Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh Tea!


Simple as that

"Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil."

- Albert Schweitzer

Light


O sweet spontaneous

E. E. Cummings hasn't graced these pages in a while now and I think I'm feeling withdrawal symptoms of it. So here is what I would have liked to hear him read out to me over tea today.


O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the doting

fingers of
prurient philosophies pinched
and poked

thee
has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
thy

beauty how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy
knees squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
gods
but
true

to the incomparable
couch of death thy
rhythmic
lover

thou answerest

them only with

spring

Like I have said before, all's right with a world with Cummings in it.

For the love of a macaron

Since I am a very disciplined and regular person who is dedicated to the upkeep of myself and my things, I decided yesterday that even though it is Sunday today, I would go to the gym at 9:00 AM. (OK. Truth be told, in the last 30 days since I joined, I have gone ten. And I am going on yet another vacation to Goa on Tuesday and therefore thought that the least I should do is go to the gym today.

So I woke up today at 8:30 AM to aching bones and weary muscles and my bedraggled heart decided to take pity and grant me leave from attending the gym today. Yippee!

So I dragged myself out of bed and immediately proceeded on my latest obsession: studying new words from the dictionary. (Did you know that there is a word called 'braggadocio'? You did? Well, now you know why I need to learn!)

Ten minutes later, I realized something ingenious. What better day than today to make a pile of macarons. I was not going to the gym today and hence, when I eat, I wouldn't feel  sorry for myself that I was working out so hard and then hogging immediately post that. If I don't go to the gym, it is default knowledge that I have succumbed to sloth and have reached a redemptionless place in my brain, and any further iniquities do not bother me too much or lead me on guilt trips. (This is how I work out all of life's quandaries. It is foolproof!)

The thing is that when my friend Ro came down from Sydney, knowing what a huge fan I am of Masterchef Australia, she brought me the Season 2 cookbook of the show. And for one of the challenges, Callum, the runnerup, had made these lovely violet macaroons, which had won the round. While the cookbook is an amazing amazing gift, I can make precisely 2 of the dishes in the book. (This is not because I am such a dud at cooking, but because small town India is not where you can get Macadamia nuts and cooking chocolate, much less truffles and thyme. I swear, 10 years ago, we didn't even get cream in a pack. We had to get it off full cream milk if we needed to!)

One of the dishes is Daniel's Chicken in Dates and the other is Callum's Macarons.

Now Callum is a dessert whiz and I am a complete fan of his. So it was a no brainer which macaron recipe I would use, despite my ever growing collection of macaron recipes off the net.I had pretty much all the ingredients at hand for the basic macaron as well, save the violet essence, which I assumed was not critical anyway.

So with a song in my soul and a skip in my step, I proceeded to gather all my ingredients and make the macaron.

I would need icing sugar, ground almonds, egg whites and castor sugar (We of course don't get castor sugar here. I used granulated sugar.)


So I measure out a cup of almonds, got 3 eggs out and in an orderly fashion, proceeded to grind the almonds. The recipe called for the almonds and icing sugar to then be sieved, but I thought to myself, 'That doesn't make any sense! Why cant I just blitz it in the food processor together. If anything, it will only be more powdered and mixed up than in a sieve, right? Wrong! Fatal error 1. But of course, I didn't know that then.)


So with the song still in my heart, I separated the eggs and beat them up to a gossamer sheen and then slowly added the granulated sugar. the kitchen smelled heavenly and all was right with the world.


Now it was time to add the almond - icing sugar mixture. The recipe requires you to fold it in gently, but I blame the song in my heart for distracting me, as I plopped the almonds into the egg mixture and continue to beat mercilessly with my electric whisk. It was a minute later that I realized that I should have folded the almonds in. But by then it was too late and I thought that I might as well continue whisking. What difference would more air and whisking make, right? (I know I sound really stupid in retrospect, but I was at the crescendo of the song and of course, I couldn't let that derail!) Fatal Error 2. Since I had never made macarons before, I had no idea how the final mixture had to look like and hence, ignorance induced my bliss.

In the meantime, I had discovered that we had no baking tray in the house, so I proceeded to fashion one out of aluminium foil and covered it with baking paper. All was still well.

