Netflix fix

I long to be where I belong
I wish this were a positive song
Of summer, hills and adventurous thrills
Of singing and dancing along
But beyond haze of laughter, is no place to wander
for wanderers get stranded for dead
A word to the wise is song to the ears
It’s a song from within instead

I wish that it were that nice harmony
Of pieces made right from wrong
with moments, words and impromptu rhyme
Making it up as it goes along
But beyond the aromas, dining under the stars
is a time to plan for Rotten tomorrow
A refrain not to refrain from tears
It’s a song to remember sorrow

Oh how i wish it’d been a sweet n sour song
Of how far we can race through the seas
But it’s not forever, anything, and yet to be strong
for our miles must collect our memories

Oh would it be so bad if it were a ballad
Of collected works of Ayn Rand?
But it’s not forever, anything, yet to be strong
for only stories really matter in the end

Oh could it be that it’s a dark tale
Of the upside down, demogorgons and El?
But it is stranger, everything, yet to be certain
that there are holes out of places beyond hell

Or is this the groove at end of the fxxking world
Of guns, knifes, murder and suicide?
But what could be darker? Nothing, yet to be clear
that pain is best had, vicariously

It’s probably not as rotten
as some things the crown did
This song is still not standing
up for what it had decreed
but I promise

That I wish it were always a trek under stars
but the sun has to rise on Westworld
But what could be better?somethings, yet to be sure
that plots are ripe for picking, right now.

Oh can you really see in a black mirror
that monochrome depth of eyes?
But what could be starker? Nothing, yet to understand
that all cries are better than sighs.

It could be like the Hangover
that exhausts you from right till naps
But could it limitless? Maybe, yet to ration
for episodes are analog without gaps

Who is it really kidding, it ain’t no hope melody
it is not advertising if it’s not advising strongly
Maybe down that road, lining palms leaning in
There’s that smiling girl selling bandanas
on an impossibly green forest scene
No tracks come out of the jungle
But there’s one going in.
And this is where we begin.
 

 

 

One winter to another

IMG_20171005_062025.jpgIt has been a while since the last post, since then the summer has come by and gone, and with it, the last of the clear days. These days in Delhi, the fog becomes smog without warning and even the clear air is heavy with invisible particulate pollution. With the swift descent of cold winds from the north, life itself has become lazy. The prompt 7:00 am calls of street vendors are not heard until 11 in the morning, the grocery shops do not open till 10, e  ven the chaiwala around the corner does not set up shop till 9 am, when most of the office going crowd has already trudged in to work. On the other hand, the sun in always in a hurry to wind up. Last week we had only about 68 hours of sunlight in the whole week compared to the solid 80+ hours we get in the summer. The sun gets busier, we get lazier and are driven indoors to escape the cold and the pollution.

Before I moved to Delhi, Winter used to be a pleasant time. Winter is when mumbaikars venture into the western ghats and call all the parking spots, mini-hill stations. Though there are very few share auto routes in Mumbai, when you are in one, you can be guaranteed that at no point there would be more than 4 passengers in the auto – three in the back and 2 on either side of the driver. This is not so in Delhi, where it is normal to carry 5 people – often 6 and sometimes even 7 passengers plus driver – in a normal bajaj auto. In summer Share autos are sweat pits rivaling a packed local train. In the rains, you are subjected to the sprays of water from all directions, from actual rain or passing vehicles, to the extent that you have to have an open umbrella (or better, a HAZMAT suit) inside the auto. The 15-30 days of (not) really low temperatures at night is undoubtedly the best time in Mumbai. The wind hitting you in the share auto is pleasantly chilly. The atmosphere is just right for an open air concert or a night of long rides on borrowed bikes. The people wearing shorts and half-shirts get looks of surprise and wonder from sweater and muffler clad vegetable cart vendors, school children and their parents. “This is nothing, in my hometown it snows in december” climbs to the top ten of “common phrases of mumbai list”. Winter is to Mumbai what summer is to Europe – a time when the people can step out without worrying about occasionally natural calamity level of seasonal precipitation – and that makes it beautiful.

