Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Guest Who Never Came

Mr X was supposed to come to our place
for lunch this last Saturday
( He was in our neighbouring town on work)
And so I bought some extra milk
and some bananas, and used my last
mango of the season to make custard,
early on Saturday morning!
I took out the bowl of chholey
I had kept in the freezer, to defrost.
But then he said he couldn't come that day,
so the custard went into the fridge
and the chholey back in the freezer
and we went to Khan Market
to buy a present for
a young friend's fortieth birthday.
And so I acquired an exquisite pair
of silver earrings from Amrapali
and a stunning cotton saree from Cooptex,
and that evening, after dinner
I ate a bowl of custard.

Mr. X was supposed to meet us on Sunday
but we had prior commitments,
and he turned out to be busy too,
though we would have rearranged our plans
to meet  him!
So we went out for lunch with family members,
came home and had a quick nap,
before we went out for the evening function.
Since I couldn't nap, somehow,
I ate the remains of the morning's bread upma
and a bowl of custard, just in case dinner got late.

Then he was supposed to come over
on Monday afternoon
and spend the night with us,
before catching his flight home on Tuesday.
So I made up the guest room bed
and put fresh towels in the bathroom
all ready for our guest, whom we were expecting
in the afternoon or early evening
and was wondering what to make for dinner,
when the spouse called him
(just after we had had lunch)
to find out where he was.
I offered the spouse some custard
but he declined, so I had some
(it was thinning out by now,
losing texture, but still delicious).

He said he couldn't make it that day,
but would come today (Tuesday),
on his way to the airport.
I thought he'd be having lunch with us
so I changed my plans for a shopping trip
with a friend, only to learn from the spouse
that he was was expected only in the afternoon,
and not for lunch,
and that the spouse would go with him to the airport,
so that they could catch up on the long ride.

So my friend and I went shopping,
and I come home to discover that
our man X will not be coming home at all,
since he had got delayed at his work place,
but the spouse will be meeting him
at a hotel near the airport.
So the spouse has a quick lunch and leaves,
I have a leisurely lunch, and a bowl
of by now very skinny custard,
and put the dregs of it in the freezer.

My dear Mr.X, thanks to your not coming to our house consistently over the last four days
I have ingested a great many unnecessary calories.
The next time you plan to visit us, I will start cooking only once you are inside our home, after making sure that you are actually going to stay for a meal.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Janamashtmi inspired: Krishna songs, mostly from films.

My friend Madhulika Liddle posted ten of her favourite Krishna songs from Hindi films today, and inspired me to post my own favourites. Several of them are, understandably, part of her list, especially Manmohana Bade Jhoothey and Jaa Tosey Nahin Boloon Kanhaiya (which forged my abiding love for Raga Hansadhwani). My conditions for choosing these songs are nowhere as stringent as hers, all songs are not addressed to Krishna, a couple of them are sung by him to Radha (when she pinches his flute).
In no particular order, my selection of  Hindi film songs celebrating Lord Krishna:

Manmohan man mein ho tumhi (Kaisey Kahoon, 1964)

Kaanha Jaa Re (Tel Maalish Boot Polish, 1961)

Radhika tuney bansari churaee (Beti Bete, 1964)

Brindavan ka Krishna Kanhaiya (Miss Mary, 1957)
Such delightful lyrics: Rang salona aisa jaisey chhayee ho ghat saawan ki

Baat Chalat nayee Chunari Rang Daari (Rani Roopmati, 1957)
I had always loved this song, but didn't know of its provenance until one evening in the eighties or early nineties when Rani Roopmati was being telecast by Doordarshan! Those were the now unimaginable days without the Internet or Google!

Aayo kahaan se Ghanshyaam (Buddha Mil Gaya, 1971)
I've always loved the song, and after seeing the movie found it even more enthralling: a lovely semi-classical song linked to more than one murder!