As soon as I started spooning out the mixture, I knew that there was no way the macarons would be the beautifully shaped architectural marvel that it is supposed to be. At best it would be a thin cookie, and at worst, it would be a huge rectangular sheet of macaron. But it would taste the same, right? But I optimistically trudged on and left the dough to rest for 30 minutes and develop whatever skin it had the destiny to develop. (I had already eaten half of the raw dough, so it is not like there was too much to bake anyways.

Of course, when I looked 10 minutes later, the circles had joined and was now one big square. I told myself that it wouldn't matter because it would taste the same, and after 20 minutes, started baking it.


 I tried scraping the macaron mix off the plastic but a good deal of plastic had melted. But of course, I couldn't let my beautiful macaron go to waste and so at the risk of poisoning myself, I scraped out whatever I could into a Pyrex dish and baked it for 30 minutes.

This is what it looked like when it was out of the oven.


Two hours later, I went to eat it, and it had become an unyielding, rock hard cookie stuck to my Pyrex dish.
 
Logic and gluttony fought a battle then in my brain and of course, gluttony won. I tried to scrape off the macaron top to eat least nibble on it and that is what has led me to the condition that I am in - 2 broken finger nails. Now the biggest tragedy of all this is that I might not be able to go to the gym tomorrow. I should really rest my fingers. I work too hard!

p.s. And this is what the macaron is supposed to look like.



p.p.p.s. This is the actual recipe.

p.p.p.s This is Callum's blog for you to read and enjoy.

p.p.p.p.s This is that wretched song that was in my heart while I desecrated macaronhood. If you see it, you'll know why my macarons turned out so!

p.p.p.p.p.s Can I submit this to cake wrecks?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oh, baby baby!

Look at this closely.


Now look at this even more closely.


Do you see what I see?

You must be. Because it is only the most obvious fact.

Yeah. Annie Sullivan is one helluva genius!

How she can take tempestuous, recalcitrant and whimsical babies and make them do this is beyond me.

Either Sullivan is God herself or Baby Michael is one hell of a model.

Either ways, the outcome is a keeper!

Listed

And now it is that blessed time of the week when I can again list 3 places that I would want to visit in my lifetime. This is for the week of Jan 22nd - 28th.

The lists for the previous weeks are here and here, but they are as follows.

1. Library Way, New York
2. Ladurée, Paris
3. Hotel Sacher, Salzburg and Vienna
4. University of Oxford
5. Liège, Eastern Belgium
6. Cherry Blossoms in Japan
7. Antarctica
8. Aurora Borealis
9. Magnolia Bakery in New York     

And now for the next 3.... (Drum roll please!!!!)

10. A Souq in Baghdad, Iraq

Giulio Rosati's An Arabian Market
I have always held the most romantic notions about Baghdad. Whenever I hear the name, I can see a timeless market place replete with turbaned men in colourful caftans. The place is of the earth - crafted out of mud, and there is a persistent cloud of sand in the air. The whiffs of myrrh and attar and the pungency of spices intermingle to create n exotic scent that is quintessential Arabia. The sounds from a lone lute fill the air with a melancholy the remains long after the music ceases. And I want nothing more than to wander through these alleyways and by-lanes, the sun scorching my bronzed skin, picking up dates and walnuts and silks and sandals.



11. elBulli, Spain

Ferran Adrià's foam

I don't know why I haven't written about elBulli before. I have been obsessing about it for the past 5 years, since I first heard about it. elBulli is only the most fascinating and possibly fabulous restaurant in the whole world. Here are three things about it that I tell everyone I meet.

1. Restaurant Magazine judged elBulli to be Number One on its Top 50 list of the world's best restaurants for a record five times — in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, and #2 in 2010.

2. The restaurant has a limited season and is open for around 6 months a year. Bookings for the next year are taken on a single day after the closing of the current season. It accommodates only 8,000 diners a season, but gets more than two million requests.For the rest of the year, elBulli and its team of chefs experiment in molecular gastronomy and create new flavours and food.

3. The chef who earned elBulli its worldwide fame, Ferran Adrià, is considered to be one of the best in the world and has been described as "the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet".

