Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stray puppy...


As I an Jayani were walking to National museum of art to see the much talked about Anish Kapoor exhibition, we saw a tiny puppy whimpering in the bushes. We tried to hold him as there was fast moving traffic where he was heading. The puppy would roll on its back and with its paws in the air, he whimpered louder. A man passing by helped us hold him and we brought him home. Jayani fed him some milk and bread and placed him in a card board box. He had a wound on his shin. The three kittens that move in and out of our house got really curious and when I tried to show him the puppy, he scratched my finger.
In the evening I looked for his mother in the servant quarters and around the strech of road where we had found him to no avail. Had to bring him back,as we can't keep him inside, Jayani and I swaddled it in rags and placed the box near the hedge. I hope he is warm and not hungry. I have placed milk and bred and biscuit next to the small box, there are three boxes that I have placed one inside the other. I feel sad when I see these innocent creatures abandoned. Am always amazed by their resilience and their beauty. God creates the simplest of creatures with so much grace and life.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Life and how it escapes comprehension...


Just as I walk to work, I come across people and situations that make me reflect. Mostly I end up enmeshed in web of thoughts, I trip over many times and yet most of the things don't make sense. I walk past a leper begging on the street, crossing the underbridge people shrink as the buses and cars splash the drain water that collects on this road.yet, life goes on, no one makes a noise about how filthy this is, why people who are paid to do the repairs don't do it! A girl bangs her head on a hoarding placed at five feet on the pavement.She walks quietly and I see that there is no bleeding so I walk ahead quietly.A woman I her has bled to death durring miscarriage of her fifth pregnancy, she had four kids already, a muslim woman she probably could not say no to another one.
Sun rays climb tree tops, that's beautiful, sun rays get stained in the massive sewage water traveling to out skirts of city, that is ugly. Every single thing that sees human interference turns ugly.

These days I am reading a book, 'Shantaram'.This book is about a fugitive and I have read just a few pages where he is in Bombay, getting acquainted to the underworld, drug mafia and call girls. This man was a writer in Australia before his marriage broke and he lost custody of his children and turn to drugs and crime. To see Bombay through his eyes is interesting, but the things that amaze him, amaze me too. He talks of visiting a slum where he watched children brought from drought stricken places, these kids are sold to Arabs who make them race the camels, when these races happen many children die as they are trampled by camels, many girls are sold into prostitution. All over India children are sold by the parents for peanuts in these disaster struck areas and brought to this city. Reading this I sensed why I have never liked this commercial capital, something very mean and inhuman about this place.

It is when I meditate that I am able to leave these behind and move into a plane that has no impurity and strained existence. I dream that I am meditating and am surrounded by green mountains, peaceful and spiritual. The sound is the sound of falling water and mountain birds, the fragrance weaves delicate carpets over wild flowers. Seems my soul belongs to another plane and body is at another plane.
I often console myself of positive things that come through living in a society,raising happy children, security, progress, but when we look deep enough the corruptions of life corrode away the seed that comes with each soul. Very few like Gandhi managed to carry that seed and sow it to heal others, most can't get past the firs few gusts of decay and greed.


Black blue sky
A gray heart
black blood
and green bones
decay froths
rusted time
In this contaminated pool
A lotus blooms inhaling fetid steam
Exhaling fragrant breath
Defeating human labour
to convert all living to dead...

Pic: My morning walk haul, loved this tree against morning light...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wanderings...


Long ago I had visited a home in a small town nestled in Himalayas. In the household there was an invalid man, his second wife(as first had died a painful death through burns and it was rumored that it was a dowry death, which in India means that a bride is abused and tortured and sometimes she accidentally burns in the kitchen while cooking! It is easy to prove that she died while cooking and was not burnt to death by an angry husband or a malicious in law), a teen aged girl( is daughter) and her younger brother living with their spinster aunt. Even when they extended a warm welcome with the wife and her sister-in-law slaving in the kitchen( wife being ordered around by the much married looking sister-in-law, why is it so with spinsters that they look more married than married women?), dark with soot, whipping up delicious food.

The projected happy family just didn't hold as there was a lingering shadow of frustrations, pain and anger. The son would sing melodious songs as we had tea in an over decorated living room with wife's embroidered table clothes and daughter's paintings made during the class tenth summer holiday at the local art teacher's coaching class. The man was all politeness and manners so much so that it failed to convince! Something about that sad little home was quiet bitter and quiet hidden. The wife had wrinkles on her weather beaten face, weathering that age and surviving suspended without security and love brings about. The smiles were stretched too far, brittle almost to the breaking point, it is easy to read the story that faces tell, just have to look a bit longer and deeper.

The wife, completely over run by her sister-in-law, most probably hailed from an economically weaker background. Children had the same pale aura of being repressed. When a mother is suppressed and smothered, children draw from this state and with the blossoming of their youth there is a wilting of spirit that is unmistakable. Was it this interference of a controlling spinster that lingered so heavily everywhere, in the kitchen, in tiny bedrooms and the kitchen garden with a parrot caged near guava tree, or was it the silent suffering of a woman who died by fire that hovered over this house that was painstakingly projected as a happy house but peace evaded it like water on lotus leaf. Now, the daughter is happily married and the house hold that I have not visited for a while might be a little lighter with children free of the silent agony.

Yesterday,I took Jayani to two drawing competitions. She is wonderful with colours and paints. The work she does is quiet matured for her age and I have appreciated her always. When she did not win any prize yesterday, she was disappointed. What she did was paint by imagination. At one place she painted the usual mountains, setting sun and trees, at the other she made a huge flower that she often makes at home with multi coloured petals. The flower she erased as she was impatient with colouring the whole thing and made stringy creepers at four corners. She was disheartened that she did not get any prize for this. I told him that she had not done the flower with care as she was impatient, she did not take criticism well as she was saying again and again that mamma did not like my painting.

I had a delicate balancing to do here, I know her potential is immense yet she does not like practicing and it is this I wanted to instill through this experience. I gave her an old letter of my brother where he had sketched a mouse with a bag that is spilling grains on path. He used to write these stories for my son in his engineering days and send them. Son had mastered drawing this mouse and would get prizes for this. She tells me why did you not tell that I had to practice a thing for a competition, I said it's not late, you have to learn to practice all things as human mind is made that way that if you do not practice, you forget! She seems to have understood this and the visit to the art competitions was not a waste. At these moments I often doubt myself. I thought about the praise I shower her with when she comes up with those beautifully executed works, she is a natural, sometimes such talent cant 'perform' on demand, but as a child it means a lot to hger to 'win' I do not want to take that joy away from her, so I gave her the clue to winning such competitions where children draw what they have practiced and perfected at home. Hope I am not wrong and her natural talent is not disturbed but enhanced with the practice and discipline...


Cold sunshine drips down the window
Inhale the white flower and the wild rose

Birds nest, bees roam
My heart too wanders, sun-dappled lanes of memory..

Dusty, damp, dark streets, sun filters in
Turning dust to gold, a solitary tear to ice...

Jayani rubbing nose with her fave kitty

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A strange poem...



I fall sharply
Cutting the sky beneath cliff
You catch me by your lips
My name
Hangs there sandwiched
between the fall and impact...


Sharp wind lifted my hair just above my brown jacket as I jogged on gritty red sand. I jogged to run past an older woman, walking faster than me. A forced thing to confirm my younger age. Jogging I crossed her many times till she would briskly walk past me when I resumed walking. The bliss of gentle fog laden morning changed into the compulsion to compete. My eyes grazed the yellow and orange marigolds lined by the road and suddenly I could disengage from this forced thing of running ahead of her. Was thinking, isn't is same in all the things. We always have a choice from things that engulf us like the pseudopodia of an amoeba, we always have a choice of taking our thoughts and attention to things that blossoms into some thing beautiful. I picked up my old hobby again today and it is such a divine feeling, of joy, peace and contentment of creation. Here is the painting that I have been busy with today. Another older one that I had painted when Jayani was a new born.

Facebook update: I even wrote a blog on that yesterday but then I had disengaged my self through nature-taking in the bright yellow beauty of marigolds, when we stood side by side waiting for lights to tun green, I complimented her on her stamina and she complimented me on my running, saying I can't run now. We shook hands and told our names. Morning frustrations of watching her walk past me changed into a possibility of a new friendship!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Morning...


