Thursday, December 31, 2009


A few days ago, I had commented grumpily to M.

"I can't wait for this year to be over" I had said.

Last night when I realised that this year IS actually going to be over, I regretted my statement. 2009 has been a wonderful adventure- and growth- filled year for me.

If this year had to have a theme, it would be The Year of the Gift. Over and over again, I was reminded that the gifts we are given surpass the ones that we want for ourselves.

I hadn't planned on spending a week in Bhagirathi, or on driving along the Ganga. I hadn't dared to hope that Seattle and Pune friendships would continue in Dun. I hadn't dared to ask for more in my relationships. I hadn't planned on having more than the absolute basics when it came to a house. And I was given so much- all that I had not dared to hope for and more than I could even imagine.

I travelled. My friends and family visited me, going far out of their way to come to my corner of the world. The One and I are now setting up home, visiting our families, exploring kayda-kanoon. Our house has plentiful counterspace, a view of the Mussoorie hills, a balcony, and a terrace where we plan to grow herbs.

It wasn't all perfect, of course. More than once, I fell with a resounding splat. Two such failures, one each at work and life, haunt me and I will have to scramble at damage control in 2010.

But enough loveliness and magic and happy adventures happened for me to confidently repeat Dag Hammersköld's assertion:
"For all that has been, thanks.
For all that will be, yes."

Incidentally, I first came across Dag-jee on the 2009 LRF calendar, and his words stayed with me all year. A saying of his that I aspire to?
"Life only demands from you the strength that you possess. 
Only one feat is possible; not to run away."

I have run away far too often. Among the many gifts I have received are several fresh starts. Those were not enough, because I took those for granted. Now, I say enough. No more running away.

My big learning this year is that the things we ask for are far less than is actually possible. So I will not take the liberty of imposing limited wishes on you this year. But tell me, what have you learnt? what do you want to learn?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I had major plans for this weekend. It would be the first year that The One and I have been together for Christmas, and also the first year for a long time that The One was away from his other home. So I wanted to decorate the house, and have a no-holds barred festive lunch, and put up stockings.

Like other plans, these too ganged aft agley. The One and I have both been battling colds and work deadlines. So no stockings, no Christmassy decorating, and chicken soup for lunch. And yes, I will be working over the weekend.

But, but.

There will be hot chocolate, and utilitarian gifts of woolens. There are heaps of luscious oranges. Though she didn’t know of the stockings, my mum told me yesterday that she has sent us a pair hand knitted socks with sweets inside them. We have an oven now, and I will make us biscuits even if we need to eat them later. We will call friends and family and speak with them.

And most important, a snuffly One and I will be cozy under a red-and-green quilt together . 72 hours at home, the two of us. And that is a wonderful gift.

So you know what? While we might not be having a 'proper' Christmas, we will be having a very real one.

Have a merry, merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

appreciation 101

Have you read this sentence:"I was sad because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet'? I have always hated it. It has seemed to me to be more about gloating about someone else having less than we do than about a true gratitude for the riches given us. And that is why I want to emphasize that this post is not in that spirit.

I was returning to Dun after a walks-, conversation-, and food-filled weekend with The One. I was travelling by sleeper class, and feeling grumpy. To be fair to myself, I am not always a snob, but goodbyes take it out of me and it had been a rough week. And so I was finding the dark side of everything.

The train was late, the platform was crowded and spattered with sputum. When the train finally arrived, it overshot the platform and everyone had to rush huffing and puffing to their carriages. The aisle was muddy, the seats were grimy. An AC seat would have been comfier, but I was financially challenged while booking. I wouldn't be able to sleep on the train, and then had to immediately rush off to work- to the same job that didn’t guarantee me the ability to buy an AC ticket. Sulk, sulk. Gripe, gripe. Smoulder.

But then I climbed up to my berth and lay down eavesdropping on the people in the next compartment. They were exulting. "So we needed to pay more for this, but isn't it worth it? It is so easy and comfortable now!" Theirs was a large group, and made even more cumbersome by being multi-generational, multi-family. To make this travel easier, they had splurged on sleeper travel for the family. Because the children outnumbered the adults, everyone was sleeping with one or more child with him or her. The counting of suitcases and children was done several times before they totalled up right. And they were still marveling at the ease and comfort. Throughout the hassle of settling everyone down, they were all excited and joyous at the luxury they found themselves in.

I looked at myself, lying in my berth all cosseted in my much-loved 16th-birthday-gift sleeping bag and doubly warm in the cardigan my mum had knitted and the shawl The One had bought. A rush of embarrassment for my previous thoughts was followed up with true gratitude for my riches. And that night I slept very well indeed.

