Lost in the stars

Lying on our backs,  in summer blankets,  gazing at the dome of the sky,  the stars and constellations  sprayed like fine glitteri...

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pearls of Wisdom

When the world over people were celebrating Christmas, our Sikh congregation here was celebrating the “Prakash Utsavs”, the Guruparvs of birth, of not one but two jewels … the beginning of “prabhaat feris” for the 10th “Guru, Gobind Singh” Ji’s birthday celebrations and for “Satguru Raam Singh ji, Kilewale”. While the birth celebrations of 10th Guru ji’s birthday are still continuing, those for Raam Singh Ji Kilewale concluded with great pomp and show. To involve kids in the rich and splendid heritage, there were various competitions organized where kids showcased their talents and learnt a thing or two. Poetry recitation, shabad kirtan, katha or the story telling, reciting the gurbani … there was a long list for different age groups and for different talents.

We (read yours humbly) thought it would be a good platform for Harjas, my five and a half years old nephew, to learn how to face crowds and overcome stage fears. So, two days before celebrations, we found a short spiritual poetry and helped him learn it. I must admit here that the lines were tough for his age and time was already less. Therefore, the halting recitation was not his fault alone. Time and again, he would ask me the meanings and I would try to simplify the heavy and deep implications of the words his tiny tongue was reciting. I just gave him overview that the poem talks of our shortcomings as a human that we deviate from the good, generous and virtuous paths and are gullible to various vices. So, the Lord should help us cleanse our sins and make us walk on His chosen paths. So on … so forth.

Come the day of his competition. I and my sister took him to the Gurudwara Sahib where the competition was scheduled. We got his name registered among the participants. Till the time his name was not called for, Harjas kept learning the poem. No playing around, no fooling around this time. The moment came. The organizer called out “Harjas Singh Thukral”. He took a deep breath or he held his breath … I could not make out. That was all too fast. He rose from his place, walked up to the stage and faced us. His face red. Was he crying??? He started addressing the crowd. He halted. He spoke, starting all over again. He recited the poem. He halted at the second stanza. I moved my hand to give him pointers. Di prompted the starting words of the line. We wondered if he saw or heard our help. After a second … or was it a minute … it seemed long for a second … he got over the stumbling block. He ended his poem, co-ordinator helped him with the “fateh” and he started coming back to us. Somebody from amongst the organizers stopped him; handed over the gift for participation. He accepted the same and came back and smiled … look, I spoke and I did not forget it. My sister hugged him tight. He showed his gift. And then he came and hugged me. He then told us both that … we will do better next time. More hugs from Di followed on hearing this. Mother’s heart swelling with pride after all J

A few days later, the “prabhat feri” for Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s guruparv came to our locality. All the locality people were collective hosts. There was kirtan, gurbani recitation and then there was “langar” afterwards. All kids were vying for the “langar seva”. Our tiny trot was busy distributing paper plates. When the crowd thinned, and it was time for we organizers to have our share of the langar, we called Harjas over. His response:

“I am doing seva , therefore, do not call me time and again. One must do seva … because …
Kayi Janmaan to haan bhatak riha,
Karo mehar prabhu sang jod deyo ….
(I have been wandering aimlessly since a long time now … taking births and re-births. Lord, have mercy on me now, make me tread your path and help me attain the ultimate liberation by binding my humble self to Your name.) “

The lines that I had taught him in his poem … the one he had spoken in Gurudwara Sahib … the lines where he had taken a momentary pause … the lines which he now remembered not just by heart or by words but with the depth of meaning … the lines well timed and suited to the occasion.

I and my sister were speechless. Plain speechless on hearing these pearls of wisdom from him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I learnt this from … Fire!!!

“Aarti” time holds me in awe of the light from the wicks soaked in ghee (clarified butter). The flickering “aate wala diya” placed in a big “thaali” splashed generously with rose petals moved clockwise before the deity with hymns playing in the background and focus on the Almighty, eliminating all distractions with the ringing bells, invoking the Supreme to bless us mortals … it is the most picturesque of all rituals. And this “thaali” holds the food for the soul …

