Wordless Wednesday


At India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi

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Hooked To Haiku – Part I


Nowadays I am walking, talking, eating, sleeping, living, breathing haiku.  And you will be flooded with posts after posts on this mesmeric genre of unique poetry. Why? I shall disclose the reason by and by. But before that I must pay my respect to all those well- wishers of mine who showed the right direction when I was bumbling over haiku. Well, that does not mean I have mastered the art of “haiku-ing”. No, not at all…I have not because I guess haiku writing is an art which you cannot learn overnight. You have to ‘grow’ with it. More of that later…

At the outset, let me dedicate this post to Shri Amit Aggarwal of Safarnama fame who has been instrumental in exposing me to the world of Hindi haiku. Though, very technically speaking, haiku in Hindi, or any other vernacular language, for that matter, bear certain intrinsic differences from haiku written in English, in terms of expression, style, word craft etc. Notwithstanding, Hindi haiku is as engaging as its English counterpart basically because the subtler nuances of this form of writing remain the same (read form the base) whichever language one may adopt to put to word one’s epiphany moments. More so, if these haiku flow out of Dr. Sudha Gupta’s pen, the result is spell binding to say the least.

I am grateful to Amitji for generously gifting me a few of Dr. Gupta’s collection of haikus – “Lakdi Ka Sapna”, “Chulbuli Raat Ne” and a few more with the purpose to get me the “feel” of haiku in general, and Hindi haiku in particular.

Before I proceed further, let me once again confess that I am nobody to talk about, let alone evaluate, the works of a word mistress who surpassed herself with every haiku she created. Moreover, since Dr. Gupta writes in Hindi, it is more fitting to ‘speak’ about her anthologies in her mother tongue, i.e. Hindi, which I may try someday, seriously. But as of now, I just wish to ramble on ….because it is so difficult to contain oneself when one comes across precious and meaningful work of immense literary worth and not let the world know about it.  Just that and nothing else…

Yesterday night I slept over Dr. Gupta’s “Chulbuli Raat Ne”. Again, there are certain books which you cannot stop or finish reading. You keep coming back to them, gravitated by their magnetic pull, bringing you closer to the abstractions of existence with every read. That is why I have not yet shelved the book.

What is it with haiku that makes one wistful? It is that undercurrent of futility, pathos and emptiness that makes you realize how you are wasting every bit of your living moment chasing myriad things and you never know whether these are meant for you!

And that brings me to the oft-quoted shloka of Bhagwad Geeta whose relevance, I suppose, shall never depreciate with time:

Karmanye vaadhikaaraste maa faleshu kadachana

 Maa karmafalheturbhurmaa te sangostvakarmani”

 One must devote oneself to the joy of efforts detached from the results – the journey is much more significant than the destination! And why am I reminded of this invaluable verse? It is because haiku tells me to be aware of my awareness of every moment.. to be in the now… and shrug off the fear of tomorrow and remorse of yesterday!!! Therapeutic ??? Haiku does just that…

At the same time, it makes me stand and stare and assimilate the experiences of every fraction of time….and show the world how it is and not tell…Cathartic???

Now let’s not veer into generics. Coming back to “Chulbuli Raat Ne”, the elusiveness of haiku gets underscored as one page is turned into the other…I present a few gems below:

ghoomta raha

mausam ka pahiya

phir basant

 

whirls on

 wheel of seasons

once again spring

khola jo dwar

nakamiyaan khadi thi

munh chidhaati

 door unlatched

failures galore

grimace at me

yaadon ki loi

khutiin par tange-tange

keedey kutari

blanket of memories

hanging by the hook

moth-eaten

 

aah! durdaiv!

bhumika likho tum

main pat katha

aah! disaster!

preface you script

I the screen play

 

beshumaar wey

ghaltiyaan tumhaari

maafi hamaari

 

beyond count

your follies

my forgiveness

Aah! I did it but with a trepid heart as translation or transliteration both rob the original of its beauty and I am too ‘small’ to mess with such beatific creations. Honestly, I chose those which I could ‘tweak’ idea being to outreach Dr. Gupta’s work to the non-Hindi speaking readers too. But there are numerous others which are too beautiful, too delicate, too esoteric and too prfound to meddle with… I present a few of those here as well:

kokil taan

anjaane chhu deti

dukhti rag

sab ke paas

thaila bhar kisse hain

sukh dukh ke

 

hai naseeb!

boond-bhar neend bhi

naseeb nahin

 

koi upaay?

ateet ko bulaaun?

laut aa jaaye?

 

bada bindaas

murdon se baazi lagaa

soya shahar

 

panchhi na rotey

mausam ke khilaaf

sab sahte

 

kabhi na toota

sheet-grishm-varsha ka

chakra anootha

 

gullak phod

chulbuli raat ne

bikhere sikke

 

main durba bhali

ujaad, khandahar,

kahin bhi pali

 

main to jugnu

saans bhar ujaala

phailata phirun

 

ham-safar !

mere gun na giney

khot hii dikhey

When it comes to such writings, you cannot put a full stop and say that’s it. You read, you muse over, you cannot get over it and then you come back to it once again…and then again…and then again and again…

So, see you in my next post…..