Now the devastating thing is that elBulli is in its last season and will shut shop as a restaurant in July 2011. And this is what Adrià says about his plans for it, to Jay McInerney of Vanity Fair. “It will be kind of a think tank,” he says. “Not a school exactly, but a foundation. A private nonprofit foundation.” “We’ll have 25 people here, chefs, two or three journalists, tech people. At the end of the day our work will be posted on the Internet. We will collaborate with the world of art and design. It will not be a restaurant. No Michelin, no customers, no pressure. Every year will be different.”

And thus hope lives.

11. Skydiving anywhere

DC Skydivers Inc
As a child, I always wanted to fly. When I grew up and became the realistic, practical person that I am today and found out that I can't grow wings like Tinkerbell, I slyly changed my fantasy and decided that I should paraglide and skydive instead.

I paraglided at Solang Nullah in Himachal Pradesh, India, in 2007 and I can say that it was one of the most exhilarating things that I have ever done. I am guessing that skydiving might top that.

I am soooo jumping off a plane the next time I get the chance!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The call

Sometimes, I can't believe that I have a blog in which I write everyday.

Most of the time, I can't believe that I write on a forum that is accessible to the world.

This is because for a long time, I had silenced the voice in my head that is the source of these words.

The voice was muffled and uttered expletives faintly time and again, while I shushed it and looked around in embarrassment, hoping that no one had heard.

The voice wanted to reverberate and be heard and I was as determined to keep it hidden.

I didn't want anyone to know that there was a voice dictating words in my head. I didn't want to write these words down. It was as simple as that. And sadly, I convinced myself that I couldn't.

But the thing is that anyone can write. It is like a river. And once you let it flow, it does. Unendingly. With exponential speed.

That is why they say that if you want to be a writer, all you need to do is to write and then write some more.

And because I have written a lot in the first twenty one years of my life, maybe the remnants of it remained in the next four and that is why I am still able to write.

But I am absolutely surprised that I enjoy an activity that I was convinced I would detest.

I can hardly believe how much I am reveling in the processes that go into this blog, because it was not too long ago in the past when my mantra was, "I don't want to be a writer because I want to enjoy my job and I just don't enjoy writing."

But sometimes, things about yourself that you are so blind to are crystal clear to those around you.

And maybe that is why Thom never let up. And maybe that is why in the 48 months that he has known me, he has told me that my calling was simply to be a writer at least 48 times.

However anguished I might have been at not having a vocation or convinced that I was meant to be a painter or a dancer or a statistician or a beautician or a chef, he has always told me with absolute placidity that I would make a better writer than most other things.

Now I don't think he was talking about skill, and neither am I, when I am saying this.

I don't think I am anything more than an averagely skilled writer.

But it goes without saying that he was right in that writing is possibly my calling. It is, if a calling is something that you would rather do than most other things in the world and if the process comes considerably easily and naturally to you.

All these things are true about writing for me, and most definitely for photography as well.

So I guess I did find my calling after all.

Now all that's left for me is to figure out what to do with it and how I am going to save the world in the process (which incidentally is what my father thinks my calling is). 

The Bucket List

Of course I forgot about the onerous task I had willingly taken upon myself to compile a bucket list of places I need to go to before I die!

I had posted 3 places for the week of Jan 1st - 7th in accordance with my self imposed limit of three per week, and the I forgot all about it. So now I technically have 6 spots to fill by tonight !

So here goes. 
1. Library Way, New York
2. Ladurée, Paris
3. Hotel Sacher, Salzburg and Vienna

4. University of Oxford


Need I explain this? I wanna cry for joy when I think about the Oxford University and the day I'll get to roam around its hallowed corridors.

But for the sake of a justification, I am going to give you three points.

a. It is the second oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest university in the English-speaking world. (Sigh! My idea of romance!)

b. With over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles (190 km) of shelving, it houses the second-largest library in the UK, after the British Library. It is a legal deposit library, which means that it is entitled to request a free copy of every book published in the UK. As such, its collection is growing at a rate of over three miles (five kilometres) of shelving every year. (Actually this would be my idea of romance!)

c. The Oxford Alumni List! It showcases the who's who of every significant arena in the world! And so many Nobel Laureates went to Oxford! It is magnificent and awe-inspiring. And if it is good enough for them, it is good enough for me. Just to think of a hallway that V.S. Naipaul and T. S. Elliot walked everyday for a year or two is enough to make my heart go pitter patter.