The flower petals … the opening of the heart
The ringing bells … warding off distractions and invocations to “Him”
The camphor … burning of the evil desires
The singing and the clapping … the joy you experience
The “thaali” … the tray that holds the offerings … the tray that holds the blessings received.
The lamp … the fire …
                The light of life … Fire … be it the Sun or the blaze … illuminates and teaches us to illuminate our beings like the pious light of the lamp, to fill our lives with the light of knowledge, to be able to see truth and the beauty through that truth, to make our thoughts and actions pure and beautiful.
            Raise … Fire … always rises upwards and teaches us to do the same … by heart, by words and by actions.
            Brightness … Fire … has the power and that power makes it shine bright and bold … teaches us to shine bright on the power of virtues
            Assimilation … Fire … assimilates all that is close to it … wood, gold, or iron … everything … teaches us to become the “samidhaa” … the offering in this sacred fire and get assimilated with the Almighty, become one with the Lord.
            Vast spread … Fire spreads … has a wide reach … Look at the Sun … so many light years away but it is the fire in the Sun that illuminates your days … teaches us to be like the Sun, to be able to help others with our capabilities, to help others to see the light and to make our presence be felt far and wide.
            Struggle … Fire … is born out of struggle … the struggle of clouds, the struggle of water … that give birth to the light … the fire. It teaches to struggle to learn, to grow spiritually, and to be free in every sense and actual sense.
            Altruism … Fire converts the “samidhaa”, the sacred offerings made with devotion and love into pious, powerful and primary elements and returns them back to the devotees. It converts the crude ores to pure gold. It teaches us to use our powers, our resources, and our capabilities in the welfare of all that surrounds us. To self analyze and to burn our impurities.
            Active … Fire … does not rest … when it does, it dies. It teaches us to give up the inertia … to be industrious in order to achieve our goals.

This, they say, is the Vedic Learning from the Fire. And this, I hope has been decently translated by me because the source of all these golden words was a newspaper article in Hindi.

Never really understood why people worship Fire … why Fire finds it way in almost all sacred activities. But now I know. And am I happy that I know? Yes, ecstatic.

Truly, “Learning never ends” … this time it is the Fire … I wonder what it will be next????

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And it is Wednesday again …

Every Wednesday is a day of hope … hope of landing a job of my choice.

Every week, that hope gets trashed.

It is the day when the jobs and career section comes in the newspaper.

So, with prayers in heart, hope in mind and keenness in sight … I grab the newspaper.

Oblivious to mum’s calls for breakfast, oblivious to maid’s requests for not stepping on the wet floor, oblivious to granny telling me to bring over my nephews. Oblivious to everything …

Project job-application begins.

Step 1 – scan the newspaper for the relevant advertisements.

Step 2 – select the ones that are feasible and that I can apply for.

Step 3 – switch on the computer and connect to the net. Bearing up with slow connection, meaningless boot-up scans and launching of various applications with great patience (actually tapping fingers on the keyboard). “Are we a little impatient today?” immediately springs up in my mind. But neither am I a Bella, nor do I have an Edward Cullen to tell me that. So... we move on.

Step 4 – Type the cover letters, check the resume carefully, attach it, re-check the application, re-check the attached file,  type in the mail ids, re-check the mail ids.

Step 5 – Seek the blessing of all the Gods I know by name and others that I do not know by name and click on that “Send” button that holds the fates of my many such applications.

Step 6 – wait … and wait … and wait … and wait … and so on.

Days have turned to weeks, weeks to months. And I am yet to hear a positive response.

That is an exaggeration. I am yet to hear any response. Positive or negative.

No acknowledgements of having received the application and resume.

No telling me that I did not make it to the next round.

No telling me that why I did not make it to the next round.

All that my exercise gives me is a cold breakfast (remember my mum), irritated nephews (remember my gran) and a soiled floor (remember my maid).

It does not hurt to send in applications.  But I should at least get an acknowledgment of receipt.

It is totally acceptable if they find another suitable candidate. But at least they could inform me.

And it is ok to know that they have put aside the application for consideration for other posts or have added it to their database. But should this not be discussed with me?

Courtesy??? Recruiters !!!!

Some days I wonder if they read it at all. Some days I am brimming with hope.

Well, it is Wednesday again … off for my project … with fingers crossed.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kids at heart

“Harjas, get working on your homework.” “Okay, as soon as this story of Chota Bheem finishes.”

“Harjas, have your lunch.” “Just bring it in, I am watching Chota Bheem.”

“Harjas, why have you spread your toys all over.” “This is Bheem’s Petra town.”

Harjas and Harjas’s Chota Bheem. He eats, sleeps, dreams about him. He loves “Ladoos” because Bheem likes them. He uses old dupattas of my sister and my mother to make dhotis for himself. And the only toys he likes are swords and bows and arrows. Hundreds of time we have tried to wean him off his addiction. Hundreds of time we have failed. My sister and my mother often try ways to keep his mind off his Chota Bheem. While I wander off to my childhood.

Ours was a simple life. No cable connections in that tender age. The only addiction being the “Chitrahaar” every Wednesday 8:00 P.M. and a cartoon section every Sunday that had stories from “Potli Baba Ki”. And they were a must watch. Nothing withstanding.

Then we were introduced to the cable connections. And we were introduced to the Disney Hour, Duck Tales, Tom and Jerry, Alladin, Small Wonder, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Different Strokes, and The Little Mermaid ….. I don’t think I can ever finish this list. Was I addicted? I definitely was.

I remember working by the clock for the sake of these addictions of mine. The second the clock struck 6:30P.M. (and I meant it too … I would not let the seconds hand on the clock to move on to the next calibration), my pencil would be down. I would not care if I was in the middle of sentence or even if a test was due. Off I would go to the drawing room to watch my serials. I also remember having made great efforts for not missing them. I switched my milk-time to match with the serials and would be sipping my cup for full hour.