Madhukar Shyam Hamaarey Chor (Bhagat Surdas, 1942)
How can I not have the inimitable K.L. Saigal on my list?

Radhe Rani De Daaro Na (Puran Bhagat,1933)
This was a Saigal song that my father used to sing, so it has a special place here.

Chali Radhey Rani ( Parineeta, 1953)
Manna Dey's magic, a delightful rhythm, and emotions any woman can identify with!.

I'm concluding this post with two non-film songs which are great favourites,  composed by two great Bhakti poets, Surdas and Meerabai, respectively.

The immortal Kundan Lal Saigal sings Maiya Mori Main Nahin Makhan Khaayo

Chhannulal Misra sings this utterly beautiful Meerabai composition, in which the milkmaids are so utterly engrossed in their love for Krishna that they forget that they are selling curds, and sing
Koi Shyam Manohar Lo Re!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hugging the breeze

The normal baking heat of June
is compounded by humidity,
the gift of some stingy rain,
leaving sweat-runnelled bodies
in its sad wake.
Air-conditioners add to the heat
outside the precincts that they cool
Sometimes it even seems
hard to breathe,
yet walk we must, every morning
The old new friends,
happy in their sixties,
exchanging their stories,
and laughing, mostly at themselves.
We've managed to spread the smiles
in our housing complex:
so many of the senior ladies
who looked through everyone
besides their walking friends
have now succumbed to our wiles,
and greet all and sundry with a smile
or a nod, an acknowledgement
of their existence.
What more can one ask for???

Oh, plenty more.
Yesterday, we were baking
and broiling and stewing,
(take your pick),
early in the morning
and asked for a breath of wind,

We asked, and we received,
a rich and powerful wind
when we walked round the corner
of our road.
A glorious, happy-making wind,
which we promptly embraced
with wide open arms,
laughing all the while,
hugging the breeze, with joy and delight
and true gratitude.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Bald Facts aka Balaji's Blessing


Shaven heads mean different things to different people, different cultures. In North India, at least, babies' heads are shaved for their 'mundan' ceremony. Sons often shave their heads as part of the mourning rituals for their fathers. Buddhist monks and nuns have shaven heads. In the milieu in which I grew up, it was rare to see a woman with her head shaved. Persis Khambatta's beautiful bald head in Star Trek :The Motion Picture (1979) made a huge splash in our world. Sinead O'Connor was another bald woman whom I was vaguely aware of.

Over the years, though, the frequency of my sighting of female bald heads has increased.

In the mid-nineties we moved down South, to a different city and a life which seemed quite different from the familiar patterns of our life in Lucknow. With the SRE's new position in the organisation, our attendance at large, official parties became more frequent. At one such party, I encountered a petite, elegant woman of indeterminate age, with a shaven head. She had gone to Tirupati and had had her head shaved there, much to the chagrin of her husband. We had a great conversation about all kinds of things, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and her company. A few months later there was yet another, bigger party. I saw an elderly woman with short grey hair, whom I simply could not place. She seemed so familiar, but for the life of me I just could not place her. As soon as my head touched my pillow that night, I suddenly realized that it was my erstwhile bald friend!!! I was terribly abashed and annoyed with myself for a) not recognizing her and b) missing out on some lively, stimulating conversation. Our next encounter was at a friend's home. As soon as I saw she entered the room, I went up to her and profusely apologized to her for not recognizing her with her hair!!!

In the interim I found more bald women in my life. A college friend who also had her head shaved in Tirupati, a school friend who had lost her hair due to chemotherapy for breast cancer, other friends who were cancer survivors. These were the two standard reasons for their bald heads.