Cheerio!!

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Delhi In Spring – A Part Of The Series “Delhi As I See”


I reiterate my Facebook confession that I do not know my city very well. At the same time, I feel it is important to know the city where one lives because one is integral part of its history, geography, evolution and continuum. My roots are embedded in this soil. But how to know the city after decades of ignorance? I decided to be more aware of my surroundings and to start with I decided to capture its essential elements in frame.

Easier said than done. Firstly because I am not a camera savvy person. Most of the times I am so engrossed enjoying a moment of visual splendour that I forget to take a picture. Most of these times I am on the move, i.e., I am on wheels. So by the time I get my mobile ready to click the view has already passed by. Even if I am lucky enough to get the correct shot I do not find the opportune moment or post to upload it. And with passage of time the memory associated with the snapshot  becomes dusty and withdrawn.

However, this time I was lucky. I tried to be alert as well. The first that I thought of captivating were the different moods of this city in different seasons – be it spring, summer, autumn, winter. Yes, we have all the four seasons in a year clearly distinguishable from each other and enjoyable. I start with the evergreen months of spring i.e., February and March. By the time the calendar rolls into the fourth month it is time to say goodbye to the splash of colours around and welcome the scorching heat of summers.

Now who welcomes summers? We do because it has its own smoking hot charms…. more of that later. But coming to spring, Delhi is a riot of colour in this season. The parks, the avenues, the boulevards, the pavements and even the dividers on the roads are sprinkled with flowers of all shapes and sizes. If not flowers, then you will find stretches of lush green which will soon turn into charred brown. Still…

Now do savour this…

DELHI AS I SEE – IN SPRING

 

This flower bed is adjacent to the boundary wall of Hotel Taj Man Singh and must have been maintained by the hotel authorities. The Taj, one of the premium hotels of the city,  is situated on Man Singh road. And that is why the name. The green beds beyond create a lush effect against rally of different shades of pink. It is picturesque as well as has an ingrained aesthetic effect which is eye catching as well as heart warming.

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Lodhi Road 

This pic I deliberately clicked to focus on the dividers which suddenly come alive with colours during these months of spring.  Flaming Bougainvilleas are a common site in the city coupled with Gulmohars or Delonix Regia, Champas or Magnolia Champaca and other seasonal flowers.

I am keeping this post open ended. As I click more I shall keep on adding to this post. So keep visiting..

Weekly Photo Challenge : View From Atop


I do not know whether I have a fascination for stairways but both these pics were taken during my runaway trip to Shimla atop staircases. The first one was shot inside Hotel Himland where me and my friend were staying. The second one was shot at the Yogada Satsang Ashram situated on the ridge in the Shimla Mall.

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Hotel Himland, Shimla

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Yogada Satsang Ashram, Shimla

This post is for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge : Atop

Dial……..For……..


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Google

It was odd. The advertisement in the local daily which simply said “If you wish to bring a change in your life just dial …..” And God knows how she wanted to run away from the hell that she was living day in and day out.  Desperately. The gruelling housework .  The long hours in the kitchen. She did not mind all those. But serving the guests every evening was tortuous.  A new face each time killed her. And those surreptitious knocks on her door in the dead of the night…..!!!

Uncle was patient. Very patient. Ever smiling. It was her aunt  who always egged her with questions like, “Did your parents educate you for this?” Strange woman who never spoke a word to her husband or raised her voice when matters went beyond control. But she always made it a point to nag her, criticize her, torment her with such questions.

So much so that it was becoming unbearable now. Claustrophobic!! So she did what she had to.

And waited…..

The body was found next day in the bedroom. Spreadeagled on the floor. Stiff and cold.  Mouth open. Eyes staring at the ceiling. Dr. Chakrabarti, the family physician, signed the Death Certificate. But not without a pinch of doubt, “He never ever complained of even a mild fever. Last night he was hale and hearty. The regular tests done about a week back were all normal. And to die so suddenly of such a massive heart attack!” He shook his head gravely. Uncle and doc were fast friends.

Inspector Rao combed the room in vain just to find one slim clue which could point towards something other than a ‘mere’ fatal coronary attack. He had almost come to the conclusion that his suspicions were baseless when his eagle eyes fell on it. That little creature lazing on the railing of the balcony the bedroom opened on.  A go between a grasshopper and a bumble bee it flaunted colours of the rainbow on its fragile wings. A pair of bulging electric blue eyes stared innocently. Thin long tentacles rising above its eyes sliced the air with a kind of formidable grace that had the power to immobilize an intent gazer. Tck…tck…tck….that soft pecking sound emanating from its mouth which opened and closed intermittently tore the silence of the room. Drenched in the soothing rays of the winter sun, it surveyed the room nonchalantly, resting its gaze for a fleeting moment on her face. An odd kind of understanding in the depths of those protruding eyes comforted her. Seemed like she was wordlessly communicating with a friend.