Come winters, and we face voltage drops. And watching television was not advisable. We used to connect the tube-lights of our rooms through voltage stabilizers to be able to finish off the daily home assignments. But would I let that come in my way. Definitely not! The stabilizer from our old refrigerator, in fully working condition had been stacked away in the storeroom. I took that out, dusted it and took it to the drawing room. Connected the television through it and soon was lost in that charming world of Jeannie. I would brave an hour of dim bulb light and inclement weather since tube-lights and heaters won’t work. No wonder I now have a high power spectacles to remind me of my adventures.

Today, while the sensible self has learnt many a lessons (which I dutifully share with my nephew), the crazy me is still the same. When, after a lot of prodding and pleading, Harjas agrees to go home and finish off his homework, I dutifully take his seat and get engrossed in the very “Chota Bheem”. And other days I simply tell him that since the channel of Chota Bheem is experiencing technical issues, we will have to watch Tom and Jerry. After all, we all are kids at heart. Are we not??? And I do get him off his Chota Bheem. Purpose solved. J

Saturday, December 10, 2011

No salt please ...

The full moon night … when the moon in all its glory and beauty … adorns the sky. When the night comes alive with the light of the moon. A festival in itself. Auspicious and important.

The full moon night … a time of fasting, a time of praying. Sacrificing. Healing. Both physical and spiritual.

Full moon nights are actually a test. A test of strength. Willpower. Resolve.

And also a test of my affinity to salt. Can I or can I not stay away from the salt whole day.

Fruits in the day, and one meal in the evening.

And, that “one meal” is prepared … without salt.

And, mostly it is that “one meal” that makes up for the abstinence observed whole day. Sometimes I get paranthaas with sooji ka halwa. At other times mother serves the adarak – paneer ki sabzi. The ginger makes up for the lack of salt. It is sweetened paranthas with curd in the hostel. And chapattis with kheer in Gurudwara Sahib.

But, since, I am not so much into fasts and sweets; I falter every now and then. Like the rakshabandhan day in August .. when the tempting rajma ... those little red kidneybeans ... won the battle. The fight had lasted half a day. That was better than the January and February performance. I skipped the fast thing altogether at that time. Ditto for March.

April, May, June, July, September, November, December … I resisted the lure of salt … successfully.

Did I miss October in that list? Yes, I did. Because, I am not sure what to make out of it. I observed the fast whole day. In the late evening, all of us were gathered. I and Harjas were having bananas. His were salted and mine were not. I finished off my share. And somewhere in between eating, talking and listening, I forgot all about fast and picked up a piece from his bowl and ate it. And the taste of salt brought me back to reality.

Some tell me that since this was done unconsciously, my fast stands as complete. Some tell me that it stands broken. All it tells me is that, hunger and salt both have a strong calling. J

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back to my good old Kusum Theatre…

I remember trotting hand in hand with my family to the only theatre in the town to watch the hit Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. I was in 5th standard. And it was the first time I had watched some movie on 70mm screen. Interval was a big surprise thing and I was scared when they switched off the lights and started the movie again. My dad had gone out to buy refreshments and had not returned. Moments later he came back, guided by the torch lights and holding chips and popcorns.

We did not go that often to the theatre those days. The movies that I saw in theatre can be counted on my finger tips. Dil To Pagal Hai, Pardes, Duplicate, Dil Se, Mann, Fiza, Mission Kashmir. There was another movie especially for kids. But my memory fails to place its name correctly. Except Mann, all of these have been watched in the hall of our very own Kusum Theatre. Mann was seen in Shringaar theatre in Ludhiana. The theatre seemed no different than ours, only a little pricier.

Then there was a break. I went to Hamirpur and lost touch with movies and theatres. Occasionally though, my parents would tell me that they had gone out for a movie.

By then, I had also learnt that Kusum theatre, named after the member from Mandi’s royal family, was not in the league with finer theatres. That there are theatres with push back seats, cushioned seats and other comforts. And that one does not have to wait months for movies. That the first day first show is a big craze with youngsters. Things that I had never experienced. I had never been part of.

Placement in Wipro took me to Bangalore. Weekends were spent either in malls or in posh PVRs. Sophisticated theatres, with sophisticated crowds. Comfortable seats. They were definitely costlier but watching movie in HD quality with wonderful acoustics was also a wonderful treat. Watching movies became a favourite weekend activity.

Some days my parents would tell me that even they had gone out for a movie. Some days my cousins would accompany them. Some days I wondered out loud how they could enjoy watching movies in that old, unkempt theatre. They would laugh it off saying you will have to experience it firsthand.

