Random musings of a wandering soul

Ode to Fallen Cakes

Originally posted on The Weekend Kitchen:

The fruit cakes were turning out perfect, lemon and vodka soft and fluffy, orange and rum inviting…..in short, life was good. Well, I will not talk about work here. So, there I stood staring out of my kitchen window, a dreamy smile on my face, anticipating another batch of picture perfect beauties. And then, the inevitable thud that follows a dream run

imageNone of the rescue tricks that I knew of worked. “You have hits, then you have flops, all part of life,” I tried to console the baker in me. And I threatened the chocolate and red wine that was finding its way into the oven, “don’t you dare fall on me.” 45 minutes later, it came out, with its skin as soft as a baby’s bottom and as taut as Madonna’s midriff. The preening smile was back on my face.

Cakes are like children. They pretend to be…

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Just Another Morning

imageSleep late on weekends? No sir, not me. I am a soccer mom, you see. Handsome hunks as coaches and glamorous moms fawning over them, did you say? Only in movies my friend, only there.  Sigh!

The weekend special shouting match commences as the mother gets up early in the morning and starts trying to wake the son up. After three ‘two minutes, amma’ the sound pollution quotient meter in the apartment almost blows up. The mother gets into the lift in a huff and the son follows in a puff. Things are almost back to as normal as it can get by the time we reach the football grounds.

Age has made me quite cantankerous. I don’t take hollow smiles and pointless banter too easily. As an after effect, taking  a walk around the apartment complex is anathema, unless it is midnight and all around are hopefully in bed or at least couched in front of their rectangular flat boxes. Pizza boxes are square, aren’t they? Anyway. So, the early morning football coaching for son is kind of a Shangri la for me. It’s a very reluctant sun that greets me the moment I step out of the car. The rays peep out hesitantly as though they are scared the cool  breeze will chase them off. The leaves sway gently and tell them there’s nothing to worry, and the gingerly steps gain confidence. I start my weekend walk.

A rugged pathway with age old trees to guard and refresh you, cricket on one side, football on the other and a small walk down, horses and people learning to ride them, the place is as happening as it is calm and peaceful. Nature is an instant pick us up, isn’t it? However tired I am, a few minutes under the trees, the feeling is as if you are in another world, where the worries and travails of the daily toil seem to disappear magically. A strange feeling of awareness start seeping in.image

As I walk forward early in the morning, the occasional sound of a vehicle comes in through the left ear while the right ear slowly catch the sounds that has by now become unfamiliar. A lone cuckoo on the branches somewhere above, calling out to its lost love, crickets screeching out the arrival of another morning, the bright chirp of a sparrow , the bark of a stray dog probably marking its territory; the more I listen, the more voices I discern. Oblivious to all else, I can even hear the rustle of the leaves. The horses from the riding school saunter languidly , their riders as elegant as the animals they mount.  Wild flowers strew the path here and there, are they fallen stars, I wonder. Towards the end of the path, there is a small grove of sappotta (Chikkoo) trees. A treasure trove of organic fruits, for they grow wild and in abandon.

Watching people around you can be the most interesting pastime. Parents come in different hues. There are those who stay put in their vehicles with the day’s newspaper. The diligence with which they seem to scrutinise each letter makes you wonder what exactly is it that they are searching for in there. Interestingly, there is a only a small group that spend the waiting time with their gadgets. Among those who do, mothers are a majority. Subject for a study, I guess. Most of them come prepared though, in their track pants and walking shoes, trudging along around the ground. A few like me prefer the canopy of the trees to the warm rays of the morning sun.

We cross each other on our walks, almost every Saturday and Sunday. The distance between us is a few yards, the individual worlds we inhabit are light years apart. We see each other week after week, but never meet. The mischievous spirit in me takes over one day as I try to stare out a smile from at least one. The first one is a svelte girl child, always on a trot, with the customary ear phones tucked in and her gaze fixed on a moving point somewhere far in the horizon. She is an easy target, the return smile is instant and it lights up her face. A beauty, she is.

Next is the athletic couple. They are on a jog, perpetually. A serious look of concentration on their sweat stained faces, feet in tandem and like a true bhartiya naari, the wife always a few steps behind the husband. I wouldn’t even dare to attempt a smile at them, the expression on their face is that fierce. Then comes the father daughter duo. I love this two. The girl must be about ten, the father obviously a veteran at this morning run thing. It’s obvious that she finds it difficult to keep up with her father. She just doesn’t give up though. The high pony tail swinging  from left to right in perfect harmony, she completes the forty five minute ritual. I would love to eavesdrop on that gentle post run talk that the two seem to enjoy so much. The smile is rather indulgent now, not necessarily at either of them.

The runner / walker comes next. It’s difficult to figure out how to define that gait of his. The feet doesn’t seem to touch the ground. If Jesus Christ had walked fast on water this is exactly how it would have looked like, apart from the apparel, of course. Then there is the expat couple who goes around the ground, never changing their trajectory, obviously enjoying their unhurried walk, always chatting, sharing a smile now and then, it’s a pleasure to watch the easy camaraderie. So engrossed are they in each other, there is no point in even attempting a smile.

imageThe two guys jogging down the track now are the types that I feel like running off from. The intense look on their faces, the perpetual appendage in their ears and the bytes of conversations that I pick up in passing is enough to discern the only language that they could possible know – the high brow corporate ones. Smile? I frown and walk as far away as possible.

The father and son looks exactly alike except for the color of their hair. The well fed cheeks, the round nose,  bushy eye brows, the heaviness in their walk, even the paunches are mirror images. They walk for sometime, then play cricket or football or whatever is the fancy of the day. And, they seem to be losing weight month after month. I am so envious that the smile would seem too contrived. No smile there.

1, 2, 3….is someone learning numbers at this age? And who is that lady running away? Ah, they had gone missing for the past few weeks. The couple who arrives with their personal trainer. I am not making this up, maa ki kasam. They try, or at least their trainer does. At times, I really have to fight that urge to go join them, just for fun. As for the smile, yet to figure out whether the top of a head would smile back, the only time I pass them by is when they are bent….errr…in a bending position.

The hefty gora comes trotting by. Geoff Bush sans the belly, that stiff upper lip has to be British. Smile? No way. Few other couples, a girl who has a strong resemblance to one of the girls who presents a Malayalam comedy show, the old expat who always has a smile on his face, the mother who drives a Tata Safari as if she is maneuvering a multi axle truck, random smiles are offered and some returned.

Now comes my favorite, the sage. Gandhi in a track pants, his face reflects an inner glow. He walks unhurried, taking in the essence of the morning air. He seem to be content by himself always and I was surprised to see him in deep conversation , or rather listening deeply to a new face. My ears turned long as I heard ,”the story starts there.” The enthusiasm seeped into their pace as well and I could catch only a few words here and there as we passed each other in the next few rounds. Finally, the sage opens his divine mouth, “Atheyo?”

The smile on my face turns into a huge grin……they are everywhere, these bloody mallus!

(p.s. ‘Atheyo’ is a Malayalam word = ‘is it?’ in English)

Originally posted on Reminiscing the Reads:

islandThe abbreviation IPKF, loud speakers blaring some mumbo jumbo and the name Rajiv Gandhi resonating in our ears in the early morning hours from a hostel room, the disbelief, shock and painful pictures that followed and years later, the portly figure of Velupillai Prabhakaran with the marks of a gun shot on his forehead, the war in Sri Lanka could very well have been summarized in these fleeting pictures. Strangely, it was the names of the places that had stuck on – Jaffna, Killinochi, Vavunia, Mannar, Mullativu, Batticaloa – were as familiar as a Fort Kochi, Ambalappuzha or Changanacherry. The newspaper statistics were something to be read like the daily weather report. Until I read this book.

For most of the world around, the war in Sri Lanka ceased to exist when Prabhakaran was shot dead. The silence that followed was eerie when you think of it in retrospect. Samanth…

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Leftovers are good :)

Originally posted on The Weekend Kitchen:

I’ve always been a lazy mother, letting my kids be, finding their own way and telling myself that I’m teaching them to be independent. Never in my dreams could I have thought I was a horrible one as well. Well, what else do you call a mother who has neglected her child for almost two years?

Let me tell you my child, you’ve never been far from my mind. In fact, you should see the stuff that I’ve been making for you all this time. Cakes and breads and what not! And did I tell you, people are willing to pay money to get this stuff? So, let me shower some attention on you, my dear blog.

Life has changed over the past two years. But this mother hasn’t much. I still find it difficult to stick to norms and exact measurements. There is an itch if something extra is…

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Originally posted on Reminiscing the Reads:

Infidel

(Disclaimer : Even if I write page after page for weeks, it would be difficult to cover the varied emotions and thoughts that still keeps going through my mind. This is a humble attempt to prod you to take this up and read.)

Those eyes seemed to challenge me from the bookshelf for more than a year. “Come pick me up, if you dare,” she taunted each time I picked it up. Her lips curled into a cynical smile as I kept it back, once again. I pretended that I was not yet ready, that the time to listen to her story had not come, yet. For I knew, she would demand undivided attention once she started her tale. And then, when that stare became unbearable, I picked it up again and flipped it open.

“Who are you?”

“I am Ayaan, the daughter of Hirsi, the son of Magan.”

So started…

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“What?”

A look of total disbelief was the inevitable first reaction.

“Oh, you must be meeting your blog friends there,” so said those who know about this space.
“Meeting friends there?” asked a few.
“You must be joking,” said the others.
Patience has never been one of my virtues. I took the pain, nevertheless. As if explaining to a young child, ” Yes, you heard right. I am taking a vacation in Himachal. A week. All alone. No family. No friends.”
The reactions were quite interesting. Many of them, mostly the guys, looked at me as though I’d gone totally crazy. The women folk had a twinge of longing in their eyes as they told me, “I’ve always dreamed of something like this…….some day….”

Years ago….

The five year old girl sat staring out into the dark. The bus went up the winding roads, the scent of the strong breeze on her face was strange and new. The passing silhouettes were tall and imposing. As someone pulled down the dirty green shutters of the rickety old bus,the folds reminded her of the paper fans that she made with her sisters back home. There was a sudden feeling of loss, as if something that she loved deeply was denied to her, all of a sudden, without any reason. The next thing she remembers is waking up to hills all around. She could not understand the feeling of joy and the unexplainable heaviness in her heart. All she wanted to do was run up one of those fairway hills and wander around the woods like a carefree butterfly. As she returned to her home in the plains, it was as if she had left her very soul behind.  That day, the wind in the hills carried a few seeds in their wings, that of a lifetime longing.

Maybe it was something to do with the place that I grew up in. Wherever you turned to, it was water all around. Like life, the terrain was also flat,  it went on in the same manner, with no particular ups and downs.  There were visits to,the hills after that, the fascination only grew, transforming to an insatiable thirst, to be one among the clouds, to cavort around the hills, to feel its highs and lows, to inhale and infuse the scent into my soul and very being. Even after traversing up and down the Western Ghats, there was a feeling of not being complete, as if the soul was still searching for something that was lost long ago,  even though I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what I was searching for.

Somewhere in the not so adventurous school years, the mighty Himalayas found its way in. Like any another ambitious school kid, first it was Mount Everest that I wanted to conquer. As  lazy as I was even back then, that dream was shelved even before it grew wings. The highest peak was too much trouble. That was when the fragrance from the Valley of Flowers  seeped in. And there was no looking back. It’s another matter that the dream remained just that, for years.

I”m sure Paulo Coelho appropriated the thought from somewhere else. But that didn’t stop me from waiting for the conspiracy to come true – that of wanting something so badly that the Universe is forced to conspire. It took many years and a few jobs in between for the elements to join forces and present two whole weeks before me. No job. Nothing to be unduly worried about. It was as if the perfect opportunity dropped by itself, straight into my lap.

Unseen forces are always at work behind the scenes, don’t you think? Else, why would a friend decide to go to, of all places, Himachal Pradesh, and that too, a lovely place so unpretentiously named ‘Raju Bharti Guest House’?  He is a wandering soul himself, so caught on immediately as I voiced my plans. The winds were blowing this way, definitely. The place , which is normally booked months in advance  was free when I wanted. Even Vayu Bhagwan was kind , tickets available at half the normal price and that too, just for the two flights that I was looking at. My moment had arrived, definitely.image

 

It’s not for nothing that certain people in our lives are called the better halves. For, more often that not, they are far better at making us believe that we are capable of things beyond our belief. Yes, I had travelled alone before (mostly on work), knew the kids would be safe and sound, and there would be no tsunamis or earthquakes if I let go for a week. Still, there is this nagging guilt that is the birthright of many a woman like me, that it is not right to leave the family behind, to do something just for yourself, by yourself. The logical brain says, ‘bah! Humbug!’ ,  while the guilt inducing emotional side tries to nag, “should I ?” The practical man just said, “Go”.

And that is just what I did. Go. 7 days. Alone. No friends. No family.

Was it easy? Not initially. To get out of the comfort zone and do something out of the ordinary is not easy. However brave or unconventional others think you are. Some of the initial excitement turned into anxiety as the day approached. Chandigarh was a totally new place. There was no one or no where that I knew in the city. And I had to spend 8 hours there and catch an over night bus. Well, have I ever told you that angels do exist ? One phone call was all it took and there was a ready made family waiting for me there. Ruchira, whatever you might say, what you did  is something I can never thank you enough for.

Yes, there is an element of uncertainty at each step. What if I miss the connecting flight? What if I reach there in the middle of the night? What if the taxi driver is a criminal? What if the other people at the home stay is horrible? What if the place itself is not as I expected it to be? What if I meet with an accident? The what ifs are endless and can kill you, but only if you allow it a free reign.

The place was all mine for the first few days, another group that had made reservations cancelled at the last moment. Solitude was what  I asked for and that was exactly what Was given to me. I went on a short walk , a medium trek and a slightly harder one, all alone. There was anxiety, I have to admit. It was like learning to walk, in a sense. I had to stop for breath after every ten steps, but walk I did. And reached the end. And then walked all the way back. Trekked uphill, over narrow mountain paths, not a single soul around, in absolute wilderness. Yes, I was scared, more than a bit. But I knew I had to do it, for myself. I had to believe that this old bag of creaky bones still had something of the old spirit left in it. And believe I did. And was proved right. The body was weary in the end, but the spirit was soaring and the soul , triumphant.

“Didn’t you get bored?” many asked on my return. Not for a moment. Honestly. But then, I’ve always been a dreamer, who could spend hours by a river doing nothing. Wander around aimlessly, with nay a thought or worry in the world. And switch off from the rest of the world, easily. So there I was , waking up before six everyday, listening to the birds chirping around, talking back to the stream gushing by in all the excitement of youth, biting into juicy green apples straight off the tree, sitting by the river bed for hours, reading, writing, dreaming, even  dozing off now and then.

“What about my family?” you ask? The other half says I would have gone anyway, irrespective of his opinions. Maybe. But, the fact that he gave that push right from the moment I uttered “shall I ?” mattered, quite a lot. He did not have an iota of doubt, even if he had, loved me enough not to show it. And that glint of pride that I see in his eyes is proof enough, not that there is need for any proof. Without him here, I wouldn’t have done it, with such a sense of abandon. As for the kids, son seemed happy that there wouldn’t be anyone breathing down his neck for a week, especially with exams looming around the horizon. The drama queen that the daughter is, she tried her usual “I’ll miss you so much” routine and was duly silenced by the father, “it’s amma’s dream. Let’s her go and enjoy”. Thank God for kindred souls that turn into better halves.

Looking back, the trip and especially the trek feels like a dream.  Son asks half in earnest and half jokingly, “but amma, why did you have to go all the way to Himalayas for a walk?” My answer is instant and from the heart, “it was my dream.” Hopefully, that is what will remain in their young minds. That you could have dreams, and make them come true. Even mothers. Especially mothers.

 

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Originally posted on Reminiscing the Reads:

aliceDo you remember that exhilarating feeling when you meet someone and instantly feel connected? Your thoughts seem to be similar, you react to things the same way, you even seem to complete each other’s sentences and you decide, at last, I’ve found someone who totally gets me. Then, you get to know more of each other and a sense of foreboding starts creeping up, the sixth sense that seldom goes wrong tries to warn you that what you see may not be what you get. And ultimately, a sense of resignation, a foreboding feeling of being fooled does you in. That’s exactly what happened to me with this book.

Alice Steinbach, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist had always dreamed about chucking it all and seeking out an unencumbered life free of plans and schedules, at least temporarily. And she does just that, her sons having moved out and she herself…

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