Sunday, June 15, 2014

Of Doors and Shekhawati in Rajasthan.

Two weeks ago, I decided to take a month off from work so that I could catch up on reading and writing.

I haven't even picked up a book- let alone turn the first page.

And  today is the first time I've sat down to write!

Why? you ask.


Yes, the list of 'becauses' is a dark well of excuses which sucks creativity and thrives on guilt (or any other negative emotional factor).

Guilt? Why guilt? It's a funny thing guilt...somehow, WE,  the women seem to suffer from it more than the men.

My guilt skips around housework and hops on top of the kitchen stove - teasing me into sorting out the cupboards, cooking meals and folding the laundry and cleverly enticing me away from my personal pleasures- reading and writing.

So, today, after dropping my son off to school, I came back home armed with a strong resolve to get rid of the guilt, shut my eyes to the unmade bed and just write.

As I turned the key to open my front door, I realised that I had held the key to my guilt all along - that I am the chief key holder of my life. What I let in through the door is entirely my choice.

I'm sure a year of practising yoga has something to do with this 'awareness'-this simple truth that my day is mine to mould the way I want to. It is liberating.

Yes, the mundane can't be ignored but emotions like frustration, fear, guilt, regret, and anger can be asked to leave my door step after they've rung the bell because let's face it...they do tend to pay regular visits.

My front door in all it's infinite wisdom asked me to think about the many doors I open and close every day.

Doors that let in friends.
Doors that promise a warm family gathering when you open them.
Doors you look back at and check that they are secure when you leave.
Doors that glare at you with a teenager's angst when you try to enter them.
Doors that succumb to the clothes stuffed behind them and pour their hearts out when you open them.
Doors that are shut quietly when the amorous juices start flowing but still manage to groan in mischief.
Doors with big brassy name plates announcing the importance of the room's occupant.
Doors happy with 'welcome home' signs.
Doors with dodgy locks in public toilets screaming silently in panic.
Doors with sweaty slippery handles- apprehensive with the outcome of a job interview.
Doors you never knock on and
Doors you ALWAYS knock on.
Doors with a 'foot in' - promising a secure career progression.
Doors with a glass ceiling- unrelenting.
Doors that are never shut and
Doors that never open
Doors that exist only in our minds.
Doors that hide painful memories and are barred shut but do sometimes creak open.
Doors that rattle with rage when the ego is bruised.

Is opening a door different from closing one?
Do we even need doors?
Do we need these filters to protect us or the ones who live with us?
How many doors have you opened recently?
And have you shut any?

I opened a door to practising yoga a year ago
and that made me realise
that I am okay with just a door frame-
A 'dehleej', a 'chaukhat'
Where my feelings can park for a bit
And enter only if I give them permission.

I am alive and I can't deny that visitors like
love and pain, laughter and guilt, anger and joy
will stop by every day
But who I let in
and who I ask to leave
Entirely up to ME.


All this talk of doors reminded me of a trip I had taken to Shekhawati in Rajasthan.  This was in February of 2013 and I wasn't blogging then.

The trip was organised by a dear friend from college, Aparna Acharya (who deserves a post dedicated entirely to her for what she does for a living). Yes, she opens a lot of doors to let people see the beauty of India.

I won't be writing any captions for the following pictures. I would like for you to just soak in this beauty the way I did while wandering the streets of Shekhawati- the land of frescoes, doors and windows, arches and domes and warm and  inquisitive people.

And if you like what you see and would like to go, you can visit and start planning:)

Aparna had arranged for us to stay at Roop Niwas Kothi in Nawalgarh... the perfect place to come back to and relax after a day out in the biggest art gallery (I've ever seen) that is this town.

I can't resist posting the following picture of our loo...

There was even a nook for my book...

The view from our room door...

So this journey comes to an end. 
It started almost three hours ago when I decided to just do it. 
I think it's time to take a break and relax. Have a wonderful day everyone and do share your doors -
memorable, ordinary, extra-ordinary, tangible or otherwise with me.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Gardening in Doha... Diagnosis-Obsessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder

While my friends in London take out their lawn mowers,
I clean out the pots that held pretty petunias.
While they watch the drama of their flower beds unfold
And gear up for the Chelsea Flower show,
I dust off the baskets which were burdened with blossoms
just a few weeks ago.

Yes, 'tis that time of the year in Doha
when old must give way to the new
The concerto of colours that was played out in my yard
must now bow out to the curtain call
of the searing, sweltering heat of the desert.

I thank  phone with the camera button
for letting me capture these flippant beauties in their prime
for I may never have the time to "lie on my couch
In vacant or in pensive mood"
like dear old William Wordsworth
but with your help
I can reminisce vividly when
"They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;"
or scroll down my computer screen
"And then my heart with pleasure fill,
And dance with the daffodils."
Or in my case-
Anything that grew in my yard
in this thirsty land.      

My love affair with my yard
became public
on Valentine's day
but my family are
now thinking of sending me to rehab
while I keep saying 'No! No! No!
(cheesy, I know.)
for in their eyes
I suffer not from 'love'
but from OCGD-
Obsessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder.

I will continue to deny
and keep sharing my
photo albums with you
like the proud parent
who doesn't understand why
showing their baby's 56 photos
of almost identical poses
should not THRILL the audience.

In this post today
I share with you
what happened
in the Spring of 2014
in a little yard
that became my addiction...

This bath tub was discarded by a neighbour and now lives happily in my garden. It has yielded peas, potato vines, lemon grass, geraniums and lots of nasturtiums over the years. It is also home to a blooming oleander shrub.

The tyre project came to life after the husband changed his car tyres and brought the old ones home. I used one to plant my first pond in Doha and a couple others on the wall.

This pale petunia looked ethereal against the beautiful March sky.

"What is blue? the sky is blue
Where the clouds float thro'."
(Colour by Chritina Rossetti)

Almost anything that I can fill with soil comes out- here's my vegetable basket from the kitchen holding a mint pot.


Succulents are such kind plants- demanding little and giving so much. Can you see the flecks of magenta on the edges of the orange petals?

Baskets full of thyme. The fragrance of thyme...heaven!

And the long shot...

The ubiquitous bougainvillea and petunias and pansies:-

I was super thrilled to find this trailing geranium in a nursery here. You can't imagine what an adventure it is to find plants here. It's not like stepping into a garden centre in London or visiting a nursery in Dehradun where you know you are sure to find certain plants. Here, the intermittent supply chain creates a sense of excitement every time you visit a nursery because you never know what you might spot.

I bought this African bowl (made from a gourd)at a yard sale for a $1. Bargain! Yes, yard sales are great for finding pots in Doha as they can be an expensive purchase here.

Desert Rose...

And another long shot...

This year I used these bamboo mats to support this vine- the guy at the nursery said it's 'morning glory'. I don't know for sure as the morning glory I know of has different blooms and leaves. This could be an Ipomea vine. Do you know what this is called? I like the marriage of these leaves and the bamboo mat.

As the summer temperatures soar, I look forward to these buds to bloom. The lemon grass and jasmine perfume the sultry summer days. Gardenias (in partial shade) and Ixoras (in full sun) continue to cheer me up while I sweat buckets and drag my exhausted self indoors after only a few hours of 'gardening'. 

I have a big garden clear out planned for tomorrow...hope to keep the green going for as long as it is possible before the summer scorches everything into dust except for the strong and  the resilient.