Saturday, May 29, 2010

A stroll in Rajpur

A little over a year ago, I visited Rajpur for the first time. Within a couple of weeks, I was back, scrambling over rocks, getting sunburnt and vowing to bring the Mian along the instant he landed in Dun. Sadly, we never went. And yesterday, when I visited it again, I missed him so. Remember my telling you of the priest's house? The peepal tree I gushed over is now strangling it, causing its walls to bulge inward. It now painted an eyesore pink (oh my mian, my mian. will you never be rid of pink bedrooms?). I am afraid now that by the time he comes back, it will not be there. Well, the structure will be there; my little magical house will not. Why, why, did Mian and I not pack up sandwiches and go off there in the winter?

It is good then, to know that some things are still around. The lychee grove is still there. And yesterday it was prettier than ever before. The lychees are ripening, and all the trees look like Christmas with their shiny dark green canopy studded with ruby-like lychees. There were horses there, and the grove looked like it must have when the area was on the old trade route to the hills.
I also went to a part of Rajpur I had not written about earlier. If instead of going into the town, you continue towards Musoorie, you come across a temple called the "bavdi shiv mandir' or the 'Shiva temple of wells'. It is a request bus stop which makes it pretty accessible.

As the name suggests, it is famous for the many springs in its vicinity.We counted six springs that are still flowing. There are also some that have now dried, but could be induced to flow with a little restoration. Even more springs have been lost to construction of a road, and the 'modernization' of a house. Interestingly, this house was earlier a caravan-serai, and the springs had been included in it's planning. The serai had been built so that each room had a little spring bubbling into a basin. How utterly practical and romatic! Now of course, the springs have been walled up and piped water has been brought in.

The temple is a large, ever expanding, and becoming-more-urban-by-the-minute structure, but has some unexpected beauty to recommend it. The roof is painted an intense red, which actually works quite well.

Look at the spot where the bell hangs from, though and you notice that the snazzy red has been used to cover the beautiful murals that once covered the wall. Ah, progress.

If you like, you can continue up the new ( untarred) road that leads past the temple and reach Rajpur village instead of catching the bus back.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fatigued and dehydrated

A few weeks ago, I had boasted about how I make pasta from scratch when I am 'too tired' to cook a proper meal. This week, I realised that this only applies to physical tiredness.I have been soul-tired for the last few days. And this has meant no posting, no keeping in touch with friends, no housekeeping, and store-bought patties for lunch.

Why the tiredness? I don't know. Or at least, I find it difficult to pick out a single reason. The Mangalore plane crash. Work. The heat. The lack of water. People watering down their concrete paths in spite of the lack of water. People refusing to consider demand management as an option. A colleague was complaining of being forced to use only one bucket of water for his bath! That is a luxury for most people!

But today, I was vindicated in a way. There are three households in the complex where I live. For the last two days, the others have been lugging up buckets of water because their taps are running dry. I turn on the tap with abandon..or atleast, as much abandon as I normally exercise when it comes to water. The nice man who is the Man Friday of the establishment told me that he would help me carry the buckets up, and was amazed when I thanked him, but refused and explained that I have water in my taps.

The reason? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

I do the first two zealously.

Reduce: Bathe in a half-bucket of water. It gets one just as clean as the three buckets a colleague was boasting of using. Shut the tap while brushing teeth, scouring dishes.

Reuse: Use laundry water (wash and first rinse) for flushing, mopping. Second rinse goes to the plants. Shanpoo under the tap, use the water for mopping. The water in which beans and dals have been soaked goes to the plants- they don't worry about flatulence!

As for the third, I have heard of peeing on plants, but I ain't going there!

Demand Management. A good mantra to live by.

Monday, May 17, 2010

evenings and magic

If you were to approach our house now, you would be guided to it by the snatches of music and glimpses of golden light that spill out into the darkness. Open the door and step into a luminous place filled with lit candles and the sweet sounds of Lester Young * on the saxophone.

I am sitting here at a table littered with the detritus of a happy evening. Ruby-stained glasses, bowls of oil and vinegar, and remnants of salad. A rug rolled up and pushed out of the way. One finally spent candle sits cold and dark ,while the row of floating wicks on the windowsill still dance merrily. These are joined by the cream-and-yolk curtains that gently billow and shift in the breeze.
It has been a good evening.