Of course, the winter collection is out on all hoardings, google ADs and shopfront windows at malls but that is the same everywhere, not just in Mumbai or Delhi. Geography and demography have no role to play in a sales strategy. So during Halloween, Oktoberfest and St. Patricks day – festivals only a few Indians (by percentage, of course) know about – gaudy decorations come up at malls to sell more products to people who don’t need it – young people with a relationship to maintain and married people with each other plus one or more to maintain. The strategy works best in countries with a 2 or even 3 month long festive season but in India it is highly lucrative for sales teams, mall decorators and chanda collectors because the festive season in India starts in late september and NEVER ends. From Holi in Spring to Diwali/Eid in Autumn to Christmas in Winter, not counting the unbroken chain of major and minor festivals celebrating incarnations, harvests, relationships, ancient rulers, new rulers and more, we have few gaps in the year, which we have now filled with imported festivals with ready made stereotypes.

But I digress. Basically, winters of mumbai were passive aggressive compared to a stereotypical Delhi winter. Mumbai winter is to Delhi winter what Elsa’s Winter from FROZEN is to GRRM’s Winter from Game of Thrones. Delhi winter is here, serious and accompanied by dust, smog and long cold nights. There are winter collections not just in malls, but also on every street corner on carts because lack of winter wear on the streets can be fatal at night. Even street dogs and cows are provided winter wear by NGOs because if you are loyal and/or with a herd mentality, you are assured of protection by local authorities. Even with normal protection from the elements, dry winds slapping your face leave any unprotected area parched, numb and cracking, especially when travelling in a two wheeler or auto. This is the one time that the overpacking of share autos – sometimes carrying 8 people in a three seater auto – is life saving. Like male penguins braving the dark antarctic winter, 7 co-passengers silently trying to hang on and huddle together for warmth. Sometimes I think, the driver takes in the 7th person so he can huddle with someone on the drivers seat. Even then, every year, “Yaar, this year wasn’t that cold” climbs to the top ten of “common phrases of Delhi” list.

But this is a fact, that this year has been the most polluted Delhi winter on record. Caused by human apathy and amplified by a lot of factors like crop burning, wind conditions, lack of late showers of rain. If we do not set about this uphill task to clean our act now, the road will be all downhill now, for all cities, in all seasons. As a nation, we have developed the habit of selective sweeping of problems under the rug, because we have so many to keep track of and get about solving and the problems are kind of locked in vicious circles. The seasons are not one of them because we have been wondrously blessed in that aspect so far. But the way we are irreverently causing irrevocable harm to the environment and ourselves, we might have to surrender our choice to venture outside to breath fresh air. We will need concerted action from authorities, businesses, farmers and common people if we are to address this issue. I wish and hope we can have, at least in the next decade, a year in which the phrase, “yaar, this year wasn’t that polluted” climbs to the top ten of “common phrases of Delhi” list.

 

 

 

 

Caring for Surviving

 

The seemingly infinite and still expanding universe, carrying this singular germ of fragile yet industrious life on a tiny blue-green planet revolving around a yellow star, there has evolved such a species which prides itself as intelligent, parades in imagined happiness, blinding affluence and worthless praises, living short lives borrowed from the Goldilocks zone while playing with the future of their sole cosmic blue-green lifeboat.

In the Grandest scheme of things, there is no scheme at all.

It exists, because and therefore, it does. We are not destined to survive our own apathy for our planet. It is astounding how blind we are to our corruption of the planet, considering we are supposed to be excellent among apes, at pattern recognition. We are excellent at making up patterns and rules and customs and traditions and believe the World runs because of everyone’s obedience of one or many of the other. We live, obsessing over death. Surrendering thought in favour of dogma in search of peace was flawed to begin with because the death of new ideas would have been the death of humans long before today. Ideas have survived the onslaught of dogma and today, for through that exploration of new ideas, Scientific and Romantic truths are both Poetic.

The world is not made up of human emotions, desires and actions. The world would outlive us but it is dying from us. The world is made up of an intertwining play of choice-dependent processes; Things wont work out to save us in the end, like we have been shown in every apocalyptic movie.

Everything within has a counterpart without and all science is inherent and all pervading. The laws hold up to only themselves and they all exist in sublime harmony. 

Into the truths of such a world only those of us can venture, who can see into and beyond what the senses can rationalise and experience what is incomprehensible; from there the yet to invented words and symbols sing a melody, a rhythm of extraordinary scope and symmetry.

Having returned, what they share and we develop upon, will keep us going. Together in freedom, forever onwards, towards society that is a fractal counterpart of the harmony, fractured yet manifest, in the fabric of our universe. To survive man-made strife, we have to embody human spirit. Only when we solve our social problems will we ever become an interplanetary species, until then we have Matt Damon and Matthew McConaughey to act like it.

If we care to survive, we will take care to survive

To listen and behold! and be afloat in the sensation; to open your eyes, smiling and speak with concepts of rationale and scientific understanding – that, so far known and the truths beyond. That is the scheme for survival we have to recognise from the patterns. If , as we have always thought we were, we are survivers, i.e.

Healthy Dessert – Odia Kanika

Odisha is a land of voracious rice eaters – it is known. Many states claim to be the rice bowl of India, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha being the foremost among them. Since I hail from Balasore district of Odisha, where rice constitutes a staple ingredient in all the courses of all the meals in a day, I am partial to Odisha’s claim. If you visit Odisha, right from breakfast made from rice paste called chakuli (flattened rice cake), to main course of pakhala (rice with curd and masala water), to dessert made of sweetened rice called Kanika(sweetened rice), you will find breads are overrated – I promise.

Today I will share with you all my own Odia recipe for healthy dessert – Kanika with a twist. Traditionally, Kanika is made from sweetened rice cooked with cashew nuts, raisins and cinnamon. My recipe is healthy because it uses sprouts and grams instead of raisins and Sugarfree Natura instead of sugar. You will never feel guilty eating this dessert.

In order to serve four hungry people, You will need –

Rice – 1 cup
Whole white mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
Black gram – 1 handful
Sprouts – 1 handful
Peanuts – 1 handful
Sugarfree Natura – 4 heaped teaspoons
Ghee (clarified butter)- 1 tablespoon
Green beans (optional) – cut into 2cm lengths, 1 handful
Turmeric – one generous pinch for colour
Salt – one teaspoon or according to taste

Soak the grams and peanuts in a solution of water and 2 heaped teaspoons of sugarfree natura overnight.

When you are ready to cook, put a pressure cooker on high heat and add Ghee.

Put in the mustard and washed rice and fry for a few minutes. 

Add the grams and peanuts along with the water. Adjust the water quantity so that the rice and water are in 1:2 proportions.

Add the remaining 2 heaped teaspoons of Sugarfree Natura.

Put in the sprouts and Green beans, cut into 2cm lengths and stir for a minute.

Add the turmeric for colour and salt according to taste and stir before closing the lid of the pressure cooker and turning the heat to medium.

5 MINUTES LATER

The cooker should have given off one whistle(maximum two). Switch off the heat and wait for the lid to pop open.

Now you are ready to serve your tasty and healthy kanika (my style) as a dessert.

Take a look. Looks tasty, No?

Kanika

 

Next time someone says Rice is unhealthy and dessert made of rice is even more unhealthy, just make them taste this delicious kanika made using sprouts, grams, beans and peanuts. They will find “Healthy Dessert” is no Oxymoron.

For more healthy sweetness, visit http://sugarfree-india.com/  .

