Friday, May 30, 2008

From the morning walker who is temporarily out of commission

Since I've been ill and am convalescing and am supposed to rest, of course I wake up at 4a.m. and long to go for a walk. Which is not allowed for a couple of months at least. So I'm consoling myself by posting something I wrote a few years ago.

Random Mornings

Memories of morning walks

over decades,

climates, cities, faces

the familiar rhythms

as the body finds its stride

after each hiatus

caused by life-

childbirth, illness,



rainy days-

each can disrupt, for days and months,

the rhythm of the dawn.

What joy to be out again

In the cool of the morning

The sky, benevolent.

A gentle sun.

Biting cold Delhi December-

Fog, low visibility.

The crowds near the lakes in Kolkota-

Unnerving, at first, to one used to solitude.

Mist, drizzle, koels in Kochi-

A school-going child to be hurried home for,

To be woken, fed, dispatched…..

tea, morning papers, significant others….

The rhythms of routine will prevail

How precious this time alone

Thoughts to be thought through,

Walking as worship,

A prayer running through the mind

Sincere, though perhaps unorthodox.

But since when is one’s Maker orthodox?

Since when are the rituals conducted in His name

All that please Him?

Remembering Him,

And thanking Him, with profound gratitude,

for each new morning, each new day……..

The elderly lady murmuring her ‘paath’

Black-haired “Speedy” with his Walkman,

The lady with the squeaky sneakers

( had she paid for them, I wonder- one shoe squeaked the entire year)

Apsos and alsatians,

Labradors, leashes, the pug near the lake,

(much before Hutch made pugs a household dream )

Mr Muscles, so many others

The amazing interactions,

and their absences

At each new location

The paranoia of this day and age

Underlined vividly in many ways….

The dawn of the new millennium

On the waterfront at Kochi

Three cheerful young men wishing all and sundry

A Happy New Year,

And offering toffees from a bag

It would be churlish to refuse.

But- sweets from a stranger?

Never- one of the earliest taboos….

Not me, not my child, not my maid, nor her child….

No child whom I know or do not know…..

Poor, innocuous little sweet

I slip it discreetly into the water,

Hoping that the fish forgive me…….

How do I perceive myself?

Middle-aged, plump, cheerful, female,

Most definitely non-threatening…….

But after months of traversing the same roads,

At times I wonder……..

Once established as a regular, familiar, solitary walker,

Albeit a stranger,

Strangeness wears off, interaction begins

Usually just a smile, a nod,

An acknowledgement

Of a fellow human being,

part of the community of walkers-

what more does one need?

There was the woman who refused to smile

Perhaps it was part of her socialization-

Smiling at strangers leads to Trouble.

Her persistent non-smiling and my persistent smiling

became a part of our routine.

Surely the joy of the morning had to be shared….

Illogically, stupidly,

it became a mission to make the wretched woman smile.

The entire year I lived in that town, walking,

Watching the purple sunbirds,

The jacaranda and the Pride of India

Purple resplendent everywhere

Crossing her path every morning

She refused to smile.

Until the day after I had my hair cut short

She beamed at me

Why, I cannot say………

The older walkers lack such threat perception

They cheerfully acknowledge the new human being

Who has, for however long, entered their orbit.

With them, it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female,

Young or old, whatever shape or size….

They also crave acknowledgement of their humanity,

Glad that courtesy can exist beyond convention,

Never mind that you haven’t been introduced……..


Courage flowers in many fields-

The early morning roads bear witness

to extraordinary valour ,everyday,everywhere.

The elderly lady in Lucknow,

her rolling gait, her snail-like pace,

bore witness to the pain she bore,

but she walked every day,

each step an achievement.

The couple in Kochi-

Elderly, he with crutches,

Devoted wife alongside,

Adding a few yards every few days,

Progressing from crutch to stick,

The lane outside their house a witness

To their courage and determination.

The neighbour who had undergone

by-pass surgery-

In this new phase of his life

the erstwhile desk-bound workaholic

learns to walk each dawn

as though his life depends upon it.

The octet of elderly gentlemen

Laughing aloud each morning

Their anecdotes slowing their pace to a stroll

Now only three remain,

But they keep on………

Slower, older, shorter, no longer upright

Sticks and canes for support

But their conversation continues, unabated,

as do their walks…….

The very old lady

Bone thin, bent over-

Skeletal hands

Clutch skeletal thighs-

Propelling herself, independent of all

No stick, no cane, no walker, no helping hand…..

