Category Archives: Meanderings

She

The sun shone again and lit her up. The warp, the cracks, the peel, all standing proudly, surrounded by dancing dust motes. She held her own. No apology for who she was. For who she had become. Battle scars were for glory, she did not claim them.

Hers were batter-scars. The elements had come for her. She had not asked to be spared. Standing still, she watched as they fought their battles. Some shrapnel came her way. Everyday shrapnel, nothing to write home about. Who would she write to anyway? She was home.

Time had passed by her. She pretended not to care. She did not mark it. It marked her. Little by little at first, not even visible. She shone, her smooth skin glowed in the sun. A little bump here, a little crack there. It unraveled so slowly that nobody could even tell when it had changed. Time, it worked slowly and she was undone.

Some called her brave. But that is all she knew. To stand and hold her own. She did what she was supposed to do, day after day. She was still strong, and useful. She was needed. Even desired – but you had to look at her with a fond eye. She knew she still had some who did.

She trusted them. They would come to heal her, warts and all. She would shine again, hold her own among the brash new lot. They may be younger, but she was sure. Sure of what she had been, sure of what she could be. She had seen the worst of times, known the best of them.

Her smile, when she did, contained the world. She did not smile often, but when the sun shone on her, if you looked past the cracks, you could see the warm smile, waiting.

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Tea

No more beautiful sight than tea leaves unfurling themselves, as if from a long sleep.

Then they steep, and let go. Their colour and flavour infusing what was mere water with their glow. Sinking slowly to the bottom, they gracefully give up centre stage when done. You can see the liqueur spread out gently, the coloured trails marking currents that carry it away. Slowly, but surely they take the what was bland and make it their own.

There is nothing that can escape the embrace of the flavour, it even rises as steam from the cup. The tea leaf sends its love to another only to be drained away. It’s message is it’s life’s purpose. It has let its work go forth and make a moment for another. Limp, sodden and forgotten, it turns cold. Only to be remembered by those who ha savoured the moment to feel the beauty that filled their senses.

Who doesn’t have a story that started with a cup of tea? The simple cutting shared with a loved one in a damp monsoon – who knew one would be sharing one’s life with them? Or that first cup of tea offered in a job interview. A moment when you resolve whether you are going to take all the conflicting advice given to you, or be your own person. Then the tea that arrives magically in the morning for some. For others, who make it – the moment of pure stillness as you wait for the water to boil, the fragrance that is only yours as it is poured out. That moment when you lay the weight of the shopping down, the tea brewing – or boiling – as you put things away, then sit down (maybe with a gentle grunt) to savour the moment. Or that, when you have packed up, ready to move, and there is just time for that one cupppa from the flask.

Who can forget the first time they had tea that was different from the one they always had – who knew that it even could be different? Infidels and traitors! They put sugar in it?! Who has milk in their tea?! Where is the masala?! How can one have tea without ginger?! They boiled it?!! They did not boil it – it was like dishwater?!! And for some like my grandmother – they had tea – cheapos! We are tea fascists, some of us.

Is there a perfect cup of tea? Of course there is.. for each of is, it is the one that wakes us up. For some of us it is the quest that keeps us going.. onwards .. towards that next cup – who knows what might unfurl?

My Lake

On a deck chair by the lake. Chirps, rustles and laps. Broken by the occasional sound of a motorboat. There have been few since morning for the wind was high. The single water scooter treads the waves cautiously today, they have a bounce that I have not seen before. The waves and I are not old friends, we just met. A firm line between us marked by the reeds that grow tall and slim, dancing to the tune of the same wind that rocks the waves and passes by me. I am the outsider here. And yet, made one by the wind. She caresses us all in her sweep. One who loves all equally. 

