Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for Uttarakhand #atozchallenge

I was born in Dehradun which used to be part of a huge state in India called Uttar Pradesh (UP for short) (Uttar means North and Pradesh means State).

Then in the year 2000, Uttarakhand (UK for short) (Uttara mearns Northern and Khand means Land) was carved out of UP and Dehradun, the land of my birth and childhood memories, became its capital.

The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is also called Devbhoomi (Land of the Gods). Funny how Gods always pick the best places to live (whether they come from Greek or Indian mythology)

I guess Gods know a good deal when they see one. Uttarakhand has it all -- in abundance: snow capped mountains, unending meadows, forests of oak, juniper, sal and sheesham, guava and mango trees to climb, valleys bursting with flowers, Ganga, Yamuna and even a tiny bit of the mythical Saraswati flow here.

This is the land where blue poppies bloom.


"Soil ours, water ours, ours are these forests.
Our forefathers raised them, it's we who must protect them."

(A snippet of a song I found while googling, it's claimed to be a translation of a Garhwali chipko song.)
courtesy:wikipedia

The song says it all.

Women from this region hugged trees to save them from being cut down. Chipko means a hug or an embrace or clinging in Hindi.

A land such as this,
where women clung to trees
to save them--
that's where I was born. 

It's called the chipko movement: This extract from women in world history gives you a glimpse of what trees and protecting them means to the people of this region:

"In one the contractor says:
“You foolish village women, do you know what these forest bear?
Resin, timber, and therefore foreign exchange!”
The women answer:
“Yes, we know. What do the forests bear?
Soil, water, and pure air,
Soil, water, and pure air.”
One post is not enough. And I have a tendency to sound like a lovesick teenager when I start talking about Uttarakhand, so I'll stop and just share a few pictures instead.

There are links to some older posts of places I've visited. If you have the time, check them out. I promise--you'll be happy you did:)
The Saraswati flows and rocks copy Klimt's kiss
Locals pick moss that grows on oaks and use it to make dye and medicines.
Fog fills the skies and Ganesh gets a ride
Did we make it? 
We climb and live to tell the tale at Roopkund
Flowers so fragrant, they're called dhoop or incense and used in Budhhist temples.
Bhugyals or meadows that go on and on
Tea on the boil at 14000 ft.
 Laundry never left this good about being left high and dry
Temple bells
Gurudwaras and holy lakes. 
Dipping  in these glacial waters will make you go brrrrr at first.
But when you come out, you'll feel new.
Uttarakhand: 
Where the sun rises gently,
and sets with aplomb.
What's your favourite thing about your hometown or the place you call home?

V is coming, right before W...
I'll be here, how about you?

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Toast, Tavaa Toast #atozchallenge

Yes, the title of today's post is inspired by Bond, James Bond. If he's a man's man, then tavaa toast is a toast's toast, at least according to my taste buds.

Now that I've impressed you with all the tiresome Ts I've managed to thrust in the sentence above, let's move on.

To find out about tavaa toast, you'll have to travel back in time with me to the mid-1970s (when I was between 3 and 10) to Beji's (my grandmother) kitchen in Dehradun.

Double roti is how I was first introduced to sliced white bread that came wrapped in a clear plastic bag of shame.

Shame?

Bread?

Why?

Beji was the queen of her kitchen and my grandfather's heart. Her words were law and no one questioned her rules. She was petite and soft and never raised her voice, ever. I don't recall a single harsh word uttered by her. Yes, yes, I loved her, so I must be biased. But she ruled without force. Her way in the kitchen was the only way. No one complained. She was an amazing cook who was completely dedicated to feeding her family.

The firangi (foreign) double roti aka sliced, white bread had no place in her Punjabi kitchen.

"Shame on you for buying bread from a shop. Shame on you for buying any food that comes wrapped up in a plastic bag. How difficult is it to knead some flour, roll out a roti and raise it into a hot balloon on the tavaa? Huh? Why did God give us hands? " No, she never uttered those words. She just relayed the sentiments to us by her actions.