5. Liège, Eastern Belgium

Of course, food has to be part of every list! (Disclaimer: I am a gourmand, not a glutton! I will eat you alive if you say otherwise.) I wish to travel to Liège to eat a few waffles. Gaufre de Liège translates to waffles of Liège and is a richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier version of the Brussels waffle (commonly known as the Belgian waffle to the world, but this is of course not accurate, in view of the mighty contender from Liège). Invented by the chef of the prince-bishop of Liège in the 18th century as an adaptation of brioche bread dough, it features chunks of pearl sugar, which caramelizes on the outside of the waffle when baked. Funnily enough, is the most common type of waffle available in Belgium and is prepared in plain, vanilla and cinnamon varieties by street vendors across the nation. But I need to eat these waffles from Liège. And then I'll proceed to the rest of the country, and gormandize my way through. (Yes, I know that gormandize means eat like a pig and that it contradicts my aforestated disclaimer. But in Belgium, the birth land of chocolates and waffles,would you even blame me!)






6. Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Cherry Blossoms have taken over my life. They are everywhere I look and I strangely seem to be getting whiffs of them continually, and it is not like I have ever seen a real blossom in my life. (I admit that there is a slight possibility that this is because I use a cherry blossom perfume, shampoo and shower gel and have also covered my room and computer with pictures of them, but this is only a remote possibility. I am almost convinced that the trees are calling me home to Japan, but that's a story for another day.)


Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, "flower" in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms or plum blossoms. From the end of March to early May, cherry blossoms flower all over Japan. The blossom forecast is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning Hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two. And this is what I want to participate in. Incidentally, cherry blossom trees are known as Sakura in Japanese. Now that I know when to get to Japan and what to ask for, all I need is a ticket.


7. Antarctica

Of course, a visit to the South Pole would be the icing on the cake, but I would love to go to Antarctica. It seems like such a cool place (metaphorically, of course!).

Photo : © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com

I would revel with the penguins and party with the seals.

Photo : © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com

Photo : © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com

At night, I would float on an iceberg and watch the southern lights, the Aurora Australis. That would be the good life!

Photo : © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com

Photo : © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com
8. Aurora Borealis

I would most definitely want to see the northern lights if I have seen the southern lights, or even otherwise. They have always always always fascinated me and they look so utterly, painfully gorgeous. (The Cree call this phenomenon the "Dance of the Spirits".) The touch of God is visible in so many things in the world, but the northern lights are a masterpiece.




And here I would live it up with the Polar Bears. Adorable, aren't they! And so much love! Thom could learn a thing or two from them I reckon!

Photo : © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com


 9.Magnolia Bakery in New York

401 Bleecker Street New York, NY 10014


Possibly the creator of the 1990s cupcake craze in the US (which incidentally hit India in 2010), Magnolia Bakery was made renowned further by multiple references in Pop Culture, such as 'The Devil Wears Prada' and 'Sex and the City'. More than wanting to see what the fuss is all out, I genuinely want to eat these supposedly fabulous cupcakes and see what I've been missing all my life.

I think cupcakes are perfect. they are bite sized pieces of heaven that are a perfect antidote to anything evil. Cakes are undoubtedly my favourite food in the world, and cupcakes symbolize the best of the world of cakes. Magnolia Bakery might just be the answer to my problems.