 

The waters here are steady, bound to their land, their sun and the wind. They rise and fall with the wind, to the sun they owe their colours, to the land their bounds and their being. Without the bounds they would have flowed away as the other waters have, nameless except in the name of the flow. Would they have been loved so if they had not been bounded? Would so many have crowded around her to share their moments of love and peace unless they knew that she was steady? As steady as their hopes, their dreams and all that they sought. The waters knew our heart. They knew of our leaps with the wind, they knew the calm of our depths, they knew of the urge to get away, they knew the value of the bonds. And so they stayed and we came to look upon them. Our reflection in more ways than the obvious, they brought us to life in more ways than the obvious. 

 

But look, there she is, green again. As if to tease the blue skies. I am not a reflection of you, she mocks. The sky, silently stares. It cannot turn green, like the verges of the lake. It cannot meet her, like the green reeds that grow along her shores. It can but turn a sullen grey, or hide itself behind greyer clouds. But today the clouds are in no mood to be sullen. Puffy and soft, they glow in the reflected light of the bright sun. They will be loyal to both-their grays are showing too. They dance to no will but their own, or so they think. Are they vain, do they know how beautiful they look with their puffy whites, their bluish grays and golden glints standing aloft in their solitary glory. We do not see the wind that carries them, that shapes them. We see them as they are, waiting to be loved. There are stories in these clouds, we know. Each of them tells a tale. 

 

The tales that these clouds tell are lies we know. They will never tell us their truth. They only seek to please, these courtesans of the skies. Just look at them, all pretty and painted, changing shape whimsically, to suit the powers of the day. Or even moment. They are pink in the morning sun, change again to the winds, Frothy and orange for some, silver and grey for others. They tell the stories of the moment, and we seek our moments in them. I see a face in them today, an animal in another. Another becomes a plane, a ball, a mountain.  But really, let me tell you their secret. They call themselves the flying carpets of our dreams. Our dreams do not come to us, they say. They say that we fly gently onto them, sinking in their glorious softness, surrounded by the dreams they carry. Far and wide, into realms unknown, they are made of sterner stuff than they seem. Of silks and cottons we know, but have you seen the stuff of clouds? They are made of lies. Lies we can weave into truths, if we believe in dreams. For what are hopes if not lies? 

 

It is noon, the swans remind me. Flapping low, in formation over the lake. Unnerved by their whooshing wings, I come back to earth, following their little flight as far as the eye can see. The clouds call me back, but I will not be seduced again. There are earthly tasks that hold me firm, bounded as the lake can tell. I look at her, my lake and wonder – how much of herself did she give to these clouds? Can she call them hers, ever? For ever? And still be herself, the lake.

 

She is happy, I can see. My lake, she has her moods, her whimsy, her admirers. She has her place in the world, her anchors and those that need her more than she knows or needs to know. She has her depths and her shallows. Her world has a sameness, a stillness and a dash of the fickle. She has it all, and yet she surges, lapping away angrily at her edges – the same ones that hold her close as if in firm embrace. Maybe that is why she surges, knowing she can be sure of that embrace.

Day

 

 

 

Be still in the gloaming and see the vapours that rise from the warm earth. They rise as breath, as if the earth has run out of it at the end of the long day. If you look carefully you will see the breast of the land rise and fall with every breath. She is spent, and will need to pause to catch her breath. The cover of the dark night gives her refuge, she will renew. The dark shadows that lengthen so, making her look layered – not wrinkled, never wrinkled – will all be erased in the night. As if the darkness of the night will carry it all with it when it leaves in the morning.

 

You will see her again at dawn looking all fresh and dewy eyed, as if she had never seen a day before. Innocence waiting for her moment to come. Little does she know that the sun can be harsh and unmoving – so much so that she will barely be able to utter her pleas for relief. Or that the day might bring clouds and rain. Rain that could lash her mercilessly leaving rivers of tears flowing down every crevice. She does not seem to know that it could all be what it was for every day that came before her, a sameness, a dullness that beat her down in the end.

