Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Haiku and a Tanka (almost:)

Haiku #2


The bees came in May-
to drink honey only they could see.
Come, my dates are ready.

(~says the date palm tree)

**********

Tanka #1 


Erase my edges.
Soften me, O! Dragonfly.
Smudge me to oblivion;
where I can be you or me,
Frangipani or blue sky.

(~ say I as I attempt to write a Tanka but can't seem to whittle off the extra syllable in line 3!)

**********
Dear Readers,

The date palm trees in Doha are pregnant with ripe fruit now. The first photo was made in May when the blossoms were hosting boisterous parties for honey bees.

This year, dragonflies have been regular visitors--I'm not sure why. Perhaps all the quietness induced by Covid is responsible. I'm not complaining--I'm grateful for such good looking visitors who sit still on branches for hours so that novice photographers like me can click to our hearts' content.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy weekend.

Stay safe and enjoy nature and her bounteous beauty.

Warm regards

Arti


Monday, July 6, 2020

An obituary: 30 years late: for my mother: in Hindi: as a poem called हमारी माँ की अलमारी

Dear Readers,

Hope you are all well.

It was Guru Purnima yesterday:  Full Moon day dedicated to all gurus in ones life. I wrote and recited a poem in memory of my mother. She was and always will be my first guru.

It's a poem in Hindi: an obituary that is 30 years late.
एक श्रधांजलि माँ के लिए,
मेरी पहली गुरु।
I lost her when I was nineteen. The poem explores her struggles with depression and the impact it had on us as we were growing up. It's taken me 30 years to commit my thoughts and feelings about those years to paper. It's never easy.

I believe talking about such experiences helps to remove the stigma attached to mental health issues. Understanding comes when we share stories: honestly, gently and openly. Stories may not be remedies but they are powerful tools of healing.
Thank you for listening.
It’s an emotional piece. Be aware.


Have a wonderful week ahead.
Stay safe and healthy.
I'll see you soon.
Much love. xx

Friday, June 19, 2020

Waiting for Mules: a photo essay of our trek to Chainsheel Lake (Part 1) #TravelouesofArtiJain

Dear Readers,

I hope you are all well and healthy.

Today, I'm sharing memories of a trek that I went on in October 2018. As memories are many and wonderful, I've decided to split the travelogue into parts.

Offering part 1 today for your reading pleasure.

The photos were made then but are being looked at and shared now--thanks to my current home-bound journey status, I'm able to look back at the treasures of my past travels and relish them all over again.

I hope you'll join me.

Warm regards

Arti.


The morning temperature read -5 degrees Celsius in Mandi Thatch. Misty fog seemed reluctant to let go of the sun. She wanted another cuddle.  

It was the morning after the night of celebrating Vani's 50th birthday. 

Vani, a dancer, a health coach and an avid trekker had decided to celebrate her milestone birthday in the mountains, doing what she likes best--trekking. And even though October gets cold in the Himalayas, a couple of us volunteered to be part of her birthday celebrations--happily and eagerly.

Apu, as usual, did all the spade work. She sent us the itinerary and a packing list. Looking at the weather predictions, I packed all the thermal vests and leggings I had ever bought from UniQlo and landed in Maunda: a village that will become very dear to us after this trip. 

Outdoor Monks were trusted with the task of taking us to our destination: Chainsheel Lake, nestled in the lush green folds of Chainsheel bhugyal -- a high altitude meadow in the Himalayas perched at 3,600 metres above sea level. As there had been a few unfortunate episodes of loss of life in these parts the previous year, the village Pradhanji and one of his friends, Rana ji, came along with us as local guides.
You can see Maunda's charming Pradhan ji (on the right of this photo) all set to embark on the trek with us.  While we were lugging all the thermals known to us and were kitted out in our carefully thought out trekking gear, Pradhan ji's preparation included packing his phone and  a change of clothes and Ranaji for his part, carried his transistor. 

