Monday, October 31, 2011

Say "Boo"!

It's pumpkin time. When its overwhelming mellowness follows you in an aroma trail wherever you go - pies, breads, lattes, lanterns, pumpkin patches, and sometimes in the most unusual of places, my head. Because it's Halloween. Another colourful festival. Another excuse to switch off the unmelodious, humdrum song of life. And surely another day to live and love.

So when a much preoccupied devil woman was baking these pumpkin spice cupcakes and fretting over the messy icing, her hippie husband was beaming over how perfect his carving of a spider was. And what a contest of charades - his abnormally large, bouncy wigged head to her glaring red horns!
The warmth oozing from the heady mix of the pumpkin and the spices, and the quaking golden leaves from the kitchen window painted a perfect little autumn paradise. Dusk fell and then came along the other masqueraders, some ghostly and other adorable but all radiant in their bizarre best. And it was a happy, happy night that followed. Of fun, food and friendship. 

Wish you all a very happy Halloween! Boo!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let there be light

It is that time of the year again. Back home, of course.
Diwali, our festival of lights.

When the beautiful diyas on everyone's front porches do the talking... When their orange-yellow flames envelop all in a tight bond of love and togetherness... When the air is filled with the boom and roar of colorful firecrackers... When happiness is all you could smell and be... When the tempting aroma of sweets wafts from warm homes...
When it feels all is well. And even if it isn't, it will be. Someday it has to be.

This time, I won't do my regular share of homesickness rant here that I am so used to during these festive times. Instead I will show you the sparkling diyas that lighted our home and warmed our hearts this eveningI also made gulab jamun, a traditional Diwali fare which is dumplings made from milk powder dough which are deep fried and then soaked in a fragrant rose syrup. And yes, the garnish includes crushed almonds and pistachios.

Here is a glimpse of the little India that the husband and I put together this evening.
Wish you all a very happy Diwali, dear friends.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reliving the Golden

Last weekend, we squeezed in a mini break to San Francisco. It was long due, since July probably, and our friends down there wouldn't take another excuse. Now howsoever ardent a mountain lover one might be, who could resist the temptation of California? More so when it is the exciting Bay Area. Not me! 
Also, since we have lived there once before in the course of our nomadic sojourns, the place evokes some very warm memories. Therefore I just wanted to go, for the sake of a closure may be. 

But the most seducing of all the factors was a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge. This was my third visit to this spectacular and probably most photographed bridge, yet I have come back unquenchable again. There is something about the geographical juxtaposition of the bridge that makes it so unique and impressive. I often imagine it as a giant, mythical red bird emerging out of the blue waters. And each time I have been there, the bird has fanned out its wings and made more room for itself in my heart.

The Golden Gate Bridge spreadeagled across the Pacific... the San Francisco downtown rests on the watchful cradle of the bridge... the throbbing pulse of the Bay Area traffic runs on the bridge... walking by its towering presence... the evening sets in and so does the legendary fog... the flaming orange doused by the dense, mysterious fog... frenzied seagulls follow us around the ferry... a cargo ship crosses under the bridge... my mind rushes to plunders of the Caribbean and the whimsical Jack Sparrow... the fog, the gulls and the ship with the majestic Golden Gate in the backdrop paint an unforgettable picture of drama and timelessness... the prized moment when nature and man conspire together to create something so breathtaking... night creeps in and the walkway on the bridge beckons... the thrill of the crisp ocean air and the scant traffic... one look up at the climb and drop of the mammoth railings... some golden memories relived, some more spun... a golden day indeed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

One fine autumn morning

"I saw old autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like silence, listening
To silence."

~ Thomas Hood

It was a fine, fuzzy, foggy morning today. The kind that stays with you for a long, long time.

When the snugness of the comforter was tough to let go... when the day was yet to rise from its deep, enshrouded slumber... when a feeble sun was trying to kick hard through a dense curtain of fog... when the ripe air gave a bittersweet chill... when cacophonous birds lost their way to the red, juicy berries... when the blazing leaves wore a mellowed, pastel demeanor... when a strange stillness hung in the air... when the everyday monotonous walk to the coffee shop was a sprightly dance of crunch and colours... when the mellow caress of the pumpkin spice latte warmed and awoke blurred senses...