 

This Day does not fear anything. She stands there as if the stars were still reflected in her eyes and not long gone, abandoning her to other lights. She stands as if the morning was her friend – not a treacherous pimp who would hand her over to the elements. She does not wait though. She moves gently, quietly, almost purposefully past morning. As if the morning meant nothing to her after all. She had bigger fish to fry at noon. Noon was not her friend either. Standing tall and superior, making even shadows look small. They shrunk to nothingness when faced with the arrogance of Noon. No matter, like all arrogance, it could only last a moment and it was past. Day looked at it calmly, and Noon was gone. Calmly, this Day took on the afternoon till it was spent. And then chased down the cool evening, playing with it till she was out of breath.

Till gloaming come. Then she could breathe, and with every rising breath she released a bit more of herself. So she could be free again.

A Moment

All of a sudden the perfection of the moment strikes. The air is cool, the lights reflected back from the polished glass that keeps the outside at just the right distance. It is the Delhi summer after all and the tall bright pink bougainvillea that has climbed up the tree is beginning to show a bit of its age around the edges. The leaves shine green and yellow – the hot sun has aged them well. Their crinkles suit them, much like a bearded Sean Connery where all one can see is the twinkle in his eyes. These shine at me, through the glass in the gloaming now, waving gently, as if inviting me for a twilight dalliance. I may step out in a bit, give them their moment to have their way – or maybe not today. Let the summer grow them up a bit, give them more interesting shades before I indulge them with my presence.

Today, I stay in the cool comfort on this side of the glass. Polished wood reflects crystal – the lone piece I inherited from my grandmother. Brushing against it an antique silver caviar dish. Open it and you will notice that the glass case that is supposed to hold the caviar on a bed of ice is missing. One day I will buy a cheap ashtray that fits in there and begin using it for its own purpose. Till then its cousin and it – both similar, yet from different artistic traditions serve my purpose – to give me pleasure. The tagine reminds me of a favourite shop which used to remind me of the holidays I used to take. Its cool blue reminiscent of the mountains in the distance as smoke rose in the mornings.

Books, books everywhere. A layer below the coffee table, behind the knick knacks – bronze deities that have come to live in our home, adding a curvaceousness that mere books could never aspire to. At best they lean towards each other, finding comfort in their company. A nuzzle no more, they smile in gentle comfort. Not so the big coffee table books that plonk themselves in the centre of the room with much bombast. They have all been read by many who have passed through this place, but they are here for me, reminding me of moments that I had missed as I whizzed through places and times. The sun slants differently in this picture, it is evening and different from when I drove rapidly past that beach before the fishing boats had left for the morning. That town – it was sunny and cold when I was there, but the book brings its summer lights to me. These books have pieces of my heart that I left in all the towns I loved, returned to me in another season. Another time and place, I may have been there. I am here now. The dry, cold pages tell me to turn them, to move on.

More inviting are the reading chairs – they rock. Well, one does. The other offers squishy splendour while the third reminds me of cozy corners in favourite libraries. Each has a little light and a little table next to it.. books, nibbles, a little drink in a glow that excludes the rest of the world. Choose your middle or corner, and let no man or match come into your world. I, of course am typing this prone on the cuddliest sofa ever. The pair to it sits invitingly empty only a few feet away. Soon it will be time for the family to gather and the chairs will fill up the room with their warmth, the light in the centre will gently sway its approval of the stories of the day that are shared. Someone then will demand a movie, or a drink, and this moment will pass.

For now, it is mine. Cold and warm. Pristine, yet already the colours of the evening ahead have leaked into it. I sit with an iced drink pressing against me, while the laptop keeps me warm. I speak from here, the centre of my web – gently nudging the machinery of work and home, and motherhood and wifehood along soothing steady tracks. Breathe deep of the silence, wink again at the faded flowers outside, pick up the book that will never be finished, speak to a cousin at leisure, send off that urgent email, write one more paragraph about a distant teacher and her solar lights, look at my favourite handbag and smile. Till the doorbell rings, and I wrap up my selves to become the one again.

 

Ah yes, dinner is served.

