Monday, April 12, 2021

J is for Julie of Maunda #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the third week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge.

For the 'J' post of this challenge, I'm sharing a snippet from my travel memoir of Maunda, a remote village in Uttarakhand, northern India. The motorable road that goes to Maunda ends there. It goes no further. 

I hope you'll enjoy reading it.

Thank you.

Arti.

Her hazel eyes were the first thing I noticed about her. Her headscarf or ghaatu was the second. The green in her scarf played off the flecks of green in her eyes.

She offered us water. We, our names.

‘Julie.’ She said. My name is Julie.’

‘How come?’ I wanted to ask but didn’t.

Such an unusual, such an English name for a lady who lives in a remote village in the Himalayas, I thought while admiring her gold nose-pin.

My gaze made her touch her nose pin.

“It’s beautiful.” I said.

Her face broke into a smile and she looked towards me, sideways with her golden green eyes, “I used to be very beautiful once. I’m not even that old but my body couldn’t bear children easily, so I look older than I am.” Julie explained her wrinkles to us before we’d had our first cup of tea with the directness and honesty of the mountains.

Julie’s house is built in a typical Garhwali style. Windows wrap around the entire house like a scarf. With views as beautiful as the ones surrounding these villages, it’s good to see men, women and children often sitting by these windows on window sills or wooden benches that are kept right by the windows, watching clouds, goats, raindrops, villagers and the occasional trekker go by. Instead of their heads bent in reverence to phone screens, the humans of Maunda look up, look high, look left and right and their eyes see far beyond the obvious, their smiles stretch to welcome passers-by and a casual ‘Raam, Raam’ or ‘How’s it going?’ echoes from their lips.

By the time we made our way to the bedrooms on the second floor, the welcome party of men from the village had left and evening had arrived, like it does in the mountains, almost too quickly. One minute the sky is blue with day and the next, even before it has had time to blush and kiss the sun goodbye, it dissolves and turns inky. The moon and the stars are always in a rush to peep out of Himalayan skies.

It was getting cold. 

Apu and I grabbed our extra layers and made our way back to the landing, back where Julie had offered us water.

“Aren’t you cold?” Julie called out from her kitchen door.

“Come in. It’s warm in here. Andar aao…come in.” she insisted as she maneuvered to get inside the kitchen while holding a pressure cooker with both hands. She didn't let us help her.  She’d done this a million times and her assured ways turned us into her audience. We watched while she performed. We were in Julie’s kingdom. We were watching her in her seat of power: her kitchen.

“I don’t like to cook, you know.” She confessed almost as soon as the three of us settled down on the kitchen floor. “I keep telling Guruji (her husband) to get me some help. I’m getting old now. When my daughters come to visit, they don’t let me do a thing in the kitchen.”

A few pangs of guilt mixed with the ones from hunger inside me as I looked across to Julie, sitting next to her stove. The brick red wool of her socks ran in cables across her feet, glowing with warmth in her immaculate kitchen lit up by a white tube light.

Julie wrestled the lid of the pressure cooker open and poured out steaming, boiled potatoes into a paraat and started peeling.

Apu and I offered to help. She let us.

*****

Simple, straightforward, ordinary, every day chores such as preparing food can be turned into treasures if we look at them as once in a lifetime moment. When I decided to share the above extract for today's post, that's what struck me. 

Covid-19's fog has somehow made the concept of Ichigo Ichie clearer to me.

Have you been fascinated by someone's eyes, jewellery, clothes while on holiday or otherwise? 
I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

Last year, I had explored sweet jalebis with my J is for Joint Families post.

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

36 comments:

  1. Loved reading your post- It is simple, revealing and down to earth!

    Rajeev Moothedath

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  2. Yet another nostalgic and heart-touching post from you. I love how you share these gems with us.
    Coming to your questions, I think so. Yes. It would most probably have been someone's hair or eyes.

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    1. Thank you Sri. Always happy to see you here:)

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  3. Loved your observations. These minute details can tell a story.

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    1. Cheers Satabdi. I believe it's the little details that make a memory/story vivid.

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  4. Such a lovely post- for some reason I think of Goldie after reading this..Goldie sells "pure silver jewelry ( her words!!) in Goa and we bumped into her at one of the beaches in Goa. What caught my eye was the turquoise pendant that she wore so gracefully...Maybe I will write about her one day :-)

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    1. I want to read all about Goldie now. Please write about her in one of your posts this month.
      P for pure or S for Silver is yet to come:)

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  5. Cooking together can be precious, even though I have to admit in my every day life I mostly find my helpers are standing in the way ;-)))

    I'm sure Julie is still beautiful.

    https://thethreegerbers.blogspot.com/2021/04/a-z-2021-some-score-from-east-german.html

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    1. I think so too--she's beautiful and very bossy, too:)

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  6. Hari Om
    Definitely a gem of a memory! Oh I have admired countelss times another's jewellary, dress, or some such thing. It is a lovely way of connecting, even if for only a moment. YAM xx

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  7. What a charming tale. I once helped with some cooking in a little stone cottage on the lower slopes of the Himalayan mountains bordering Kathmandu. So often the simplest things become lasting memories.

