Thursday, April 22, 2021

S is for Salt and Chillies #AtoZChallenge

 Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti, 
"A good mood, helped along by pleasant company, 
is an essential ingredient for enjoying our food."

Quote borrowed from The Book of Ichigo Ichie       
*****

You've all met Julie on 'J' day. But, if you missed out, you can meet her today : Julie

We go back to October 2018 for today's post, back to Julie and Guruji's house in Maunda, the last village of Uttarakhand.

The night was cold. The sky was an ocean of stars twinkling in inky waters. Our group of seven was sitting around an electric heater in Guruji's sitting room on thin carpets layered with thick, warm woollen rugs, cocooned in our thermals and down jackets. 

Whenever anyone entered or left the room (mostly to bring tea or water) he/she was told to shut the door securely.

Julie came in holding a steel thali and a katori (plate and bowl).

"Eat this. You'll love it. Eat with the chutney--majja aayega." crisp like the cold October night, Julie issued her instructions, handed the thali and katori to Rajat and left the room.

Roughly chopped wedges of apple, some big, some small, crowded the thali. 

"These are from our baag (orchard)." Guruji announced proudly.

I'd spotted one or two pink and white blossoms on the apple trees circling their house when we had arrived. Late bloomers. We were told the apple harvest had suffered because of unseasonal rains that year. The apples, although delicious, had become marked and were therefore not good enough to be sold in the mandi (market).

"Take the chutney." reminded Pradhanji, who was also sitting with us. 

I took a slice of apple, dipped it in the bowl, picked a tiny blob of coarse green chutney and took my first bite. 

A crescendo of lip-smacking, ooing, aahing and omging and wondering what could've made this chutney so damn tasty rose around the heater. 

Then Julie came back with more apple slices and chutney.

"You liked it." she announced her question with the surety of someone who knows how good their wares are.

"What was in it?" Rajat, the hotelier, asked.

"Salt and chillies."

"Must be Himalayan salt, pink salt?" offered Siddharth, another trekker who owns a successful restaurant.

"Na..na...arre, it's that packet one from the shop." Julie dismissed his suggestion with a smile.

"Must be the sillbatta (pestle and mortar) then. This taste--has to come from hand grinding chillies." Vani added.

"Arre, na...na...I can't handle sillbatta. I'm too old. I made it in the mixie (mixer-grinder)." Julie thwarted every suggestion skilfully.

"Are you sure there's nothing other than salt and chillies in the chutney?" Rajat tried again.

"Of course not! Just those chillies growing outside and saada namak (simple salt)." Julie's eyes were shining with tears of mirth at our expense while we sat around the heater, enamoured by her everyday, ordinary chutney.

It had to be the chillies. It had to be the good, nutritious soil of Julie's garden. It had to be her love. It had to be the fact that she grows them herself. We sat there that night listing all the ingredients Julie took for granted and therefore forgot to mention to us when we asked her for her chutney recipe.

The next morning, we left for the trek. We met her on the way. She was walking back home after collecting fresh grass for Lali, her cow.

"As long as I can walk, I'll feed her fresh grass." Julie had told us once.


The one thing I was looking forward to the most (second only to a shower) when we reached Maunda after our arduous trek was apple wedged dipped in Julie's home made chutney.

Do you have a simple 2/3 ingredient recipe that you'd like to share?
Is there a spice, condiment, chutney you cannot do without?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.


I wrote about serendipity in 2017. I didn't know about the concept of Ichigo Ichie then, but this post is a perfect fit : Silver Serendipity

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

R is for Rainbows on Table Mountain #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
*****
The last two days have been hard to sit and write and post and participate because of the dark and dismal news of Covid deaths and distress coming from India. There's been a deluge of  outpourings of grief and bewilderment. As if that wasn't enough, news of the fire on the slopes of Table Mountain erupted on the screen while the husband was watching cricket on Sunday.

