Tuesday, November 20, 2012


"When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn't the old home you missed but your childhood."

~ Sam Ewing

During the last weekend, I took a rather sudden and short getaway to my maternal hometown, Puri. Ever since our return from the States, the visit had been long due and also, I had to get away to some place kind and nourishing, before the hustle and bustle of the life here engulfed me entirely. And how the three blessed days fled past me like an uninterrupted and peaceful dream - aai's (grandma) simple yet scrumptious meals; mausi's (mother's youngest sister) overwhelming concern for me as if I'm still her fourteen-year-old, scatterbrained niece; and mamu's (mother's youngest brother) countless tokens of affection. A Puri visit, even if just for a day, has always been special, one that often leaves behind a treasure trove of perfumed memories. Therefore, after every return, it has always been difficult to let go of the joy, this absolute childlike joy, which now lingers in my thoughts and in the persistent 'in Puri...' narrations to the husband.

Puri. The little seaside tourist town throbbing on the edge of the roaring Bay of Bengal. Where I grew to know myself, who I am, and what I will turn to be one day. Where many a memorable summer vacation is still painted in warm, orangish tones, tinged with a faint whiff of the salty sea air. Where I would sit by the window of my favourite backyard-facing room and weave my first tales of imagination and love. In grandpa's two-storeyed, white colonial house, this window once opened to a myriad of musings, and for hours I would sit gazing at the moody swaying of the coconut leaves, notorious monkeys cackling on boughs laden with ripe kendu, and write my diary, my sacred diary in fact, for it kept many a precious secret of an early teenage tucked inside its doodle-stained pages. 

It has been two bustling days since my return, and by now, I should have fallen back into the drab, demanding ruts of my routine life, yet all I care to think about is the simplicity of life back there, where people still know the art of living. Just like yesterday, the coconuts trees still stand tall, the kendu still bears fruit, and the monkeys haven't moved from their choicest pad. How I would love to go back and live there, in that uncomplicated world of my childhood, a thousand miles away from this maddening crowd of corporate buildings, suffocating shopping malls, and pretentious faces. If only I could look out that window now and see the things I used to once upon a time. If only.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The diyas are out again. Everywhere, on doorsteps, on terrace borders, on balcony lattices, and inside homes, warming them up to a toasty perfection. Glitzy and pretty, like small wonders they shine, as they unveil the hidden joy from bustling city lives. Gone are those days when lines of traditional earthen diyas would adorn every veranda in the town. I still have fond remembrances of  the crisp October-November evenings, when I would sit beside grandma and watch her make wicks from coarse cotton, which would be later dipped in diyas filled with castor oil on the evening of Diwali. Sadly, the lack of time and tradition in our urban lives and rampant consumerism have replaced this beautiful ritual with ready-made jazzy and colourful lamps that are mostly a cross between a diya and a candle. So this time, I got little pot-shaped lamps filled with wax with a wee bit of fancy lace tied around the neck.

We have been waiting for the last five years, and how desperately, to celebrate this much loved festival of lights in the home country. And here we are at last. What adds a big dollop of happiness to this Diwali is the joy of lighting firecrackers, a thrill we so dearly missed in the States. The husband has gone back to being a gleeful ten-year-old (himself, that is) and has come back from the market with a bursting bag of firecrackers. We can't wait for the evening twilight to fade and the night sky to turn into a twinkling canvas of light and colours. One luminous, kaleidoscopic feast it will be. If only I wasn't bitten by nasty cold bug! Nevertheless, wrapped in the warmth of festivity and well-being, I hope to make the most of it.
'Tis time then, to pop, fizz and sparkle. Wishing one and all a very happy Diwali.

PS. Here's a glimpse of our cracker craze!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November surprises

November always takes me by surprises, like these tiny lilac flowers cascading down from the otherwise plain, undemanding basil. I had never seen one flower, or in fact knew it did, before this. With the winter on her way to making an elegant comeback, the days have begun to shrunk. That strange yet delicious coming together of torpor and restlessness is back, and nothing like these quiet little awakenings to kindle the winter woes.

Then, there's a tiny yet overwhelmingly mulish part of me, that takes almost a century to finally acknowledge greatness that has long surpassed its peak. Of course, it's not the first time I'm regretting this, but with The Kite Runner the regret almost leaves me gasping. After two days of sleepless reading punctuated by stifled whimpers (yes, I do that), I am yet to come out of Khaled Hosseini's stunningly devastating world, a world that is so tenderly painted with love, hopelessness, and loss. Loss of everything, almost. What tugs at my heart is the one line - "There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood" - and perhaps there, in those heartrending, resigned words, lies the soul of the novel.
I won't say much about my afterthoughts, mostly because I realize I don't have words that would express the deluge of emotions pirouetting inside me, and also because I don't want to say goodbye yet. I can still see Hassan's carefree smile, the one sugared with unwavering love for 'Amir agha'; I can still smell the warm naans that Ali brings from the bazaar; I can still feel the cold crunch of snow under the zealous feet of the kite runners; I can still see Baba and Rahim Khan enjoying their black tea amid swirls of smoke rising from their cigarettes; I can still imagine the colours of Kabul before its war-torn, harrowing doom; I can still see Amir endeavoring all his life 'to be good again'. And I can still hear Hassan's heartbeat humming the only song of his life...

"For you, a thousand times over."

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