Got up at four and the good thing about getting up so early is you are filled with bright energy all day. Meditated for a while and burned some incense and camphor as my throat felt hoarse. I hurry to the kitchen then, start the water for tea and warm up the milk on the stove. I have kicked out the microwave as it was becoming the favourite haunt of tiny cockroaches. Can't spray insecticide in there, can I? Eggs for boiling replace the tea and I make a crisp 'parantha' with folded dough and bishops seeds and a bit of salt, I smear it with honey for son and float some chocos for daughter, both have different breakfasts. Next, I slice the buns and put jam for one and butter for the other and place them in their lunch boxes, this is less elaborate than some things I send and which are brought back untouched, so this! I place these on a tray with two glasses of water and try to wake them up. they dig still deeper into the blankets, I bring my boiled egg and tea to the bed to keep at the constant song of 'get up Jayu, get up Animesh, it's your work not mine to get ready', to no avail. Then I read the clock to them, it's six fifteen, now you will miss the bus, no effect. I zip to start the geyser for hot water and bring in their uniforms, socks, underwear and spread them on bed. Again, the same song, get up, you will miss the bus, I think they dream of missing the bus. I manage to make Jayu sit up and place the water glass near her lips, she sips a little and opens an eye. I spoon chocos and then the eggs and place the tooth brush with paste in her hand. Next, I give her a bath and ask her to dress and smear some cream, she obliges. Meanwhile son has arrived to have his break fast and whines about everything. I write a note in Jayai's diary about the money she has to carry for buying crayons and then com her hair. We rush out with the belt in hand...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sun Worship


Worship of sun in Aryan vedic rites always felt like an ancient ritual to please the elements. Looking deeper, it seems that at some subtle level all the energy and matter work very closely (every living thing has derived energy from solar energy) so at some level gross expression of respect and gratitude is a form of communication.

A flower that I had floated in a crystal bowl draws its petals inwards in the night even when it is not attached to the plant and is away from sunlight. How come the cells of this flower detect the sunset? What is the necessity in a plucked cosmos to draw its petals at night? Maybe cells of our body, with the proven fact that each cell has memory and gray matter, communicate with the source of energy. It is just a thought that consciously aligning our mind and spirit to this subtle communication , brings us into balance and harmony with nature and elements. Maybe this was the reason that all the ancient religions had rituals where they revered the nature. Have also observed that when we communicate the need to be healed to nature, it is herd by some intelligence and works out somehow. When I venture out in sun, I sens its rays and feel that they cleanse all negativity, it seems we should not fear elements but know that they are an integral part of our being, this way the elements work to keep us disease free and young. Dunno, came to me as I was watching sunlight bath treetops in mellow pale glow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mundane Things



I was talking to a friend during our evening walk and mentioned that how as a newly married woman I had found a question about maintainance money very awkward. She replies, but I get it too, and I was quiet for a moment as I had thought that is was funny to be getting money that one would spend on oneself from the husband. In fact my take on the issue was that once the intense phase of infant care and early childhood are over a woman should earn to contribute towards the family kitty. In this of course I had never taken into account the massive housework that is single handedly done by Indian housewives. I do not know about the finer points about these factors that grant spending ability to a woman in these situations but truly it had never occurred to me. Her forceful point that women who take care of the house should have some money solely kept aside for their own care sounded very logical. She gets massages and facial done with the money, with the rest she keeps saving it till a bigger amount is there, here, she showed me, 'these ear rings I got with this saving!' Well, either I am dumb or I can silently hope that practicality and worldly ways dawn upon me before I hit forty.

The Rabindranath novel I was reading speaks of these feminist issues, am amazed that the issues are still contemporary. The central character, Kumudini refuses to accept precious jewelry that her husband gifts her as he continuously tries to show her side of the family down, she accepts a crumpled paper with cardamom seeds that a child gives her with joy. She is completely reliant on her husband and yet she struggles to resist the attempts by the husband to control her.She is shown to be brought up lovingly by her brother and this instills in her the confidence to turn down that which is given to her without respect.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Commonwealth Games with Kids


Was at the stadium yesterday to see the diving, there were children watching with frequent squabbling over seats as the techniques were quiet complex and each even had many rounds. Was quiet amazed at the spectrum of people commonwealth is attracting, while waiting for the lost and found volunteers, I sat on the grass. A while later a foreigner came and sat near by me. I was quiet flustered with tracing back the steps to try and find out the purse and needed some thing to take my mind off this trying to go back and figure out where exactly I dropped it. I asked his nationality and he told he was German, I said but Germany is not taking part in these games(are the common wealth games so popular!) Well, he tells me that he is a diver and was in the national team of Germany. In the state of extreme frustration my next question was, are you still diving, well no, he was an engineer with no time for this hobby and was in India to see the Taj and the usual golden triangle of Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. I suggested the HO HO buses moving across Delhi for tourists and locals as a safe bet. His colleagues working with Delhi Metro and so from Singapore he was visiting Delhi, I compared the plastic nature of Singapore to the natural diversity of India, a good way of taking out the frustration! Then about the Berlin wall coming down and just as he mentioned north and south Korea, I could speak of the dictators there as I had read in a blog recently about the horrors of dictatorship in Korea. Indeed it seemed that Korea was an alien planet with such stone age practices. How much we learn each day about the world from social networks and the blogs and how much can be learned about a whole civilization is a few minutes! The potential of human interaction never ceases to amaze me. He asked me again and again if I was an Indian, do I look some other nationality? The minutes were ticking by and whole family was scattered, my son by me on the logs, husband and daughter waiting at a parking place as Delhi is a virtual fortress these days. Now, I will remember to keep my attention focussed when I go out to a crowded place with the kids.

It was heartening to be received with politeness by the police and the paramilitary forces deployed there. The volunteers were very courteous and friendly and that made me realise that events like these commonwealth games instill a deep sense of responsibility and unity in people. People from across the world are visiting the stadias and enjoy the hard work of players. Even when the day brought frustration due to my own carelessness, it was a learning experience to receive help and sympathy from other humans.

Pic: Is unrelated to post, beautiful Nainital in Himalaya.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scattered Poems...


Sad Days
Sadness has quaint ways
stelthy feet
sneaking in quietly... quietly
Spreading like honey
on each thought coating all
In dazed, dull perception



Can you Heal?


Broken China
Torn wings
Soul feels shredded
Ever danced on broken glass?

Slash the trusting heart
Numb senses and smile
Work- rest- work
Things will be fine

Don't weep or else
You hurt us with those tears
Who asked you to trust?
Not us, so dance
But slowly on the shards
And remember...
Don't weep
Its not tasteful
Not ladylike
Just smile
And dance slow
And yes,
You can let the blood flow


God

I want to ask you
How can you stay untouched
As children suffer
They say that your will is most potent
Then answer me why the innoc ent suffer?

Is it your wish to see suffering
Is it so essential to existence?
But, explain to me those that yet have to live
Why they die?
Hindu says past birth

Still I question
Is it your wish to see misery
As they say, not a leaf moves till you wish
Is this your wish then?
To see children starving, brutal rapes and murders

Animals are a kinder lot then
tell me it is not your wish or will
that wanders the earth like a possessed fiend
Give it a name, so that I gather
That leaves tremble without your will too...
And devils roam unchained by your will

My creator cannot have such wishes I believe
Unless there is some rhyme or reason to it
Explain to me this pain
And that you do not will or wish it





Evolution
From green of grass to that of matrix
Fields, farming, sweat and toil
transformed to hum of the AC, heat of the PC
A hollow tree bark, sleep, an open book spread on the chest
Ah the colours, the pop ups, and all that's yet unseen
A life away from life, a sedation, from realities, from self?
Like a dream, life away from life
Human dream grew wings and evolved
A silk cocoon it wove a net
And drawn across the blue planet
Is this world wide web-bedspread
To dream, to dream on days and nights...



A little breeze kisses my lips
And warms my heart today
It speaks of the sweet winter morns
And dusty autumn days

Of swirling leaves and tender petals
And white clouds on sunny noons
Pale damp moments plucked randomly
Pressed in my diary days

I long to lie in a field of daisies
And watch the shadows of the day
Just lie and laze and watch the play
Of the blue stark sky and white clouds

And hold a hand next to my face
Drowning into seamless sleep
Of ripe days and nights
And Jasmine white moments
Fragrant and deep!


Life passed by me
And, I was lost in plucking out thorns
As nights come to me I draw my stained hands over my eyes
I weave dreams to forget the thorns embedded in flesh
Morning comes to me with its naked bruised body
And I bury my trembling dreams quickly to pull out more thorns
The mornings teach my nights that there are no dreams
And my nights keep silent to retain their secrets,
of a little beauty and a little hidden happiness
Morning is restless to pour its wisdom on my night's dreams
My night resists faintly, the stark brutality of survival creeping in
Mornings strangling my nights
Reality drowning my dreams
Is that life?

See!