"Aye koi khaand dee cheez hai? Mareezan di roti?" (She had proclaimed sliced, white bread to be fit for consumption only by the sick or if your family had abandoned you and you were left without a kitchen--how else could one justify a food so lacking in taste and nutrients?)

Double Roti was contraband.

Time changed all that. Beji became older and weaker. Her son's wives gained more and more access to her  kitchen. Modern life with its modern rhythm introduced faster flavours and easier to prepare meals into our lives.

Then one day, my mother served us toast for breakfast, instead of paraanthas.

We didn't have a toaster then.

This is where the tavaa (flat pan on which we make rotis/chappatis) comes in.

Put the tavaa on a medium flame. Let it get hot enough for the thin slab of butter you're about to tip into it to melt. Then place your slice of bread on it. Scrape a few thickish shavings off the block of (Amul or home-made white) butter and spread them evenly on the side of  bread facing you. Make sure the edges get enough, too. When the air around you starts to fill up with buttery toast aroma, turn the side. If, like me, you like the edges kararaa (brown and well done) then wait a bit. You can always add a bit more butter by sliding it through the edges while the white slice is browning into a toast. Now slide the James Bond of all toasts onto your plate and enjoy. But,before you do, make sure that the bread is cooked.

Because, all through my childhood I was told that the white slices of bread that were sold at the bakers were kachaa (raw/uncooked/in need of proper cooking--Indian style).

"Aye haye kachee bread khaa littee...aye le...ajwaain khaa...sabar nahin bilkul ve ajkal de bachayaan noo."

If you were spotted eating white bread straight from the packet, chances are your mum or granny would take you to the doctors for you had just consumed raw, uncooked bread.

Don't ask me! I was a kid back then. How was I to know that the baker had baked the bread before wrapping it in a plastic bag? Baking wasn't done in my Beji's kitchen.  The oven, I knew and loved, was outside, in the veranda. It was called tandoor. 

I digress. Sorry.

My mouth is watering just typing the way my mom used to make tava toast for us. She would use ghee or Amul butter or home-made white butter, depending upon what was available or what one felt like having that day.

They are all superb. Yummy. And they all taste different. The ghee ones are kurkure (crumbly like pastry), the Amul ones are salty and the ones made with white butter are soft in the middle. You can crush some black pepper on top, or chilly flakes if you like, and Bob's your uncle.

When toasters came into our lives, we started toasting our kachaa slices of bread---white in the 90s, followed by brown and multi grain and then the gluten free kind.

Our trusted Tefal toaster sits like a king on our kitchen counter top. His courtiers stand in attention right next to him--bottled up and straight--honey, marmite, peanut butter and marmalade.

I use my toaster to toast pitta, naan, bread and bagels. And they all come wrapped up in plastic bags. Beji must be tut-tutting from somewhere up there in ether.
*****
How do you like your toast? Do tell:)

I have to thank Barbara whose post about skillets drew my attention to the tavaa on my hob.

I feel I need to add a picture of the other 'T' I was toying with before I read Barbara's post. 
It's tota -- parrot in Hindi.(the t is soft--falls between t and th)

Tota (this sounds like it reads) is also a modern Punjabi slang for hot stuff--
of the female kind, not bread.

Ahmedabadi Tota:)

 U and I will meet again:)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Silver Serendipity #atozchallenge

One of the items on my list of things to buy in Bhuj was a pair of silver earrings.

Kutchchi women are stunning to look at (example is above) and they wear the kind of jewellery I absolutely adore: silver and striking.

An evening of shopping in the market of Bhuj, the capital of Kutchch, had been assigned and all of us  (six women) had our lists ready. Mine was the most selfish one. I only wanted to buy silver for myself.

As I've mentioned before, I like to google local artisans and artists before I get on that plane/bus/car to explore a new place. This time too, I had jotted down names of two jewellers who came recommended by bloggers who'd been to Bhuj and bought silver.

BUT!

But, the universe had other plans for me, or so I thought.

1. Our stop at Khamir, made us all hanker for the earrings Juhi was wearing and so the name of her guy was added to all the lists.