Perhaps just the mercy of the Lord

Whose temple she circumambulates, smiling,

at dusk and every dawn.


A luxury, an indulgence

That’s what these walks are,

Leaving the comfort of bed

the only difficulty,

soon transcended.

Early rising becomes a habit-

The body wakens you-

It’s time to get up, time to go

Out into the glorious morning.

Sheer pleasure…….

Lazy days,

lie-abed days soon diminish

of their own accord…..


as a mode of transport,

as it still is for so many-

walking over all kinds of terrain

when there’s no alternative….

That’s hardship.

But we morning walkers,

Self-indulgent creatures,

Walking for the joy of it

Reserving the best part of the day

For ourselves.

We also bask in the admiration

Of those unfortunates

Who can’t make it in the mornings….

Strange, what moral stature

Early morning walks can grant you.

There are so many more who walk

At dusk, in the evenings,

Sun-setters, not sun-risers


City skies are smoggy by then

There’s the traffic of returning commuters

Dinners to be prepared,

Homework to be supervised

Sudden demands for a notebook

Or pencils, or maps (physical and political)

To be fulfilled.

Guests who drop in for evening tea.

Many more potential interruptions-

You can’t call your soul your own,

Most evenings.

August 2004


Monday, May 26, 2008

Nicer than ever!

Parul and Dottie have declared me as deserving of the Nice Matters Award. And Sue had tossed it right back at me when I had given it to her a while ago.
I'm pinching Sue's idea of posting a picture to acknowledge this, so here is a photo of our non-resident (children's) dog, taken almost a year ago!

Thank you, girls.
Takes a bow(wow)!

As per the SRE's request

I am posting his Mothers' Day poem on my blog. And using the Hindi font, with it's inadequate 'maatraas', for the first time.

Jab maa thi toh "Mothers' Day" kahaan tha?
Jo hai sab maa ka diya hai
Jab maa thi toh waqt kahaan tha,
Jawaani kay alam main
Jazbaaton kay liye fursat hi kahaan thi?

Koi is nalayak ghamandee ko samjhaa de.
Ab rone aur ansoo bahane se kya hoga?
Karna hai kuch toh
Anpadh maa kee chhaya si
kisi bachee ko
University kee dahleez paar kara do.
Usey uske adhikar dila do
Maa kay rinh ka ek kann
Shaayad ada ho jayega

जब माँ थी तो Mothers' Day कहाँ था
जो है सब माँ का दिया है
जब माँ थी तो वक्त कहाँ था
जवानी के आलम में
जज्बातों के लिए फुरसत कहाँ थी?

कोई इस नालायक घमंडी को समझा दे
अब रोने और आंसू बहाने से क्या होगा ?
करना है कुछ तो
अनपढ़ माँ की छाया सी
किसी बच्ची को
यूनिवर्सिटी की दहलीज़ पार करा दो
उसे उसका अधिकार दिला दो
माँ के ऋण का एक कण
शायद अदा हो जाएगा

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fighting the Food Crisis

The Mad Momma has tagged me to to "put down 1 thing they think we can do differently with our food consumption habits to help the food crisis in what little way we can".

Most of us do try to cook the precise amounts required by our families, but that is not always possible, given that appetites and schedules and meal plans don't always match up. It is also not easy to change amounts when a family member is away for a few days. The toughest time for me was when my older son left home for college, and I was used to cooking with his appetite in mind.
We certainly ate a lot of left-overs till I adjusted to his absence!

The Mad Momma has given many useful tips for saving food.
There are also many creative ways of dealing with leftover food.
The one thing that I find really useful in addition to what she has mentioned is one that may require a fresh investment, but one that is very useful in the long run:

Use smaller vessels when cooking. It is easier to prepare smaller, more precise quantities in smaller vessels. You also save on gas.

(Unless you are like my nephew, who would rather cook larger amounts at a time, and take them out of the fridge/freezer as required. He was most amused when he saw my tiny, 1 1/2 litre pressure cooker and tiny non-stick kadhai).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Has this ever happened to you?

