Machi Pichu is the name of my darling little pet! It was on my twenty fourth birthday when I penned down among my many wishes, to have this Romeo by my bedside. The wish was granted a few months later when the Mr. got me this orange finned shinning and glorious swimming fairy. Yes, yes, I know I wanted a Romeo but I got a Juliet instead. But, it was all very good. Mr. was Romeo enough already. Juliet became a good close friend.
She finned from one corner to another, the sudden change of home, the transfer into a smaller bowl from a larger (though dirtier) tank that Machi Pichu shared with many more of her brothers and sisters was a bit overwhelming for the little darling. She looked restless and confused. In a short while we also saw how unwell MP actually was. MP's tummy swelled like a balloon pregnant with lead. MP was having some troubles moving, but she was also young and agile, so a bit of care started to show and the lead laden pregnancy quelled with time.
The Mr. is a trekker, an insufferable story teller and an indomitable lover of the mountains. He named this golden gift he gave me after his most cherished peak in Peru - Machi Pichu.
For two years MP thrived with us, joining us for dinner, swimming in the sunshine and at night moving back to near a bedside stand to keep me company. Yes, I took her around the house, settled her in different corners and actually saw that it cheered her mood up a little notch! If she was lying low for a while I'd take her to a sunny spot and her glee was enviable. She danced like a mermaid in the water.
I could talk to her for hours and she was always listening, always patient, always understanding. She didn't reply much, but she did linger near my face before sprinting off in another direction of her humble crystal bowl. And that was enough for me, really. It was sincere friendship, no lip service and my MP knew it was all right to tell me when she was bored by my constant chatter. I love her for that, you know! I will, always!
When the Mr. would go for his cricket practice early Saturday mornings, something that he does like a ritual, I would finish up my chores and sit next to MP as the afternoon sun would blaze in from the window and watch her chase her own reflection on the other side of the orb. Such innocence! Such bliss to watch this lovely being - so much to learn from her, to keep oneself engaged in the most common of all places, to never be depressed and be agile and happy and joyful, to be orange like the sun - bright, flaming, swift! Ah!
How much I loved her, and the Mr. too, in his silent ways took such regular care of her. He might let go of the match one saturday, but he will never forget to change MP's water and clean the bowl for her. In his silent ways he has always cherished this wondrous being for all of the two years that MP chose to be with us and grace our lives with her being.
We lost MP last year, in November. It the the twenty seventh of that month and for a month prior to that MP had been struggling in pain. She was indeed suffering a lot physically. She couldn't swim normally and always seemed to sink belly up after a few hours. Constant care, mashed pea food and everything that we could do to make her better didn't work. Even now, I feel how horrible it must be to not be able to scream out in the agony that MP might have felt during her last few days. But, in many ways, her death was also the end to her suffering.
And now, in a few days it will be a year since we lost her. I still miss her, her little sprinkles of selfless joy with which she peppered my life. And I hope wherever she is, she is very, very happy. Who knows, she might have now turned into a fairy, but, for me she will always remain the orange winged mermaid who inspired the magic of joy even from within her humble bowl!
R.I.P. Machi Pichu
I still miss you.
Tucked a little away from the may town area is the beach side suburbia of Pondicherry with a thriving French population coexisting with the Tamils side by side.
On a sultry sea side afternoon I decided to take a wake on these pavements beside the shore and such a lovely walk it was indeed! Even though the sun was blazing hot, there was a lot of shade too. Cyclists wearing hats, and a few dare devils on their scooter paddled and raced past.
Sun kissed and day dreaming a little, as I usually do, I went on my way, and one after another I spotted quite a few places where cycles were parked or used. It was beautiful! The more people take to cycling as opposed to motor vehicles (and esp for short distances) the more we can keep our earth beautiful.
The picture below is in front of the courthouse. There are only two cycles here, probably of the court clerks, how I wish there were a bunch of them!
The state government too is doing its bit slowly now, making cycling lanes for cycling enthusiasts who travel more that 22 kms a day to and from office. Huge billboards painted to show cyclists' lane are at certain corners back in the city, and there are also places where you have to make a meagre deposit of INR 500 and you may borrow a cycle for a year! But, that's all back in the city...
In Pondicherry the roads are so clean, the government didn't have to do much as the citizens themselves are so proactive... The picture below is an example of another clean and pretty street adorned by the resting bicycle...
