Monday, May 9, 2016

Reflection post

Have you looked at your reflection is a lake or a river or a shiny steel plate recently? Unlike mirrors, rivers and steel plates often distort the image. One minute it's perfect and the next, it's a blur. Reflections throw back images of what could have been, what is and hopeful glimpses of what lies ahead. Ripply watery images are my favourite---they are abstract, transient and soft like Monet's water lilies.

And then there are images one sees with closed eyes; the introspective kind.

Sitting down to write, after almost a week, I look back at April. It whizzed by like a fast car chase and left me hankering for more. But, it showed me things, some I liked and others I didn't and some I wasn't ready for.

Z followed the rest of the letters of the alphabet with an urgency and an obsession that surprised me and exhilarated me.

Plans, as usual, were made. Big, lofty plans to write first drafts for all 26 letters (before the challenge started) had been made way back in February. Plank by plank, the plans unhinged, caving in to my Netflix addiction, leaving me cold--out in the open. Unprepared and overwhelmed, I wondered why I'd bothered to enter. The penultimate day of March knocked me back to my senses and a list emerged on my lined notepad: letters on the left, ideas on the right. I would jot down ideas in purple, pink and pencil. Then on the day, I'd sit and think and start writing. Ten minutes or two hours later, the topic for the post would rise to the surface, gasping for air, before plunging back into the delicious deep waters of creative writing and take me with it. I LOVED it.

The first post, A, was ready on time. It was a good start. B came blundering on to the screen. I was on my way. I fell in love. No, actually I fell into a self-centered-obsession: obsessed with thinking about what to write, how to start, then to sit and write, to post, to share, to comment, to read other blogs, to read comments and so on. I lived in my selfish blogging bubble for the thirty days of April.

Looking at my reflection in the torrent of this challenge, I see the good and the not so good:

First the good: 
  1. Finding other blogs and bloggers: discovering recipes, music, books, stories and salivating over photos clicked by talented clickers was the absolute highlight of April 2016. 
  2. Reading comments left by other visitors and replying and writing comments on other blogs and making connections.
  3. Writing, writing, writing.
  4. Thinking, musing, mulling, behaving a tad like Vincent Van Gogh--obsessed and unable to think of anything other than the blog posts.
The not so good:
  1. Follows from point #4 above. This obsession took me away from cooking decent meals, keeping a tidy house and a lot of other mundane activities. I'm not the one who's complaining:)
  2. Realising that when it comes to writing/blogging, I turn into a selfish person. I may have started the challenge with noble intentions, such as visiting other blogs and commenting selflessly, irrespective of who visited me. But it didn't last long. As the month progressed, I found myself visiting the blogs that had paid me a visit, too, and shying away from the ones that didn't bother to reciprocate. Maybe, it was the time constraint or maybe, I'm ruthless, after all. 
Comments from fellow bloggers and readers are like beacons. They guide the blogger through the choppy waters of her doubts and dithering and deposit her safely to the shore of her next post. 

It feels good to know that your words have been read, that they've found a reader and that they're not evaporating into ether. It's only human, I guess.
So following on from the point above, I'd like to say a big 
Thank YOU
to all those who paid me a visit, read the posts and left a comment.
Thank YOU
to all those who visited but didn't leave any comments. I'd love to hear from you, though.
Thank YOU to the team at A to Z 
and 
my fellow bloggers for an awesome April.
On the whole, I'd LOVE to do it all over again next year. Couple of 'A to Z' lists (with gaps) have sprung up on my notepad. I might even pick out a theme next year, let's see.

And I'd urge you (dear reader who is also a blogger) to participate next year. It's like going down a slide--it may be sticky to start with, but the thrill gains momentum and then when you land on your bottom on the ground, you look over your shoulder, heart still beating fast with excitement, and think to yourself, 'I did that!'

I entered the challenge as a blogger, but came out the other end feeling like a writer. It feels tremendous.

I didn't know I could write on such short notice and so regularly. I haven't since the 30th of April, but I know I can.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

David's lunch (trip to Tbilisi- part 2)

Sharing fond travel memories here today: of rugged nature, human kindness, autumnal colours 
and 
the universal language of love. 
The sun shone. The sky sparkled its blue smile. He met us in the lobby and gave me a coy grin. I had a feeling that this trip from Tbilisi to Tazbegi would be an enjoyable one.

But, there was one slight problem...he didn't know much English and my Georgian was limited to:
'Didi Madloba'- thank you.

We put our seat belts on and settled for a day of adventure on the road. He offered us chewing gum. We declined politely.

The road stretched  in front of us sans traffic.

The colours of Georgia played 'rangrez'  - colouring my soul. The autumnal concert of oranges, russets, yellows and ochres rang out a symphony so beautiful, I can still hear the melody when I close my eyes.

