Travel Diary : A Quilt for the Cook, Jaipur in Slowmo

IMG_20180201_114407

We had to do it. It is a tradition whenever my British pal, Mary comes a-visiting. I was doubtful. Did not want to spend any money, as I had nothing over and above my pocket money, helper salaries and petrol. She insisted we go. I dug deep into my pockets and discovered some old, forgotten notes. We flew, and we arrived in a sunny, welcoming environment, the entry point from Delhi, Jaipur, the Pink City. This was the first time I had conceded to flying to Jaipur, after all, it was down the road on our Highway 8, we could drive and be there in four hours. Of course, it’s always been over five, but it does seem possible when we set out in the wee hours of the morning. We’ve never actually managed to set off early enough. Wise decision it was to Air India it. The National Carrier flew on time, landed with a thump, rather hard, but we reached our little Jai Nivas, in less than four hours from the Gurgaon apartment. It doesn’t get faster than that. However, that’s where the speed stops. The rest of our trip was on slowmo.

The air at Jai Nivas bespoke complete lethargy. The garden, green and sunny, called out invitingly, and gently. We were given masala chai, the best ever, after half an hour of our demanding it. The room was large and airy; food, bland but ample; receptionist’s speech, a drawl. We had been welcomed and had nothing to worry about. We weren’t worried at all, why would we be? Well not yet, was how we felt. The service, in general, slow yet painfully cheerful, and later a visit to the Chameli bazaar, across the wide MI Road, was very laidback, wearing an air that breathed, ‘might be busy downtown, but here, it’s time to sit back and reap the fruits of our labour’. When did they labour? Anyhow, we also caught the drift and floated around, admiring the offerings on display in rather dusty panes. The shopkeepers watched us wanderers cheekily, I hasten to add, and barely moved a whisker to draw our attention. Yet our attention was drawn to this very odd and nonchalant display of apathy toward, what we might have well been, wealthy customers. Perhaps our own demeanour belied any signs of wealth. We weren’t dressed glamourously, nor did our rustic bags give off the perfume of well-stocked wallets.

On rushing back armed with beer, we discovered that our fridge was not working. It took all of an hour and a half of much inspection, followed by rigorous movement, followed by an equally dismal looking contraption that replaced its earlier cousin. It worked nevertheless, and we did enjoy chilled beer that night. Dinner was salty.

The following day, we left our abode at 11, since shops are slated to open around then. The traffic was snarly, and our auto driver was angry. He seemed irate to begin with, and then, another auto driver made the fatal mistake of crossing his path. That was it! He stopped bang in the middle of an overcrowded, dusty and misshapen main road to give an earful to this guy. Since I follow the Hindi spoken there, my ears burnt red from embarrassment, the choice of words were such. I don’t know quite understand why I should have been embarrassed, as my English friend understood none of it, though she sensed the rage. I had to command our auto driver to pipe down and carry on to the bazaar, without further delay. He was quivering with rage and dumped us outside a quilt shop. His nostrils flared like a bull’s, and I tried to imagine the real reason for such a display of uncontained temper. We even discussed it later at the shop. Perhaps the guy did not have too many customers, perhaps he was burdened with a housing loan, maybe he had lost money in a gambling spree, his wife’s cooking may be terrible, or that she was pregnant with their fifth child! Who knew what can get someone going, who knew!

The quilt store, a pretty shop, was divided by price tags, quality and designs. There were three men, and not one was a client. We felt special, by default. A wide array of designs were on display. Jaipuri quilts are very popular, and much in demand. Why was the shop empty? It was already around noon. In the meantime, we just had to point to one, and it was spread out in customary fashion, at our feet, to admire and fondle. An hour later, we were still undecided. Would my cook like this one, or that one? I was at a loss. What I liked, subtle pastels, he definitely would not. His instruction was – “Bhabhi, 4 ya 5 hazaar rupye ki moti razai lana meri maa ke liye, zyaada bhi chalega, kam nahin, gaon mey rehti hain” (Sisterinlaw, do buy a thick quilt for 4 or 5 thousand rupees, for my mother in the village, could cost more, but not less.). Now there was more than the dilemma of the pastels and subtleties, there was the element of the price. These were all around 3 thousand rupees, no more.