India is rich with its scenic beauty, and places where the pollution of the city life has not touched her yet, she continues to remain untouched and in her celestial brilliance. One of my favorite places in India is the Himalayas. I love going there and in the past many years I have revisited the Himalayas again and again for the sheer pleasure of being in the mountains. As Kipling said, "He who goes to the mountains goes to his mother"! The statement is so true for one can really feel the mountains embracing you in her arms like a mother, and perhaps that is why one must return...
During one such sojourn into the mountains I stumbled upon this beautiful cluster of villages in the Garhwal. It was a delight to trek from one of the villages, Duggalbitha to Chopta and then to a mountain called Chandrashila above Tungnath. Then there were the smaller hikes around the other village called Mastura a little lower in altitude more like in the Shivalik range of the mighty mountains.
We started from this village area where we spent the night camping in village tents. In the morning we saw big fat crows, more like ravens, but they were so friendly and they also had a bit of maggie strands and boiled carrots. A brook similar to the ones I had read in many English poems before gurgled noisily piercing into the otherwise quiet morning in the wild. The green of the meadows shone brilliantly under the sun, and it was heartbreaking to leave this place to walk ahead to the next village, but one must... one must...
On our way to the next village we came across this dilapidated house where no one lives now. The house was locked and no one around. Its white washed walls had seen better days, I presume, and in the ground below tufts of grass grew crowding the mud floor courtyard around it.
Nonetheless, it looked like an imposing majestic building that might have so many stories within her, now only the spiders in their cobwebs and an occasional nesting sparrow might stand witness to these untold tales.
A little higher up we came across the shepherd you see in the picture below. He had taken his herd out for grazing and rested under the sun as the sheep, with their shiny golden coats, loyally continued to crowd near him instead of grazing. The old man was used to the attention, he did not move. At his age one must make as much of the sun and its warmth as possible - especially, during the winters...
We also came across this shepherd's house a little distance ahead. Its boundaries were not made of picket fences or iron gates but of humble thick slats of stones, and yet it looked so beautiful!
A little more ahead, the long climb up from the village towards the mountain. It seemed like a never ending walk under the scorching sun, but the sight the eye meets at the end of the toil is so much worth it.
The sight on the other side is spectacular to say the least! The mountains personify not just beauty but, for me, even faith and hope and joy and eternal. It was so beautiful that the mountains of Tungnath and the final climb of Chandrashila will require another blog post. So, there it is, reserved for another day!
A little lower, the next day, we came across this village unexpectedly. Mastura was not in our plan, but life does throw some sweet surprises at you every once in a while and the walk through Mastura allowed us a glimpse into the lives of the maize planters and the hilly women with sunburnt, rosy cheeks continued to smile as we passed by their beautiful and colorful village whose buildings were mostly constructed of mud and wood.
It's been quite a few weeks since I've been on these hikes and treks, and yet how relished and comforting the memories are.
There will always be the mountains to return to... Always...
Of all the hours in a day, I think it is the afternoons that are most neglected. For me, I love the afternoons. It's that restful time between our rushed mornings and the much anticipated evenings that allows us some time to breath.
Some sleep during these hours, few others are engaged in their cubicle slots of a distant corporate world, some have a strict routine, others spend time in libraries or running errands or going out for a walk on a shaded avenue. It's really nice to watch the world go by. And it is best during these quiet afternoons to do so.
It is also good to not have set routines, but do anything any one day of the week. Routines are boring, don't you think? A tad bit boring, yes? Sigh!
Of all the things I enjoy the slowly mellowing sun, the frantic chirping of the birds mellow down to a hum, a snail slowly crosses over a tendril bridge, I slug most of the time, and at other times I do what I like best - rearrange things - a bit here, a bit there, brush, dust and clean a little, check on the drying laundry under the sun (it's always so nice to touch crisping clothes under the glare of a good sunny day!).
In this picture I have tried to decorate a window sill. Notice the grilles, they are an old world charm and that too painted in white. I absolutely love white backgrounds. It allows you to display colors with teeny tiny objects and are very good at attracting enviable attention. I had bought the the aromatherapy jar from a bookstore near home two years ago; it still holds beautiful, scented oils above the tea lit lamps, a bit of scrub every now and then to rub off the grease. The two little mutts looking cheerily at the sun I picked up from a kids' store. The red curtains came from another corner of the city and the faint beady light bulbs that you may see slithering down the red curtain cloth was picked up during Christmas! The cane chair that you may faintly see, that too, was from another corner. A friend had once commented on how every bit of the house represents my shopping spree in different corners of the town!
Well, off for more foofing and dusting.. then I'll have think of a magical dinner too!