My soft feet have turned coarse
I wandered from shore to shore
Eyes that sang of love and sweetness
Are tired and sore.

Still I wore cloaks and painted the face
to delude the self creating false grace
In passion, in beauty, in mind
every moment engaged.

A moment then came to me humbly
spreading it's simple wares
A cloud, mild sun and a gentle torrent
See ....feel.

Not a thought in mind, none in heart
just the breeze, the flowers of white fragrance
It took to take the I apart and prod gently saying-
See.

Just see and be
Just see and be


Blossoming

A Winter song in my heart

I lie on well-worn carpet of memories

Gazing at the empty sky

For Spring is soon to blossom

Far off, the frozen stars wait...

With bated breaths

To know the fate of our love

And the first stirrings of warm sweetness are my secret

They will wait a zillion years to know

That I loved you

With dazzling sun weaving breeze into my hair

And a warm moment of our love

Thawing the frozen warp and weft,

A secret blossoming zillion years across the frozen stars



To the yellow moon I say
tell me today,
To the gentle breeze I say
say what I say,
To the soil and sky I pray
take my thoughts
And plant them far away
Where a field of daisies
And my dreams stay.


In the toothless smile of an infant
In delicate veins of green leaf
In gurgling of a torrent
In the rustling of dry leaves

Reflection of eternity
Caught in a mirror
That cracks
And shatters the moment

In to fragments
That escape thought
Still, make sense
Not to mind
But to heart

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forgotten Poetry...


If I had the depth of these blue waters
if I had the mildness of the white clouds
If I had the colour of your soul
If I had the purity of white snow
If I had ember of your eyes
If I had your thoughts like dew on rose
Would you think of me as I do
Would you be me as I become you?



In the open sunsoaked fields of your soul
let me run across the windswept grass
soak in the young orange rays of the sun
Kiss the bright faces of nodding sunflowers
drape the blue-green of peacocks in my eyes
drink the mist from your eyes
In the open sunsoaked fields of your soul
Let me still my fluttering butterfly heart!

Have you seen gray clouds on a moonlit night
And wind whispering sweet nothings to midnight flowers
On such a night when i crave absolute silence
Tie a boulder to this body
And let me sink into the blue -green depths
Breath that ties me to this body, drifting
Heart rest now, let the blood turn blue
Then i will surface a new soul
From one depth to another
No more body, not a mind
Just absolute bliss just absolute soul

Have you seen gray clouds on a moonlit night
And wind whispering sweet nothings to midnight flowers
On such a night when i crave absolute silence
Tie a boulder to this body
And let me sink into the blue -green depths
Breath that ties me to this body, drifting
Heart rest now, let the blood turn blue
Then i will surface a new soul
From one depth to another
No more body, not a mind
Just absolute bliss just absolute soul

Sleep come to me a necter in jeweled vessel
Sleep come to me a vision in smoky veils
Sleep come to me as i be innocent again
Sleep come to me to remind me of my eternal sleep
Sleep come make me dead to this world
give me dreams of past and future
To make my present rest awhile.

silence, thick like the dusk enveloping the mountains
Of green young moss on ancient rocks
Of placid ponds heavy with floating lotus
Of dust settling across the sunbeams like gold
Silence, thin like breeze on high snow clad peaks.




2007

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Time


Time woven with autumn leaves whispers on lonely paths
An empty winter noon brimming with echoes
Moments, thoughts weaving time with green shoots
Warp and weft of silver noons and silent nights
Time woven, then frozen in memory
A cosmos floating in the blue of eternity...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who am I?


We speak of water conservation and mostly water is a commodity used with caution in Northern India. Suddenly there is a lot of water every where! No need to conserve as the raging rivers threaten to submerge more and more villages and towns in their wake. Clouds have pitched their tents in the sky and refuse to budge mostly. If the weak sunshine streaks the robust hibiscus in my lawn, it quickly sprouts three or four double whorled red flowers, opportunities! We all wait for them! A bright magenta rose swings like a happy child in cool breeze and Earth is like an over fed child, calm and lazy, not even bothering to sprout a few stray grass strands. The chill shrub has shed all the tiny flowers it was sprouting and a crushed onion that I had pushed into the soil with my toe has dissolved in the mush. Mango tree has a sodden bark and sparkling leaves. Nature it seems is too powerful, these months it used to be sweltering heat and this year it feels like Winters! One earthquake and whole villages and small towns vanish into the belly of this live Earth. Like a vibrant, willful mind this Universe works. Hindu scriptures repeat again and again that Universe is within us and we within the Universe. Microcosm and macrocosm are entwined. In a way this is the most beautiful thought as when we drop all the resistance, the world and all that appears external being a part of self, can there be a more relaxed state of mind, heart and body. If everything living and non living is us than what a peaceful Universe it is. No element is outside the self and therefore no friction, agitation or resistance!

Reading about an old eighty-year-old man it felt that there is much beyond our understanding. Such sages have always been in Indian subcontinent. They broke the gross link of mass and energy and fed directly on the all pervading energy. There are various energies all around us only we do not know how to tap into them. But just sustaining on the energy is a short term end goal. The bliss seems to reside in realizing what we are doing here as a speck of intelligence absorbing, assimilating and internalizing the stimuli? Why are we doing this? Even when we appear very primitive with our short History of existence as a race, there is simple beauty about us, just like that rose swinging in the breeze. Maybe this innocence that shine forth now and then is the only reason why nature allows us to live on this planet that we have vandalized so brutally.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Haze and Comprehension...


Since the illness three fingers of my right hand have turned dark and the skin has become thick and gets wrinkled when immersed in water. It is almost as if death had touched my hand through this illness. I had to take out the two rings I wear and even generous massages of cream is not helping.

Soil is wet and giving under the feet, just too see how much it gives in under my weight jumped on one feet , landing on the heel making a little impact on wet soil. A yellow butterfly flits through the branches waving in wind.

Walking through the mall, watching families enjoying meals and window shopping strange thoughts converge on me like tiny arrows. Is this all that life is about? Little enjoyments, an outing in the mall, an expensive meal, a nice dress rustling against the skin? Stupid thought! What is one supposed to do with the hours and moments? Rear children that came through the linear progression of life. I know of a dimension though that takes one away from this run of the mill packaged happiness, that is meditation. It is another plane altogether. The difference is one is with the self, no stimulus from people around, just the self and cessation of thoughts giving way to a stillness like that of a moonlit pond. A pond that spreads and spreads to envelope the being. The physical senses dropping like autumn leaves in a breeze, silently. It is kind of having the opposite of the conventional or traditional sense of fulfillment through things material.


Sometimes how strange it feels that we experience and translate these experiences and are so eager to share it with other humans. How lonely is the existence, it portrays even when we are always surrounded by life.

Comprehension


Sun in the sky dipping the horizons in butter yellow
Blowing breath over the Earth
Birds painted in the stark blue, diamond silver wings
Life condensing over the land,in seas
Tadpoles in the puddles swim in the drizzle, limbs congealing next to placenta
Grit of soil, delicate fragrances...
Becoming a part of me till the sun expands my lungs and filters life
Hair beneath numb fingers, turn copper
Under the butter yellow sun slanting through the wood and leaves...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Krishna


Just now the lawn is being dug by the laborers, they have dug deep and soft soil is strewn across the place. There is a chubby little child with silver amulets strung around the neck. Jayani gave these kids her colouring books and colours. Later, she was admiring herself in the mirror wearing the white ruffled top and blue jeans, she says" mamma, do I look alright?" I cupped her face in my hands and then placed a hand on her heart, this was time to instill a fact. I said till you posses kindness in your heart here, you will be the most beautiful face. If the heart is kind there is always beauty on the face. Am thankful she asked this and seems she did take the meaning seriously. Someday when my grand daughter asks her the same question, she might be able to draw on this security of keeping kindness in the heart.

Yesterday, we were watching this dance drama on Krisna, as Janamashtami is nearing these festivities about Krishn's birth are peaking. Bhagwat Geeta is 6000-year-old epic and it is so contemporary that it can fill one with tremendous zeal to live and fight most difficult circumstances. Krishna is Lord Visnu's incarnation. In Hinduism, there is a trinity of creator Brahma, preserver Vishnu and destroyer Shiva. Vishnu, it is believed, takes incarnations to establish righteousness. Krishna is the avatar who broke all the rigid rules of the society and in the battle of mahabharat where the five Pandava prince were denied their right to land, encourages all kinds of foul play to get even.