Rao’s brows furrowed. This was the third case in a row. Each death flawlessly choreographed – double pneumonia. Cerebral Thrombosis and now this…. Men in their late fifties with sordid pasts and susceptible to vice.  And in every room was this strange little thing indolently dissecting the stillness of the dead with its disturbing tck..tck.

 He looked at her. Why her of all the people in the room? She wondered. And then his mouth twitched at the sides ever so slightly. He extended his arm to pick up the mobile from the bed side table to check the call list.

 A split of a second. And then she relaxed. A smile dying to hover on her sensuous lips. She hadn’t forgotten to delete the number dialed last night….. a lone, life changing numeral………… !!!!

Courage And Compromise


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It was 1970 when my family moved to the Capital leaving the sweet memories of dear old Kolkata behind. My sense of belonging to this part of the country, therefore, is natural. Having been brought up in this cosmopolitan milieu, it was rather difficult for me to adjust to my own home town where I had to spend eight long youthful years in the beginning of my career. I found Kolkata unbearably suffocating, the people unendurably inquisitive and the entire regional ethos absolutely insufferable.

Yet when I moved back to the Capital it took some time for me to feeI at home. Why? Did my sensibilities change over the years? No, perhaps the estrangement from the city made me aware that people were the same everywhere. The only difference lay in the ability to tackle them. Here I knew how to protect my privacy whereas back in Kolkata I felt at a loss to deal with the ‘otherness’ – a constant reminded that I did not belong there. Oddly, I was a stranger in my own land!
There were many reasons responsible for this peculiar segregation. I could not speak the language the way ‘they’ did although I was an alumnus of a Bengali medium school. I could not share the acute feeling of deprivation that they held on to being inhabitants of a Leftist state perpetually at daggers drawn with the Centre. People I was introduced to were either in awe or in contempt of the National Capital – seat of the Political Power be wherein all resources (according to them) got deliberately diverted to bring it at par with other international cities at the expense of the rest of the country reinforcing regional imbalances that perpetuated the nation’s “Third World” tag. The rift emerged out of the misconception that Delhites en masse enjoyed star status due to proximity to the corridors of power. Laughable logic? Yet, it was this divisive notion that resulted in an unuttered social alienation fanned by the ‘red’ pundits’ raucous debate on how the abhorred bourgeoisie was bleeding the nation a deeper red in the name of democracy. In such an ethos, it was unusually hard to make the point home that it wasn’t easy for R. K. Laxman’s common man to survive, reeling under the pressure of making both ends meet, in a city determined to vie globally.
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Decades later a similar process of (c)overt cultural ostracization is being witnessed in this part of the country, fashionably known as the National Capital Region, albeit on dissimilar grounds. In spite of the territorial coverage and thriving insurgency from the length and breadth of the sub- continent and outside, the National Capital (Region) fails to accommodate the demographic diversities of a nation known for its ethnic multiplicity. Paradoxically, certain segments of the populace, unfortunately, feel subalternised not because they are under-privileged but because of lack of familiarity and acceptance by the ignorant majority.
Wonder why cultural pluralism has not been able to foster an all-embracing social milieu. It is also a matter of great concern how an unhealthy predominance of hyper-aggression is inhibiting peaceful co-mingling essential for sustaining a work culture keyed on positive vibes and irreproachable ethics. While on one hand, there is a constant emphasis on revamping the state machinery to be people-friendly, yet this grooming appears to be merely cosmetic in the face of increasing factionalism and unstopped machination of “othering”.
Against this socio-cultural backdrop, needless to say, the marginalised feels powerless. With the realisation of being denuded of power rises automatically the desire to be appropriately equipped to face, if not win over, the challenges of day to day survival in an alien atmosphere. However, given the exploitative ethos, imminent need to revisit the nuances of empowerment is also necessitated.
This brings us to the larger issues of intent and modality of empowerment. How exactly do we define empowerment? A process by which we learn to skillfully adapt to our surroundings without being intimidated by any forms of coercion? A process of becoming stronger and more self-confident in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights? The question here is whether we can really control our lives uncompromisingly and undaunted at every juncture? I guess the answer cannot be in absolute affirmative always, simply because, howsoever we may claim, a total control on every facet of life at the same time is an absolute impossibility. Fact remains we are human and cannot every time dictate our terms to the natural forces governing our existence on earth unopposed. There are times we have to bend backwards to compromise a little and on others put our foot down not to pay heed to any hurdle, human or otherwise. Yet, the question remains how much to bend and how much to stiffen our stand.
I believe, these processes are gradual and evolutionary and in contrast to the common belief, more an internalisation of core strength than a warfare with external stimuli. The barriers which isolate us from the rest are within and not without. Power is not wielded by virtue of belonging to a community of greater number. So is true for the lesser number who perhaps unknowingly garner comfort within the four walls of their confines. The other factor inches its way in this narrow no-man’s territory as both neighbours shut doors to each other. Interestingly, what escapes is the fact that ‘othering’ is a two way process. While the coerced feels isolated as the ‘other one’ in the domain of the majority, the coercer takes the form of the ‘other one’ in the eyes of the coerced. Thus, each needs to take a step forward to bridge the gap and wipe out the shadow of ‘othering’ which looms large in between for the sake of peaceful coexistence and not keep pointing a finger at each other. Remember the other end of your finger pointing outward is towards your own side!!
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Harbinger Of Spring


