Thursday, October 28, 2010

The games in the sky

At some point, I became fascinated by a the sight of a fluttering kite against Chennai's cloudless blue skies. All the kite flying around our apartment was done by the boys in the slum nearby. It was very entertaining to watch them at it and I must have watched them a lot - I do have so many memories.

They didn't require much to make a kite - a couple of long twigs from a broomstick, a light polythene cover and some string. While the first two ingredients were available in plenty to them, the last one needed much more care. That was the first time I heard the word 'Maanja'.

A bunch of boys would be huddled around an old paint can containing an evil mixture. This strange concoction was said to contain everything from glue to ground glass pieces. At least three people were needed for the work - at least five more stood around watching and providing advice. One boy would deal out plain string from a spool, the second would help it pass through and get coated with the mixture in the paint can, the third would wrap the coated string back on to another spool. Once dried, the string would be a deadly weapon attached to the kites. It wasn't a matter of flying the kites - it was a matter of pulling down others' kites while not losing your own and the string greatly helped there.

Making the kite itself was a much quicker process - A square piece of light polythene bag would be cut out, a couple of coconut leaf twigs would be make the frame around which the polythene was held taut and the much-fussed-over string would be attached. It was all done in a jiffy and such a joy to watch!

The kite fliers chose their location with care and the games started in the sky. One person would come out to fly his kite and his lone kite would be joined by three or four others pretty soon. The ones who wanted to save their kites quickly left and the rest fought to cut the others' string - the power of each 'Maanja' coated string would become apparent here. Most of the trees and the TV antennas in the area had broken kites tangled up in them. Some people managed to rescue their kites and sometimes a random stranger would be lucky to have a kite drop out of the sky into his hands.

Since I never had such luck, I decided to make my own kite. Perhaps, I hadn't studied the process much then and I had no idea how to make one. So, what does a girl do when she wants to make a kite - she goes running to Dad, of course. Soon enough, Dad and I sat on the floor with newspapers, twigs, string and gum strewn all over the place. We didn't just make a kite - we engineered it. :D The shape was perfect, the frame was solid and we were pretty pleased with ourselves by the time we were done. The kite was left to dry overnight and the next day we set out triumphantly to the terrace to fly our masterpiece.

I held the kite and stood some distance away from dad, who held the string. There was a strong gust of wind and I let go of the kite, pushing it up as much as I could. Strangely, it refused to stay up in the breeze and fell back. We tried again. And again. And again. It was quite puzzling. Finally we gave up and went home, defeated. The kite stayed on my table for a few months, gathering dust till Mum probably threw it away. Much later, I realized that we had made 'too solid' a kite and used too much gum, string and paper in our enthusiastic efforts. It was just too heavy to fly!

Outside, the boys continued to fly their polythene bag kites. 'Manja' ruled the skies, I watched them with interest but I never tried making a kite again. Read More......

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Walking down Marina beach...

Chennai. The word invokes an image of a tamil speaking population who won't bother to learn the national language. The 'Autokaran' from hell. Weather that will melt you. Temples and traditions. On the positive side, we are also a hard working and professional bunch. A city with manageable traffic. Nothing beats shopping in T-Nagar.  Our film industry is second only to Bollywood's magic.  And I suspect we contribute to a large percent of the engineers joining the workforce in our country. 

Chennai is still growing and changing all over - the tell tale signs are the number of new buildings under construction everywhere. However, as much we change, we also hold on to certain things. Despite the number of new malls that come up, we still love the good old Spencers on mount road. The beaches - the Marina and Besant Nagar beaches are nothing great to look at. They are dirty, but the sands are open and the water is cool. It is the sandy stretch that does it - a rocky beach would just not be the same.

Today morning, Dad and I took a walk down Marina beach, armed with a camera. We got off the bus at the DGP office on Radha Krishnan Salai and walked across the road to the Gandhi statue. It never fails to amaze me how that particular office always looks so pristine while most other government offices look run down and patched up. This particular junction of RK Salai and Kamarajar Salai  is crowded with markers - across the road is the famous Gandhi statue, in the middle of the road is a golden statue of the actor 'Sivaji Ganesan' - an icon of Tamil Cinema, a clock tower and a statue of the official indian emblem depicting the four lions from the Sarnath pillar. Look down the beach, towards Santhome and you can see the red and white lighthouse.