Draupadi, the very strong female character surpasses all present day feminists in her courage and conviction. She is Krishna's intimate friend and also wife of the five brothers, who take turns month-wise to enjoy her company. This woman makes sure that her five husbands go to war with the deceitful Kauravas, who cheated in the game of dice and subsequently tried to defile Draupadi as she too was used like an object in the game of dice. She is the enraged queen who is dragged by her hair as she has been won by Kauravas. She berates her husbands and denounces their right over her, claiming that a married woman is not a thing that can be owned. How many women in today's world be so forthright. Mostly all over the world there is just exploitation in all the interpersonal relationships and no justification is ever demanded for all that is wrong.

Sometimes these epics magnify all the things that we take as normal in our existence.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meditation


I meditated yesterday after a while and discovered that the deep meditative states require a lot of energy.It was wonderful though, feeling weightless and in a state that words cannot describe. When I am in that state, I don't wish to come down. If I compare that state to something that I can put into words, I can not think beyond the beauty of nature.

There was this brook with pristine Himalayan sky reflected in the glacier waters. The peace was unbroken except the wild woody calls of hill birds. Women and girls would sometimes manifest from the deep forests carrying dry pine leaves on their heads. They carry these needle-like leaves and spread them in the cow shed. There were marble boulders, green where the moss grew and breeze held all the mysteries of time. When you sit on Mother Earth in such a sacred place, you can let go of all the senses and become one with whatever intelligence there is.

Long ago just closing my eyes beneath the dancing leaves and rolling clouds brought me in touch with the creator, am amazed how easily the beauty of creation is put within our reach just slipping away from the mundane and slipping into the subtle.

Pic: A woman carrying vegetable in Himalayas

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is living a Dream?


Water descending from heavens and Earth getting saturated. Never seen such ferocious rain. If there was no place for water to go, there would be flooding indeed. When and how does the gentle song of rain on roof turns into a subtle violence?

What a dream kind of existence we have, if we really see, that is. A blue-green earth floating , we don't know where in vastness. A sun that dazzles brightly, transforming itself into all kinds of cells, sap, and blood. Sometimes when am able to really see, I wonder how we humans can drape things with false seriousness as we do. Everything feels like a massive play, just play! What can it be if you do not have an idea about where this planet is heading to? What happens to this intelligence that we call 'me' and if it is this fickle, how can we have any serious past or future.

Still nature seems so serious and involved in all the things that spring out, morning glories are blended just perfectly, violet with magenta and a shade of indigo, mangoes have right sweetness and fragrance. Jasmine twinkle in the nights, tiny insects are decorated with the most delicate patterns? Why so much of effort for something that is drifting into an endless vastness?

As a child I always raked my brains to figure out where the end of Universe would be, how was it possible to have something that didn't end. My father would say it is like numbers, they go on. This somehow would never make sense and I would imagine a boundary marking our milky way and the next galaxy. Guess the question and the curiosity still remains, unanswered. I do not know now but another perpetual quest of mine as a child was to look for 'amrut' the nectar that would allow humans to live indefinitely. I still have some magazine clippings pasted in old revision registers.My plan was to feed this elixir of longevity to my family so that they live for ever. No am not hounded by this quest now, life is beautiful when you can give. When you are on the receiving end, it might loose its beauty. For me to live like a tree is to live forever. Sometimes when I go deep looking into a leaf or a twig admiring its minute beauty, there's a strange sensation, maybe we are a dream, a cosmic consciousness, a dream also snaps off sometimes just like the dream last night when a loving octopus climbed on my shoulder and rested on my cheek. Another when I freed a calf to drink as much milk as it wanted, being loved by the cow. I felt the octopus touch, gentle and loving and then I raise my hand and a little statue of a deity-Hanumana, manifests in my hand and I give it to the octopus. Maybe we are just this-a draem-or why would we be clueless about where our Earth headed to?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crow Story!





Walking by the sea front in the morning, I observed the crows were over excited. There was a crow with a badminton shuttle cock in its beak and the other crows were crowding around this crow excitedly. The proud crow held the shuttle cock like a trophy and began to pluck the feathers. There was more excitement and cawing. He would look side ways with an arrogant turn of neck and again start plucking out the cork. The whole display of bravado attracted some eagles too. They hovered low and two crows flew after these circling eagles. Now the crow with the shuttle cock grew more possessive and took flight to an isolated rock a bit farther into the sea. He was still convinced that he had found a dead bird and the joy of pulling out the feathers was evident in the way he thrust his breast out and pinned down the ravaged shuttle cock.

After good ten minutes of plucking the feathers and cork, the crow realized that the thing was of no use, he flew back to his friends and continues to display his prized possession. By now other crows had started prancing with some odd stuff, one held a wet brown bag in its beak, other had dug out a shell and jumped from rock to rock following the crow with the shuttle cock. After a while another friendly crow joined the shuttle cock crow and they got busy with scraping some sort of edible algae from the rock surface.

The shuttle cock was forgotten, seeing this, another crow gingerly came close to the abandoned shuttle cock and as soon as he picked it up the crow who had found it pounced upon him. This made me laugh and I could not help thinking how human was this behaviour. Even when we realize how useless some of our precious possessions are we guard them with our life and the moment some one encroaches on this possession, well, the crow reaction happens, lay off your claws!

Another interesting thing I want to share is: we were visiting husband’s friend after so many years came to know of a very unique thing about him. He was aware of his previous birth as a child. He used to tell his parents that he had died in a car accident in Calcutta and remembered the number plate of the car. He dreads visiting Calcutta but is confident that he can easily navigate the streets, though he has never visited the city before. When I asked him what all he remembered on a lot of prodding he spoke of being driven in this car and that both the driver and he were killed in the accident. He remembers that he used to wear a white dhoti and was a businessman. We joked about finding out his widow and check if he had left a will. This is the first time I have met a person who remembers his past birth and since he was quiet reluctant to share his experience with anyone, and knowing him so well, there is no doubt that he telling the truth. I really wish that he would go back to Calcutta and find out who he was, though it is easy as his father had found out that the car with the number plate he remembered had actually met with an accident and the occupants had died, a strange co-incident is that ion the same date a few years later he took birth again.

There is something I have also experienced about the date, when I had delivered my daughter I had a disembodied voice tell me that this child had my brother’s soul who had expired when he was three. Then it told me to ask me about the significance of seventeenth September in relation to the brother. This was the date of birth of my new born daughter. I was scared initially as this was a strange dream and I had just delivered, I called my mother and asked her if the date had some significance for my brother. She told me that he had died on that date. I was stunned. It is quiet possible than that the date of birth has some relation to the date when we die in previous life?


Still in Mumbai, and absorbing this restless city. Will keep you all posted, take care and enjoy awareness of self as I am realizing our existence is more like a dream, with us like masses of concentrated energy, living the dream that is sniffed off so easily. While I walk, sometimes it feels like every thing, the people, sand, sea, trees are extension of this energy or that I am an extension of that whole!
Pic: Since I don't have the USB cable for my phone, I couldn't post the crow pictures. Here is Jayu on the beach! Crow pictures will be here soon via blue tooth!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mirage



Gray clouds framed by darkening tree tops, birds are alarmed as light diminishes. The kitten my daughter had brought has again wandered off, I think his mother is near the tiny shopping complex here. Breeze touches the green leaves and then touches the water in small rain water puddles creating tiny ripples.

Some days are like mirages, when every thing appears false and illusionary, the life as it had progressed from being an infant to now and all that is to the life. Reading this book replete with History of East India company and Mughals, I am wondering if in a century humans will look back to all that is happening now as 'primitive'. Things formidable and most important gradually get buried in the dust storms of time and yet the present gives them such serious importance. The wars, stoning in the name of religion, hatred in personal relations, greed, taking others for a ride, all this what does it add up to? In the vast depth of Universe birthing galaxies and devouring stars, it is nothing. Where does this ego and all thing it manifests stand in the grand scheme of things? Then why it scatters us so that the creation appears meaningless, that words and acts turn sour and stale and moments of utter hopelessness crowd the heart.

Does not make any sense, the creation placed in this vastness is a contrast, our feeling of being adrift is a contrast to the calm chaos of cosmos. We are a contrast to the eternal presence of Universe, sprouting like mushrooms and vanishing with our seasons. Knowing well our frail bubble like existence, deep sorrows corrode souls. What a hilarious comedy the creator has brought about. Knowing well we know nothing or close our eyes against the light.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Raining thoughts!