Our trek started in Maunda.  The khacchar wala (the mule owner) who was supposed to accompany the team did not turn up. So, some local lads from a nearby village were roped in to help out with the trek.

The trail we were supposed to take had not been accessed all year. So, this trek to celebrate Vani's 50th would wear many hats -- as a trial to check out the route, as an opportunity to capture its beauty to promote the village of Maunda as a suitable base to start all future treks from and consequently bring much needed commerce into the village.  All we, the mountain lovers whose souls dwell in these parts, needed was an excuse to pack up and go. So we did.

Six or seven hours of hiking later, we reached Sonawat Thatch, our first camp site, by early evening. 

Tents were set up. Dinner followed a couple of rounds of tea and a young moon shone in the deep Himalayan sky while we rested.

As an early riser and as someone who can make do with four hours of sleep on treks, I can be found outside my tent, waiting for the sun to rise.  The next morning was no different.

For me, every sunrise and every sunset witnessed is like a new book read or a poem told. The alchemy of sun and sky in those hours has to be witnessed to behold. 

Sunrises and sunsets are the best kind of gold to hoard in a life time. I'd like to be the Bill Gates of sunsets and sunrises one day. I'm not kidding. I'm extremely ambitious like that.

The sun rose like a sorcerer that morning and sprinkled Sonawat Thatch with its magic.
The mules, though, had a slightly different point of view. Do you notice the ground frost? 
After breakfast, we loaded our day packs on our backs, slathered on sun cream while the team loaded the mules with everything else--all the essentials needed to spend five nights outdoors, in the Himalayas in October.

Clear blue skies, grove after grove of bare branched birch trees and unending rows of mountains kept our spirits up and vibrant. Mountains come in all shapes and forms. The one we were about to traverse seemed to have suffered a few erosive blows from land slides in the monsoon rains. The path ahead started getting narrower and rockier.  

And then it became dangerous. The only saving grace was that it wasn't raining. We crossed this stretch in single file. The rubble and debris on the path made it slippery at places. But as humans with two legs carrying just the day's supplies of lunch, water and extra layers, we managed to cross over pretty deftly and then whooped a triumphant whoop when we got to the other side. The mules who were following us had a very different experience.

You see, treks are a means of income for villages in the Himalayas where employment opportunities are rare as all developmental policies in India, like in many other countries, focus exclusively on manufacturing and building and hardly ever on preserving and conserving. We are all witnessing the effects of such lopsided, money-making, short-term solution based policies.  Treks in these parts are akin to a co-operative movement: the entire village benefits from it, assuming that the head or pradhan has his people's best interest at heart. 

Mules are loaded up with tents and other camping equipment. Care is taken to ensure they are not over burdened and that the weight is proportionate on both sides. A trekking team is as good as its mules/donkeys. Without them, treks such as the one I go on wouldn't be possible. This also provides earning opportunities to the village youth who would otherwise head out to towns and cities, as is the case in so many parts of India. Thus, emptying villages of youth and hope. 
As you can see, with all this load, it was impossible for the mules to cross the narrow ledge. We didn't know any of this, of course. We had carried on ahead and when there were no donkeys in sight behind us, had decided to wait for them.

It was a very long wait!
We waited and we waited and then we waited some more. First, I went around clicking photos of mountains and trees. Then, I munched on an apple. Then I clicked a few photos of us waiting. That's Apu up there. Now, the thing is that without our mules, we wouldn't be able to carry on ahead. I'm usually lost in my own world so I tend to find out what's going on pretty late. Any stop on a trek is an unhindered opportunity to click. So I click and don't ask too many questions.  When the waiting didn't end for a very long time, I asked.

"They're having trouble with that last pass." Someone said.

All manners of speculations and suggestions fluttered around the group. Pradhanji, for his part, sat unperturbed and Ranaji's transistor rang out ---"Yeh Akashwani ki...seva..." to break the silence when conversations died down: as they do when one is faced with an unexpected change of plans. 

"I can see them." declared Pradhanji, getting up from the perch he was sitting on- on his haunches all this while, smoking.

"Where? Where?" we all erupted simultaneously.

"Ooooh...there....can you see that falan-falan bend ..." he pointed his finger in the direction we'd just come up from.

To say that it took me an hour after he'd spotted the moving mules on the horizon to make out dark blobs of movement far, far, away is no exaggeration. Well, that's what you get when you live in cities---you stop seeing clearly!

A collective sigh of relief followed by a chorus of "kya hua, kya hua?" (what happened, what happened?) greeted the team when they finally joined us in Mandi Thatch, our camp site for the day.

As expected, the narrow ledge had freaked out the mules who rely entirely on their instincts for survival. So, their loads had to be offloaded. Each mule was then cajoled/pushed/perhaps even threatened to cross the ledge, guided by its keeper. The loads were then carried by the team across the ledge and only when the mules felt settled, were they loaded up, balanced and secured (for the second time that day) for the rest of the journey. 
Once reunited, the tents were pitched, tea was made and life returned to normal once again.

That night, Surinder, the chef, excelled far and beyond our expectations. He makes the most amazing food but when he and the team brought out a cake: baked in the tent in a pressure cooker and dotted with candles to celebrate Vani's 50th, it left us all speechless. I still can't fathom how Surinder manages to bake and cook such feasts at such altitudes! The cake was delicious.

Sunset and bonfire, cake and cuppa, songs of 'Happy birthday' sung in English and Garhwali, tum jiyo hazzaron saal... followed by amazing shero-shayari (poetry recitals) by Pradhanji created a celebration like none seen before or since. It was perfect. We went to bed clad in many layers of warmth, both the thermal kind and the fuzzy kind one feels in ones heart when man and nature come together.

The next morning unfolded dramatically. 

"Our mules have gone.... khacchar bhaag gaye...the mules have fled..." cries of wonder and hilarity (the kind one finds in unimaginable situations) tweeted around Mandi Thatch along with birdsong a little before sun rise. 

The morning was bitterly cold.
Siddhartha's thermometer refused to rise above -5 degrees Celcius despite his effort to take it to the 'sunniest' spot around his tent.

After some chaotic kerfuffle trying to figure out the mules' whereabouts, the team figured that they must've made their way back to their village--yes, equivalent to  a day and a half of our trek thus far. A little sleuthing revealed that while the mules' novice keepers took to their grasses to invite sound sleep, the mules had decided to scamper all the way back to the warmth and familiarity of their own haystacks and sheds in the village. Animal instincts are fine tuned for survival. 

Another wait unfolded. But, with hot cups of tea, yummy breakfast and enough warm layers, we were able to crack jokes. Or perhaps, it's the innate optimism of a new day breaking out over the mountains that makes one see everything through the prism of positivism. Or maybe, it was Pradhanji's chilled out vibes that helped. His reaction to the situation was akin to a father's whose son or daughter  has just missed the school bus and he knows he'll have to take his car/scooter out to drop his offspring--a slight deviation in daily routine but nothing to get worked up about. When one is in sync with nature, patience comes naturally.

Khacchar walas (keepers of mules) took off to look for the stars of the trek and to fetch them back. 

As soon as word reached  that they had been spotted and were now being brought back, it was decided that the group would carry on ahead with Bharat, our team leader, while the rest of the team of Outdoor Monks will wait to load up the Moody Mules and follow us.

By then, fog had reluctantly let go of the sun. The long wait for our band of rebels to be found worked in our favour. Slowly and steadily, a bright sunny day began to emerge from the smothering cuddles of Himalayan fog.

Everything sparkled-- snow, stones, shrubs and our smiles:)
A 'happy' birthday girl:)
The pictures that follow were all taken on Day 3 of the trek: we covered 11 kms that day from Mandi Thatch (Bhutaha) to Sarutal. Come along and enjoy the spectacular views. The air is fresh and crisp. Cerulean skies and fluffy clouds are ready to keep you company.