A lot of effort has gone into beautification of the Marina beach. I notice that the stretch next to the road now has a nice lawn - a bit under maintained- but hey, its a start. There is a fountain, skating rink and some weird roofless structures whose purpose I can't understand. Today, apart from the usual quota of crows, there are hundreds of dragon flies zooming all over the place - they come close, but never hit me. Little kids run around trying to catch a dragonfly that settles down on the grass for a rest.

Right across the road from the Gandhi statue stands the Queen Mary's college. I seem to remember a controversy a few years back when the new Secretariat was planned at that spot. A lot of protests later, the location was shifted to a spot on Mount Road and the college remained. A new structure seems to have been added in the college though - 'Kalaignar Arangam'. There are other educational institutes on this road - the University of Madras campus, Presidency College, Govt. Model Hr Sec School, Lady Wellington College of education and the Bharat Scouts and Guides.

As we walked further down the road, we come across a statue of Avvaiyaar - I am no history expert and Wikipedia tells me that the name Avvaiyar refers to different tamil poetesses who lived in different ages - Sangam period and Chola Period. Next up was the status of the Freedom poet Bharathidasan whose mentor, Subramaniya Bharathi's statue is further down the line. G U Pope, a christian missionary who contributed to translation of Tamil works also has a place amongst the illustrious who stand guard on Chennai's shores.  Of course, who can forget the Kannagi statue and the controversy that surrounded the lady who burnt down Madurai in revenge for a wrongful death penalty imposed on her husband?  The statue which mysteriously disappeared overnight was reinstated later when the political rule changed in the state.  Tiruvalluvar - the  poet who gave us the Thirukural - has a statue here that is much less impresive than the 133 ft giant likeness that stands on a rock at Kanyakumari.  Oddly enough, amongst all the statues, one of Subhash Chandra Bose felt oddly out of place - considering there were none for Nehru, Patel and other leaders.  Oh well...maybe they had to pick.

A number of government offices and some buildings of historic significance also line the road. The Vivekananda house - beautiful pink building that has been maintained meticulously - is easily the best amongst the lot.  Other buildings like the Public Works Department are in a dilapidated condition.  The central institute of classical tamil (its name also written in an unfamiliar script - see pic), the slum clearance board and the water supply and drainage board also have offices along the beach. 

Our walk ended at the Napier Bridge - a landmark (along with the Central Railway Station) made famous by its use in countless Tamil movies when the hero\heroine come to 'big city' from their villages with dreams in their minds and empty pockets.  Just before the bridge are the monuments of two former chief ministers  'Arignar Anna' and Dr MG Ramachandran. These are popular tourist destinations, and a few bus loads of tourists stood there clicking pictures and listening to tour guides before they could rush for a dip in the sea that lies a few hundred feet away.

The walk ended at my favorite statue, depicting labourers moving a rock - Somehow, 'Triumph of Labour' seems to represent Chennai in a way no other piece of art does.

Read More......

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The days of our lives

Sometimes, I wish I lived in different times. In the past or in the future - any time but today. There are things about the past that I love so much - there is so much more beauty in black and white than there is in colour. I sense more meaning in the songs of yesterday. There was more left to chance and to nature back then. There have been many interesting people with beautiful thoughts that they stayed true to. I don't want to meet these master craftsmen - I just want to share the same air that they breathed. This is not nostalgia for the past days of my life - I was not even born in the times I am talking about.

Today's world is comfortable but it feels like a thoughtless existence. There is so much noise that it drowns every thought and distracts easily. Beautiful things are made so rarely or perhaps, they are getting lost in the deluge. I am tired of catching up with the creativity of the past centuries and not finding anything to match that today. That is when I am filled with curiosity about the future. I don't want to see the world a few years down - not any time that I will anyway reach as time passes by. I'm more impatient and wishful than that. I want to see the world a few hundred years from now. I want to see what is remembered of yesterdays and today. How much more rare true creativity becomes. How far has past imagination shaped the future world and how much science has caught up with art.

The world takes time to recognize its heroes. To meet the greatest minds recognized today, I need to go to the past. To see who the great minds of today are - I need to go to the future. What use is today anyway? Read More......

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We were just kids...

