Monday, 1 December 2014

Leaving home.. And finding a new one!

Its not as if one is leaving a home for the first time. In a profession where our average tenure at a station rarely exceeds a year, my stay in Lucknow for the past 21 months (to be precise) has been one of the most challenging and yet a fulfilling one.And yet, even as we prepared to shift homes, much as I raved and ranted about the one BHK space of barely 700 square feet that we had lived in till now, my heart cried for this place  where we had welcomed little N into our lives, where she learnt to walk and smile at sun each day and where I made the transition into motherhood. And just like it is with me every time, on the last night in that teeny-weeny house, all I could think of was of the dozens of places I have called home for varying duration of time.

My first memory of being away from home is that of JNU. Back then in July, 2004, every time the 615 (bus) rolled onto the serpentine avenues of this sprawling Aravali campus, all I could sense (and now remember) was a place redolent with lush and rain-washed vegetation. It was indeed an oasis amidst the concrete chaos of Delhi and as the punchline of my Godavari hostel succinctly captured it, 'the river of life runs through it'. My first (co-)ownership of that small independent space filled us (me and Shw) with such immense delight- we spent hours doing small decor jobs like white-washing the room in a light lavender, covering the dull wardrobe doors with paisley patterned gift wraps and making neat tabletops with colored card-stock and plastic book wraps. 

Thereafter life took me to places and hostels and circuit houses over the next 5 years till for the first time I was allotted a house of my own in Agra in 2009. That house has a host of firsts to its credit as it slowly dawned on me what it takes to run a household and host guests. The loveliest part about it however, (apart from the lovely friends/neighbours Pre and Prat), was an old Peepal tree outside the house with a flowering climber winding around its trunk and branches. Of all the wonderful people who visited me in the city of Taj, my fondest memories are those of C's brief visit with Uncle from across the border. I really hope life affords me an opportunity again to host them and I can not help but imagine all the stories we could share of places and people over these intervening years. 


Living in A's family home in Noida in 2011 was a comfort of sorts but even before I could finish the decor, I recieved marching orders for Banda. As A joined me in UP in August 2011, the pain of leaving lovely homes was doubled, as we invested time and energy in setting up houses where each one of us would be posted. There are innumerable posts dedicated to our Bundelkand sojourn. Brief as our stints were in Unnao and Kannauj, the houses were still dear to us and we spent many afternoons deciding upon the color schema, matching upholstery and curtains and such other knick-knacks. 

Today its been a month (precisely) since we started living in our self-owned place. While A's exuberance in sprucing up this house is understandable indeed, for me the feeling is yet to sink in. Every time we moved to a house, and found some part in a state of disuse or neglect, my heart bled and I prayed if we ever owned a house, it should be a place where no one has lived before and I could build everything from a scratch. Am grateful to God for answering my prayers and so far each day that we have lived in this house, has been one of deep contentment and relief.

Every time we change places, I feel as if we are leaving a slice of our lives behind. Each place has such distinct memories, that play of sunlight on relaxed afternoons and that pitter-patter of raindrops on its myriad surfaces. In a moment of serendipity, I found this poem by an anonymous author on Pinterest, which seems to echo my thoughts word by word. Even though me and A own a house now, I am sure the demands of our profession will take us to newer places every now and then. Each space that we will inhabit, will carry a few molecules of our breath forever. To me, every place one visits and has lived in gives us stories to tell our children and grandchildren, but more importantly, in older years, these places will remind us of how things were when we were young!

this is for the people
who find it difficult to leave,
whether that is to leave
people or places.
this is for the people like me,
who build homes out of
everything we touch.
every inch of skin,
every page in a book,
every stranger's kiss.
this is for the people
who wear their hearts on their sleeves,
and on their lips,
for those who carry it in
the palms of their hands.
this is for the girl with
a hundred strings tied to her, 
tugging her in every direction
except forward.
this is for you.
this is for me.
we are nomads who find homes
that temporarily house our hearts.
we are travelers that 
never leave our home town.
this is for those who are
afraid to cut the strings,
for the people who are afraid to
leave the places our hearts have
grown so comfortably in.
cut the threads,
set yourself free.
we will find new places,
we will find new homes.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Thanks EsVee! And a toast to blogging!!