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    1. They always do. Your cooking experience sounds memorable Keith.

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  8. Such an endearing travel story. Loved looking at Julie through your eyes. Beautiful post!

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  9. Lovely writeup! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

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    1. Thank you. Reading your comment made me happy:)

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  10. The people we meet on our journeys are the most memorable part of the trip, near and far. Thank you for sharing your visit with Julie and making her memorable with your glowing words of appreciation.
    https://gail-baugniet.blogspot.com

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    1. You're spot on Gail. In fact, before I chanced upon 'Ichigo Ichie' as my theme, I was considering writing about all the wonderful people I've met on my travels for the A to Z this year.
      I recall most of my travels by the people I've met or the food I ate.

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  11. I agree with Gail, we can have pretty photo of travels, but the memories that last are the meeting with people. Lovely story.
    Quilting Patchwork & Appliqué

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    1. I agree with her too:)
      Thank you for visiting.

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  12. A charming tale, thanks for sharing.
    https://iainkellywriting.com/2021/04/12/the-state-trilogy-a-z-guide-j/

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  13. What a lovely memory. This series constellated around the beautiful concept of Ichigo Ichie is really making pause and reflect. I love paying attention to how people adorn themselves. It's such an incredibly personal thing, and yet at the same time it feels like such an incredible gift to be allowed glimpses of internal sevles expressed externally.

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    1. 'to be allowed glimpses of internal selves expressed externally.' how beautifully you put it Deborah.
      I'll cherish this.
      And although I had a total of 6 or 7 firm ideas about posts on the theme when I started the A to Z, it's drawing in many 'pauses' I had enjoyed once upon a time.

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  14. What an observer you are! Julie is simply beautiful and so is her simple life! 31st Dec 1995 we once stayed in a village outskirts of Mumbai called Vadhap, near a place called Karjat and experienced such rich hospitality from the care takers of a small farm house. Iam always impressed with those colourful heavy banjara skirts,ethnic jewelry and the raw appeal in things/people etc . I have pictures of many such Julies from my travel too.
    If you notice,what used to be a basic life style in the villages, have now started trending as exclusive rusty Interior decor designs amongst Hotels/ Restaurants. Serving the dhaba style food in brassware, keeping jute khatiyas, patchwork wall hangings & dhaba style menu too. No matter what we try to recreate, what is natural and original has its own charm.
    Basic pleasures of life are often simple & more satisfying but in the name of progress we tend to complicate it.

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    1. Life's simple pleasures are the real treasures. We cherish them and are able to recall them with such ease--goes to show what our souls truly need:)

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  15. So nicely put. Every little action in our every day lives is so meaningful and beautiful. If only one had the patience and the longing to pause and savour those moments.

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    1. It's funny how the same daily chores seem so special when it's not part of the daily routine. Thank you:)

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  16. There is beauty in those simple moments but it is often hard to stay focused and really appreciate them. My brain would be bouncing from one thought to the next. What a wonderful story that illustrates the power of being present. Weekends In Maine

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    1. Thank you Karen.
      If I were in my own kitchen, I may not have been so 'present'.
      Slowing down to the rhythm of a simpler life helps to pay attention, I feel. Plus, the mountain air has that effect on me anyway:)

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  17. What a heart touching post yet very beautifully narrated. The touching her nose-pin part actually made me visualize the scene. I may have encountered many Julies but the memories are all cloudy now. Ever since I saw her picture for the post, I wanted to read what you had to say about it..enjoyed every bit of it and glad I read it.

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    1. Thank you Pinkz.
      Blogging and photography have been a boon as far as capturing and cherishing such chance meetings.
      I'm even more thankful for both in Covid times.

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  18. This post of yours made me think... There are so many ladies I have met who have some kind of magnetic beauty about them... Despite their wrinkles ofcourse... I don't get to know their names... But they remain as faces in my memory. I wonder if they liked what they did... Cooking and selling their food... But what amazing tasty food they made... That makes me think they must have loved to cook... Or else it wouldn't have reflected in the taste. But those ladies have a unique smile... They smile with no restraints and that's what usually catches my attention :)

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    1. You're so right Ira.
      They smile from the heart. That's what captures us and that's why we remember them.

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