We took a holiday in the hills recently, and as always I was mesmerised by its sheer beauty. A post on the hills will soon follow, but first the warmth of the cafe nestled snuggly right at the gates of a lesser known town, here in the hills.
That late autumn afternoon we walked into one of the clock tower cafes, a cafe, as the name suggests, situated right at the base of a towering Big Ben like structure. The cafe was made of red painted walls resembling bricks and wooden doors and windows with glass panes. It was breath taking and beautiful standing out amid the crowd of other run of the mill constructions for shops and hotels.
Yes, just before you step into the lesser known hill town this cafe is the last refuge where one can seek solitude from the maddening crowd, and solitude I sought (for it was a holiday in the hills) and solitude I got!
Oh, did I mention, the hills! The hills... Just a small jaunt away from the cafe, where we would be going rested the real hills of noisy cicadas and nagging non stop cricket cries!
And lo! Just as I entered and picked myself a spot in the less crowded cafe I confront these adorable pictures of Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's! What an apt allusion, I said to myself as I sat myself down on a soft, squishy (good squishy sofa) and looked around.
There were lamps and pieces of cloth roughly cut and draped all around it. There were polka dotted cloths of red and blue and even yellow and green! It was just amazing to look around the little cafe so well adorned and cared for. It was quite obvious that each poster on its wall, each of the lamp shades and all the little things that made it look so gorgeous and vintage and a suburbia cafe like was picked up with utmost care and love!
Then I spotted the most interesting and perhaps the most prized posters of the Clock tower Cafe! The Woodstock Poster! Not just any, but the WOODSTOCK!! Wow!!! I never thought until then that they would have a peach coloured Woodstock Fest poster on print! Life's little surprises, I think...
Above is the view of the cafe from my seat. It was simple with brown flooring, colored tiles on the table and a riot of posters and lamps and small knick-knacks on the walls! Just adore the seventies wall lamp hanging from the wall in the picture below! I faintly remember seeing a similar one in my Grampa's house back in the north east, but that was long ago...
And, here is my seat. I was lucky enough to grab the most coveted seat by the window in the cafe. You can see the faint outline of the hills that seem to be just so casually laid out in front for the spectacular view - something that for the hill people is nothing more than a 'threshold brook' as Keats would have said, but for us city people it is something I have pined for ever since I left the mountains... many years ago now.
That old fashioned telephone we grew up seeing being used in movies was actually here for us to touch and see and marvel at! Boy o boy, was I jumping with joy!
And below the beautiful and dignified sign at the entrance door. Maybe this is the reason why it was so less crowded...
The colorfully tiled tables, as I mentioned earlier!
Oh! Bliss oh bliss! Can't wait to go back up there once again and bring some more memories for my vial of nostalgia that seems to be running dry fast!
An afternoon at a Buddhist monastery is more calming than anything else in the world, for me, at least! It is awe inspiring to see little kids learning about their religion with such great dedication from such an early age. More than the religion I think it is the way Buddhists conduct themselves as a human being that appeals to me the most! They are, by far, one of the most culturally evolved civilisations of our times thriving in non violence, making do even in the harshest terrain. For me it is a mystery as to what seeps into them from their practices and religion that shapes them to have such cheerful, polite and calm demeanors even in the most abject of surroundings...
At the entrance is the picture of the Dalai Lama himself gracing the front wall of the monastery. The structure looks like a miraculous building that has come to life from a fairy tale book, and the people within are just so quiet and yet look so intelligent as if guarding an age old secret that might be lost if that indulged in purposeless banter in such a holy place.
I had been very fortunate to capture this rare moment of childhood that the young lamas still possessed. They danced their dragon dance unaware of a curious photographer looking at them as if she had found the isle of Serendip itself! These little children are the carriers of the resilience and tenacity of their parent's faith in a God, for they are sent to become lamas at a very, very young age - a age of frolic and wonder that, for them coincides with the world of matured learning of religion and compassion.
Animals are revered The Buddhitsts, and Bhutan stand as an ardent example of this practice, worship animals. They worship God in all things that live apart from the idols of Buddha himself, and they just don't say so. They practice it too, and that is the loveliest part!
Buddha, it has been said, will reincarnate into a female form of Maitri to save us humans from our sins. In the monastery, as may be seen above, are the three incarnations of Buddha including his future reincarnation of Maitri.
Such a pleasant afternoon of exploring the monastery premises it has been! I enjoyed it through and through. It was not just a spiritual experience, but learning to be content like the little lamas and doing their dragon dance is what inspired me the most!
