Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December Blues

It was a winter afternoon.

The last paper - Biology - was over. Blissfully blank minds could now indulge in elfin treks to our haunts : the sea , the Hut , the malls ; they would retain the echoes of our wandering footsteps mingled with the tinkling of girlish chortles.

The ground seemed firm , undisturbed ; alas!
The shoes went through water-laden sand. Walk with her often and be certain to carry home a momento : mud-covered , grim shoes. She would grin and trot off unconcerned and I would sigh ruefully at the mess I would have to wipe clean without a tissue paper....

Why did we not learn to keep tissues handy ? Being girls that too : for inkdrops , for drops of water after washing under the cooler (the uniform tie served the purpose often) , for food smears , for dusty desks , for tears , for the Unknown trouble (like the shoes above).Perhaps , we could do without them till life compelled us to be what our mothers scolded us to be like during our wonder years.

In the cold breeze , a few drops of rain fell on us - silently.The sky was a melancholy metal blue , overladen with grey nebulous clouds.

In the mall , we visited the perfume shop ; appreciated a couple, criticised a dozen ; remained forgetful of anyone around us and took away an effusion of scents on scraps of cardboard paper ( that had been a catalogue of some sort , taken from another shop ). Then slipping them in between the pages of our books , it remained a lingering memory.

We left the mall , and head towards the Hut.

The raindrops hastened through gusts of cold wind.

A sumptuous aroma greets you - of hot oven bread and an assortment of saucy titbits. Over an hour we sat ; nibbled on salad ; talked of sweets and sweethearts, the droll and the dreary ; munched pizza , giggled , sipped on drinks ; sighed.

The watch marched beyond the 4'O clock gong : to hurry homewards.

Now the rain fell with suppressed alacrity , in the seducing frenzy of the biting winds.

The tumult of the weather spurred us on ; teeth chattering , teasing , half-running , chuckling - we parted ways - praying to be home without being "caught" -- in the play of wind and rain.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Refuge

It has been raining since the previous night.

They quarelled:
Her anger spilled bitter words ;
He withdrew into wrathful silence.

I cannot stop the rains ; I can watch a falcon in his flight.

A pearl in an oyster , in a fathomless sea.

There is no refuge -
From the darkness of the womb , to the harsher light ;
From the confines of the grave , where will we proceed ?

I want to stay shut , in the haven , in me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Memorable Quotes

A 5 years old cousin , got into a scrape , whereupon he received a beating from his mother.
After a while , he came to his mother , busy in work and chided her :

" You did not even tell me 'Sorry!' ! "

During the toddler age of the aforementioned cousin , his favorite phrase on being annoyed was :

" You are not good! "

He went further for higher levels of irritation ; thus remarking to his aunt once :

" You are not good , and your Been ( her husband Mubeen , whose name he preferred cut short ) is also not good! "

On marriage :

(1) "The biggest blunder I made in my life."

- A Physics teacher , whose memory reminds me of 'bubbling with talk , laughter , life'.

(2) "Dear , it is the start of all troubles."

- A History teacher , who would say my 'dear children' to a class of bored 15 year olds.

" I love to come to school in the morning and smile at everyone ....."

- A Chemistry teacher. Her smiles inspired those zestful 'Good Morning(s) , ma'am' !'

During a meal , I was reminding my 5 year old twin cousins about saying their prayer prior to eating (i.e 'In the name Allah , and by the blessings of Allah'). My mother futher commented that if they forgot their prayers , the food would go to the Devil.
The younger of the two girls , paused thoughtfully and asked me with eyes wide with somber curiosity :

" Who is the 'Devil' ? "

One of the twins on being forced to eat her lunch by Nani (maternal grandmother) :

" My mother will come and beat you! You are making me eat so much! "

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Snapshots in Writing

Watching the rain fall , alone in the afternoon ;
Listening to the drops slapping on the ground.

Licking ice-creams other than my own ;
Sipping a new juice made by a younger cousin.

Telling stories to the twins ;
Hearing protests on holding one more than the other in my arms.