Image Sources: http://www.emilydickinsoninternationalsociety.org/oxford.html, http://www.wafelsanddinges.com/shop.html, http://photographworks.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/antique-effect-in-photoshop/, http://www.manyfreewallpapers.com/nature-wallpapers/flowers/pink-cherry-blossom_2.html,http://www.sblanc.com/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Northern_light_01.jpg, http://www.destination360.com/north-america/us/alaska/aurora-borealis, http://www.kitchenlink.com/cookbooks/2005/0743246616_3.html, http://blogs.nyu.edu/blogs/eep247/ny/2007/09/new_magnolia_bakery_in_the_wor.html, http://www.flickr.com/photos/pittcaleb/2674757022/

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mirth and Music

In my heydays, when I was still a young and pretty college girl, I had a group of friends that I could fairly only call a 'gaggle of girls'. We would get together and whenever we did, all we created was a lot of noise in the form of swears, guffaws, shouts and shrieks, but mostly peals and peals of  laughter.

So last week, when I met Ro, it went as predictably as it could have. We laughed until tears rolled down our faces and then we laughed some more. But this time was different in one respect. Unlike our usual gatherings at various parts of the country, this time, we meet for a 3 day break at her grandmother's place in rural Kerala. Now her grandma is the sweetest thing. She is like cotton candy - wispy and pink and so frail that you can almost see right through her. And she is really very old and hence very hard of hearing. (Consequently, this time around, while propriety demanded that we keep our voices down and act civilly, her grandma's compromised auditory capabilities ensured that we could scream and shout and laugh loudly all day long!)

Being a religious and traditional Christian family, there was a prayer session every night, and on the first night, we had all settled in around Granny's bed when Ro's mother solemnly declared that we needed to start the prayer meeting with a song of praise.

Uh oh!

This spelt trouble for the many reasons detailed below

1. I don't sing; I croak. And when I croak, I giggle. And then someone else giggles. And someone else glares. And someone else screams at whoever is giggling! (All three happen inevitably every single time. It's a Christian miracle!)

2. I am not an avid church goer and I don't know too many Christian songs. Religiously bent 90 year olds are not usually very tolerant of this fact and feel obligated to lecture me about the importance of going to church and partaking in the worship. (Sigh!)

3. The songs are usually in Malayalam which Ro is not usually familiar with, which means that I would be one of the two female singing leads, along with her mother, croaking out an unfamiliar song!

Not pretty and hardly religiousness inducing!

So anyways, that night, I was pleasantly pleased with Ro's mother chose a song that I knew. And so did Ro, surprisingly.  So we all started singing. And of course there was a lot of giggling and glaring (Refer to point no.1) but at least we were singing coherently.

Now at the end of the 1st stanza, granny, in a very indignant tone matched by a grimace, said, "What are you waiting for? Why haven't you started singing yet? You are all just laughing!" She had not heard a word we sang and thought we were just sitting and laughing! And that set Ro, her mom and me into peals of uncontrollable laughter, leaving granny even more perplexed.

Two minutes of pandemonium passed and Ro's mom settled down and screamed out to granny that we had started singing a while ago and it is because we were singing softly that she couldn't hear. And we resumed singing!

You can imagine how the rest of the prayer session went.

The next day, it was the memory of the previous night that was the cause of Ro's and my mirth. To avoid unnecessary complications, Ro's mom had chosen a simple English song for us to sing, but even that didn't stop our giggles. Now it's my guess that granny was resolute that she wouldn't be left behind that day. Therefore, it was most unfortunate that when granny started to sing the chosen song, we had already completed 2 stanzas. Here we were, doing a second round of 'Count your blessings', when granny proceeded to sing, 'When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed...'

And that was the end of the pretense of sobriety and piety, as you can imagine.

I think it took us about fifteen minutes to finish the 2 minute song that day.

But I think when we finally finished praying and left the room that night, we were all many worries lighter and full of thanksgiving - for family and friends and for the joy of a laugh. And for that day, that was all my prayers answered.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

White

'White' is the prompt for week 26 at Kristi's life through the lens and as soon as I saw this, I immediately thought of a college assignment that I had done for an advertising creatives class way back in 1952. (Yes. I am an octogenarian. And yes. 80 year olds can be this silly and frivolous. And yes. I look 26.) The teacher had given us a prompt and we were to design a print ad around it. And I had saved what I had done somewhere in my zillion messy cupboards.

So I dug through the annals of history and useless stuff that I hardly have use for and unearthed the aged and yellowed piece of paper that disintegrated on touch. And this is what it said.

'Peace. A precious commodity these days...