Suddenly, he stopped.

The place looked deserted. My Indian instinct kicked in. What's going on?

He came back loaded with bread- fresh from the oven.

"Puri", he said..handed one to my husband and one to me to share...it was delicious-  like salty sour bread. All those images from my childhood (when the USSR and India were close political 'friends') of heavily braided Russian girls offering salt and bread to Indian visitors came alive.

We drove on.

We stocked up on hard boiled candies and gummy bears at a store called 'Smart' in  Gudauri. He liked gummy bears.

The rattling road and the steep climb from Kazbegi town to Gergeti Trinity Church earned my husband and I some street credit in our teenage children's eyes. For the duration of the climb, at least, we were cool. The 4X4 was rocking like a cradle to the rhythm of the rough road- scary and exhilarating.

Gergeti Trinity Church had the serenity of a spiritual place where many have come in the past to connect with the spirit of the universe. My daughter and I had to wear skirts and scarves to enter. We lit candles and stepped out feeling light with love and heavy with happiness.

'India'? 'Christian'? asked a rosy cheeked, robust looking Georgian grandmother as we were hurtling down the hill and she was climbing up.

Almost involuntarily, I nodded yes to both her questions.

Her face broadened into a beaming smile and she gave me a look that said- God Bless you. I think we communicated in the 'universal language of love' that Paulo Coelho talks about in 'The Alchemist'.
Religion, gender, age, nationality- became redundant.

If time had been no object, I would have stayed on for much longer but hunger kicked in.

We were all set to find a restaurant to eat when he parked the car in a sort of a car park. Imagine a patch of plane trees with healthy looking cows grazing and a flock of turkeys creating a lot of noise.

He got out of the car - opened the boot. There were quite a few bags with the 'Smart' logo on them in the boot. He dug out a sausage, used his Swiss knife to cut it. My husband and I decided to look for a hot cup of coffee at a nearby kiosk while our children wandered towards the cows- the cutest amongst them was referred to as 'Daisy' by our daughter for the rest of our stay there.

He said something in Georgian which we didn't understand but we grinned and nodded anyway and carried on.

We came back to find our children chomping away on wholesome looking sandwiches- stuffed with meet and oozing ketchup.

"Russian ketchup is awesome Mum!"spluttered my son, despite his mouth full of food. Tut-tut.

David kept slicing the bread and the meat and fixed another mouth-watering treat.

His sandwich was ready. He offered it to my husband who willingly accepted it. I offered to help.

As if by magic, a cut out plastic cup appeared in front of me (he had cut out the bottom of a  mineral water bottle to make it). He poured steaming hot coffee from his flask into it. He continued in Georgian and now I could comprehend his gestures. According to him, why would we want to waste our money on shop bought coffee when he had brought it from home for us?

I have no words to describe how good that lunch tasted. There we were- four Indians and one Georgian - standing among cows and turkeys, eating lunch from the back of  a car and basking in human kindness. Who needs language to communicate?

Yes, for me- David's lunch is the essence of Georgia.

Our children have become fans of Georgia. It only takes one person to be the ambassador of his people.

I wanted to share the kindness of  the Georgian people without the distraction of its natural beauty. So here are the pictures of our road trip with David as our guide who didn't need to speak our language, nor we his.
Ananuri Fortress
The church at Ananuri
David guided us down these steep steps....
to see the closed off church through a loose brick in the wall.
The view from the fortress wall.
The Zhinvali Reservoir
David stopped at a sulphur spring on the way...it smelled like Sulphur Springs (Sahastradhara) in Dehradun.
On our way to Gudauri.
Gudauri turns into a ski resort in the winter months.


Sharing  puri with the animals of Gudauri
The rugged road to Gergeti Trinity Church
Gergeti Trinity Church- Mount Kazbegi in the background


camera shy Daisy
David's lunch:)
The autumnal concert...
(Fall 2013)

If you are planning a trip to Georgia, David can be reached on davidi.datukishvili@gmail.com 
or 
via his facebook page: daviddatukishvili
His number is +995 597 33 09 31.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Tuscan Tiles tell tales of the wabi sabi

Hi there. Wabi sabi appeared on my day's horizon this morning as I try my hardest to get started with the packing. The house move is in less than ten days and I have yet to make a start! I'd rather dream up new colour schemes and planting ideas for the new garden or read or blog; anything other than doing what actually needs to be done!
Tiles I saw in Siena two years ago occupy my mind today. So, I looked at this old post, edited a few lines I don't like any more and decided to share. I do hope this little bit of blogging will give me the boost I need to go back to my mundane and find magic there:)

********************
Tuscan tiles
on a wall
of an ordinary
escalator
witness
people
as they go up
and come down
everyday-
morning, evening and noon.