Playing monopoly , with a ship ;
Sailing stubbornly against hoots claiming my Titanic would sink , as usual ;

Laughing at the banter common to the dinner table ;
Crying at the parting and yet longing for home ;

Gabbling about my love for words to an aunt , busy in the kitchen ;
The milk boiled over -
Apologising for distracting and ruefully commenting on schlimazels and schlemiels ;

Remembering that past vacation , the passionate mourning ;
Rejoicing in the eternal joy that sprung from ephemeral heartbeats.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Sounds of Khed , India

Our building is located on the highway leading to the town.Thus, it is subjected to an unceasing cacophony of vrooom , po-pon-po , grrhh , trriiingg , ghhr - ghhrr.The vehicles are simply the background music. The real song begins with the 'paowala'.

For those who don't know , 'pao' is a type of Indian bun bread. And the man who sells them is hence the 'paowala'. Though , we address them 'bhayya' (brother) whether they be 35 or 55 years old.

As the morning prayer of Fajr ends , through the crepuscular light rides the paowala , with a basket full of fresh , soft , delicious buns tied on the backseat of his bicycle. He is the first one to ring your doorbell.
The sparrows twitter and hasten the slumberous sun ; with the breakfast over and children off to school , they continue flitting around and resting on window grills. Soon their melody is interrupted by ding-ding-ding-ting bells of the van of the garbage collector. Even garbage dumps have a signature sound of their own here. Masked , he sifts through the litter in his van , while waiting for the waste to be cleared from the four wings of the complex. If we collected bottles , plastics and such re-usable materials separately , he would be spared the disgusting task of poking into our pell-mell rubbish.
( Couldn't resist digressing ; lets get back to 'sounds' ....)

On Sundays , you would surely awaken to :
'Ay Allah ke bande , (O' Slave of Allah) !
Allah tumhare karobar mein barkat de , Ya Allah , (May Allah bless you in your business , O'Allah!)' , chants the fakir baba with a voice certain to touch the skies even if failing to appeal to the mortals below.

By 10.30am -
'Samosa - garam samosa' ,
'Samosa - samosa garam' ;
the couplet of the Samosa-wala disperses the heavy clouds of tantalising rains. It was inevitably , one of my favorites.

The sun climbs monotonously ; the much awaited rain looks on grumpily from the firmaments.

The crows caw-caw overhead. From the nearby building , a variety of voices float over with amusing implications.

Playful prattle of children lulls the afternoon into a drowsy stupor.
With the lunch reposing in a content chamber, a book in hand and the cushioning heat pressing the eye-lids to droop over eyes that do not need sleep -
'Bhangar , plastic , battli.....' , the Bhangar-wala's vocal chords strike through compressions and rarefactions with gong-like amplitude , creating temporary waves in the vibrating stillness.

The donkeys bray ; believers seek protection from the devil for the braying signifies evil.

Then the fruitwallah comes with his 'Mausambi , chikoo , aam-wale-aamwale' triplets cry, pleasing the little girl who pestered her mother with , 'Mummy , mana mausambi hawi' (Mummy , I want orange) . And then she would whine for the fruitwallah to come soon , 'Aamwale, ye naa!!' (Mango-seller come no!!) - the whines growing louder till she tired of hearing her own echoes.

Once again , in the evening brightness , rides the paowala. This time , he too has his lines to be sung , 'Cake , toast , butter , paowale...'

With the fading twilight , old women - Nani ,aaji , dadi , buwa call their darling brats home.

The song is far from over , but becomes muted to ignorant senses happily anticipating to climb to bed after dinner.

Soon the human sounds sleep into oblivion and the sounds of the night awaken to a promising symphony.

Tick - tick - tick...
Goes the clock.

Whirr - whirr - whirrr
The fan overhead.

Some door , pushed by the wind ?

The whistle of the train , tunneling through the hill.

Bow-wow-bow ; the dogs having a disagreement.

The voice of Darkness , when all is quiet.
Listen closely , tonight.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lock and Seek!

Once a cousin , aged about 2.5 years , was visiting us. His elder brother had not come ; thus being companionless , he went about the flat , prying into murky corners and poking into everyday oddities.

Having kissed and petted him , I shifted my attention on the conversation between my aunt and my mother.

Some while later...
I glided out of their doleful exchanges on the chaos of married life to bestow some more kisses on his chubby cheeks.
He was not in the hall.
Nor in the alley between the kitchen and bathroom.
He must be in my room.
The door was closed : I turned the handle.
It was locked.(How can it be ?)
I tried again - truly locked. ( ??? )
I called out to him.
No reply.

Knock ! Knock ! ( Are you there naughty boy ? Playing ? Let me in too...)