Should I post? Should I carry on? Questions pop up.

The answer sits in front of me, spread out on my keyboard, waiting behind the sleeping screen. I see my own reflection in it as I sit and stare. Then the practice takes over. Fingers click and the screen flickers to life. I start typing and pour out my feelings. 

This  is the only anchor that's tethering me to my peace. Otherwise, I'd be fretting over things I can do nothing about. 

Like last year, the discipline of A to Z is helping me to carve out a routine that makes the sun and the moon and the stars rise and set in skies above me and in their rhythm, I see hope.
 
"If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, 
your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars."
Rabindranath Tagore's words guide me towards this post.
I look at the draft I'd prepared a few days ago, and decide to post. 

"Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love."
Without further ado, let's be led by Tagore's words and see the beauty of Table Mountain as we saw it in June 2019.
*****
Visiting Table Mountain is on everyone's agenda when they travel to Cape Town for the first time. I'd hoped for it too. The husband had travelled  to Cape Town for work a couple of times before and every time, weather gods had decreed that he would not get to the top of Table Mountain.

If you read the C post: A Cypriot honeymoon and other coastal curiosities, you may recall that our first day of holiday in Cape Town was a washout.  I hadn't put my hopes up. I was going to enjoy each day as it unfolded and that was that.

So, When the concierge at the hotel informed us after breakfast on Day 2 that a window of blue skies had opened up to let let in visitors to the Mountain, I was ecstatic.

But first, a roadblock.


There were two rainbows 
but the camera captured only one.
"The more one lives alone on the river or in the open country, the clearer it becomes that nothing is more beautiful or great than to perform the ordinary duties of one's daily life simply and naturally." Rabindranath Tagore


Listen and you will hear...
Clouds appeared out of nowhere. 
Within minutes, sky canvas drew dramatic art pieces one after another...

Yellow Margaret
sways atop Table Mountain
so clouds will bring rain
(a Haiku to highlight the water shortage in Cape Town)
The sky was blue within the hour.
For visitors like us, it was great.
But for the city, the clouds and the rain they bring would've been better.

"Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them."

-Rabindranath Tagore

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com
 
All the quotes above have come from this link: Rabindranath Tagore

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Q is for Quaffing beer at a Quaint bar #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
Under the subheading , 'A tool for Conscious Magic', 
the authors of The book of Ichigo Ichie write:

 Some people experience many meaningful coincidences while others seem immune to them. Why? This depends essentially on attention.

The subtle messages sent to us by chance are a tool for conscious magic that we can develop in various ways:
like...
 Paying more attention to what happens around us: 
Meetings with others, conversations, books, movies... synchronicity is often hidden in everyday details.

Continued from yesterday's post: Planters' Club

According to The Telegraph India Online, Planters' Club was originally called Darjeeling Club and it "used to function from a place called Thorn Cottage. In 1097, it became Darjeeling Club Ltd. and shifted to the building from where it runs now."

After relishing a couple of cups of fragrant Darjeeling tea while admiring the silver and gold peaks of Kanchenjunga from the balcony, we set out to explore Darjeeling. Of course, we'd made our dinner choices known to the staff at breakfast. Sadly, bread and butter pudding wasn't on the menu that night.

Wherever the British (during colonial days) made homes in India, bakeries emerged. My hometown, Dehradun, is famous for its rusks and sticky jaw toffee. Darjeeling has many famous bakeries, too. 

On our way to town, we passed a beautiful bakery near the club which had mouth-watering cakes and bakes on display in the window. We had just eaten breakfast, so, we carried on without indulging. 

After dinner that night, our second night at the club, we ventured into the bar.

I remember stepping inside a quaint room sprinkled with old world memorabilia. Its exact details fail me but the feeling of being surrounded by history and dark drapes emerges as I try to go back in time to write this post. 

I was a fresh lime soda girl back then. The husband loved his beer. He still does. He quaffed a few that evening.