To stand and ponder and stare for hours without any agenda or plans--now, that's bliss in my world. And when one gets amazing chai after a long day of walking and admiring, that's what I call sone pe suhaga:
translation: Gold. Pure Gold.
I'll be back with more bags of gold for you soon-ish. Part 2 of this travelogue promises to blow your socks off -- or rather freeze them--because while we will be climbing higher to get closer to Chainsheel Lake, the temperature will tumble lower.

The views, however, will make it all worth your while as they did for us.

Till then, stay safe and healthy. Smile often and dance whenever you can:)

Happy weekend dear ones. xx

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 2020: Bidding it goodbye with photos of Gulmohar and #Poetry


Dear Readers,

I hope you've been well.

May, of the year 2020, like many things we took for granted all our lives, was unusual. Perhaps, 'new normal' is a better phrase to describe May this year.

Doha, as you know, gets very, very hot as May approaches. So, for a vagabond soul like mine, it's imperative that I step outside the confines of what I call home for a walk before the sun gets too hot. Walks are my oxygen. And in order to survive, I don't mind waking up at twenty past four in the morning just so that I can start my day on my terms.

Going for long walks (alone) always centres me, stills me and very often these walks plant ideas for new writing: poems and stories, musings and memories. 

Clicking photos is another hobby that keeps me grounded in the present moment. 

Morning walks are my kind of mindfulness: 
every step 
every breath 
every fallen leaf or petal 
every discarded scrap of metal
reminds me 
of the precious gift of this very moment
when I can go on my morning walk
and pay attention 
to
every chirp
every bird
every fallen feather 
in this humid weather
a car that zooms past
and calls to prayer that blast
through the newborn sky
remind me
of the precious gift of this very moment
when I can go on my morning walk
and pay attention
to
the splendour of slowly erupting lava of the Gulmohar tree
who stands by the roadside
Flamboyant, Resplendent and Free
Come with me
I've gathered a few fallen petals
some colours, 
some photos
and words
that got woven into some form of poetry.

May will be gone tomorrow
This much I know.
I'll set my alarm for twenty past four
so I may walk out of my front door 
to welcome June
who'll be wondering
why all the roads and walking tracks 
are so clean
of human feet and shadows
I'll keep him company for a bit
so I may welcome June
while masking my mouth and nose
and 
absolutely, no shaking of hands, of course.
I'll just nod
and carry on
Dear June, 
welcome to Twenty, Twenty
**********







All the photos shared were taken this week:

For all those who can understand Hindi, a poetry recital to bid May goodbye....


Wishing you all good health, happy hearts and blue skies.
xx

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

She smiles and makes bangles with beads #travelogues of Arti Jain

Little Rann of Kutch, 2017
She smiles and makes bangles with beads.

Young, plucky and shrewd can also be used to describe this young Banjaran of Kutch. I met her in 2017 in Little Rann of Kutch. I didn't write her name down in a diary and my sieve memory is failing me to recall what she's called.

On my travels, commerce for clicks is a motto that works well for both the parties. I get to make a picture and the subject gets to sell her wares.

She agreed to get her picture taken when I asked on one condition: I had to buy bangles from her.

I was more than happy to oblige -- who could resist those charming eyes?

"Oh! I love your earrings--the ones you're wearing.." I blurted out, baring my greed and excitement to her while picking a few bangles.

Without blinking an eyelid, she removed her earrings and handed them to me.

"Here. You can buy them." she commanded with her twinkling eyes.

I was putty in her hands.

"You paid too much." someone in the group commented when I got back into the mini van.

"It's probably not even silver." she clarified my stupidity at buying something that expensive first thing in the morning and without any guarantee of authenticity of silver!

You see, we had just started the day. The Banjara women had spread their wares out on the porch outside the reception area of the place we had spent the night in Little Rann of Kutch.

I felt a twinge of regret at my over-excited nature but the earrings were so beautiful.