Silver Grit

Do you see that too? The hammock and the bench laid out so that your whispers reach my heart. The moonlight faint, the distant sea hushed. The white sands are cool under bare toes. Playful too, slipping through as if they can never be caught. When you look, they are right there, clinging as if they will never let go.

You know they will follow you for days, months. One day, back home, months later you will open your suitcase and they will still be there.. mocking you, calling you to themselves again. They will be grey, disarranged – out of place in your sunny home. Calling plaintively, take us home. Come, come and be one again. As we are. Each one of them, grey, gritty, carrying the memory of silver.

Silver was the colour of the night. Glancing gently off planes, it was the curves that it serenaded. Blushing and twinkling in turn, the leaves waved us on. The occasional white fragranced flower shining unabashedly back at the stars, lighting our path down to the beach. Strange crisp seaweeds plunged deep through the soft flesh of our feet as we walked on unheeding. The sea rushed on towards us curiously, then pulled back, remembering its manners just in time. Unable to resist what we could not either, she came dashing forth again. We had no eyes for her, and she receded, rejected. Murmuring, like an old gossip, she carried the tale with her to other lands. We had eyes for none, but this one.

The fronds in the palms high above us were no shelter but we sought none. The stars twinkled their approval, as the wind nudged the leaves to nod their consent. We needed none. Their beauty was one with the shimmering sands but we were beyond sight or seeing. Barely conscious of the shifting shadows as the moon marked her watch, we told our stories through the night. Each story leading to another, slower and deeper they went. Some stories would carry meaning in the world that came alive with the sun, others were only meant for the denizens of the moonlight. Scurrying, as if startled at being seen – was that a night animal, or just another tale?

Did we question the stories that night? How could we? We were absorbed in the sound..the cadences were the only semblance of meaning we sought. As the pile of stories grew tall, and toppled, we paused to look at the shifting shapes around us. The sea had stilled its curiosity – it had seen myriad tales of lovers and carried them adrift, bringing others home safe on its waves. Her immensity gave her permission to carry us away, as if we could escape the grey sands turned silver that night.

Clinging on to the pale shadows, hiding in the dark that would soon be light, we let our words have their way with each other. Did they know that tomorrow was almost here as they played with gay abandon? Wasting moments in silly games when so much more could have been said, so many journeys could have been started. Journeys that still might be, but not tonight. The shadows were scared away by the chirping of the birds heralding dawn. The spell was broken even before light did. As must many have before us, we tore ourselves away from the place that could have been our forever.

As our footsteps moved in tandem, away from the stories we had woven, the warmth seemed to hover for a moment. Shimmering gently over that hammock strung between the tall palm trees and the perfect bench placed next to it, the moment held itself together for a bit longer. And then, with a deep sigh echoed by the rising tide of the sea, it broke itself up into little bits, allowing itself to be carried away by the receding waves. The sea finally got its stories, rising gently in pride. The hammock and the bench, bereft of their halo waited for the harsh light of day to expose them pitilessly. For the moment was gone, as were the beloved. Carrying the grit that would never let them be anything but what they were tonight.

Blue Mist

Blue Mist

The gentle blue mist that envelopes the far trees on the hills yonder is pierced by the oncoming head lights. The trucks shrug past, the cars trundle, their double lights belying their struggle on the bumpy road.

The harsh lights flashing past were shining orbs in the distance only moments ago. I look for the moon. Its calm, steady golden glow has kept me company on many a long lonely night, keeping pace with me and mine. Where I went, it would follow, keeping a benign eye on me when all others had given up and gone to sleep.

But today the moon was too new. A scarce crescent in the sky. It had no comfort to offer. Nor did I have anything to give that would make it glow more. Magic had been put away for the day.