On such notes of perfection, a careworn world floated past me like a dream, in bubbles of calm and nothingness.
Let this world be. For a while, at least.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Not yet, not yet...

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving."

~ Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

I have called it home. In my heart. I let the sun go in and sometimes watered it too. Soon the warmth spread to the very core of my being. Sip by sip I drew from it, living and loving. Days passed, seasons went by and we hopped from place to place making and leaving many a friend in the way. And now it is time for the trailing spouse to trail back. To uproot my foreigner being and plant it back where it belongs to. The air and soil miles away from here, its real home.

With the first of our things gone on craigslist today, I feel a little shaken. A lot actually, to be honest. Suddenly there is a sense of inexplicable emptiness, even if it was only a music system that we hardly used. How could I help but not get attached? Five years is a long period of time. And I was never, ever good at the art of detachment.
As much thrilled as I am to return to everything my own, I just can't shrug off this strange sadness. So many 'what ifs' loom large as I make up my mind and heart. The most baffling of them is perhaps the fear of failing to fall back in the old and familiar ruts. Ironic, isn't it?! May be because this chunk of life we have lived here will end here. It won't come back again, even if we do. Because by then a lot must have added and subtracted. Because by then it would be a different wheel of life altogether.

But there is still time, or so I would like to think. The leaves are yet to fall and the wretched trees have yet to brave their cold bareness once again. Let spring knock on my door with pearly blossoms galore.
Till then, this maddening greenness is mine.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yeats and weekend

"I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

~ W.B. Yeats, He Wishes for Cloths of Heaven

This is the result of an ongoing Yeats overdose in the Modern Irish Literature course I am currently into, knee-deep and sleep-deprived. So it's Sleepless in Seattle literally! Although not my most favourite of poets, some of his poetry, especially the early period with the vanishing fairies and the intriguing Celtic folklore is quite seductive. They almost take you on a day trip to Neverland.
The later phase is where I get disenchanted. The political, propagandist Yeats is not my cup of tea. Try as I might, I could never get my head around it.
You see, the mumbo-jumbo is where I feel at home.

That said and nudging Yeats aside, I am two happy feet today. It's almost weekend (I am on PST and hence the more than half a day's tiring wait), which means a promised shopping excursion and all I have been dreaming of lately are scarves. Also there's a potluck dinner tomorrow and I am making methi chicken, which is chicken cooked with aromatic fenugreek leaves. So scarves and chicken - could I be more happy?!

Have a lovely weekend, dear friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Neruda and rain

It rains today. It had rained yesterday and the day before as well. And a few years back, inside me, around me, in blinding downpours.
There is something about these nascent drops of water, in the wee bit o' quivering life trapped in them. Something that sneers at the pretender in me. All those things that I am not, that I can never be. If not for this world and its suspicious ways. Once I turn my back to them, I like to be me. And the rain makes me just that. It inspires me to sing and dance like the possessed raindrops cascading from the far-flung sky, before the ground swallows them into its dank, mirthless world.

As I watch the reluctant drops trickle off the edges of the yellowed leaves, the rain seeps into me and waters the dry, dusty bylanes of my head. And I start living again.
Just like this baby jade that shows off its grand green glory post a good shower.

When in between such swings of rumination and the chill invading the sock and stealthily climbing up my toes, what better than the trusted, heady combination of tea and poetry? Today it is about love - the unadulterated, unconditional love that Pablo Neruda celebrates in his initially infamous yet oft quoted Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Although translated, who else croons love's myriad tunes with such intense perfection? Let it all rush to the head, then!

A few lines close to my heart, from Sonnet XVII:

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,

so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep."

What do you do when it rains?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The death of ghazal

Jagjit Singh is no more. The ghazal maestro whose poignant voice gave many a reason to dare to love despite its signature haplessness, and in the process even unravel a certain chaste Urdu/Persian word or two. Whose silken voice healed many a wound, even when sometimes there was nothing to heal. Who revived the ghazal for us Indians and yet stuck to its core character - poetic expression and the unmistakable pathos of the lovelorn. I, as a mortal, was fortunate enough to go to one of his live concerts in Hyderabad five years back, the prized memory of which shall live with me forever.