A couple of days later, I met a young jeweller in Bhuj and I showed him those earrings and asked him to check if they were silver or not.

He told me that they were but of course not pure silver.

"Did I get cheated?" I asked him.

He smiled and said, " Do you like them?"

"Yes. very much."

"Then you paid as much as you could afford for what you liked. Banjara make jewellery when they have enough money to buy silver. Then, in times of need or when they find a customer, they sell it. You are happy with your earrings and she's happy with the money she made. Simple." he made a matter of fact statement and smiled.

This young jeweller's name is Jay and he taught me a valuable lesson that day.

Banjara women wear a silver band that sits across their head and they hook their earrings from these bands, so the pair she sold me didn't have a post, just a hook.

I had to wait a year before Anu took me to her jewellery guy in Doha to get posts welded on to these earrings so I could wear them.
I love them. And every time I wear them, I think of her smile and her twinkling eyes.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The attitude of greytitude

Good morning dear Readers.
I hope all is well with you and your loved ones.
"I'll post every Sunday if we are still observing self-isolation in May." I had thought at the end of April.
I'm not ready with a brand new post today.
So, sharing an older one which seems to resonate with me these days.
Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy Sunday
Arti. xx

What is grey?

Is it a minus or a plus?

Is it the fading of colour from lush black hair?

Or an adding of salt and pepper to their ripeness? 

Is the lack of colour a reminder of my mortality?

Or a timely reminder to celebrate the years lived?

How you look at grey is entirely up to you.

I'll be celebrating my forty-eighth birthday soon. I've been greying for a few years now. After almost a decade of henna application regimen of once a month, I switched to hair colour when the rate of greying spiked. I convinced myself that No Ammonia written in purple letters on my box of shop bought colour meant it's almost chemical free and therefore harmless. I was wrong. My hair didn't take to the colour like I'd hoped it would and so I'm back to applying henna twice a month. The henna I use these days is organic. Yes, I believe the claims made by the packaging.

I've thought about greying naturally many times. To not bother about covering up my ripening roots. To celebrate rather than hide my luck to have lived this long, and mostly in good health. I'll be a year older than my mother ever was when I turn 48. 

But this pull of vanity makes me pick up that brush, load it up with goopy green henna paste, slather it on my head, paying special attention to the pesky roots, the obstinate growth above the temples that NEVER changes colour, no matter how many layers of colour or henna I put on it. Then there's the 4 to 6 hours of waiting, wearing a drying henna crown covered in cling film or shower cap. A couple of sheets of kitchen towel are twisted and stuffed into the edges of the shower cap to stop the henna from leaking on to my forehead or ears or clothes or the floor. The washing off of henna takes time. The bath gets super messy. All in all, it's a very messy and tedious process. 

Of course, this can all be replicated in a salon. I don't have the patience to sit for long periods of time in salons and my middle class Punjabi upbringing runs strongly through my veins. So, if I can achieve the same results at home, I'd rather wear my crown of crusty henna for a few hours every fortnight while I cook or watch Netflix or read.

The question I struggle with is why do it at all? 

I admire women and men who are happy with their greys. My husband is one of them.

I'd like to be just like them when I grow up.

I keep promising myself that I'll stop colouring my hair after this next milestone in my life. Our son's high school graduation in May. Our daughter's university graduation in June. Our holiday in September. That dinner at a friend's last Thursday. Yes, you get the idea. The pull of vanity is strong with this one. 

At times like these, I take refuge in the shade of greytitude (a term that popped into my head on one of my morning walks): a state of being that allows a person to be kind to themselves. It's when grey mixes with gratitude. It's when after having lived a few decades of accumulating material comforts, one realises how important the free things in life are. Not just important, but essential and irreplaceable.

Greytitude has to be cultivated, like a habit.

So, I show myself the kindness I find easy to give to others. 