This is another one of Life's mysteries, but since I cannot sum it up in a single question, I'm not calling it what I called the other three posts (Things I've Never been Able To Understand). This seems to be one of Life's deeper, more complicated mysteries.
'The Mystery of the Missing Whatever-It-Is-That-You're-Looking-For............'
There are loads of things in an average person's home, which will reassure you of their presence and impinge upon your consciousness when you are not looking for them. But the minute you seriously need or want something, it apparently dematerialises, and reappears only when you've either torn out most of your hair, been yelled at by your significant other, or given up in utter frustration. This tendency to dematerialise is especially observed in books and documents, and sometimes Compact Discs. Usually the very CD you're dying to play for your friend. And if it's a book you want to lend your best friend, even though it may have occupied the same few square inches of your bookshelf for months on end, it will hide itself very successfully until the said friend is out of the door, probably doubting the sincerity of your intentions. Bah.
Being my brilliant self, I refuse to concede defeat to inanimate objects, however clever they may be. A friend of mine hadn't been well, and wanted a particular book from our favourite library. I trotted across to the library, and did what I thought was rational and logical- I asked the librarian to help me find it. We hunted high and low, and obviously, I suppose, couldn't find it. ( My own personal style when visiting the library is never to look for a specific book- I will randomly choose whatever appeals to me at the moment. I've read some wonderful books this way). Which wasn't a good feeling at all. I even tried to order the book online, but the sellers don't have a delivery system in our town. I was contemplating a visit to a book shop, but then I remembered that my friend had issued the book out of the library a couple of times, so that was the logical place to find it. But I did have to change my technique...........
The last time I had gone to the library, it was with a single goal in mind- to get The Book for my friend. This time I was much sneakier. I went, as it were, in disguise. I had four books to return, which I returned. I browsed through lots of shelves. I did not speak to anyone at all, let alone declare my intentions. Having picked up a few books for myself, I zenfully skimmed over the shelves. The Book, having been lulled into a false sense of security, was cunningly spotted, embraced joyfully, and triumphantly but silently issued out! It couldn't have vanished from my clutches, but I wasn't taking any chances, was I? Anyway, The Book has gone for a short sojourn at my friend's house, and I'm still feeling mighty pleased with myself!

Once upon a time there was a drawer in our dining room sideboard which was supposed to belong to the lord and master of the house. He was supposed to keep his papers in there. There being some foolish, indisciplined residents in the house as well, random bits of paper, old greeting cards, flyers etc. would infiltrate. The day the lord and master actually looked for something in the drawer was truly dreadful. The children would shiver in their shoes. The lady of the house would try and sink into the floor. Lots of random junk would land on the floor, and the atmosphere would be thick with tension. And he would not be able to find what he was looking for. We were young and foolish then- neither of us knew that the more urgent the document, the more impossible it is to find. The greater the angst, the less success. I would quietly ask what exactly it was that he was looking for, get him away from the scary drawer, and then usually manage to produce the required paper. Since we now have loads more documents, and the lord and master is only Sometimes Resident, I am the official archivist, though sadly I'm never as organised as I'd like to be. But the same rule seems to apply- the more zenful you are, the less likelihood of things dematerialising on you.
What do you say?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Thank you, Neera

"This award will be awarded to those that are just nice people , good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world!"

I would like to pass this award on to Tharini, Usha, MayG, Sue and The Mad Momma.

Tharini's philosophy and wisdom belie her years.

Usha always has an original, warm, wise take on life.

MayG has found her way into many hearts in a very short span of time with her warmth and humour.

Sue is one of the kindest, most affectionate people I know.

The Mad Momma has opened her life, her home and her heart to so many of us.

Ladies, you are all much more than merely nice!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Things I've Never Been Able to Understand-III

How a person of my not inconsiderable size suddenly becomes invisible to people behind her when she reaches the railway reservation ticket counter, or the teacher's desk at a PTA meeting?

Things I've Never Been Able to Understand-II

How can the same preparation be devoured most happily at a friend's house, and be looked at askance at home?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Things I've Never Been Able to Understand-I

How does one single person manage to leave a clean and tidy bathroom look like a wreck after a single morning's shit-shave-shower routine?

Why I Love New York-Part II

The grandeur of early fall as seen from Wassaic station

Dottie, this post is specially for you!

As I'd mentioned in my earlier posts, I wasn't a very enthusiastic traveller on our trip to the US last year, basically because I was totally exhausted even before I'd left home, and couldn't sleep at all on the first leg of the journey (till Stupid Frankfurt! Thanks, Parul). Since we never spent more than a couple of days in any one place, the entire three week journey was lived out of suitcases, which of course I had to pack and unpack and repack, endlessly. The Sometimes Resident Engineer is very good at thinking, planning, brain work in general, but all too often, he is the Management, and I am Labour. Bah. (On our last one-and-a half day trip to Delhi, for my nephew's wedding, his electric toothbrush and razor got left behind at my daughter's place. The poor chap didn't utter a word, trotted down to the local shop and bought replacements, but of course I stupidly did feel guilty. I guess I've psyched myself into being Labour for this janam). I am a champion digressor, as you can see.
It is only now, with the fatigue way behind me, that I'm able to think of all the wonderful things I experienced, and can relive them and share them with you. (My apologies to those whom I've confused into thinking that these are recent pictures. I'm very much in Kolkata).