OK. There is a gap between the door and the floor so I went down on all fours and peeped.
He was pattering around.
I drew his attention to the gap.
On the other side , two little black eyes twinkled back at me.
I could sense him grinning. ( He was being cheeky ?! )
'Open the door...see what I have got for you...'
No response.
'There is a key in the door..just turn it ...' ( Perhaps , he didn't know how to unlock ? )
No action; nothing doing.

I called my Aunt. She tried similar tactics.The baby ignored his darling Ammi as well.
We whispered worrying possibilities - What if he can't open ? Can he actually turn the key ? Is it possible to get in through the window ? (We live on the Groundfloor) The window has grills....

The pair of eyes regarded us casually through the gap.
His mother's patient worry snapped.
'I am going. Open the door and come out soon.'
We went to the hall.

In a few minutes...

'Ammi....' , said the baby and found his mother sitting in the hall.
The elf!
So he did know how to unlock ; tricky game.

Lesson learnt : Never leave the key into the door lock when toddlers are around.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I am Alone

The sun was bright ,
I was young ,
The days were carefree and light ,
There were friends , there were people.

I am alone.

Parents - they were there then:
In the remote background , close to touch ;
Now nearer and dearer , yet farther away ;
We spoke less ; now the talk is much...

I am alone.

The memories swirl as misty ghosts -
They are mine ; not gone away.
The books hold out a stronger hand -
They are mine ; soul entrenched within soul.

The sun still shines ,
The people still pass by , leaving pages to fill in.

I am alone , not empty ;
I am with God -
Is that lonely ?
He is alone: The One and Only.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nothing to say ??

While chatting to a friend the other day , the usual 'Hi ; How are you's?' were followed with the not-so-unusual silence. In a few minutes - an aeon - the friend opened the 'window' with : 'nothing to say ??'

'Nothing' has a non-existent definition when it comes to saying. Plenty of things to talk about ; aren't there ?

About ...
One's day , in detail ;
Why your sibling is an irksome pixie that you cannot freeze, (remember 'Mum' ?), no matter how she makes you boil and blister ;
How tiny , pink and sweet the new-born was in slumber while it could remain innocently indifferent to the wails of the World ;
What was the So-and-So of Such-an-Such-incident (calamity - scientific discovery - economic crisis - ) ?
Of Princess Diana , the Queen of Hearts , forever wedded to an unhappily-ever-after --

Break it : 'No - thing' as 'Nothing' (to say!)

If you find me quiet , it is merely to watch for your green signal : to say something , anything , everything....(that is nothing too ?)
Would you , can you , will you , listen to all ?
My tsunami is at your command.

The mind is often talking to itself :
'Alarm must be set at 3am , no , 3.17am - dawn is ...'

'Maldives - why did he re-marry so soon ? why couldn't he persevere in persuading her ? Aunt - married...divorced - our twin-cousins.... '

'Chapter 112 - touchstone of theology - verse 1 "Say, He is Allah, One and Only" ....Only 'one'...the Odd number...'

'Tonight , I would ask him.... (and proceed with our conversation ,in my head)....'

Rarely , perhaps only in sleep , there is Rest : to the cacophony of a precious mind.

The human mind , at its pinnacle , is waiting to blow out its contents : meekly , passionately ; and the tongue is ever moist , with words carefully jailed or rosary chants - sometimes monotonous , sometimes fervent - willing to chatter away at the slightest opening.

In this virtual world , my fingers - though adept at typing - are checked by an obsession with using the right metaphor , the quaint word , the tidy presentation.
You have been saved by the atrocity of my incessant tongue.

Now , do ' you ' have nothing to say ??

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Smile...and say 'As-Salam Alaykum'

(For her , whose name meant 'Lily of the Valley' : See Image on right)

The final year of our school life was filled with obstacles in the form of assignments , labwork , revision tests , observation book correction , recordwork submission , projects ; the list went on. Most of the time , when not busy completing ever-incomplete work , we would be talking about how we were going to finish it. The rest of the time was thriftly spent in last minute bursts of intellectual learning - before a major test. We were machines pre-set (sometimes , re-set) to produce an expected output.
Time and opportunity to truly relax , converse and connect as friends needed special effort (also read 'cunning').