I remind myself  that I have hair and it's healthy and the choice to colour or not is mine. When it feels right, I'll stop. For now, I'll cover my greys. But, I won't let the greys cover me with self-conscious gloop. I've lived my thirties is boxes of what will people say. It's time to discard those suffocating boxes. 

Today, as I sit at my kitchen table to write a post after almost five months, I look out.

Doha sky is wearing a soft grey blanket. Winter has arrived very late this year. 

The month of December was warm. Both our children were home for the holidays. The four of us were together under one roof after almost a year. Our collective chatter, arguments, silly jokes, leg pulling, telling off, accusations, sharing of news, making of plans, meals at the kitchen table, pizza slices in front of TV, saving and then savouring of favourite episodes filled the house to the brim with the warmth of family.

January arrived. The children left.

An empty nest. A quieter home. 

The clearly defined lines of mothering, the black and white of raising a family have been blurring into the greyness of what next. What does my role as a mother of adult children mean to me? to them?

Like a drop of dark ink in a bowl of clear water, I feel my world of parenting disappearing into a bigger, wider world. I feel like that drop of ink: spreading one molecule at a time, mixing with the water, losing my essence as a mother to the world that my children now inhabit. A world where they don't need me or my cooking. The black and white world of bed-time stories, school runs, packed lunches, help with homework, PTA meetings, school plays and proms has disappeared like that drop of ink. 

I sigh deeply as I type this post out. The drop of ink may have disappeared, but the water carries the tinges of its colour. 

Greytitude comes to my rescue again.

It's time to take down the scaffolding of mothering.

I celebrate the diluted inky waters of my new role as a mother who gets more Whatsapp messages than hugs.

I rejoice in the 'miss you too' and 'love you' sign offs.

I look forward to the next time this home will house us all in its fold.

In the meantime, I celebrate the open pastures of time where I can frolic with a book, volunteer at a hospital or at a special needs school, enjoy long languorous lunches with friends or just sit and stare at  sparrows in the garden as they flit from a purple petunia to a buttery frangipani, cheerful in their tweets and sprightly flights. I can do whatever I choose to do with my time, which is no longer bound by the knots of school runs.

I choose greytitude: an attitude of gratitude as I enter my fuzzy, soft, warm grey years.
I choose to be far away from hard lines, from definitions, rules that stifle, clothes that restrict, make-up that covers up more than it shows, people who find faults with everything, human stories that only focus on the ugly and the offensive. 

Instead, I choose to savour my grey like one savours the soft pink and white splendour of cherry blossoms or the orange and red of an autumnal birch. For like the seasons, my greys  will dissipate in a blink of an eye. Whether I will be blessed with the bliss of a snowy winter, I do not know. 

In the meantime, let me relish these grey pauses and welcome the peace and quiet of my home of brick and mortar into my heart of flesh and blood. Let me sit in silence and dip into my inner well often so I may draw from it the milk of human kindness. Let me ground myself enough so I may have the strength to share the warmth of my  grey blanket with a soul in need. 

Let me line my attitude with the warmth of gratitude.

Leaving you with these most beautiful words written by Guru Nanak Dev ji, sung like a dream by Shivpreet Singh and sent to me by my dear friend, Vidya. Her name means knowledge in English. I smile.




Wishing you all many moments of peace and tranquility.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Tagore's Birthday and Flowers of Neem with a dash of #Hindi Poetry

When on Thursday morn, I sat outside
under our neem tree 
with a beautiful book 
and a cup of chai, 
I didn't know it was Tagore's birthday. 

The fragrant blooms of neem were busy 
dropping off its branches and carpeting 
the mat, the book and me. 
A few even plopped into my tea! 
There was something beautiful about that moment. 
I started scribbling a few lines and before I knew it, 
I was typing out an Insta post of poetry. 

The friend whose book it is, called a couple of hours later to say
it was Buddha Purnima that day.
And she added that the 7th of May
is also Rabindra Nath Tagore's birthday. 

O! how co-incidental, I thought.