Steel blue high rises. Cold grey paved paths. Multi hued SUVs peeking out amidst clouds of smog.

These tones have become all pervasive in our vision, so much so, that we cease to wonder why there is an absence of other colours.

Verdant tress, azure skies. ruby red blossoms and rainbows in a myriad hues. We don't wonder where they have gone and wish to be in a world of them.

And white. 

White... Clouds, horizons, doves, lilies. 

White... White that stretches to eternity but stops where imagination ceases. 

White... Serenity. Tranquility. Peace....

Kerala... Storks, pelicans, waterfalls, waves and lotus flowers. 

Kerala... Jasmines around every corner creating carpets for you to tread on. 

Kerala... Crystal clear waters and pristine skies bathed in a white that satiates your soul.

Kerala... Your road to peace.'

And this brings me to my interpretation of the prompt.

This is not the first time that I am waxing eloquent about Kerala. It is where I was born and brought up and to elucidate my love for it, I can only quote George Moore who said, “A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” There is no place in the world like Kerala. And I am so proud to have it as a part of my legacy!

On babies


1. It is absolutely ironic that babies get so much attention and love and mollycoddling and adulation and sycophancy at an age when they do not comprehend anything, and this progressively decreases as their understanding increases. Thus, while a baby has everyone crooning over how adorable and lovely and perfect he or she is around 86 times a day and it does not mean too hoots to him, the mother of the child, at the age of 25 or so hears it maybe once a week. And I'm guessing that my 50 year old mother hears it even less! And with our sense of self that flag with age and deteriorating perceptions of our beauty and worth, we are the ones who need to hear it, not the babies! Can you imagine the hit it would take on the cosmetic industry if we talk to adults like we do with babies?

2. The sense of stillness that overpowers you while simply holding a baby is comparable to none. It lulls your senses and eases your heart and your brain activity is in theta waves as your mind shifts instantly to daydream mode. It is the most meditative feeling. Of course, the disclaimer is that the baby is not crying.

3. A crying baby can grate your nerve or break your heart like none other!

4. Simply being with a baby for 3 days at a stretch can either convince you that you need to have a baby right away and that you are completely ready for the responsibility or that the last thing you need in your lifetime is a child to boot. This decision is more dependent on the baby and the activities you indulged in than who you are as a person. I'll bet that a weekend of changing the diapers of a crying baby would get anyone running off in any direction if it promises a getaway from the baby.

5. A baby is the best judge of a person. It is oft said that babies can see the aura, and that if a baby constantly stares at you, it means that you have a strong and vibrant aura. Whether we is aware of this or not, we all are intuitively conscious of whether a baby has taken to us or not, and if the baby starts crying in your presence and only in your presence, it can unnerve the confidence of any giant as he is slowly reduced to a heap of blubbering rubble at the whim of a mere babe. OK. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but if a baby does not like you specifically, it is a proclamation to the world and you that there is something gravely wrong with you or that you are evil. It is an absolutely awesome phenomenon and so fun to watch. (I am not being evil, being gleeful at another's misery. Babies like me and that's proof enough.)

6. The uterus really does skip a beat sometimes if you have one. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All along the wayside

Baby Steps

on some baby steps and baby breaths

welcome to my world baby
this is the way
to reality, i will take your tiny hands baby
in my calloused hands i will guide your little steps baby
to my own self made ways
look at my eyes and trust how i look at things
and places and people
come! come! come!
i will move a little farther so you will
move a little closer
i will leave a little space between us
that which
makes you feel the emptiness
i have
i had once that i myself was compelled to fill
there is this chasm now
baby
that you have to jump in your clumsy ways
you will not fall or stumble
or if by your innocence and slower
ways
something happens
i will always be there to catch you

come! come! come now
my baby! grow! grow some more!

Ric S. Batasa

I'm sold for now

Photoshop might just be my new best friend. It colours my world like none other.

I Know A Baby, Such A Baby


I Know A Baby, Such A Baby

I know a baby, such a baby, -
Round blue eyes and cheeks of pink,
Such an elbow furrowed with dimples,
Such a wrist where creases sink.
‘Cuddle and love me, cuddle and love me,’
Crows the mouth of coral pink:
Oh, the bald head, and, oh, the sweet lips,
And, oh, the sleepy eyes that wink!

- Christina Georgina Rosetti

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thanksgiving

I just got back from the most therapeutic 3 day holiday with my best friend and her family. We celebrated her adorable baby boy's christening and her brother's engagement to a girl, all in a crazy, sleep deprived, eventful and task filled weekend.

In the past year, I have gone the length and breadth of this country and have met and traveled with practically all of my friends. But it amazes me how a harried weekend with a dog tired and possibly hormonal mother, her 3 month old child and her madcap family in their home in small town Kerala turned out to be more therapeutic, fulfilling and emotionally satisfying than all my other holidays in majestic locales and metropolitan cities doing everything and anything that pleased our whim and fancy. And I have reached home today, happier than I have on any of these trips.

It convinces me all over again that it is the people that you are with and the connection that you share with them that matter and make the difference. And some people are so special and divine sent that they complete you in a way that your heart is content and your soul stops longing. I'm just lucky that I have a few such people in my life, and possibly another....a wee babe named Keith. And I count myself lucky manifold.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The smell of pink

If I had to identify the singular scent that reminds me of my childhood, it would be the smell of meringues baking. The whiff that is part the scent emanating from powdered sugar that clouds the air, part the aroma of a baking confectionery and part the pleasant smell of creamed egg whites. (Honestly! They smell adorable!) The scent always conjured up images of these perfect little drops of pink heaven, and magically, the freshly baked meringues would always look that way. And to me, the smell of meringues will always be the smell of pink!

The first time I got a trail of this aroma was on my 6th birthday. I was raised by my grandparents from the time I was born because my mother was studying to be a doctor and my father was working in Kuwait, but that year, thanks to the Gulf War, my father had come down to live in Kerala and my mother, my brother and I joined him in his house about 3 hours away from where I was born and had lived till then. My grandmother is the most amazing, fabulous, brilliant and beautiful cook, and the 7 kilos I had lost at all of 6, just 3 months after living away from her, was testament to the fact that her food was irreplaceable for me. So when I found out on the 17th of August 1990 at around 9:00 AM that my grandparents were coming over, I was over the moon to say the least. I had  my pretty little clothes on and I was waiting eagerly for my first glimpse of them, when all of a sudden, I got a whiff of something sweet and delicious. My senses piqued. Unmistakeably sugar, I averred. (I always have been and still am such a sugar baby that I'm convinced that I was probably nursed on that stuff!) But that was a ballpark guess and I was aware that the exact scent was an unfamiliar one, but my God, it spoke to my soul!

Suddenly, my grandfather appeared. And then my grandmother. And after hugs and kisses and smiles and laughter, they handed me a pretty box which I opened to find these beautifully shaped, wonderfully glossy and perfectly pink little cookies that smelled like a garden in paradise. And that was when I first fell in love.

In hindsight, I agree that the precursor scent is probably a memory that I made up (Apparently, I do that a lot!), because it is improbable that anything baked 3 hours prior could give off such a potent aroma. But I can so distinctly remember it happening exactly as I described it. And the association of the smell is so strong that I can still remember its intonations.

Till today, any time I get a trail of the same scent or see a pile of meringues, I think of that moment when I first experienced the wonder and joy of creating.

And I thank the heavens for creating grandmothers for little girls.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I quote Guy

"Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs."

- Guy Debord (b. 1931), French situationist philosopher. Panegyric, vol. 1, pt. 1 (1989).

Obscurantism: The practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known. There are two common historical and intellectual denotations: 
1. restricting knowledge - opposition to the spread of knowledge - a policy of withholding knowledge from the public
2. deliberate obscurity - an abstruse style (as in literature and art) characterized by deliberate vagueness

Ducks in a row

"There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of themselves in various styles ... but there is one order of beauty which seems made to turn the heads not only of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of women. It is a beauty like that of kittens, or very small downy ducks making gentle rippling noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning to toddle and to engage in conscious mischief—a beauty with which you can never be angry, but that you feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the state of mind into which it throws you." 

- George Eliot (pen name of Mary Anne Evans)

Riding into the sunset

"I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry" - Allen Ginsberg

View from the top

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner




Sunday, January 9, 2011

Courage and genius in a line

A friend indeed

This lady is special.

She sells joy in the form of belts of a million hues.

The conversation in pidgin english and rudimentary hindi is the gem and it comes free of cost.

And at the time of departing, she makes you feel like youve made one more friend

In a long forgotten corner of the world.

Absolutely material things that would make me happy right now

A poem titled poetry

Poetry always accompanies pensiveness or wistfulness for me, especially when it comes in the name of Pablo Neruda. And you know a little something about him? He always wrote in green ink as it was the colour of "esperanza" or hope.

Poetry might look so garbed at first sight, but actually, I don't think there is a medium that can be as incisive or unpretentious. The freedom of movement that it enjoys in its form unfailingly allows it to speak to the soul when it wants to.

And my melancholy soul seeking fuchsia wants only that right now - poetry in green that gives esperanza.

Poetry

And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

- Pablo Neruda

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fuchsia for today

i've been melancholic all day today

and i wonder why on some days i wake up with such cheer

and go through it with gratitude and grace

while others are rife with visions of the past and words that haunt

and of things i wish was no more a reality than a bad dream.

days like today when the only time i feel a tug of joy

is when i shed a tear

and i am sentient of the purity of the moment

and of the sanctity of my emotions

as i smile ever so softly and wipe away the tear.

but then a sense of transience overtakes me

and i am back in my melancholy state.

if i could i would

do away with these days

but i don't have a time machine in my backyard

or a 'Control Z' key for life at my fingertips.

if i did i would just keep the tear then

and make do without the fear.

so i want to paint my grey blue world

a fuchsia today

and paint over all the blacks and browns

to take back on another fuchsia day

when i can be thankful for my patchwork self

of black and pink and blue.

be grateful for the lessons taught

and the wisdom i have gained.

but all i want today is balance

and that's my prayer for the rest of my days.

Mangoes and Pearls

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vintage Hampi

This is quintessentially Hampi.

Wherever you are in this city, if you look towards the horizon, I can bet you that 99% of the time, this is the vision that you will behold - mammoth boulders of all shapes and sizes. And after you accustom your mind and vision to the strangeness of the boulder shape and size, what truly baffles you is the way they are 'positioned' one on top of the other. They stand in what appears to be such a delicate balance, a precarious perch of sorts and you expect it to topple with the push of a little finger. It makes you realize that you just saw a new dimension in perfection.


Of course, our globe is replete with fantastic and awe striking features, sights and sites. But to be confounded with such an unusual phenomenon that you cannot help but wonder how on earth it came to be, does not happen as often. Hampi is one such place that bewilders you and beguiles you and makes you go as far to wonder if there actually is a magical mystical power that woke up one fine day and decided to pick up pebbles and make piles of them, because there are truthfully no clues that point to a more likely possibility. The sights are so unusual and almost anachronistic, that one can't help but feel that a supernatural explanation is more probable and believable than a natural one.

Of course, the tales of wonder, might and power associated with Hampi doesn't help convince one of a  scientific explanation for why the topography is so. Why would it, when it says in the Ramayana, the Hindu epic poem, that the flat land became boulder stricken as a result of a war between the monkey rulers, Vali and Sugreeva, heirs to the throne of the erstwhile monkey kingdom. In the absence of sophisticated weaponry, the battle was apparently conducted by throwing boulders at each other! And the panorama of Hampi is what ensued.

Legends abound, this being India after all. We are the stuff that legends are made of.

But those aside, if we go back to the history of Hampi's geography, literature says that eons ago, the land of Hampi was flat. Gusty winds and torrential rains gnawed at the soft soil and swept it away, leaving behind the rock hard outcrops.The strong sandy wind, acting much like sandpaper against a hard surface, chiseled the rocks along the natural fault lines of the rock foundation, metamorphosing the rocky topography into Cyclopean boulders of behemoth sizes. Here, nature herself was the sculptor, and she created what is one of the oldest surfaces on the earth, and undoubtedly, among the most stunning.