Recap2016

Its that time of the year again! When all of us consciously or unconsciously take stock of our life. I peeped into my blog list to a year back, just to see how my thoughts had grown in the last one year.

Hurrah! The sense of alignment and containment that I had begun to experience in 2015 has accompanied me through 2016. Am glad to realise that. In addition to pursuing activities which brought me happiness and a sense of peace, I added meeting up and reaching out to people who had left a mark on my life. Some ask me what do I get out of tracking down friends and relatives who I have lost touch with for years. Its not something tangible. Its much more than that.

There are few maxims which I have consciously struck out from my mind’s notebook. This is a very personal view.

One such is ‘forgive and forget’. I have admitted to myself that this particular pearl of wisdom is best confined to books. I have tried and not succeeded. Yes, but what I have succeeded to do is to move on. I have tried to forgive and then to forget but realised that it is not humanly possible to do so. It takes a minute trigger to open the numerous Pandora’s boxes that line the human mind.

 
And when it does, all forgiveness and just fly out of the window. What I have been able to definitely do is move on from rhat spot. What I have also learnt is that it is so important to let my mind go through the various emotions that it experiences, and also to allow it to savour each. It need not always be a positive emotion, but applies equally so to my negative emotions. So when I feel angry about something, I allow myself to be so. If its sadness then I allow myself to feel sad. Not to say I rave and rant on about it, but its also about being aware of my emotions and not pretending they dont exist.
 

Another thing which I have questioned is about Time being a healer. A healer it is, but not one of the cosmetology category. Time heals, but also leaves behind its scars and scabs. Scars and scabs one must learn to embrace and love. One must take care not to strain the scars and scratch the scabs, else they hurt. Learn from your experiences and protect yourself.

I was always taught to keep other’s convenience and comfort ahead of my own needs. I think most of my generation was. No one ever, particularly told us how important it was to love ourselves also. This is something I have underlined in my mind. To love myself first. Not at the cost of others, but as a duty to myself. Else at the end of it all, I will end up feeling resentful about everything I do for anyone else.

I take these above lessons to myself as a realistic approach, and not a pessimistic one. I realise that its but a fine line which separates an optimistic view from a idealistic one.

As we approach another new year, here is wishing my friends and extended family a happy new year, filled with laughter and good health. Create beautiful memories.

Travel Bug

We have a family holiday coming up. I love going on a holiday, whether it’s for a weekend, or a week or a fortnight. For me the trip begins on the day I wake up and think, it’s time for one. The whole process of deciding where to go, when to go, how to go, and what to pack is part and parcel of the whole experience. I had a conversation with a friend who is also going away for the Christmas week, and all she had to say all the time we were together, was about how much of a headache it was to plan the trip. While I gave her all the sympathetic response she expected, the voice in my head said, “ Poor thing, you are missing so much of the fun.”

Fortunately all four of us, my spouse, children and I enjoy travelling. If it’s a long exploratory get away, spanning about a fortnight, then the thinking and planning begins almost four months in advance. The choosing of the destination done, then starts the planning of the itinerary. This is mostly a weekend task as all of us are busy through the week. The amount of arm chair travelling that we have done over the planning period can fill pages. Right from fantasising over staying in exotic palaces to hitch-hiking in trucks, we have it all. The best part is to see the children enjoy this virtual journey as much as the actual trip. Reading about the places one is going to visit,and making a list of must-have local cuisine is also one mandatory ritual. One can feel the mood building up at home as the date of departure comes closer. Bringing down the suitcases and sorting out clothes gives it all a perfect outline. And then we proceed to fill in the picture with the colour of the memories created during the trip.

When I look back on any of the numerous trips we have taken together, I see this entire journey in my mind, and not only the ten or fifteen days I was at some destination. We read so much about how its not only the destination, but also the journey which is important. If each of us could manage to experience this theory even in a small fraction, figuratively and literally, then we would be blessed.