I still remember the first time I met them. We were just moving into the flats. The apartment door was open, unopened boxes lay all around, mum was busy with the house warming milk on the stove. I didn’t understand much of what was going on – I must have been in 5th standard. There were no guests. Just our family and a few cousins. There was a box of sweets though and I remember walking out of the Kitchen munching a piece. There they were – peering in cautiously at the front door, with all the curiosity of a bunch of primary school boys. I suppose I was told to and I remember holding out the box of sweets to them. The boy from F2 below, broke off a small piece politely and ate. The one from next door – F5 took a whole sweet with an impish grin lighting up his face.

Of course, we became the playtime gang. The boy from F5 had a younger sister too, whom he took care of and tormented with equal enthusiasm. They’d call out to me from their verandah and I’d go to ours to talk to them. We made our plans that way, talking through the metal grillwork that kept us from tumbling out. We all went to different schools, but on evenings and weekends, we’d gather the rest of the kids in the apartment complex and go to the terrace to play. Bugging the watchman was a favorite game. We also made up a lot of conspiracies and had fun pretending we knew a lot more than we did. Our games were odd – it mostly involved running around like crazy. Occasionally, we played sane games like running and catching or hide and seek. We climbed up the water tank and tried to pluck tiny mangoes. We went to the most unreachable places for an adult (like the narrow spot between the motor shed and the house) and carried on with our make believe world. Sometimes, we had picnics on the terrace. Most of all, we united to hate the kids in the apartment building opposite ours. No reason. We hated them because they were there, I think. And they did tend to put up silly plays and stage fashion shows with dupattas draped around themselves. We stood at our terrace and jeered at them. Unkind, but we were kids.

Apartments are a rich source of politics. They have association meetings where they argue over whose kid broke what and who should pay for what repair and complain about the watchman’s negligence and hold lengthy conversations about the upcoming water scarcity. Then there were tussles amongst people staying on rent and those who owned their apartments. We kids knew somehow if any of our parents didn’t get along with each other. Those kids would stay away from each other too or maybe we were made to. We had a tough time when our friends had relatives with kids visiting. Suddenly they would want to hang out with their cousins and quite forgot us. It was hard – but we were kids with short memory spans. That helped.  Our little gang went through all of that as well.

A few years later, both families moved away. It was weird – not having any more play mates. But, after a while others moved in – kids who went to the same school as I did. We became the new terrace gang. There were more girls now and we were older. We mostly sat around the terrace chatting about this and that. The boys were younger kids who devised their own games now. We still made fun of the kids in the opposite apartment, though. We were still kids, after all.

There was a weekend when we were on the terrace as usual - wandering around, looking at the world from our perch three floors above the road. A new boy walked in and like kids all over the world, we stared at him unabashed. Was he moving in? We hadn’t seen any trucks laden with furniture all day. But we made no move to talk to him or even smile at him. We just stared and continued wandering around. To our surprise, he followed us to the other side as well and stood there leaning against the water tank, watching us. There was something intense about the way he looked at us – not the trying-to-be casual look of a new kid who wants to join the game. For about half an hour, he hung around – a little distance away from us and we ignored him. He met my glance a few times and held his gaze steadily. I looked away, puzzled. When I looked back up, I heard a voice calling out from below – I couldn’t hear what was said, but someone was calling him. He left the terrace and I heard him run down the flights of stairs. Something clicked – maybe it was the voice, or his gait or that familiar rhythmic rush down the stairs. And I was running too, leaving four very puzzled people behind.

‘Hari’, I called out as I ran down the stairs. I could never match his pace even two years back. I kept calling out his name till I reached the ground floor and realized he had already left. It wasn’t my fault. He looked different. He could have spoken to me. It had been so long. But even back then I knew, it was cruel of me. To forget.
Read More......

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Toll

If only things we make could break into
What has been given up to make them...
If only you could see the toll someone paid
To smoothen your ride on the highway...
Gather that stranger's soft defeated sighs
Just hold them, for that is all you can do Read More......

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Frozen

Thoughts do not stand still,
Even when silence is all there is.

Torn fragments of memories
Feed the frozen loner’s soul,
Till violent undercurrents roam
Unseen on the stoic surface.

Then, those who left, come back
Claiming and expecting no change.
And a smile hovers, just beneath;
In bitter delight at a hunch proved.

For, feelings do not freeze,
Unless their target is forgotten.
And, thoughts do not stand still,
Just because silence is all there is. Read More......

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Now Reading...

