Friday, April 20, 2018

R is for Rally for Rivers #AtoZChallenge #RallyforRivers

Everything I am is thanks to a river. 
Indus Valley Civilization.
Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati.
My grandmother's stories.
The holy dips.
The picnics.
The films and even the shows on TV.
India's national anthem has them listed.
Rivers are mothers of civilizations.
Our mothers?
Really?
You call these polluted, dirty, shrinking trickles of stinking water my mother?
Are you out of your mind?
*****
#Rally for Rivers was an initiative started in India last year to nurture and replenish the rivers who've nurtured and replenished us for ever and ever.

 Sharing pictures of plenty today, 
of the bounty of 
these mothers of human civilizations.
First stop: Umngot River, Dawki, Meghalaya
(November 2017)




You'll find far better pictures of Umngot river if you google. When the time of the year is right and the light is good and you're good at taking pictures, you can end up with:
Photo courtesy: Google Imgaes
Yes, that's how transparent the river gets.
But ooing and aahing at photos is not the point of today's post.
Are we paying attention? Is the question.
Are we?

Sungudi Sarees drying on the parched River Vaigai, Madurai
(August 2017)
So full of colour, so full of sarees and yet this scene made me sad.
Greed at all levels: corporate, individual, community and country coupled with irresponsible consumption and lack of planning is making sure more and more of these rivers are assigned to the realms of legend.
 We may talk about them, write about them, dream about them, 
wish they were flowing among us
 when we face droughts and dry spells,
 but it may be (or will be) too late by then.

I understand that the planet has its cycles like everything else. 
Yes, rivers have changed courses all through human history.
Some like the Saraswati ended up underground even before humans built factories.
And today she flows only in myths and the Mahabharatha:
(Sepetember 2015, Mana Village)
But, when did the rivers of this planet ask to be turned into dumping grounds?
When did our mother ask us to defile her?

The Sun sets on the mighty Brahmaputra
(November 2017)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Q is for Quotes on my fridge door in Qatar #AtoZChallenge

The quest for Q has brought me to the fridge today. No, don't worry, I'm being careful with what I eat so the fridge is stocked well with cucumbers, oranges, apples and coconut water. I have said this often and I will stress upon it again, the A to Z Challenge adds to my girth as much as it adds to my mirth. So I have to be careful.

Back to the fridge door then: It's shut. It's grey. It has a total of 6 fridge magnets on it, two of which have been brought by friends from Sri Lanka and  Falkland Islands. My friends know my aversion to made-in-China-and-available- in-every-tourist-spot-in-the-world stuff, fridge magnets included, so after the first two, there were no more! Phew!

Three of the fridge magnets were bought by yours truly, two from a lady who called herself 'the Jersey girl'. We visited her stall in a farmer's market near Chicago, almost five years ago.  She sold wind chimes she'd made with shells and drift wood she collected from the Jersey shore where she lives. Her son (who wasn't at the stall at the time) created these beautiful magnets with bottle caps and famous art/photographs. One of these holds a quote I put up a long time ago.
I can't even remember when I scribbled those words or where I got them from. But, it's a wonderful quote to read every time I'm facing a door. 

I noticed the 'post your safety data' today as I took this photo.

How apt. I thought. This is the kind of quote that fits perfectly under 'safety'  data.

Rumi lives with me in my kitchen: my karmabhoomi (the land where one works). But as he's bound within the pages of a book I cherish, I decided to scribble a quote of his and put it up on the fridge to avoid the temptation of reaching out to the book with fingers that have chopped onions or garlic recently or licked the last bit of marmalade from a jar. 
The dragonfly magnet holding Rumi up for me was bought from a shop in Doha called, The One. 

I like the fridge door to be bare so I can clean it often without much ceremony with stuff stuck on it. But every now and then, a recipe or a list of books recommended by an author catches my eye. So, before the magazine is sent to the re-cycling bin (a recent and welcome change here), I rip the page out and it hangs there till one of the following two things happen:
1) I give up on ever trying out the dish or another list of books that looks more exciting surfaces. 
Or
2) The dish is declared a success and the page is filed away in my cooking file/the book has been read.
FYI: "Colour your Diet" came through the door as promotional material.
*****
Do you like to put quotes where you can see them?

What's your favourite quote at the moment? 

Or do you have an all-time favourite one?
I do:)
It is by Maya Angelou:
"There's no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
This quote sits on my desk 
and hangs out inside books I'm reading:
scribbled on a piece of card that works as a book mark.

P is for Paradise in Plain Sight (by Karen Maezen Miller) #AtoZChallenge

Pebbles, pressed flowers, parlour, Punjabi paronthe were choices I was pondering over last night when I went out for a solitary walk.

By the time I returned, news of a dear and older cousin's passing was waiting to be seen as a message on my phone.

He had been very ill for almost two years. He was closer in age to my mother than to me so every time I saw him (which was once in six/seven years or so), he spoke about his fondness for my mother. We would talk about her, cry, laugh and sigh deep sighs. I loved looking at my mother in his reminiscing.  

Even today, as I sit to type out this post, I can see his big eyes filling up with sadness and joy as he spoke of his youth, of the days gone by and the bond my mother and he shared as they grew up together under the same roof, in the same house. She was his aunt, his father's youngest sister but they were only six years apart.

His face and his words are keeping me company today. 

Paradise in Plain Sight is a book every one should have in their home. 

"Paradise in Plain Sight stopped me in my tracks and invited me to look into the backyard of my own life in a different way: with deep attention and radical gratitude." says Katrina Kenison on the blurb of this beautiful book.

I'd like to share a few lines from this book as a tribute to life and its magic. I have a habit of underlining bits that grab me, so all I had to do today was to open this book and read a few of those underlined passages and share some with you to continue on this path which has brought you and me together for a little while in this month of spring: of newness and new births, of reminders that life is cyclical, what is born must die and then be born again as a particle of light, flesh or star--who knows.

Chapter 5 
SUN 
What You See
When you see your life, you bring it to life. When you don't see your life, it seems lifeless.

When you love, really love, you just see. When you see things as they are, not as you expect, and in that wide-open space is love.

Chapter 6 
Moon
What You Don't See
Your heart is always whole, just as the moon is always full. Your life is always complete. You just don't see it that way.

Chapter 7
Rocks
The Remains of Faith
In matters of peace, you see, there can be no hurry.

This book is your garden, the path you walk everyday, the stretch of beach you visit often  because you feel you're reading something you're familiar with and yet it surprises you with how clearly you are able to see certain things as if you're seeing them for the very first time, like a new bud, a broken piece of glass catching moonlight or a shell with tiny tinges of purple.

Reading its pages is like talking to an old cousin, you know what he's going to say for you've heard it before, but his voice and his eyes shine new light on your heart's memories. You sigh with love, you sigh with gratitude and you sigh with sadness because you will miss his presence in the retelling of stories of your childhood.

Part Three
Letting Go
Make the effort of no effort.
And don't worry. You'll always encounter what you need to know when you need to know it, so go ahead and forget this too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O is for Overheard at Old Harry Rocks #AtoZChallenge

O has brought us back to Dorset: to the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast of England, a UNESCO world heritage site.

My A to Z journey this year started with a few photos of  Alum Chine on this coast and today, more than half way through this challenge, I'm back with a stack of photos of a stunning place called Old Harry Rocks.

Are you curious to check it out for yourself? What are you waiting for? Put some sun cream on and let's go. Don't be fooled by the clouds, the sun gets very bright very quickly here.
I was curious about the name: Old Harry Rocks.

To tell you the truth, I picture old Harry rocking and rolling somewhere in the vicinity. I prefer my version of an old man named Harry who truly rocked the area, but if you're pedantic about this sort of thing, then this is what I found out while digging on-line: Jade and Dan's website offers the best write-up on The Legend of Old Harry Here's an extract from their site:

"One legend claims that the stack of Old Harry is so named because the Devil, for whom Old Harry is an age-old nickname, had a sleep on the famed rocks. Echoing this devilish tone, there is an old saying that speaks of someone 'playing Old Harry,' which would rather brutally mean 'to ruin or destroy.' The rocks were supposedly named as they are to give warning to ships to keep their distance from the treacherous cliffs. 
The other of the two tales is centered around one infamous individual. Harry Paye was a pirate who called the Poole area his home, making it a place of terror and trouble as he spent his days attacking the merchant ships that sailed in and out of Poole Harbour. It is said that the iconic stack and arches that provide us with adventures a-plenty were named after this very Harry as the caves became a hiding place for his loot. "




I didn't know it then but the short video I took of this thistle, dancing on the coast. 
captured snippets of  a conversation.
But ever since I've heard it, I've been imagining who the voices belong to:
young? old? family? friends? 
Who were these people?
What was the day like for them?
My back was turned to them. They must've walked on while I was busy with our dancing thistle.
I wonder what all the flora and the fauna of such oft-trodden paths must witness and overhear almost everyday.

Have you ever heard a conversation by chance and wondered about it later?


Perfect locations such as these beckon you to sit and stare and stare a little more...
Enjoy a peace filled day. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

N is for No to News #AtoZChallenge

I said No to News

in November of 2017.

Nothing on TV or in print made sense.

The theatrics, the wars, the stupidity of important people, the rapes, the murders, the cheating giants, the lying clergy, the ungodliness of holy men and women followed by more stories of displaced humans, hungry humans, dying humans followed by lavish weddings, IPL and football scores: words in print and uttered by newspeople deadened me bit by bit.

NO More! 

Enough! I said.

NO MORE.

I say NO to news.

And turned the telly off. 

But news sneaked in sideways, silently, like a stealth bomber:
invisible and indestructible.

Disguised as chat on coffee mornings, clinking along with the cutlery.
As face-less forwards on facebook and whatsapp finding its way to family dinners.
But before I could cry out: No More!
It would spill itself out on the floor--in full view--for all to see and comment on.
No mops were dry enough to soak it all up.
Dribs of it would linger and taunt me the next morning over clicking lunch boxes and goodbye kisses.

Then the weekend of 'M' post arrived with
news from Syria and then from India.
Its sharp shards muted me.
No words. No words. No words came to me that day. None.

News silenced me.

Silence is a place I visit often:
for there
resides the light within each darkness.

Silence settles me.
It feeds me morsels of hope
to carry on 
to do what I do
to do what I must do
to do what I have to do
to do a good job of being
of being human
of being a human being.
******
I'm feeling settled now.
The churning inside is less sharp, more gentle.
The sky outside as I type out this post is full of birdsong and feathery clouds. 
A rumble of thunder rolled a few minutes ago.
Perhaps, there will be rain in these parched parts.
Perhaps, there is hope for humanity.
Hope and beauty and kindness....
Sharing a short video I shot at Nongriat Village in Meghalaya last November.
*****
What have you said 'No' to recently?
Was it easy?
Has it worked?


Saturday, April 14, 2018

M is for Mawphlang: of sacred groves, monoliths and promises. #AtoZChallenge

My apologies in advance for sharing an older post (written in November of 2017)in this challenge today.
My weekend has brought with it some unexpected plans which means that the time I'd assigned for writing the M post has been reduced to just ten minutes or so.
So, instead of marking an absence, I thought I'd continue with Meghalaya and share some more magic with you:)
Here goes...
But before you enter the sacred grove,
Take off the cloak, the mask, the camouflage.
Bring in the real you--
bare and brilliant
single and sufficient
older than time
younger than the last breath
timeless
formless
no body
no mind
no iffs
no buts
no good
no bad
no likes
no dislikes
no memories
no plans
no past
no future
no family
no friends
no ties
no loose ends
no laughter
no sadness
no highs
no lows
still
calm
eternal

a drop in the ocean
an ocean within a drop

Like a ripple seeking its shore

Come ...

meet your shore

He's been waiting for you all his life too.
More than four weeks ago, I found myself in this sacred grove: 
an old and protected forest in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, 
standing guard to the village of Mawphlang--
maw means stone, maw phlang: grassy stone.
A village, like many in this region, named after monoliths.
"Our Ancestors promised the Guarding Spirits of this land that we'd never build any houses near this forest, that we'd never take anything from the forest, that this piece of land is for the Spirits to roam and live. This is the promise our Elders made and we keep."
Basha, our guide, our soft spoken Khasi guide tells us.  
"This is where everything is prepared for the coronation.
Only the King and the Elders go on to the coronation from here.
The rest of the people wait here.
If the Elders forget to take anything they need for the coronation, they can not come back to fetch it. This is the place they must prepare before they carry on."
Basha continues.

I feel like I've stepped into the world of the Round Table and any minute now, King Arthur will appear.
This is where the coronation takes plays, says Basha, our guide with soulful eyes.
He speaks so softly, I have to still my thoughts to hear his words.
His pools of honey eyes gaze upon the trees, the moss, the mushrooms, the branches and the stones
like this is the first time he's stepped inside this scared place.
Listen...






The lime tree with his regal spikes
And its fruit that the birds ate...

Basha seems to know every inch of this almost 80 hectares of forest --
a sacred place: you take NOTHING from this forest
and even when you enter, you enter with good intentions.
No trees are cut, no branches felled, no fruit is picked, nothing is taken
but somehow the forest gives and gives.




There's a presence in this grove:
Ancient and Wise--
like a portal,
He beckons you
to step into the forest
and leave the jungle behind,
move towards a stillness
and cast the mad rush aside.
Basha, like many Khasi youth, is always there to show you around the Sacred Grove.
This symbiosis of man and earth:
of promises made and kept--
protected trees
 and sacred souls--
makes me wonder
why the rest of the us can't be more like the people of Mawphlang?

Step into this reminder of what we were really meant to be,
and how far away we have wandered.
Are we lost?
Is it time to head home?
Let's take the first step.
To be home.
To be.
Have a beautiful weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2018

L is for Laitlum Canyon #AtoZChallenge

Laitlum Canyon lies in the north-eastern state of Meghalaya in India. 
Meghalaya is made up of two words: Megha (meaning clouds) and Alya (meaning home).
Welcome to the home of clouds....welcome to Meghalaya.

Laitlum means 'end of hills'
and today my lovely, loyal readers, we're going to this lush canyon, 
nestled in the East Khasi hills of Shillong.

You don't have to do a thing.
 You don't have to carry anything either.
Bring you with you, though:)
Be here.
Be present: here and now.
Rain is predicted but the sky is still making up his mind whether 
to call the clouds for company 
or just be by himself.
So, all you'll need to do is keep your eyes and your heart open..,
inhale.
exhale



In the deepest of canyons, in the furthest of vistas, tea is available, hot and sweet, no matter where you go in India (or parts of India where tea is preferred to coffee).

 Sweet Sonya sold us a few cups of tea and even smiled for a photo afterwards.
Sometimes a random click can yield a surprising narrative:
 The sun was inching his way to set. 
And while the locals packed up their stalls to leave,
  the tourists tried to hold on to the last possible slivers of light to breathe in 
the 'arms-wide-open-for-a-warm-embrace' kind of beauty of this vast vista.
NO trek/wandering in India is complete without a plate of 
garam, garam Maggi.
Laitlum was no exception.
So long...till we meet again.
It's been a lazy kinda day for me.
It's matched perfectly with L.
How has yours been so far?