Sun rays streaking through damp leaves and soft barks. I go out to capture the bees meticulously drawing the nectar from bright yellow cup-like flowers dotting the succulent leaves. To my surprise these flowers have closed up, petals drawn tightly to form a bud again, now I understand why bees were so busy earl in the morning collecting the nectar before the petals closed up! A dove and its chick peacefully look about as gray clouds gently roll out licking away the blue from the sky. Parrots frolic in mango leaves dropping the unripe mangoes in my garden, I pick up one and smell its ripe yellow fragrance, I cut the part parrot has tasted and place its fresh pulp on my tongue. It is divine, to draw in what this powerful tree has sucked from Mother Earth. As the juice fills my being, I sense the bond of the tree with the soil spreading in my body. The sky it has captured through the green chlorophyll, the breeze rustling its leaves and the soil holding its roots in a tight embrace all, I sense in this bite. My tree become me!

My friend use to point out, see how well provided these birds are, all around the year they have either fruits or flowers to fill their tiny bellies, how true! Am waiting for the tight buds of hibiscus to unfold and spread some colour. Balsam plants with its delicately coloured flowers dangling precariously, with mild fragrance of talc are growing strong. In a while they will have seed pods that explode at touch and the pod curls releasing the black-round seeds.

I often go for nature walks with Jayu and we end up questioning each out why a seed is shaped the way it is. Recently, we found one beneath a tree that bounced like a soft spongy ball! She correctly figured out that it was to facilitate its dispersal. Some lilies have decided to surprise me, suddenly erupting through the wet Earth. There are green leaves standing proudly to be harvested. Nature is so giving, from where have we learned keeping things to ourselves?

In the innocence of any new born's eyes, you can see the beauty of creation, it can be a little lizard baby testing waters, trying to befriend you. It is believed now that each cell has intelligence and memory. If this is true, every thing that the collective nervous system invites, is processed by all the cells. If all cells communicate in some manner, maybe they exchange at some subtle sub atomic, vibratory level? If this exchange really happens then we can consciously make it a healing experience by knowing the source of things we put into our body through our mouths. Dunno,just something occurred to me as I tasted that mango. Maybe I feel this way as I have come to love this mango tree and watch its branches sheltering so many lives, feeding so many.

Long time back when I was carrying my younger child, suddenly I found that breathing was getting difficult in the third month of pregnancy. Early in the morning in pre-dawn darkness when the air was crisp, I saw a Peepal tree. Peepal is the only tree that gives out Oxygen during night. I was really in bad shape and I went to this huge ancient tree and placed my hands on its rugged bark. I asked if with its wisdom and healing it could heal me of this breathing problem. I plucked its tender leaves and ate them. I did this every morning in the dark so that no one would watch me talking to a tree! Within that week this breathing problem vanished,may be it was a placebo effect, but what ever it was, it was wonderful.

Yesterday, I observed that I can no more stand looking into pale eyes, sly eyes and jaded eyes. Strange but as I crossed the busy crossings with these vagabond women begging in the streets, their eyes hit me like stones. Something too raw and cruel about them. Better to look at the grass or the skyline than stare into stale paleness that in someway corrupts the soul. Funny thing is that animals always have innocent eyes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Indian Monsoon



Indecisive clouds crowd the horizons, they brood. Should we pour here or travel to another land and then release the condensing droplets. It is as if they have a mind of their own. Tiny black mosquitoes stealthily attack, quietly sucking the blood and bloating up. In Delhi excessive use of fertilizers and the vehicular pollution has led to extinction of frogs as a result mosquitoes breed heavily during rainy season. People fall sick and die as dengu fever spreads but still they don't stop using chemical fertilizers. Yesterday, I was watching news and saw how milk products were being adulterated. Cheats are everywhere in their worm-like existence, selling poison or posh arm dealers or elite intelligentsia that creates systems that no one understands and then everyone washes their hands off-they say they have nothing to do when people lose their jobs. They are not responsible for suicides as companies distribute pink slips like candies and they feign ignorance smugly pocketing their 'bonus and perks' just as millions cut corners to save for the inevitable 'rainy days'.

Two decades ago first showers of rain would see us out inhaling, imbibing chewing the fragrance of dry Earth guzzling the first down pour. Velvety red 'bir bahutis' would crawl out and children would collect these pretty insects in mud-filled bottles. Now, the indecisive clouds hover above my mango tree and there are no little red 'bir bahutis' for my daughter to admire. Things have changed and how! Jayani saw frogs this time, sensing the humidity they had burrowed their way out into little puddles of water, she was ecstatic making them jump and swim. Wonder how many such joyous moments humanity has robbed off, generations will never realise, all in the name of 'development'.


Monsoon

Dark clouds, wild clouds, swirling gray, black and blue
Distressed goddess, an enraged mane
Leaves play with winds, jasmine smiles
Nests sway, branches splinter, chicks clutch pale straw

Feet on the wet mud, flesh drenched in the first water
Like the amniotic fluid, pulsating, warm
Lazy ripe mangoes drop violently splattering yellow pulp
Clouds smile a warm slow smile, Earth steams
Love happens and pregnant Earth births a zillion lives

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pandit Nain Sing Rawat


Long time back I had done this research, sharing it here as I would like if some one searching for information is benefited through this.


PRELUDE

Even today, after centuries of modernization, as China’s iron curtains, forbid the world the view of Tibet, it is with the eyes of these explorers that we still see this mysterious land. Their explorations are still the window to the world of Tibet.
Nain Singh was a man of strong character – where others admitted defeat, he persisted. Due to the clandestine nature of their work and because they were ‘Spy Explorers’ their work never gained the recognition due to such an important feat.
As these ‘Spy Explorers’ worked for the British, after independence their work was not given due recognition. The clandestine nature of their work made such important discoveries look unpatriotic. This can be the only reason why it faded in public memory.