And I did experience it; after I came back from Bangalore. Delhi 6. I had been looking forward to watch this one. And so had been my parents. So, we planned for a night show. (Being safe with parents has its own benefits.) The show was scheduled for 8:15P.M. Dad called up the theatre manager at 8:00P.M., to confirm if the movie would be showing. My quizzical look was answered with a simple “he runs the show if at least 10 people buy the ticket. 8 have already arrived. We three will make up the rest of the crowd”. I felt lost. We reached the theatre. Only if we could call it a theatre! No rush; no crowd; only a small queue. The ticket checker checked the tickets and ushered us in. “You can choose where you want to sit. Nobody is going to question you or stop you.” What else did I expect! We could laugh, talk, and make merry. Such a relief from the gold ticket halls of the PVRs. House-full is a rarity here. So are girls. And occasional power cuts. But the three hours are as much fun here as in any other theatre.

I and my dad are almost regulars at the place now. I actually look forward to watching movies there. We are just back from after watching “Rockstar”. All cold and numb. But happy.

With a handful of audience and Rs26/ticket for hall, I wonder how the owner manages to run and upkeep the place. But I am glad he does.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reasons to smile this week ..

My desktop has been delivered back to me. And after two months of its hospitalization, it has started functioning again. The bout of sickness has left it weak and emaciated.  Almost every part has been replaced so as to get it working. But here it is. Back in its old niche. Still trying to be of help as long as it can. My most faithful friend. J

The sweater that I had started knitting for my nephew, Harjas, is finished. With ample inputs from my mother. It took us three days to finalize the pattern. She taught me how to do the cables for the front and stripes for the back and how to cut out the shoulders and how to do the arms. She did the knitting for the neck and the complete stitching. So, it is like I knitted the parts and she made a sweater out of those parts. J

I am learning how to write Punjabi. Something which I should have learnt a long time ago. But, better late than never. 

The first time I wrote out the complete set of alphabets, I felt an inexplicable joy. It is like coming home after a long journey. However, it still needs a lot of practice. And then the grammar and punctuation and all. But it is fun and keeps me occupied. J

Finally, we did loads of shopping this week. And shopping is always fun. J

So week of accomplishments, week of doing and a week of learning. Week of smiles J

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A small error can make a huge difference …

Saturday afternoon. Merry making. Revelry. Wedding functions in full swing.

Suddenly I remember a FB update about our result. Not sure if it has actually been declared. Picking up phone receiver and then placing it back on the cradle. Finally, I make the most anticipated call. Nervous but audible croaking of roll number. A muffled shuffling of papers. “Reappear”.

Which subject”? “IT”. A short click. The call ends.

Now that the call has ended, I do not feel anything. Numbly I walk to my room. Nothing registers for a while. Then the truth dawns on me. Then … Tears. Screams. Shouts.

The pain is unbearable. Nothing dulls the realization. It seems like all is lost. Past, present, future … all buried in some dark and deep recesses.

I wonder if I can hold myself together … for the ceremonies … for Monday … for any other day.

Amidst the fit of weeping, I somehow get ready and attend the functions. Rarely talking. Certainly not dancing. My actions and smiles forced. My mother, father, sister and cousin brother … the handful of people privy to the fruition of my MBA … keeping an eye on me lest I falter in my resolve.

Sunday evening. All functions for Mandi are done. All guests have retired. Mum, dad and I plan to go to Shimla and check things out first hand.

Monday Morning. Chilly. Cold. The three of us board our taxi in silence. A lot is at stake. Silent prayers in three hearts. Every kilometre that we cross adds to tension. Every kilometre that we cross brings me closer to the truth.

Finally, we are at the university campus. I guide the driver to my department. Most of it is empty. Preparatory holidays for the students. I check date-sheet on the notice board. The date for re-appear exam is 7th Jan, 2012. That gives me enough time for preparation. But am I in time to apply for it. A few more steps and I will find all the answers that I am seeking.

In the office, we are shown the gazette while my detailed mark-sheet is being fetched. Three heads bend down. There has been no mistake in the communication. I do have a re-appear. And only I, amongst my friends and batch-mates, have a re-appear. I ask for the last date to apply for re-evaluation and examination. Tuesday. That gives us two days.

Suddenly, I can feel the tears building up inside me. My father senses this. His arm goes around me in a hug to comfort me.

The mark-sheet. I sign for it. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I open my eyes.

Dad, I have been marked absent for my exam”!

The mark-sheet is out of my hands. I clutch the back of the chair for support.

Mum, dad both look at it and then at me. A ray of hope enters all our hearts. May be. May not be.

We ask the department authorities the procedure for getting the error rectified.

Nobody in the department expresses any surprise or any concern over the mistake.

We drive to the examination department. We meet the concerned person. He digs up the exam attendance record. Dad looks up at me. “Did you sign this sheet”? “Yes, as far as I remember, I did”. “Keep your fingers crossed then”. “Don’t worry; they have been crossed ever since I heard my result”.