 

 

Death by Polarisation

Bing!

“Would you shut it already?”

Bing! Bing! 
Sniggers escape from under the blanket on the sofa.

“Don’t tell me you are still following that garbage hashtag”

“You know nothing, Bihari Babu. This is priceless”. Peals of laughter ring out.

“Is it still #RahulStumped ?”

“No no. This is #Rahulhumped. Different story entirely. Listen to this”

“Rahul, your dimpled stubble enhances your OH SHIT expression. It’s a fact.
I Don’t think so. #Rahulhumped”

“Here’s another one – Rahul, your British passport says Rahul, right? Yes or No? #Rahulhumped”

“You disgust me, Bangali Babu. You laugh at a politician making a speech at a college. You flare up at an actor for making a comment on television. Are you sure you have your priorities right?”

Groans come from the sofa as the blanket is thrown and a fighter emerges. “Don’t start again, mister”

Continue reading

Paperboats after it Rains

A flame burns bright in every fire,
that draws a moth to its bane.
With a flutter and a spark, a death march,
if in vain, what remains turns insane.

Why is it so that moths must die?
So more may come and be gone.
Why is it that the flame did lie?
Does it matter? When needed, it shone.

In the dark, the glowering sphere,
flickers at darkness- a losing game.
A gust of wind may kill the flame.
A drop of rain can do the same.
It lives on borrowed time here.
____

Hours after the heavens opened first,
with a tattoo of drips from leaf tips,
comes a patter of small feet and chirps.
Rustle of paper, lighting of herbs,
a prayer, before the shrine and shrubs.

A marriage of kings, a child’s game,
plays out to merry nonsense refrain.
By the tree over the clear running stream,
wed royal dolls, with incense and flame.
Happy eyes, in fantasy, gleam.
Solemn hands fold, other are joined,
Without words, enough is said.
Thin candles lit, fixed up straight,
In the paperboats, they had made.

While the paperboats float away in the stream,
the fire, with no moths around, is aflame.
The children part, those of the after-it-rained,
witnesses to a suburbian momentary eden.
Year later they met, the childhood friends.
By the street where once the stream ran.
But it was not the same.

One couldn’t for example,
make Paperboats after it rains.
And no moths were dying
from the electric flame.
No bird to be found downtown.
Not eyes, cameras lifted at the rain.
Some turns good, some rots bad:
Nothing, ever, stays same.

Happy or Comfortably Numb

Grover looked at the lab door with hope. He did not know what he would be asked to do, but this was a reputed laboratory in the national capital, not some underground mad-scientist setup. The receptionist had been clear that the task would not take more than an hour. After all, he had donated sweat, blood and sperm over the last six months, trying to make rent for the house he shared with his good-for-nothing cousins. At least this job would pay for the next six months. If he was hesitant at all, it was because he thought that any job that paid this much could not be simple – could you blame him?

The Room

He walked into the room with crossed fingers. It was a small room, hardly bigger than the inside of a bus, with a similar headroom. With his 5 foot 10 inch figure, he only had a few inches of clearance.

“Please sit”, said the man dressed in blue, sitting behind a desk with a round aquarium on it. “Have some water if you will”, he added, without looking up. Continue reading

Rafting the Rapids of Rishikesh Ganga

“The Ganga is our Mother” said the autorickshaw driver to me, while weaving through a dense crowd of tourists, locals and cows on the way to Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh. Every morning and evening, locals and pilgrims gather to worship the Ganga, with Holy aarti.