We flew from Washington DC to JFK, and did not go into New York city from there. That would have been much too tame for us high-flying types! We flew to Albany, were received by an old friend of my husband, and drove down to his country house! Whew! It was beautiful, a lovely old house in acres and acres of land, with beautiful oak and maple and lots of unknown trees which were all changing hue, giving us a beautiful view of fall colours. The kind friend and his wife drove us around the region, which is dotted with small towns, some of which specialise in New England antiques, and are amazingly picturesque. We could have picked apples off the trees- it was the picking season. We saw some amazing studio pottery, among other interesting things.We also briefly visited Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. There was so much to see, and not enough time, as early the next morning we were to catch a train from Wassaic to Grand Central station, where we would meet our older son.

Much as I love nature, I am a city person at heart. Nature is beautiful, soothing, and peaceful, but cities have a rush and a buzz of their own. The New York subway is old and the tunnels seem rather scary. Reaching Grand Central after the teeny station at Wassaic was like being back in an Indian metropolis-lots of people, all rushing around, apparently all knowing where they want to go. The two of us and our suitcases waited in the designated meeting place until our son appeared. After days of glorious sunshine and balmy weather, New York welcomed us in true desi style- gentle rain while we waited for a taxi. The names of the streets seemed familiar. Madison Avenue with its swish store fronts. We checked into our hotel, and had warm and nourishing Greek food at a nearby restaurant. A taxi ride later, we realised that surface transport in NY is as slow and jam-ridden as Delhi or Kolkata.And then we were in a long, snaky but disciplined line outside the MoMa (the Museum of Modern Art). It is one of my major reasons for loving New York. We had seen some amazing paintings at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. But MoMa touched my ignorant soul with a whiff of magic. We started with an amazing exhibition of photographs, some practically as old as photography itself. There was an amazing bamboo structure being installed in a huge atrium. There were strange installations playing with light. And then there were the modern artists that I had a nodding acquaintance with.......
Most of the little knowledge of art I have is from the good old Reader's Digest and assorted newspaper articles.Some of which have taken up residence within me. Not only did the MoMA have huge canvases of Monet's waterlilies, several works by Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh's Starry Night and so many other treasures, they also had a sculpture that I had read about as a child, and had never imagined that I'd actually ever get to see - Brancusi's Bird in Space.
Pure joy, magic, and aching feet!

Down the subway till Washington Square. Because of the persistent drizzle it was rather dull and gloomy, but after a while a couple of musicians appeared on the scene. And then a long walk to Greenwich Village and Soho, names read countless times. Oh, another long digression here: I have to share with you my shopping mission statement. Before we left Kolkata, my maid said that I must get her something from Amreeka. I agreed, of course, but for the longest time couldn't think of what to get for her. Between Houston and Austin inspiration struck- Kolkata had been really cold the previous winter- a nice warm cardigan seemed to be the perfect gift. (She had spoken most disparagingly of the three soaps and small towel that an earlier employer had given her after a trip abroad). In Austin I did some pretty futile searching in a couple of malls and a Walmart. There were all kinds of synthetic, not very warm looking cardigans, but nothing seemed suitable. We even looked in the small town we visited in upstate New York, where anything that was even remotely suitable would have bought at least ten decent pure wool sweaters in India. Bah. Digression almost over- as we stepped out of the subway near our hotel on 77th Street, I spot 'Filene's Basement'. Filene's was a familiar name: camel hair coats bought from Filene's figured in the writings of JD Salinger. I find a blue-on-blue cardigan which feels warm and cosy, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg! Mission accomplished!
We stroll into a very dhaba like pizza joint where I have an amazing, loaded with veggies, huge slice of pizza. The guys have some non-veg versions. Then it's off to our hotel room for the night. Our son will return in the morning.

Dottie, now I know why I took so long over this- there is just so much to say that I keep putting it off! I think at least another instalment is required. More later, folks.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Central Park again!

Below the terrace

Seen from the Park

They did have another kid who was perched on his father's shoulders!

Photos courtesy Anand

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Why I love New York- Part I

Because it has Central Park.

(photos courtesy anand)