2. The longer than expected time we spent at Khamir meant we had less than expected time to shop in Bhuj.

3. After checking in, lunch and a brief rest at The Bhuj House, we left for the bazaar in such a cackle of excited chatter that the little piece of paper with the jewellers' names got left behind, forgotten.

There we were--our band of six women-- with one mission in mind--to find Juhi's jeweller.

Our 'where is ...?' adventure took us through the winding and busy bazaar roads of Bhuj. Many blank looks and knowing nods later, we found his shop.

YES!

No. Not quite. It was shut. Closed. With no board of reason hanging on the door.

The sun was setting over the ancient walls of the city and on my silver aspirations.

"Let's just find Soni Bazaar." suggested Apu.

Soni is to jeweller like sona is to gold.

I hope the shops are still open, I thought while immersing in the hullabaloo of the bazaar. Carts, cars, bikes and rickshaws jostled with each other to get to their destinations. I was enjoying the chaos. It reminded me of my childhood visits to Paltan Bazaar in Dehradun. How can antiseptic malls even come close to this celebration of everyday life?

Now, think Arti...maybe you can recall the names you scribbled on that list...think.

Soni, I thought...the first name on the list sort of sprang up. The shops were open. My steps became more purposeful. All I had to do was to look for a 'Soni' something.

Ha! guffawed the atoms of fate...Ha!

Every, yes each and every shop on this street of jewellers has a board which starts with the word SONI..i.e. Jeweller so and so.

We entered a shop. Saw a few wares. Apu tried on a pair. S liked one too. I stepped out and told the rest to carry on while I checked out a few other shops down the street.

Somehow, I found what I was looking for at a shop.

They fit. I strutted a bit in the mirror held by the salesperson, imagined myself as a nomad for a few seconds and while I was doing all this, my roving eyes spotted a necklace.

Can I try this please?
I did and loved it so much that I bought it. 

Happy with my purchase, I asked for their card. He handed it to me and we said namaste to each other. I left.
'Psst...psst...hey Asha....are you awake?"

Asha was sort of snoring softly. She was not awake. 

It was gone past midnight. I was having trouble sleeping. We'd had our dinner and all of us had gone to bed by ten. The following day was packed full of palaces to see. We needed our rest.

"Hey...Asha..." loud, raspy whispers from me made Asha turn.

She's a darling friend. So instead of clobbering me on my head, she opened her droopy eyes (actually I couldn't see them as it was dark in the room.)

"Wh...whaat?"

I turned my phone on. I can never find the torch thingy so just used the lit up phone screen to show sleepy Asha two things:

1. The card above and 2. the scribbled address on my list. 

They were a perfect match.

"Can you believe it?" I almost shrieked.

"Wow..." whispered Asha softly before rolling her head back on to her pillow...the soft snoring had started before I had had time to get up from my kneeling-beside-her-side-of-the-bed position.

The rest of the group were given an update of my amazing discovery over breakfast the next morning. 
It's very difficult for me to save my new purchases for a special day. I wear new stuff as soon as or soon after I get it. Who knows how long I have on this planet? Why save my best for a Sunday I may never see?

So, the next morning, I wore my new silver necklace and we left to explore Aina Mahal in Bhuj.

"There's a tiny shop tucked in a corner just outside the main gate. He's got such lovely stuff." informed Apu when a couple of us had finished our tour of the palace and were waiting for the others to gather near the car.

"How far?" I asked.

"Just ahead..." pointed Apu.

I had to go. So I went.

A few minutes later, I was standing outside the shop, peeping in. A friendly face looked up. 

"Come in." he said.

I stepped in, partially blinded by the strong sun outside. Before I could gather my wits and vision, he, owner of the friendly face, had jumped up and come right in front of me.

"Where did you buy that from?" he pointed at my necklace, his eyes twinkling.

I told him.

"Do you know, my grandfather is the only one in Bhuj who can make these silver beads?" 

"Really?"

"Of course. We supply these to other jewellers here. Every jeweller has a specialty and this is ours."