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The Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat


Priests holding towering sculptured Golden Lamps venerate Mother Ganga with accompaniment of ritual chants, drumbeat and slogans. Some devotees place lamps in baskets made of leaves, along with incense, flowers and food offerings and let them float away, bobbing into the currents of the river. For an hour, the riverbank is transformed from a Ghat into a Temple and the Ganga is worshipped.
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Rishikesh is about 25 kms from Haridwar, the famous Hindu Pilgrimage centre in Uttarakhand, India. Over the years, especially since the arrival of The Beatles, the World outside has known of Rishikesh as the Yoga capital of the World. Hrishikesh was the original sanskrit name of the ancient Holy City that lay at the spot where Ganga left the foothills of the Shivalik Himalayas to enter the plains of Northern India (then the state of Kedarkhand). Hrishikesh means “Lord of the Senses” meaning Shiva, and not Sage Hair, as a google translation of the name Rishikesh would try to make me you  believe.

The city is filled with Yoga ashrams and adventure sports companies, a unique combination that is clearly visible on the ghats every morning, as the inflatable rafts carrying paddlers wearing bash helmets roll into the steps shared by meditating babas. For a low fee of INR 300 ($40), experienced guides will take you 15-20 kms upstream and steer you through some of the most awe inspiring views of the pristine Ganga, and upto level 6 rapids, making for a most thrilling and memorable ride. It is safe too, just as much as the rappelling and ziplining across the Ganga is.

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I do not know how to swim and when I came to know that the river was upto 90 metres deep and the current as fast and strong as a galloping horse, I gulped several times as my Guide explained the techniques of rowing, tucking and ducking and maybe even jumping into the rapid. As we rafted past the towering cliffs, disturbing hundreds of birds into flight, I forgot to be afraid.

We rode the smashing whirlpools and braved into the eddies, almost too close to the jagged rocks, we turned tail and circled about and even stood on the raft as it tumbled over one rapid. We went through one Level IV and several Level III rapids, some with common names like Golf Course, Club House, Roller Coaster etc. and others with fancy names like Double Trouble, Three Blind Mice and Return to Sender.

In the end I leapt into the Ganga like everyone else, trusting in Her Grace and my lifejacket, smiling rather than terrified, as the rushing waters carried me under the famous Laxman Jhula Bridge. It was a one of a kind experience filled with literally breathtaking moments.

This holy city is where mule drivers from isolated villages ply exotic flowers on the same streets where dreadlocked Europeans search for inner peace, where Cows have the right of way in traffic and non-vegetarian food is banned by Law, where one can book Life coaching sessions as easily as river rafting trips. Here both the cow and the Ganga is The Mother and anyone can seek the Light within – as it has been for (at least) 2000 years.

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I pray to you Mother Ganga, that those who read till here do not forget to like and share what they liked. Comments are welcome too! 🙂

Mickey on the moon

What shines dim and cold, like white gold,
on these farms and fields of countryside?
What gives the blue sheen, like aquamarine,
to shadows and silhouettes of in my mind.

What do we do? What have I done?
Has the story ended? Has it begun?
By the glimmering river, under the Banyan
Opening up to a new dimension

It’s so cold, the still moonlight
It’s so bright, but I miss the sun!
What pricks at the edge of my vision?
What moves, but stays out of sight?
What do we do? What have I done?
Has anything changed in a minute?

“Sit tight”, a voice in fright.
Did he say it? Did I hear it?
whispering trees, shimmering current
under a rabbit tattooed moon’s light
But what is it? What is that face?
round eyes and mousy nose?
scoffing laughter rings about.
Does he see it? Did he hear it?
Blink and it is gone, too soon.
“Was that Mickey on the moon?
Did he say it? Did I hear it?

The riverbed saw two running figures
one picks the other, who stumbles
from time to time, they point at the moon
and howl like convicts in shackles
The clouds come swooping from the south
As Mickey on the moon scans about

Blackness sneaks up on blue sheen
A stupor settles over the scene
No ripples nor splashes on the river
Swiftly the clouds hide the moon
As demonic eyes search, in vain
Two screaming shadows nowhere to be seen.