INTRODUCTION

Life of Nain Singh Rawat, paraphrases the entire struggle for power not only in the plains of Hindustan but through the crucial and strategic Tibet, the high Himalayas and the Hindukush.
British were in a way paranoid about Russia’s interest in Tibet. It was a race against time for the Tsarist Russia and British India to claim this yet untamed territory. The odds here were greater- Tibetians were no fools, with a relay system that surpassed many a superior security systems. Messengers criss crossed the landscape with letters and messages. These men mounted on horses covered the 800 miles between Lasha and Gangtok and were forbidden to stop other than to eat or change horses. They wore a long sleeved Chogas inside which were tucked letters, the breast fastening of their overcoats was sealed to ensure that they did not change clothes. The officer to whom the letter was addressed would break the seal. A message took just thirty days to travel from Lhasa to Gartok, a special message would reach even faster, in twenty two days. The news traveled very fast due to this system and any foreigner who attempted to enter Tibet was reported and forced back to the border. The explorers were thus required to tackle this local resistance, prior to attempting the hazardous travel in this most unfriendly terrain.
However, this reluctance on the part of the Tibetian native did not always exist. Previously the Nepalese Kumaon was the only resistance the explorers faced. Once inside Tibet, they always reported of very friendly, warm and deeply religious people. In Akbar’s time the first Jesuit mission left for the search of the origin of river Ganga, their main concern though was the quest for the lost tribe of Prester John. The Jesuits had heard from wandering sadhus and yogis, of people in Tibet who had rituals and practices similar to those of Christians. To find out about this they were eager to reach Tibet. In 1624 Jesuit father Antonio de Andrade along with Portugese lay brother Manuel Marques and two Christian servants reached Badrinath disguised as pilgrims. After initial resistance from the officials of Raja of Srinagar, the two entered Tibet from Mana pass at 17,900 feet and were welcome in this isolated land. Andrade impressed the king and queen with his devotion towards his religion but could not persuade the king to convert. He returned in the summer of 1625 with more missionaries and the king laid the foundation of the first Christian church in Tibet. However, after Andrade left there was a revolt among Tibetan Lamas and the church was pulled down.
The tradition of employing natives for survey work started quiet accidentally. When the Maratha war ended the military engineers and draughtsmen became comparatively free to focus their attention on mapping newly acquired upper Hindustan lands. At Twenty four, when James Rennel was appointed the Surveyor General of India, he assembled a band of surveyors and draughtsmen to map the subcontinent. Rennel was awestruck when he first viewed the Himalayas from the plains of Bengal. He was curious about the origins of the Ganga, Indus and Brahmputra, which had their sources in Himalayas. He admitted his ignorance and even accepted the native belief that Ganga took it’s source from the holy lake of Kailash Mansarovar. Though he left India in 1777 due to delicate health, he continued to play a major role in the development of Indian geography and so is correctly honored with the title of ”Father Of Indian Geography”.
Robert Colebrooke and Henry Colebrooke were cousins deeply interested in Ganga. Robert was appointed Surveyor General of India in1794 and Henry was posted as Assistant Commissioner of Purnea. He was a Sanskrit scholar and the first President of Bengal Asiatic Society. Robert spent his time either sailing on Ganga or on it’s banks. He knew the river thoroughly and was eager to explore the source of the sacred river. His findings were a major contribution to Henry’s Asiatic researches. In1807 Robert Colebrooke sailed upstream from Calcutta, He was joined by twenty-two year old Webb of Bengal Native Infantry and fifty sepoys. They employed Captain Hyder Jung Hearsey, an independent freebooter who knew the terrain and the ways of locals well. His mounted irregulars also provided them protection against robbers and marauders. While surveying these unhealthy jungles of Terai, Robert Colebrooke fell ill. This development prevented him from going any further, so Webb along with Hearsay and an old friend Felix Raper from the old regiment traveled towards Himalayas with the instructions to explore Ganga. They were assisted from Haridwar to Gangotri. At Haridwar, they were lucky to meet the Gurkha Governor of Nepalese Srinagar who was visiting the Kumbh Mela. After initial reluctance he gave way and this party headed for Gangotri. The trail was difficult to say the least and just forty miles short of their destination, for reasons unknown, Webb decided to turn back. Here was the start of a novel method of surveying when “An intelligent native”, most probably Hearsey’s Hindu munshi was briefed about the use of compass and sent to look for the famous ‘Cow’s Mouth’. The remaining party of Webb, Hearsey and Raper moved towards Badrinath to locate the source of Alaknanda. They reached the Bhotia village of Mana and from here proceeded towards the source of Alaknanda with a local guide. They found the source in a narrow valley at the foot of Badrinath massif. The purpose of the mission was achieved, as Hearsey’s munshi brought back the information that there was no cow’s mouth at the Ganga’s source at Gangoutri. Thus the theory that Ganga took its source from Mansarover was proved a fable. There was indeed a Cow’s mouth – a vast cul-de –sac discovered by Captain John Hodgson and his assistant Captain James Herbert in 1817.This as the traditional source of Ganga called Bhagirathi here, with an enormous glacier shaped like a snout. of a cow. With Ganga’s origin finally traced back to the source now the focus of the British surveyors was on the inner Himalayas and on Tibet though it was a forbidden land as the Nepalese Kumaon did not take British presence lightly. These conditions led to the British policy of non-interference in these areas and when Hearsey and Dr Moorecroft, Veterinary Doctor entered Kumaon for ’Tour of hills’ as they called it, it clearly was not appreciated. Moorecroft was over forty, he was Vet Surgeon to the Government of Bengal, he had been irritating [troubling] the Agent to the Governor General with plans of a journey into the hills to find new blood from the hill strains and goats with long hair for wool. They were assisted by two native surveyors Harballabh and his nephew Hurruck Dev and the latter was given the unpleasant task of keeping a tally of the number of steps he took. He was directed to stride, the whole of the road at paces equal to four feet each because the Indian pace is recorded each time the left foot touches the ground, which is every two steps. Hearsay and Moorecroft were disguised as pilgrims Mayapori and Haragiri. They reached the Bhotia village of Neeti but were stopped from going any further. The Bhotias the traditional go between of the western Himalayas refused to offer any assistance to these suspicious looking men. While waiting here Moorecroft started treating anyone who came to him. He cured a young Bhotia boy for dropsy and this won him the gratitude of the boy’s father, a trader from the Johar valley, Deb Singh Rawat. Deb Singh Rawat and his brother, Bir Singh were among the wealthiest and most influential Bhotias in the region. Thus Moorecroft set the seal on the friendship between the British and the Bhotias.
They reached Mansarovar via Daba, where they traded the goods brought from India, with the large flock of sheep and fifty Pashmina goats. They promised the authorities at Daba to stick to the pilgrim routes. Moving ahead they reached Rakas Tal or Ravan Hrudb and found that none of the tributaries of Sutlej had its source in the lakes (it was later in 1846 that Henery Strachey would meet Deb Singh at Milam on his way to the lakes and find out that Sutlej did take its source from Mansarovar). They measured Mansarovar and found it to be an oval shaped lake and by circumnavigating the lake found that the two lakes Ravan Hrudb and Mansarovar were not connected by any channel (This was corrected by Henry Strachey, when he discovered that there was a large stream three feet deep and hundred feet wide flowing from
Rakas Tal to Masarovar. This seepage of water was missed entirely by Moorcroft and Hearsey as they had stuck to the shores and failed to see what was on the other side of the raised bank of Shingle). This brought to close the mysteries related to the holy lake Mansarvar and the belief that Sutlej took its source from the holy lake of Manserover was finally proved correct.