Three years and thirty posts, and am yet to immerse myself completely into the joy of blogging. Thanks to EsVee from Dainty Delights that I get to say these words and as my blog introduction makes it amply clear, blogging for me is more of an attempt to treasure memories of places life takes us than anything else. Looking back, ten years from now, I might read an old blog post and feel happy for a certain time of my life.

Little did I know about the hidden secrets and gems of blogging till I started reading a cooking blog and then a home improvement one and then a child care one and so on.. While this is my first shot at any blog-hop, for a couple of years I have wanted to participate in some blogging challenges and learnt a good deal following innumerable gifted bloggers from across the world, who have helped make me a better person in ways unknown to them.

About me

I could describe myself as essentially a person who lives dividing time between her profession as a civil servant, her responsibilities as a mum to an eighteen month old doll , spending time with her family and friends across the country and filling her spare time with her zillion hobbies. As my better half A likes to put it, I rarely accomplish anything with precision because the endless streams of ideas and possibilities distract me before a job is completely done.

Growing up in Delhi, I pined for the hills and the forests and the rivers and the seas. For a person who traces her lineage from places like Lahore and Multan in pre-partition India and who grew up hearing grandmothers' tales of places as far as Sylhet and Rangoon, I relish sweet Zarda rice and Dal Bukhara as much as the Italian or Chinese. Moreover, being married to a guy who was born in Nigeria, traveled across the world and grew up in places as distinct as Allahabad and Noida, the concept of hometown is rather ephemeral to me. Yet Delhi remains the city of my dreams and Lucknow with its rich culture and history (and culinary tradition!) my current home.For a family which lost more than wealth and status in the aftermath of the Partition of the country,the events of history affect me deeply and needless to mention, a number of my blog posts are dedicated to the grandeur of places in an era gone by. 


My hobbies

While drawing-painting-card making-gift wrapping and other paper crafts have continued to inspire me from an early age, quizzing had been the greatest love of my life till other important priorities took over. Living in places people have not even heard of, there was no alternative to cooking and baking on one's own. While visiting A in Tripura in the early years of our marriage, I was immensely inspired by three lady officers namely Sonal, Tanushree and Saumya who made some of the best food imaginable in some of the toughest circumstances. Tanushree if you ever happen to read this, I follow your recipe of 'red sauce' till date  and will remember you for guiding me to Youtube cooking videos for clarity and technique. Five years on, I love 'Cooking up a Storm' in my kitchen whenever possible and will shortly launch my eponymous cooking blog showcasing idiot-proof recipes for a hearty homemade meal.

Apart from this I happened to pick up embroidery during my years in the city of Taj with EsVee and have continued ever since. Our latest project Tapestry of Dreams awaits completion and I hope to make a few embroidered hoops for few dear friends soon afterwards. Like most small kids do, I too love collecting stamps and coins and good notebooks. A's gift of a DSLR has drawn me to nature and bird-watching of late and I hope to learn much from the same in days to come.

Growing up in a houseful of English literature classics (which belonged to my father), I believe it runs in my blood by now and I have dedicated an entire page on my blog showcasing some of the best reads I came across.

I love indulging in simple pleasures of life like getting up late, tea and biscuits, starched cottons, dappled sunshine, endless chatting, smell of warm baked goodies and so on. Pinterest  has been a revolution for inspiration-seekers like me and I follow a lot of fellow bloggers for a variety of things.

Some of my favorite blogs are:
For the blog hop I would like to nominate Q and Anurag for their thought provoking blogs. Hope to hear from you guys soon..

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Far Pavilions.. Tales of Badshahi Bagh

Year 2009

The first assignment in any profession is often the the most difficult and challenging seemingly. Add to it the fact that one is posted in an outlying rural sub-division and has no idea of how to go about dealing with people's expectations in such a remote and inaccessible corner of the state (if not country), and one feels one is doomed to fail miserably. With these innumerable apprehensions and the pain of being away from family and friends for quite some time to come, I decided to test my luck as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Agra's Fatehabad. With a rickety jeep to take me around and a dusty country road winding through endless row of farmsteads, I embarked upon my journey to begin the first chapter of my professional life. 