It been taken. Taken by the streams, racing callously down the hills. Unhesitatingly, the waters raced on, as if unaware of the ravaged roads they left behind. Like a shameless driver in a hit and run accident. The roads lay brutalized by the rains that must have lashed them mercilessly, their top layers torn away. All their pits and holes laid bare to the world that rode roughshod over it. Unseeing, unheeding of its pain. Lifting up their skirts a bit lest their hems get sullied by one so beset. They slowed down, not in respect, but to save their own.

The road had company. The waters had attacked the trees and the carefully kerbed dams, slashing through with a viciousness that was its own testament. And now, their job done, the armies gathered to flow downhill in orderly waterfalls. Their songs were surely songs of victory. The mist that rose, kicked up by their heels surely carried their tales of bravado. The rutted road had tales too- each of its scars bringing smooth journeys to juddering reality. But these were not stories to be retold. One looked away from the miseries below to the far hills and lush jungle. The rocks that glistened in the last of the lights. The mist that rose again with the blue dawn.

(Written from the bumpiest bus ride in the world, through rain ravaged ghats)

Heaven in the Rain

The week before the sunny week was what they call typically English.. wet, grey, cold.

Time for hot chocolate and memories.

…….

Sitting here in central London, having walked in the rain as one used to decades ago, I remember what it felt like.

I remember what it felt like to be poor and happy. We walked because the bus fare was too high. It would pay a month’s wages for a washerwoman back home. Today, I had an expensive travel card in my pocket, I could hail a cab, yet I walked the streets of my youth, as I had before, in the rain.

The streets were the same,as they had been for hundreds of years, it felt. There were changes, of course. I had changed more than the streets had- the restaurants no longer looked forbiddingly inviting. I was judging them now. As I stepped into a doorway to check the map on my phone, I wasn’t afraid of being driven off…for my empty pockets. That never happened to me in the decades of living here, and I had grown up with the city, in the city. I spoke their language, joked their jokes. And still spoke of them, not us.

But that is not their fault. I had left them, the city had not abandoned me. It still welcomed my custom with open arms, even as it had forgotten me. Cities – harlots. They offer no love, no loyalty. A warm bed comes at a price. Friendships, they endure.

But old habits die hard. I sit in this library as I have sat in many others before this, and my spine slouches in familiar curves. It knows, even before I do of the stance I take…a dream like trance that descends rapidly, soaking learning from journals it would never see at home. The hand holds a pencil professionally, as it had learnt to do during the exams of my childhood, ready to race with the receptors in my brain…soaking the overflow, holding it in grey, as friends do. And wait.

The eyes, they glaze, the tummy rumbles, and I reach out instinctively for that cheap student’s support when lunch and dinner are indulgences- sugar. Magically, the bag I hold has a roll of polo mints. Not seen for decades, I bought it at a corner shop. Something in me knew I would revert to type in the city of my youth.

The serious students around me look the same. Some flash their golden hair, others their unkempt beard. Some have eyes narrowed with years of myopic focus on grand texts, most have shoulders that slope forward from bending over desks and sitting in inadequate chairs. Who ever said that a table and chair were essential to reading? This is the land of comfy, bring on the sofas. Or not, the students look who they are, some things should remain the same. This is how sacred develops, and traditions are made.

The books lay unread by my side, as I absorb what I have been. To revert to type is a comfort, but to grow and learn is a pleasure and a privilege only afforded to some.

In my tiny corner of a student’s world, in a cozy library, sitting next to a window that watches the rain weep, I have everything I need. Even a ticking radiator ticking away reassuringly. This, then is heaven. For today.

Floating alongside the River 3

Continued from https://aanteladda.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/floating-alongside-the-river-2/

Spring flowers keeping an eye on all.. photo (19)

Blushing, blooming, best unseen..

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The path strewn in petaled welcome
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Alongside Turner’s green..

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Reflective silence in gloaming’s dell

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Shining treetops beckoning on..

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Calling the walker anon..

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Brashly, the brush sang it’s song

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As the serene river flows on..

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The river steps beckoned with tales to tell ..

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The path, it solidly went on..

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Continued here..