Wednesday, December 26, 2018

This is also Me

When I think about people
in my life
That have caused me pain
Uncalled-for, excruciating pain...
Somewhere deep inside I know
There is no point wishing them away,
This life is wholly mine
And this pain is also me.

When I think about the loveless life
I led for years
Starting way back, even before 
I could form memories...
Somewhere deep inside I know 
There is no point in complaining,
This life is wholly mine
And this lack is also me. 

When the mountain glow makes my heart aglow
When wild cherry blossoms make my heart bloom
When clouds fill my mind with secret stories
When my kids take wings and I can't stop flying
When a friend's hug suddenly makes me weightless
When a look of love makes me believe I am lovable...
I will remember that my life is fully mine,
And this is also me, this is also me. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Grand Kainth Theft!

In and around our village, there are a number of wild pear trees. In local language, wild pear is called kainth. These trees turn the valley pink and white in spring, and are a delight to the eyes. We drive around the valley in March and April just to ooh and aah at their lovely blossoms. Their small round fruits ripen in early winter. I have sampled some in my jaunts to the nearby mountains and villages with Sonu. The ones that are fully ripe are sweet, though gritty. The ones that are not yet ripe are quite distasteful.  

Image result for red billed blue magpieIt is not just us humans that prefer the ripe fruits. They are a favorite of birds of all kinds and much sought after. But there is one species of birds that is quite obsessed with kainth- the red-billed blue magpies, called lumb-puchhri or the long-tailed one in local language. These large long-tailed birds are somewhat pretty to look at, but as I learned over the years, are considered quite a nuisance by the farmers. They belong to the crow family, and much like crows, are surprisingly intelligent. 

Rather than compete with other birds for ripe kainth fruits, lumb-puchhris pick the fruits from the trees when they are still unripe and hide them in bushes or in mud in hidden corners, only to dig them out a few days later to enjoy their sweetness. Sometimes, they even hide the already ripened fruits so that they can relish them later. Delayed gratification! Dog in the manger? 

In November and December, you can see these birds flying with two or three fruits in their beaks, sometimes even entire branches, hiding them and then going back for some more.

Kainth Chors (pear thieves)- that's what I call them!

Over the years, I have seen this spectacle quite a few times from close quarters, while sipping tea at my friend's balcony. The wild pear tree in her front-yard is a popular target of  fruit theft by a pair of lumb-puchhris. Their hiding places for hiding/ripening these fruits is a large flower pot nearby, which is usually full of flowers. The birds expertly press some fruits into the soft mud in the pot and hide others inside the flowers and leaves. They then return a few days later and savour their goodies with much delight. 

But last November, there was much confusion and cacophony near their favorite hiding place. The birds were hopping around and screeching. They had dug up the flower pot and moved the bushes around several times, but there was no sign of their sweet treasure. The birds were hopping mad, literally and figuratively, and rightfully so! The thieves had been robbed of their loot!

The lady of the house, a quiet homebody, sat smugly on her balcony and watched the drama. There was a faint smile on her face, made sweeter by all the kainth fruits she had consumed over the last couple of days!

Note: All but the last picture are taken from the Internet. Copyright others'.The last picture is of Sonika's mother. Copyright and every other right- hers! 

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Best Feedback!

Last month, I finally set up a food stall in the local mela. I had been dreaming of doing this for a long time, but never had the energy or the time to carry the idea through. But this post is not about me or the reaction of my customers. It is about Aloka and her customers!

Aloka is a budding chef, trying out new recipes and experimenting with ingredients in her free time, which is a lot since she started home schooling last year. As expected, not all experiments have been successful, but we have still enjoyed her creations.

Sometime last year, I chanced upon some cute looking almond chocolates in the fridge. They were yummy. I was amazed to find out that Aloka had made them, all by herself, without even my knowledge! She had used her knowledge of making chocolate ganache and devised her own technique of adding almonds to them. For molds, she had used the IKEA silicone ice cube trays we had purchased many years ago when we used to live in Singapore.

So, when we set up the food stall in the mela, I asked her to sell her chocolates too. She was strangely reluctant, but I was equally strangely pushy. So, while I prepared chicken schnitzels and buttered potatoes on the day of the fair, she made some 50 flower- and fish-shaped chocolate treats. She was shy about going around selling her wares, but agreed to try to sell them to any customer that came to our stall. The chocolates were priced at Rs 5 apiece, which would fetch her a small profit. She slung a bag with some change in it (all Rs 10 notes) and held her box of chocolates in her hands.