The records are produced before us. My roll number is queried. My attendance checked. I recognize my signature against all three exams. Another ray of hope. Another person rolls out a huge record list. Again my roll number is queried. “Sir, she has received internal assessment also. But her theory awards have not been entered”. “Please visit the evaluation department for this problem”. We are told calmly. Thankfully, they instantly approve our application from their end and tell us the way to the evaluation department.

Evaluation department. We show our application and our mark-sheet. “Sir, I will have to dig up the records for this further. Please come after an hour or so”.

We plan to have some tea to while away our time. I want to call up my sister and tell her what all is happening. My dad tells me not to rush the things. “We cannot be sure of anything still. We do not know how many marks you are going to get in the end.” “Dad, I think I will at least qualify”. “And how can you be so hopeful”? “I sneaked a look at my internal assessment and I have been awarded 32 marks. So, that means I need 8 more marks to qualify and I have attempted all five questions”. My father rolls out his eyes at me. I smile for the first time in days. “Being tall does have its advantages, dad”. My father too smiles. Lovingly. “No calls, yet”.

An hour has passed. We again enter the evaluation department. We are informed that the person concerned has still not fetched our records. We tell them that we have travelled all the way from Mandi and we are supposed to go back by evening and that we have functions going on back home. They tell us that if we want we can fill in re-evaluation form and go back and attend functions. But if we want the matters to be resolved before our eyes, we will have to wait.

The section officer overhears all this. He calls us and asks us the issue. My father again narrates everything. And I hoped he would help expedite the procedure. “Oh, these kinds of things keep happening every now and then. Few days back, there was a case where the marks had been entered as 38 but actually the candidate had earned 83 marks. You please take a seat here or you can wait outside. Nothing to worry. The matter will get resolved in some time”. I and my father exchange looks. We thank him and we step outside his office. “You were right. I was a little too hopeful too early”. We both take deep sighs …

And we wait and we wait and we wait.

After endless wait, I recognize the person from the evaluation department climbing up the stairs. He holds the fate of my MBA. He is taking all the time in the world to enter his office, to sit on his chair and talk to us. Does he not realize what we are going through?

Then he smiles at us. And then he looks at his colleagues. And says “41”. “41???” “41 out of 60 … internal assessment marks are yet to be added”.

This is all I need to hear. I feel my legs giving away. I hug my dad. “At last! Thank you, God. Thank you”. 

The section officer looks at us questioningly. My father tells him that I have qualified the exam.

We are made to wait a little longer while they type out my awards in reply to the application. Then we go back to the examination department. They ask us to come after lunch to collect the corrected mark-sheet.

My father now makes the calls to my sister and my cousin who had kept the secret well. We collect our mark-sheet, go back to the MBA department, and get the corrections registered. And finally we  drive off to “The Mall” to celebrate.

My mark-sheet has been corrected. By the grace of God. By some miracle. By some magic, all has been restored for me.

But, the casual attitude of authorities … has left us all wondering … about the fates and lives and careers of all other students. Who knows the 48 that you are getting might actually be 84.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It is still festivity for us …

Diwali has come and gone. But we are still caught in that festive mood.

And the reason for celebration is a cousin sister’s wedding.

Fun and frolic. Zeal and zest. Vibrant and vivacious. Rituals and merry making.

Nothing short of a carnival.

A carnival … that is going to last a month approximately.

A carnival … half of which will take place in my native Mandi and the other half in Chandigarh where the groom’s family stays.

The day when the family will attend the “Path da Bhog”. Some days back, all of us had gone to the Gurudwara Sahib … to tell the priests to start the recital of the Holy “Shri Guru Granth Sahib” specially to mark the beginning of the ceremonies of this wedding. The recital was “Sahaj” … suited to the schedule of the reader ... and will finish tomorrow. This will be followed by a short prayer “Ardaas” … the word of the “Guru” will be received and blessings sought … to ward off all obstacles.

Friday, the 11th of this month.
                “Kirtan” Ceremony. The ladies of the family and the congregation will collect together to sing hymns and prayers. The girl will be given a small token representation by the congregation. A small prayer book and praying accessories. Like telling her that the good Lord is by her side as she steps in a new world. Like asking her to keep The Almighty in her mind always. Like showing her that she is not alone. That she is loved and blessed.

Saturday, the 12th of this month.
                The most awaited evening amongst all the functions of “Phase Mandi”. The “Bangle Ceremony”. The Dinner. The DJ. Both the “nanka” … the maternal and “dadka” … the paternal families will get together for a bash. The girl will receive the red and green glass bangles from all the girls and ladies there which she will wear till her wedding day. The tinkling of so many bangles wards off the negative energies, brings good luck and fortune.