 A certain light on my computer blinks green and Mian is online talking to me. It is still a good evening.

* the album was given to me by my niece as i left for Dun so everytime I play it, I miss her..

Sunday, May 16, 2010

11.30 pm, Paharganj

C is relieved and happy because she managed to check into a hotel despite having forgotten to carry any photo-id. Now is a good time to establish rapport with the desk, she thinks.
C: I see your tarriff has gone up. The last time I was here, it was less, wasn't it?
D: I remember when you were here last, Madam. The tarriff was the same. Maybe you dont remember because the -ahem!- gentleman you were with had paid.
C(realizing what she's saying 1 crucial second after she says it):That was no gentleman! That was my husband.

So..does farce imitate life, or is it the other way around?

By the way, the hotel is the wonderfully named 'Hotel Cottage Yes Please' and I do recommend it highly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bithoor and its buildings

When I was complaining about the lack of urban art in Dehradun, W told me," keep your eyes above street level'. and that was sound advice.
It is largely the ground floor facades that are papered/panelled/torn down. The upper storeys of old buildings are not considered for 'modernization' and retain a lot of their charm.
And that is also true of Bithoor, where it is notmodernization but grafitti that is defacing many lovely buildings.
but the upper stories still retain a dignified beauty.

and sometimes, it is not just the beauty of a building, but a hint of what it conceals that is so tantalizing.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Home decor essentials

The curtains and their rods are down, the rugs are rolled up, the maps and assorted thingamajigs are tucked away. This weekend our house gets painted a clean cream, and I say goodbye to brothel-pink and dhaba green.

Bone-white walls mean fun playing with colours for furnishings, of course. I have been going through things looking for ideas for my curtains. Now, some people have a knack of taking a couple of old sarees and making magic. Me, not so much. I am constitutionally unable to put together 'a look' whether on my person, or my table. And I am always okay with that. 'Eclectic', 'Artist in a garette', and 'Scavenger' have pretty much been my favourite decorating styles.

But now, I am decorating for two, so to speak. And I have been overdosing on other peoples magazine-ready houses.  The result is that I have been going through a mild phase of 'oh what's the use, its impossible, I cant do it, mum-maaa!'

But we know by now that the multiverse does not allow me to feel that way for long.I happen to be helping a little girl with her homework most evenings. And she is wide-eyed with joy at the pretty things she finds at our home.

'you have a painting!'
'yes, my friend made it and gave it to me.'

'you have many frogs..'
'yes, I like them a lot. do you?'
'hanh! may  I play with them?'

She looks through the pretty books, builds with scrabble tiles, and plays with the thingies. And I see them all with a new pair of eyes and think, 'Not Martha, but who wants that? This is lovely.'

How does that song go? 'kisiko dekhna hain ghar, to pehele maang le nazar..'

Yeh ghar bahut haseen hain.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mules in the Pindari Valley

While trekking in the Pindar Valley, it is difficult to escape the mules and ponies. Their cheerful jingling wakes one up early when the loaded ponies set off. On the trail, they are everywhere. It is nice to meet the patient little beasts plodding up a path and exchange a greeting or two with the owners.

A slightly less pleasant aspect is the dung on the path..especially when it is buzzing with flies, but that is a cue to think, "ah! soil fertilization!" and carry on.

The ponies are for the large part well treated. they do lead a hard life, but so does everyone in the Himalayas. They are not very pet-able, but that is largely because they are used to being treated as working comrades rather then 'whosaprettyboy'.

The chai stall at Mallya Daur is a rest stop for the mules as well as a salt lick. And those guys do crave their salt! That was the only time I saw the ponies being aggressive towards one another. Mine!

In a tourism-driven valley inaccessible by road, everything is brought in on their backs. groceries, vegetables, carpets, machinery, furniture, clothes- Everything. Like all working creatures, the mules and ponies also appreciate their time off. I watched as a mule was unloaded in Dwali. The instant its harness was off, it went purposefully to a patch of grass and rolled onto its back. I could almost hear the deep and happy sigh. In the evenings, of course, the animals are free to do as they please. Tomorrow is another working day.