The only other people at the bar were a group of four Europeans. 

Somehow, we all got talking. They were Tim (English) and his wife, Erica (Dutch) and Erica's parents who were visiting them. Tim and Erica were based in Calcutta.

The husband and I  had a super early start the next morning as we had decided to go to Tiger Hill to watch the sun rise over the peaks. So, after a couple of drinks, we bid our new friends good night and left.

Next afternoon, we bumped into Tim and Erica again.

Like us, they were headed to Gangtok the following morning.

'Why don't we share the jeep?" Tim suggested.

Super! we thought. By now we'd become very fond of them. And they seem to like our company, too.

The fact that Erica kept referring to her father as a mountain goat endeared him to me. And her father's prowess with beer chasers at the bar had impressed the husband no end.

Early next morning, packed and loaded, the six of us settled into the jeep we had hired with a driver to take us all to Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim.

The drive through lush green tea gardens was what dreams are made of. Acre after acre of tea plantations looked like a giant's bonsai collection spread out on either side of the curvy road.

Someone decided it was time to stop for a break.

I was at the back of the jeep. So, I wasn't privy to plans being hatched among the others up in front. When a suitable spot was spotted, we stopped, got off the jeep, stretched our legs and claimed a spot to spread out a picnic by the roadside.

From a magical world, Erica's mother conjured up a white cardboard box which was filled with all the baked goodies we'd been admiring in the bakery the previous morning. Yes, if you're reading this and drooling and wondering about our luck. Trust me, I'm with you as I recall that wonderful picnic in the middle of nowhere. Without our knowledge, they had packed generous portions of deliciousness for us. The gods of full bellies and tasty treats were on our side, for sure.

We sat there for a long time, by the roadside, enjoying our picnic among tea bushes, munching apples, exchanging life stories and clicking photos.  

Erica used the phrase 'our children' a couple of times that day.  She mentioned how they'd gone camping with 'their children' once and how they'd love to explore these hills with 'their children' next time they come to Darjeeling.

I was taken by surprise as I didn't think they had any children. They looked too young to have children old enough to be left home alone  while they enjoyed a holiday! I was confused. 

"How many children do you have?" I asked.

"Nine." Erica smiled.

And then she told me about 'her children'. Erica and Tim were referring to street children they were working with in Calcutta. 

You can find out more about their work here: Future Hope 

We've lost touch with them. We moved cities and then countries. And only now, when I was reminded of our trip (for the sake of this challenge) did I find out just how big and wonderful Tim and Erica's family has become. 

I'll be sharing this post with them. Will keep you posted if I hear back from them.

In the meantime, here are two photos taken at the picnic on 29th February, 1996.
From left: Erica, her parents, Ashish (aka the husband) and me.
Tim joined the group in this one and Ashish clicked.
Our  paths will cross once more  in Gangtok. That story is for another day:)
*****
What's your favourite picnic memory, or a favourite picnic spot?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

Last year, I wrote about my fond childhood memories and musical nostalgia: Q is for Qawwali 

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Monday, April 19, 2021

P is for Pudding in Planters' Club #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
"I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy,
I loved it even more."

From Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen
*****
February, 1996

As soon as I could afford to travel without borrowing money, I decided that I'd celebrate my birthdays by travelling to a new place.

I picked Darjeeling in 1996.

We were living in Calcutta. I had never been to Darjeeling. An opportunity to be close to the mountains was too compelling to resist. We picked the closest weekend to my birthday, packed and boarded the night train from Calcutta to Darjeeling.

I was chuffed to bits when I managed to book us a room at the historic Planters' Club on account of  low season. I was told it had the best views of the Kachenjungha range. 

After checking-in and the obligatory cup of tea, we decided to go for a walk before dinner.

Big mistake.

By the time we made our way back, fog had smudged everything around us like an impatient child's chalk drawing on a grey slate-board. 

