Monthly Archives: October 2015

Of Bird Watching and Halloween

Just got back after a long day at the local bird park. It was a hot and humid day, but we did see some lovely and exotic birds. We walked around the park taking in all the sites and sounds of the various birds. From colourful, squawking macaws and wetlands birds, to birds of prey, we saw them all.

I had my bit of Halloween spookiness at the bird park today. I love taking pictures of flowers, plants and animals. So, there were these beautiful bunches of baby pink flowers hanging from a small tree. I zoomed in to click, when the flowers shook suddenly.  There was no breeze. The shaking stopped as suddenly as it had started. I focussed again on the flowers, and would you believe it, the flowers shook again, more violently this time.

 

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                 The shaking flowers

My son shouted from behind me, “Mom there are two Iguanas above you.”

                 

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                  Mr.Iguana Shaker 1

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                  Mr.Iguana Shaker 2

Ha ha….nothing spooky there! We had a good laugh. Here are some pictures I took today.

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Moments of nothingness

The week’s craziness has abated, though not completely. This is the Indian festival season. Navratri’s barely over, and we are already barrelling towards Deepavali.

After many days, this morning I got a few minutes to sit on my living room couch and gaze out through the balcony window. A few moments of nothingness.

I believe that looking out at the world outside is immensely therapeutic; you are oblivious to your own self, as you watch life happening outside.There is so much contentment in just being.

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            Courtesy – en.wikipedia.org

As I watched, a lazy pigeon feather swirled round and round, enjoying the gentle breeze on its way down. A beautiful pigeon sat on the balcony grill and watched the world. My hibiscus plant moved gently with the wind. Crisp laundry fluttered in the service areas of many homes. Curtains billowed in the breeze.

Faraway, traffic moved at the junction; cars and buses filled with people. Everybody with a purpose, going somewhere, meeting someone.

Birds chirped; and now and then clouds hid the Sun from view.

I felt philosophical, as I watched life happen around me.

Most days we run from one mad chore to the next, never stopping or slowing down, never pausing to see that the plants in our balconies have grown buds, or that the orchids are in full bloom. Sometimes the cacophony of our minds and the noise of traffic and technology hide the beautiful music of chirping birds and the whispering breeze.

It truly felt great to observe and not participate. Before I got dragged into the chaos of everyday chores, I took a few deep breaths and enjoyed my few moments of nothingness.

Marriage in a Coffee Mug

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In the early days of our marriage, my husband and I went out one evening to a home exhibition and sale, as we were setting up our new home, and wanted to buy stuff for the house.

There was a sale on,  for porcelain kitchenware. I was drawn like a magnet to a set of coffee mugs, that looked like pieces of tree trunks, with gnarled knobs and ring patterns. They looked unique, and so inviting.

My husband did not like these mugs at all. He wanted something simple. We argued (must have been one of the first arguments, me thinks).  Finally, we agreed to disagree; and the coffee mugs came home. All six mugs are still intact and have lasted us many, many years. My husband has grown to like them over the years.

While the lasting love, commitment and promises are the foundation of a marriage, it is these simple things and moments that form the bricks of any marriage.

Be it about making up after an agreement, or letting go ‘for’ your spouse without allowing ego to walk-in to a situation.

It is about his choice versus yours many a time, and having the wisdom to disagree without malice. It is about the small joys of reading a book together or shopping for grocery. It is about egging each others’ fitness goals, and then also indulging in a huge dollop of icecream together.

It is about seeing yourselves in your children, and also realizing that your children are not you. It is about being able to laugh at yourselves and being able to cry together. It is about doing everything together, and then doing nothing together.

It is about watching movies and munching popcorn together, as much as it is about who will clear up afterwards.

It is this and that. It is black and white and all colours. It is about being a team, as much as it is about being two individuals.

It is also definitely about having strong filter coffee from coffee mugs that have witnessed all these moments in your marriage.

The Rebellious Camel

This whole weekend was spent in putting away my Golu dolls, till I take them down again, for next year’s festival.  As I wrapped each one of them carefully, my eye fell on a camel doll that I had picked up a few years ago from the Middle East, while on a trip there.

I remembered a very funny incident that happened then.  Being tourists, we did all the typical ‘touristy’ things that were recommended by our guide.  We went on a Desert Safari, which included a visit to a Bedouin Settlement, Dune Bashing and of course, Camel Riding.

We enjoyed visiting with the Bedouins.  The dune bashing was very exciting.  Finally, it was time for the camel ride.  Each of us had to take turns to get on the camel, finish a short ride and get back to base.  It was quite scary when the camel stood up, after one had sat on it.  The camel’s wobbling caused us to let out little squeals.  Thus, it went on; one after the other.  My son was the bravest of the lot.  He was hoisted up, and off he went, waving to us with one hand.  As a typical mom-tourist, I video-graphed all those wonderful moments.

It was then my husband’s turn.  By then, my son had shown so much affinity towards the camels, that he had become very friendly with the camel trainer.  So, when my husband started his ride, the camel trainer gave the leash to my son and asked him to lead the camel.  Funnily, this camel was a rebel.  He stopped to gossip with other camels that he met on the way, and refused to budge.  The trainer spoke to the camel, and finally the camel decided to move on.

When the camel was about half-way on the ride, the camel turned around and bared his teeth at my husband. We were all in splits to see my husband’s startled face. And then, it happened.  The rebellious camel took off into the desert at a very fast pace, leaving the trainer running behind him.  My poor husband held on to the reins for dear life. It was both scary and comical.  Finally the camel stopped; about a good 300 m away from where we stood.  The trainer caught up with him, and brought them back to base.