His soulful renditions stir and brew a little storm in me every time I listen to one of his effortless creations, and then just like magic that very voice would lull that raging storm as well. I have been witnessing this spell, ever since I was a bratty, moody 13 years old. And through the treasure trove of lilting melodies that he has left behind, I wish to be continued to be bewitched so. May your soul rest in eternal peace. Although I still cannot believe the tragedy. To borrow a YouTube fan's very befitting tribute - "Ghazal died today, again."

Here is one of his many heart-searing ghazals and an old, old favourite. A lover implores his long lost love to be careful in the ways of this shrewd, interfering world. She must not pay heed to people's trivial gossip about their once beautiful past and must guard her present honour. Written by the Urdu poet Kafeel Azer, the intense lines are a coming together of sarcasm and love at its best.

My heart owes so much to him. Every time it was broken or fractured, his voice would mend it and make it ready to brave the world again.
And it didn't have to be love every time.

(Image courtesy,

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The moody mountain

The 'now-there-now-gone' Mount Rainier 

One last look before the infamous Seattle rains swallow it forever, and the pestering clouds enshroud its moodiness in their puffy whiteness.

Before grey and black come to mean much more than just colours.

Before the year creeps away unnoticed on its soft snowy paws.

Before a new set of temptations and resolutions knock at the door.

Before it is time for the usual set of goodbyes, yet again.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Plummy goodness

What does one do with a couple of unused plums? And oodles of boredom? Whip them up together with eggs, butter and flour and let them be friends inside a temperamental oven. The result - a warm and beautiful plum cake for tea, especially for the overcast, drizzly late afternoons that we are beginning to be threatened with. What's worst, they are here to stay. Just brew a fine cup of chai, preferably ginger or cinnamon, and a damp autumn never felt half so good.
Oh and yes, don't forget to invite the birdies. For I've heard a tiny dollop of birdie gossip makes this cake perfectly plumtastic!

For the interested and curious:

Plum cake 
serves 6

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 plums, pitted and sliced into thin long petals

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.
In a small bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Then beat in the eggs and the milk.
In a larger bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the egg mixture. Whisk gently till the batter is silk-like fine.
Spread the batter evenly into the greased pan. Arrange the plum slices attractively over the batter (I prefer it the free-spirited, whirlpool way!).
Bake for forty minutes or until a toothpick when inserted comes off clean.
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool before serving.

That Steve Jobs is no more, still hasn't sunk into me. There are some people whom you don't need to know personally to feel that strange void once they are gone. May the man who changed the way we live today rest in eternal peace. In his own words, just "Stay hungry. Stay foolish".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Olympic Peninsula

Who says one needs a long, meticulously planned getaway to weave memories of a lifetime? Just a ferry away from home and a couple hours of drive through cozy little port towns with a distinct native American charm, and there you are - the breathtaking Olympic Peninsula. The surprises included glacial lakes, snow clad mountains, temperate rain forests and beaches with haystack rocks. All in all, a tiny world in itself, bursting with natural beauty. And what did I bring home back - forever

The guardian-like towering totem poles thronged the way... scores of Indian legends carved on fragrant cedar barks... a day by the side of the serene Lake Crescent... lazing under a mellow sun, amid wild flowers with Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach... sighing over buxom rhododendrons, preening in the morning light... gazing dreamily at the floating marshmallow clouds... a drive down to Forks, the Twilight town in the late afternoon... once a quaint little lumber town, now all 'dazzled by Twilight'... how things change... Rialto beach, dramatic with the scores of bleached driftwood... contemplating the ocean's endlessness through the giant hollow of a log... spectacular haystacks stand high in the green waters... the day ends with a beautiful cedar planked smoked salmon... a drive up to the majestic Olympic mountains the next morning... snow, still there in patches, like a tattered blanket on the ground... baby bear spotted on our way down, bewildered by the sudden attention of cars and cameras... an idle afternoon walk in the old growth forests of the Pacific northwest... the forest trails paved with tiny blue forget-me-not flowers... resolute brooks gurgling through mossy rocks... sailing into the sunset on the evening ferry... gulls flapping their wings on the golden waters... watching the mountains blur into distant shadows... home, hale and hearty.

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