Friday, February 22, 2013

The Girl In the Postcard

i must be imagining things or i am just too excited. Whatever...

It can happen with anyone when this happens.
When you have a still image of someone in a postcard and you realize one fine morning that you actually got to see that image live. 
Only thing when you stood next to the live version smothering her with some questions and much sympathy you were happily unawares that she could be featuring in that small booklet. The ones that are available at a very affordable price in the souvenir shops and often seen strewn at most of the pavement shops giving you consolidated images of the must see of the place visited.

i was just too involved. Surveying the Sam Dunes (pronounced S O M E...Some Dunes) in all it's glorious natural golden ripples. Didn't even realize her being behind me. Not until i experienced a timid tug on my tunic. 

Smiling in her like a gypsy attire and whispering something. i bent down to bring my ears close to her mouth so that i could decipher what she was saying. To my amazement it was nothing esoteric but my own mother tongue Hindi.
" Can i dance for you?'' That's what she had asked. Just that and kept smiling. i remember that smile well. The smile that looks more eager than it being just a meaningless curve. The kind that pleads for attention and elicits. Then you just can't control the deluge of emotions that engulf you. Especially when you are well aware of your own well being.
A turbaned man stood a few steps behind her holding what looked like a Been the musical instrument that snake charmers play.

Did i want her to dance for me, NO.
All i wanted to do was to hold her, comfort her...

i could not get to voice out that NO and shook my head in the negative. The turbaned man had come closer and was sitting on his haunches. His feet digging and settling well on to the rippled dunes. The Been all set to be played. Both his hands holding the instrument and the pipe touching his mouth. He started playing, his eyes fixed on to the smiling little one in the gypsy attire.
The Been playing the song that i am well aware of. Nimbuda! Nimbuda! Nimbuda...
She had started dancing and with all her moves reached forward to hold my hands pulling me in with all her frailty luring me to join in. i had forgotten my NO and complied, trying to mimic her moves in vain. i couldn't match her in anyway not with my two left foot and my fully conscious sense of being hopelessly out of rhythm gyrations.
Nevertheless imagining myself to be the Sri Devi (in the film Lamhe) of Morni Bagha Ma Bole Aaadhi Raat Maa...
Don't really know why i asked her to stop when i was as a matter of fact enjoying everything. Seema and her dance, the music floating... The sun about to set on the amazingly beautiful panorama of the sand dunes.

Aware more than ever of my wellness and feeling rather guilty i gave her some money and said thank you. Then remembering something had uttered the same again...Dhanyawaad, Shukriya...this time also looking towards the turbaned man.
He had folded his hands in a Namaste, Pranam. His eyes brimming with gratitude, the musical Been tucked under his arms.
Only i know that the money was not given in charity. No self righteousness here. The money was given with more of a the end gesture. ...okay it's enough now get moving... .

i was nervous. Wishing for them to just disappear. Feeling not only guilty but cruel too.

She lingered with her smile and as if to compensate or get rid of what was going inside me i started talking to her. Mostly questions.
What was her name...
Did she receive any training to dance so well...
Was the turbaned man her father...
How far was her village...

While the turbaned man stood waiting with folded arms to let her satisfy me, she had answered all precisely without adding more or missing any.
That her name was Seema.
She had learnt all her moves by watching others do the same.
The turbaned man was her Mama ( mother's brother).
Her village was some miles away from the Sam Sand Dunes.

That smile had not left her face... but her sad eyes conveyed lots. Answering much of that i could not bring myself to ask...

That being over and they still had not left me. i was getting restless by now to see the man standing with folded hands and so i went near to him asking him to show me his Been.
Finally hands free of the gratitude he passed his instrument to me. Not without giving me the real name of his musical instrument. 
That's what he said it is called.
And i thought Murali was what Lord Krishna played...something that looked like a flute.
The sounds of which was similar if not exactly to the Been that i had known and was distinctly different from Krishna's Bansuri (FLUTE).
About this one i had asked about how it is made and he had enlightened me with more facts about his Murali.
Maybe i was just buying time to get rid of that awkwardness of them hovering around still... i definitely didn't want him standing there with folded hands.
By the time he had told me his name...Gagan...i remember seeing Seema running effortlessly through the dunes towards the camel that had just arrived. Her prospective patrons surveying too. They were looking on both flanks of the camel and surveying how best to alight from the camel without pressurizing their stiff joints.

i sit feeling excited today that the girl in the postcard is Seema. i saw her dance for me and later loosen my stiff with arthritis limbs too. 
Regretting somewhat why i was swept by that wave of sympathy and something more.
i should have recorded her dance, her filled with verve and vitality movements which gave me a glimpse of little bit of all of the folk dances of Rajasthan...the Ghoomar, Kalbelia, Bhavai, Terataali...
i should've allowed myself to get swept away with the music of the Murali that Gagan jee played. The music of the desert from that reed instrument made of bamboo pipe and gourd shell.
Instead i let it all pass just too hastily. Just like how we generally and often behave at the traffic lights. Rolling the glass windows at the approaching begging urchins who hasten towards the waiting for the signal to go car.
After all this happens everyday.
But Seema the postcard girl and her dance, Gagan jee and his Murali don't. Neither do the ripples of gold, crested seas...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