The irony of the situation however remains the awe it evoked whenever my parents would mention Fatehabad. To the minds of common people and millions of tourists across the world, Fatehabad meant the eponymous Fatehabad Road which houses some of the best and the most luxurious hotels in this part of the world. How were I to explain that beyond that 10 km of urban fringe, a completely different world awaits to tell a story only a minuscule fraction of people come to know of.

I still remember that Tuesday of 18th August, 2009. While the journey seemed to be a trial of sorts with the clouds of dust billowing in from the sides and the risks of driving on a country road where numerous modes of transport ply according to their own timetable the only thing I remembered was when the driver swerved the vehicle on a small arterial road outside the tiny township of Fatehabad and massive walls of a fort-like structure greeted us from a distance. 

I was super-excited to know about the existence of a historical fort in my sub-division. Only that the next moment, as the jeep entered through the magnificent front-gate of the fort was I made to realize that this very walled campus serves as the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM). And it not just serves as the office of revenue establishment (of which SDM is a part), but also that of Police, Judiciary, hundreds of advocates and to top it all, houses a Community Health Center too! With my city-bred sensibilities and then little knowledge of the parameters which govern the protection and preservation of our heritage as per law, I expressed my outrage and disgust at the gross neglect and misuse to which the wonderful structure was being subjected to.

Over the course of next few weeks, I had to dig deeper into the history of a place left forgotten in the middle of nowhere. Soon I learnt that it was here in May 1658 that Aurangzeb defeated his brother Dara Shikoh in the battle of Samugarh and usurped power from the Mughal Emperor Shahjehan.

In his book 'The Peacock Throne: The Drama of Mogul India', Waldemar Hansen writes:
"For India, Samugarh was perhaps the most decisive military engagement that had ever been fought and lost. Far from settling a petty family dispute over a crown, the disaster presaged three hundred years of vital events: British conquest, the ultimate division of Pakistan and India, Hindu Moslem feuds, and endless bloodshed. Medieval Mughal splendor had ended; the so-called age of Akbar, with its liberal coalition of Moslem and Hindu, its fused nationalism in politics and art, was gone forever. Aurangzeb would see to that".

             Battle of Samugarh, 1658

Even as we strived in our own little ways to preserve the structure and prevent further damage by increased activity inside the premises, when we downloaded a Google Earth satellite image to lend credence to our case, I was mesmerized by the perfect square of green which looked like an oasis in an area which is otherwise largely dry. Back then too, availability of water was a huge concern and was taken care of by the four wells which exist till date outside the four corners of the walled campus. There was also a beautiful pond with chhatris at a short distance from the fort and if not for the ever-expanding encroachments, it might be still existent. Even the residence where the Tehsildaar resided at a distance from the campus, was of Mughal vintage and had served as the stables of Maratha Daulat Rao Scindia for a couple of decades in the early 19th century.

As a new entrant into service, I wrote an agitated email to to the senior members of the service seeking guidance about the possible avenues of conservation of the historical structure. Back then while a lot of members extended advice, INTACH and ASI expressed their helplessness in view of an almost non-existent tourist potential. While I got transferred in April 2010, I continued to harbor a hope for the revival of the place and made it a point to share the same with whoever might care to listen.


Fast forward to the year 2014

Its been five years since I left the place and anybody ever mentioned Fatehabad again. Somewhere deep down inside, I too had reconciled with the current state of neglect of our heritage in most parts of the country. My stint in Bundelkhand had already bled my heart to the extent that I would shiver to visit a forgotten monument ever. Yet, on a completely unrelated visit to the office of my the then boss in Agra, on this fine morning of 4 September, 2014 here in Lucknow, he hands me a document enlisting the details of historical monuments in Uttar Pradesh, INTACH has decided to conserve in near future. My heart skips a beat to find a mention of Badshahi Bagh, Fatehabad in the list and while it seemed to have been erased from mind and memory, I once again glimpsed the familiar pavilions of Badshahi Bagh. While my contribution to the chain of events might be non-existent altogether, the fact that somebody had decided to take notice of a magnificent ruin in the vast hinterlands of the city of Taj is heartening enough and felt like a personal achievement of sorts. While I believe in a magic which makes things move in this universe, was it just a coincidence that the news was shared with me by the same person who was just as churned up as I was back then in Agra in 2010?

