146: Getting Into The Skin Of Delhi

26 May

For decades, and even till late last evening, the idea of spending an obnoxiously hot summer afternoon outdoors was just never an option for consideration. Ever. I never lived in this part of the country for more than five years, all put together, and there was never a time when even during touristy summer visits, that we stepped out during loo-y, debilitating afternoons. Evenings were a lesson enough, whenever we did venture out i.e. But here was a chance I was getting to explore a hugely popular shopping market with a colleague after school hours. It was the beginning of the weekend and our summer break – a celebration of sorts was warranted after the mad day every single teacher had had. Therefore this was an opportunity on many counts – one of making new friends, seeing this city more, plus fabulous flea-market shopping which automatically adds +5000 points to the entire deal, no?

And so I went along with a colleague, and so we shopped till a point when all I wanted to do was get into my cab and flee from the market. I barely lasted 2.5 hours, but we did see quite a bit, and I did go crazy quite a bit too. From my explorations, here’s what I discovered about Sarojini Market in New Delhi:

They’ve got the best stuff ever.
They’ve got all the latest fashion trends hanging in every nook and cranny.
However, if there’s a fashion trend doing the rounds, it’s very difficult to find anything/something that doesn’t fit said trend.
They sell clothes at a steal. We picked up beautiful cotton shorts for the men in our families for 150 rupees apiece, tops ranging from 100-250 rupees apiece, and the softest cotton nightwear at not more than 250 bucks apiece.
I even chanced upon ceramics for a steal – where two beautiful mugs and a very pretty kettle cost me 250 in total.
Shopkeepers here do not bargain for some reason.
The ceramics stall guy did, though.
I prefer Lajpat Nagar for footwear and a greater refined collection of clothing and materials. Also, they bargain there.

However, all said and done, there’s no way I could’ve bought whatever I did, at the steal that I did, from anywhere other than Sarojini Market.

It indeed makes a shopper thrilled to find great collections and an even better price, without the pinch of spending the money that you do. I’ve never felt more satisfied after a shopping deal. Of course the last time I went to Sarojini Market was over a decade ago when I was a student and couldn’t exploit its offerings like I can now. But some things never change, and that’s just as comforting to anyone who wishes you venture into the streets and gullies of this market, where shops are as old as our grandparents but as up-to-date as the next tween is. Notwithstanding this weird habit (I’ve now come to realise; back then I was just another innocent alarmed Bangalorean) men have of fondling their crotches while talking to almost every customer; it’s a great place to spend many an evening at, because I’m certain every visit just allows us to explore just the tip of all that it has to offer. And having said that, I feel like a little more of me has gotten into this vibe that is New Delhi.

145: We’re All About A Story

25 May

Yesterday‘s post still hasn’t gone past me completely. Today I found myself sharing Cory Richard’s story in class because it had some connection and relevance to what I’ve been teaching them the past fortnight. And needless to say, everyone sat in rapt attention, heat waves billowing through the windows and all. It reinforced my belief which took root in me the moment I held a camera for the first time – that we’re all about a story; each and every one of us. Of course I’d sound cheap if I said that I’ve always dreamed of doing what today is popularly called HONY. You’d most likely turn around and say, well why didn’t you do it, stupid? or you’d perhaps just laugh in my face and look at me funny, if you were more the blunt types. Perhaps one day when we need a break, I will have something substantial to offer. Someday. 

We’re all a bunch of experiences that make a marvellous story irrespective of how ornately we present it. For once words, fancy gadgets, apertures, camera angles, and privileges don’t matter – just who we are, what we do, and what we’re made up of that counts. It boils down to our innate need to feed our curiosities, our voyeuristic tendencies sometimes, and even just our plain love for stories. Some of us lap it up in the form of books, poems, movies, tv shows, novellas, even photographs and songs, and more. I guess it’s one thing that will always sell because we always want to know, even when we don’t want to know.

This was from one of my favourite visits, somewhere in a town steeped in history, mythology, and a stopped clock.

On our visit to commemorate my grandmother-in-law last year, we stopped by to feed a small settlement that had made its home around my mother-in-law’s generational family temple. And this, by far, was my most prized privilege – having this child speak to me with nothing more than a mouth stuffed with puris and halwa, his eyes, and his smile.

With every street in this mythical town lined with sweetmeat shops, because this is the land of Lord Krishna, the lover of all things milk and sweet, I chanced upon this vendor during a cool summer evening walk as I explored the gullies less travelled. He didn’t have much, and neither did his shop have the sheen of the religious wealth this town boasts of. But he smiled, allowed me to click him, and wished me as I went along. Again, a lot said, with not many words.