Although it may seem as though I'm going off at a complete tangent, my critique of the NCR's female morning walkers is germane to this narration. Even when we lived here some fifteen years ago, they seemed to be a notoriously unfriendly bunch, and even now, their general demeanour is blinkered, and eye contact is to be avoided at all costs. Some months ago I discovered a kindred soul, who actually looked me in the eye and smiled at me on our second or third encounter. It helped that she reminded me of a young friend of our family, with dark curly hair and a wide smile. Over the last few months my walk timings had become very erratic, and I hadn't seen this lady for a while, although I had seen her husband walking alone a couple of times. About a fortnight ago I see a slight, bald figure, approaching me with a smile, and I realize that it is my formerly dark haired 'acquaintance', with whom I have never yet exchanged a word. I instinctively ask her, 'All well?', and that marks the beginning of our friendship. Like me, she was also most irritated by the general unfriendliness of the walking community in our neighourhood, and was happy to find a kindred spirit. She had gone to Tirupati and had had her head shaved there. Thanks to what we now  think of as the blessings of Balaji, we are both delighted with our brand new friendship: something neither of us expected to find in our sixties. We are now happy, regular walkers who are actually walking an extra round or two when we have the time, delighted to find that we have so much in common!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One year ago today

One year ago today was a Sunday.

(This is a leap year, or else today would have been a Monday).

It was the last day our weekly satsang was held at Mr. H's home,
He had retired, and had to vacate his centrally located government accommodation with a sprawling garden, after 10-12 years of hosting our particular satsang.
After we moved back to the NCR, it became our almost weekly meeting place, my sister's and mine.

It was, perhaps, also a way of reliving our childhood and youth, when we often went with our parents to the satsang on Sundays, in a different location, but nonetheless an inextricable part of our Sundays.

Although the RE is not interested in attending our satsang, he usually drives me there, then sits in the car with his newspaper, iPad, book, mobile phone, keeping himself busy for the hour or so that I'm inside. I am truly grateful to him for this. We sometimes venture further afield, sometimes go straight home. ( I sometimes hire a driver for the morning, if the RE's not available).

On this final Sunday, my cousin and his family were visiting us from out of town. They decided to come too, which was wonderful. We'd planned to go to Dilli Haat afterwards, have lunch out, and then go home. My sister was often an insistent host, so we thought we'd visit her if she insisted, or else go on our merry way.

There was a poignancy to that morning's service. It was the end of an era. The new location was miles away, in East Delhi, and many regulars would not be able to go there.

My sister and I would always sit together in chairs in the verandah, as our creaky knees no longer let us sit comfortably on the floor. That was the day I noticed how beautiful and dark her eyelashes were. I even asked her if she'd used kohl, but she said that she never did.

We chatted for a few minutes after the service, and I hugged her and moved towards the car. She seemed a little tired that day, and wasn't her usual insistent self. ( I recall a time I had to go several kilometers out of my way to go and see the spring flowers in her garden. I'm so glad I did).
My cousin and his family spent a few moments chatting with her, and then joined us.

That was the last time I met my sister.

She passed away suddenly less than a month later. We spoke on the phone a few times, even a few hours before she died. It still feels unreal.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A very special day

So many loves throughout this life,
loves both given and loves received
Loves in the past, some long forgotten,
Many gone from this world, 
some merely lost to me.
Perhaps more love than I ever deserved
has come my way, truly blessing me.

And then there's this new love
who has overtaken our lives
whose name(s) we chant day in and day out
the spouse and I, crazy Dadi and Dadu
Far away though we may be, 
convinced that our thoughts get through
the miles that separate us......

So full of joy today, willing to shout out
to the world, be of good cheer, 
may joy abound everywhere, 
let the world forget it's myriad woes
just for a day
as we celebrate our little grandchild's 
second birthday!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Owning half the year

Life was simple then,
summer months were
no big deal for us,
no particular events
made them ours.
But from Independence Day,
(my mother's birthday),
to Republic Day,
my parents' anniversary,
each month
'belonged' to us.
August, mummy's birthday
September, sister's,
October, brother's
November, mine,
and December Daddy's,
and their January anniversary.

Of course I've added
many more dates and months to this list,
but my original family calendar
feels so empty now.