I whatsapped my mate at home, and asked him to share the designs, but not before I had discovered the velvet-covered quilts. To my vision they were quite ugly, but soft and thick, one of the cook’s demands. They still did not achieve the 4-5 thousand rupee status. Anyway, I got a response pretty quickly, and as suspected, he loved the velvety ones. The deal was made, and I bought a quilt for the cook’s mom!

IMG_20180201_111831.jpg
mom’s Velvety quilt

No customers appeared, during our hour-long visit. We were served hand and foot by three men- one of whom was the owner. He spoke perfect English for the benefit of my friend Mary. The shop had an impressive display of bedcovers and sheets too, and Mary ended up picking up some of those as well. I am certain the shopkeeper was thrilled at having done brisk business. Yet, I kept wondering why the street, a main one at that, very close to Hawa Mahal, was devoid of tourists. Business seemed really, really slow.

As we emerged, we were accosted by many shopkeepers, all at once, asking us where we were from, and if our interest could be evoked by, bangles, jootis (Jaipuri shoes), kurtas, skirts, balloon trousers, harem pants, jewellery and so on and so forth. After the gentle treatment meted out to us at the quilt showroom, we felt assaulted, and ducked for cover in a nearby jeweler’s shop, that was small and where we were offered Italian espresso. The coffee was fabulous, but the shop owners had lured us with a price that did not hold. We left soon thereafter.

The sun had risen to its zenith, and it had turned pretty warm. As we rushed on, while the rest of the Jaipuri world seemed not bothered with the sun’s movements, we observed people drinking chai, chattering, languorous and lazy, discussing politics. Life seemed to follow an even trail here. Everyone was at ease with the slow pace of a small town, but for us.

We wanted to just be, observe and watch, however every once in a while, we would hear a shopkeeper shout out to us, albeit gently, “Only 100 rupees madam, only 200 rupees,” I did venture into a bangle shop and picked up a dozen, after bargaining it down. Again, we were the only customers. Although it was high season, in my understanding of Rajasthan’s tourism, there were too few tourists around us. It all seemed to have waned, or was it the wrong time of day?

IMG_20180201_133023
Wind View (Hawa Mahal)

IMG_20180201_135930We discovered, quite by chance, a rooftop restaurant, Wind View, rather aptly named. It afforded a wonderful view of the Hawa Mahal, and the ramparts of the Nahargarh fort. We ordered tea in terracotta cups, and joined the slow march of time. The breeze was cool, the tea, piping hot and spicy. We just sat and sipped our tea, quietly observing nibbling monkeys on rooftops, the gorgeous fort and tourists, yes, finally, tourists busy photographing the fort from the terrace of the Hawa Mahal. So there were people, after all, who toured Jaipur, apart from us!

 

We needed eardrops for Mary, so we stopped by at an Ayurvedic pharmacy.

On asking for these, the gentleman owner kept asking us to repeat our query, “hein, hein, kya chahiye?” Clearly he needed some himself, and we couldn’t keep down our giggles. Finally, we did manage to get across our need, by gesticulating and made ourselves understood.

 

IMG_20180201_114542

 

All the laughing had made us quite hungry, and we undertood the march to the famous Lakshmi Mishthan Bhandar for lunch- which took us all of twenty-five minutes of crawling our way through chaotic traffic- pedestrians were clearly neither favoured nor tended to. There were hawkers, flower-sellers, auto rickshaws, cyclists, motorcyclists, with whom we fought for space on the road to reach a pavement, which was strewn with more vendors. What a crazy town! We had to watch our every step till we arrived at an over-crowded restaurant, but it was well worth it. It was cool, and the waiters were cheerful and served us fast, with excellent Indo-chinese- chilly paneer, veg chowmien and a stuffed onion kulcha for the Britisher! It was delicious, and was wolfed down with gusto! Fresh lime soda washed it all down, and we were two contented women. We did breathe easy indoors, whereas we should’ve been gulping down fresh air outdoors. Needless to say, that was not the case.