When inspiration refused to strike for me to write anything, I went into a crazed book reading mode instead. It feels like a long time since I did that too. Piggy backing on those writers in the guise of reviews :P

It started with Samanth Subramanian's 'Following Fish - Travels around the Indian Coast'. This is Samanth's first book and I hope he will write more. The book merely follows everything to do with fish. The nine pieces stand alone in no particular order. The enthusiastic descriptions of the various fish he samples will definitely bring a smile to your face. However, what makes this book good to read is the way such descriptions are woven into a larger picture. The fish and its eating are the end. Stories of the fishing communities, their history, the beaches, boat building, the sport of fishing and some odd quirks form a larger portion of the book. The narration is engaging and sprinkled with humour. I love the fact that the book is no expert speak. It is just a description of various journeys, bound by the common theme. While Goa, Kolkata and Kerala would be expected stops on such a journey, other spots like Mangalore, Hyderabad, Gujarat etc were a surprise for me. At 160 odd pages, the book stops at the right point. There is a sense of an abrupt end to the book, but how do you really stop when you talk of journeys undertaken?


I picked up Santhosh Desai's 'Mother Pious Lady - Making Sense of everyday India' next. I found this gem of a book quite by chance when I had an extra hour to kill at the airport. The cover caught my attention first and then the title. A quick flip through the pages convinced me that I would enjoy the book and I paid up Rs 399 (I hate the Bata pricing model!) This is a collection of short pieces on everyday India - more specifically every day 'middle class' India. The general tone of the book is humorous and fondly nostalgic. The language is almost poetic at times and I loved just reading it for the pleasure of reading something well-written. There is a good mix of larger beliefs and those little mannerisms that make the middle class of this country.

A sample of the topics - our obsession with cricket, larger than life nature of Bollywood, the way we travel, the 'native' place, the almost-worship of the mother, the way we adjust to everything, the arranged marriage funda, the autorickshaw, the political and filmi dynasties, traffic, fanatic games of anthakshari, family, officialdom, our food, language and much more.

A few quotes from the book

"India understands time. It understands the transience of all things, including solutions. It understands that there are no final solutions to problems; at best there is a temporary equilibrium that must eventually get destabilized and give way to a new equilibrium."

"In more than a few ways, Indian Society conspired to make the woman most comfortable in her role as mother. In every other role, she was frequently evaluated, circumscribed and diminished. But as a mother, she faced no censure and no limits..." "The Indian man in particular owes much to the mother. Brought up in an environment where he could do no wrong and where every whim of his was somehow catered to, at least in part, he finds the sticky bonds of maternal love very difficult to extricate himself from." "The mother's role was to turn her little girl into a knowing woman as soon as possible and to keep her son a little boy for the rest of his life."

"The scooter carries with it an aura of safety....It had space to squeeze in a full family, a place to carry vegetables, a dickey to store sundry needs of the family - in short, it seemed safe because it catered to all those stable, worldly things that made a man a 'responsible' person." "The auto is the urban rat: a wily, crafty creature that wriggles its way through the urban sewer."

"At some point in their lives, everyone has heard a Mukesh song in self pity.....when suffering from a imagined heartbreak caused by the imagined infidelity of one's imagined lover..... They were the baubles of expressiveness that adorned us briefly before the business of living our more mundane lives exerted its authority."

"To the Indian mind, the world of knowledge is divided into three broad categories - Science, Commerce and Arts... Science is the undisputed leader, towering above the nondescript commerce and cowering Arts."

The book is huge at 380 pages. My only complaint is that somewhere after the half way point, the book seems to echo the same sentiments again and again. It would have been perfect if it were a lot shorter.


Having read the first two Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan, there has been no change in my favorites in the fantasy section. Harry Potter rules, followed very closely by LOTR and the Chronicles of Narnia. Percy Jackson disappoints in the fact that there is not much that has been imagined. The Greek myths are there to pick on and they have been picked on completely, with no attempt at creating any deep real characters. Displacing the old world to the present period has been the author's only task apart from creating the younger hero characters. Even the narration seems faulty - as if the author just created a character and plunked himself in those shoes and began talking. There is not much effort spent in building the background and painting the scenery for the readers. Fantasy is about building a world for the reader to lose himself in - and I found that lacking in these books. Read More......

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Pause

I met a goal after a long journey
Finally ticking it off my worn out list

Strangely, I exhale a deep soft sigh
As if I were at some kind of an end

I realise why, as I feel myself change
And a different person takes my place

The unchecked items on the list in hand
Make no sense to her and she pauses

Clearly, she has to begin all over again
And for some time then, I merely exist

With no new dreams or fresh thoughts
Only memories of the past keeping company

She'll take over from me as soon as
She finds the reason for her existence

Till then, I exist, caught in the pause Read More......