What has inspired you lately?
We went to a butterfly park this weekend! It was wonderful. The dome inside which the many butterflies nest and house and have their own little corners in the world, their own little paradise was absolutely stunning! The main gate itself, as you may see, has a beautiful butterfly like flap doors decorated above the entrance door. In a spartan ground with gardens on each side and a small green house to the left, this dome of the nesting winged fairies imposes herself. It was breathtaking!
We even spotted a monarch butterfly inside. There was a complete garden with pools and a bridge inside the building. Water was constantly being replenished and there were no stagnant waters or any drone of breeding blood sucking mosquitoes around, just the gentle, subtle whispers of the many flights the butterflies took around their little paradise.
And above, on the ceilings, there were these small pots hung upside down where the butterflies would go in and sleep once the day was over. Tall banana trees and their leaves went up to the high ceilings of the dome to graze the wings of the dancing butterflies. Oh! Such delicate things they are and such lovely harbingers of joy!
Where have you visited recently?
Do tell me...
It's always so lovely to sneak up to the kitchen, to open the fridge and look into it for no particular reason, to look into the pantry storage and make a mental note of the things needed to replenish it with. I find kitchen to be a great comfort zone, especially in my own kitchen. Early evenings when I can free myself from work, I just go round about flicking on the light switches as if it were a ritual. Then I bask in the glory of the lamp's lights for a while; often and for no reason I find myself smiling as I look at my painstakingly collected heavy apothecary jars containing the staples, the folded kitchen towels and aprons resting in the wicker basket and the recycled beer bottles turned to vases holding the sunflowers and the christmasy red and white mittens.
Yes, I do look down at the plastic boxes and bottles to and tell myself that someday soon I'll only, exclusively and absolutely have Apothecary boxes for I love them. i absolutely dote on them! One day soon! Sigh!
Having Ooohed and Ahhed over my kitchen treasures, humble and few as they are now, I hunt for the cozy breakfast nook in my house that doubles up as a dining area at night. I light another lamp and tidy the floral cushion and plop it up my back as I sit down to ponder a while about dinner! Such a great tension of life that is - what am I going to cook for dinner?
Then to calm me down I seek some more comfort, this time in the form of comfort drink - and tea does just fine for me ...
I seat myself and look at the large fishbowl filled with precious sea shells (a blog post coming up on that very soon) and look at the paper wrapped bread I have bought from the baker and let my tea cool just a little before I sip it down.
Meanwhile I get busy thinking about dinner...
How do you plan your meals? Isn't it a hassle... to plan.. sometimes it is, no??
As for me, I'll seek some more kitchen comfort... that might help :)
Simple, isn't it - the name of my blog? Winters and Warmth is after all a lovely expression of comfort, of bliss and happiness. There is nothing more endearing than having a cozy, warm blanket to snuggle into on a cold, winter's night.
Much like life, we have our winters, our depressions and worries and maybe even a few precious tears every now and then. It is then, during those moments of insanity and doubts that we need the warmth a bit more. Hence, nothing to be more grateful in life, I believe, than the warmth on such wintery evenings, what do you have to say?
If pondered upon it, then winters too are just as important as the snuggly warmth, for if we didn't have the cold we would never know what a bliss it is to be surrounded by the glow of a hearth. The magic perhaps happens when we learn to embrace the winter and be awed by it rather than question its coming and sulk and cry and pity over self. Don't you think so too?
This picture was clicked during one such cold November evening up in a cottage in the Nilgiris in Southern India. It had been pouring all day and as the day waned the cold settled into our bones. We shivered uncontrollably, but we also took the pain to go out to the market (roughly 2 kms from where we were staying) and bring firewood to light up the hearth. It was difficult to evade the rain and storm, to gather firewood when the market had closed (in here hill stations go off to sleep as soon as it gets dark) and the firewood we finally managed to scavenge was wet and soggy. We managed to light the fire finally and in a short while the warmth had settled it. Suddenly the cold seemed beautiful and we could even step out into the porch to click this picture of a blurred moon and a lone twig that kept us company that cold winter's night.
Looking back on that chilly evening I learnt two things: one should never forget who stood by during the harsh winters. They are the truest of our friends. Just like the moon and that solitary twig branching out and diverging just to get a small place in a tiny corner of the frame. The second thing I learnt was to make a pledge to myself that I do not slouch under the infliction of a winter but be agile and with fast fingers weave myself a shawl of warmth instead.
I hope you too will agree with me?