Every new experience


The evening sky is painted an orange shade that defies description. Spun gold? Gold cotton candy? Faraway buildings and trees are silhouetted against this backdrop. Most birds are already tucked into their cosy nests. There is a lull, as day winds down and shakes hands with twilight. The evening sky never looks the same, each evening is different. I stand on the balcony and soak-in the peace.

My kids barge into my reverie. It is the weekend and they want to order-in pizza. I agree, and soon, with a few clicks, the order is placed. In just under forty-five minutes, the familiar square cardboard box is delivered, accompanied by that mouth-watering aroma that every pizza-lover relishes. Hmmm!

But what has become such a regular part of our lives now, was once a new experience for me. When we were kids most meals were home cooked. We rarely ate out. My mom made yummy Indian food, sweets and savouries at home, and we looked forward to all the treats she cooked for us.

When I left for university, I fondly remembered and yearned for my mom’s food. By the time I started working, most meals were eaten out, with friends and colleagues. And that was the time I ate my first-ever pizza. A new outlet had opened in the city close to my place of work, and all of us went over.

And that’s when I smelt a pizza for the first time, that unique melding of cheese, bell peppers, olives, pineapples and other veggies. My favourite part was adding the chilli flakes on top for that extra burst of flavour. We loved the pizza even more because of the experience of trying something for the first time.

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

It was something new, something shared, something exciting, a new type of food, a slice of another culture. And we were never the same again. We had changed.

And that is true of all the new things we try in life. Some are great experiences, while some don’t go at all well; but each one of them changes us in subtle ways.

My kids are happy, and predictably disappear into their rooms. As I close the lid on the pizza box and clean up, night has fallen, and a few stars are twinkling high up in the firmament. The sky has also changed.

The Yellow Bag


It is 7.00 p.m. and my thoughts are already on tomorrow’s things to do list. I click in exasperation, as I realize that I need to dash to the supermarket for some essential supplies.

I quickly pick up my wallet, take my cloth shopping bag and rush out of the house. This cloth bag has become an integral part of every shopping expedition. Easy to carry, and eco-friendly too!

During my childhood, most shops – especially garment and jewellery shops packed the garments and jewels – that customers bought – in bright yellow bags that had the name of the shop printed in bright red letters on both sides of the bag.

One simply couldn’t miss these bright yellow bags. They were made of cloth and were well-suited for heavy-duty wear and tear. My mom carefully preserved these bags, and used them to send stuff across to her friends, or to go shopping with.

But my siblings and I, and most other teens I presume, were mortified to be seen carrying these bags. They were not ‘in’, they were loud and attracted attention. They did not go with the cool, smart teen images we had of ourselves; and we weren’t going to go anywhere with a bright yellow bag accompanying us and thereby reduce our cool quotient!

We tried reasoning with our mom, when she argued with us that it was just a cloth bag, a very useful one at that, and that there was nothing wrong in using it.

The yellow bag or manja pai as we called it was ubiquitous at home, in shops and on the streets – flashes of yellow and red, faithfully carrying money, vegetables, books, and everything else that people needed to carry on with their everyday lives.

We, on the other hand, wanted plastic bags, and paper bags…or trendy looking bags in lovely shades that suited our cool personas.

And then, time flew by – and our streets and shops were flooded with plastic bags – light to carry and easy to use – or so we thought.

And slowly, the yellow bags faded away.

Plastics took over our lives, and with time, lots of plastic bags were found in the bellies of fish and other sea creatures, plastic bottles floated in the sea, plastics were everywhere!

With the passage of time, awareness came to people.

And now, cloth bags are back. And I suddenly feel nostalgic for those yellow bags, and for those simpler times, when our planet was greener, where we were probably helping the planet, one yellow bag at a time.

The Great Wall and Time


The sun’s heat is scorching. We walk at a steady pace, completely awed.

We are at the Great Wall of China.

Before we reach the starting point, our guide briefs us about the Wall and its history, and loads us with many interesting nuggets of information. We agree on a time to meet, and proceed on our long walk.

The valleys on either side watch us in silence, as we walk, stop and marvel. How was this feat even possible!

At every turn, the wall winds up and down into the rugged terrain, an off-white line that stretches away into places that the eye cannot see.

We feel humbled. We walk up steps, climb down others, pausing for breath, pausing to take pictures, wondering, only wondering.

We can picture the soldiers at their viewing decks, and the invading armies.

My son and I sit down, as we wait for the others. There is a deep silence. Except from two crows that caw on and off, all is quiet. Our hats give us some semblance of protection as the sun’s hot rays reflect off the stones.

I look up at the clear blue sky and smile. A merry little jet is whizzing importantly across the sky, leaving behind a fluff of white lace.

Time seems suspended between history and the future.

The Wall is unchanging, a witness to thousands of years of history, culture and human development. The jet is too busy to stop, it is after all, busy carrying people to appointments and meetings.

The word ‘time’ as I know it seems pointless, as I sit on the Great Wall, knowing that even after we are all gone, this architectural wonder will still remain.

Welcome to my Golu (Doll display)


The last week has been so crazy, in a wonderfully beautiful way, as we celebrate one of the nicest festivals in India – Navratri.

Navratri means ‘nine nights’. While there is a lot of spiritual meaning to this festival, these nine days in most Indian  homes spell joy, fun, food, music and dance, and of course a lot of camaraderie and bonding, not to forget all the vibrant and colourful sarees.

So,  that was why I was MIA from blogosphere this week. The festival is nearly done, and I am back.