The fair was a madhouse and I had no time to look up to see how Aloka was doing. She first came to me some 20-minutes into the sale with a worried expression on her face. "This boy wants a chocolate", she whispered, "but he says he has only Rs 2." I turned around to see a young balloon-seller, perhaps 12, dressed in a vest and shorts, looking expectantly at me. I told Aloka to sell him one chocolate for the money he had.

A half hour later, Aloka was again by my side, asking for change for Rs 100. "The boy wants two chocolates, but I don't have enough change", she said. Once again, I turned around to see the same boy, the balloon-seller, this time holding a 100-rupee note. He was back, ready to pay the right price for the treat, which meant that he had sold quite a few balloons by then. I dug into my purse and handed Aloka Rs 90 to pay him. He left happily with his purchase.

By now, we were selling out fast. So was Aloka. She had two chocolates left by the time I was sold out. I smiled at her, and hoped to grab at least one of her chocolates, when lo and behold, the same balloon-seller was by our side again, this time with a younger friend. He held out his 10-rupee note to Aloka, and bought her last two chocolates. The two kids grinned and sucked on their fish-shaped treats while walking away.

That evening, various people had bought Aloka's chocolates. Some were people who knew me and perhaps felt compelled to buy from Aloka. Others were strangers, but were sort of captive audience because they were sitting down to eat food at our table. Hard to say no to a child selling chocolates in such circumstances too.

But here was a boy, who wasn't at the fair to spend his parent's money, but to earn his own. This boy chose to spend his hard-earned money to buy Aloka's chocolates. Not once, but three times!

What a compliment!

Could there be better feedback? I don't think so.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Stepping Inside

At the end of a busy day 
After all the friends and lovers have left,
The mother having been bid good night
The child fed and put to bed,
With a last look at the mountains and clouds
That seem to unwind for the night ahead...
I step inside
And find myself alone with myself
The most beautiful moment of my life.

Political Plants!

Seeing a lot of Parthenium, also known as congress plant, growing all around in the hills, my mother Chandrama Anand says:
There is a sudden explosion of congress grass here recently. Perhaps in response to the new BJP government in our state!
Witty, witty!

A pair of Eyes, A Grateful Heart!

Written on April 13, 2018

Today, sunlight is sparkling in the leaves. Butterflies are coming out of bushes in hordes and leading our way. Hundreds of them. Jacoranda and silver oaks are turning the roadsides purple and golden. Kachnar flowers are reminding me that pink, my least favourite of colours, is indeed something divine when framed against the blue sky.
What a beautiful world. All you need are a pair of eyes and a grateful heart!

Written on April 13, 2017

Today, as we drove back from Palampur, I did not stop the car even once to take pictures. The beauty passing by was so breathtaking that I was almost paralyzed.

The white wild-rose creepers were in full bloom all along the way- their flowers so ordinary individually, but so stunning as a group. The large white and pink kachnar flowers would appear in clusters and overshadow everything else with their fullness. The bougainvillea flowers in red and magenta were as if pouring out from homes on to the road. Bright red and orange roses were calling my attention here and there. Pine trees had new cones, barely formed and still green, but standing upright. Bottle brush trees were more red than green. Some big tall trees had clusters of very fine, very delicate pink flowers. The green, so much green, in so many shades. And the butterflies, plain white and yellow butterflies, flying everywhere!
I don't think I uttered my famous "wow" even once. The "wow" had permeated inside me. I was mesmerized by what nature was displaying proudly.
I quietly, and very gratefully, enjoyed the show put up especially for me.

What is Truth?

I used to believe
that truth is One

I used to see truth with my trusting eyes
Feel it as a strumming chord in my heart
Express it as a firm statement on my lips
Believe it as a conclusion that made sense.
In my simple life with its simple participants
I never came across a situation
when truth was contested.
Truth was truth

Now it's all changed.
Truth isn't what really happened
But what is made out to be.
It is whatever someone says
and more so, whatever another accepts.
It is facts turned and twisted like plastic wire to any shape desired.
It is falsehood added at the end of a sentence- like a scorpion's tail
Hissing, ready to strike

Truth is no longer monolithic, unchallengeable
It is a war of words
Of who can cry louder
Of who has a more convincing narrative
Of who is more believable
Of who can tug harder at one's belief systems
Of who is more articulate
Of who is readier with responses.
Winning is EVERYTHING!

Did someone say- Truth will set you free?
Then how come I am a prisoner in its ugly hold?