IMG_20180201_140002

Back at Jai Nivas, after a nice shower, we sat out in the green garden, and sipped chilled beer and although we weren’t particularly hungry, we did order some stuffed paranthas for a late dinner, which weren’t half bad.

The quilt for the cook’s mom sat in our room, looking plump and ready to warm the lady up next winter. It had been the prize, and we had definitely had an eventful day, because after lunch, we decided to walk through the gulleys of Jaipur, crisscrossing and meandering along behind the main Johri Bazaar.

The slowness of Jaipur, was not in these gulleys. These were the lanes where business was brisk, yet gentle, and people swarmed. It was bursting with tourists, and locals alike, and we got a real taste of what I would deem the high season that Rajasthan lives during the months of winter. We were amused, yet careful of where we stepped. Pavements are not popular for pedestrians. You just walk. You place your foot where you find place. We were dusty and tired on our return, but the comfy, simple Jai Nivas, is ideal for such evenings. There were many guests, yet we found our place in the garden. Stretching our feet, we read till the natural light faded.

Jaipur is a delightful town, and has gotten busier over the years. One doesn’t tire of it easily, because there is newness in the familiarity of it. I don’t quite know why, but I’ve visited Jaipur a dozen times in the last four, five years, and on every trip, I discover a facet that I hadn’t noticed earlier. People remain warm, and welcoming, which is surprising really. I guess it’s the Rajasthan culture.

I will return again next year, with Mary, or with a bunch of friends, earlier. Another quilt perhaps, for us, or anyone demanding it of me.

 

Advertisements

The Quarry – a SafeHouse

 

Return my love, he pleads.

Tis dark and damp, a Safe House.IMG_20171227_154445

O that summon again-

Perfumed mask, unholy armpits,

Bohemian stubble, vagrant deviant,

Heavens explode,

Drizzling light into this chasm.

Must I stumble, forage,

Somehow graze?

This is my safe house,

This sombre quarry.

A stone heart embittered,

Fears love, its myriad forms.

A Safe house, pity disarmed.

Where it rests sans hope,

No notion of a future,

No past, no forecast.

Let me be, I barely am.

Leeching blood, quarried.

Leaven me when a fossil,

A Specimen, a study docile,

A prize unearthed.

 

 

My review of Janice Pariat’s The Nine-Chambered Heart

qsnsplujdq-1511768338How do you read a book that leaves you gasping, having stolen your identity? What do you do when you take on all nine chambers as if they were always in your heart, were you?

This book by Pariat, had me in its grip from its very first chapter. I was completely taken.

When you begin the book, you wonder, and you read, and then you wonder some more, till you are wonderstruck at the author’s craft. She steals into your mind’s crevices, as she creates a complex character out of you, by cleverly using the second person narrative. How does one escape that, and yet keep your distance from such like? You can’t, and you won’t  because you are then curious to follow through, to the very end, of each Chamber as she draws you in, mystically.

The language employed is as simple as it is splendid.

Each chapter is linked, inextricably, to the next, but you don’t quite know where, coz it will suddenly refer to the past, and pow, you realize that you have shed the earlier skin, and adopted a new life, a quasi new identity! She seals you into the skin of the character, who is : mysterious, annoying, lovable, loving, adventurous, and almost wholly removed from the play at work, ever so often. She is as carnal, as she is spiritual- this nameless person at the center of the novel.

Pariat’s strengths lie in constantly surprising you, and inevitably draw you into the mind of this lover of feline creatures. You travel different lands with her, and yet you have no name, because we are all her.

I applaud Pariat’s novel, which had me in its hold in its infancy, in a manner of speaking,….every Chapter, let me tell you, has a leading name. Now you might wonder if the name is You, the reader, or the name of the new Lover. Go figure!

 

 

Letter to Myself On the Edge of the Precipice

Dear Me,

Does it bother you that you are galloping ahead, in real, physical years? Is the speed just right, or are you blown away? Do you feel intimidated by the fact that you can’t hold on, just a little bit longer to your fading youthfulness, because youth is long gone? Do you wish you didn’t have to stop pretending?

Well guess what, you’re at the threshold of the middle ages and perhaps a little further along.

00001IMG_00001_BURST20170826174736_COVER.jpg

 

Listen up, this is not the gauntlet you think it is. Just ease in, gradually. It’s not going to destroy what you’ve been living and working at. Growing older doesn’t mean giving in, or giving up, it simply means viewing things with a wider lens. You’ve been around, looking after the family and their needs concertedly. Now, zoom in to yours. Well, guess what, you can be your life’s central character and start focusing on your desires and needs and whatever else you had put on hold for later, Later’s arrived.

So whatever you had envisaged gets put on the front burner. Go on, set it alight.

Dance, sing, write, play, move, and shake, whatever. But of course, you’re not quite as light on your feet as you used to be. You’re heavier. You’re not as energetic as you used to be, as a result of the time of life you are at. That’s interesting, because I reckon, you might be lighter inside of you, what with so many responsibilities gliding off your back. Yet you say, you’re heavier. Well, you’ll just have to live with it, won’t you! Guess what, there’s no time like the Now, especially when you know you can’t turn back the clock. Love this new, fuller you. It’s bounty, the reward of abundance. So was it a fair exchange- getting heavier without, in exchange for a lighter mind within?

Finding yourself will be a benefit that comes along at this stage too. Did you know that? Does it excite you, or, does it frighten you, this facing yourself? It can get ugly, but only so much. What’s the point if you can’t summon the courage to befriend yourself in a new light; you might unearth some chinks and cracks that enhance, not mar. Novelty much.

So far you had been busy living others’ lives. Yes, I get that it was deeply satisfying and all that, after all it is your family, your kids and your duty. The duty is now shifting, quietly, and the focus is now You. The greatest duty of all- rediscovering your Self. You can do it while fulfilling all that you had mapped out for your twilight years, you know all the plans for when your kids will have grown up and found their calling. Now’s the time, live yours. No more faffing about, just succumb to this spell that’s beckoning.

Haven’t you been writing private journals for the longest time- deep thoughts and musings- all that you conceal from the world out there? Well now is the time to enliven that process. Relook at the past, as one looks at a life lived; cull from it that which you need, the rest, you erase; there’s no need for clutter. Become your own living journal, and position all the missing pieces of the puzzle that you are bound to discover, together. The outline becomes clearer, and an image begins to form, trust me, I’ve been there endless times, in my head. It won’t be a spitting image of yourself though, not the one you’ve known at least. Be ready to fall in love, again.

Guess what, this  puzzle could be confusing and complex yet the intrigue of it will keep you busy for the longest time, one day at a time.

What do you mean you are too old to get out there and do what you thought you should have achieved earlier, far earlier? That’s such bull-crap! Yes, people say age is only a number, but it’s not, it’s more than a number- it’s experience and much collated and processed wisdom. You’ve brought that along from all these years you’ve lived. Age is the kind of affluence you can’t count, so no, it’s not just a number; it’s fortune multiplied. You can do it, whatever it is you thought you should’ve accomplished earlier.

Go for it, don’t allow anything to deter you, especially not the mind that tries to control, and influence and negate when you’re on the edge of the precipice that’s your launching pad. Guess what, you’re actually pretty close to that edge right now, so run, take flight.

Good luck mate!