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The Puja is held in the courtyard of the Kali Temple situated inside a Bengali Colony

This year Vasant Panchami fell on the first day of February. Literally, Vasant Panchami means fifth day of spring. It is a Hindu Spring Festival which falls in the Indian lunar month of Magha which in turn, coincides with the Gregorian month of January or February.

On this day, we Bengalis, worship Maa Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, art and knowledge. I think we are the only race on earth which is so earnest about education, awareness and enlightenment (no offence to any other race intended). I am told some worship the God Kama, the Hindu deity of love, on this very day too.

In West Bengal, traditionally Saraswati Puja (i.e. worship of Goddess Saraswati) is the prerogative of the students or those who are associated with academics, art and culture. Nonetheless, Maa Saraswati is worshipped privately at homes and also as community worship. In Bengal there is at least one Puja performed in every gully. The Puja is also done in schools, colleges and other educational institutes. The day is dedicated to prayers. There is a peculiar custom of placing all the books, note-books, pens and pencils (in fact, the entire geometry box) at the feet of the deity. Custom has it that on this day no student should study. If they do then Maa may get angry and rob him/her of his intellect. The inner meaning of this practice must be that on this fine day of spring all knowledge seekers should devote a whole day’s time to praying and meditating and perhaps also introspecting on the knowledge so far gained, harnessed and yet to be sought. However, down the ages the true meaning has got morphed into something different. For me, like all other children, on this day the most enjoyable part has always been that of not studying rather than praying.

My aunt, who was quite orthodox in her ways, would tell me about another funny belief related to Saraswati Puja. Those who trim their hair on this day and place the pruned bunch under the wheels of the chariot (vehicle in modern parlance) which carts the deity to the place of worship shall grow long tresses like Maa Saraswati. Thank God there is no such belief surrounding the worship of Lord Ganesha, e.g., placing a broken tooth under the wheels of the chariot of the Lord to have stronger teeth. Had it been so, all the children of India would have grown curvy trunks.

This is also the day when toddlers are taught to write the alphabets in vernacular (in today’s time it must be English) for the very first time at the feet of Maa Saraswati. The idea is to seek her blessings for the child who is about to embark on his/her journey of life and varied pursuits. Since every Bengali has to become somebody someday this is really very very important, especially for the parents and of course the infant, who does not yet know what lies in store for him/her in near future.

Vasant Panchami also earmarks the beginning of the season of Spring (though it is the fifth day of the month). Harvesters delight in seeing the crops growing in the fields after a grueling winter.

Saraswati Puja has its own charm and colour. Little girls are draped in white sarees with red borders (the traditional Bengali attire) or in various shades of yellow. Young boys and men look handsome in the traditional attire of dhuti and paanjaabi. The deity is always in white which signifies purity of pursuit. She holds a musical instrument called the Veena in both her hands and rides on a beautiful swan. She has fine long tresses, as I have earlier mentioned, which cascade in waves down the length of her waist. There is an aura of pristine beauty about her. Traditionally, she is worshiped with white and yellow flowers.

The prevalence of yellow on this day, I am told, signifies fresh and flourishing harvest of mustard (sarson). Vasant Panchami or Basant Panchami  is also celebrated in the Northern part of our country, again by Hindus as well as Sikhs.  The harvesters rejoice the coming up of fresh crops and dance and sing in groups and fly kites.

For us, Bengalis, no celebration is ever complete without good food. Every festivity is marked by a particular dish which is a must have on that particular occasion. On this day, the ritual is to have khichudi ( a mix of rice and pulses garnished with flavoured spices)  with Joda Elish ( a pair of Hilsa fish which is a delicacy for Bengalis). Thin slices of fish are deep fried to go with the spicy khichudi followed, of course, by dessert i.e. none other than payesh, which is made out of condensed milk, fine variety of rice and sugar or jiggery made out of date juice with a generous sprinkling of dry fruits on top. And believe me it is darned yummy.

