Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I watch

"Some of us look for the way in opium and some in God, some of us in whisky and some of us in love. It is all the same way and it leads nowither."

~ Somerset Maugham

I, instead, watch...

the slow yet sure death of my miniature roses. But look, how elegant they look even when robbed of every tiny atom of life.

the cloud of perfumed smoke rising from a bunch of incense sticks as it tries to climb the flimsy rope of my Buddhist prayer flag. How funny all of this seems, me being the confused believer sometimes and the resolute nonbeliever most of the times - I don't light the incense sticks ritualistically but love the feel of their faint floral scent wafting throughout the apartment; I don't chant the mantras but I love having prayer flags around for their mood-lifting colorfulness.

a late January sky pregnant with moody nimbi, framed by plumeria or the champa, as it is locally known, the quintessential floral ambassador of the tropics.

a neighboring apartment's terrace garden chockablock with colourful pots and bald plants, red dominating the colour riot.

my cup of tea, which grows cold from way too much meandering. Not the tea, but me. And this breaks the rut, as I must get up for a desperate run to the microwave.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Qutub Minar

"Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."

~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

A mellow December day. The in-between balmy hours of late afternoon and early evening. Delhi, that mad, mad city, peopled to its brim. A bewitching mosaic of a myriad worlds. Two pairs of tired, yet eager feet hop on to an attractive, yellow-green CNG autorickshaw for a stroll around the Qutub Minar. Strange, how some places just refuse to grow old in your heart despite the number of visits. The road to the once ancient city of Mehrauli flanked by old peepal trees on both sides, chockablock with swanky cars. That's Delhi for you. A forever melting melange of the old and the new. The play of light and shade of the quaking leaves allow us intermittent glimpses of the towering Minar. Resplendent and majestic as ever. The fading winter sun baths the Qutub complex in a faint rosy light. A pleasing sandstone blush. The stage for the evening twilight is all set. The sleepy jasmines pout and preen for their nocturnal show. A flurry of pigeons and parrots search for their resting pads from the scores of nooks and corners. 

Amid all these enchantments, I try to find that lost world, when all this was true, when all this made sense. Perhaps it still does, to lost souls like me. Through its silent stone alleys and lattices, I try to unearth the magic of the bygones. I try to glue the fragments of a chipped history from the intricate carvings of the Quranic verses on the Minar's body. On the way out, I come across the bust of a half-baked dream, the abandoned Alai Minar - an ambitious imitation of the original, a dream that died with its dreamer. I remember being very moved by this story of unfulfilled aspirations when narrated by my father during my first visit to the Qutub Minar. I was fourteen then. Sixteen years later, nothing much has changed. I walk a little further and find a fallen tree, almost uprooted and spreadeagled on the ground in the most hopeless of manners, yet flourishing perfectly with the green vigor of life. May be we all need our stack of half-baked dreams to show us the path to that pot of green gold.
As the day finally calls it a day, whining about tiredness and the crowd, we walk out of the complex. And so do the birds.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Getting away

"I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better."

~ Robert Frost, 'Birches'

Sometimes getting away is good. The kind where you remain in the same place and yet manage to escape the surrounding hullabaloo. Sometimes it becomes essential to turn away from the world in order to understand it better and be understood in return. Sometimes one needs to be like a tree, to allow oneself to be equally loved and ravaged by the seasons, and yet remain unfazed by it all. Sometimes one must get away, even if it is just for a tiny while. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

North and South

No, I'm not going to write about Elizabeth Gaskell's compelling industrial novel. Rather, drawing from its title, I'm going to dwell upon the great climactic divide that exists between the north and the south of my country, between a city I love and another which despite my frantic attempts of disownment, clings to me as my second home. 

Delhi reels under an all-time low of 1.9 degree Celsius, they say. Off late, it has been reeling under many other lows, a desperate coming together of anger and anguish threatening its very existence. Once again, India's proud capital has been slammed as the most dangerous city for women. Despite the scathing shame, the city trudges along as the ever-bewitching fortress of culture and glamour, and for me, it has always been like the forbidden, fatal lure of an old lover. 
It was only last month when I was there, feeling the beginning of the quite popular Dilli ki sardi (Delhi's winter). On a balmy December afternoon, we had wondered amid the enchanting ruins of the Qutub Minar, smitten by its stunning architecture and the cacophony of the restless parrots adorning it. Then on our way back to the hotel, we had devoured steamy momos near a bustling metro station of south Delhi. The husband, being a huge fan of these mouthwatering Himalayan dumplings, has to have them whenever in the city. Later in the evening, I had met a dear old friend over cups of Darjeeling, seasoned with university nostalgia, Rumi and the literary perks of being professional editors. He disclosed his nascent fascination for monkhood, whilst I shared my long-cherished desire to live and teach in a small Himalayan town. It was beautiful - the interweaving of reality and illusion, that dreamy reunion of what was and what could be.

Down south, things in Hyderabad are starkly different. There's no winter. Other than that elusive nip in the early mornings, temperature barely dips below 17 degree Celsius. There are booming sales on winter-wear in the shopping malls and there are forced dahlias and roses, those quintessential winter blooms in India, adorning the balconies. But there's no winter. When we go out for post-dinner coffee gatherings on weekends, I carry a flimsy shrug with me anticipating moments of 'what if', but they just never come. Each time I open the wardrobe, I stare and sigh at the neatly arranged Kashmiri stoles hanging patiently in there. There's no winter. There never was much.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

To newness

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s what part of it means to be alive. But inside our heads — at least that’s where I imagine it — there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let fresh air in, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live for ever in your own private library.”

— Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

And with that brave sentiment borrowed from Murakami's ethereal prose and this feisty cluster of palash (how very aptly named 'flame of the forest'), I wish you all a wonderful new year filled with much love, laughter, and sunshine. Stay blessed.

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