Google+ Followers

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

GOING BACK HOME


This is my last week at Kumarhatti (H.P.), where I had spent almost three mesmerizing summer months in the lap of majestic Shiwalik hills. I have been a part of its existential reality: its colours, its moods, its parched barren mountain flanks and withered plant life, the dried up water courses in the narrow valley and then its sudden transformation after the belated monsoon rains during mid- July. I’ve watched splendid sheets of shining flora resurfacing like magic. There is a mysterious vitality in the mother earth here. The sun and the rain drops conspire to change the very face of the mountains within days. The makeover is so overwhelming and fast, that too soon you forget whether this pulsating rustle of plants was ever absent.
In my previous blogposts, I’ve penned down my observations of the beauty of this place in all its avatars. This post is a farewell message of gratefulness to the place for enriching me about its culture, natural wonders, regal pines and the lyricism of the rains along with its mystifying mists, its prancing clouds which try to befriend you while you sit in the balcony awed by the charismatic sight. The twitter of tiny birds- too nimble to be imprisoned in the phone lens- in bushes around completes the circle of co-existence of man with the natural phenomenon. All this and much more constitute the harmonized parts of the whole which represents the persona of this place.
My posts spanning these three months chronicle the natural paradigm of Kumarhatti.
 I’m bidding it adieu till we meet again in the summer of 2013. A few words of a song come to my mind:
Sayonara sayonara kal phir milenge sayonara.’ This is a song from LOVE IN TOKYO where Asha Parikh sings for Joy Mukerjee (?) the handsome romantic hero of yesteryears, who sadly is no more. 

(Images of flowers  blooming in the complex where we are putting up)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

PASSING THOUGHTS AND RANDOM OBSERVATIONS


Being in my senior years and with self taught computer capabilities I do need to know a lot more about the intricacies of social networking to make my blog easily accessible to the readers in the blogosphere. Sometimes I do feel gnawing misgivings inside, about my writing efforts, but my inner voice intervenes to bring me back on track again. This time I’m thinking my thoughts aloud while believing strongly that I’m here  to fulfill my  passion for digging deep into the creative reservoir, to articulate deeply felt experiences and my love of life. My curiosity to learn however has never dampened. Rather it is becoming stronger each day. The writing habit has almost acquired a compulsive quality which has to be satisfied no matter what. Giving expression to my  experiences, opinions and concerns through my blog posts excites and energizes me. I hope to have your company on this voyage of mine, sharing its successes and its pitfalls. Your visits stimulate me to do better always and your felt presence is a part of every word I pen.
*********
Since I’ve spent a few summer months in the lap of beautiful shiwalik hills, I observed keenly the life around and particularly the changing hues of the rainy season. For the last couple of months I’ve been scribbling my impressions of the place and have shared them with my blog friends: my support and intellectual sustenance. I wish to  carry on  as long as  the creative urge to express  remains kindled.
********
Himachal Pradesh is no less a God’s own country than Kerala. It isn’t for nothing it is called Dev Bhoomi and many commercial establishments are named after scores of deities. Here it is the female goddesses that reign supreme and their names are preferred inscriptions on the maxi cabs and private vehicles.
Rainy season has its own unique character here. From being mostly foggy, cloudy, misty and occasionally sunny, it is unpredictable like a child. Sometimes it is refreshingly breezy momentarily and at other times it is windy and chilly. Sometimes it belies all precise description. But a downpour a day is a constant feature now.
This fixture has its ramifications of wetness. It is a simple question of adaptability which is hard for summer sojourners to achieve. It enjoins to get used to the moist limpness of your clothes. Enjoy the peculiar smell of the towels which will retain water and never be crispy dry. While wiping your body after a bath, close your nostrils by some yogic practice and perform the ritual of drying yourself without giving a thought to the fact that an unpleasant odour of the bath towel has been swathed onto your body.
Try to use the wiper to dry the bathroom floor to the best of your ability, otherwise keep the addresses of orthopedics handy in case of a slipping accident on the wet bathroom floor. Better still keep your slippers on while bathing for better balance and your slippers will get a free perfumed bath.
Enter the kitchen and find kitchen cabinets smelling and the exterior of the fridge’s door donning a black coat of mold and you run to get a rag to attack the offensive material and to your chagrin it stealthily appears again as the air is saturated with water vapor. Bread slices get moldy in spite of your best efforts. The wafts of smell when you open  your bedroom almirah is least inviting and you chide yourself for opening it too often thereby allowing moisture to lodge there.
Clothes are the worst victims of this weather. Poor things are wrung and squeezed mercilessly and spread outside much longer and their warm placement in the drawers gets derailed. Or they are kept in their soiled state packed in a hamper till the sun makes its appearance and in the meantime their noses get clogged with the foul odours and they forget if they were any better ever.
You step out to be greeted by fungus coated stairs and your every step is focused like that of a ramp model for fear of nasty falls.
And obviously when there is a lull in outpourings from above, you run out for a deserved breather from indoor confinement, armed with a raincoat or an umbrella; who knows you may be caught in a drizzle or a heavy shower and come home shivering, wet to your inner wear.
Once outside, you can’t help accosting the stench of rotting garbage thrown cruelly on the slopes, where our simian friends converge for their breakfast, lunch and dinner. While you screw up your nose in disgust in the hope of escaping the decaying smell , you are careful not to attract the simians’ attention, for the safety of your skin and bones. Further ahead on the road massive landslides are occurring frequently causing traffic disruptions and blaring of horns.
However the whimsicality of the weather has some positive aspects also.
Every morning a look through the window opens up a debate of guessing games e.g., when the rain will bid adieu or when the dense fog will lose its grip or whether the sun will be allowed a face showing like a bride. Such discussions do provide some impetus to the brain to drive away boredom of the damp weather
These are a few hiccups of the season amidst abundant beauty of a sea of glossy greenery on mountains, hills and knolls. Another distinguishing fact which keeps me inspired is those lulling sounds of patter of falling rain rushing down to join the water bodies flowing in the ravines, anxious to reach its destination, to merge with rivers in the plains, completing the well laid out natural cycle.