A friend and I saw less of each other due to our separate subjects ; phone calls became rare (or came to clear doubts ; further discuss how much work we had to finish ; talking about 'so-many-things-to-do' needs to be checked strictly - its a foolish waste of time that could be used to 'neither-think-nor-do-work') . Living in different areas , made it difficult to catch time to drop in home and have food ( the eternal solace ) together.

Instead , we had developed a habit. Into the class , at the start of the day - a smile , a hug and 'As-salam alaykum'.

' Salam ' literally means 'peace'.
'Al-Salam' is one of the names of Allah in Islam. Hence , the Islamic greeting 'As-salam alaykum' translates as 'Peace be on you' and is responded with 'wa alaykum as-salam' meaning 'And peace be on you too'.

Sometimes , I forgot to wish her ; she wouldn't ; vice-versa.
Once , while I was pouring over homework (finished in school), a classmate seated in infront of me , teasingly inquired , "No hugs today ?!"
I replied with a grin , "Thanks for reminding."

Take time to smile and greet ; even those who are strangers to you.
Do it often , everyday ; spread 'salam' and feel the joy...

"Smile and greet each other , it has the reward of charity."

"Do not underestimate any good deed (no matter how small it is) , even if that deed was to meet your brother with a friendly countenance."

- The Prophet Muhammad

Reverie says : Girls cannot be 'gay'. Nowadays they are labelled as 'lesbians' .
Our hugs drew some rather dubious looks ; I don't know if it was my imagination or the gossip I heard by the grapevine , but I sure feel like being catty to the sniggering.
Nowadays , it makes you squirm , even to hug your own kind ....
And I thought , it was the opposite sex you needed to 'keep at arm's length' ....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


It is the King of my Fruityland.

The big , round and plump with a dark green skin colour is the most adorable. The interior : a luscious , fleshy red ; sequined with dark little seeds.

As a child , I used to scoop out the white flesh beyond the juicy red.
They scolded me for it.
( Was I being greedy ? )
As a young adult , the habit persists.
( Am I still greedy ? )
I get more slices , yet I refuse to give up.
Then , there is the craving of satisfaction in cutting them. No matter how busy I am , I like to devote time to indulge in slicing it open. It is a request : Let me have the pleasure of opening its locked beauty , 'first' ; then you can take your share.

Some facts :
(1) Watermelon is 92% water.
(2) Its official name : Citrullus lanatus
Of the botanical family : Curcurbitacae
Related to : cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.
( That makes it a Vegetable ?!)
(3) Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn't contain any fat or cholesterol, and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 & C.

Sweet , juicy , cool -
Have a watermelonicious summer .....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

An Odious Task

Writing is sometimes such an odious task ,
Not because of lack of creative ideas ;
They are swimming in the tantalising depths of the mind ,
Surfacing but not yet ready to metamorphose onto paper -
The more you think of giving them a ground life -
Without a pencil ready to bait ,
The lesser chances of completing a work written without rhyme or reason.

Now , I had wanted to compose an essay ,or a poem , or close to either,
With a title : " The labours of writing evanescent thoughts "
The pencil refused to form lines as required ,
So I let it scribble -
Lest I remain useless in a 'must write spur' ,
and sit agitatedly with a blank paper.

I must admit : I made that title up just now !
No plan of writing of such labours had occured to me ,
It formed shape as soon as I allowed my fingers to move...
See , that's how unpredictable scribbling can be !

Writing - while feeling 'how silly' of whatever written -
Its start is a much needed ignition ;
The middle , a slothful dripping of fuel ;
The end , a baffling ride with a memorable line.

I don't know about you ,
But I like coming to the End -
Good or Bad and all the adjectives in between -
I have presented it 'neatly' : Don't you agree ?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wandering , Working and Waiting

The distant hills , veiled in mist , call for you in the solitude of the evening hours. Standing on the terrace , a halcyon wind blows , swifts through your hair , caresses you , quietens your soul : filling it with momentary peace.

The sun shines benevolently.

The vacation was wasted on idle thoughts ; an uncertain academic future ; a passion for the unattainable at a turbulent age.
In that feverish summer heat of 2004 , I helped with the household chores - Nani* had the most amazing will-power to work efficiently and make others work as well. Her food was always a relish.
The French exercises lent by an aunt were done with half-witted interest. And I had had such engrossing times learning the language a year ago...

The train moves through the nearest hill , approaching the tunnel. Further upward , the cars, trucks, buses move lazily on the road twisting out of sight in the shield of trees. Would they reach their destination ? Did they have one ?

The sound of anklets - chann chann - I listened in recognition : the Rajasthani Housewife. The terrace was a place of relaxation. On some days , a group of housewives from our building complex collected here while the children played in their puerile kingdom.
I conversed only with her : the woman from Udaipur. Her graceful musical steps announced her feminity - even before you saw her. Fair , dark eyes and neatly parted hair filled with sindoor. The sarees often smiled her demeanor ; their hues - greens , blues , fawn - were suffused with the freshness of Nature's treasures.
When her young son had no playmates , she would engage him in learning his alphabets. He had her fair skin and curly hair , tied in a little ponytail ; as per their customs , it was not cut since his birth.
I thought he was a girl , till she corrected me. Often , his voice carried over from the upper stairs to our flat below , ringing with a throaty appeal that contradicted the sweetness of his age.

I achieved nothing during those days. Neither worldly nor spiritual.
A void , useless , desperate existence.
It was a blessing , a thousand blessings when the time for returning back home arrived. The return would mean a new beginning , of which , I never imagined nor considered. A transition from the dreams to the ground of reality ; a spiritual change , a 'practising' faith of character-building , academic diligence.

The bus weaved its way through the hills. The rain spattered on the windows , disappearing soon ; you could unlatch the window , breathe in the sensuous night and soon enough the rain would beat down again. It remained irresolute : about duration as well as direction.

I could not sleep and did not try to ; night journeys were rare. And this was after three months of physical , mental and emotional imprisonment : a subtle release from an almost self-created cage. Three months - where each day had been besought , vexed , coaxed to hurry on - depart !

I was going home.
Soon to be with fleeting pleasures : castle and country , sea and storm.

The hills were dark , alive with the murmur of raindrops. The road meandered treacherously. In the shrouded darkness of the bus , the passengers slept ; while the night passed by them in her revelry.

Now I see cottage and country , sea and sunshine.
I want to go home....

* maternal grandmother

Sunday, May 4, 2008

To the Teacher

Words are fascinating: each one a world waiting to be created.
The lesser known , the more tempting to employ them in writing.

Some of the words have been provided with their meaning , scroll down to the end for them ; I wish to be understood despite the trifle elusive 'simplicity in choice of words'.

To the Teacher (s) :
' Thank You '

A syzygy of memories , gratitude and new horizons
beckon to these logolept musings...

In pursuit of academic achievement ,
Including such :
Byzantine array of equations ,

Coding approximate to galamatias ,
Numbers - an abyss of conundrums ,
Hippocampus - a warehouse of psittacism.

Most would slip into oblivion...

The Smiles ,
Treasured and cherished - always.

SYZYGY : The alignment of two (or more) celestial bodies (as in an eclipse)
LOGOLEPT : word-lover
BYZANTINE : complex
GALIMATIAS : Nonsense , gibberish.
HIPPOCAMPUS : part of human brain associated with memory
PSITTACISM : Characteristic of parrots(Speaking without knowing)

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Trials of donning an Apron

I was making Vegetable Pilaff (aka 'Tarkari Pulao') as the Hyderabadi cookbook said.
Being a dish of rice, my apprehensions surfaced and glided over to take refuge in Mother's expertise on the Art of Cooking. It looks and reads (as in a printed recipe) easy - to prepare a dish of rice - or so I always thought - until I started cooking it myself. Even the simplest everyday rice-boiled-with-salt : 'chawal' as we call it, needs meticulous attention. If you want it 'perfect' - give it your absolute focus and care. Else , like me , if the less-than-perfect standard , set by Lord Knows who , is nevertheless enjoyable to eat : Forget asking Mother for help.
She harangues on simplicity, my mother.
The recipe lay solemly intricate.
She protested against its handsome order.
It beeseched me,to give it a try...those dapper alphabets of its existence : thus wooed and won, I insisted on following the print.
She was adamant on experience.
Tempers flared.
Rice - three-quarters cooked - cooled.

Mother exits (from the perspiring Kitchen) .
And I attempted to assuage my dish's ruffled grace.

It was done eventually. A profusely (try 'overcooked') steamed Pulao. Had I served toddlers, I would have received those oh-I-love-you-so gurgles following a Cerelac session.

The family ate.

Meanwhile , I sought sanctuary under my blanket :
' Those who sow in tears , shall reap in joy. '

I doubt , the latter part ; sometimes.