The streets were dark and empty. The only lights flickering were coming from occupied rooms of Planters' Club. And even those looked like eerie beams from another world. Faint. Mystical. I remember two things clearly: the chill that penetrated the jacket I was wearing and gnawing hunger.

We would've stopped at a café to eat on our walk but nothing was open for business. 

We called for dinner as soon as we got in. We were told the kitchen at the club had shut. It was only 7 pm! 

Clubs have rules and they adhere to them with such passion that on our first night of holiday, we were left hungry. 

"You mean to say there is no food in the club?" I asked the man who came to light the fire in the fire place almost as soon as the husband had settled the phone in its cradle.

"This is a club. You are supposed to place your dinner orders by 1 pm." He stated in a matter of fact way while lighting the logs with the ease and expertise of someone who's done it forever.

"Why didn't anyone tell us when we checked in?" I was hangry now.

The look on the fire-fixer's face told me he was surprised at our stupidity. How could we have assumed that the shops in a hill station would remain open till late in low season? How could we have not known the rules of the club? 

The only 'how' howling inside my guts was: How am I going to sleep on an empty, rumbling tummy?

"Kuchch karo bhai...See, if you can do something brother." the husband is always more resourceful than I am in such situations.

"Mein dekhta hoon...let me see." the fire-fixer said and left the room.

We should've carried a packet of biscuits. I was fretting over what I should've done.

Half an hour passed. Then another fifteen minutes. Hunger pangs grew bolder. There was no sign of the fire-fixer.  Even the reception desk had shut by now.

Knock on the door.

The husband opened the door. 

The tray. The tray entered the room before the fire-fixer who was holding the tray. I noticed plates and bowls and hope placed neatly on the tray as he put it gently on the table by the fireplace.

"There were two portions of bread and butter pudding left in the kitchen. I got you those and then I went home to ask my wife if we had any food. I live just behind the club. She fixed you these chicken sandwiches. I hope these will fill you up."

Gobsmacked at the generosity of this man who didn't smile much, I mumbled thank you.

The wrinkles on his face didn't change their set ways. He didn't smile. 

"Don't forget to place your dinner orders tomorrow." he reminded us like a parent and left the room after saying a crisp 'good night'.

I don't have to tell you how delicious the food tasted that night. 

The next morning, a pot of steaming Darjeeling tea arrived and all was well with the world once again. 
The Planters' Club will prove to be a very memorable experience for another reason.: to be continued tomorrow...
*****
What's your favourite pudding?

Last year, I wrote about early morning walkabouts in misty autumns of Dehradun of my childhood. You can read it here: Prabhat Pheri

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

O is for O! Cloudsmen #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the third week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
*****
Sharing one of the Rules of Ichigo Ichie stated in the epilogue today:
"Make every gathering a party.
Don't wait for the right circumstances--a vacation, a trip, a birthday-- to experience extraordinary things. 
With the right frame of mind, every day can be a celebration."

Quote borrowed from The Book of Ichigo Ichie           

Walks, long walks, long morning walks are my refuge. If I were to pick a physical representation of Ichigo Ichie from my life, I'd pick morning walks: solo, silent and serene.

It's no surprise then that most of my poems, writing ideas take seed when I'm immersed in the walk. The walks start the same way--noticing trees, cars, buildings, the path and the sky as they pass me by. I carry on--one foot, then another on a path I'm so familiar with that I often find myself getting lost. In the familiar and the ordinary, lives a world that takes hold of me and my thoughts. I dissolve. So that when at the end of the walk,  I turn the key to start my car, a smile grows inside and outside. I'm born again.
(note: I have to drive to a park to walk. Yes, I get the irony.)

H.G. Wells' words: "Once you lose yourself, you have two choices: find the person you used to be, or lose that person completely." put it more eloquently than I can ever manage.

Imagine losing the old self often, and discovering a new you everyday! The rooster in the film Peter Rabbit comes to mind. Imagine the wonder!