 

Meow

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Was visiting my sister a few days back. As we strolled through the garden of her residential complex, we came across this cat stretched out on a bench. We paused next to the bench. She opened one eye, a pretty green. My sister mentioned that there was one stray cat who had two different coloured eyes. ( Later my 12 year old taught me a new word….Heterochromia which means “different (hetero-) colors (-chromia).”) . Almost as if she could understand what we were saying, the cat opened her other eye. Sure enough, it was blue. Peering lazily at us as we gazed into her eyes, the cat watched us as we watched her. Other than her slightly raised head, there was no other movement. I slowly pulled out my mobile from my pocket, and gently knelt to bring myself to the level of the bench so that I could get a good shot. As I murmured to the cat to open her eyes a bit wider, she obliged. As I sat there admiring nature’s miracle, I also admired the quantity of attitude in that lithe, small body. For a stray cat, she had oodles of attitude and poise. Her body language seemed to say, “Please get done with this photography thing and leave so that I can go back to my beauty sleep.”

An Encounter with a Stranger

 

This took place when we were newly married. My father-in-law had a job which involved transfers every few years and we made an attempt to go and visit my in-laws whenever we could avail leave from our respective jobs. That particular summer they were posted at a place quite far from where we lived. While we took a flight on our way out, we decided to take the train on the way back. It was not a short trip by any standards. It involved a 72 hour journey across the country, but we were young and enthusiastic, there were no children in our household at that point, and we set out on the train journey as if on some adventure.

We boarded the train that morning after a hearty breakfast. After a lot of debating we had opted to spend the extra money and book ourselves into an air-conditioned coach rather than a non air-conditioned one. Many a moment we were glad we had decided to do so as it was peak summer and the heat would have been suffocating during the three day journey. As we settled ourselves into the coach, which was to be our home for the next 72 hours, we looked around curiously at our co-travellers.

There were four berths in that cubicle, which had a thick curtain at the entrance, giving it the impression of a small room when pulled across. One was already occupied by a middle-aged man when we entered the train. He smiled pleasantly at us and made every attempt to co-operate as we arranged our luggage under the berths. As we sat exchanging basic pleasantries like names and destinations, we also remarked about the fourth empty berth.

Suddenly there was a flurry of activity and a group of about five people entered our little cubicle. There were two women and a man, probably in their mid thirties, and another couple in their twenties. Each carried a piece of luggage of some size. My eyes widened when I realized that they were about to settle those luggage in our cubicle. My husband and I looked at each other silently, wondering how these five people were going to fit themselves into this berth meant for one. After they had settled the luggage, they smiled at us and all but one left the compartment. After sometime, one of the women returned with an elderly man in tow. In his eighties, the gentleman still had a twinkle in his eye. He was settled into the single empty berth and then the lady turned to us and explained that their entire family of about a dozen people were travelling to Mumbai to attend a wedding. While they were all in the adjoining non air-conditioned coach, they had opted to splurge the extra money required to procure a berth in an air-conditioned coach for the oldest member of their family. When the train gave a jerk, signalling the beginning of the journey, she requested us to keep an eye on him and let them know if anything was required. She soon left to join the rest of the family in the adjoining coach through the connecting passage.The octogenarian was a gregarious individual and we had soon struck up a conversation with him. By early evening I noted that every couple of hours, a family member came by to give him something to eat and drink, or if nothing else, then to sit and talk with him. By next day it became apparent that his youngest son-in-law was the most frequent visitor. Not only did he come by often but his visits stretched longer with every visit. I soon realized that he wasn’t coming over to check on his father-in-law out of concern, but mainly due to the fact that the coach we were in was an air-conditioned one. He would come into the coach, inquire with his father-in-law if all was well and then promptly climb up to the upper berth and snatch a nap. Other than pick a fight over the issue, there was little we could do to stop him, and as it was such a long journey , we were hesitant to kick up a fuss. By the evening of the second day, the old gentleman had got comfortable with us and chatted about his origins and life. We exchanged many a story and in the course of these he told us with a twinkle in his eye that his youngest son-in-law was a bit of a scoundrel and there was nothing he could do about it because of his daughter.

