Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blossoms and blessings

"But listen to me. For one moment
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you."

~ Rumi

Sometimes it's just mystifying, how things fall into place out of nowhere, almost nothing. Perhaps even more so than how they had fallen apart in the first place. But they just do, one by one, fragment by fragment.
Going through some archived folders of photographs, I chanced upon the Qutub Shahi tombs and like always, inched toward that instinct to post-process some. Although I've already written about these magnificent old tombs last August, I hadn't seen a certain connection between some pictures, not even when I was clicking them - that of the bougainvillea trails and the tombs. From a series of clicks, emerges a grand, ethereal view - first the minaret, then the dome and finally the whole tomb unfolds from the gossamer embrace of the papery pink blossoms. Photographic epiphany, perhaps?

Also, it has been a time to feel blessed. A time to trust that old, feathered thing called hope. The last week was quite unexpected, choked with tumultuous emotions. My Aja, maternal grandfather, was suddenly taken ill and the doctors suspected something rather bad. I was afraid we won't see that surprised, foggy-eyed smile that greets us every time at the clank of the big old gate. I was afraid there would be no constant gardener digging away obsessively and marveling at his own hard work. I was afraid how a tiny yet significant corner of our lives would change forever. And the worst of all - I was afraid how my dearest Aai will cope with it all, after some fifty odd years of steady togetherness. But surprisingly, during all this, the eighty-year-old Mathematics professor who has already braved three massive strokes refused to bow down, astonishing all with his beaming optimism. So, after a series of tests and doubts, the results came yesterday - he is alright! A flood of relief washed away the accumulated fear from our hearts, and I could hear the blessings dropping around us, in soft, blossomy paws.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hill fever

"I go to the hills when my heart is lonely
I know I will hear what I've heard before
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music
And I'll sing once more..."

Wanderlust. It all came back with a morning watch of that darling of a film. Once again that desperate longing for the hills. The itch to sniff the piney mountain air. Where the sun is honest and the people simple-hearted. Where windows open to silent, sagely peaks. Where serpentine roads climb in a moody fashion. Where life does not mean getting gagged by work and expectations ...

While I pine for all this in my heart of hearts, I have been cooped up for a few days with a stubborn throat infection that just refuses to leave. And bouts of feverishness make it even more worse. The hills, the pines, the people - all seem far, far away. It's a terrible feeling, to be at one place and to leave one's soul languishing in another. Much more terrifying than that is to be surrounded by people and yet feel the most crushing pang of loneliness, because nothing they say makes sense to the world inside your head and vice versa. So for now, I'll have to do with Prajwal Parajuly's The Gurkha's Daughter that brings eight colorful tales from the Himalayan foothills to my arid Hyderabad doorstep. The debut of a brilliant 27-year-old, the simple yet deeply humane stories, not for once fail to mesmerize with their tender storytelling. The aroma of steamy momos, the reverberating serenity of the gompas, the ubiquitous prayer flags framed against the blue backdrop of alpine skies, the omnipresent Kanchenjunga, the murky waters of the winding Teesta - I see them all in the faint yellow of the afternoon light streaming through the bedroom windows. As I had seen them, wide-eyed and hypnotized, in a freezing winter of 2007. So yes, the hill junkie is satiated for now.

And whoever came up with the honey-ginger-pepper tea for such sore and croaky times - may you be blessed forever!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Buddha's little island

"In the end
these things matter the most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?"

~ Buddha

An early Sunday morning. The now-autumn, now-winter nip in the air. The sun, a big orange ball, slowly climbs the rungs of the pale, fog-clad sky. A quick halt at a roadside chai kiosk to stir the groggy sleepyhead in me. The eager shutterbug in me tries to capture the elusive curls of steam rising from the tumbler. Yes, that's how roadside tea is served in India, in tumblers of thick glass. I kind of like its rustic touch, which opens a little window to a very dear childhood nostalgia of the many five-hour drives to grandfather's place. So, toward a blue, blue lake we head. Framed by rocky canyon-like formations and terracotta-hued pebbles on its bank, the waters glitter under the rays of a rather cruel January sun. On a raucous motorboat, whose foam seats smell like a pungent combination of rubber and metal, we sail forth to a tiny historical Buddhist island. Neat, landscaped gardens greet us through a flight of stairs guarded by tall inscribed pillars. Some trees wear a surprising autumn crown. The bright yellow of the leaves and the sapphire blue lake in the background make a dazzling contrast. Lovely prayer flags, yet again. Fluttering radiantly in the green breeze, they sprinkle their calm and good wishes all over the place. A rusty Buddha, missing an arm, stands inside a brick barricade, humbling all by his towering presence. A heady combination of serenity and well-being enshrouds us as we leave the island at the departing call of the motorboat.

These past ten days I have lived and loved well. More than that, I have been fed well, most of the times to the brink of my nose. Letting go of such wholesome goodness was hard, very hard. The reason - my parents! Need I say more?!

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