The true blue Baangaali can never get over Saraswati Puja. As it is, we are a race, fabled to have thirteen festivals in twelve months, i.e. all around the year, each month marked by one or the other celebration or ceremony. Since childhood every Bengali kid is taught to fear Maa Saraswati who is supposed to be famous for her royal rage. “And if she gets angry you’ve had it…” is what every child has to hear when he/she is found shirking studies. The utmost dread of a Bengali being loss of or getting robbed of his/her intellect, he/she cannot dare miss this occasion of paying respect to Maa Saraswati even if he/she is hundred years old. Ritual is to not to break the fast till the Pushpanjali (i.e. paying tribute with flowers) is over. Then line up for the prasaad (a portion of the fruits and sweets offered to the deity – token of her blessings which is to be eaten with all humility). Thereafter, it is all fun and frolic.

So being true to my race, this year too I had to rush to the nearest pandaal to pay my respect to the deity (although I have long passed the age of learning having said that, I would also add that there is no end to learning). Earlier, I would take an off from work but it was damn difficult to make the boss understand why it was so important not to work on this day! Nowadays, I go to office a little late. At home, I decorate my little temple with fresh garlands of marigold and offer fruits and sweets to the deities. Light up the incense sticks and pray for a while. A simple ceremony performed with whole lot of earnestness. Thereafter, I rush to the community gathering for the Pushpanjali. It is a real treat to see the children all decked up like adults (in sarees/dhuti panjaabi) and sprint around in delight. Maa Saraswati does not like much noise. So, there is no drum beating which is a hallmark of Durga Puja. The atmosphere is sober and serious and Puja is done with all sincerity. Believe me, it is a most enjoyable and humbling experience. And when the chorus of “saraswati maai kii jai” tears the sky, mother cannot help but smile benevolently beholding the fervor of her devotees. One thing about Bengal, even the resident non-Bengalis take part, perform pujo and enjoy the celebrations as fervently as the khaati Baangaalis (the true blue Bengalis), if not more.

The next day one has to again get immersed in regular work. But not before writing “Om Shri Shri Saraswattai Namoh” thrice at the back of one’s favourite (or the one belonging to a dreaded subject’s)  note-book. I am sorry to say  but I generally forget to do this writing bit and that is why perhaps success in all my intellectual pursuits does not come by easily. Just a thought! No superstition intended.

This year too, like every time before, I rushed to the community Puja which I always visit during all the festivals (sometimes I used to visit my school pujo too but not now anymore due to sheer lack of time and nothing else though I long to do so). However, this time it was a little different. This time the prayers that rose from my lips had a touch of sadness to it. I prayed not only for the coming years but also for all the bygone days which seemed to have just passed by without achieving anything concrete. I prayed for all my fruitless efforts. I prayed for all my unfulfilled dreams. I prayed for all my unattained aspirations. I prayed for what I wanted to be. I prayed for what I could not be. I prayed for what I wished to be. I prayed because I did not know whether those wishes would ever come true. And above all, I prayed for Maa’s eternal blessings. I prayed through tears from the depth of my heart and soul. I prayed with wistfulness that I had never felt before. I prayed as though life was at its very end. I prayed like I had never prayed before. When I opened my eyes Maa was looking at me through a film of mist.

Was she listening?

A Quaint Guest


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From Google

It was perhaps the beginning of December…..no, November….last year, when I realised that my territory was getting repeatedly invaded by an uninvited guest who had this quaint habit of arriving without any prior announcement or permission and having arrived so, showing signs of  positive reluctance  to leave  even if forcibly shown the door. Now, don’t you consider that rude and extremely inhospitable of me because the guest that I am talking about is not a member of the human species. Had it been so, I wouldn’t even have bothered to write a post on my travails.

The first that I became conscious of its existence inside my domain was when dear Rinky (my indolent pet) started sniffing and snooping odd corners of the flat as though in search of a hidden trail. But as is her nature, in no time she got bored of the project and gave up on a quest which seemed not significant or worthy enough of her valued industry. Of course! Nothing on this earth is that important for her to persist on, except those that prompt an exercise of her salivary glands or induce the soporific state that she loves to be all the time.

Now coming to this gatecrasher….I’d rather call it the trespasser…made its existence felt when it landed on a discovery mission of my household. I would see a sudden swish of a thing dashing past me in the kitchen or the bedroom at the oddest hours when I would be least expecting a botheration. At first I thought it was one of those optical illusions I am quite prone to.  Gradually, however, its manoeuvres escalated in frequency as well as decibel, so much so that I could no longer ignore its presence, howsoever effervescent, it happened to be.

My initial ignorance or oversight must have emboldened it because one fine evening when watching TV I suddenly found a muddy brown furry thing peeping at me from behind the set top box. On one another occasion I saw a pair of quizzical eyes staring at me from across the gas stove on the kitchen slab. On my raising the alarm it dived towards the window and hid behind the panes. On another occasion I saw it sliding out of a narrow opening between the window frame and the pane. So that was the secret route by which the pest   would let itself in and out. Not only convenient but very ingenious indeed!

