Mmm..Mango Pickle

The knife slices through the refreshingly green kairi.

A burst of tangy aroma yields through its firm white insides. A childhood summer fragrance fills the air as the years fall away with each cut and the tongue releases its full bodied, sharp, smacking taste.

Coated with red, flaming, succulent spices and drizzled with a liberally dashed tadka of oil, the glass jars are happily filled to the brim, inviting a year long sinful indulgence. The raw mango pickle is ready, very old fashioned and simply ageless.428459_10151483198026723_60563988_n

Lost Rhythms

Lately I have noticed, your proclivity to turn what is individual into a theory, to turn something personal into a philosophy.

For instance, if I tell you about how I am trying to deal with a particular issue within myself without seeking outside help, you tell me that everyone should arrive at a decision in a way they are comfortable with.

Where I am looking for the understanding of a friend, you give me a lesson; where I look upon you to probe and unearth what I do not say, you hand me the bullets of powerpoint platitudes.

And then in mid conversation, I feel a chasm; as if we are standing on top of two mountain peaks, and our words are dropping into the valley where a shrill wind whips them up, round and round, into a roaring sound, an indistinctive howl.

At times, I feel we are both at a train station, and I want us to board the same train as before, sitting next to the window, and as the wheels pick up their clattering rhythm, and the stations roll by through the evening sky, we find our own beat, our own world.

But then I see the train has arrived and departed, and as it leaves the station, clanging into the dark, with only the bald headlight showing the way, I see that the train has split into two, each forking into two separate tunnels – endless in the distance.

Only the chugging wheels echo like a haunting reverie into the night. A sound of lost rhythms.

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Where the soul resides

 

Perhaps the most distinguishing factor, between Indian and western music is the meend.

The lilting glide, the imperceptible transition from one note to another. The sometimes swift, the sometimes lingering journey between adjacent notes; that space, as the renowned Dagar saab put it, where music is made.

The meend is a quivering pause between ripples of water, the thing that eyes speak when words are not enough, the reflections of the notes upon each other, that gap in the mind that is silent because it is so full of being in the moment that nothing needs to be said.

The meend is the curving flow of the river down a mountain that hugs the rocks as it cascades down, the space between light and shadow that defines them, a sudden snatch of warm breeze on a winter afternoon that threads two cold moments in a snug embrace.

Aakash Gandhi then does the impossible so beautifully. He manages to blend the dna of Indian and western music so seamlessly by getting the meend into the piano.
As his fingers glide across the keys, he suffuses the spaces with tender longing, love, a heartbreaking beauty. He immerses this bridge with memories of rainy days and winter morning ;of sunlight filtering through the eyes of a lover and walks in autumn evenings on tree lined avenues carpeted with rust leaves.

He slips in the meend of afsos and noor-bathing each note with an incandescence that illuminates as it glides, and somewhere during this recital,this journey, you feel closest to that deepest part of you….

 

The last of the flamingoes

They came flying from far away
Now I’m under their spell…. (Abba)

Though the famed Abba number sings about the Eagle, the words are equally true for the flamingos that flock to the city during Mumbai’s tepid winters.

Flying all the way from the Rann of Kutch, where the cold gets severe, mainly during the nights to avoid predators, often covering 600 kms at a stretch, they swoop to shelter in the city, foraging for food at the Sewri jetty where they feed off algae produced by phosphorous and nitrogen deposits in the mud flats. 11051928_10153359977961723_8697071791885289040_o

Surrounded by thick mangroves on one side, and huge industrial ships spewing out oil, they dig into the waters with beaks that contain a unique filter that takes in nutrients and efficiently separates what they don’t need. The shrimps they eat give them their lovely hues of pink, for when they are born, they are a pristine white.

Early evening, and it was a different Mumbai that I saw. The jetty is an isolated strip of land. The land is muddy and uneven, and the only sounds you hear are the hooting of ships in the distance, and whirring of machinery on those docked around, as men in overalls repair them -sparks flying into the evening air. That and the cry of birds – terns, egrets, seagulls, sandpipers, bringing the hums of faraway lands. 12719228_10153359977316723_2342653058880565526_o

Fisher boys crawl through the mudflats on their bare knees, hunting for crabs and oysters and shrimps, coming up with unusual water creatures which they quickly bottle after taking a shot from their mobile phones. For a find is a find, and they want no one else to take credit or possession of what is theirs.12747903_10153359976961723_9046310924171318618_o

I have come here to watch what I think will be the last of the flamingos on this land. Their pink outline on the horizon breathtakingly beautiful, as close to 6000 of them peck at their food, and take off in flocks across the wetlands, as graceful as a bevy of pink attired ballerinas. 12711242_10153359976786723_5280684763256899056_o12747475_10153359976931723_7169098207106753908_o12764794_10153359977551723_3776085556577776955_o

The proposed Nhava Sheva sealink that will run straight through their migratory habitat will destroy the mudflats where flamingos and many other migratory birds feed. As they leave our shores sometime during April and go back to their home in Kutch, will they turn back and look for the last time? Will they know that they will never be able to find their way back again next year?

Light Play

Wake up to the melody of gurgling cold streams gushing over sinewy rocks in the rainforest. Their soothing murmur ushering you into a new day.

A welcome song with a live orchestra of a chorus of birds, the chirrup of squirrels and the hoot of monkeys. The light broken up into patterns by leaves filters into the room, entering in subdued patches and fragments at first, and as the sun climbs higher into the dense foliage, saunters in boldly with strides of beams that nudge the comfort of your blanket.

You watch the light play all over the day, shifting like a kaleidoscope over snug cane chairs, the veins of leaves, shading petals, forming arches over windows, creating mirror works of art on the ground and falling in love with faces, painting them with depth and character.

Transforming everything it touches, as if waving a wand over the day.

In its presence, each moment acquires a wondrous quality, connections are seen for the first time between previously disparate things.

You sit by the still waters and watch time dissolve at dusk. And as the year draws to an end, and the last light smudges and leaves the sky, the excited chatter of the birds returning to their nests dies down, and the sky sleeps on its bed of deep velvet embroidered with stars, you realise that time is a continuum. We have divided it into days, weeks, months, years-giving it a linearity, held it in place by a regimen of segments. Time goes on in an eternal circle without boundaries, without enclosures.

Nothing has begun, nothing has ended.

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A way of seeing

She liked the way her whole world changed just by changing her position. While sitting she could see her life before her. The undone work, her myriad duties, things that weighed her down, and the drudge of everyday life.

But the moment she lay down, and looked through the gap in her thatched roof that opened out to the sky, her life changed dramatically. She saw the trees swaying in the breeze, their leaves open and unarmed and lit by the sun. She saw the birds flying, silhouetted against the cotton candy clouds, specks of wings on the powder blue skies. She felt the breeze of freedom, the surge of possibility, the faintly clear strains of a song that urged her towards her own self, growing louder from within. Till she felt uplifted by it, felt she could touch the azure sky as it floated towards her, coming closer and closer to her outstretched hand, and she floated and drowned in its expanse, wondering yet again if it was an ocean or the sky.10933858_10152613229201723_336132493500315447_n