The poem I'm sharing today is an ode to The Torch, a 300 metre tall tower that is a five star hotel. I see the Torch every day on my walks.

Rainfall is rare in Doha. So, when clouds gather in our skies, we write poetry, sing songs and pray for rain. You'll find Instagram posts in Doha carry only cloudscapes when Cirrus, Cumulus or Nimbus come by.

O! Cloudsmen
O! Cloudsmen,
tell me where all you've been.
Show me sights you've seen:
lakes, rivers, puddles, meadows,
mountains, cities, gardens, ghettos.

"Rain your songs on me.
Shower me with your stories",  says
the Torch to the flock of clouds who pass him by
in Doha sky.

Says he,
"Encased in my garment of steel, I stand 
grounded and tall, occupying
space like trees, butterflies, humans and all.

Clouds, you dance.
I glow.

You travel.
I don't.

Yet, you and I are tenants of the same cosmos, tethered
to each other with stories, of course.

Tell me more.
Tell me another,
O! Vapour like brother. 
Help me fly 
with your chatter.

Although, I'm happy 
in my state of matter: solidity suits me,
but every once in a while,
your flocks' fluttery flight 
intrigues me.

So, I ask you this favour:
stories you've witnessed,
let me also savour.

And when you fly 
to your next sky,
tell the ones who are keen
that in Doha you'd once seen
a Torch who wore
an armour of steel, but housed
a poet's heart
to feel.
*****

Note:I read Namratha's poem, The world whispers - whisper back recently and was inspired to try out line breaks after the verb in this poem. 
Does it work?
Honest feedback will be handled well here. This blog belongs to a girl who's grown up;)
Are you fond of walks?
When do you feel most inspired to write?
Do you have a favourite activity to go to for inspiration or when you feel stuck?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

As we close another week of the A to Z,
I can sense fatigue.
Noticed a bevy of typos and spelling mistakes 
in my post from yesterday!
Apologies, I say.
 
Wishing you a restful Sunday.
See you with P
on Monday.

You're welcome to travel back in time with O is for Ouch! -- last year's post written in the style of fantasy.

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Friday, April 16, 2021

N is for New Beginnings #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the third week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge.

Today's post, as the title suggests, is all about new beginnings. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti

"It's Never too Late to Bloom"

When we think of beginning, of developing something new, often what comes to mind is a young person with their whole life ahead of them, but this is only a prejudice. We all have the ability to make a new start in life, regardless of age.

Quote borrowed from The Book of Ichigo Ichie

I was struggling to find 'N' related topics to write for this post when suddenly, out of the blue, a whole string of 'topics' popped into my universe on the 13th of April.

The first was a message sent by a friend called Nandini. No, I'm not making it up. That's her name. She wished me Happy Navratri. Then more messages and greetings poured in. 

13th of April 2021 was special because it marked Baisakhi and Vishu (as usual) but this year it also heralded Navratri (festival of nine nights honouring the Universal feminine represented as Durga or Devi, the Goddess).

The Holy month of Ramadan also commenced on the 13th of April this year.

Baisakhi marks the beginning of the Hindu solar year and is known by different names in different parts of India. My Punjabi family celebrates it as Baisakhi. The Khalsa was formed by Sri Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh guru, on this day in 1699 to fight against religious oppression imposed by the ruling Mughal emperor.

The golden blooms of the Indian laburnum announce Vishu, (or Bisu) celebrated in some of the Southern states of India. It's believed that this is the day Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura.

Navratri and Ramadan herald a period of fasting and travelling inwards, to ruminate and contemplate and renew ones connection to the Divine. These festivals, rituals, practices help us to slow down, to pay attention, to mulch our soul soil so that we may ready ourselves to embrace new growth, to nurture our ever-changing and evolving selves.