He sits there engrossed in his art relentlessly carving on wood. The face, the eyes, the lips and the nose. That's his only skill through which he earns his rozi roti (daily bread). i stood for a long time with the Haveli ( Private Mansion) in waiting too as i watched his dexterity with fascination and admiration. And as usual wanted to talk to him so that he could relieve me of my baggage of queries. The eyes harmoniously travelling. The pupils dilating and constricting, adjusting to the colorful extravaganza. Starting from the wall behind him on to which he sometimes leans when he wants a finer view of his art from a distance to finally settling down on him toiling away without getting least bit distracted by the flurry of activities around him. Some by curious restless to- have -it- all tourists like me passing by. The yellow sandstone wall of Jaisalmer replete with his creations, colorful and fascinating. i have seen his work before in many of the curio shops that i have visited, i have seen them in homes as a decorative but this was my first encounter with the creator of Kathputli
Kaath (Hindi) meaning wood and putli (Hindi) actually means the pupil of the eye. Kathputli is a puppet made out of wood. Of course other things like paints, cloth, metal wires, brocade laces, artificial jewellery etc being used too to give it the finished look as we see them finally.

i cannot help but intrude his concentration. He looked clean and just like us. In an attractive striped full sleeved T shirt, jeans and trainer shoes. Sitting comfortably on the ground, both his legs making a p shape.With one he pressed that piece of  ivory whitish wood that he carved. Both his hands steady on to his tools as he worked. In his left wrist were kadas (Bangles) of some sort...actually the thickest of them all looked like it was of silver. Among the bangles a black thread band too...
Next to him his bag that contained his kitty...

He had not once looked up to see me and i was getting so restless to grab his attention. To befriend him and know more. Trying my best not to disturb him much i did finally manage to seek his attention in a way first. He was kind to let me see his tools and friendly enough to politely answer to whatever i needed to know. All this without lifting his head once and focusing on his work only.

He even allowed me to hold his finished work. The one that he had completed while i watched him. Cutting and chiseling the finer details on that piece of clean looking white wood in 15-20 minutes flat. Maybe even lesser.

Breaking the ice never felt easy and finally i managed to get his full attention. He told me all i needed to know and it sort of gave me relief to learn that he and his brothers were managing well enough to support their family thanks to the Patwon ki Haveli and the daily barrage of tourists that come to see the Haveli.  i hear words within me... thanks to the only skill he has...
He enlightened me about that white wood he was using and some of his personal details. Aankad, that's what he told me the local name was of that wood which makes chiseling and cutting through it easier. His name too and how he knew his art. i loved the pride that spilled through his words when respectfully he narrated that it was a traditional occupation passed on to him from generations...his grandfather, his father and then trickling down on him. Of course when i wanted to buy one he showed me his latest which he called the Two in One. The male and the female in one puppet. All you had to do was just turn the puppet upside down and you had the other version. 

Pawan had given me enough to look forward too. The Patwon ke Haveli being the first and later Aankad. i begged the guide to show me the tree where ever or when ever he spotted it. Little did i know that i was in for a surprise. 
How can i not know this tree. The flowers of which is a favorite of Lord Shiva and His Ganesh. The milk ooozing out a poison and yet the fragrance free having- a- strange- sappy odor flowers favored by our Gods. 
This time i look closer to the trunk of the tree. Pawan and his Aankad on my mind.
Then looked up to the Heavens not without giving due respects to this tree for all that it is worth. Pawan and his craft included.

Felt grateful for that newly learnt knowledge of what i had known just as one poisonous tree the flower garlands of which sell at an exorbitant rate on Mahashivaratri or Vinayak Chaturthi day but overlooked and shunned otherwise. i was thankful for having known more of Aak in Hindi (Calotropis in English) as Aankad in local Marwari dialect. i felt satisfied with my new education happening effortlessly this way and thrilled about the fact that the terrains of Jaisalmer and it's desert too have enough healthy clumps of these trees where Pawan and his likes can go and have the ivory white wood for free. Quite soul satisfying indeed to know that even today there exist some raw materials in nature that are as free as air.

 i sit narrating my education, admiring my own puppet couple and thinking about Pawan. He must be there right now in that courtyard cum viewing and photospot cum neat fascinating bazaar of Patwon ki Haveli
Coincidence is it??  Pawan is Hindi and it means wind. Wind the synonyms of which we learnt by rote in school as Vayu, Sameer, Anil...

i do have something else spot on too. Actually it too had been waiting all this while just like the Haveli. It has Kathputli dance with music and shows Minoo the child bride just as how i am feeling. Oblivious of her new married status and the strict unwritten rules that she has to adhere to. Thrilled and just too happy in her naivete enjoying the NOW!. 
Joyous at first to see the kathputli show clapping in gaiety at the puppetry, the song and the dance. But  feels happily sleepy regardless of the fact that some lines in the song are actually taunting her and the disapproving looks of her MIL(mother in law) sitting near to her are not welcoming either. 
And here i am. Joyous for having known Pawan and sharing all that i had to... of him and from him for the day. Oblivious of the taunts... 
...and it's time for me to catch a quick nap too. Just like Minoo (Jaya Bhaduri) in that movie Uphaar...