Silver Serendipity!
The beads
 Jay, the smiling one, showing me the sheets of silver that are rolled into these silver beads.
His card.
You don't always have to buy silver to bathe in its evanescence, sometimes you can make do with poetry that comes with it. 
Window shopping in Zagreb:)
"Before my breath
the moonlight hovers
how pleasing,
I find myself shining."
And window shooting in Dubrovnik.
S is for smile too:)
Have you ever had an Aha! moment while shopping or afterwards?
Or
Any serendipitous moments you'd like to share?
I'd love to find out:)
Enjoy a serene Sunday.
Ta ta for now.
Till we meet again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for Rann of Kutchch #atozchallenge

I came across quietude
yesterday.
A few times actually.
It was Q day, you see.

Quiet
Hmmm...
I thought
I haven't been that
from A till now.

Maybe, it's time.
Perhaps a pause, I thought
A bit of quietude
is what I need before
S follows R
tomorrow.

Come in silence
in your own quietude
and walk or stroll or wander
beside me.
I like your company
when I'm quiet
and you are too.
Silence speaks an ancient tongue
one you speak
the one I infer
without ever uttering a word.

So come.
to these silent salts of Kutchch.

Where a smile, a nod is enough.



Sun sets us alight 
Golden and bright
While he goes off
after kissing Earth.
I'm sure he can taste the salt on his lips.

  




They are warm and proud
and hardworking too--
The people of Kutchch
who give you free rides
and call you behen (sister)
even though you're a tourist
and this is their tourist season.


An extract from The Essential Rumi
by
Coleman Barks

Wean Yourself
Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say, "The world outside is vast and intricate.
There are wheatfields and mountain passes,
and orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight
the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding."

You ask the embryo why he, she, stays cooped up
in the dark with eyes closed.
Listen to the answer.
There is no "other world."
I only know what I've experienced.
You must be hallucinating.
*****
Stay safe and relish the silence
till we meet again:)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Questions to a Blogger #atozchallenge


I was in a dark place. The summer heat of Doha had sapped me of my will to carry on living in a place I struggled to call home. 

"What's the point?" I'd ask my husband and myself. 

The oppressive heat had taken away the things I thought made me happy: long walks and gardening.

This was almost five years ago. 

"I hate it here. There's nothing to do except shopping and working. Even the people are fake. They only want to talk about their branded bags and expensive cars." I was full of excuses and loving the role of victim I was playing (although I didn't see it as such) and believed that all my woes were because of our move.

"Mum, why don't you start writing again?" suggested my sixteen year old daughter.

One thing led to another. A Book, a trip and a few days of discovering the blogger website later, I posted my first post and saved my sanity.

I'm still in Doha. It still gets unbearably hot in the summer. I walk and garden and take pictures when I can, and when I can't, I sit and blog. I've found my tribe -- people who laugh at silly jokes. 

I've made my peace with bag and car lovers too. Discrimination of any kind is a result of a mind that judges. I'm trying to mute that mind. Who knew people with expensive bags can be kind and fun! 
Live and unlearn Arti...live and unlearn.

Via this blog, I've connected with so many kindred spirits that I can not thank the stars enough for putting me in hot and dry Doha, where I was forced to slow down and look inwards, peep within and find the pool of plenty. A pool that was always part of me, but I was so busy looking out, so busy complaining, so busy trying to fix the right place to live in that I never spared it a glance. This peaceful pool, this heart, this place of rest, this love that was always there, spills out in posts and pictures. 

Funny thing is, the more I share, the more full I feel -- full of hope (despite the news), full of awe, full of stories and sights and inspiration, too.
"What you seek is seeking you."
~Rumi
How true, I feel, especially when it's April and when I'm part of this challenge, I feel this fullness even more. There's this zing, this excitement when I visit other blogs, leave a comment or read one that's been left on my space. 

I'm grateful.

For you, my  fellow bloggers, I have 3 questions on Q day:

1) How did your blogging journey start?