Your comments are welcome.
Image: My Motorola clicked for me.


.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

MISTY MORNINGS IN SHIWALIK HILLS



A misty morning awaited me on getting up today. The light cottony clouds had shrouded the upper slopes in a mysteriously surreal canopy and allowed a breathtaking spectacle first thing in the morning. What a blessing! Can one ask for more? My gaze lingered on and on till I became conscious of the yellow orange reflection far away in front, trying to elbow its way out of the dense cloud formations there. The clouds happily obliged. They glided upwards gaily, freeing the towering mountains of its loving grip. At such a moment, standing still with a mind which is raring to encompass all the sensations of the physical world, conscious of the palpable but unnamed sounds, probably of the damp vegetation, waking up in unison and participating in a subdued chorus of its own, blended with mildly shrill cheeping of tiny birds, is a motif available only in the hills. Slowly the day dreaming gets jolted and disintegrates in the wake of human noises. Such deep bonding with the surrounding phenomenon is realized only in the cool stillness of the early morning when the world is slumbering. An experience totally private, generating vibes and waves of unique positive dimensions.
In fact every morning here is an unbounded loosely framed mural of nature’s miracles. Sometimes dazzling sunlight spreads its healthy joyful self through the bedroom window and while you thankfully welcome it with satisfying yawns and relaxed stretching, in anticipation of a dry day, it disappears magically and the narrow valley and mountains are engulfed by waltzing clouds reducing visibility. But patiently the sun wriggles out chasing away mist and   the mountains present sheets of gleaming plant life shaking itself into action like a bird after a puddle bath.
rain droplets on my clothes line
Some mornings are gloomy and wet. But when I spy early droplets of rain water threaded into my clothes line in the balcony, I try to imprison it in my cell and forget everything else.  The intermittent rains and prolonged gray spell do restrict mobility but something unexpected always stands out to neutralize the effect.  
At present (August) the pure blue sky remains patterned with eye catching cloud formations. Sometimes the shapes are abstract and at other times their similarity to certain objects is striking. One can spend hours in figuring out such relationships while overwhelmed by the nature’s inimitable prowess. The scenario is ever new, ever fresh. Such is the mind boggling variety of God’s unseen wand, painting wonders for His creation.
Often I contemplate how testing it’d be to exist in these volatile times without the gift of this holy phenomenon! 





