Thursday, 30 April 2020

Z is for Zarrā Zarrā #AtoZChallenge

An Urdu phrase today:  Zarrā Zarrā [Devnagari: ज़र्रा, Urdu: ذرّہ, pronunciation: Zarrā

I hope this last post of the challenge will make the meaning of this phrase clear to you.
Papadash and Artemis are back today. They'll help you get there:)
Marigold Yellow and Dahlia Maroon were opening their buds when Artemis heard Mother tell Father that Papadash had sent word with Breeze of Gentle.

"The Wizard thinks she's ready to go back to the Great Garden." Mother's words sounded as sweet as the song Koel sang in Tree of Jamun.

"Hmm." agreed Father.

When Artemis reached the Big Metal Gate, Papadash, the Perect was waiting. His eyes twinkled in the morning sun. 

Artemis ran straight into his open arms and immediately felt at home.

"You've grown my child." Papadash kissed the top of her head. 

There were many more Twigs in her wild hair today. They had all begged her to take them along as she'd run past first the Grove of Mango and then the Grove of Litchi. They cracked and creaked till Artemis agreed.

"I missed you so much Papadash." Artemis felt a tickle in her throat. So, she cleared her words out.


Artemis looked up surprised. Her eyes were filling up with Drops of Dew. Did you not miss me then? She thought but didn't say anything.

"But child, how am I to miss you if you never left me?" Papadash asked as they sat under Tree of Mulberry.

"I don't understand." confessed Artemis.

"You must be hungry." the wise Wizard said and pulled out an Orange Orange from deep inside his pockets and started peeling it.

Artemis was too happy to be back to let anything bother her. Leaves of Mulberry danced to the tune of Bulbul  while Perfume of Rose skipped around them. Even the Bags of Cloth who never looked happy for they often complained about Sour Grapes seemed to have mellowed with age. 

Papadash peeled the skin of Orange carefully. He split it into two halves and gave one half to Artemis.

She popped a segment into her mouth as soon as she got it. The juice was sweet and cool. She rocketed the pip out. Sunflower Bright moved his head to see how far the pip would fall.  

"How was it?" 

Artemis turned to see that Papadash hadn't touched his share of Orange yet. She felt a little embarrassed about finishing her half so quickly.

"Look." he said and peeled the web of veins that held the segments of Orange in place and showed it to her. 

Artemis watched spellbound as Papadash picked out a segment, slowly and carefully: just like Mother picks baby brother out of his cot. He asked Artemis to notice the veins, the transparent skin and pay attention to the promise of juice that lay within. He spilt it open. The strands full of juice opened up like a fan. Hidden inside the orange strands, lay a pip. 

"What do you see?" asked Papadash holding the pip between his thumb and finger.

"A pip."

"Child, look closely and you will see you, the world and me." 

For it is common knowledge that all of  Earth's Trees live inside Seeds -- from Orange Sweet to Mighty Oaks and even the Mulberry and that has always been the way of All you See.

"But Papadash I can not see you or me or the world! I only see a pip very small." protested Artemis.

"Give it time and look deeply--not to see that which it is but to see that which it can be."

Artemis nodded her head. Some things were starting to make sense.

Papadash offered her the juicy segment fan to eat.

"But, I've eaten mine already."

"Did you really eat it child? Or did you gobble it up? Did you pay attention to the millions of molecules and aeons of atoms that visited your tongue so you could taste Orange of Orange?"

"Does taste have colour too?" wondered Artemis.

Papadash smiled.

"Every thing, every little thing--Mountains High, Streams Shallow, Rose Pink, Pip Bitter, Particle of Flavour, Drop of Ocean, Wisp of Cloud, Breath of Baby, Dark of Womb--every Sigh, every Cry, every Heart, every Touch, every Bite, every Smell, every Tweet of Mynah bird--every little Zarrā inside every atom of every molecule of every Galaxy of every Cosmos has its own Colour."

"Really?" Artemis' saucer eyes widened and she shook her head to see if all the information Papadash was giving her was fitting in or not.

"Heads can see that which is. Only Hearts can see that which can be. When you said you missed me and I asked you why--this dear Artemis is my reply to those Drops of Dew that filled you eyes."

Papdash pulled her closer to him and started untangling her wild hair, one strand at a time.

"You see, dear child, we are all Children of the same Light. Pip Brown and Artemis Curious come from the same place. Every atom and every molecule holds the Light of Eternity as its Guide. So, when I want to talk to you, I think of you and see your light --from here." Papadash put his hand of many wrinkles on his heart and patted it.

"Next time you eat a piece of Orange or watch the Cloud roar, pay attention to that which can be -- for one day, you may be the drop that floats in Sky and who knows I may become a newborn's cry!"

Sky of Doon, the Valley of Green, was getting ready for the Night. His Star children had started coming out one by one. Koel and Bulbul were singing their last evening songs when Papadash looked at Artemis and said, "That's enough for your first day back. Now go home and tell Mother you were late for I told you another. Go and let April sleep in this Soil of Blog Deep; for tomorrow it will be May and all will wake up to a brand New Day. Go my dear child but remember this: His Light is all we need to see for it lights up every Zarrā  in every stone, every leaf, and every single bumblebee."
Dear Precious Readers,

Thank you for being my companions during this month of unusual April. I'll miss the daily posts and your visits but as Papadash would say--All I have to do is look with my heart and I will see all of you in your Galaxies.
I bid you adieu for now.
May will be here tomorrow. I've asked her to show me the light just like April did so that even if this is my last post of A to Zee, our paths may cross, more often than intermittently.
What do you think Zarrā Zarrā means? 
Do tell me what you think of this tiny little Zee which reminds me of Rumi:
"You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop."
Thank you.

Yours truly and always gratefully,


For those of you who understand Hindi, here's a short recital of beautiful poetry: Enjoy.
Punjabis have trouble saying crisp goodbyes. They linger on at doorsteps and garden gates for ages.
And as I am of Punjabi stock, I feel like saying more--yes, greedily so!
 Hence, sharing a poem I wrote a while back, in case you have time to read. 
And if you'd like to visit this sacred grove I talk about, just click on : Of Sacred Groves

But before you enter the sacred grove,
Take off the cloak, the mask, the camouflage.
Bring in the real you--
bare and brilliant
single and sufficient
older than time
younger than the last breath
no body
no mind
no iffs
no buts
no good
no bad
no likes
no dislikes
no memories
no plans
no past
no future
no family
no friends
no ties
no loose ends
no laughter
no sadness
no highs
no lows

a drop in the ocean
an ocean within a drop

Like a ripple seeking its shore

Come ...

meet your shore

He's been waiting for you all his life too.
Stay safe and healthy.
I'll see you on Reflection Day.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

T is for Telepathy and Toxic Weather #AtoZChallenge

A friend shared this in a WhatsApp group a few weeks ago.

"Maawan diyan aandran" : If literally translated, maawan means mothers and aandran means instinct. But for all those who have felt is and experienced it, the phrase means telepathy.

Seema and I often wondered about Mummy's supernatural powers to catch our lies by just looking at us. But let's rewind back to a time when I didn't have my sister or my brother as accomplices in sharaarten (mischief) and therefore no one to share my wonderment with about this thing that Mummy possessed--this uncanny ability to uncover the truth even though I dug deep, deep holes to bury it and added mounds of mud on top just to make sure it stayed underground--never to be found.

I was four years old. Two houses down the gully, a baby was born. As was the custom of the times, all the neighbours paid the new born's parents a visit with sagan (a gift for the new born--usually money in an envelope or a set of hand knitted cardigan and booties). The visits commenced after a period of forty days (chaliya) of social distancing had been observed by the new mother and her baby. 

Mummy asked me to come along. I was thrilled.

The baby, however, was far from thrilled. He was rather shrilled. He cried and cried and didn't stop so he, or rather the bundle he was swaddled in, was passed from godi to godi (person to person) to the soundtrack of ...olle, ...sona baby kaun hai...shhh...followed by the standard lori (lullaby) of the times...lallaa..lallaa..lori..dhoodh the new baby refused to lower his decibels. One of his aunts took pity on the mother and her visitors and took the baby to their verandah for some fresh air.

As was the custom, we were offered tea with namkeen and mithai and fruit. Mummy was a teaholic so I'm sure she must've had a cup. But what I remember is the apple and the orange that were brought on a plate because the most beautiful looking knife I had ever laid my eyes on was lying next to them.

While adults talked, I watched the cutting of the apple with the prettiest looking knife. The only knives I had seen till then were the ones Beji had in her kitchen. They were functional and had never caught my eye. Papaji's pocket knife, however, was dear to us for it gave us the first slices of any fruit our grandfather cut--apples, pears, guavas, mangoes and even the unpopular chakotra (grapefruit). 

One day, when I grow up, I will have a pocket knife just like Papaji's and I will cut the fruit myself. I used to cook up dreams of a sharp future when I was four.

The handle of the knife in our neighbour's drawing room was white. Red and orange were also present on the white. What they were, I couldn't make out as the hand that was holding the knife was working deftly and quickly. Red apple skin was snaking down to the plate in spirals. 

Halved. De-seeded. Quartered. Sliced. Arranged in a semi circle on the plate, the hands offered the apple to me. 

I took a slice and said thank you.

The knife had been left on the table, next to the plate of gulab jamuns. Its blade was as long as its handle and almost as big as my hand.

The hands picked up the pretty knife and magically folded the blade back into the handle--just like Papaji. I could hear my heartbeat getting faster and louder. My future was coming into sharp focus in front of my eyes.

Suddenly, all around me, the adults started moving. The hands had picked up an orange to peel but they put it down in a hurry. The new baby hadn't stopped bawling so it was decided that he must be hungry so his mother who had been talking to Mummy got up to leave the room.

We left too.

I couldn't wait to get back home. The knife felt so mine in my fist. It felt cool and smooth--like a marble. And for the first time I realised that the handle which housed the blade, was curved slightly, like a loosely drawn C. 

I had seen my mother keep an old iron knife under pillows to ward off bad dreams or evil, so I knew where I'd hide my precious when I got home. And I did. 

The rest of the day went by so slowly. Evening wouldn't fall and night took forever to knock on our door. 

After dinner, when I was alone in the room, I took my precious out. The handle was white with little red and orange flowers painted or printed on it. The blade unfurled out of its sheath like a ballerina--effortlessly, gracefully.

"Arti....." Mummy called. 

Blade in handle. Precious under pillow. Head down. Eyes Shut. Sleep--not to be found for a long, long time.

Next day, Mummy asked me, "Where is aunty's knife?" when I got back from school.

I was stunned and very, very disappointed.

I was made to go to the neighbour's house to return the knife and apologise. It was the most humiliating experience of my young life. They were a lovely, warm family and our families continued to be close, but every time I stepped into their drawing room, the episode of my knife infatuation followed by its short stay under my pillow haunted me. 

For a very long time, I didn't see that I had done anything wrong. As far as I was concerned, I had picked up a beautiful thing and taken it home with me--like I did with flowers, twigs and pebbles I found irresistible in Papaji's garden or any other garden.

"But did you ask them if you could take it?" Mummy tried to make the rules of society and morality clear to me.

It took me a few years to figure that out that the difference between theft and taking is the asking of permission. 
A mother's instinct is a difficult thing to explain. It's easy to experience. And in times of Covid19, when mothers like me, whose children couldn't travel back home from universities etc., worry for their safety, I feel we can send them our best healing, protective armour like energies through mediation and prayers and perhaps telepathy. 

May they be safe and healthy in these testing times.

I'll leave you with this song sung by our daughter, Arshia. She writes, composes and plays her own creations and every now and then, she shares. The more I write about my childhood, the more I miss my children. It's a funny connection of life and nature. 

Hope you enjoy it.

Toxic Weather by Arshia Jain

What are your thoughts about telepathy? Or a mother's instinct? 
Did you ever get tempted to steal/borrow without asking when you were little?
If you'd like to share, I'd love to hear.
Please be safe and stay healthy.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

D is for Dewdrops on daisies in forests of deodar #AtoZChallenge

Every once in a while you come across someone who says something to you which makes you stop and ponder.

Last year in May, I met Alex in Dehradun.

Aparna and I had been on a trek to Chainsheel Lake in October 2018 and Maunda, a village nestled in the Himalayas on the border of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, was our base camp. We stayed in the village for two nights; once on the way up and then again on our return from Chainsheel. Something about the village and its people enchanted us so much that we decided to visit again. 

Alex joined us and in May of 2019 the three of us climbed into a comfortable white Innova in Dehradun: destination--Muanda, estimated travel time--nine to ten hours. 

Where the tarmacked road ends, Maunda begins. It is the last village reachable by motorable roads in Uttarakhand.

May turned out to be even more magical than October. Spring was still lingering on in late apple blossoms while summer had started fattening lingda fronds (wild fiddlehead fern).

This tiny village of deodars and chestnuts, a cow called Laali and a matriarch named Julie left a deep impression on me. My pahadi (of the mountains) soul felt at home among its roadside sea of stinging nettles and tricky to reach truffles. Often, during our stay, a bird or a fragrance or just the way dew drops glinted in the morning sun would unravel a longing within and I'd break into a reverie of fond childhood memories about Papaji and his garden.

Alex and Aparna would listen and watch me revel in the details of my own narrative .

"You should write about it. You are a daughter of the mountains, you should." said Alex one day as we sat sipping our drinks of choice, chai for us and coffee for him, looking over a field of daisies carpeting every inch of visible land under the shade of the ancient deodars. 

Alex's dark eyes shone a little more brightly as I looked at him and nodded. 

His words sowed a seed.

I have fantasised about writing a book for as long as I can remember. But, other than jerky starts and fanciful wishing, I have not given this dream any solid ground to take root.

Papaji used to spend hours tilling his kyarian (flowerbeds) and vegetable patch: raking the soil, mulching the ground, adding cow dung and tea leaves and composted heaps to nourish the plot -- to make it fertile and ready before dropping the seeds.

How will the seed flourish if the soil is not turned? How will ideas germinate if the learning hasn't churned into unlearning? How will words spout without practice? How will the pen write if the journey within hasn't begun in earnest? 

No matter the weather, no matter the time, if his garden jobs had to be done, Papaji did them without excuses. His garden was scared to him. The love with which he looked after it demanded a discipline that he was always willing to give. Did he ever feel lazy, I wonder. Did resistance ever make him doubt his skills as a grower of beautiful things?

"Let resistance do his work. You do yours." a quote by B.K.S. Iyengar helps me when I falter in my practice of yoga or writing.

Alex's words have been planted carefully into my days. I find the time to nurture them with regular writing. A sentence, a para or a page: it doesn't matter. I'm doing my work. 

Resistance is the shadow that follows me everywhere. She turns on the latest Netflix series and slips down rabbit holes of pretending-to-be-research-based google searches every now and then. I let her. I do my work. I toil the soil of what's sacred to me everyday so that when the sun of inspiration shines, I'll be ready.
Have you hugged a tree recently? What did you see when you looked up?
I've cobbled together a few photos I shot in May 2019, in Chakrata, Uttarakhand to create this video:
And have used Ustad Vilayat Khan's music to accompany the daisies and the deodars.
A lone, late apple blossom will make his debut too:)
Have any words uttered by a friend, acquaintance or a stranger made you take stock of your dreams ?
If, by chance, you have lingda growing around where you live, try this Pahadi recipe:
Pahadi lingda with garlic and herb pasta
Wishing you all a safe and healthy weekend.