My favourite, after meeting the child, was stopping midway and running across wheat fields to this. The irony is that we come from the same land, the same lingual roots, but couldn’t communicate with language as I was so confident we would. But then, on she went, in her own striped shirt with her bundle on her head, off with a smile that just the two of us shared with each other.

I’ve come to believe that we really are a bundle of stories, each with a different fingerprint, and a legacy that is ours and ours alone. And we all do fall asleep to these stories, unaware that grandma’s tales are yours and mine and each other’s equally.

For more pictures from this trip, please visit my post here.

144: Inspiring, Everyday People

24 May

I woke up with an unexpected sense of inspiration this morning; once I could muster getting myself out of bed i.e. As I waited for A to get ready, I logged onto Instagram where the source of my inspiration grew deeper and richer. As is with most things social media, a trail sketched itself across the profiles I flitted past till I found what made me stay, and feel like it was a good morning to wake up to indeed. For those of you who have been reading my posts, and for those of you who haven’t, here’s something that has really found a nook in me and settled down very comfortably in the momentum of my thoughts and curiosity – the entire experience that is the Himalayan expedition. I’ve written about it here, here, and here when I got hold of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” after obsessively watching the movie Everest, which, upon further investigation, I found him trashing completely. But I’m thankful for the trail nonetheless. It was serendipitous then, and still is, today, when I clicked on the Instagram radio button and found the magnetism of the Himalayas drawing me to them, yet again.

It’s already been a while since Himalayan expeditions began for the year 2017, with many attempting a successful summit experience during this spring-summer window. Now when I find people talking about this, I feel more (theoretically) knowledgeable and aware. In fact, when BBC confirmed the collapse of the famed Hillary Step the other day, I felt oddly zapped by the new monumental hurdles alpinists would now face; not that hurdles defeat them, and not that the Hillary Step and the peak itself were not enough. Of course it also made me frown in the face of this global-warming destruction we’ve brought upon ourselves, but it seriously seems like we need something more drastic and severe to wake up. Anyway, and moving on, today I found myself following two people who are right there as we speak; and one of whom I found fascinating because of how profoundly beautifully and simply he expressed his thoughts and emotions coupled with the most breathtaking photographs.

Cory Richards; photojournalist at Nat Geo, swirled me into his world of words and expressions in an instant and so effortlessly as well. If my fascination and borderline obsession with the Himalayas wasn’t enough, along came this person who gave my perceptions, beliefs, thoughts, and curiosities a space to free-flow and merge into what was that ray of same inspiration I felt brightening up my morning today. Here are his words that made me feel heard, understood, capable, and not alone.

“Surrender is a funny thing. We do it constantly without thinking…when we board planes, get in our cars, or cross the street. We surrender to each other blindly all the time. Surrender in the mountains however has a unique texture. We stare up, calculate the risk, and surrender to the potential consequence. A decision is made to engage with fear and move with it. Fear is rooted in the future…an idea of something that could occur. In that sense, that which we fear isn’t real. The goal then, is to surrender to both the potential consequences and the sensation of fear. Only when I embrace it rather than fight it, am I able to move through it.”

If there was any fear holding me back, it felt more loose and less destructive. And that’s maddeningly insane coming from a normal, everyday guy, sitting somewhere in the Himalayas sending vibes to thousands of people scattered across this planet of ours. No?

Here’s his most inspirational and true (to him) story on Nat Geo as well, in case you’re interested. Enjoy. :)

143: The Twists and Turns of Adulthood

23 May

Today just wasn’t the day for me to catch a few winks in the afternoon. The internet guys called me a couple of times even when I’d asked them to kindly call and visit my sick internet connection only in the evening. Then the security guard rang my doorbell to tell me to remove my plants from my balcony, which I already had, and which I pointed out to him as he spoke to me. The painting labourers who are giving our building a facelift then decided to knock on my door with empty plastic bottles, to tell me that two balcony chairs needed moving. And then the maid arrived. So there really were just about a handful of minutes that I could dream during, post which I remained in bed slurping a creamy kulfi and a TedX talk by Shah Rukh Khan sent to me by S. Happy belated birthday, S! I figured she sent me this link because I dig the guy at some level. He really is a witty genius, okay! Anyhoo, I savoured what was left of my afternoon, in the self-obsessed but also tasteful compilation of experiences that were SRK’s.

The one thing in his speech that did catch my attention is something I’ve been becoming aware of off late too. And it is this concept of autonomy in drawing our own definitions of our experiences. It was just yesterday while in conversation with P that I mentioned the exact same thing –  that we’re so habituated to this “unchangeable” and “rigid” concept of authority without realising that we’re now at a place of authority too. Perhaps we always had the right to our own authority, but it remained unrealised and therefore untouched. It’s in the small things, and consequently in the big things; the latent ways in which we accept definitions of right and wrong formulated by others, and make them our own.