All images courtesy my Motorola

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

SHE


I’d call her ‘She’ the one whom I got to know for a few years.  But for some years now, I haven’t set my eyes on her. Yet her unusual persona had got planted in my head and stayed there all along. I guess she must be much more worldly wise now than when she allowed me an aperture into her facade. The revelations about the stark factuality of her existence were disturbing. Hers is the character study of a person who is intriguing and thus attracts an ambivalent reaction from the observer. Her ammunition for survival had its roots in the uncanny influences of her past.
 A deprived child of a poor family, she had bitter memories of her childhood.  She’d tell of her shoeless feet with furrowed and stone hard heels which were constantly aching in winter. And when she and her siblings were hungry they would munch raw wheat grains because their alcoholic father‘d not go to the flour mill to get the wheat grain ground. She narrated how her unscrupulous father promised hers and her sister’s hand in marriage to many prospective grooms after being feted by them and would back out later, till he met his match in two brothers much older but slightly better financially and  her father could not hoodwink them. Finally the two were married to them.
 One day out of the blue she came out cursorily with the exploits of her and her sister’s husband before being married to them. Without feeling any qualms as if that was the normal thing to expect, she revealed the way her older brother-in law’s wife was made to cater to three brothers. The cuckolded husband’s protests were quietened with beatings and threats till he resigned to the arrangement.
After doing many odd jobs, her husband joined labour force in a trucking company. When I met her she had all three children. She started working as domestic help in many houses to augment her income. It’s then that I noticed a pronounced change in her bearing. She became very ambitious and longed to possess things which her mistresses’ had. Her dress code changed. She wore tight fitting dresses. She had a curvy body with ample bosom which jutted out over her body. Even when reminded of the need for a loose fit for her because she had to mop the floor,she dismissed it by saying, “Loose shirts don’t look good on me.” To the query how she puts on and takes off her shirt, she unabashedly replied that her daughters help her to do that. I sensed some thing amiss in her attitude and also was surprised by her new dress every day. She herself gave the hint one day with this disclosure. “Yesterday when I was coming for work, a scooterist stopped by me and pulled my shawl and asked me to go with him.”  I uttered an exclamation and did not comment further. Perhaps she was testing my response. It however, was an allusion to her other self and the answer to her peculiar dress sense.
 Her husband, it seemed suspected her all along and wanted her to be home early but she was busy ostensibly in preparing food in this house or that and would reach late. There used to be beatings and quarrels in the house but she kept on doing what she thought desirable.
Many times she’d curse her man by lamenting, “Other men die after they consume too much liquor. But this man does not even die.” She considered him just an impediment in her mad race for material possessions. Sometimes she’d say, “He earns less than me and out of that he doesn’t give any thing and eats so much. What is the use of such a man” She’d ignore him and even grudged preparing food for him. Ultimately he was so spurned by her and the children that his booze intake increased and she’d encourage her nephew to beat him up when he was too tipsy to defend himself.
Anyway, there was humane side to her as well. She narrated how she tried to give him de- addiction pills stealthily but when he came to know about it, he resisted her attempts and continued to be a guzzler. She wrote him off completely and her total indifference infuriated him further and more violence ensued. The children were so afraid of him that they avoided him which’d enrage him.
Her desire to acquire goods got the better of her and she got a piece of furniture made. On inquiry how she would pay so much money, she first evaded, and then blurted out a safe reply, “The carpenter belongs to my village.” It was clear that she paid him in her own characteristic way and that subject I never ever dared to touch. But the fall out of her aberrant forays resulted in her contracting infection and subsequent sickness.
It goes to her credit that she was accomplished in household skills and was quick with her fingers. But her greedy calculations went awry as she was exploited by those who loaned her money. Though I paid her more than the worth of the services rendered she’d indulge in furloughs. I could not throw her out for old time’s sake. But she always maintained decorum while in our house.
At my persevered insistence she stopped asking for loans and made do with what she and her children were earning.
Her children present another subtext. The poor things suffered deeply at the hands of a boorish father and a cruel and greedy mother. Her eldest daughter was made to skip school and hired by some one to take care of a baby. With time the second one was similarly employed. The son also dropped out of school and suffered the same fate. Strangely she resented even feeding her own children and wished to make them work where the employer’d keep them permanently so that she may save money on feeding them. And also she’d be free to pursue her misadventures.
Because of neglect and privation her children were into minor thievery. Once, for a few days her elder daughter came to work and she would go upstairs supposedly to clean the room but actually ate oranges kept there and sometimes from the dining table she’d pick dates without raising any suspicion. With a full time job I had no time to supervise. I came to know about it the day I decided to move the sofa and to my surprise there were many date pits pressed into the crevice at the back. Likewise I found substantial dry orange peel tucked under the big tin trunk. . But she herself was honest. However she alarmed me one day when she triumphantly remarked that her children used to pick fruit slyly from hand carts while passing by them.
 Over time my sympathy for her plight was punctured and hence deflated. Yet a doubt always lingered in my mind that I may be wrong. In spite of her questionable duplicity, she always evoked empathy and forgiveness. Her compulsions to be what she was were beyond me, though I observed her keenly.
 One day, nevertheless, the truth came out plainly from the horse’s mouth. As she entered I was reading the newspaper. She appeared to be very cheerful and asked me abruptly, “Did you read the news about a high class married woman having an extra marital affair.” Obviously some house lady must have gossiped with her. In the same breath she remarked with a barely audible but disapproving tone, “A person like me may do such a thing for money, but what about this woman?” Apparently she felt as if the news had exonerated her of her misdeeds.
 Later when we went traveling I dispensed with her services and she faded from my life. But the news of the elopement of her daughter with an acquaintance brought her into focus again. (I think she knew it and ignored it to save money and effort.) It must have put the family under tremendous social pressure as it led to her drunkard husband taking his own life.
I felt bad for her and reflected over her misguided inclinations.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