Sunday, the 13th of this month.
                The Dham. Traditional lunch. Prepared only by Brahmin chefs … “the botis” in copper utensils. The cooking will start from Saturday evening itself. Served in leaf plates … “the pattals” to people who sit on the floor. It will be a seven course meal. Rice will be consumed … with “meetha” … sweet made of “boondi”; “sepu badi” … local traditional dish of Mandi; “khatta” … a tangy dish made of pumpkin; “rajmah” … the kidney beans; “matar paneer” … a tasty cheese and peas dish with lots of gravy; “daal makhani” … the black lentil; and finally “the jhol” … curd cooked with turmeric and spices. Mouth watering and delicious.

“Phase Mandi” ends here.

And “Phase Chandigarh” will have to wait. As “Phase Mandi” invitations are still pending and I can hear my aunt panicking in the other room. That means I should get ready now and have a trip round the town extending hearty and cordial invitations.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

When the crows get thirsty ...

The story “Thirsty Crow” gets a newer version.

When one crow gets thirsty, he flies around and finds a rivulet.

He then calls all his friends. And they have a great time together.

Moral of the story … A treat with friends makes everyone’s day.

Every morning, we witness this joyous get-together. Right behind our house.

Their flight, their play gives a refreshing start to the day.

Love, happiness, peace of mind.

Sharing with you all.

Have a great day. Good morning.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Afterthoughts on Diwali …

My facebook friends have been posting this picture religiously every year. And this shows how beautiful, how mesmerising India looks from space on Diwali night.

How a no moon night comes alive with candles, diyas, lamps and lights.

Well, all I want to do is to express my thanks to all those who posted this.

If this is a satellite picture, I am glad we have the satellites and the technology that can provide us with such details.

If this is a growth progression from 90’s to 2000’s, I am glad we have progressed so.

If this is an artist’s imagination, I am glad he could paint what India should look like on a Diwali night.

Because all said and done, amidst all the fireworks and firecrackers, the beauty was a little fogged.

Yes, the houses were embellished. Complete with the lights, laughter and merry making of everybody.

The first round of fireworks in the alley blew all the candles out. The second round nearly deafened us. And the third round brought with it a bout of smoke and ash and all the oxides of carbon.

The sound of the crackers was the only decipherable sound. The play of crackers, the only visible celebration.

Thick blanket of smoke engulfed the surroundings. It was darkness all around. The only saving grace was the glow of the crackers. Defying all smoke. Defying all haze. But every single cracker that burnt added to the layer of smoke and gases.

Stepping outside was a real challenge. It was literally poison in the air. So difficult to breathe. The eyes watered. The throat burned with every breath. The sick, the infants, the elderly and those with respiratory troubles received the gift of "discomfort". Most retreated back to their rooms and drawing rooms.

Every year, several thousand of fireworks and firecrackers are lit. Treat for eyes, hole in pocket and threat to life.

Every year, several campaigns are launched; to have a smoke free Diwali; to curtail pollution; to protest against the fireworks industries where kids are employed.

And, yet! Every year, the fireworks flood the market, the homes and the sky.

The fireworks are integral to this festivity. Their splendour and sparkle is unmatched. But so is the society that we live in.

While we clean our houses, make rangolis and decorate every corner we can think of, we subject our earth India and sky India to the dark mines of pollution, suffering and pain.

Is this what we call a “Happy Diwali”?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thank you God

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

For this body of clay,

For a mind full of play,

For every iota that we learn,

For every Star and Saturn,

For every moment of life,

For every peace and every strife,

For all our strains and songs,

For our rights and wrongs,

For our joys and sorrows,

For our today and tomorrows,

For all that we have and all that we desire,

For everything that shines or lies bemire,

For all that you send our way,

For each and every blessed day,

Thank you God …

Thank you God … for the gift of this life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fighting the cold ...

I have been busy.

Busy, fighting the sore throat and dry cold.

Using granny’s strategic home remedies.

I wear sweaters while people around me still wear summer clothes.

I drink lukewarm water while friends sip cold drinks.

I suck ginger and honey when the whole family is relishing salty snacks.

I get milk with ginger, cinnamon and cloves and Harji gets bournvita and horlicks.

I get dushanda (joshanda / banashka) and dad gets cold coffee.

It is lozenges for me while candies and chocolates for all my cousins.

I get sheera and besan and they all eat chilly cheese.

My room has that unmistakable odour of “vicks”.

And my right to speech has been well curtailed this week.

Enough to drive me up the wall.

But the home remedies are helping. Am on my way to recovery.

Just a few more days of precaution. A few more days of fighting.

Kudos to grannies. Sometimes, they know it all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Date with moon ...

Festivity is in the air.

More so for all the married and engaged damsels.

Their fast will speak volumes about their undying love for husbands.

Their 16 shringaar (16 adornments) will put the heavenly nymphs to shame.

Faith makes all things possible and love makes all things easy.

This is one festival, the history of which is glorious and the present, beautiful.

The women, dressed up in fineries, gather together to say their prayers. They listen to the Karwa Chauth Katha, exchange Karwas, and chant the prayers. Followed by exciting wait for the moon to rise. … when the wives and fianc├ęs will seek blessings for the welfare, well being and prosperity of their spouse.