That bit was proved to us the next morning when we stopped at a junction. It was a ten minute halt and most people alighted to stretch their legs and pick some snacks and meals. When the train stopped at the station, the old man was napping and his afore-mentioned son-in-law was sitting next to him, reading a newspaper. On seeing the station roll by, he quietly but deftly picked out a hundred rupee note peeping out of his father-in-law’s shirt pocket and slipped out to the station. When he turned and saw the rest of us watching him, he put a finger to his lips and smiled. It all happened so quickly that I thought I had imagined it. I glanced at my husband and could see that even he had witnessed what had happened. On his way out he asked us to tell his father-in-law that he would be back later in the day. The elderly man woke after the train left the station. After a while we could see him patting his shirt pocket, probably trying to locate the money which he had kept there. My husband casually asked him what he was looking for? Agitatedly, he replied that he had kept a hundred rupees in his pocket for personal expenses and now couldn’t locate it. It was a difficult moment for us. We were in a quandary. We could see the agitation on the face of the elderly man in front of us. Yet we could not just tell him that it was his own son-in-law who had snitched that money. My husband and I looked at each other and silently reached a consensus not to disclose the fate of that money. The next time someone from his family came over, he asked them to help him search for the missing money. It was an unpleasant situation to be in, but we had no option but to remain silent.

When we finally reached our destination, the old man was so happy to be in our company for the three days it had taken us to travel the distance, that he invited us to join in the wedding celebration a couple of days after. My husband and I had got fond of this sprightly old man and agreed to do so readily. We did attend the wedding reception. And that was it. Neither party kept in touch. The old man became part of a regular train journey. But even now after two decades, whenever I think of train journeys I have taken, this one never fails to cross my mind. And what stands out is the sly expression of the son-in-law in that moment when he was pulling out the hundred rupee note.

 

 

Rishikesh

Beginning of a much awaited,and much needed holiday. Albeit a short one,but a welcome one. Destination: Rishikesh. About 250kms from Delhi.

 

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Pahalwan dhaba. Food served fit for a pehalwan. Crisp,stuffed parathas,topped with fresh makkhan (butter)…and served with fresh dahi (yoghurt). Complete only with freshly made crispy jalebis and milky masala tea.

 

 

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We passed many big and small towns on the way. All decorated to entice shoppers just one day prior to Diwali.

 

 

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Bull’s Retreat. Our home for the three days we spent in Rishikesh. Homely and welcoming, Named after Narendra ‘Bull’ Kumar, soldier-explorer-mountaineer-adventurer, Bull Kumar goes by so many descriptions, it’s hard to pin him down! The “Bull” moniker comes from his cadet days with reference to his fierce resolve, and muscular build. And it has stayed with him ever since.

Seen here also is the resident dog, Aasa, a gentle, friendly and amicable creature. Easy to be with and happy to give company.

 

 

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Bonfire bonhomie. Cool pleasant evening. Good wine. Better company. Crackling fire.

 

 

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The Ganges or the Ganga. Mother Ganga to Indians. Cleanser of souls. Prayers are offered to her every evening. The Ganga Aarti is famous and attracts most visitors. Even if one isn’t particularly religious, the calm atmosphere is contagious. Sitting on the steps next to the Ganga, one finds oneself introspecting involuntarily.

 

 

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These are little leaf baskets filled with flowers, also holding incense sticks and nestling a tiny tub of camphor. As dusk approaches, one is supposed to light the camphor squares and then gently release the baskets of flowers into the river, thereby offering our prayers to the Ganges.

 

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The rounded rocks, stones and pebbles on the riverbed, and alongside the river just beckon you to come and sit on them. To dangle your feet in the oh! so deliciously cool water. One wonders what stories these stones would tell if they could speak.

 

 

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Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed “Yoga Capital of the World”,has numerous yoga centres that attract tourists. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it.Sure enough, on one of our walks , we came across this group  practicing yoga on the riverside.

Game of Shadows

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This image begged to be captured! I had been cooking lunch, and after setting the large pot of curry to simmer, went out to the living room to fetch something. As I turned from the sitting area, I was stopped in my path by this stark image on the wall.

This is the wall facing my kitchen door.which is the arch one can see in the picture. The light which puts the grills of the kitchen window in prominence has been reflected off a car parked on the side opposite my apartment building. The shimmery effect and the squares of highlight was the steam rising from that pot of curry simmering on the cooking range.

The play of shadow and light was so dramatic that I just had to shoot a picture. And yet I could see that I hadn’t managed to capture the magical shimmer that the steam had created on the wall, just like the ripples of a gentle, gurgling stream.

When one thinks of perfect…one imagines that it means there will be nothing ever like this. But when one is referring to nature, it is full of thousands of such perfect moments, most of them at the most unexpected places.