 "But why, you ask me, should this tale be told
To men grown old, or who are growing old?
It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate."

-Morituri Salutamus

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Turning 31 and the challenges of being an academician!

31st birthday is not a happening event in any case. Its not even as if one is completing a decade of existence. Add to that the fact that one's best friends (the likes who are credited in blog posts)do not even remember and an eighteen month old constantly tugs you down, one can not help but wish one could stay 10 forever. As a kid I hated the fact that my birthday would fall on a National Holiday every year. Since it would always be a holiday at school, I could never attend school in a new dress and distribute sweets to my classmates on the day of my birthday. Today, being a civil servant,I have a duty to attend the flag-hoisting early in the morning and other such official engagements planned for the day. I can not recall a birthday when I could claim the day for myself and just let things be!

However, it did not turn out to be as bad as I might have made it sound. To look at 200 (officer-)trainees present during the flag-hoisting in formal attire and everybody lending their voice to the singing of our National Anthem fills one heart with pride for one's country. It is on occasions such as these that one can feel the idea of 'unity in diversity' and however much we may differ, our respect for our nation and national symbols really shines forth.

And while my dear friends forgot my b-day in their own official engagements, my dear colleagues R and S surprised me by gifting me a beautiful bouquet of flowers each. While the flowers would dry out in time, it is the memory of this gift that would linger forever.My sisters and family would never fail to wish me on this day, however near or far they may be! More surprisingly, while a boisterous party was insisted upon on this occasion last year, a lot has changed in this one year and me, A and little N celebrated the day all by ourselves gorging on fabulous mushroom-cheese enchiladas and penne farmhouse for dinner!

I may not have mentioned it before, but in the kind of profession that one is in, the chances of coming across an academic assignment are rather slim. And even when one talks about academics, its not as if one is studying/teaching literature or pure sciences, rather one has the task of training fresh entrants into the service or mid-level government officers  by equipping them with latest tools and  basic skills essential for being an effective administrator. While it is easy to conduct sessions which are objective like legal theory, the real challenges arise when it comes to abstract notions like leadership, humility, perseverance. As a Course Director, one constantly worries that the inherent bias of a speaker/faculty member may be imprinted upon the receptive minds forever.

Also certain aspects of certain professions (read government service!) are rather 'intoxicating'. For one, there is a sense of 'having arrived' on the scene. It just doesn't stop at that. Even in a profession where most of the perks and promotions are safeguarded by law, there is often a strange sense of superiority and cleverness displayed by a few. Again, thanks to the super-competitive Indian society (and more importantly pushy parenting) if one has qualified for certain institutions/professions, sometimes one develops the tendency to look down upon those who do not carry similar tags.

Strangely enough, I sometimes feel, we have lost our ability to appreciate a poet who always wanted to be one. No wonder that a country as huge as ours, has over time, a dwindling population of artists and literateurs and sportspersons fewer still. In our country, for most people who attain some degree of success in any walk of life, it becomes difficult to look up to those from humble backgrounds and from alternate professions with parity and tolerance. 

As a beginner student of economics back in 2001, the basic premise that was made clear to us is how economics differs from our other 'pure' social sciences. While pure sciences like chemistry, physics would yield similar results under a similar set of conditions, economists can only claim satisfaction from the 'law of large numbers'. Even then, an economist can never be certain of results because when it comes to human behavior, no scientific tool can predict the same with infallible accuracy.In recent years, a number of Nobel Prizes in Economics have been given for Behavioral Science, Decision Making and allied fields.

Yet while a lot of research is being carried out in these fields,  I can only seek comfort in literature finishing two dense reads 'Snowflower and the Secret Fan' and 'The Book Thief' back to back. And yes, before we even dare imagine incorporating inputs on behavioral aspects in the structure of our courses, me and my colleagues too need an orientation training for the same. In the meanwhile, am happy that the tribe of artists, writers and poets continues to flourish in the larger world and years later when little N has to choose her calling, she need not worry about the tags, and will have these innumerable role models to look upon.

