Ireland Diaries

The temperamental Irish weather behaved itself during all of the 12 days that we visited this small island country with a big turbulent history.

Officially summertime, with just the right nip in the air to enjoy long walks enabled by clear sapphire  skies patterned with white tufts of clouds that seemed easy to pluck like vanilla candyfloss from the open blue space.

That and the lovely long stretches of the Atlantic Ocean lapping up to the cliffs and hugging the roads as the coaches and trains we travelled in made their winding way around towns of the island.

No better way to explore a new place than through its public transport as our experience has proven time and time again. So, we hopped on to the hop-on hop-off buses, caught the trains into different towns, and once within it, felt our way around it by its metro coaches.  We pored through maps standing at street corners trying to align ourselves to its direction. Found the numbers on the buses and where they stop at, names of streets and areas, all converging in our minds to make a map of the place, to accustom ourselves to its layout and pulse. We got lost several times, but then that was the fun, to get back on track, ask around, and discover other things that we may have missed. It’s surprising how well, and how soon we can get into the groove of a place this way.

The bright modern cafes and stone houses and statuesque churches of Dublin that hark back to another era. The port city of Waterford and its stunning museums alive with stories contained in exquisite 17th century artefacts, the famed Crystal Factory, dazzling in its artistry and the waterfront, lined with magnificent ships. Killarney, the scenic town flanked by mountains and frozen in time, with carriages drawn by plump, bushy-legged horses, each house straight out of an Enid Blyton book with lace curtains and window ledges strewn with gorgeous flowers; the porcelain crockery, very old-world British.  The city of Galway, the outskirts dotted with the ruins of medieval castles. And from it, a short ride away brings you to the stunningly scenic Cliffs of Moher, where an hour’s walk up takes you to a landscape open to the endless sky and sea and the gale winds that blow into the cliffs as they stand sentinel for ages over the ocean and grasslands. Right at the edge, where you stand buffeted by the strong wind, the seagulls come swooping by.

Through it all, there are Irish breakfasts of pudding, crepes with applesauce, French toasts served with a generous portion of strawberry syrup; Irish lunches with fresh fish and chips accompanied with tartar sauce and kipper; Irish dinners of seafood chowder with chunks of lobster. Every eatery we visited had their own version of apple pie, some tart, some sweet, served with scallops of light cream, each as different and delicious as the other. And of course, who can forget the Irish coffee, served on a bus halt at a charming café, the light drizzle and cold outside, and the frothy warm coffee shot inside!

As you leave the cities and towns, lush green fields stretch for miles into the horizon, and sheep with black snouts marked by different colours to distinguish them, graze under the watchful eye of the farmer who rounds them up as the day ends with his well-trained collie dogs.

Poised on a phase of transition, where a ferocious but rich past blends with a gentler, calmer today, the future hinges on a brink of divide as part of Ireland now belongs to Europe and the other, to UK. So strange is this rift, that some shops and houses will soon have an official border going through them.

But that’s tomorrow. For now, the horizon is smudged with orange grey clouds and night comes in at 10 in the evening and a gentle peace descends on the island. And it’s tempting to re- imagine your life here, flanked by medieval castles and meadows, stories and silence.

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Breeze

Happiness is a summer breeze sailing by suddenly. Releasing the fragrance of paayri, mogra and jamun  into the languid Sunday morning air. Like a dab of paint dropped into water, spreading and swirling into it, till the entire water acquires a deep tint.

Happiness is a swift summer breeze lifting wisps of hair from a hot brow, leaving behind a cooling touch as refreshing as talc on a baby after bath.  Like a warm memory unearthed unexpectedly from the soil of time.

Happiness is a summer breeze swooping in through the sunlit kitchen window at breakfast, stirring through the aromas – the golden sizzling corn on butter, the fluffy pancake of the girdle spread with honey, the coffee gurgling on the stove- till they all become one big wholesome fragrance that percolates the house making it more of a home, a happy memory.

Yes it is summer, and it is hot and the sun beats down, relentless on the day, but then along comes one wave of summer breeze, winding through the busy streets, and all of a sudden, the colours of summer come alive on its breath: the hand-carts with white slabs of ice, the drops of melted water running down its sides; sliced spring-green cucumbers arranged with a dash of tangy rock salt; water melon halves like smiles, the deep juicy red offset by an emerald green; the ice cream carts on bicycles straight out of  picture book, piled with cones and flavours – strawberry, mango, black currant, chocolate – the fuschias, muaves, oranges and browns in a cheery tango.

There is splendour in every season, and the summer breeze brings with it all that is happy and fragrant and colourful and delicious about the months that turn the corner into the monsoons.

Lessons on a wing

I usually prefer walking alone on my morning walks. Accompanied only by a playlist of music that is attuned to my current state of mind.
This one hour regimen not only helps my physical fitness goals (or challenges!), but also supports my mental framework.
While walking, I have often arrived at solutions -eureka moment style, simplified tangled web of thoughts, sorted out my mind keeping it in a space that allows me ( in whatever big or small way) to approach the day fitfully.
I marvel at those who hold talkathons while walking briskly, yakking away to glory with a string of friends as the sunlight weaves itself through the trees and brushes the blooms.
I am more than happy to allow them to pass by.
Content to put a space between their chatter, for, at that time of the day, I prefer the chatter of the birds nestled in the foliage, that sounds like music to my ears.
But today I was glad to have the company of these colourful winged creatures that flit from flower to flower, taking in the various nectars, so happy and light in the sunshine, so carefree and joyous in their being.
This dance of life, of nature’s astounding creation, this revival, truly adds a lovely spring to my steps. As it disperses its lessons so evocatively, yet silently.

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An Ode to Spring

I listen to the breeze sing,
As the air strums to a different string,
The bees are in love, soften their sting,
The boughs, laden with colour, sway and swing
While the birds take flight on a joyous wing
Oh, what splendour it brings
When it arrives gently, graceful Spring,
To each and every little thing.

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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….