Tooth of Buddha – Lap of Lanka III

An exceptional beauty stood beside the funeral pyre, a single tear on her cheek contradicting the vision of perfect peace on her exquisite face. She stood twirling a blade of kush on her fine fingers. Her husband stood behind several others, with their own eternally peaceful countenances, but Khema was lost in thoughts of her Teacher, Gautama. He had achieved enlightenment, showed all of them the middle path and even helped them to Nirvana themselves, before deciding to attain parinirvana. The year was 543 BCE and the place was Kushinagar, India – which has become a place of holy pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world.

Kema Tooth Relic

The Arahath Kema presented King Brahmadutta of Kalinga with the Sacred Tooth Relic for veneration.

As the embers died down, the disciples searched for dhatu caitya (they would later be called relics of Buddha’s body, almost 2000 years later) in the ashes of Buddha’s pyre. Khema took Buddha’s tooth and gave it to King Brahmadutte who kept it in his capital in the kingdom of Kalinga. 800 years passed and the tooth acquired legends of its own. For instance, just possessing the Tooth of Buddha gave one the divine kingship over his (claimed) lands. In this time, Kalinga was defeated by Ashoka in the Kalinga war[ Click to read about Shanti Stupa and Kalinga war  ] and his son Mahinda Bhikkhu became one of the first Bhikkhus to spread Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

Wars were fought to acquire the sacred and powerful relic of the Tooth and after many attempts, someone (mythology has a name for this person, but that is not historical and dhatu chaityas serve mainly as a historical (not metaphysical) reminder of The Buddha, together with other aspects of caitya philosophy) managed to get the Tooth out of Kalinga and it made its way southwards.

Finally, the Tooth was brought to Sri Lanka and was placed, with much fanfare, in the Abhayagiri Vihara at Anuradhapura. Today it is the site of one of the most extensive ruins of sprawling multi-storeyed Buddhist monasteries. In its heyday, the cityscape of the magnificent lankan capital was dominated by the towering gilded rooftops of these monasteries. Over the centuries, the Tooth was moved to many places with the shifting of Capitals but each time a new Palace was built to house it.

Today the Temple of the Tooth rests at Kandy, where a plethora of rituals and lore has built up around this (Temple of the) “Living Buddha” since the 16th Century.

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The Temple of the Tooth

All taxi drivers know this world heritage site and you would find several bus loads of Asian Buddhists at the site at any given time of the day. The temple has on one side a pristine lake, filled with tourist friendly fish, where the backdrop of the colorful city on the rolling hills makes quite a pretty picture on evenings.

[ Read part I of this Lap Of Lanka – about a Lazy day in Colombo]

The spotless white facade of the temple hides the moat, testament to the several unsuccessful Tooth-stealing attempts made by armies over the years. As you enter, you can spot the colorful, symmetric and impossibly intricate Buddhist motifs all around you – engraved on walls, carved on pillars and painted on the ceilings. Lotuses, elephants, lilies, apsaras, tusks and scenes from the Budhha’s life – some are restored and others still retain the centuries old paint and wear and tear.

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The Buddhist history of the Tooth is depicted in huge paintings inside the sanctum where the Tooth is kept. It is a beautiful hall filled with serene seated figures of the Buddha, some made from marble, others from metals, several gilded. I did not feel like leaving the room, wanting to sit and close my eyes, smelling the incredible incense and hearing nothing but the hum of echoing chants and shuffling feet.

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Inside The Temple of The Tooth.

The complex also houses the International Museum of Buddhism, housing treasures from India, China, Japan and much of south east asia. Hidden behind a garden and an ancient pillared hall is a taxidermied Elephant! Raja was the last great animal servitors at this Temple and after an illustrious and long life was granted this post-mortem honour (obviously, ahem… Buddhism)

20150808_160346[ Read part II of this Lap of Lanka – about Orphaned Elephants]

As the day came to a close, we hurried back to Colombo in our Nano Taxi. The driver was in a hurry, I mean. We were sitting in the back in complete silence – our minds, contemplative and absolutely at peace. This was a day full of soul searching for sure…

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