While another year in service (almost co-terminus with my birthday) and 365 more days of my existence on earth pass rather uneventfully, I send out secret thanks and prayers to God for all that there has been and all that he has in store for me. Talking about A's gift,I can imagine him saying

For your birthday, I got you a box. Hooray! It’s empty, so you can fill it with whatever you want.

Jarod Kintz, A Zebra is the Piano of the Animal Kingdom

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Goodbye Banda and my favorite peacocks!

Saying graceful goodbyes has never been my forte and saying a final goodbye to a place twice over, happens rarely in life. Its difficult as it is to come back and live in a place one had left forever once. And when it comes to leaving yet again, its not just living through a feeling of deja vu but also one has little or no emotion left. 

This time around, not just me but everyone knew, my stay in Banda will be short and limited to the specific purpose of conduct of General Elections alone. Once the purpose was accomplished, it would have been a surprise if I were allowed to continue for long. Carrying absolutely no baggage with me ( both the literal and the emotional kind!), it was just a matter of biding time. The only thing I looked forward to at the end of the sweltering hot days was the bevy of birds who would come to roost in the lush overgrowth around the house. Much as I may have remain detached during my stay, the fact that little N spent hours chasing peacocks and parrots on her tiny feet, filled my heart with unbounded glee.


These peacocks and parrots and the innumerable other birds who roosted in the house had been an integral part of my life during my previous stint too (even before little N was born!). So much so that when the temperatures would rise to 50 degrees (yes, Banda is often the hottest place in this part of the country), not just me, but even the caretakers of the house would be worried about the birds and would deliberately leave the tube well leaking during the day and keep water baths all around the campus. When I started blogging about Bundelkhand, I wished I could do a post on 'Bird-watching in Banda' but did not possess the right lens to click their pics. Once we started noticing birds, me and A invested in a good telescopic lens over time. It was only fitting that when I had to bid adieu this time around, (and it did not take longer than I expected) the only living beings who bid me farewell were my dear birdie companions I had loved and looked forward to seeing each day. And boy! the performance by the peacocks was truly mesmerizing..

During the summers of 2012, when a college friend Av and his wife Sh had chosen to move home to Banda permanently giving up a plush job and urbane lifestyle in Mumbai, I was both surprised and happy. It took immense courage to give up so much just to be with one's family. During my first meeting with Av and Sh then, one of the nicest things about my house I remember telling Av was a pair of horn-bills who had just then started nesting in the house. To me somehow, in some unconscious corner of my mind, that pair signified Av and Sh's home-coming. To my sheer delight,just as Av and Sh welcomed little V into their lives, that pair has also expanded into a family of six.

Apart from the horn-bills, the roosting calls of the babblers, cuckoos, peahens, Indian Roller (Neelkanth) and the myriad other winged creatures made each evening spent in the house both enchanting and enjoyable. It was also a source of immense happiness to see the first flowers in the row of Gulmohars we had planted in the house. Feeble as they were in the oppressive heat and inclined as I always am towards laburnum flowers (thanks to JNU!), I can not help but imagine the sheer beauty of these trees when they develop fully and grow strong trunks. In a landscape which turns brown for miles on end in the summer months and where not even a shard of grass grows, if it were not for the bewitching trinity of Palash (Flame -of-forest), Amaltas (Laburnum) and Gulmohar, this place would have been a desert to look at. The road from Karwi to Allahabad traverses through a magnificent natural forest of Palash which is sadly being fast ruined. While millions are spent on afforestation drives each year, and only a minuscule proportion of those saplings survive, these sturdy species broadcast their seeds through nature and survive wonderfully in these hostile conditions.

My stay in Banda has given me memories to cherish for an entire lifetime. It has taught me the true meaning of resilience, perseverance and above all, hope. It wasn't at all difficult leaving either. Just that it is difficult to live with the knowledge that a place which contributes so much to the development of other 'big' cities, should itself remain so grossly neglected and misconceived not just in terms of basic infrastructure but also people's perception and sentiments.

