Friday, 6 December 2013

Smells like my childhood...




It's amazing how a smell can take you back in time. Every morning, on my way to work, as I cross Lower Agaram Road in Victoria Layout, there's somebody burning a pile of leaves from inside a compound. Not just any leaves - eucalyptus leaves! And the smell is absolutely gorgeous - slightly minty, slightly old, slightly woody and very very familiar. 

The smell really takes me back several years, to the time I was in school. My formative years were spent in Ooty. (Yes, my parents did love me enough to send me to hostel.) A good stretch of the road from Gudalur to Ooty is flanked by eucalyptus plantations. The barks of the trees were flaky and ash grey, the leaves, a silvery green and the earth below would be covered with a million fallen leaves. Every time we drove past them, we'd feel a bit of a chill, the kind that made me want to snuggle close to my mum. 

Still closer to Ooty, near Pykara, on a bend on a road, there was a blackened shed. The smell of burning eucalyptus would emanate through the air as we drove past it. As a child I wondered two things - who lived in there and what did the inside of the shed look like. I've always wanted to take a peek inside - I must the next time I go that way. 

I also recall the chicken-pox outbreak in school; I may have been about 10 or 11 years old then. After dinner, those of us who had the good fortune of having had an attack earlier and were therefore immune, would have to go to the infirmary to collect a sprig of eucalyptus leaves. This, we would leave under our pillows. Not sure what the logic was, but it apparently helped keep the pox away. It also worked rather well (I think) as a mosquito repellent. For me, it was so much more. The pillow would absorb the lovely smell of the leaves, and  as I buried my head into my pillow and drifted off to sleep, the smell would be so comforting.   

To this day, the smell of eucalyptus, especially when the leaves are burning, inspires such a comfortable and warm feeling in me. On this note, a trip to Ooty, seems to be in the offing.

Pic courtesy: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/51526204

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Very important things


  • Drink water
  • Meet old friends
  • Take care of oneself
  • Be happy
  • Write
  • Sing
  • Play
  • Read
  • Eat good food
  • Do new things
  • Eat dessert
  • Travel to the hills
  • Bake
  • Make friends with many many many animals
  • Sleep under the stars
  • Go home


That's all for now! 

Much love, 
Jengs

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sunday Sulkings

A rather contradictory post after the last one where I spoke about inspiration; but I can’t help how I am feeling at the moment.

I like to say that I do most things for myself, that I am the most important person in my life and how it is important to put myself before all others, it is not at all like that. I find myself seeking approval from people – parents, family, friends, colleagues, people on the road who I don’t know, even random strays. I want them to love me. I want them to need me. I want them to find me useful. 

It’s sad really; I feel like I have lost my way once again. Things haven’t been spectacular in a long, long time – and I want it to get there. I miss being a star at everything I did. I miss the exhilaration of my life. I miss the adoration. I have become a lazy, mostly uninspired person and with it, I've stopped inspiring people. 

I want to be inspired and inspire once again.  

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Inspiration from the mountains

At Turtuk, I saw a headstone. One meant for a soldier who had died while laying the roads in a place so desolate and unconnected to the rest of India. It called out, "Here great fortitude and courage is the norm". Such a beautiful dedication to the person who had laid down his life. I wish there was a way in which he could know the magnitude of what he has achieved. For silly old me, being able to reach a place so beautiful and inspiring, helped me find direction when I was lost. I now know for sure that I want to do something that holds value, not just for me, but for others as well. 

Great fortitude and courage is the new norm for me! 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Dangerous curves ahead...

Seems like the person who was assigned the task of coming up with catchy phrases for the road signs through the Ladakh region did a fabulous job. Not only are you fascinated by the scenery through the drive - majestic mountains, the blue, blue sky, the never ending stream of water; you also get solid entertainment in the form of road signs. Some of the messages are downright sleazy, some funny and some others thought provoking; all of them however do drive home the point - road safety!



Here's a list of some of them, in no particular order. 

- Don't lose your nerves, when you see curves. 
- The enemy of the road - speed, liquor and overload.
- Speed is like a knife that cuts life. 
- Feel the curves, do not test them. 
- Feel the curves, don't hug them. 
- I am curvaceous. Be slow. 
- Driving faster can cause disaster. 
- Be soft on my curves. 
- I love you, but not so fast. 
- A spill, a slip, a hospital trip. 
- If married, divorce speed.
- If engaged, go steady. 
- If single, watch for curves. 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Oneandhaff is sometimes justified.

Oneandhaff is the standard response while engaging in conversation with an auto driver in Bangalore. While it typically irks me and I respond with a "You only go!", or "Have you lost your mind?” there are some trips made that make it worth the oneandhaff. 

A couple of weeks back I sat in an auto that a certain Mr. Waseem rode (Do you drive or ride an auto?). It was one of those pimped up rickshaws with flashing blue and green lights, a music system with speakers that belted out Bollywood music (you could hear it before you could see it) and a small book shelf! The man itself seemed delighted at the prospect of transporting yet another passenger, with whom he could share his personal taste in music and interior decoration. And he was quick and mostly irreverent - THIS IS MY ROAD is what his auto screamed out as it inched its way through traffic. 

On a regular day I would politely ask the aforementioned Waseem Bhai to reduce the volume, so I could listen to music or hear myself think over the cacophony of sounds. On that day however, I couldn't help but note that I was bobbing my head and tapping my feet to the music. For somebody who typically requires several hot drinks to do the needful while standing on two feet, this was certainly a new, never before felt feeling. It was almost as if Mr. Waseem had planned it all, designed his rickshaw so people could dance to his tunes. 

Life lesson learnt - If you can’t beat them, join them... it guarantees ample fun!

So the next time you hear someone tell you "Oneandhaff", please look inside the auto to see if it has pretty lights, music and a book shelf, and a certain Mr. Waseem at the helm, before you scoff, say something nasty and walk away. 









Monday, 9 September 2013

Animalia

One of the things I really enjoyed doing on my trip to Kashmir was taking pictures of all the animals that we came across. From majestic horses to pot-bellied marmots to birds I couldn't identify to random strays, I was in awe of everything. Here are some of the beauties I met. 

Gulab and Mehendi - Gulmarg




























Horses - Gulmarg











































Ducks in the water - Nagin Lake, Srinagar











































Dog at Tibetan Market - Leh





























Oneandaf horned domestic cow - Leh




























Goat - Turtuk




























Magpies on a wire - Turtuk 




























Bactrian Camel - Nubra Valley






















Himalayan Marmots - Near Pangong Lake 
























Horses - Near Pangong Lake











































Duck - Pangong Lake






















Surprised Cat - Jalianwalla Bagh, Amritsar























Saturday, 3 August 2013

Prelude to Ladakh

When Mark Twain wrote "cheer in every face and a spring in every step", I am certain he not only meant the glorious Sunday that Tom Sawyer and his boys were out to have, but also the feeling when he set out on a journey, long dreamt of, leaving everything else behind. This is exactly how I am feeling at this very moment. 

So after three years of planning and going elsewhere, our Ladakh trip has finally materialised. My girls and I are only a couple of hours away from having to pull out our jackets and caps. Brrrr... the excitement is chilling me! (For those who don't get the pun, it's an old MTV reference). 





So we didn't really have to pull out our jackets and caps for a good part of the holiday. It was bloody hot. 

Here is a picture of Drass. 

It must have been about 30 degrees the day we were there. So much for the warm clothes!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Sharan and The Fat Cat


Everything around me seems to be on pause mode. It's time I pushed the button and moved on. And I turn to Ms. Sharanya Ramprakash for inspiration. 

Sharan is an old friend; I've known her for over 5 years now and I think she's one of the coolest people around. So this week, I shamelessly promote her, so that she will be forced to buy me many, many drinks when I meet her next. 

Sharan is many things. 

rescuer of week old kittens
auteur and actor extraordinaire
funny woman
writer 
drama queen

A couple of months back, Sharan added yet another feather to her already well accomplished cap. She has changed the lives of a good number of children - kids who are in her words, stuck between the pavement and nowhere. In her pretty house in South Bangalore, she teaches them how to draw, write, express and very simply put, be children. She has chronicled her time with them here: http://fatcatfoundation.wordpress.comIt makes for a fantastic read, it has beautiful pictures of little feet and most importantly, it inspires me to want to do more. 

Sharan, I absolutely love how you follow your heart. I think the world needs many more of you. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Singing songs of freedom

School assembly was always defined by the watchword for the week. Watchword was typically a theme that was selected by a particular class and for the entire week, the class would have to put up a 5 to 10 minute performance sort of thing based on the theme, so as to inspire everybody. The is could be a skit or a reading of quotes or a song, pretty much anything. Even the choir would pick songs that seemed as relevant as possible to the chosen theme. And since I studied in a convent, it was inevitable that the theme was heavily moral laden. 

When I was a young lass in Class 4 B, my class teacher was this wonderful woman called Ms. Hyacinth. (I always wondered why her parents named her after an invasive aquatic weed. Truth be told, I am yet to make sense of it). Nevertheless, she was this petite, short haired and superbly intelligent woman. She was also one of the first people who literally threw me to the sharks to face two of my fears - stage fright and singing in public.  

So it was 4 B's turn to do the watchword for the week and we chose the theme "Freedom". Ms. Hyacinth made sure that as many people as possible got to participate.  I don't recall auditions for these little performances that we had to put up; whether one had talent or not, it was important that everybody got a chance to participate. Some quoted famous sayings, while others wore kurtas and dhotis with neta caps and reenacted the Indian Freedom Struggle. I sang! 

And so arrived one of my finest stage performances. I was made to wear a brown shawl with a yellow beak made of chart paper. I had to move my hands up and down as if imitating the flapping wings of a bird, and walk back and forth on the stage. All this while I belted George Baker's Una Paloma Blanca. 

And for some reason today I remembered how I felt that day. As I started singing, my voice quavered. With each new line, my voice grew stronger and I grew more confident. I also distinctively remember trying to remembering to flap my wings every few seconds, so I would successfully pass off as a bird. It was also one of the first tunes I learnt to play on the piano, with melody and chords. To this day, every time I play it, I try to sing along.  

Everything about that day was perfect. Almost everything actually. The one thing we got wrong was the colour of the shawl - it should have been white for Una Paloma Blanca means "A White Dove" in Spanish. 


For my magic box...

a patch of green from my mother's garden
the moon when it's giving a thin sliver of a smile
the silhouette of a tree on a purple night sky
a giant swing on a lake front 
my still menagerie of animal figures 
chocolates - all sorts
a picture of us by the sea
enough music to last me seventeen decades
the cat and dog to whom i am 'most favourite human'
my bookshelf
a hammock 
brightly coloured flip flops 
my faded and worn out black t-shirt

these are some of the things I want to put away in a box... the box that I will take with me when I leave...  

Sunday, 9 June 2013

I wait. .

to be in the company of friends
to throw myself into the arms of a loved one
to sleep on my bed
to sit in my rocking chair and watch as it rains outside my window
to turn all the lamps on and decipher what secrets their shadows cast on the wall
to drink coffee - black and sweet and strong - that will keep me hopping like a mad rabbit for 72 hours
to have loud nonsensical conversations with my menagerie of animal figures
to say hello to the strays every time I step out
to bake and let the aroma waft through the house
to eat rice, potato fry, dal and mango pickle for lunch
to dance like a banshee in every room there is
to live out of my cupboard or a pile of clothes on my bed rather than a suitcase
to pick up the newspaper from the carpet outside my door
to stay cooped up in my house all day long and still feel exultant
to draw up the blinds to let the light flood into my room
to savour the last piece of chocolate
to feel like myself again

I wait. . .

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Little Match Girl


Tanya had an unusual hobby; she collected matchboxes. She had matchboxes of all sizes and shapes, which she picked up from every city she travelled to, every bar she went to. She even asked her friends to keep a look out for unusual match boxes to add to her collection.

One day, she heaped them up in a big pile, and set fire to them. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Duet


I am an extremely shy singer. The minute I have to sing in front of people, my voice gets really small. I rarely sing alone. In a group too, I make sure that my voice is not loud enough for people to notice it much. And horror of horrors, if someone says, "OMG! You're singing!", I shut up. 

But I love to sing. I was in the choir at school and took part in group competitions in college. Thanks to many years of convent education, I can belt out carols and 'God songs'. When I am alone, I sing loudly. I can afford to screw up when I am alone and I certainly am not judging myself. If anything I am practicing. I can also make up songs on the spur of the moment, about things that are happening right then. Here is a prime example of the aforesaid phenomenon. 

"My mother is sleeping and I'm so bored. 
I would like to marry an Italian toad.
Why am I doing this?
I don't know, give me a kiss.
'Tis such sweet rhyming,
With such impeccable timing."

Despite possessing such talent, it's all this modern day music scene that makes me clam up; where a friend picks up the guitar and another keeps beat and yet another sings like a god/goddess. I so badly want to sing along loudly (and secretly steal the singer's voice like Ursula, the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid). I am however terrified that I will be judged  - my voice, the pitch and timing (which really sucks, like really!). So I continue to sing, so softly that I sometimes cannot hear myself. 

Right now, the DG is in town after a while. We've never really performed together. He plays the guitar like a mad man; he is very, very good. So good! I normally keep belting out rhymes and carols and Christian songs and spur of the moment numbers to bug him. The past 2 days, he's been letting me sing to his playing. And I've been singing loudly and liking it. 

Today's session included Green Day's Holiday (with the little speech that includes Gasbag and Eiffel Tower), Beat It and Come Together. While I honestly think my singing was not up to scratch, the man is so bloody encouraging. *full love* He recorded  some part of the session, secretly at first and I sound good. In parts. So I have now decided to sing louder. I will continue will my private practicing till some neighbour complains and asks me to shut up. But till then, I am going to sing my heart out, till I am not so shy anymore. 

He's out of town for 2 days. In the interim period, I plan to practice for better quality sessions and also learn to play something on the guitar. Right now the only things I can play are 2 chords - F and C, and a rendition of Prayer of Saint Francis. Till then, ta. You'll hear from me when I am musically more sound. 

Also a blog is such a brilliant place to brag about yourself and not feel like an idiot. Thank the Lord (from my convent school days) for small mercies! 



Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Chingum Menagerie

My latest assignment on the Venture Labs course on creativity was with chewing gum. We had to find an alternate use for chewing gum. It was certainly difficult for me to think from a new business point of view, so I applied a more creative aspect to it. In the process, I also figured that I am blessed with more creative skills than I credit myself with. 

I made a bunch of animal faces with various types of chewing gum. These I think will make for a lovely gift to an animal loving, sweet toothed friend or as illustrations for a picture book for children. I used them as "An ode to poetry in chewing gum" (mostly to Ogden Nash). 

The Dog 




The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love. 
I've also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

- by Ogden Nash






The Pig




The pig, if I am not mistaken, 
Supplies us sausage, ham and bacon, 
Let others say his heart is big-- 
I call it stupid of the pig. 

- by Ogden Nash

















And here's the rest of my gum menagerie.  

The Rabbit



The Octopus/Spider







The Cat















The Fish













This was so, so, so much fun! I really had a ball. My favourites are the dog and the fish. I also tried making a snake and failed miserably, and I proceeded to eat it. :)

Just in case you want to try this out yourself, here's some info.

Things you'll need:
  • Chewing gum in different colours and shapes. I used Big Babol (yes, it still is manufactured and it's still not yum ), Wrigley's Spearmint, Orbit and Mentos (not really gum, but certainly chewy)
  • Thin tipped markers for drawing out features
  • Rolling or cutting board to roll out the gum on
  • Knife 
Word of advice, don't chew the gum before you work with it. While it becomes soft and pliable, it is extremely sticky and quite a task to scrape off your hands. It's also gross!

Friday, 10 May 2013

As right as rain










i love everything about the rain 
the smell of wet earth after a long, dry spell
how it dispels the heat
making one believe that such a respite is worth the long wait
the clouds before the rain 
grey and menacing 
staring angrily, as if to say just you wait
the flash of lightning
illuminating everything in its way
the accompanying sound of thunder
rumbling sometimes like it's been satiated after a heavy meal
at others like it's angry and mean 
and wants to pour out its wrath on its minions below
the pitter patter of the rain when it's just setting in 
or the loud constant splatter when it pours
the many leaves and twigs that it brings down with it
pulling them away from the trees as they cling on it for dear life
as if on their last limbs
the light shower on the face sitting next to a window
getting drenched completely while standing under it
waiting to soak it all under the skin
how it quietens everything else
but the roar of its din 

i love the rain
when it drizzles, thin blunt needles of water dropping on the skin
when it comes for a fleeting moment and gives hope
i love it most, when it pours
it shuts out everything else

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A walk on the roads of Bangalore at 7 pm

A traffic signal as I step out of my apartment
Traffic doesn't really stop for lights
Garbage piled on the road
Some of it on fire
Smelly
Ugly 
Many dogs and one cat
A short dog chases a cat
The cat is quicker 
A park
Kids playing
Street urchins pass by on a cycle
No older than 8 years
Teasing me
Calling me aunty and whistling
Small wonder that India’s men are growing up to be a bunch of rapists
They are conditioned to act so from the time they are infants
Walking on a pavement
Covered with stone slabs
Some shifting dangerously
Fuelling my 7 year fear of falling through one of them
Absent street lights
Fuelling my fear even more
The flashlight on my phone comes to the rescue
A rancid stink – probably a dead rat in the gutter
A man walks past
Spitting paan on the wall
I move to the road
Traffic whizzes past
An accident waiting to happen either way
The army compound
With freshly laid barbed wire
Takes away from the old stone walled charm
Housing colonies begin
With dogs on compound walls
Remnants of the Sindhi Colony that was
Old buildings
Some broken down
To give way to some ugly new apartment
Construction sites
With cement laden water flowing on the road
My shoes stick to them
Bloody idiots
Another dead rat on the road
Dissection of a rat in Biology class in school
Where we were taught that fleas feasting on dead rats cause plague
The crowd outside the corner chaat shop
Reminds me of a time when we had to give out the house as a public restroom
My destination arrives
House no 1
The place that has been my second home for the last 7 years
Eerie leaves from the empty compound in the next plot
Throwing shadows on the window
Psyching us out at one time
Making us believe that it was a creepy man curling his sinister fingers outside
A reminder of shady men who came in and moved underwear from the utility area to scare us
My friend opens the door
Ear bandaged from a recent surgery
House no 1
A reminder of good times for the past 7 years

This was the prep for Assignment No 2 on Venture Labs. I had to take a walk and make a note of the various things that I saw, felt and heard on the way. This will be used to make a Mind Map which I need to submit.