However, as the miscreant became bolder planned action to oust it became imperative. So, the next day I put up the trap in the kitchen near the cabinet where I had seen it snooping around and waited till nightfall absolutely certain that this time it could not evade captivity. Next morning, to my great astonishment, I found the trap empty while the piece of bread which was hung on the hook inside the trap as the bait gone. However, the trap door was open which implied that the devil had employed some extraordinary technique to eat away the bread without letting itself be trapped inside. Ingenuity again!!

But I was Robert Bruce’s disciple, wasn’t I? So, the next day I set the trap with a bigger piece of bread as the bait. The idea was to tempt it to nibble at the larger piece so that as soon as there would be the slightest of pull, the hook by which the bread was hung would snap, closing the door of the trap imprisoning the nibbler. Such a well thought out strategy. I could not help but rub my hands in glee and pat my back in self-appreciation.

However, I was again in for a shock, of a different kind, this time when next day I found the trap empty and the bread dangling by the hook  a little dried up and morose, on being rejected and not found worthy of a nibble. I was, to put it very mildly, crestfallen. In the meanwhile, the rascal kept me aware of its hovering presence in the house by various auditory tactics – a slight shuffle here and a slight screech there!

The problem seemed insolvable as I kept calculating in vain the extent of damage it must have already made or would be making inside my wardrobe, linen cabinet, shoe-rack, bed box…..

My maid took pity on my plight and suggested that I put pieces of freshly baked roti inside the trap as she informed that its whiff was quite irresistible to ‘them’. I took her advice and placed the trap at a strategic angle next to the kitchen cabinet where I knew it was hiding after all the plunder. In the middle of the night, a loud crash startled me up. Hurrah! I did it! I could have almost danced a jig as I figured out that the trap had shut and inside it would be the truant at last. Yes! I was right!!

But my travails did not end in rhapsody. Instead of being frightened, the scoundrel, at first squeaked loud protests at being trapped and then settled down to hold a looooooooong conversation with me throughout the night!

But the next morning when I took the trap to release the occupier in the nearest park I was again in for a surprise. I opened the trap door and upturned it for the furry imp to bounce out onto the grass bed. But lo! It stuck to the other end clutching at the sides of the trap positively reluctant to move out. The trap is made of thin tin sheet cut in the pattern of lattices for air to pass through. I thought perhaps its claws had got caught in the lattice-work at the sides. I shook the trap hard so that it could be ejected out with a jerk. The park is infested with stray canines on the hunt for such feasts. Once earlier such a prisoner had shot out of the trap right into the salivating mouth of one of my stray friends. I did not want that to happen again.

The exercise of slapping it out of its stubborn stance took some time. It suddenly fell out in a momentum and stood confused on the ground not certain what had transpired and where to scoot off next. Soon good sense prevailed and it bolted inside a long tunnel dug by the side of the flower bed by one of its older mates.

I got back home relieved swinging the trap in my hand.

***

Alas! The relief was short-lived. An hour hadn’t passed when the mischief monger was back in full swing prancing around as though my flat were its own. Repeat exercises of imprisoning and compelling it to shake out of its comfort zone followed not once but so many more times that I lost count. Again a gem of an advice from my maid to release it somewhere farther down from where it would not be able to find its way back.  Though, there was no way to be absolutely sure yet we worked on the assumption that the same ‘un returned every time we threw the intruder out unceremoniously. To my chagrin, I found its road sense was too perfect to be fudged by long distances and unknown locales.

Resigned to my inefficiency, I delegated my maid to handle its departure. “Tell the plunderer not to return ….” I would hiss as she prepared to leave with the trap in hand.  But as days passed the stern order devolved to a croaky plea.

Soon it was I who gave up and almost accepted it as one of the householders. The offender flourished at my expense and became the most eligible one to breed a brood. So it was not a surprise when my mother pointed out that now instead of one there were three of them – mother and two of her offspring.

As a routine I laid the trap and prayed to God that this would be the last. In the early hours of dawn I put on the light and squinted hard. Was there something inside? Yes there was. A tiny tot sticking its head out of one of the latticed holes of the trap – its slender tail wagged in delight (of getting caught?) while a pair of twinkling eyes stared right into mine. I was afraid it might squeeze out of the narrow slits of the trap. It was so thin and small. But it seemed to stay put.

It was a working day with a very tight schedule. I checked inside the trap there was enough bread to sustain it for a day. So I let it stay one more night beside my bed safely ensconced inside the trap.