We’re at a place where if we don’t respect our own selves, no one else will, is what I said to P last night. It’s a new baton that I’ve come face-to-face with and am intrigued by. I truly believe that you and I are here, because we’re worthy by our own merit and judgement to be here; and that we have an equal hand in setting boundaries and making rules that work for and with us. Gone are the days when I remember standing in school or college, just waiting to get out and take control of my life. But somewhere down the line, and thanks to this humongous baggage of “no questions asked”, it started to feel like I was living by others’ ways and rules. I find this platform especially relevant today when I have so many looking up to me, hoping that I have answers, control, and some semblance of stability. Moreover, I find it an intriguing path to walk down, dotted with sharp turns and ridges that are waiting for me to trip and fall, or to trip and fly.

This is really the best time to be alive because there’s no telling time than this, that what you do is yours and yours alone, in all your selfish and self-obsessed glory and necessities. It’s a struggle, but it’s most real too.

142: Cheating

23 May

Today I’m cheating, and confessing about doing so. Yesterday was one of the best Mondays I’ve had in a long, long time. The school is at its fractional strength what with all the kids, except the senior students, already off. It was quiet, calm, serene, and it had rained. There was no clamouring, no crowding, no shouting, no hurrying. If this is a blessing, then I feel blessed. I even got to walk back home in a faint drizzle and under an overcast sky; there’s nothing more a Bangalore girl can ask for during a harsh North-Indian summer May Monday.

And then my internet died on me just when I was about to ease into some yoga which I haven’t been able to indulge in for an annoyingly long time. Therefore, out went my yoga and out went any chance I had of blogging as well. So here I am, writing about yesterday, today. And therefore I confess.

Yesterday was meant to be enjoyed in its entirety I presume. So there was some uninterrupted tree and sky-staring time, followed by a long conversation with P which ended a good hour later when her baby had a poop-blast situation. Because A also got back home much later than usual and I had time at hand, I did what most self-respecting domesticated wives do – cook. I made today’s lunch, dinner, and perhaps tomorrow’s breakfast as well, last night. There’s so much food in the fridge, A exclaimed, almost in fright. I’d say there’s no better friend than boxes of fresh home food to tide us through days when the last thing I want to do is cook.

There’s a box of black chana stew, dalia (a savoury broken wheat pilaf), cabbage stir fry (made in a mixed north-indian and south-indian style), mangalorean egg curry, leftover rice, dal, one piece of tandoori chicken, and some other essentials – that’s enough no? :P

141: Midnight Peace

21 May

I spent a considerable reserve of my midnight oil over a Buddha painting last night. I’d had a strong cuppa filter coffee to shake the jumble of sleeplessness and drowsiness off of me, which resulted in this unusual nocturnal engagement that kept me going till the painting was finished. I hopped back into bed thoroughly satisfied – both with myself and the influence of this muse that kept me going till the wee hours of today morning. Painting, like any other form of expression, is selflessly cathartic. There’s something about the combination of colours, free-flowing movement, and calmness that makes it an irresistible fix to turn to, especially when all I need is a huge slice of peace to keep my volatile thoughts in check. Of course I wish A and I could engage in some painting together, like one of those couples who make music together, but perhaps that’s for another time and day.

I was awakened by a faint tickle on my feet to a cup of tea and breakfast ready, but kept in the kitchen for me. It is more than I could’ve asked for. Perhaps some Sundays are best begun like this?

140: For Ma

20 May

This cake was a long time coming; one that I’d been dreaming of making but just never got around to investing time over, until today when it just happened. Needless to say, it was the most effort I’ve ever needed to put in for a simple tea-cake, but the results, as you can see, were fabulous, and just thrilling, to be honest.

Today is ma’s birthday, and it was absolutely fitting to have this bubble up in my oven and fill my house with the fragrance of love, and all things that ma is to me, and each of us. Besides, she loves her teacakes, and I cannot wait to make this for her, because we all have an Alex in us that needs to bite the Marty in us too. :)

This reminded me of two years back when I made ma her birthday cake at home; it was also the year I was moving away from home and her nest. It had to be doubly special for reasons still too emotional to describe.

Time flies, and here I am, sitting with another cake over yet another year that has arrived at our doorsteps.

While I can’t be with her on this day, and couldn’t be with her on this day last year either, this sense of serendipity makes up for it somehow.