I Want to Be That Person

IMG_20170118_151907
quiet flows the Hudson

IMG_20170909_111145

 

I want to be that Person who

Is affected not,

By gale nor storm, thrills nor curse;

Aggrieved not by mislaid treasures,

Or an empty bag, devoid of coins.

I want to be that Soul,

Who sees wealth as but a means,

To see Peru or

The Great Barrier Reef,

To travel distant lands unseen.

Oh I so want to claim that Being,

Every merchant’s dream:

Gullible, wide-eyed, foolish,

Reasons not, easy to sway,

Quick to purchase, and cherish,

Most wares on display.

 

Knows she is not unique, 

Yet bearer of a force,

 Isolated from the feeble, 

That none can annul. 

 

That Presence who,

Is both ready, and startled,

When hurt, weeps-vulnerable, exposed,

Yet is neither defenseless nor weak.

And is so much more.

That whole person within,

Is who I seek. 

GOA, a pictorial sojourn

IMG_20170903_152111
The glorious view of the sea-line from the skies above, and the verdant hillocks that awaited us visitors

 

Just three days, three gorgeous days in South Goa, and I carry back a whole year’s supply of mirth. The ambience gets on to your skin, in preparation for a relaxed spa-like vacation coming up, in the warmest and most playful way possible. There’s no place like Goa to unwind they say, and it’s true to the hilt.  There’s that something in the air, as the monsoons trail along, playing hide and seek with your senses. The tall palms swaying head downward, bushes bursting with petrichor, and innumerable waterways wearing a luxuriant look, glamorous after dry Gurgaon, embrace your every pore, even before you land. The drive to your hotel courses through languorous countryside bathed in warm sunlight, that seems to belong to Goa alone. We stayed in the Benaulim area, and for the length of our stay drifted along alleyways and gulleys, like two impoverished souls, soaking it all in. Some of what our beings absorbed is right here, in  a feeble attempt to capture its blossoms, its seafarer robes, its very essence, as we strolled and biked around like two Junkie hipsters, high on Goa!

 

IMG_20170902_095948
Not without my bike and mate
IMG_20170901_185239
Serenity mirrored
IMG_20170901_190622
Silhouetted against the dying light, but the beginning of a mystical evening, as the sea-soaked air lulls ever so gently
IMG_20170902_080926
Dead to the world outside, soaked in brine, that’s how we are in Goa
IMG_20170902_081337
Lavender blooms magically appear every once in a while

 

 

 

 

IMG_20170902_092433
Red-flagged. It hurt to see them everywhere preventing us from diving into the water, so we park and gaze interminably, and with a lustful longing, even as the midday sun tells us to duck for cover

The Road less Travelled, a rear seat view

IMG_20170901_094706
and then there’s sunny reds
IMG_20170826_174803
It’s the time of the day when Fishermen rock on, wielding fishing nets to manage their livelihood. I prayed to ride this boat soon some day, without the monsoons coming in my way
IMG_20170901_185354
Just us, the sea and me
IMG_20170902_102203
A Church rears its head as we ride thru’ villages, and reminds us that prayer is serious business never on holiday, and i close my eyes in reverence.
IMG_20170901_132401
Goa’s Pride : Mario and a dedicated museum to him…we enjoyed every minute there.
IMG_20170901_132049
Despite an aging knee, guess who rode to the Mario Place!
IMG_20170901_141453
I can ride fast too
IMG_20170901_143207
a typical scene from a typical Goan village
IMG_20170902_080824
Beauties, lavender or purple, by any name, enticing and refreshing
IMG_20170901_104709
Now to get a swimming pool where you lay yourself on your back floating till sundown, with a view like this that meets your gaze, only in Goa i promise you!
IMG_20170902_073618
Tread softly they say, these are my dreams i say

 

IMG_20170902_101112
My Goa…this is how i envision it when back home, like a painting- tall swaying palms, thinly concealing Goan houses, the thick aroma of curries invading your palate as you drive by