People from our community celebrate Navratri in a unique way! We put up a display of dolls (yes, dolls). Dolls that have been passed down from our ancestors, dolls that we have collected over the years, dolls of every possible type.

These dolls are arranged on steps (these stands can be assembled). The stand is then covered with a cloth and serial lights put on them.  On the eve of Navratri, the dolls are brought down from storage and put on display.

I have a few hundred dolls, mostly terracota dolls. Once we set up the dolls, we invite friends home to see the display and have food.  I had a lot of friends visiting this week, and had lots of fun.

One of the most important dolls in the Golu (doll display) is the ‘Marapaachi’ doll. These dolls are made of wood, and passed down from generation to generation. These dolls usually come in couples, man and woman, boy and girl.

We dress them up in different costumes, every year. Each year we add new doll sets to our collection. Over my next few posts, I will share pictures of a few special doll sets that I have at home and the story behind them.

This is a picture of my Golu. With new dolls, my Golu is expanding horizontally as well.  Below the picture of my Golu is the picture of the ‘Marapaachi’ dolls, that have been handed down in the family.

Each doll is special, each doll has a story and so many associated memories. I love my dolls, each and every one of them.

image

        Main Golu, Sections 1, 2, 3 & 4

image

                      The Main Golu

image

                 Section 2 of my Golu

image

             Section 5 of my Golu

image

The Marapaachis – handed down from generation to generation.

Hope you enjoyed these pictures. Over the next few posts, I will talk about my favourite dolls and their stories.

I look forward to catching up on all your blogs too!

Glass bangles


I love bangles, glass bangles, to be precise. If you stopped to listen to the breeze in any part of the Indian subcontinent, you would hear the melodious tinkle of glass bangles, worn by women across the country.

image

   
               Picture courtesy  http://www.geethafashion.weebly.com

In India, glass bangles are traditionally associated with most milestones in a woman’s life – engagement,  wedding and baby showers. After the wedding, most women wear a few glass bangles or at least metal ones everyday, as dictated by their culture and family traditions.

I love glass bangles for their rich colours and vibrant tones. Couple these with an elegant saree…and they look gorgeous.

In the south, many families host a small event called ‘Valaikaapu’ (The Bangle Ceremony), in a pregnant woman’s third trimester. Usually hosted by the girl’s parents, the day is filled with lots of fun, rituals and good food.

For this function, a few hundred glass bangles are bought. Women on both sides of the pregnant woman’s family adorn her with tinkling and beautiful glass bangles on both hands, usually odd-numbered. In addition, one thin gold and silver bangle each are put on each hand.  All women and girls, who attend the event, are gifted a few glass bangles. Usually there’s an assortment of colours to choose from.

The tinkling of the bangles is supposed to stimulate the baby’s senses. The bangles are usually removed, when labour sets in. 

These days, bangles are bought in bulk from shops, however, when I was a kid, a bangle-seller was called home. I still remember how excited we were when the bangle-seller came home with his huge bundle of glass bangles. We watched, as my grandmom and mom chose bangles for my aunt’s Valaikappu, and for all the women and little girls.

image

                     Picture courtesy     
             varietybangles.weebly.com

Last year, there was a wedding in the family, and I stocked up on my glass bangles; colour coordinated with every saree I wore to the various ceremonies.

Simple tinkling accessories, that signify so much and that bring so much joy!

A feeling of timelessness – Siem Reap, Cambodia


20150330_112716

We are in Siem Reap, Cambodia, drinking in the beauty of a thousand years.  As we ride on the tuk-tuk from one ancient temple to another, a feeling of timelessness grips me.

The volcanic rocks that the temples are built from, stand proud and tall, one above the other, rising into the skies, majestic and filled with exquisite detailing and engraving.  The Sun beats down on us mercilessly.  The same Sun that beat down on the stone carvers a thousand years ago.

Some of these temples are being renovated. Some others are partly disintegrated, with huge slabs fallen in sudden piles, now here, now there, as we stroll across, taking in the legends and stories that are showcased on the walls; and imagining our own stories about the craftsmen and their craft.

20150330_113933

We take a breather after the long walk around Angkor Wat.  We sit close to a long wall.  The grandeur of the temple has to be seen to be believed.  I cannot put down in words the various emotions that surge through me.  As we stretch our legs and fan ourselves with our caps, tour-guides come in with groups of tourists from around the world.

The wall behind us has elaborate carvings from one of India’s greatest epics – The Mahabharatha.  Earlier in the day, when our guide showed us these panels, we were awestruck!  Awestruck by the fact that the stories we grew up reading, had been so beautifully frozen on stone, a thousand years ago, in a country far away from India.

Featured image

Japanese and Korean guides explain the Mahabharatha in rapid bursts, to their tour groups, who nod their head in understanding. I catch a familiar word here and there.  It feels good. That feeling of timelessness envelopes me over and over again.

“We are all connected, in some way, at some place, at some point in time maybe in the past or maybe in the future.”

The afternoon is spent at the Ta Prohm Temple.  As we walk around, we see the long tentacle-like roots of the silk-cotton, and strangler-fig trees.  The roots have taken over the temple.  In some places, the roots look like they are embracing the temple, while in some others they look like they are taking back the temple into their womb, to hand them over to Mother Earth.

20150330_135108

Our guide points out to a small ‘apsara’ (celestial damsel of great beauty), who is almost hidden by the roots of a tree. She peeps through the roots, smiling at humanity, as she will very soon be engulfed by this tree.  One last smile, till time takes over another bit of history.

20150330_135327