Travel Diaries: Laxmi Ashram, Kausani

5

Dharti hai ek,
Aasmaan ek hai.
Phool hain anek,
Baghbaan ek hai.

All the squeaky voices, hushed conversations, and noisy banters were replaced by a mellifluous chorus as I sat down in the back of the classroom. Morning prayers at Laxmi Ashram, as I found out, are always unifying affairs, and down-the-line cheerful and cathartic.

Forty five minutes previous I was tossing Imli toffees in my mouth to prepare myself for the ensuing altitude sickness. I was going to hike to a seven-decade-old, all-girls residential school run on the principles of Gandhi’s Nai Taleem. Established in 1946 by Catherine Mary Beilman or Sarla Behn to empower rural girls and women through education and holistic skill-based learning.

When I reached the Ashram, there were two smiling faces, waiting. Waiting to open me up to a world of simplicity and unity. To show me how empowered and independent young girls go on to become pillars of strength for the rural community.

I was a bit late, thanks to the multiple stops I’d made during the hike. Some girl students were collecting their books while others had already started ascending the stairs to their classroom. I entered the room from the back, and quietly sat on the floor like everybody else. I was soon going to hear them sing a prayer song that would footprint my heart.

Untitled.png

I left the place humming a tune of togetherness, and optimism. Of a song that distilled in a few words this beautiful message:
There is one Earth. And it is but one sky that canopies the flowers on its face. The flowers may look different, still there’s but one Gardner who looks after all of them.

Advertisements

This Chatty Bench

bench-1190768_960_720.jpg

Can you hear the lullaby

Or my mother’s touch feel.

Can you see the Alphabet

That I learned here to read.

Can you picture that first kiss,

Sense how it filled me with glee.

Can you listen the sweet warble

Of his first letter to me.

Can you tell the heartbreak

Didn’t fight shy of cutting deep.

Can you grasp the moments

Of which this bench holds memories.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

my listicle

 

yellow

Long walks, longer drives

Cool grass, clear skies

Loose sweaters, new shoes

Smiling faces, fruit juice

Petrichor, the colour yellow

Waning moon, a starry wallow

Paper planes, fairy lights

Hearty grins, chocolate bites

New leaps, coffee treats

Snug blankets, snowy sheets

Lazy dreams, a heart fickle

My safe and sound is a listicle.

 

:photo by Aaron Buden, courtesy of unsplash.com

for you.

 

                                                                                                     

That lonely stump in the park

those ringing sounds of the dark

lifeless leaves on the bottom of your shoe

make up a song of fright and gloom

a rant, and maybe a terminal note

that spiral the tiny ball in your throat

that burrow far from the good-natured sky

like slouched soldiers on the sly.

 

Oh, rip that piece of paper

and don’t let those hands waver

for the fledglings of joy will soon stop by

cancel the noise like the songs that got you by.

 

I know you’ll rise from under this rock

pick up your head and walk

give me a list of all the things you like

and I’ll give you one of mine

if it is the conversations that you crave

if it will bring a smile to your face

we’ll talk about the bits and bobs you want to buy

heckle and joke, watch the time fly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spectator

IMG-20160715-WA0060

Yesterday Sam stopped by. I have known him for a long time. He used to sit by me everyday, sometimes alone, sometimes with his wife Martha and son James. James. I couldn’t know him long enough. “Slow down,” Martha used to say. “Or you will get hurt.”  They had fun playing together. How years swooshed by! When James was older, he would often drop by and spend hours with me. I heard chuckles, sobs, silence. Then one day he brought a guest. He had never brought anyone here before Navin. They held hands and gazed at the stars for hours. They held hands the same way Sam and Martha did. If only Sam understood this. “You look just like him,” Navin had said, pointing at Sam’s wide grin as James showed him a family picture. He wasn’t a guest anymore.

A few years whooshed by like they usually do, and James and Navin brought a new visitor with them this time – their daughter Sur. They loved picnics, especially the ones with grandma Martha. My branch of memories is ripe with merry ones but the one with Navin fussing over Sur, James telling him to calm down, them lovingly bickering, remains my favourite to this day.

Sometimes I find myself sneaking a peek at the house across the park which used to be my favourite home. For a long time, no one has visited. Time has neither swooshed nor whooshed, it stutters and clambers, as if chasing its normal pace. But yesterday Sam stopped by. He just sat here quietly and scanned the pinpricked  sky with a regret in his eyes, searching as if for the one star that resembled him.

Hills, hamlets, hikes

IMG_20151217_191906.jpg
The air ringed in her ears and with every step she grew more amused. Every time she stopped to catch her breath she smiled on spotting a multicolored patch on the hillside. Now, more than ever, she longed to meet those who always had a cot and tea ready. To talk to those with a spare lamp and many a story. She trundled on.
The ridge was coloured a wonderful green. The low warble of the cool air carried a song she could see. Of women and men, of girls and boys and children. Each new day brought with it a new tale – of courage and honesty. Of mistakes, learning, and civility. Of love and family.  This is how she became the one who fell for no boy but a vill amidst the verdant hills…and this became her story.

 

Between Daybreak and Sunset

daybreak2.jpg

No day passed when she wouldn’t be

In the field, working

Without a care for a morning tea

Tilling and tending and reaping

Her hands moving with mastery.

 

Of eating and laughing with him, hummed she

Thinking of the pink aurora tapping

On the window for her to see

Rays flickering and soothing

Before they grew harsh quickly.

 

Dappled sunlight under the tree

Sitting across the patch, silencing

Occasionally her drudgery.

The tree was old, and it was green, holding

The promise of a reverie.

 

And so at dusk,

She knew not distress but she did know glee

When the sky was painted a blazing sea.

 

This piece is inspired by a trip to Kausani that I took last year, and dedicated to Mamta didi and her husband. Image is courtesy of unsplash.com

The God of Small Things – A story that stayed

I usually end my day with either reading or writing something. Today, I thought of welding the two worlds together, by writing about a book I read by my night lamp: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

 Roy delves into sexual abuse, gender bias, and untouchability in a subtle and poignant manner, stimulating deep thoughts on these issues. The story is set in 1969, in the south Indian state of Kerala. She narrates the story as if it were unlayering the thoughts of the two twins, Rahel and Estha, with words which evince innocence – Orangedrink Lemondrink Uncle, light blue carsounds, bumpy red road, . The sentences are as rich as they are moving. Twins separated following an unfortunate incident, a loved one dying because of a wretched system, and a mother spending her last moments alone after a series of unfair events – everything transpires as if one were half expecting it, but shocks and saddens in equal measure as the story unfolds. “Who should be loved, and how. And how much” is a question which forms the nub of story. The question is posed when the twins’ mother leaks her “Unsafe Edge” that leads her “to love by night the man her children loved by day.” It is posed again when the society looks down upon it. And yet again, when Estha’s quietness and Rahel’s emptiness finally merges. Roy depicts the malaise of the characters’ lives through words which depart from the literal sense, thus evoking deep emotions in the reader’s heart. It’s a beautifully written tale about love laws, and how they destroyed lives. How the small things led to a sad turn of events and shook the big things. It is a story I read months ago but one that has stayed with me and will stick around for a long time.

Follow me on Goodreads here.