I had to share that which I wrote, I thought.
A few lines-
I'll call them poetry
Just because:)

They're in Hindi
Yes, that which I wrote.
The title is not.
It's called Flowers of Neem

A translation I feel
will not bring out the flavour
of feelings that only Hindi can reveal
you see there are things:
subtle and sublime;
long lost yet found
ethereal yet ground
almost like water vapour
which one can only savour
in ones own mother tongue
or perhaps--
I am just a rubbish translator!

So, for the readers of English who visit,
I have shared a bit
of Moon inspired lines
plus
some ideas to dine
with an easy recipe of rasam.
You'll find it all after this poem
recited in a voice that is mine:)

A recital: Neem ke Phool
नीम की फुलझढ़ियों
की बेफ़िक्री देखिए
कभी Tagore से उभरती हैं
तो कभी चाय की चुस्कियाँ में डूब जाती हैं
नज़ारा कुछ ऐसा है आज चटाई का
कि बिखर बिखर के वो नादान
सेज सजाऐ जाती हैं
और इंतज़ार की एक मीठी सी
धुन गुनगुनाऐ जाती हैं
पर कोई इन डालियों से पूछे
सबर का सिला
एक मुद्त का इंतज़ार
और फिर बहार
वो भी बस पल भर की
मालूम नहीं मुझे कि वो
किस तरह
अपने सभी फूल नयौछावर कर
धूप के आँगन में खिलखिलाऐ जाती हैं
शायद मुझसे ज़्यादा सयानी हैं
नीम की डालियाँ
वो जानती हैं
अपने फूलों की फ़ितरत
बिखरने के लिए ही तो खिलते हैं वो
--आरती 
The Moon was not yet high
not yet full in the sky.
She was taking time to dress
in her evanescence. 

If lines scribbled in notebooks
could rise and rustle up dishes,
I'd sit waiting for Moon forever
and build delicious dinner castle wishes
in my head and tell the husband to imagine it all with me
but sadly none of that
was going to happen on my mat
under the neem tree.
So, onward to the kitchen I proceeded with my powers
to turn into scrumptious my basket of recently dried neem flowers.

A quick google search was all it took
and a rummage in many a nook
to find all the essentials to cook
dinner of rasam with rice:
jaggery, tamarind and ghee,
plus curry leaves on sprigs that had been picked already
from the tree that grows past my kitchen door
next to the forest of Canna Lily.
Curry Tree and Canna Lily

The fragrance of flowers of neem,
when they turn golden in molten ghee
over a slow flame 
is no less magical than a Moon that is full and supreme.
Rasam dark of tamarind and jaggery,
 boiled and bubbled rather properly.
 I tempered it with hing, chillies and mustard.
"Dinner's ready!" I hollered
'Twas a feast to tingle all taste buds:
sour, sweet, hot, bitter and salty.
I'm told this rasam has many a medicinal quality.

The husband and I:
we went for a walk after 
with our masks on and taking all precautions that matter.
Moon was full and strong
and shone brightly all along
the streets, the houses, the cats and the giant dustbins
 of Doha.
And when our walk was done,
we got back:
washed hands;
 sanitised door knob, inches touched and every other centimetre
while Moon,
shining through the paper blind 
of our bedroom window,
whispered,
"Aloha"
***********
As promised, here's the link to an easy recipe:
What follows is a photo gallery 
of the flower 
of the hour
with four simple steps to follow if you have a neem tree flowering in your vicinity.
Step 1: Harvest the flowers
Step 2: Wash the flowers
 Step 3: Dry the flowers: spread out on a kitchen towel and find a sunny spot. Keep covered with muslin cloth to avoid dust

Step 4: Store in an airtight tin or jar

Have a lovely, wholesome, sunshiny and fragrant weekend y'all.

Eat healthy and keep safe and smile and read poetry or dance or just hop like a sparrow 
Do whatever tickles your fancy.
But be kind to yourself; for you see--
 there's only one of you in this world: near and far
xx