MOUNTAINS AND RAINS


Dear friends: I consider nature as my ally. It inspires me, stirs me, uplifts me, mesmerizes me, pokes me up for action and allows me a wee bit of philosophizing. Nature has godly attributes. It touches my very being and teaches me to transcend the trivial and inane. It helps to freeze skepticism, cynicism and the fettering thoughts of the unfairness of life. It shakes me free and commits me to life as it is. 
At present Kumarhatti (H.P.) is the setting for some of my musings and narratives. So please bear with me.
Here since mid-July, the rain Gods have been showering their benedictions abundantly. It drizzles, it rains and it pours. The spell of generous downpour has kindled plant life and tiny blades of grass have turned thick and green at express speed as if by some conjuring trick. The majestic pine trees look glorified with pine needles exhibiting well rounded confidence. Hill folks are happy and hopeful of better farm produce. The dried up natural springs, water channels and rivulets have sprung to life and seem to beckon the passers by, “Oh! Splash water and play with us and cool yourself inside out.”
The magic wrought by nature is stupendous. The refreshing walk after the rains throws a veritable visual feast of green and glistening shoots of plants and dewy foliage, winking naughtily at us as if saying, “Aren’t you convinced now that this is Dev Bhoomi where devies and devtas reside amongst simple, pious and uncorrupted people”. They express their gratitude through special prayers and midnight bhajan congregations. Many houses are afloat with tiny temple like structures on their roofs with red and yellow flags fluttering overhead.
The rains have gifted a washed and gay look to the tenements of locals. The mood all around is upbeat and nothing can upstage the healthy, soothing and tickling cool of the weather, which has heralded the rejuvenation of man and nature in equal measure.
Today while lounging on the sofa and looking through the window, I could sense the hill slopes fully animated after quenching their thirst and having a tête-à-tête with the rain drops falling musically on the earth. While eavesdropping I could make out what the rain drops were murmuring to the slopes, “Don’t you worry, we would always be there for your well being.”
The rhythmic fall of raindrops often lulls me into an intoxicating feeling of inactivity filled with sweet day dreaming. The sight of milk white sheets of clouds over the clear blue sky, after the rain stops and when sun tries to peek through them showcases a picturesque canvas of nature’s deft strokes. This game of ‘Hide and Seek’ between the sun and clouds is played many a time during the day. In the backdrop of approaching dusk the shapely tops of pines; swing gaily from side to side in the breeze. Isn’t this spectacle of nature intriguing and charming at the same time?
In hills rains have a distinct persona. They come and go at their own sweet will. No warning is proclaimed in the form of rumbling and gurgling of thunder and flashes of lightning. It arrives like a guest who is always welcome and is extended another invite before he departs. Another notable feature is that unlike in plains it rains in straight lines like wet noodles dropping through a mammoth sieve from above.
Rains are the lifeline of agriculturists in hills. Over the next few days I saw neatly prepared small beds on the slopes being planted with rows and rows of tomato and bell pepper saplings and also seeds being sown for other cash crops.
It is early August and different varieties of flowers have started blooming unannounced in a kaleidoscope of colours in our complex. Thanks to the elixir of abundant rainfall!! The journey from bud to blossom is sudden and short like a young girl’s developing curves and bright skin tone quite abruptly on attaining puberty.
Now and then, within minutes the whole area gets engulfed in mist, rising from the flanks of the mountains and haze covers the tops. And at other times the outside is clouded selectively and only parts of the scene are discernible. And then in no time mist is blown away showing everything so clearly once again. And one says, “Isn’t it a picture perfect backdrop for a Ruskin Bond story?”
In the midst of such splendour and indescribable beauty my head bows in gratitude for the munificence which nature bestows on us and my mind echoes John Keats’ line, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”
*******
Images: Mountains, sky line and horizon at Kumarhatti clicked with my cell phone.

 Waiting for your responses.