their votes playing (preying) on increased crimes.

That it is ok to iron blouses and buy sanitary pads if she is unable to without being hush hush

That it is ok to do the 3 am call when the cries wail out in the night and not roll over and play dead while nudging the better half out of her sleep to play care taker.

That it is ok to wash plates and keep the house clean and take the garbage out and shop for vegetables and plan the evening dinner so the lady can get some precious me-time too.

That it is ok to not get married, travel the world instead and opt for a high powered job, buy a house, and pursue dreams

That it is ok to bring home someone from the opposite sex or the same sex as a life partner if they mutually respect each other and Trust each other and can live a life in harmony

THAT IN THE END ALL THAT MATTERS….is what you made of life for yourself and for others in the short time you had
….that someone somewhere sheds a tear or sports a smile or passes a sigh when you are no more in fond remembrance of all the nice things you did
….and that is all there is to it

Staying Unconnected

I have practically lived in a cocoon these past 3 weeks strapped to a bed with a white ceiling and a whirring fan for company, if I don’t count my family, the reliable i-pad and books.

Cut off from the outside world the internet was my gateway to the world since the daily paper brought with it the daily dose of rape and mayhem, corruption and petty politicking.

Predictably, I have piled on the pounds.

I have also been hit by the need to know, a child-like curiosity about everything.

How the concept of time came to be?

Why is it I remember anything related to movies but nothing with maths?

Why do kites come out only between 10 and 1?

Why is it that my neighbor’s baby quietens when it is wrapped in her bosom and starts yodeling when he goes to his dad?

How technology has evolved? Where once I used to dial in to numbers whirling the numbers around the phone now I touch a contact and the dear one is on the other end, both audio and visual and as live as virtual gets?

Why Linkedin brings better job openings than a monster does?

How a chip inserted into the skin can track and monitor your vitals? A boon, considering that we will in less than 2 decades become a fast aging population and geriatric care will be the need of the hour. Scary, if this same chip can trace my every move; know my DNA structure; the number of times I have donated blood or visited hospitals for illnesses; the mind boggles at the possibilities.

How children staying in very remote areas can still get access to quality teachers thanks to initiatives like Skype in a Classroom and Coursera? Surprisingly, high speed connections are not even required!

How is it that initiative not experience lets you surpass your current economic or social limitations?

How the world is filled with infinite possibilities?

How the world is limitless?

And it all starts in your mind……..

 

The Portrait

This is a tribute to one of my life’s endearing fixtures, my bong babu and his adorable wife. This short story was a long time coming. that misty morning when i stepped into their abode and saw this painting,well.. i was smitten. and between the endless cups of tea, that never ending laffter, their LPs and Anju….this tale has been cooking since then, i hope you like it.

1

It hung on cream colored walls surrounded by elegant drapes and long bay windows. A three-focal light hung above it. It seemed to look on with interest at all the comings and goings in the house, yet stay far removed from it.

People came in and went. The same faces but always their expressions varied.

Sometimes a face would stop in front of the portrait as if looking to see itself better. The glass framing the portrait reflected back images, happy, sad, thoughtful, lost and sometimes blank.

But this was only sometimes.

 

 

Most often people walked by without seeming to notice it.

Only the evening hours seem to give life to the still image looking in, looking out.

In the afterglow of the sun you could actually see the eyes look back at you, waiting.

2

The house was filled with laughter. A dog barked in the distant. Sunlight streamed into the normally shuttered room. A chest of drawers was placed beneath the portrait.

A vase filled with wildflowers, a candle holder and a small lithograph were placed on top of the chest.

The elegant hand making this arrangement removed the lithograph and looked up at the portrait.

A soft smile curved the lips.

Did it just look back and smile?

A nod of the head and the sound of a sitar strumming softly in the hallway had her hurrying out.

Was there more?

A single wooden bookcase was placed in the alcove. The sitar played on softly.

A bronze warrior and a gramophone that looked like something from a 1960s movie took center stage and below racks of LPs were lovingly stacked.