Despite the sequestering and the new normal, I found that the past year has been a veritable garden of new beginnings for me. No, I didn't slay any demons or topple any emperors, but I did come face to face with my  doubts, commonly known as self-doubts. They can be as lethal as demons and because they're invisible like the virus, they bring harm insidiously.

Soon after the end of last year's A to Z blogging challenge, a string of events unfurled many new beginnings for me. And almost all of them were the result of the connections I had made during the challenge.

Arti of my space put me on the path of open mic storytelling sessions (on Instagram) when she performed on one. I was intrigued. So, I asked her and she shared all the details. For the first time ever in my life, I performed my poetry and stories and I absolutely loved it. She also shared details of the National Story Slam contest. I sent in my entry and even got as far as the regional rounds. Performing a story is very different from writing one and that too on Zoom! Needless to say, the dormant performer in me woke up in 2020.

The Writers' Nook, by the Hive, a group on Facebook ,opened up for submissions for an anthology titled, Tea with a drop of honey. I sent them a couple of my stories. One got picked and there I was tucking another 'first' in my cap:)

Sonia Dogra, another friend from last year's A to Z, shared news of a poetry anthology. The Kali Project houses one my poems called 'A home for her children' and I couldn't be prouder.

By June of last year, I had not only started performing on open mic sessions every week, I even started writing and recording poems in Hindi. A YouTube channel was born to keep these recordings in one place and to share them with others. 

If you'd asked me in 2019 that I'd be looking at 30k hits and views for a poem I wrote about my mother's depression and bi-polarity, I would've laughed at the impossibility of it. But it happened and along with it came my first radio performance for Mirchi Scribbled, a well known radio platform in India.

For the first time ever, some of my photographs were selected in competitions. Poetry and photography platforms that were not accessible to me because of where I live, started opening up virtually in 2020. 

I'll stop tooting my horn as it's sounding very, very, vain. But, the point of this post is firstly, to show that it's never too late to start. 

And secondly, to highlight that before any of the above happened, it's the readers (friends, family and other bloggers) who kept supporting me with their comments and words of encouragement from the day I started sharing my writing (about 8 years ago). I can't name them all here. But you know who you are. 

New beginnings are easier to break through when one is supported. Danish Hussain, a fabulous actor, playwright, director and storyteller, who's open mic sessions sprouted the performer in me, gives 'the power of appreciation' credit for his success. He passes it on in spades to others.

None of what I may call as my 'achievements' would have happened if you, the readers of these posts, hadn't shown your love. Thank you, each and every one of you, for your love and time.

I recently read an article called 'Time to Take a Leap' published in the January 2012 issue of Red magazine. Yes, I keep old magazines for a very long time. This caught my eye: "The more times you put yourself out of your comfort zone and handle it, the easier it gets."

Even this year's A to Z was looking impossible to tackle in March. I felt I had exhausted all my material during the growth spurt of 2020 as I rely mostly on my memories. But how wrong I was! 

Like the yoga mat, where showing up is the hardest part, starting what you love to do can be hard. But once you hunker down, it gives and gives.

"If you're brave enough to do what you love, every day would be the best day of your life."
Quote borrowed from The Book of Ichigo Ichie

I'd like to wish you all new and wonderful beginnings with this delightful animated illustration created by the Bohra Sisters  based on a story I wrote.  

And for a change, every now and again, it feels good to pat ones own back and say: "well done you!" I don't think it's vain. I think it's akin to acknowledging the Divine within.
Have you overcome any demons recently? 
Did 2020 surprise you in a pleasant way?
Is there something you've done for the first time recently and you'd like to share?
You know, I'd love to hear.
*****
I'll re-share one of my poems here. In case you've got the time, you may want to listen. It's in English and it's called Mohini (only female re-incarnation of Vishnu, destroyer of demons, essence of Shaktism). 