CHAPTER 1

LIFE OF NAIN SINGH RAWAT

Rai Bahadur Nain Singh Rawat was born to Lata Burha in1830 in Milam village in the valley of Johar. This beautiful valley in the Kumaon hills is located at the foot of the Milam glacier from which the river Goriganga originates. The Rawats ruled over the Johar valley, during the reign of Chand dynasty in Kumaon, this was followed by the Gorkha rule. In 1816 the British defeated Gorkhas but maintained a policy of non-interference and friendship towards the Johar Bhotias. The famous Bhotia explorers mostly belong to the village of Johar.
There is a history to how the Bhotias came to this valley and became the trading link between the Tibet and the rest of the world. When Mohammed Ghori invaded India between 1191 and 1193, there was a mass exodus from the Hindu Rajputana. The Rajput ancestors of Nain Singh, settled in a place called Jawala Bagarh. Around 1680, a prominent family member Hiroo Dham Singh went to Kailas Mansarovar for pilgrimage. The pilgrims in those days travelled in caravans fully armed to protect themselves from robbers. The Tibetians were being troubled greatly by Chinese invaders at this time. Hiroo Dham Singh along with a large number of fellow pilgrims and retainers helped Tibetans drive away the Chinese bandits who were looting and stealing the cattle, horses and sheep. Hiroo Dham Singh’s guerilla warfare tactics helped Tibetans in driving away these Chinese marauders. The Tibetans returned the favour by giving him trade concessions and thus a Lion’s share in the cross border trade with Gartok in Western Tibet. Hiru Dham Singh was also honored with the title of ‘Pradhan’ from the Government of Lhasa. While returning from this very beneficial pilgrimage, Hiroo Dham Singh and his party passed through the Johar valley, east of Nanda Devi. He liked the place so much that he settled in Johar with a large number of his clan members. This fateful incident led to the foundations of a flourishing trade being laid.
After leaving school, Nain Singh helped his father. He visited different centers in Tibet with his father, learnt the Tibetan language, customs and manners and became familiar with the Tibetan people. This knowledge of Tibetian language and local customs and protocol came handy in Nain Singh’s work as Spy Explorer. Due to the extreme cold conditions, Milam and other villages of the upper Johar valley are inhabited only for a few months from June to October. During this time the men used to visit Gyanima, Gartok and various other markets in Western Tibet. Each Indian trader of Johar, had a ‘mitra’ or colleague in Tibet. Initially, the splitting of a stone, each keeping one half, marked their partnership in trade. Henceforth, the Indian trader or his representative would carry the token to sell his goods in Tibet market only to his ‘mitra’s’ representative who would fit his half of the stone to the Indian’s.
In 1855, Nain Singh Rawat, now a well-disposed and intelligent man of twenty-five years, of traditional Bhotia mould – short, stocky and stubborn, was first recruited by German geographers – The Schalaginweit brothers. Baron Humboldt had sent these German scientists, to the office of Survey of India, which reluctantly allowed them to proceed for the survey. Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit had met old Deb Singh Rawat in the Johar valley, who even showed them a thanks chit signed by William Moorecroft and inscribed ‘Northern foot of the Himachal Mountains near Daba in Chinese Tartary, August 25th 1812.’ On his advice they recruited three members of his family for their expedition; Mani Singh Rawat, Dolpa and Nain Singh Rawat. Nain Singh’s first exploration trip was with the Germans between 1855 to 1857. He traveled to the lakes Mansarovar and Rakas Tal and then further to Gartok and Ladhak. After the exploration with the Schalaginweit brothers, Pundit Nain Singh Rawat joined the Education Department, being appointed as the headmaster of a Government vernacular school in his village at Milam from 1858 to 1863.
Before we embark on the Nain Singh’s journey with the British, let us have a closer look at the dynamics of the political climate of those times. British and Russians were engaged in a battle of one upmanship, in the vast desolate plains of Central Asia. It was Lieutenant Arthur Conolly of the 6th Bengal Native Cavalry who first coined this tussle into the now famous phrase ‘The Great Game’ in a letter to a friend. The secret missions and hawkish eye of the opponents led to wild speculations among the two adversaries. Some materialized, while others were mere presumptions of these ultra sensitive players of an equally ambitious and vague ‘Great Game’. Though Russophobia was on the rise with the successive generations of company men, just as the trail was getting hot, it was also becoming increasingly difficult to send officers on clandestine missions of map making as the risk factors were too great. If captured it meant certain death for these daredevil men. Secondly, the detection of such missions also meant political embarrassment for the British. Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India banned the British from venturing into these lands, his political view being that if they lose their lives, we cannot avenge them and so lose credit. It was Captain Montgomery who proposed to his superiors, a novel method to train the natives in scientific western methods of survey. These natives he had argued were far less likely to be detected than an European, however good the latter’s disguise. Moreover, even if they were unfortunate enough to be discovered, it would be politically less embarrassing to the authorities, compared to if a British officer was caught red handed making maps in these highly sensitive and dangerous parts. This was approved and the foundations were laid for a new era of cartographers, relying on the intelligence brought back by the trained natives. In 1862-63, Edmund Smyth was in correspondence with Captain Montgomery, who wanted some trustworthy men to train as explorers. Smyth strongly recommended the Bhotias, as they knew Tibetan language and were allowed to enter Tibet. Smyth selected Nain Singh and his cousin Mani Singh. Here it needs a mention that Education Officer Edmund Smyth was the first to realize the unique traits of the Bhotias. His own views were:-
The Bhotias have Hindu names and call themselves Hindus but they are not recognized as such by the Orthodox Hindus of the plains. While in Tibet, they seem glad enough to shake off their Hinduism and become Buddhists, or anything you like. They pass their lives in trade with Tibet and they are the only people allowed by the Tibeten authorities to enter the country for purposes of trade. From June to November they are constantly going over the passes, bringing the produce of Tibet (Borax, salt, wool, gold dust, also ponies) and taking back grains of all kinds, English goods, chiefly woolens and other things. The goods are carried on the backs of sheep, goats, Ponies, Yaks and Jhopoos (across between the Tibeten yak and the hill cow). Their villages are situated at an elevation of from 10,000 to 13,000 feet, at the foot of the passes leading into Tibet, though only occupied from June to November in each year. During the remainder of the year they move down to the foot of the hills and sell their produce to the Buniahs or traders.
In 1863, Nain Singh Rawat along with his cousin, Mani Singh Rawat were sent to the Great Trignometrical survey office at Dehradun where they underwent training for two years. This included training on scientific instruments and some ingenious ways of measuring and recording and the art of disguise. Nain Singh Rawat was exceptionally intelligent and quickly learned the correct use of scientific instruments like sextant and compass. He could also recognize all major stars and different constellations easily. This had all been possible due to exhaustive practice and a drive and determination in the hand picked men that are difficult to explain –
A sergeant major drilled them using a pace-stick, to take steps of a fixed length which remained constant even while climbing up, down or walking on plain surface. They were trained to record the distances by an ingenious method using a rosary. This rosary unlike a Hindu or Buddhist one, which has 108 beads, had just 100 beads. At every 100 steps the Pandit would slip one bead, so a complete length of the rosary represented 10000 steps. It was easy to calculate the distance as each step was 31½ Inches and a mile was calculated to be around 2000 steps. To avoid suspicion, these explorers went about their task disguised as monks or traders or whatever suited the particular situation. Many more ingenious methods were devised. The notes of measurements were coded in the form of written prayers and these scrolls of paper were hidden in the cylinder of the prayer wheel. The Pundits kept this secret log book up to date. The compass for taking bearing, was hidden in the lid of the prayer wheel. Mercury used for setting and artificial horizon, was kept in Cowri shells and for use poured into the begging bowl carried by the Pundit. The thermometer found place in the topmost part of the monk’s stave. There were workshops, where false bottoms were made in the chests to hold sextant. Pockets were also added to the clothes used during these secret missions.
Thus prepared and trained, the Pundits traveled for months at a stretch collecting intelligence in most difficult conditions, travelling closely with the natives in caravans. What was to follow, were some of the most glorious years in the exploration and mapping of Tibet and all its river systems and indeed some of the most fascinating explorations worth recounting. In 1865-66, Nain Singh traveled 1200 miles from Katmandu to Lhasa and thence to the Masarovar lake and back to India. His last and greatest journey was from Leh in Ladhak via Lhasa to assam in the years 1873-75. For his extraordinary achievements and contributions, Nain Singh was honored with many awards by the Royal Geographical society.
Nain Singh Rawat died of a heart attack in 1895, while visiting his Jagir, a plains village granted to him by the British in 1877.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cooking Mythology!



Mixing turmeric in the vegetables before smelling the salt to add it to simmering potatoes and aubergine, I resisted the thoughts on Hindu mythology. There are two massive epics, The Ramayana and the Bhagwat Geeta. Stirring the lentils and counting the whistles as I poured a cup of rice into heavy-based pot, measuring two cups of water, I thought, how strange most children born in the narrative of bhagwat geeta are out of wedlock. Most women choosing powerful deities to father the children over their husbands! Did we have a civilization where marriage was not as 'sacred' as today and good genes determined whom the women in wedlock would mate with, to have gifted and healthy generations. Chopping onions, de seeding tomatoes and slicing green chili, I brood over the stern, dry values of Ramayana. Ram, the avatara of Visnu, an ideal king was sent to fourteen years of exile by his step mother so that her son would rule. She enters a 'kope bhavan' a palace where the queen would retire to when she was angry and discontented. She reminds the king of a promise he had made while on the battle field as she saved his life. The politics reigns and the virtuous Rama along with his devoted wife Sita move to the forests. A demon abducts Sita and carries her to Sri Lanka, after a fierce battle, Sita is overjoyed to unite with her husband. Rama stuns her by asking her to marry anyone as he could not take back a woman who had stayed under another man's roof! Sita is enraged. I mix milk with whole wheat flout and take off my three rings to knead the dough. Sita jumps into a fire as she thinks it is beneath her to accompany a man who has so publicly raised a doubt on her chastity. Fire cannot touch her and the fire god, the 'agni devta' appears praying to Rama to take back his wife as she was pure as pure can be. It's time to pack husband's lunch and I wash the steel containers. Sita, cools down and accompanies Rama to Ayodhya. Four containers, two I fill with rice, a little pickle on the side and one with 'dal' the lentil soup. Once back all is quiet till a spy reports to Rama of a washer man who refuses to take back his wife as she had been away under another man's roof. " I am no Rama" he says, "to take back a tarnished woman". Fourth container, I fill up with the potato and aubergine vegetables with a bit of tomato and onion that I saute in mustard oil. Sita, pregnant with twins is abandoned without an explanation in a forest where she is found by a sage and given shelter.

It is time to serve breakfast so I pour cold milk and two spoons of coffee and sugar to the blender and switch it on. Mythologies churn in my mind and cold milk swirls in the blender. The bhagwat geeta they say is 6000 years old and Ramayana older than that and what a contrast in value systems. After the radically logical approach of Krishna in Bhagwat Geeta as he encourages ' Arjun,' his disciple to wage a war against those who had cheated the five princes of their land and humiliated their common wife-draupadi. He uses all the tactics, negotiation, guerrilla warfare, threat and when nothing works sly methods to cheat the enemy just giving back the enemy taste of their own medicine.

Coming back to today when there is so much ruckus on just sketching portraits of a prophet, I do not know weather to laugh or feel frustrated. The very idea of not having idols is to identify the creator with the non manifested, a much higher state of awareness, whet could be more contradictory that create mayhem on an approach that was just to establish a stream of thought that self realization could be attained through either means, through devotion or though meditating on the abstract manifested creator. I pack the lunch and stuff the dough with onion-tomato-green chilli and roll it into thin parantha, a little butter in the flat pan and I press it to crisp both sides. Golden 'parantha' on white plate with cold coffee, husband says it tastes good!

Pic: The valley of flowers, clicked by son and husband.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wanderings and Night...



Red ants get angry as I spray water on wilting leaves, they bite my flesh. Since morning they have been carrying their eggs and larva, holding the creamy oval things in their pincher(yes, that's what they are called!)There is dust everywhere, you can taste it on the warmed furnace blast-like air. There is no breeze just a warmed stillness saturated with humidity. As labourers slog near fly overs and roads, their children play in scattered shade. Every time I pass a cluster of such children playing with sticks and sand piles, I pray to whoever watches over their safety.

Sometimes just looking, really looking at things makes one think. Was adjusting the ruby ring on my finger and suddenly it occurs to me that the gold and the ruby both have come from the depths of this Earth. Now, circling my finger, what a long journey and after my life, its journey goes on.

