Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A story of perfume

Open any woman's cupboard and you will inhale a rich mixture of scents, evocative of her own self.

There might be the deep sweetness of a sandalwood jewellery box, the intense woodiness of some carefully hoarded spices, the lemony fruitiness of her favourite lotion, and there will always be perfume. That's how I remember my mother's and sister's cupboards. Amma's cupboard was redolent of sandal and lavender, my sister's of more complex perfumes and creams. As a tomboyish child who - if you were lucky- smelled of Nycil and Pears, these cupboards were indescribably exotic.

And then my  own cupboard acquired fragrance. First simpler florals and finally grown-up perfumes. I remember a friend hugging me once. 'Oh, that's what the magazines mean,' she exclaimed, 'when they say a perfume should be only smelled by the one kissing you.'

But later on, a mean little voice began to be heard inside my head. 'Such things are for pretty women' it hissed.'What are you doing with them?' I stopped and my cupboard  became a purely functional, sterile thing.

Still later, Mian came along and insisted that I deserved all the prettiest and most splendiferous things in the universe. Incredibly enough, I began to believe him. But I still did not buy any perfume. By then, I was out of place in a store that sold fripperies. I felt clumsy and gauche and showed it.

Fragrance came back to my list of 'someday haves' though, spurred by a friend who told me with a mix of shyness and defiance 'I buy nice things for myself these days. Why not?' Why not indeed? I began to read fragrance blogs. Mian, spectacular husband that he is, took notice and took notes.

And on my birthday, he pulled out the very bottle I was lusting for .'Did I get the right one?' he asked worriedly. He had, but there is no wrong one.

Now when I open my cupboard, there it is- that lovely, lovely fragrance. All mine. Back after so many years.
Thank you, Mian

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Death by indiference

I wrote earlier about Rubeena and her family.
Since then, I have put up a photoset on India Water Portal's flickr page. Please do go and take a look- The people and the landscape need to be not forgotten.


Monday, June 9, 2014

How my garden grows

I have three gardening enthusiast friends in the Chatola-Sitla area. Two of these, A and L, have gardens as mature and exquisite as themselves. Their gardens manage to be both quiet and exuberant, voluptuous  and aloof. When confronted with these gardens, I find myself stunned into silence with my mouth hanging open. Come to think of it, that's also how I am in the presence of the ladies who created these spaces. I covet a garden like that, just as I too want to be as gracious and..and refined  as the gardeners. And I know that neither is achievable for the bumblebee that I am.

Our garden is  still in its infancy as far as Mian's and mine influence goes. But thankfully, we have inherited established plants from the people who lived here earlier- things that give us much joy and would have taken us a decade to grow. There are the fruit trees, of course. But there are also the giant sunflowers that I love so much, and the beautiful old roses, the lilies that crop up every year.

There are also things that I am not particularly fond of, but still turn up and are welcomed every year- the ramrod straight gladioli, the faded-yellow dahlias. They are all welcomed.
The beautiful rose arch..would have taken us  years to get it
Our mark- Mian's and mine and G's- is becoming slowly apparent now. We have planted things to climb over the house- ivy and roses and cathedral bells. There is a baby rosemary hedge- it is 6 inches tall now, but soon I will be able to spread our linen to dry on it. There are lots of golden rod and salvia to attract bees. There's parsley and chives and sage for the picking.
The Giant Sunflower in the foreground, flanked by gladioli, mint below, parsley and chives in the background, and lettuce and squash just visible!

 And things are always happening in the garden- nearly every day, a new 'project' gets executed. I want fragrance, and shade. I want bumblebees and honeybees, and birds and frogs and earthworms. And for this, I need lots of fragrant flowering and fruiting things. It will happen- Not soon, but it will.

The wild himalayan rose- my favourite flower here. We don't have it near the house yet. This  monsoon, I wil plant lots

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I lied to Rubeena

And I wish I hadn't. I didn't know then, that I was lying to her.

This was in Chaubari, where I was interviewing people about the state of the Ramganga.

Rubeena was in the middle of harvesting cucumbers from her fields in the middle of the river. She, along with most of the other people from her village, plant the bed of the river when the waterlevels are low. This  silty soil, with a good source of water just below, is ideal for melons, cucurbits, and gourds. They have been doing this for generations. And pitiful though the profits are, Rubeena and her fellow-farmers do not know of any other means of income. There is the farming, and a little labour in the off season.

And now there is a barrage coming up just downstream.

Rubeena had heard rumours that the barrage meant that they would be displaced, their lands flooded, their villages evicted. Not so, I told her.  The barrage is only for protective irrigation during the Kharif- the monsoon crop. Once the monsoon is over, the water will be let out and you will be able to farm as usual.
Rubeena's children
Turns out, that is not the case. I spoke to the engineer who had designed this and he said that my assumption was only half correct. Yes, this was intended only for Kharif, but there would be some impounding throughout the year. I protested, spoke about the farmers in that place. 'Change happens' he said. And then he added that awful phrase- 'It is the price of progress.'

The problem here is that the landed farmers of a far-off district are progressing while people like Rubeena pay the price.