Sunday, May 27, 2012

Of furniture

I wonder if anyone remembers Champak magazine. If you have never heard the name before, you haven't missed much. It was a children's periodical (perhaps monthly?) and extremely shoddy. The language was bad, the illustrations badly-drawn, and the humour crude. The type of magazine, in fact, of which we would smirk 'humph, North Indian' as if that explained it all.

Hungry for reading matter, my sis and I would still occasionally  buy it. And one of those stories stuck in my mind. It was a tale of a chronically messy boy who was unable to clean his room. He just did not know where to start. One day, his mother gave him a vase of sunflowers. He couldn't bear to keep them on a messy table, and so cleared the top. This necessitated clearing the drawers, which required him to tidy the closet, and so on till finally, the boy stared wonderingly at a gleaming room.

Something of the sort happened to me  yesterday. The carpenters finished their work, and left me looking at three tables, two chairs and two shelves. The shelves called out for a vase of flowers, which called out for tidily arranged spice jars, which needed a clean space for the other vessels, and so on.

At the end of it, I stared wonderingly at a gleaming room. The kitchen appliances shone. In the center of the room stood a table with two chairs drawn up to it. A cloth had been spread on it and a teapot squatted in the centre. The light streamed in from the window next to the stove and created a bright orange square where Shona sat. The rose on the shelf glowed like a jewel.

I looked at it and burst into tears.

A table is so little to ask for. And it has taken us since November to get it. All winter, we have been squatting on the floor, or on camp stools. We have been cooking and prepping food on a stack of suitcases, or on the stone wall near the patio.

It seems like we are making a big deal of furniture. But think of all that it means. It means cooking side by side in comfort. It means a workspace where we can put books and papers without things sliding off our laps. It means goodbye to that incessant pain in my lower back. Above all, it means meals with grace. It means no more balancing plates on our laps and guarding food from the dog. It means a table laid for dinner. It means candles, and flowers, and conversation, and laughter.

It might have taken us since November. But it is worth it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

To-do lists, love and a wee bit of jealousy

Mian returns in a fortnight, and this means that I get into a little flurry of getting things done before he comes.

 He protests mightily at this of course.   'We should do it together' he says. 'I don't want you to think that you need to make things ready before I come' he insists. I shrug and go on with my happy plans of surprising him when he gets here. Some of these plans are laudable, designed to make his life a little easier- like making tables. Some plans lean more towards hiding evidence of misdeeds- like cleaning up oven splatters. Whatever they are, they are done for love of the man.

Which is why I was touched to realize that G had such a list too. He has been excited about getting the external wall plastered and coated with a lime wash. I am in the middle of my all-too-frequent cash flow hiccups.

'We can do it later', I told him.

'No' he asserted, 'before Saheb comes.'

I recognised that urgency all too well. 'My Saheb' I snarled- almost.

Plastering walls is fine. But if  G's to-do list includes a pedicure, my wifely antennae are going to start tingling.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Absolutely Cuckoo*

One morning, Mian received a text message from me, 'I think I am going out of my mind..a bird just miaowed at me.'

It happened like this. Shona and I were pottering around the garden when we heard a plaintive miaowing. Shona and I both hunted for the cat, but couldn't find it. We both stood under a tree that had seemed to be where the sound was coming from, and looked at each other. And then we heard it again, directly above us.

We looked up and an a jay looked back at us. It opened its beak and miaowed. It was at this point that I yelped, Shona whimpered and we scampered back home. I checked the bird book, and there was no mention of miaows..the bird is supposed to screech. It is at this point that I messaged Mian.

I am glad Shona B was there, because else I would have seriously thought the mountains were addling my brain. As it is, when G came around, Shona and I  nonchalantly brought the conversation around to ornithology.

'Lots of birds now' I said.
'hmm' said he
' Some that I haven't seen before.'
'The bird calls are different here too'
Taking my courage in my hands, 'In fact, today I heard one that sounded like a cat'
This time he looked up, relief flooding his face 'So you heard it too! yes, there is one that miaows.'

I am sane. Or atleast, no crazier than before I moved here.

* The title? How could I resist? Magnetic fields, and well worth a listen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A most decadent day

By Pahari standards, at least. Shona and I spent a grand total of 50 rs between us, and felt like two pampered princesses at the end of it.

It all began when I made dinner for the little one and realized that I was out of rice, and out of cash to replenish supplies with.  

So the next morning, I fed the pup her breakfast and went off to Mukteshwar which is where the nearest ATM is. I had only done this walk once before, and that was with my Mian. In my minds eye, I saw it as being long and ardous, and so had decided to make a day of it.

It wasn't bad at all, we reached in only 1.5 hours. And we had started early, so the walk was when the birds were still active.Its spring, and the walk was wonderfully fragrant. It surprises me how close the plant life here is  to the Pacific Northwest. A lot of the flowers I passed, I had first seen in the Olympic National Park. Buttercups, ox-eye daisies, wild roses..The last especially were wonderfully fragrant. This monsoon, I plan on getting cuttings and planting them where they will ramble over the walls of our house.

But to go on, we walked up to Mukteshwar through the forest with me looking at the butterflies and Shona hunting them. Once I was done with the ATM and the bank, a most wondrous thing happened as far as the little one was concerned. We shared an omlette between us, and I had some chai. Spicy, salted meals come very rarely in the pup's life, and she went into transports of delight. After she was done and as I sat sipping my chai, she turned her bowl over to lick the underside-in case some egg reached there by osmosis. 'The pup's never been fed' I could feel the passersby thinking.

On our way back home, I stopped where a rock juts out over a cliff. We sat down, and I pulled out a second surprise for the pup- grapes! Grapes are possibly the only thing the pup loves over a  bone..she was so excited to see what was in the bag that she actually fell over. That was the highlight of my day..sitting there on a cliff and sharing grapes with scrupulous fairness.

And then when we got home, we napped..and the little one woke to a belly rub. Spoilt pup? maybe a wee bit.