Was thinking about the string theory that speaks of parallel universes lying side-by-side like slices of a bread loaf. Well, actually just stepping out of the house, one feels it is already so, we do live on an irregular mass of molten lava covered thankfully with earth crust and rocks, but we live in different universes. It's just with us humans, if you place apes together, they will be just apes, but us, we will be this nationality, that skin colour, first world , third world and then all those strange equations of the ruled and the rulers. Yeah, there are dominant matriarchal or patriarchal structures in apes too, but those are not so rigid, mainly about territory and sex. The insecurity of a terror attack and deciding who are non believers or lesser mortals, that is a trait prized in humans. Dunno, maybe this is what evolution was meant to do to us. Looking closely, we are still in that maze of basic survival, tilted this way or that for convenience of some smart humans who decided how the society should be, thankfully these smart people were limited to some priests, religious preachers and dictators like Hitler. The damage they have sent rippling across the ages and generations validates the need to put them in same category. If people with wisdom were in charge of this earth, we could have survived here for millions of years. Is there a dearth of people who can take humanity as a whole. There is resistance against the very fact that human race is one species as power equations are involved, but naive as it may sound, at some point with dwindling resources and unmanaged populations, humanity will have to either face the problems or face savage wars like the first and second world war or just perish through natural devastation.

Had that same scary feeling of hanging in space as I woke up. As if there is no Earth, no place to belong to, probably that triggered these thoughts.


Night

Wide open like a white lily
Floating in cosmos
This night, my night
Woven with warm breaths
Still, with spots of jasmine fragrance
Throbbing stars laughing on petty human concerns!

Flesh sprouting flesh in shrill labour rooms
here, the night is silent
Storms blend the night into dust
Far away, there are frozen polar nights
and nights turn sweet, sour, bitter, sad
We make the darkness so
Giving flavours...

Drunk on dreams and desires
saucy, smelling of hormones
Old, grumbling lonely night
as the hormones go...
Coming full circle to a still night
Boats of dream tethered in the darkness
Eager to flow...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thinking and Storm...



There are clouds above the dusty tree tops and birds are relieved, they chirp. I can hear a cukoo, a crow is building a nest in the massive silk-cotton tree behind my house, jet black and melodious cukoo is smart, she lays eggs in crow's nest, no hassle of bringing up chicks! The huge bee hive is gone and I think the bees were smarter as in the morning the four hives on another silk-cotton tree were larger. Human greed robbed their hives but they got shelter with the other bees.

Observing human nature these days, it is not difficult to destroy people, there are ways to control and keep one on the edge. Wonder why I never saw through these obvious ways earlier. Even now, I find it difficult to react to petty tricks. What does one think, can't I play the same games? It is easy to do that once you put your mind to it, but there are constructive things, meditation, sharing, interacting with children. I should not pay heed, what I am, no one can take away, at least not through projecting what I am not! Just that at this age it is difficult to see someone trying to control every moment, that can happen if I give in. Sometimes I do get tired. How much energy do these false hierarchies consume. All the time criticism as if this can somehow push you to a higher plane. A person's true worth is judged by the way he or she treats others when he or she is in a position of power. It is actually sad to be cunning, to knowingly lead others to wrong decisions, just to reflect in the glory of the false superiority. I have seen people say the opposite of what should be done and wait to see how their cunning plot unfolds. If you stop watching your back, they can be dangerous. So instead of doing something constructive, you have to keep a tab on what is cooking in this someone's mind that can harm you.

Problem is, when you know that all this is happening and yet you have to abide by social hierarchies,how do you contain the frustration about the importance given to people, who do not deserve it? How indeed do you respect such people? Maybe some people can, they are good at acting out things they do not feel in their hearts, but that must be such a strain. There is just one desire that I have before I leave this plane, to make some difference, not money, not recognition but my leaving should be accompanied by this beautiful Mother Earth becoming a better place for coming generations. Don't know how it will come about, maybe through sharing what God has so generously given me, maybe through some work or the field work that I aspire to do in Himalayan glaciers when kids are grown up. Just want to do this much before I leave and maybe that is why I feel, there are miles to go before I sleep...
Should always remember what Buddha said, we are not punished for our anger, we are punished by our anger. Even when so many things are so unfair...


Storm

Yellow dust swirls
A storm brews slowly
Gray clouds and a torrid heart
Raindrops comedown like warm kisses
Anger evaporates like ice in fire

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Noon


A poem I wrote some time back. There are days when the magic of light and shadow transports us to a matrix where time stops and suspended in this warp we look at this existence differently.




Noon

Smell of boiling milk

Spilling through the kitchen window

And your hands on the table

The window brings in the sky

And the warm sunlit breeze

Speaking of a blank dazed noon

When a black bird sang outside

And broke the silence blanketing us

Smells of paint, varnish and white wash...

Shadow dance of leaves on white bed spread

Your hands entwined on the table

Take me to that warm dazed noon

with pregnant curtains and stark blue sky

And us...

Monday, April 26, 2010

It Rained...


There was rain
And I got drenched
It was spring
And I wove flowers in my hair
Breeze was a river carrying me far
How could I stop rain from drenching me
Or stop Blossoms from raining
Or breeze from taking me
Where daisies bloom...
Fingers untangle the wilting blossoms
And the breeze shies away from me
It was so...
Believe me
It rained and I got drenched

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Earth Day Story



A few days back this story started forming in my mind and I never realised that it was Earth day today, posting it here as in other parts of the world now it will be celebrated. If you wish to read it to kids, you can substitute Himalayas with the mountains in your country. Read it to one hundred thirty kids today and then to another similar group in second and third grades. They kinda liked it, had added many more things as the story started building up through their questions. Had a box full of leaves, stems, berries, pods and distributed these as the story unfolded.

Bulbul's Summer Vacations

There was a pretty little girl. Her name was Bulbul. One day when her summer vacations had started and the sun was shining high in the sky, her mother asked her to help her in packing. They were visiting her father’s village in the beautiful Himalayas. She brought her dresses and neatly folded them, helping her mother in packing the suitcases.

Early in the morning Daddy loaded the suitcases. It was dusk and the birds were still asleep in the nest. There was a cool breeze blowing. Bulbul said bye to her plants and she hugged the stray cat that came to her for milk every morning. Soon they were driving towards the Himalayas from Delhi. Slowly, the sun rose in the sky and birds chirped in the trees. Bulbul sat near the car window, watching the monkey mamas jumping, their babies holding their mama’s bellies tightly.

She clapped when she saw a beautiful peacock cross the road. Her father slowed the car so that the peacock could cross the road. Mamma gave Bulbul a burger and a packet of chips (question: Where do you put the empty packets after you eat the chips?)She folded the packet of chips and kept it in a bag to throw away later.

Early in the noon they reached the village. Daddy parked the car near a dense pine forest. There was a stream of clear water in the path and Bulbul saw small colorful fish swimming in the water. She sat down to watch the fish move very fast in the water, She cupped her hands and tried to catch a little fish, but it was a very smart fish, it moved under a rock and hid there.

Bulbul loved the forest behind their cottage. There were apple trees and plum trees (Question: Have you eaten plums? How do they taste and smell?) In the cowshed, she discovered a white calf. She gave her green grass to eat. The calf was very happy and jumped and ran behind her.

Everyday she visited the stream; she liked the dark cool shade of the pine trees. Slippery pine needles made it fun to slide and reach the bottom of the hill. (Can you think why pine trees have needle like leaves?) Next day, she visited a temple with her father and in the way their car got stuck as a lot of rocks and mud had piled on the road. There were no trees on this hill. Bulbul saw a river flowing near the hill and all the soil was washing away in the river. She asked her father, “Daddy, why are rocks tumbling down to the road?” Her father explained, " Bulbul, trees hold the soil with their roots, even floods are unable to wash away soil when trees grip soil tightly. here all trees have been cut by some selfish people and that is why there was is way to hold rocks and soil and so the mud and stones are falling on the road and washing away into the river."

Bulbul felt sad. She loved trees and flowers, she helped her father in removing rocks from the road and the next day they planted a plum tree and many pine trees and watered them. Her cousins promised to take care of the plants.

A year later when Bulbul visited the village, the hill was green once again. There were happy birds singing on the plum tree and there was no mud flowing into the river. They had a bath in the clean river water and sat under the shade of the pine trees. Bulbul chased the fish in the river and ate fresh apples. She collected pine cones which were lying on the ground and ate the delicious seeds inside them. When it was cold in the night, she collected twigs and lit a bonfire. Now she knew that trees and the Earth give us all the wonderful things in life. She decided to plant more trees and take care of Mother Earth as she had come to know that Mother Earth gives us every thing we need to live.