Compromise

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Bugs,
I’ve let them colonise,
Harbour inside,
Create their own paradise.
Words,
I hear hollow advice,
They’re cold water,
To my wounds,
I taste the lies.
Mirrors
Bring to light
My spots and lines,
Cut, seep, squeeze out
Demons mine.
Darkness
Guzzles my mind
In one swig,
Clear and precise.
There’s no out,
Just in,
So I smile,
Learn to live
With these sighs.

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Travel Tale: Floating in the Poetic Dusk

A big ring adorned Mamta’s nose, silhouetting half her face as we huddled around a bonfire for warmth. And sitting there with the glorious Kumaon hills girdling us and Mamta reading one of her poems for me, I learned how nature and words soothe a crumbly spirit.

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It was only a day before that I had met Mamta for the first time when the hosts of my retreat centre introduced us. Our small chat had concluded with her beaming at me and exclaiming in broken Hindi, “Didi, I will come and see you at the inn tomorrow!” She wanted to know what a bunch of college girls from Delhi were doing in Kausani!

Which brings me to: What could I do here? In 3 days?

For starters, I could sit on these porches that always welcomed us with tea and viands. I could talk to these people who always regaled us with colourful stories. With them, I could drink these buttery noons and tangerine sunsets. Maybe along the way, I could pick up a few Kumaoni words, understand a new culture, unspool its richness and authenticity. But, who could’ve imagined that I would do just that and more, and that Mamta would help me with most of it!

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She joined our group for tea just like she had promised. A few moments later, we were scribbling Aipan designs on random scraps of paper—and in the next few—up on our feet, matching folk tunes with our own versions of Chholiya as the sun dived between the hills. Here, in an Indian village in the quiet vicinity of the Himalayas, the Italian saying of il piccolo mondo got a whole new meaning!

Within hours, I was sitting under the pin-pricked night sky, listening to Mamta’s voice as she read a poem from her notebook. And while her words warmed the December air, I took a closer look at the poetry of the land I was in. I could see and feel it in the Buransh (Rhododendron), in the chartreuse farmlands, and in this amazing rendezvous of nature, people, and history.  

That’s how I was always going to remember this village cradled in these verdant hills. As a place where I felt freer, happier, lighter—all at the same time. My souvenir: A friendship that began with a Kausani local asking me, “Tumar naam ki cha?”

Travel Archives: Almora

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Yesterday, while scrolling through some old photographs on my laptop, I found this one of me and Munni Devi. It was clicked in December 2015 when I went on a cultural trip to Almora, Uttarakhand.

I met Munni Devi at Nanda Devi Handloom and Heritage Centre that sits peacefully amid the Himalayas, supporting and empowering rural women. She showed us around the museum―a recent addition to the place―and took us to the workshop to meet the women artisans. Some of them had been working there for more than a decade!

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Scarves and shawls knitted with the indigenous nettle grass, hand-woven carpets, and an argosy of trinkets were put out on display. What stood out to me more than the material objects, though, was the affection that was raffled off to us.

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An Aipan artist at Nanda Devi Handloom and Heritage Centre

It was so easy for them to trust a stranger. To happily take a break from their intricate work and strike a conversation with some curious students who’d come from a gummy city to know more about their art.
But, did these students know the story behind the wedding ritual of a traditional pichhauda? And that they shouldn’t go home without tasting the signature Bal Mithai! Had they tried the folk dance of Jhoda?
They didn’t. And no, they hadn’t. But suffice it to say that they left the Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi much more enlightened about Kumaoni culture, and a lot more in awe of this land’s warmth.

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Also, Munni Devi gave me the biggest hug as I said goodbye! Recalling that feeling twists my tear ducts even today.

This Chatty Bench

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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

The Street

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The dawn rose and my eyes adjusted to the view, from bokeh to bright, as the sun sprinkled a golden filter across the street. Who were these people, so immersed in their preoccupations, chasing life, their hopes and anxieties all closed to me?
Do they have a special pocket in their briefcases, one in which they ensconce their dreams? Do they ever think about home, or are they happy to get by just like me, meeting new people, gleaning stories?
Who live in the thatched cottages on the mountaintop? Do they savour the sunrise and sunset as much as the tourists? Do they ever look out their windows and watch me on this bench where I sleep?
Who is the owner of the antique trinket shop? Does he know who carved the wooden camel so painstakingly?
What is the tale of this bustling anecdotal street?

I started from home with little more than an intrepid spirit and a guitar. Today, I have a bag full of memories; they can’t be distilled into a single photograph or diary entry. 

surface

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you look me up and down

smirk, snort, frown

wonder why my laugh’s so loud

i am awkward, i‘m fussy

i am confused, i‘m messy

i throw a fit, i slouch

but you just look, not watch

you see, you don’t peek inside

i‘m just a girl on a ride

in the jungle gym of life

 

*a vulnerable rant

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hills, hamlets, hikes

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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.

 

Midnight snacking

In a dusty corner of a small mezzanine is a scrap of paper scribbled with poetry. Sea Fever by John Masefield – is a friend that is around when it’s  hard to sleep. So here goes:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
                                And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.