Mute.

Stationary.

We jostle past each other-
struggling with maps,
looking at our phone screens,
trying to make it to the
parking meter
before the ticket
runs out.
Seeing the tiles
but not seeing them
because we have
done
our
sightseeing
for the day!

They
see
us
in our zombie-like state
and
sigh!

Wabi sabi of my life embraces me
and begs me to look at the beauty of my naturally imperfect world.

I see the sights
that don't make it
to the
'sightseeing' list.
And feel content.

My unmade bed and
messy kitchen counter
can no longer stop me from
relishing the latest
Khalid Hosseini novel.
The  overflowing laundry basket
has lost its power
to stop me from
enjoying a lie in
on a Friday morning.

Joint pains
this summer
reminded me
that life is too short
to worry about perfect place settings
to enjoy
a meal with my friends.

The tiles tell tales
of the wabi sabi.
It's cool to be scratched, chipped, faded and jaded-
as long as
you are you.
And
you have
the time
to
stop
and
stare
and
share
not  just on facebook
but face to face,too.

I hope to go down this road
of wabi sabi
one baby step
at a time.
It's a journey
I know,
for I still use henna to hide
my greys and
have hit more 'likes'
in the last one week
than have
liked
a tangible
object.
********************

If you are wondering about wabi sabi, here's an extract from an article I love to read:
Wabi sabi is asymmetrical heirloom vegetables and handmade pottery, crow's feet and the frayed sleeves of a favorite wool sweater, exposed brick and the first draft of a difficult letter. 
You won't find wabi sabi in Botox, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, smart phones, or the drive for relentless self-improvement. It's a beauty hidden right in front of our eyes, an aesthetic of simplicity that reveals itself only when animated through the daily work of living.
source: http://www.wholeliving.com/133628/wabi-sabi-your-life-6-strategies-embracing-imperfection

I do wonder about the future of our race when I watch people zipping in and out of elevators, doors, offices, homes (yes), cars, museums, churches and restaurants.

Let's not even get into what happens indoors- scenes of a family sitting down for a meal without a word being said because everyone is on their phone sends shivers down my spine.

These are fleeting moments when a mute tile or a torn paper bag captures all that is beautiful in this transient world, but we miss it.

I, for one, want to slow down now and live in the moment- notice these mundane imperfections before time takes them or me away.

And now for the tiles that captivated me in Siena, Itlay; stuck on an escalator walls near San Francesco car park which is near the church of San Francesco.

Commuters around me looked at me quizzically while I clicked.  The husband, of course, had given up long ago and was making his way back to the car park!






















Parking in Siena can be a daunting experience in the summer- especially around the 2nd of July and the 16th of August (Palio days) as the city centre is a limited traffic area. So you park in any one of the parking lots dotted around the city and take an escalator to go up into the city.

If you are planning a trip, this is a good site to start your research to find a parking lot. The importance of an early start and a bit of research to ensure a hassle free parking experience can not be stressed enough.
http://www.discovertuscany.com/siena/tourist-info/parking-lots-in-siena.html


A few other wabi sabi clicks from Siena...





Another elevator wall...


Have you had a wabi sabi moment today?
Have a lovely ordinary day:)


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zekreet


Zipping it today:
my words, I mean.
Almost, I mean.
Fewer, far fewer words today.
I promise.

'Zip it!: an oft used term to signal the speaker to stop talking.
What word would you use if you wanted a writer to stop 'talking'? 
Any ideas?
I'm drawing a ZERO.

The word leakage continues, despite the zipped up state! (faulty zip, I guess).
No words, just photos today, was what I'd set out to do, but I love words!
 Let the pictures do the talking.

This is ZEKREET
90 km northwest of Doha lies my favourite outdoor place in Qatar. 

Pictures taken on Day 1 of the A to Z challenge. I had just posted 'A' when my friend, Danielle's text told me that they were headed to Zekreet to camp for the weekend. 
It was a God send.
 Off we went to click; husband at the wheel:
Zoom in...

Art Installation
by American artist Richard Serra.
 It's called: East-West/West-East 



Rock formations



Scarmbled up the rock formations and what did we find?
Lush. Lush. Lush.
Surprised?
I certainly was.
Reminded me of Richmond park in London.
There's  beauty everywhere, we just have to open our eyes, that's all.

Flora and fauna found in the meadow:




Flower of Maryam
The Sun starts to set




Time for camp fires and smores...

If you live in Qatar, do go and check this treasure out:
PLEASE take your rubbish back with you and leave the place clean.
And if you are planning a trip to Qatar, put Zekreet on your list.
For more information, click on: