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 precaution 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

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Reflection Post 2020 #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers and Bloggers,

Thank you for joining me today as I reflect upon 
an April that has just gone
'twas full of words galore
wrote plenty and shared even more

This Challenge of A to Zee
of the year Twenty, Twenty
was a foraging for me:
harvests rich with words obsolete
of poetry and poems and funny treats
of history too that read like rhyme
I gathered a lot of knowledge this time

Jade's herbs and Deborah's dreams 
snuggled under Frederique's quilts 
and asked for more extraordinary
tales of The Multicolored Diary

Then there was our rambling Keith 
who often made us bare our teeth
For he made us laugh and explode
such funny stories of old words he wrote

Srivalli's poems as delicate as dew
Nourished hearts and souls quite a few

Namratha's lyrics were no less magical
In fact, every Minute she wrote was quite capital

Ira, living her life to the fullest
added many deep thoughts into my basket of harvest

While I pondered upon dear Ira's words
my namesake Arti carved out her space 
and stuck a maroon bindi in its heart shaped place.

Poetry penned in Moon Dust,
Spoke of care for the old who may have gathered rust
of forgotten routines, memories and such.

Pradeep's X was a treat
Which followed a delicious dosa of wheat
He shared too a new spin on Do Re Me

And Karen's posts spoke of many things that bring her bliss
From goats to Puffins to Xmas trees and taking risks

Then there were Viyoma's tales of cities three
She filled them with monsoons, Windsor castle and '5 flavored pachadi'

Nisha, too, of travel spoke
to Riga and Prague with Rum and coke
and sometimes of Triya and Sid, her bloke. 

Succinct and unusual were Shweta's definitions
of nouns such as salt and revenge who were sent on missions
to destroy my belief that less is not more in writing compositions

Lessons were learnt of History, both old and not so old
While Kristin shared letters 
and memories of her ancestors
Sonia, the one with hundred quills 
mentioned warriors and forgotten keys
and strung out songs that are not often told
From History of Human, young and old

Then there were those who visited
my blog, read and commented:
the ones who weren't to A to Zee bound
Friends in virtual land and around
who over time have gotten close and kept me company--
Cheers IshPinkzJz, April and Yamini

Dear Vidya and Nisha shared generously
memories of their lives
in Kota and in Mumbai

Sahitya and Seema
Simmi and Sharmila
stopped by when they could
and posted comments as they should
for I had sent them messages in advance
to inform them of my April plans

Those of you who were tagged
on my facebook page and nagged
to read and comment by me
Deserve a special trophy
for your reading loyalty
All I have to say is this 
Thank you all--dear Mr. Mrs. and Miss.

Thank you too 
to the ones who
visited me once or twice or maybe thrice
Your presence here made me feel real nice

So, if you'd like to check out a few
names I've mentioned in my review
click on the link that is hyper
and discover many  a poets and writer

But the biggest thanks of all you'll agree
is for the fabulous team of A to Zee
Who made this frolic happen
in a far away magical memory garden

And if perchance
you've missed the dance
of words of plenty
Worry not
just click on a title below
and jump into a garden where memories overflow...










W for When Papaji swore               X for X my Heart             Y for Yours Truly

May your May be filled with colours and panache
Like the Great Garden of Artemis and Papadash

May many hands of May fill our hearts with gratitude
for those who serve at times of such magnitude
nurses, doctors, porters and personnel
on shift after shift like a carousel

May our hands in May
I pray
Be filled with flowers and plants and vases full of kindliness
"Laughter is carbonated holiness."
is an Anne Lamott quote
that Deborah wrote
and I added to my harvest for I found it noteworthy
'cause, you see
my mother who was fond of learning had this philosophy:
"Be like the bumble bee..." she used to say "visit all flowers to collect your honey."

If, you'd like to see me again
Catch me on Instagram
as arti.a.jain
for I'll be posting a photo a day
to celebrate May
in a series focusing on the right attitude
of Ma(n)y hands of gratitude

Remember this:
Gardens don't need soil to sprout
"Wonder wanders within and without"
commented Yamini on my day of Zee
If lack of space ever bothers me
I paint on walls and plant a tree
Got a beating once for decorating walls which was bizarre
But all those memories will have to wait for my next memoir:)

Till we meet again 
So long
Times are tough
I know
So leaving you with words
I adore
of Tagore
"The butterfly counts not months 
but moments, 
And has time enough."
Antwerp. June 2019