After the initial tension, we literally rolled on the sand with uncontrollable laughter, as we relived the funny incident.  The entire family had gone together; so both my brothers-in-law came up with theories of how my husband’s plan to escape from me had been foiled!

My Doll Display – Part 4

Today’s featured dolls are from The Masai Maara Tribe in Kenya, Africa, from our trip there.

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We visited the Masai Village on our trip to Kenya, a couple of years back.  These dolls are from there.

We spent a fascinating afternoon learning about the Masai Tribe, that has lived in Africa for centuries.  Their culture runs wide and deep, and is steeped in a lot of beliefs.

The Masai live in settlements called ‘Manyatas’ or villages.  The village is surrounded by a bramble bush and stick fence to protect the tribe from wild animals.

The Masai men performed a welcome dance for us and crowned each of us in turns, with a top-hat made of lion skin.

The Masai have stopped hunting wild animals, as hunting is banned in Kenya.  However, they do kill the odd wild animal, if their cattle or tribesmen are threatened.

The Masai guide ‘Philip’ wore a chain that had a lion tooth pendant.  He claimed to have killed a lion; the pendant was a souvenier.

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The guide spoke good English, the result of a drive by the government to make education mandatory.

The Masai are mainly cowherds, and each village has sheep, goats and cows.  The village we visited had 67 tribe members and over 300 cattle.  The central village enclosure is where the cattle stay at night. The place is filled with cattle manure, used extensively by the Masai.

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Men mainly graze cattle, build fences and protect the village, while women fetch water, cook food, build and repair the house, care for the children, and make jewelry.

Polygamy is an accepted practice, with a man having about 6 wives.  The man pays a dowry to win his woman – 10 cows per woman.

The main diet of the Masai include milk, blood and meat.  Their main tools are the sword, the spear and poisoned arrows.

The Masai houses we visited were made up of tree branches and cow dung.  The houses are tiny and have areas earmarked for various activities.
The houses have a small opening to sky to let light in. At night, they use a kerosene bottle lamp.

The Masai make fire using the branches of the olive and acacia trees. It was amazing to watch.

After this, we were taken to the village handicraft exhibition, where we bought these dolls and some lovely bracelets and chains.

A piece of another culture added to my Golu through these dolls. So many memories here!

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My Doll Display – Part 3

Today’s featured dolls are the Tanjavur Dolls, so called, as they are made in Tanjavur.

Tanjavur is one of the oldest cities in South India. The city boasts some of the best temple architecture in the country, built during the golden reign of the Chola dynasty.

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The two pictures above show a typical ‘Thalaiyaatti Bommai’ (meaning a doll that shakes its head).  This doll actually comes in 4 pieces. The base, the skirt, the torso and the head.  Each part is balanced on the part below it on a thin curved wire, which causes the different parts to oscillate, each time you touch them.

Kids and adults have a lot of fun, making these dolls move.

In my Golu, this doll was the welcome doll, greeting friends as they entered the house.

There is also a joke about the term ‘thalaiyaatti bommai’ – as a nickname for people who say ‘yes’ to everything!

The second type of Thalaiyaatti Bommais are the ‘Chettiar-Aachi’ dolls. A must-have in every Golu. These dolls are always in a couple, husband and wife. They are an ode to the rich business heritage of the Chettiar community in  South India. These dolls are usually made of two pieces; only the head piece shakes. These dolls represent growth, happiness and prosperity.

In a typical Golu, these dolls are placed with grains and vegetables.

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The other type of Tanjavur Dolls are the roly-poly dolls usually depicting the kings and queens of the region.  These dolls have a spherical base and hence, come back to the same position after one moves them.

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The Tanjavur Dolls are made from sago, wood pulp, papier mache and Plaster of Paris. They are supposed to have become popular in the early 19th Century.

The Indian Government has now included these Tanjavur Dolls in the Govt. of India Geographical Indications Registry, as lawfully originating in the region.

Hope you are all shaking your heads after this post!

My Doll Display – Part 2

This is in continuation to my earlier post. I would like to share with you all, stories about some of my favourite doll sets from my Golu.

The first set is called the Narikuravan-Narikurathi set. These dolls are an ode to one of the earliest tribal gypsies belonging to the southern part of India.

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These gypsies belong to a larger group of Kuravan-Kurathis, hunter-gatherers, who lived in the Kurinji mountains of South India. They used bamboo extensively in their everyday lives, especially to defend themselves. This use of bamboo is largely believed to have led to the popular martial art form,  called Silambattam.

The Narikuravan-Narikurathi gypsies are still active, and craft beautiful bead necklaces and chains that they sell in public places.

These dolls were given to me by my mother.

The second set is my collection of dolls representing a South Indian wedding, and the wedding banquet that follows.

Indian weddings are colourful, noisy, vibrant events, with lots of dance, music and food. The bride and groom are seated on the ground before the sacred fire, with the priest who solemnises the wedding and guides the couple.

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The wedding banquet is usually served on huge leaves of the banana plant. Nearly 35 to 40 dishes are served. People either sit on the floor or on chairs, with the leaf spread out on a table. The catering firm has a team of people, who serve the guests. There is a protocol about which item gets served, and in which order.  There is also a definite place on the leaf for each dish.  Guests usually use their right hand to eat. Family members of the bride are usually assigned to walk around the banquet hall asking people to enjoy the food and take second helpings.

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Hope you enjoyed this post.