Friday, April 09, 2010

Your Story

I want to write your story. A book, in fact, much like you. A quiet color for the cover, a few simple words as the title and a few brush strokes bringing out your profile. A book that wouldn’t be noticed too easily – just like you. Yet, someone will pick it up too and skim through the first page. He must feel indifference at first. He must see you as just another person on the crowded street that he just stepped out of. He must not even realize that you are going to be the main character in future pages. I have to be careful how I pen those initial pages.

At first, my words will only describe you. Just what he would see had he glanced at you for a moment or two more than at others. Time enough for a quick hello. Then, I’ll show him around your world for a while and let him get used to where you belong and to others around you. You are not a story to be read in a hurry, you see. You have so much going on in your head – strange thoughts and those eyes that betray nothing of the depths you've reached. I will tell him all about you, but slowly. I'll single you out in the crowd and lead him along the paths you take. He will see what you do on any ordinary or extraordinary day and develop his own reasoning, trying to understand your actions. After he has seen enough of what you do, I'll draw him into your mind, to make him understand your thoughts rather than your actions. To make him see how you reason and feel and think.

It may be a lot for him to take - but, I hope to do justice to my subject. My words will be the gentle wave that sweeps him away, tangles him in your story, pulls him along in curiosity and forges an intimate connection with you. I want people to keep discovering you that way, through my words. At the last page, I want him to stop with a heavy sigh, sad there isn't any more.

Others may write of strange lands, fantastic wars, of spies and thieves and the past and future.  I am meant to only write your story - as you lived it.  The way I will write it, there will not be too many eyes on you at any point of time. The ones who get to your thoughts will be people who deserve to know you - who had to make the effort to cross the many barriers I will weave out of my words, in order to reach you. But, those who read of you will hold you in their hearts and wish they had known you. 

I want to write that way - your story, as life scripted it.
Read More......

Sunday, March 07, 2010

When did you last think?

I feel like a fraud at times. As if I’m picking up another’s opinion and passing it off as my own. Thoughts from people all around me drive my own. I know what they say about the wisdom of crowds, but that makes for a second hand experience. It’s just not right. I want to stop reading reviews. Stop counting stars. Stop looking at awards. Stop asking. I want to wander around and find something that interests me. Then pick it up and find a quiet place. I don’t want big names to bias me. I want to experience it without the influence of others. I want the thing to speak to me for itself. I imagine the end – a moment’s pause when I have to decide my opinion. Untouched by others. My own thought. I want that.

The trigger? This quote from the movie 'Ratatouille' that a friend had recently shared on buzz

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations. The new needs friends.
Read More......

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Rajasthan Trip!

Mum, Dad and I took a trip to Rajasthan this week, visiting Jaipur and Udaipur. Mid-February is a lovely time to visit – the weather was pleasant with rather cool nights. (You’ll need sweaters and shawls) We reached Jaipur by train from Delhi at around 1 AM and took an auto to our hotel – ‘Chirmi Palace’, located on a quiet side street. (All hotels seem to be called ‘palace’ or ‘haveli’, btw). Our room was on the ground floor and was one of several set around a small courtyard garden. The room was nothing fancy but was clean and neat.

In the morning, we arranged for a cab to go around the city. Since we had only one day here, we visited only very few landmarks. We covered Birla Mandir (lovely place – temple and small park. Moti Dungri fort stands right above but it is open to public only once a year on shivrathri), Albert hall museum (I loved the metal work section – such intricate work! The shields with scenes of Ramayana (see pic) and Mahabharata were amazing) and Amber fort (we took the cab to the top but I am told it is best to trek up. The fort seems to extend for miles along the hills!)

You can’t go to Rajasthan and not shop! Jaipur is famous for its textiles, handicrafts, jewellery, carpets and leather goods. However, a word of warning – don’t let the auto \ cab drivers direct your shopping. We had a tough time in Jaipur as the cab driver took us to a few shops (we assumed that he got a commission there) and just refused to go anywhere else leaving us very annoyed. While those shops may have something nice, you do want to look around others as well. The salesmen at those shops were also very pushy, and quickly showed their annoyance if you didn’t buy anything at their place. I guess we were shopping at the wrong places.