Screeching sounds of wooden chests being drawn across the marble floor, books tumbling down and more laughter, the house had come alive.

3

Slowly, the routine settled in.

A candle glowed gently reflecting the haunting expressive eyes.

The pleasant fragrance of lavender wafted the air. Those gentle hands wiped the portrait clean, always taking time to stand and watch.

Waiting.

A smile reflected on the portrait.

Sometimes, images of a huddled couple with mugs reflected. Standing thus, for minutes on end, just watching in contentment.

It seemed to take on the aura of a shrine.

Sniffs and whispered hurried words, always the hands around each other, warmth pervasive.

Months passed by.

Those hands would lovingly wipe the grime of the portrait and look with a smile, a knowing smile.

Spring had arrived.

4

Silence.

The rooms were bereft of the familiar book case, the chest of drawers, the strains of the sitar, the fragrance of lavender…..Silence.

The melancholy had returned. There were no images now.

Cobwebs gathered around and damp, musty smell. It hung there gathering dust.

Watching. Waiting.

5

The sound of footsteps and that old familiar scent of lavender.

Windows were opened and the sound of spluttered coughs.

It lay amidst rolls of paper.

 

6

The chest of drawers with the vase of wildflowers the candle holder stood where it always did.

Loving hands dusted the grime and hung it on red walls.

 

He was home.

 

Second hand living

The past couple of weeks I have started living second hand.

Books and LPs i have always purchased second hand, there is a romantic streak in me that gets unleashed. I found this Larouse English-French-English dictionary (1948 print) which had a note inscribed in the 2nd sheet. This is what I remember of it… “We met at the class, and I never knew when I would teach you je ne sais quoi and j’etre conjugation we would become amis for life..” and the note went on to describe shared coffees and verb conjugations. I was hooked.

Unfortunately, I lost this copy when we moved house and than I lost several more precious copies as I moved on through life but my penchant for living second hand never wavered.

LPs I got hooked on to after jiving to a funkily weird beat and singing ‘Heh heh Bombay, I know you never goin away. I know you will stay alive till judgement day. ” I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of this kookey number but if ever you get a chance, DO. It’s Remo Fernandes at his raw best.

I haunted the streets of Avenue Road and than Fort when I stayed in Mumbai for a spell to collect LPs of Funky Town, Jagjit & Chitra Singh at Wembley and oh-so-many-more and this was even before I had me a turntable.

Movies are the latest additions to my list of living life second hand, and blissfully so.

So, all the Hindu Jagran Vedike, moral policing, rape & pillage, atrocities against women, senior citizens and humanity, ludicrous statements from NCW, politicos, so-called pillars of society had me boiling in fury. And I turned to The Accused, V for Vendetta, Irreversible, 12 Angry Men, Memento & Clockwork Orange. Enough gore there to make you puke but more importantly, enough spunk & ballsiness that we, civilised folks, lack to tackle wrong doing the way it should. Idyllic in a gorey sense, but heh!!

I don’t intend to review these flicks for you but here’s a short line on The Accused. Jodie Foster & true life story make a heady combination of ballsiness to stick it in to people who deserved to be maimed to a slow death; and another on 12 Angry Men for Henry Fonda’s courage of conviction & standing up for what is right. Only wish I could do that more often.

Jack and Sarah, The Holiday, The Thirteen Chairs, Fast Forward, Step up 3, Breakin, Flashdance, AS good as IT gets, The Terminal and It happened one night carried me unscathed through bleak weeks and dark days.  It hammered the fact that Life is always about giving yourself a second chance, even if nobody else does.

And that good ole cliches like…

–For every cloud there is a silver lining

–the hour is darkest before the dawn

–every night is followed by day

–into each life must rain fall

and so on and so forth

aren’t so much cliches at all…

Like the wise lady said everything happens for a reason in this best of all possible world my friend, so make the most of what comes your way ‘coz life is too short and ’tis so easy to forget.

Cheers, and God Bless!!