A bird who hurt her wing,
now forgotten how to fly.

A song she used to sing,
but can't remember why.

A breath she caught and kept - 
that left her in a sigh.

It hurts her so to love you,
but she won't say goodbye.” 
                    ― Lang Leav 

Am submitting these farewell pics for Artistic Inspirations Challenge # 107 based on Memories.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

On a full moon night..

While the election fever in the country refuses to ebb, there was little else to do apart from our eat-drink-sleep election routine. The heat in Bundelkhand makes it difficult to venture out in the open during the day and there is little respite from the constant buzz of phone calls and messages. With two days left for the electoral results to start pouring in, our conversations with family and friends also start acquiring electoral overtones. Interestingly, everybody adds a new twist to the stories and speculations floating all around us. Often, being on the 'other' side of the fence, being detached from the results that shall follow and being thoroughly conversant with the procedural aspects, when it comes to our batchmate-friends, we can not help but share a hearty laugh at messages and stories circulating in the social and electronic media.

It was during one such lively sunset-time empty conversation with dear friend An (of Coorg fame!) that he noticed the call of peacocks and parrots on my end. Looking around I realized the magic of the moment, with a silver moon shining up on the horizon, and bevies of birds settling down to roost for the night. While one could hear the calls of peacocks in this lovely house at any hour of the day, that moment will be forever etched in my memory and on An's insistence, also in my camera. Thanks to An's inspiration, apprehensive as I was of clicking without a tripod, the pics turned out out to be not just amazing but also as another friend N remarked 'mystical'.

Looking at a full moon after ages that day, made me loose track of time and place for a while and made me realize how little we cherish these small joys in life. Of the few things that I shall take away from Banda this time, this moment shall be the one. Of the multitude of thoughts which crossed my mind, nothing could have summed it up better than these lines:

"The moon is a loyal companion.
It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.Uncertain.Alone. Cratered by imperfections.” 
― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Monday, 21 April 2014

Monochrome Memories- Banda Revisited


A popular superstition in our part of the world says that when you leave something behind while saying goodbye, it means you will revisit the place. For me it worked the other way round. It seems when a place gives you so much in terms of contentment, warmth and above all a treasure of memories, it can't be that you ain't gonna be back soon. It can not just be fate which brought me back to Banda exactly two years later to the place that was once my home for over a year.

Dappled sunlight over the golden fields of wheat
So much and yet nothing seems to have changed. For one, the house has seen quite a few occupants in the interim and much has been modified by each one of them. But certain things are intrinsic to a place and much as we may try, they remain unvaried. The flocks of parrots on the Neem trees in the garden, the constant hip-hop of the peacocks in the courtyard and above all, those last rays of sunlight filtering through the bedroom window each evening- these alone suffice to provide me joy and justification of revisiting the place. 

Leaving Banda in the August of 2012, I carried a monochrome image of the house in my eyes,  and expectant hope of a new life inside me! Retracing my footsteps in the March of 2014, as an apprehensive and overly cautious mother of a one year old, I could not imagine living in the same house in a new role and performing old duties alongside. Not just my worries but every imaginable misgiving was laid to rest soon enough- little N not just enjoys the immense feeling of space and the lovely outdoors, but also spends half her day chasing peacocks and the other waking half answering their calls!!

Leaving this place, irreligious though we are, me and A had prayed to the presiding deity of the region (Lord Rama in the form of Kamta Nath at Chitrakoot where he spent his years in exile) that if our child was born safe and healthy, we shall come back to the shrine for his/her first ritual shaving of the head (mundan sanskaar). When the time came we could not live up to our vow; but the benign presence of our dear friend M this time around, as Collector Chitrakoot in his new avatar, ensured not just best hospitality at Karwi while we fulfilled our promise but also the blessings of an affectionate Uncle for our little N.

Family of peacocks in the garden

I continue to believe that it was unfinished business which has pulled me back to this part of Bundelkhand- there were quite a few places left to be visited, quite a few journeys to be made and yet another Bundelkhand Summer to be lived and felt. I hope to be able to record some of those unsung stories this time around and be able to capture some pictures of a place which is often derided at thanks to misconceived notions and falsely painted pictures portrayed by our 'vigilant' media persons (many of whom I recently learnt, can not even pronounce the name of the district well!).