The next day being a weekend I took my own sweet time to release it out of the trap into the park. But as I did so I found that it had got its head badly stuck inside the latticed hole. I thumped the trap hard on the low park wall so that the jerks could help it to wriggle its head out. But it stayed like that – its tail swinging lightly and heart thudding rapidly. It was still alive. I could not let it die like that. So I tried to push its head out but it would not budge. Its body had shrivelled and felt wet to my touch. Fright! I could figure that out. I poked its head softly so that it would squirm to my touch which would let its head out of the steely knot….but it just kept staring into my eyes not knowing what to do and how to come out of the trap. I tried once more……. and then again …..and again…..and again….to somehow get the head out of that narrow hole. But it just lay still and then it went limp….It had breathed its last out of sheer fear while its eyes still burnt into mine.

Next few minutes were a blur. I called out to the stray ones perhaps to pull the lifeless body out of the trap. They declined. And then a passer-by who cursed under his breath saying that I was making him sin early in the morning. But he managed to scrape the cold carcass out of the trap finally.

And I stood there shamed and sinned and feeling so damnably low…

My only consolation at the end of the day was that I had tried to save its life and tried hard though it had given up on its own…just out of fright….out of sheer paralysing, freaking fright…

PS: I have decided not to press the panic button if I see one of its clan again inside the house. And I have promised to myself not to let the trapped ones stay overnight inside the cage however hard pressed I may be for time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shades And Shadows


Shades and shadows follow us in all seasons throughout  our lives. Its for us to distinguish between the comfort of a leafy shade and a baggage shadowing us.

 Two clicks in two different places and in two different seasons. The first one is at Zorba The Buddha, Gurgaon at high noon this month, i.e. February 2017, in the ephemeral season of Spring.

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This pic was taken from the balcony of the hotel in Shimla where me and my friend were putting up – a runaway trip again in the month of February 2016. But Shimla in February does not actually witness the onset of Spring. It was quite chilly but the afternoons saw a strong sun while the nights were quite cold.

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This post is for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge : Shadow

In Search Of That Perfect Destination


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Zorba The Buddha

For a very long time I was looking for a hideout where I could scoot off to hibernate. Now, as I write I realize that hibernate would be a wrong expression. The idea was to go unwind someplace else neither too near nor too far from home. It so happens that one never gets opportunity to explore one’s own city where he/she may have lived for donkey’s years. In my case, it is the National Capital Region (NCR) and how it has grown is a topic of a separate post!!

I had been surfing the net for a while in search of that perfect rejuvenating spot but as fate would have it all such runaways happened to be located outstation. Though ideally one should always take a break, at least half yearly, to travel out of one’s cocoon, but given my domestic constraint that option is not always exercisable.

Then one fine morning suddenly my eyes rested on an ad for registration for certain spiritual programs which were being held within NCR, not exactly at stone’s throw but definitely within reachable bounds. I quickly dialed their number to find out more about the place.

I think it was the unusual name of the venue that caught my attention – Zorba The Buddha – situated on 7 Tropical Drive, Gurgaon. Digital reviews said it was a place where you go to stay for a day and land up spending months. I was definitely intrigued.

Upon my telephonic enquiry, I was told that the concerned person, one Mr. Dhirendra, would call me back.  He did but I missed his call. When I called him back he smsed that he was busy and would return my call as soon as possible. In short, it did not seem to be the ripe time for finding out more about Zorba.

Then last week, I just fancied calling him up again. This time I was lucky to get his call back. He said Zorba was a hub of cultural and spiritual activity. Rooms were available for residential programs stretching for days, if required. Even otherwise, anybody could go stay at Zorba, without subscribing to any particular spiritual path or program. This was very encouraging as I preferred to do my own which was kind-of-free-lancing-in-meditation. I said I wished to check out the place before booking for a weekend night. They were game for that as well. However, one had to fix an appointment to have a look around which I did for this weekend, i.e., yesterday.

Zorba, by the Google map, is around 40 Km from my place which should make an hour’s journey. However, considering the on-road traffic (especially on MG Road), there is every possibility that the commuting may lengthen to incalculable hours. The easiest way, therefore, is to take the Metro straight to Ghitorni station where autos and e-rickshaws are aplenty and the drivers can almost read your mind before you tell them your destination.

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All the premises on Tropical Drive are heavily gated. Zorba is no exception! We had to pay an entry fee of Rs. 200/- per person (we were a twosome – me and my sister) before being allowed to meet the concerned at the Office. The one thing that was immediately noticeable was Zorba’s subscription to organic living. Every room, hall and the office had to be entered barefoot so the one thing which was common to all these were the wooden racks kept at the doorway for the visitors to take off their shoes before entering. Low-watt electric bulbs hung from branches of trees and bamboo shoots cleverly positioned.

Mr. Dhirendra, the reservation in-charge, was a pleasant personality who apprised us of a series of programs scheduled to be held in the coming months at Zorba which included drum circles, moonlight meditation, breath-works, dark meditation (week long shamanic group meditation conducted in darkened rooms) concerts, kirtans, therapies, yoga, mind and body healing, spiritual chanting, art classes, dance recitals and the works. No wonder the premise was choc-o-bloc for the season. There is no peak or off season for Zorba, we were told. It is teeming with activities throughout the year. In fact, programs were being conducted in all the halls at that very moment while we were exchanging notes with him.