We took the night train to Udaipur and reached early morning at around 7 AM. An auto took us to our hotel ‘Karohi Haveli’. Udaipur felt like a very hilly city, with narrow twisty roads in many places. I kept having a feeling that our auto was going to crash into someone soon, but we didn’t. The hotel was right on the banks of Lake Pichola (rather dried up at our end, but still!) and very close to the City Palace. Our room was on the first floor and overlooked the lake (lovely room, with a large window seat – as large as a single bed!). Lying on this seat each night, I had a lovely view of the lakeside. This also seemed to be wedding season and I had the best seat to watch awesome fireworks from each night.

Thanks to Veetrag, I had a detailed list of places to see in Udaipur and felt more comfortable here than at Jaipur. We walked around the first day, visiting the City Palace (which was in the process of getting decked up for some lavish wedding) first. The whole palace is converted into a kind of museum with lots of paintings, handicrafts, armory and loads of history. It took us about 2 hours and we then took an auto to see the Vintage Car Collection near Sajjan Niwas Park.

We just fell in love with the beautifully restored cars of all makes – Rolls Royce, Chevrolet, Austin, Mercedes Benz, Cadillac, Buick, Ford and even horse drawn carriages! There is a restaurant in the same compound and a thali meal + a walk through the cars will cost you Rs 150 each. Money well spent, I assure you - the food was very good. We shopped a lot – Hatipol is the place to go if you want to purchase Bandhini Sarees and Mum had a good time going through shop after shop before she finally bought a saree.

The next day, we visited Moti Magri – a memorial for Rana Pratap and some of his courtiers. It is a short walk uphill inside, but vehicles are allowed in. A sound and light show happens every night, but we had to miss that. Next, we visited ‘Lok Kala Mandal’ which is a small museum of cultural artifacts. The highlight was the 10 minute puppet show that is performed throughout the day. We stopped briefly at Sukhadia Circle – this is a park at a junction with a small pond in the middle and fast food shops all around. Paddle boats are available for use in the pond.

Now, I’m guessing that if you are at Udaipur and express a preference for the ‘Thali’ style lunch to your auto \ cab driver, I think they’d take you only to ‘Adarsh Dining Hall and Restaurant’. I don’t know what the deal is though. Both days, we were taken here by the respective auto and cab drivers! The food isn’t bad but I found it a bit too oily. But, we did get to eat ‘Dal Baati’, which Dad thoroughly enjoyed.

After lunch, we headed for Saheliyon ki bari – a beautiful park with fountains and gardens. This did not take long and we visited ‘Shilpgram’ next – an artists’ village. It was a quiet place with only about 10 other visitors there. There were about 10 to 15 shops for clothes, pottery, jewellery, footwear etc. Laden with our purchases, we made our way to ‘Dudh Talai’ where a ropeway takes passengers to the top of a nearby hill. The view is nice and there is a small temple there (White mice are kept here and they keep peeping out from their hideaways). You can also walk to the top if you wish. On the way back, we shopped again ( poor dad looked quite worried at our enthusiastic shopping :) ) but ‘Man Singh’ with his harmonium joined us anyway.

At 7 PM, we were at Bagore Ki Haveli – close to the City Palace to catch a show of Rajasthani folk dances like and a short puppet show. Don’t miss this show– it was totally awesome. The last morning, we visited Jagdish Mandir (the carvings on the temple are amazing! see pic.) and shopped in the shops around the temple before leaving to catch our flight. Overall, I loved the stay at Udaipur. The hotel staff were very helpful and friendly, making it a good experience (and they made great aloo parathas)

Sigh…trips really need to be longer than four days! Read More......

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Save our tigers?

You must have seen this video on TV or someone must have forwarded it to you.  Either way, most of the TV watching population in the country now know that there are only 1411 tigers left in Indian sanctuaries.  The video urges us to spread the word on this.  What are we looking for?  Someone with a solution?

A bit of googling led me to this page dated February 2008 – that’s when the tiger census results showed that only 1411 tigers were left.  It has taken two years for a common person like me to hear this fact.  Two years.  Massive #fail.  So, yes.  The campaign and the video is going to help people aware of this one number.  But, what next?  What am I to do with this fact?  The campaign website gives us some options but I still don’t know if blogging and donations are the best options. Public memory is weak. And the ad campaign can't run forever to keep it fresh in people's minds.  