During a visit to the vertical metropolis of Mumbai, a few months back, I realized how little time and open space there was and pined for the relaxed lifestyle of our recent hometown Lucknow. Visiting the distant pockets of habitation in far-flung areas of Banda, we realized time stands still in this part of the world in many ways. Its not just about open fields and clear skies as far as the horizon stretches, in terms of progress also nothing seems to have moved for the last 200 years when the British must have first brought this area into their dominion way back in 1811. Except for the ubiquitous mobile phone (which too did not work on the Kamasin road where we went for a routine official visit!), the majority of houses are still kutcha (as they appear to be in the paintings of the Raj Era), people still fetch water from miles sometimes, electricity supply is pretty much a matter of luck, there is not much difference between roads and dirt tracks (how else could a journey of 25 km take 75 minutes) and agriculture is not just rain-fed but also geared primarily for subsistence alone. Yet, it is precisely on these trips that I truly begin to appreciate the meaning of words like- vivacity, resilience and exuberance. Despite all the decades of wrongs done to them, (either on account of neglect or willful omission), even the people of remotest hamlet seemed enthusiastic about casting their vote and choosing some candidate who will bring positive change to their lives and villages.

Flitting in and out of the house (read headquarters), I sometimes feel as if one is alternating between dream and reality- a house beautiful as a dream and a reality so harsh it jolts you from deep within. For all the people whose lives could change even marginally by our efforts, one feels happy and encouraged, but for all the millions who continue to nurture hopes of a better tomorrow, one prays one is able to reach out to and give wings to their aspirations and dreams of change!

It is precisely this reason that my memories of Banda are not colored but monochrome for I truly hope that in my own lifetime things will improve and the monochrome images imprinted on my mind will be filled with all the vibrant and vivid colors of a rainbow!

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” 
― Ansel Adams

PS: The above pic featured as one of the Design Team favourites at Artistic Inspirations Challenge MonoChrome/ Anything Goes and here's my badge

Monday, 14 April 2014

Like Wind... Like Light..

Time flies. Its been a decade since our paths crossed- not just once but over and over again, tracing patterns which remain as incomprehensible to me today as they were back then.Its not always that people drawn from the length and breadth of this country come together at a juncture in their lives and from that juncture their lives are intertwined forever. Being the pragmatist that I considered myself to be, I never thought that when we will finally say goodbye (for however short or long a duration it might be), we will leave a slice of our lives behind or perhaps something more vital like some broken fragment of our existence. 

Prayer flags in Mussoorie

In the past few days, it occurred to me more than once, that when I feel happy for a friend who recently got married or feel overjoyed for the laurels heaped on another, its because I have known these people for one-third of my life (quite literally!). In more ways than one, we have lived like a dispersed family across space and time, knowing each other's failings and strengths all along. And while modern means of communication have revolutionized things indeed, our bonds were sealed with the language of silence and remain intact as ever. Its not important that we articulate with exquisite expressions because we remember each other in our thoughts and prayers. Life would be incomplete but for the memories that I have carried along and relive in moments of solitude and peace. I wish I could write an entire blog dedicated to preserving our collective memories, some secrets which are yet to be shared and the beautiful times we have spent together but then so much will still remain unsaid and unspoken. 

On several occasions, I wished I could send something across but the trappings of existence always seems to get the better of me. And today while I chose these pictures to write on something entirely different, my thoughts took a completely distinct course and I ended up here instead. Just as these Tibetan prayer flags make the winds carry the prayers written on them across the mountain and the seas, I too utter a little prayer of hope, happiness and contentment for you and urge the winds and the skies to carry them across.

Like wind-- In it, with it, of it. Of it just like a sail, so light and strong that, even when it is bent flat, it gathers all the power of the wind without hampering its course.

Like light-- In light, lit through by light, transformed into light. Like the lens which disappears in the light it focuses.

Like wind. Like light.Just this--on these expanses, on these heights.” 
― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings