0

In The Now

Don’t you sometimes (well, always) get the feeling that life is running at top speed, right ahead of you and you’re struggling to catch a breath, hold still, make it stop, just a little bit?

So I made a pact, with myself, that I would take a moment to see and enjoy the present, the here and now. Reflecting on the past (for we must allow for that too) I have found that the times I have truly treasured are those spent without the fear of tomorrow or even the next minute.

Then happiness dwells in the littlest things.

It has been catching a glimpse of him behind the crowds leaving the airport gates, and smiling, for that moment, for how much you love him, forgetting the two hours of delayed flights and sweaty waiting.

Or her loud cheers and heavy jumps after a long day, as you shut everything out and just peer inside her twinkling eyes, hoping to capture it in your mind, forever, because time never will.

And happiness is indeed in the littlest things, the effortless, unchained now.

But it is the easiest thing to forget and the hardest to apply.

Unless you endeavor to make a start, to make a promise, to build it for yourself and others, right this minute maybe?

Advertisements
2

This is the End

Manika Dhama, a Metro-loving poet and writer, had a great fall at the Rajiv Chowk Metro station in Central Delhi early Monday morning. It did not end well. Witnesses noted that she missed a step while poring over “a fat book”. The staff have since identified it to be Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.

Ms Dhama was a lover of dusty libraries and bitter coffee. Her little known blog Eggfacemomhead carried stories from her life as a Delhi woman, poet and mother, some of which had been published in local newspapers. An avid traveler and amateur photographer, she had only recently discovered the Joy of Cooking (both the book and the act).

“She was always giving us relationship and work advice”, said a colleague on the phone from Ms Dhama’s Delhi office.

Condolences continued to pour in from her 200 Facebook friends, 48 Instagrammers and 106 Twitter followers. A comment on a picture of Ms Dhama and her three year old daughter reads, “She looks just like you. Can’t believe you’re gone!” It got 184 likes.

Ms Dhama is survived by a large and loving family, a home library and about half a dozen unfinished writings.

Don’t cry for me just yet. This is a ‘self-obituary’ written for The Delhiwalla.

The series  invites Delhiites across the world to write their obituary in 200 words. The idea is to share with the world how you will like to be remembered after you are gone. (May you live a long life, of course!) Please mail your self-obit to mayankaustensoofi@gmail.com.

0

5 Things you will NEVER forget if you EVER went to a Convent school

Before you start reading, if you were born in the 80s and went to a convent, raise your hands and say “Hell Yeah”, or more appropriately “Hail Mary.” If you didn’t, no need to feel left out. You were tortured by other adults who were not being stern (out of and) in a habit.

Even though I left a home away from home in the hill convent school more than a decade ago, here are some things that follow me around.

1. Lift Your Feet and Walk

When I see or more likely hear people shuffling about, it makes me want to stop them in their track and correct them. But I don’t, for my own good.

2. Cry for Christ

This one was left unsaid, but after reading enough pamphlets on Christ’s life and bawling at the crucifixion scene in a movie at the school theater, you’re always in readiness to cry some more.

3. Graveyard Gossip

As you must be aware, all Convents are built on a graveyard. No, seriously. A silent windy night, a back-lit statue of the Virgin Mary visible from the dormitory corridor and the glistening graveyard white is sure to make you feel like an extra on ‘Blair Witch Project’ (there weren’t any. and there was no ghost. or else, you’re it.)

4. The Forever Two Minute Meal

When you’ve got a nun parading behind you while you eat the daal-with-no-grains you learn to go faster. My personal best was going from a two hour lunch routine, which involved sitting alone at the table and looking on at nothing in particular in 1990s PC (Pre-Convent) to now eating before you can say “What’s that on your plate?”. Its fun, do try it at home.

5. Cursive is King

At and after a convent school you might begin to think that people who cannot form a word by joining letters together should be shipped to another planet. It might not be so bad. They’ll take your husband away (him with the left slant and floating letters that only martians can possibly perfect). Plus the written world will look pretty and who minds that.

Life within the walls of a Convent bears little resemblance to the world outside.

In your first years ‘on the other side’, you think everyone else needs to be “disciplined”. It’s only later that it dawns on you that the ‘cloistered’ convent taught you a language of life that is stuck in 1885. But you learn to roll with it, keeping your Nun avatar in check, but not without saying a shortened version of Our Father in Heaven for the souls of errant beings.

2

(W)ho We Are

Life played love on a Thursday in spring,

Caught in a bundle of secret strings

Sepia melodies and gilded notes

Found a sail to stay afloat.

 

Saltwater kiss wrapped in an embrace

The moonlit sky stood witness amazed

Heartless rain drenched love to the bone

Time bargained to walk alone.

 

Distance built its hollow bridge

Eyes held what words never did

On a stone all promises were writ

Stardust shared its wondrous gift.

 

Tainted pride grew molten wings

And challenged love to foolish games

Hidden chambers then stood ajar

Brought life and love together this far.

 

Innocent smiles and honest ties

Have found new roads under pelican skies

Now learning to dance like forgotten stars

And always remembering who we are.

3

Lets (R)ewind

Reunions are always fun. People have always become more/less pretty, fat, dumb, rich. And if they haven’t changed at all its the worst thing that could’ve happened to them. After the usual “Oh my god look at you”, there’s the catching up to do. I’m working here, living there, buying that house, that one’s getting married, having a baby, etcetra. Of course if you’re at somebody else’s reunion, things are a wee bit different.

You can put faces to the names you’ve heard. So that’s the host whose parents are out of town, the couple who’re leaving to get educated, the guy who married his college batch-mate, the girl who is way overdressed for the party (and whose name your husband who went to school with her can’t remember), the girl who’s that girl on TV’s sister (oh okay), the guy who asks how you met (whose surname is all you hear anyone using since his first name has been forgotten), the guy just out of hospital who has given up smoking and can’t stop talking about it and the girl your husband had a crush on at school.

When its not your reunion you’re very aware of it, from sitting on the side, smiling at others’ jokes and memories, but mostly from the overwhelming feeling of missing your friends.

When was the last time all of us were together, pulling each other’s leg, dancing like maniacs, cracking the silliest jokes, making fun of others, drinking till someone puked, singing songs till voices went hoarse and saying goodbye vouching to repeat all this soon (but never managing to).

Most of us have moved away, started our lives elsewhere, made new friends. And yet the years we spent together would always connect us. Across time, cities, even oceans (if need be). And when we find ourselves at reunions (ours or somebody else’s), there will always be a smile for that day, stories of how life has been and memories from long ago.

3

(M)elody Moods

Haunting tunes of old Hindi music. Poetry set to melodies that mingle with countless emotions in one’s head. Some tragic, some too real to ignore. Yearning for those absent. Waiting for life to begin.

And then there’s the overwhelming indescribable feeling…Sadness? Love? Nostalgia? Who knows.

Memories float in the air, mixed with images of the times to come. The intangible. The unknown.

Songs bring forth thoughts, all but mundane. The playlist, as if by design, reflecting the highs and lows of one’s emotional trajectory through life.

And soon enough its all over…the feeling, the train of thought, the acute sense of the past, present and future.

All that remains is the tune, reminding one of nothing more than music itself. And with that one rests, knowing it shall all happen again.

They say it about love, but its just as true for melodies.

If music gets you to it, music will get you through it.

2

The Bare-All (B)ucket List. Or simply, “My Birthday is coming, pick a cause to sponsor”. I suggest #2 or #7

These are a few of my favourite things, some of the things I want to do, at some point, before I croak.

1. Read all seven volumes of ‘In Search of Lost Time’.

I’m on the last 100 pages of Volume 3. This one is a slow train, but there’s no rush. It is oh so delightful.

2. Watch Eddie Vedder in concert.

I’ve screamed myself hoarse at The Scorpions, Iron Maiden and Metallica. Eddie Baby Call me soon.

3. Learn to swim.

Okay, in my defence, scuba diving in Havelock has been accomplished. And who cares about the neighbourhood pool. But Robert De Niro swam to safety in Deer Hunter and I feel like I should know how to do it too. Just in case.

4. Finish a Marathon.

Honestly, this one is just so that I can shut the husband and his like. I’d love to throw that in his face the next time he launches the You’re-not-working-out attack. Toddler care and driving in Delhi are legitimate workouts. And fitting into college jeans post baby-pop calls for a celebration. But I think the marathon survivor tee ought to do it.

5. Roll-on-the-floor Laughing.

I have chuckled, grinned, laughed out loud yes, but a floor-roll? Reminds me of a play I was in at kindergarten. It was based on a fairy tale in a Hindi book, the story of a princess who never smiles. Her father, the King, calls people from far and wide to make her smile. Nothing works, not even a monkey dance. And then a man walks in with a pillow disguised as a big belly. The ‘belly’ falls off and the princess laughs and laughs and laughs. I played the princess and I did laugh. So come on world, drop the metaphorical belly so I can show you how I roll.

6. Write a Book.

There are demons in my head, on the road and in the grocery store. They deserve to be heard. And if it can be Wodehouse-funny I’ll kiss my knees. Because they’re saucy and that’s where the books rest on curl-up nights.

7. Visit a new place every year.

This stuff is real. It has worked in the past. May there always be enough cash and whimsy wanderlust to support this cause. Amen.

8. Shake at least some manic depressives out of their sad skins.

Not with fake belly acts but something that lasts; longer than a hookah high, shorter than a lifetime will do.

9. Sky Dive/Bike Ride Tutorials.

Not a stickler for these but if they come my way, hell why not!

10. Kick a Bucket.

Not the metaphorical death sentence. I mean place a bright, big bucket in a field and kick the damn thing. Someone has to do it.

 

P.S.: See the green badge on the right? I’m participating in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Read all about it here: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

We’re on Day 2 today with the letter ‘B’ for BucketList. Stay tuned, in April and beyond.

0

A Short History of a Six Yard Love Affair

2014-03-25 23.35.53-1This was the first time I wore a saree. ‘Wore’ is perhaps not the proper word for wrapped-around-clumsily. ‘Wearing’ a saree is an art one can only cultivate with practice over time. But this picture from the early nineties is certainly the earliest recorded saree moment in my life.

Most of what followed is lost in the tattered transparent sheets of countless albums and in unopened boxes in the corridors of my mind. And yet some of it resurfaced as I began to look back at my relationship with the six yard wonder.

At a Fancy Dress event in primary school (still in the early nineties) I found myself in a plain white saree (borrowed from a nurse at the local hospital) to play the part of Lady Justice. With the customary black ribbon across my eyes and a weighing scale in my hand, I walked onto the stage very slowly, trying hard not to trip or touch anything as my head, hands and face were all covered in multaani mitti (Fuller’s Earth) to complete the look. Perhaps I won, and if I didn’t it must have made me quite mad going through all the effort for nothing.

Next we fast forward to the school farewell, our official ‘Prom Night’. I say ‘official’ because this involved the school and teachers while another ‘unofficial’ version ended up being wilder. Every school girl awaited this glorious event with bated breath and only a hint of trepidation. ‘What must I wear’ was narrowed down to ‘Which of my mother’s sarees can I rock’. For me it had begun with a close battle between a plain black chiffon with a gorgeous zari border and the make-you-blind plain peacock-blue georgette. I had always loved how elegant, not to mention sexy, the black always looked on my mother. But the blue, oh the blue. If you had the figure for it, that wrap was a showstopper. Farewell time came after my two year pizza-every-week fatty phase, so the blue won. And of course everything went as planned till I walked into the party and found a classmate wearing a similar saree. Should have gone with the black. Bah Humbug!

After that, saree moments became largely restricted to family weddings, except for two instances in college. One involved a combined birthday treat of two friends at a pub in Delhi, where “Lets all wear a saree” turned the night into the wildest time a bunch of sarees must have had. All attempts to retrieve pictures of this event came to naught at the time of going to print.

2014-03-25 23.12.12The second college-saree hoopla was the farewell. This time I had no doubts what I was going to wear…Mamma’s black and breezy yellow polka-dot wonder. College was the time I realised that for all my I-wish-we-could-wear-pyjamas-everywhere belief system, what I was really beginning to get obsessed with was polka dots. Big, small, black and blue, I have a pair of dot shoes too. And so I drove more than 40 kilometers to and fro in that crazy yellow saree, which ended its day with a “We may forget everything else from this day but everyone’s going to remember you wore this saree” from a friend donning the blue in the picture.

My own, and many other, wedding-saree-events later, we get to my last rendezvous with a saree, which was at a wedding nearly three years ago.

Over the years I have been gifted several sarees, mostly by my mother carrying the unique designs prevalent in different parts of India back from her travels. Those and countless others have been locked up in suitcases that are rarely opened. I have also gifted my fair share of sarees to others and that had been my only encounter with sarees up until now.

Then last month we had a first. At a fair, amidst the clamour of drums, music and street food scents, I fell in love.

Under a stack of shiny materials my eyes caught sight of shimmering white cloth. I bent forward and pulled it out from the layers, discovering a bright orange, pink and zari border. I ran my fingers over it, trying to identify the texture of the piece with my limited knowledge of materials. I turned to the man at the stall to clarify if it was indeed the silk I thought it to be. He nodded in agreement. I held the fabric between my fingers yet again, just to be sure.

“Where is this from”, I asked.

“Benaras”, he said, and then added, “We only bring the best from our city here.”

I didn’t bother to interrupt the sales speak. I had already made up my mind.

2014-03-25 23.17.01Nearly 25 years after I draped a saree for the first time, I bought a saree for myself, my very own Benarasi.

That same day I also lost my heart to a peacock on cotton that journeyed from Bengal for me.

This is only the beginning of what promises to be a long and fulfilling love affair.

3

Fly Trap

Image Coutesy: The Meta PictureI used to love flying, but two boring flights seven years ago got me here.

Now I don’t want to be told that we’ll be flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet. I just want to take-off and land, spare me the in-betweens please.

It all begins with the bookings. Your wallet agrees with the ‘no-frills’ airline. But once on the flight, your stomach makes you take out the aforementioned wallet to pay for the unexciting sandwich and juice on offer.

Earlier, you could’ve killed for a window seat. Now the airline woman gives you an aisle seat (“because all window seats are booked Ma’am”), and you don’t so much as bat an eyelid.

Then they make you sit in the plane for a good half hour while the pilot informs you “We’re third in line for take-off”. Really? We’re actually going to take-off today?

Unbelievably, the plane is off the ground and the rigmarole begins.

Cabin crew explaining safety instructions used to be funny. Now you watch them for minor fear that the one time you don’t will be the one time you wish you had.

And you also happen to spot the man who will not switch off his cellphone (as instructed during flight). You do manage to shoot him the “We’re all going to die because of you” look.

Call it paranoia or just blame it on National Geographic. When you’ve seen their series on airline disasters (one time too many), any unexplained sight, sound or smell will get you saying “Death, I am ready for you.”

And as it turns out, you happen to be travelling alone. Make no mistake. You will end up sitting next to the person you rejected as part of the ‘most-wanted person on adjoining seat’ survey that you conducted in the waiting lounge. So much for meeting a stranger on the plane, leading to delightful conversation, leading to lifelong friendship.

Clearly, life is not a film.

In many ways, it’s so much better.

Like temporary respite in the form of dashing flight steward with interesting name. It’s Persian he tells you. Delightful.

Or when the sunlight streams in during the flight and you feel like Icarus, only not that stupid.

And happiness knows no bounds when the pilot announces that in 45 minutes we will reach our destination. So that’s five Pink Floyd songs and we’ll be there!

Finally the plane lands. Everyone is alive. You thank the lord up above and the air hostess at the door.

Walking towards the airport exit you spot your personal pick-up and you smile.

That smile right there is what it’s all about. That is the only thing that says “Hey, cruising at 35,000 feet (and the before and after) was not so bad.” Until next time of course.

0

Scribbler On The Book

I often wonder if it is quite alright to leave my mark on the pages of books written by others. Would it be so terrible to dot the margins of a beloved book with something that says I was there once? And not for the benefit of others, but just because a passage, a word, a thought moved me enough to want to carry it around forever. People have been known to copy interesting passages in their diaries. But extracting the words from where they belong may alter the true meaning and intent of the man/woman who put them at a particular spot for a reason.

A friend once said one could only get away with being a scribbler if one were Maxim Gorky (a big scribbler I’m told). I may not fit the bill according to those standards, but it is an exciting prospect indeed to imagine going back to a book devoured ages ago, only to find I left a little of myself in it.

For reading is hardly about the book or the author alone. The very act of picking out a book to read (from several others) marks the first active choice made as a reader. While the author writes with his/her belief systems and prejudices intact, you will react with your set of the same in place.

Having made that first choice of picking out a book, is it not just an extension of that choice to scribble away in it (only if it’s a personal copy of course) if your heart so desires (even if your head may scream the word ‘sacrilege’ often enough)?

Who says scribbling is only meant for textbooks. When there are other (better) books out there that you love enough to agree to spend your life with, scribbling on them must only be considered an extension of your love.

So perhaps it is quite alright to dot the margins of Marquez, Tolstoy, Proust, Woolf, Wodehouse and others. And perhaps a day will come when a closet-scribbler will be able to stand in front of a crowd and elicit thunderous applause when she states with pride: “I am a scribbler on the book” (among other things).