My reasons of celebration have nothing to do with fasting, though.

New stock of bangles, kangans and bracelets means a new, ethnic and traditional piece can be added easily to my collection.

One can easily get “feniyan” (shaped like vermicelli, made in clarified butter) as they are an important part of the rituals of this festival. And they make for a delicious and sumptuous breakfast. So, I can hoard up enough “feniyan” to last me through next year.

And I love the general ambience ... the gorgeous smiles, the festivity, the traditions, the shopping, the gifting.

Well, to each his own, they say. J

May your date with moon, bring lots of love and happiness in your life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

When nothing goes right, go shopping!!!

This is one of those few days, when we were not feeling particularly buoyant.

We cook. We clean. We eat. We sleep. We iron. We knit. We talk. We stitch. We mend. We play. God! The tasks don’t end. Ever.

The day ends in a jiffy. With so many things still piled up before us.

To add to it, Diwali and a wedding in the house. The rounds to tailors, gift shops, and jewellery shops too have to be squeezed in somehow.

So, almost daily, I and my mum have been going to the market for one thing or the other. And things are moving at snail’s pace.

Mum was panicky today. “How are we going to manage so many things?” And the mood had spilled over to me also.

We finally decided to go shopping again. And we were praying it to be fruitful this time. The agenda was to get some nice outfits for my nephews. Diwali gifts.

So, off we were again. One shop, then other. Rejecting this and that. Shortlisting things. Yes .. no .. no. On and on.

As I passed by a shop, I spotted a green T-shirt on a mannequin and remarked casually “Nice”.

We went to kids store nearby, saw a few things. But nothing appealed. And on our way back, my head turned again and I said “Mum, look, isn’t it nice”.

One minute, we were looking at the t-shirt. The second minute, we were looking at one another. And the third minute, we were in that shop.

Nice cotton t-shirts. Pleasing colours. Ended up buying two. That mannequin piece did make its way to my shopping bag.

That was the beginning.

After that, we bought nice outfits for both my nephews and did some more shopping that was not in today’s to do list.

And where’s the fun in shopping without grabbing a steal.

We walked back home holding 4-5 big shopping bags.

So, mission accomplished. With million watt smiles.

Mum seems a little relaxed for the first time since morning. I am on cloud nine.

Moral of the story … when you feel a little low, grab your wallet and go shopping.

Trust me, it works wonders.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya

Dasha – hara.

The victory of good over evil. Every time, all the times.

The triumph of all that is true, good and right.

The end of the darkness , in every sense of the word.

The removal of Kumati (bad intentions and fate).

The slaying of lust, anger, delusion, greed, over pride, jealousy, ego, desire.

The worshipping of mind, intellect, knowledge.

The seeking of Sumati (pure mindedness).

The heralding of light.

The beginning of pious and pure.

So this dussehra , let us all pray

“Om asato ma sadgamaya,

Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya,

Mrityorma amritamgamaya

Om shantih shantih shantih

Oh Almighty!

Lead us from the unreal (falsity) to the real (truth)!

From darkness to light!

From death to immortality!

Oh Almighty! May there be Peace! Peace! Peace!”

And may our prayers be answered with peace, strength, self - discipline, respect, simplicity, success, prosperity, values and health to all of us.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

It is that time of the year….

When the days turn to dusks sooner than expected; One minute, it is light everywhere and the other minute, it starts getting dark.

When the mornings are cold and it feels good to snuggle up in a jaipuri quilt or a blanket;

When you open the window and sudden rush of cool morning breeze can give you goose bumps.

When the mild fogs, on the very top of the hills, right before the first sun rays filter through them, looks mesmerising.

When the days pass in a quandary; the question being - “To switch on a fan or not to”?

When the walnuts have made their way back into the daily routines;

When the hands knitting cosies for all of us, start working faster;

When people start arranging and re-arranging sweaters, knitwear, woollen accessories;

When the rooftops are adorned in beautiful woollen hues;

When you try wearing this and that, and finally decide to go out in a full sleeves top;

When if you don’t pay heed to minor symptoms, you can end up with a most irritating cold;

When you should not have cold water, so you mix together the cold and the fresh water;

When the refrigerator does not have to carry the load of ice trays and so many water bottles, and blesses you with additional space to stack in guavas, apples, pomegranates;

When you know winters are just round the corner.

Wishing you all winters full of care and warmth. J

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Finger licking good ...

“Dad, please remember to get the eggless date muffins from Sai Tara” I shouted as I waved him goodbye. He mumbled a “If I can remember what you want” and picked up his bags. “I won’t forget to remind you when you call me” I smiled and hurried back to my room.

He called. I reminded. He said they might get spoiled on the way back to Mandi. I told him not to buy them in that case. He bought them anyways. I relished each morsel, every tidbit.

Mum saw me through. “You really love these. Don’t you?” I just smiled and digged my spoon yet again into the little yummy muffin.