Last year, I wrote about my fearless childhood in N is for Nidar

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

M is for Mudras in Modhera #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the third week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I'm exploring the 'Enemies of Ichigo Ichie' this week. Yesterday, it was 'projections'. Today's focus is on 'analysis' and 'impatience.'

Let's step into a day in January of 2017 in Gujarat for today's post.

Thank you.

Arti
*****
                             "There is a common saying that goes, 'If you want to be happy, don't analyse everything.' 
The joy of the moment can't be defined, dissected, understood; it can only be lived."

"Ichigo Ichie demands that we give ourselves over to what we experience without any kind of expectation."
Quotes borrowed from The Book of Ichigo Ichie                
January, 2017.
By the time our group of six had paid for the entrance ticket at the Sun Temple in Modhera (an 11th century Chaulakya Dynasty temple), the mid-day sun was high in the sky. It was January but the bright heat was threatening to dampen our exploration. 
As is usual for me, after deciding on a time when we'd head back, I broke away from the group to explore the temple with my camera. 
Something caught my eye:
red. green and graceful.
From across the pond, with limited zoom,
a scene was born.
They didn't look like casual tourists.
They must be dancers, I thought.
I'd seen banners and posters at the entrance announcing the dance festival.
First two, then six and then seven.
I spotted others clicking them.
My heart skipped a beat.
Stumbling into a dream,
I clicked
dancers breathing life
into stones and relics.
They took their time to adjust, 
change, agree, disagree and finally settle to strike their dancers' pose.
I was lost 
in their sequence, of course.
What synchronicity!
such luck...
to witness ancient carvings come unstuck
from pages of history 
to float ethereally
like an open mystery.

Every moment I absorbed patiently,
mudra* magic unravelled right in front of me.

'Kshanabhangur'
lost in a breath, in a split second
the bubble burst as soon as I heard
the outside world.
I hope you enjoyed these magical moments in Modhera as much as I did back when travelling was easy.

Patience pays and analysis doesn't. Had I rushed ahead to tick all the must-see boxes of the Sun temple, or asked around to find out what was going on, why those people were allowed inside the 'out of bounds' area, I would've missed it all.

We ended up buying tickets for the dance festival. And we came back later that night with great expectations only to be bitterly disappointed. 

In my opinion, the artificial and garish lights cast an ugly glow on this ancient temple and the gazillions of speeches and garlands to thank all the 'important' people to kick start the festival made us very, very impatient for the dancers to come on stage. 

But when they did, the loud speakers washed away their delicate movements. It was such a cacophony of sound and light that it felt more like a mockery of our ancient culture than a celebration. I may sound harsh but sometimes, actually most times, less is better when it comes to showcasing that which is already so beautiful--classical dances, poetry, architecture. We should be preserving it, not distorting it with 'newness'.
The dancers I clicked would perform Odissi dance which  is considered to be the oldest (traced back to 2nd century BC) and the most graceful of all Indian classical dance forms, at the festival. 
Their mudras and poses from the afternoon would outperform their evening presentations in my view. 
According to Deepam Odissi Academy Muscat's website, "A Mudra* is a symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu and Buddhist iconography, performing arts, and spiritual practice, including yoga, dance, drama and tantra.
There are a total of 28 mudras in the Abhinaya Darpan or the The Mirror of Gesture."

I'm sharing this translation of a prayer that appears in The Mirror of Gestures and according to this site and others I came across while researching, it is taught to Indian classical dancers.

Translation

Where the hands are, the eyes follow

Where the eyes are, the mind follows

Where the mind goes, there is expression

Where this is expression, mood is evoked

Doesn't the prayer sound  like Ichigo Ichie to you? It's all about paying attention.

Leaving you with a short Odissi dance piece performed in Venice. It's beautiful. Enjoy.


Coincidentally, I came across a blog post on 'G' day which explores the famous poet, Jayadeva's Gita Govindam which is an integral part of Odissi dance and music. You can read more here: Gita Govindam - the ultimate romance

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com