Sometimes we need a refresher course in appreciating pleasure, na?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ganga images

Now to be honest, I am cheating a bit here. Am upto my ears in things, and so here are some pictures of my last trip to Rishikesh instead of masaledaar writing..

puja ..

Bathers, Rishikesh

I quite like the composition of this picture, if I do say so myself. I like the colours, and the mood, and the two figures contemplating vast possibilities. Where they sit, the river is shallow and manageable. And safe. A little ahead, the water changes, it is deeper, faster, with the promise of adventure, with the certainity of risk. Will they go there? Will they continue to sit on the edge, in the river but not immersed in it?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I should stop reading the newspapers. They do nothing but depress me. Today for example, there were two articles in the Hindu (Delhi edition) that saddened me.

Firstly, there was an article titled “Birds deserting Keoladeo Park”. It is good if the dying wetlands are getting notice and concern. But what is it that concern people? According to the article, participants in a workshop expressed concern ‘over the threat of its delisting from the World Heritage Sites looming large’. So it is not the loss of biodiversity, not the thought of birds flying to a remembered home and finding nothing that worries us. It is the loss of status, the threat of being delisted. It sounds clich√©d when I say that the entire biosphere is our heritage, but it is true, no?

But it gets worse. On page 3, I came across this sentence: ‘To prevent the frequent disruptions in the services of the Metro Railway caused by passengers committing suicides, all stations..’

The article was about the increasing number of suicides in the Kolkata Metro system. 14 suicide attempts in 2009, with 9 deaths. It is good that Kolkata Metro is trying to prevent this by watching for loiterers and posting details of helplines. But the motivating issue? Frequent disruptions in service.

I know well that the words we say and write are not the ones we feel and think. Language is sadly inefficient at the best of times. When it comes to reporting what others have said, with the additional limits of a word count and a deadline, and the pressure to attract fickle readers, it is easy to misrepresent what a person says.

But I have far too often driven past the site of an accident and cribbed at the delay. I have far too often been too busy with my own life to notice that all is not well with my friends.

Which makes me think that Hobbes was right. It IS a personal compliment to not be human.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Does this fuzzy butt look a little familar?  you have all seen it about a year ago when I was rhapsodizing about puppy love.

so M's parents couldn't resist her either, and now Sintuk (Shin-Took) is what the family's world revolves around. She's apparently a fashionista and all dressed up for Christmas already.

thanks for the snaps, M!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Last Sunday I took me down to the Asan wetland conservation area near Dehradun. It is a wetland created by a barrage across the Asan river. The route I followed was vikram to Premnagar-bus to Herbertpur-bus to Asan barrage. The route is initially a little dreary- typical outskirts of a town. But later on, it is all farmland and the names give one a nice sense of the history of the place. There’s Herbertpur (Herbert’s land, dating to when swathes of land were granted to colonial settlers) and Khushalpur (land of well-being, perhaps dating to the Partition when refugees were settled here?).

When I got off the bus, I was a little disappointed. A road runs right next to the wetlands, and while there ARE a lot of birds, there is no place to sit and watch them- no place to lose oneself in the experience, as it were. I did sit down facing the lake with my back against a culvert for a while, but the experience was not great. I did see the gadwalls the place is famous for, but the horns of the vehicles passing by competed with their honking. So I gave up, and decided to try and walk the circumference of the lake. As I look back, I think that I should probably have emerged out of the culvert a little gradually. As it is, I popped out from under the road like a mushroom on a caffeine high and startled a blameless farmer cycling to work.

I walked back towards Dehradun and took a right from the chowk- towards the electricity-supply colony. A right again, and so directly towards the lake. This path becomes unpaved pretty soon, but seems to be frequently used by buffaloes, their tenders, and the occasional birdwatcher.

The surroundings are sad, in the sense that the area is overrun by exotics. There is a plantation with an undergrowth of lantana, congress grass, and ipomea. Despite that, there are many little babblers and wrens skulking in the undergrowth, and kites above. And of course the little chap to the left here.

I took another right when the road ended, and walked along a little path that ended in the most perfect little beach possible. A river flows into the lake here and the beach is right at the inlet. It can comfortable accommodate one person and her backpack, and two people if they are willing to snuggle up. Hmm..
Here, finally, was the experience I was looking for. Sitting at the water’s edge,in the gently warm winter sun, and watching a myriad birds casually doing their thing just metres away. They had all flown away when i arrived, but were back within half an hour.

The water was clear, and inviting, and I longed to swim. Sadly, swimming in unknown waters is one of the few things that the solo traveler cannot do, and so I needed to content myself with laving my face and hands. The air was full of the birds’ honking and trilling, and of the scent of lantana and a purple-flowered herb. It was warm enough to remove a layer or two, but not so hot as to induce a migraine.

In short, life was perfect.