“Mum? Can we make these at home? I mean these are just like cakes or rather cupcakes, I should say.”

“Why don’t you find out? Your Google will tell you all, I guess.”

This is her way of getting me interested in handling ladles and woks. And this usually works. As do all her ideas.

I obediently Googled the “eggless date cake recipe” and discussed with her all the requirements and procedures. The recipe was understood. And it so turned out that all the ingredients were also available with us. I could set about the task whenever I felt like.

I was deliberating. Cakes are not my thing. I mean cooking itself is a challenge for me. And cakes need expertise. So, I postponed the task twice. Third time, I knew it was going to be now or never. “So, now it is”, I decided and started off the procedure.

By the time, I was done blending the ingredients, half a day had already passed. And I was dead tired. But the major task was done. Mum had dusted the baking tray and set the oven for pre-heating. She helped me pour the batter into the tray and stack it in the oven.

And then we both waited. With our fingers crossed.

She kept checking it time to time while I was still in the kitchen, clearing off the mess that I had made there. 

Finally, she called out to me. After a good 35 minutes.

“The cake is ready.”

But, this did nothing to ease the butterflies in my stomach. “What if it breaks while taking it out of the baking tray? What if it does not taste good?” I could only wait for the answers to come.

We let it cool for a while and then I waited with a bated breath while mum took it out.

Perfect and moist. I just kept staring at the tray and the cake. Some things are definitely hard to believe. This was one of those moments.

The cake was finally cut and tasted. The compliments were flowing.

By the evening I was not sure whether I genuinely deserved those accolades or whether they were to appease me.

The next morning, my sister dropped in unannounced at 8:00 A.M. “Do we still have some cake left over? I just wanted to taste it.”

I knew for sure then. :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Goodbye ... from Tandoor

Dear Ruby,

Hope this last letter of mine finds you hale and hearty.

By the time you will receive this letter, I will have gone far away. Back in the lap of the elements that created me.

I still remember when I saw you the last time. I was standing silently in a corner of that big terrace of yours.

You came running up the stairs (I know you were running. The music of your anklets said so. Your short, quick breath also told it.)

You ran your daily errands and left silently. Did not spare a glance for me.

This morning, you did not come for your daily walk. And by noon, it was time for me to go.

I am glad you were not there at that time. For, I still remember the curious look on that 7 year old face of yours when your grandmother, along with other lady from your neighbourhood, was setting me up in that corner.

The mud plasters on my walls … your first experience of shaping a structure out of clay, mud and water.

Few years later, you grasped that this is the fundamental of pottery and kuchcha architecture.

And aeons later, you understood the strength and determination exhibited by this simple combination.

I also remember how you all used to relish those wintery delights of daal makhani, cocumber salad and tandoori rotis, complete with my earthy aromas.

The wonderful times when the male members of the house would set up the fire in my hearth; you kids would come rushing with dough container, water, clarified butter, caserols; followed by the ladies who would then set about their task of making chappatis. Then you would all get a chance to apply clarified butter and stack the chappatis in the casseroles.

With the big joint family, your mother had ample support to handle this exerting and dangerous task. Your grandmother and your aunt were always willing to lend their hands (or rather I should say arms).

But of late your mother had to handle everything on her own. And wow, did she just handle it. She even made the task a fun for me.

She would experiment with stuffed tandoori paranthas. So, I never knew what challenge would be presented … aloo , onion, paneer … until it was put up against my walls. And then it was upto me to turn it to a delicious treat for all of you.

In the process her arms got many a scaldings and burns, and I am sorry for each one of them.

I know you thought of me as something of permanence. So, you never saw me ageing.

I was there when you fell down and hurt yourself and I was there when your nephew fell down and hurt himself.

I was there when you were sad and crying and I was there when you were happy and smiling.

I was there when you played badminton with your sister. And I was there when your sister got married.

But, trust me. 20 years is a long time of association with fire, sun, rain and storms. It had taken its toll. I was not the same old healthy myself.

The rains this year put the final nail in the coffin. I was all done. So done. Finally, it was time to say good bye.

I knew no more renovations could save me from the inevitable. Not with electric tandoors (I know you still haven’t gotten the hang of it), dish tv installations on the rooftop, the monkeys prowling day and night, and fuel availability at all time low.

I have no regrets. I have had a great life. But the grass always appear greener on the other side. Does it not?

One more season, month, week or day. Anything … nothing.

So I guess, I should let you know, that tomorrow when you will go up for the walk, this friend of yours will not be standing in the corner. It would have left forever.

But don’t be disheartened. I heard your mother telling your granny that they can always get my sibling and put it up again. (Yes, the ones like me are available readymade now-a-days. Ah! How times change.)

So be good to it. Who knows, it might just be me ... re-incarnated and rejuvenated.

Take care. Bbye. And pay my regards to everybody back there.

Yours always,

P.S. I will miss you.