What exactly is the problem, anyway?  Poaching?  Habitat loss? Is that going to stop through awareness?  Why do people poach and why are the habitats shrinking?  Because they are evil villains right out of old hindi movies?  I’m guessing because they have no other choice!  So, what do we do with such a campaign? Have we really addressed the problem?  Do we even recognize the right problem? And how on earth is blogging about it going to help?  Ok. Let’s look at the demand side of the story.  How about those who buy the products made from parts of the tiger’s body – do you think they don’t know that a tiger had to die to create that product?  Yeah…that guy in China is going to stop using those products JUST because India’s tiger population is dwindling. 

Just in case you want to know more – learn about the existence of Tiger farms in China , about the efforts of this organization in stopping poaching and rehabilitating poachers , follow this blog by a lodge owner in Ranthambhore (one of India’s tiger reserves). 

I know that this topic is moving closer towards any animal being bred in captivity.  About the lives of others who we share the planet with.  About nature’s and man’s motives.  I just wish I knew what to do to really help.  I know I’m not likely to jump on the next train to help stop poaching or encroaching upon forest reserves.  But, I don’t want this number to become a mere fact that I’m aware of either. 

Read More......

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Last Time?

Ever notice how beginnings are well defined, but the end never is? You know when to say hello, but you can never tell when it’s time for a goodbye.

Maybe that’s why I like beginnings more – not just because of the novelty; but because I actually know that it is the beginning and can say so.

You can’t define any other stage that way. How do you know? Is it the middle? The end? Somewhere in between? You think? But, what is?

You never know when it really is the last time. And you can never treat every goodbye as the last one – because there is no such thing as the last goodbye. Read More......

Friday, January 15, 2010

Meet Annie

I found a butterfly today. She didn’t catch my attention by fluttering around as butterflies do. She lay on the grass, dragging herself over to a dry leaf. I’ve never seen a butterfly do that. They aren’t meant to be that way, you know. She willingly climbed on to my finger, which was even more odd. A butterfly sitting on my finger? I don’t know what kind she is – she’s black and yellow and white with red shapes like hearts along the edges. One of her wings is bent. I took her home.

She has been here the whole day now. I put her in a shoe box lid and threw in some leaves for her to climb around. A friend suggested sugar water and I filled a small bottle cap for her. I left the window open and put her nearby so that she could see the plants outside. She mostly just sits there. She’s hurt. She must be screaming in pain now, right? But, if she has made any noise, it isn’t of the kind I can hear.

She dragged herself around the box lid for some time before finally heading out to explore some more. She has to try very hard to get out of the shallow box. She used to fly, I remember. She painstakingly climbs up a taller vessel now and hangs on there. Her wings flutter fast as she attempts to fly sometimes. That is the only sound I can hear from her – the desperate attempts. I hope she knows what to do to heal herself – that nature has somehow told her everything she needs to know, to live. I have no clue. I’m not even sure if I’m helping her.

It is late night now and I desperately want to sleep. It has been a long day. But, I’m afraid to turn off the light. I’m afraid to go to sleep. What if she thrashes around in the night and goes missing somewhere in my room? She is so tiny. What if she gets caught in something and can’t free herself? I wonder now if it was a good idea to bring her home. She could die here too. I can see danger to her all around in everyday items.

Oh..what is the point! I named her Annie.

EDIT: Annie flew away the next day evening. :) Read More......

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sights and Scents...

I notice it every time I step inside and take a deep breath. It smells like no other place I have been to. Its home. I wish I could separate out the individual scents. Then I could make any place smell the same. It would be nice to pretend I’m home sometimes. Maybe I can if I try - Is it the smell of the detergent from the clothes that hang outside drying? The aroma from the kitchen’s spice jars? The steam rising from the hot idlis that await as my breakfast? The fragrance from Dad’s hair cream? Maybe it is the smell of the floor’s disinfectant. The whiff of flowers from the puja room. The fragrance of agarbathis from yesterday's evening prayers. The scent of the newspaper that lies unopened yet. The coffee from the cup mum holds? The scent of Yardley that she likes so much? The dust in the curtains that need to be washed? The mosquito repellent that stayed on all night? The scent of wet earth as the plants outside are watered? The smell of diesel fumes as Dad leaves for work? The dampness in the towel that I forgot to dry? The smell of old pages of books collected lovingly over the years? The mustiness of my room that has stayed locked for so long?

What is it really made up of? Read More......