Love is ma. Love is a freshly baked homemade cake, too. :)

139: May Days

19 May

I’m sitting in my drawing room, at my dining table, with all my doors open and the fan on full whack, with some amazing music on, and just enjoying this Friday evening that is. We’ve been experiencing the tease of cloudy, grey skies for a couple of days now; and it finally drizzled while I was taking attendance today. As it drizzled, I asked my noisy bunch to stay still, take in the weather, relax and ease into our Friday morning while I took attendance. As if and what was I thinking asking a bunch of energetic, active teens to sit still. Stupid me. However, their fate twisted in my favour when they were told to participate in a story-writing activity which required them to sit quietly and think. Haha! I looked out of my window and into the lawn, savouring in every moment of this precious petrichor that came my way, while my teens worked on their adventurous creative story.

A has just come back home and we’re both hanging around, as the weather takes a turn for the better. This maddening breeze has taken over our overcast sky, as always and on cue, so I’m just going to take it all in before the clouds dissipate and vanish to feed other parched souls somewhere else. The windstorms that visit us here, come with an altogether spellbinding force. Everything in this part of the country runs on extremes; and I speculate that generations of emotions, mindsets, moods, and ways of behaviour have taken their own sense of identity due to the weather we have here. There’s both a sense of friskiness and seriousness, black and white, highs and lows. There are no in-betweens whatsoever. And as I speak, we have a full-blown dust storm raging outside, simultaneously colouring my grey sky brown.

Let’s not get into what happened to those precious clouds. :[

But it’s the weekend, and I must find a way to step out in this madness to get my weekend in order. I hope you have a lovely Friday. :)

 

 

138: Oh Gosh, It’s Just Thursday!

18 May

A lot of me, if not all of me, has been under the presumption that every single day of this week has been Friday. It first hit me when it was just Tuesday, thanks to the number of absentees my class. I just randomly figured it must be the effect of the weekend; and what a horrible killjoy my reality was. It happened on Wednesday, and now today as well. But at least we’re inching closer towards the weekend that I so desperately want because a) weekend, and b) our summer holidays are almost here and getting to school has just become tediously difficult.

I love summer mornings, the sun is up and out at a peachy time, it’s cool outside, and it’s just the perfect ambience to wake up to. But come 8am and all hell breaks loose. Some classrooms feel like furnaces, where the functioning of ceiling fans is futile. I have no idea how students sit through the entire day of classes in that heat. What a task. I’m certain none of us can wait enough to get to the final Friday of this term. But that’s still a little while away.

Oh man, it’s just Thursday, folks! The time to unwind is here, almost. And we’ll have to just wait.

137: Rooted

17 May

It happened sometime last week when A was working unpredictable and horrible hours which left me home alone longer than I usually am. It was also the week when I fiercely tried making a physical cut between my work and home; when I tried finishing all my work at work and bringing back just empty tiffin boxes and myself home. Naturally I had time at hand to while away, and that’s when it all happened.

I revisited a yoga video series that I’d ditched early this year or late last year, I can’t remember, to make myself feel more physically useful and productive. My evening walks, whenever they did happen, had been stopped as well because of this weird hay-fever I’d developed thanks to the season. Besides, it’s not fun to walk in a 38 degree environment (even post 730pm), so there just had to be a way out when I wanted the comfort of physical movement.

Back then I gave this up because I’d naturally overestimated myself and underestimated the potential and power of feeling, being, and engaging in yoga. Oh, this looks too non-challenging and blah, or, yoga isn’t for me, is what I’d always say, and that’d be that. Basically I guess I was just too out of whack to even admit that I couldn’t even comfortably do something that looked so darn easy; the false ploy of ego, I tell you.

But I desperately needed some grounding, some calm, some mindspace to give myself all that I’d planned to give myself. How could I fathom giving my mind a breather if I didn’t allow it to breathe, and how could I feel energised or even connected and rooted without giving my body that energy it needed? It took a couple of days, but I could begin to identify these minute but very evident changes that slowly took root in me. To feel grounded, rooted, connected, energised, a conductor and channel of positive flowing energy is something my body and mind were thirsty for. Back when I did yoga in school, I’d learnt the power of its mysticism, except I never stuck on with it for innumerable reasons. To understand the supremacy of a single breath and the potential it has in it is quite fascinating. Not that I’m here to get philosophical or yogic with you, but here I am, five days (I started this more than a week ago but it’s been just five days) of yoga later, feeling a feeling that I haven’t a long while.

On the floor, in what I can assume is a yoga posture, and sipping on cold water under a tireless fan, I sit, writing this blog post for you and me. It’s just us, the hustle of these keys, the distant sound of a pressure cooker, and the choir of silence that has me exactly where I want to be.

Namaste.