2) If you could plan your perfect panel of bloggers to speak at a conference or have dinner with, who would you include? 

3) What's the question you'd like to ask your favourite blogger?

Please leave your answers in the comments column below or feel free to send them via mail at: myordinarymoments@gmail.com

Thank you.
Sun rises in Doha (above) 
and on Jersey Shore (below).
He doesn't discriminate.
He shares his rays.
And lights up all:
ants, leaves, cobwebs, trees,
even you and me.
Rise with R tomorrow.
so long...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for Poetry, Petra and Pottery #atozchallenge

It comes in so many shapes: 
poems, hymns, couplets, songs
birds, roses and dandelions
sips of tea and
whiffs of coffee
poetry is you
and
poetry is me.

When I step outside and see the world
I wonder
how different we'd be
if we all read
more poetry.

Before I get all carried away and dissolve in the flow of my own words, as I usually do, when I pretend to be a poet and write poetry (Ha! Ha! laughs the ego), I'll stop. And explain today's choices for P. There were too many. Some churned out painful memories. So I made my tea, plugged in the charger cable, pushed the on button on the laptop and sat and stared at the blank page on my screen.

My heart's not in it today, I thought. I'll use an old post and add an apology, I thought. Then I spotted him.
*****
Rumi lives on my kitchen table, bound in red, next to my laptop. I pour my cup of tulsi chai, pull out my chair and he opens up. The decision on what's to be read with sips of tea and nibbles of crackers is arbitrary. Somehow, he knows the words I'd need to keep me company. Somehow, he opens to the right lines. Somehow, this happens almost every morning.
THE GUEST HOUSE 
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
The above comes from
The Essential Rumi
by
Coleman Barks
And if you're a bit out of sorts today
like me
not in mood for poetry
unlike me
then come along and gaze
at some photography
What will it be-
Petra or Phini?
Just click on the link 
on top of the pic
and it'll take you
where you choose to be
your choice:
meet a woman potter
or
be one with human history




Que sera, sera
whatever will be, will be...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for Observing the Ordinary #atozchallenge

Ordinary, I like.
It has no need to impress, like the extra ordinary.

Ordinary lives in the moment; every moment.

Oh! how I love thee:
my very own ordinary.

It's just gone past ten on a sunny Tuesday.
I'm sat here, at the kitchen table, typing out a post for O.
They tumble in, all of them, one by one, my band of ordinary:

His brown eyes when he said bye and left for work.
Sweet smell of Comfort spring dew
on laundry.
Flecks of sun on paper blinds hung on windows--
watching sprigs of basil and seeds of fennel dance
in boil of water.
I add tea and milk and strain the brew.
A touch of honey.
That should do.
I have plenty to call my ordinary.
How about you?

What are your ordinary moments like?
Do they add you up or bring you down?
How often do you observe your ordinary?
*****
When I first borrowed my daughter's camera, almost four years ago, I thought I was going to 'take' pictures.
I was so wrong.
This camera has shown me to look at my ordinary with fresh eyes.
I love the way I've slowed down these days. 
At first, I slowed down to observe a shot, a frame, a picture or a portrait.
When this slowness permeated my life, I do not know.

It was our last day in Split, Croatia. I wanted to pick up a book from a shop before driving off to Dubrovnik. 
The husband was rushing ahead. 
He gets like that when he's on his mission to get from point A to point B on holiday:)
I was at a zebra crossing, looking to cross the road: left, right...hang on...
It was day 4 of the A to Z challenge and letters had been on my mind, but this was surreal.
So, I stood and saw and clicked.

"Did you see the letters crossing the road?" I asked him when I caught up at last.
"What letters?" he asked.
The letters marched on,

 posed,
(Google says this word means smart/clever/wise in Croatian. 
If you know Croatian, please enlighten me. Thank you)
 paused for traffic,
and made their way back to (no idea where)!

Observe your ordinary and you will see just how marvellous it truly is.

"Perhaps, we'll meet tomorrow with P."
I type
 with
purple stains on greedy fingers 
after harvesting oozy mulberry.