Notwithstanding, Mr. Dhriendra graciously allowed us a tour of the premise. All the rooms, designed in the fashion of thatched-roofed mud huts with bamboo ceilings, are air-conditioned and provide basic amenities. The beds wrapped in mosquito nets almost touch the floor carpeted with bamboo mats. Each room has one entire wall of glass which serves as a large window opening out onto the greenery adequately lighting the rooms as well.  The attached bathrooms are spacious, well maintained and fitted with modern amenities.

S. Rooms Single Occupancy Double Occupancy

Dormitory

1 Non-Duplex Rs. 3900/- Rs. 5200/-
2 Duplex Rs. 4400/- Rs. 5400/- Rs. 2250/-

 

Foot Note: Room Charges are on per night basis and include all three meals.

Check in at 10.00 AM and check out at 12.00 PM

15% Tax extra on Bills

Charges for attending ongoing/pre-booked sessions is additional

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Though, we did not get a peek in, the halls, we were told, are also fully air-conditioned, varying in capacity and can accommodate from 35 to 65 people at a time. As we passed by we could hear soft music floating out which was a testimonial to the sessions going on inside.

Being in the same locale, a comparison with Anandgram, comes naturally. In so far as landscaping is concerned, Anandgram is vaster and easy to cover by foot. Zorba, spread in 3 acres of land, appears smaller in size as there are no-entry zones barricaded off for trespassers. Moreover, the landscape is undulating and therefore difficult to traverse on foot for elderly persons.

The lunch hall is again in the open and doubles up as an open-air amphitheater as well for the nightly festivities. The dais where the buffet tables are laid is a longish rectangular plateau of baked mud. Green mounds with seating arrangements atop abound.

Zorba claims to serve organic food which is light on stomach but overpriced (Rs. 500/- per head). Dinner is costlier (Rs. 700/- per head). As I did not stay for the night I will not be able to comment on the quality and spread of the nightly meal. Same goes for breakfast which costs as much as lunch. All meals are Buffet lays.

Lunch seemed to be an informal affair. White moulded chairs are arranged in groups. Concept of a dining table is deliberately absent. Idea is to let the inmates mingle and interact with each other over food. One can also have lunch seated on the grassy inclines. Interestingly, the lunch space is a mobile-free zone.

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Lunching at Zorba – Why am I always clicked eating?

Behind the lunch space a muddy path takes one to a patch of green well-shaded by leafy trees. An art class had just come to a close. Plastic tables and chairs lay asunder with remnants of a colourful session strewn here and there.

Beyond the patch is a pond which is the home for a cute flock of ducks swimming happily in the waters. Some rest on the grass island in the middle of the pond. Feeding the ducks is a strict no-no.

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You can take a U-turn by the side of the pond and following another mud path reach the front  where the office is or you can sit on one of the protruding rocks by the path and take stock of things. This side is unusually quiet and away from the sun. With the session’s end participants of the art class strolled back home this way.

It was during lunch that we could get the actual feel of the place with the crowd frequenting the place around. Again interestingly, they were mostly girls in their early twenties and thirties. If we had to plot the ratio between the two sexes it would definitely be to the tune of 80(female):20(male). A distinct class and age divide was also observable here – the older and the younger, the conservative and the adventurous, the ones who were set in their ways and the ones who were ready to experiment with life.

Zorba’s ambience is predominantly Osho.  There is an undercurrent of free-spiritedness in the air. Again in comparison with Anandgram, the seriousness of pursuit is sadly missing. Since, I did not stay overnight I cannot commentate on the atmosphere after sun down. My friend says the place is famous for its cultural fests. I am yet to experience one. However, staff here is again young and courteous.

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Zorba thrives on digital/oral marketing – word of mouth, FB postings, tweets and the likes. It is difficult to form an opinion whether the residents of Zorba are truly intense self-seekers or merely followers of a whimsical fad who wish to make a statement to the world by swimming against the tide. For me jelling with the environ is much more important than the degree of comfort and quality of amenities provided in a retreat. Zorba may be fun, one-time or more, but surely not for those who are seriously and deeply into spiritual quest. Lack of profundity is palpable and the genuineness of pursuit is alas missing. There is an air of poorly disguised artificiality which is bothersome. If you are on the lookout for an electrifying energy field throbbing like a livewire, Zorba is not the place for you.  It is definitely fashionable going by the gentry and the rows and rows of gleaming cars parked outside the premise. But it is neither the perfect mating ground for hobnobbing with souls attuned to the Divine to a higher and greater degree than yours nor the impeccable hermitage for a few days reclusive living.

At least not for me….

 Period.

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