Monday, August 27, 2012


A good cappuccino to beat the monotony of grocery shopping, creamy pistachio kulfi with friends well past midnight, a hearty Sunday read from Gulzar's "Neglected Poems".

Quiet times, content times. The time to just be, when everything else around recedes into a blurry, oblivious distance. Another new week waits at the door impatiently, to give way to yet another whirlwind of routines and rules. But not today. Let the day be. Just be.

A few favourite lines from one of the "neglected" poems:

'You gave me the earth
On which I could build
A home good enough
for you to live in;
Come, when you find
time from all your
other chores
Maybe on some
"weekend", come!'

~ Gulzar (Translated by Pavan K. Verma)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hyderabad rocks

An old, old picture. The famous "Mushroom Rock" in my university campus. One of the many such strange, fascinating stray rock formations in the city. A site most frequented by wanderers and lovers, but mostly by nature worshipers like me. All this dates back to a good seven years, when the world around us was a little greener. 

To come back to the now, while on our way to the airport last weekend for a short trip to my in-laws', we were awed by the dramatic rocky landscape once again. The airport being far removed from the heart of the construction sprouting city, one gets an impression of being ushered by these stunning rock beauties lining both sides of the freeway. Balanced as if by magic and stoic from the scores of years of experience, the rock structures stand strong under a mellow sky. Part of the sprawling Deccan Plateau, the basalt and granite boulders are stacked upon each other in the most mysterious manner. 
But very soon one awakens to the sad reality, and not without a jolt - everyday, bit by bit, this spectacular rockscape is thoughtlessly chipped down to make way for towering buildings. The math is simple - more greed, more infrastructure, more money. Thus, in the name of urbanization, merciless quarrying of an ancient treasure has chiseled away years of history and heritage. If not for the laudable efforts of the Society to Save Rocks, this wonderful piece of nature's handiwork would be lost forever. Hope the much published and less practiced "Rock Walks" take a big leap into every Hyderabadi's heart and spread the word - Hyderabad rocks, noun or verb. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rewriting, retelling

It rains this afternoon. It always does at this hour, when all is quiet and half of the day lies decaying, paving the way quietly for the other half. Searchingly, I run to the windows, for a glimpse of the rain-fattened sky, or may be a full-bodied, leafy tree to watch the drops do a dandy dance in the shaky caress of the drunken leaves. A rumble of thunderclap and I wake up from my wishful thoughts - my windows open to the neighbor's bedroom walls and my balcony offers only more concrete and broken vista. Devoid of any scenery, I make do with the familiar fragrance of wet earth that fills every corner of the house.

This obstruction in my rain-peeping brought back mellow memories of an always drenched place, when not so long before I would watch the rain drizzle on the dark pines from my patio that gave way to a magical peek of the cloud shrouded Cascades. All this, of course, seems to be a far fetched dream now or at best something like Coleridge's blurry fragment.
But this sudden burst of uncontrollable nostalgia surprises me. Was I not the one who would relentlessly complain of the sodding rains then? Was I not the one who would vent rain-soaked rants here, there and everywhere? How, then, did the once annoying rains become so dear today? Of course, I am moulding and mending the unpleasant bits of past to suit my precarious present. I am beautifying the once desolate, rain-beaten landscape into something romantic. And nostalgia is always romantic.

As luck always has her own way of mocking you, she couldn't have shoved a more appropriate read my way - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Just a hundred and fifty pages, yet it manages to turn you round and round as if the whole time you were on a mean, never-ending roller coaster. Tony, the protagonist, takes us on a flashback journey, primarily a solipsistic one, where we meet his mates and their youthfully pretentious, philosophical takes on life. The plot thickens when the most "clever" of them, the Camus-quoting, always serious Adrian commits suicide. Justifying the title, Barnes makes sure we sense the end after a major twist, only to be further distracted by his unreliable narrator. Tony weaves people and plots from his foggy memoir that spans more than four decades, while all the time the reader sits on an edge doubting the selectivity of his memories. What we remember as the truth and what really is the truth are two very different things. With his patchwork of additions and subtractions, permutations and combinations, he finally arrives at the truth. One that could never be retold.

"How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but - mainly - to ourselves."

~ Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The flip side

"Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar..."

~ William Faulkner

Only this is just the beginning of August and yet another of life's little ironies happens. Seems like only yesterday when I was choking with euphoria and slathering my joy all over the cyberspace upon finding ilishi in Seattle. That indisputable king of fish, or at least that's what we East Indians think. Now call it preoccupation or mere forgetfulness of the taste buds, we haven't had, or for that matter even searched once for the dear old fish after our return home. Instead, we were on the lookout for our Western favorite - salmon. And what's more, we finally got it! Straight from the Scottish Highlands, although frozen and therefore not at its pretty orangish best like what we used to get in that seafood heaven called the Pacific Northwest, it still tasted good. Just like the ilishi did last year. 

Regarding our little "American" grocery store, I always knew it existed but never cared to visit it. And that was before my life as a foreigner. But now, once back with another world throbbing inside me, continuously reminding me of its riches and beauty, it was a must visit. I can hardly express my emotions, that gush of warm familiarity that rushed through me after stepping into the tiny store last Sunday. Let's just say if nostalgia was a river, I would have been kayaking on it. That's how high I was! Just like I used to be when stumbling upon my brand of curry powder in an Indian grocery store back in the States.
Even the once monotonous and ridiculously familiar box of Cheerios made me do a little dance! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August blooms

"Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there."

~ Thomas Fuller

Little by little, inch by inch, the spaces in our new home are being adorned with meaning and life. With the rooms almost done and the last of our shipped boxes waiting to be unpacked, the settling part at least seems to be falling into place. I had kept the garden for the last, for it needs time and patience. Like all things that need love and nurturing do.
Now, I wish, and how desperately, that I had a real garden, one where I could dig into the dirt and let my soul lose in its intoxicating earthiness. But this is a city, or as my favorite cliche would convey it more beautifully, a concrete jungle. And all I have got is a rather huge rectangular balcony where toddlers could play cricket! But the abundant space does allow me to dream of a colorful little balcony garden with rusty, unpretentious terracotta pots. I intend to create a green, breathing pad that would provide a refreshing refuge from the din and decay of the dreary city life. So with the hibiscus, rose and marigold, I dream of painting my balcony with a carnival of colors.

And so August blooms, verb or noun, quite literally.

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