The Haunting Beauty of Kuldhara and her Guardians

When my eyes first chanced upon you i thought you were facing change of seasons. From a distance you looked that. Apologies for just giving you a fleeting glance and not much of that either. Being in Jaisalmer is not easy. Especially when one is in a taxi hurrying to reach the next not to be missed destination. So much to see and so limited the unhurried time at one's disposal. i know i should've stopped the taxi greeted you with the appreciation that you deserved but like i said we were in a hurry and i was not my own master.

Thank you for beckoning me yet again. Like an eye catching banner that invites one and all for the carnival. You stood there amongst the wilderness, bewitching me with your colors and this time i had no option but to succumb to your charms.
Then approached you wondering if it was destined for me to meet you in a derelict place like this. Of all the places in this whole wide world. At an abandoned and cursed 200 years ago also supposedly having something paranormal going on till date among the ruins of the village called Kuldhara.

The way to approach you looked sort of promising having just the right amount of mystery attached. Daring some like me to explore.

You stood close to the entrance and your wicked charms radiated curiosity for that conceived and designed for a purpose but left hastily undone and abandoned park.

What or rather who are those that drove enthusiasm to have a park away??
Do you now call out seeking attention or are you standing there warning visitors not to trespass...???

Rendezvous with never seen you before being over in peace i had imbibed enough determination to go forth the entire faking wilderness park and discover that you were in august company.Your companions dot the terrains of Jaisalmer but only you could encourage and motivate to an up close and personal reconnoiter with them. Bewitching beauties all of them just like you.
Perhaps the uncared, not nurtured background, the eeriness of the wild undergrowth too withheld the art of seduction. Enough to arouse the adventurous explorer in me.

Imagination running wild i am wondering if you and your company are the lost civilisation of paliwal Brahmins of Kuldhara.
You bewitching one could be the doe eyed beauty and the rest your guardians... 
Tecomella undulata

i am bewildered as much as i am bewitched. Your colors reinstate the fact that pure colors in nature is rare. If i have to give your color a name in one word i would not be able to do so. " Perception is often undefinable and depends on adjacent colors".
i think about you and try hard to describe your haunting beauty in terms of colors and this is all i can fathom. Orange, no but pumpkin colored,  perhaps dark orange or rather Sienna (orange brown) or maybe orange red...
You flash upon the inward eye. And i see all the colors of the golden city in you. The different hues of that gold sandstone... from Sienna to orange, from light orange to pumpkin, from golden brown to mustard...

Much to the annoyance of my husband who was definite that no one there could tell me your name i am glad i took my chance. Before we proceeded for our next destination Lodhruva i stopped at the gatepost to enquire from the lone guardian at the gate if he knew you.
The young man at the gate not only apprised me of your name but enlightened me with all that you are worth. Rohida that's what he called you. am i still trapped in your spell wondering how or why three types of you were there near to each other in the same vicinity. Still wondering about your colors yellow, orange and red and in my imagination building my own tales of reincarnation...
The gatekeeper that young man who made me happy with his knowledge and smile taught my husband something. Never to underestimate anyone.
To me he imparted many including his identity...i wrote it down on that tissue paper i had in my hand.
Roheeda...Padma Ram...Padma Ram...Roheeda...

For more on Kuldhara the abandoned village/ forgotten city 

                                     Image courtesy of the state flower of Rajasthan Rohida:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baer,Makko,Sarsattee Mata and Boondiya aka Basant Panchami

Oh no not again...
i go downstairs to get some fresh veggies and what do i see. Vendors here vendors there... .
Vendors selling teaser s.
Teaser s my favorites into which i cannot bite with indulgence anymore. Feel no enthusiasm in narrating the hopelessly eroded condition of 'that' protective layer.
'That' which once upon a time enabled my pearly whites to take at least 100 gms of raw mangoes/ tamarind or for that matter anything deliciously sour non stop in one go.
Poor me! if it could be possible i would've drowned in the remains of the salivary glands working overtime had i not swallowed them up in huge gulps.
i got them and although i could have some of one i could barely go through half of the other one.
But still felt happy nevertheless.
Maybe because they prompted and provoked me to a revisit.

Just another tour down memory lane. Of Saraswati Pooja...that sudden welcome holiday...the prasad ( sacrament) which definitely had these and something else...Boondiya...the immersion of idols...and hahaha can't help laughing still just to remember the CCs... cheap chokras (boys) who went bonkers on the idol immersion day...dancing vulgar moves to latest bollywood songs shouting in chorus, " Sarsattee Mata Ki Jai...
Holi the festival of colors commencing...

And we call it Basant Panchami.
Basant-Spring...  joyful yellow of mustard flowers Spring and the auspicious day to pay obeisance to the Goddess of learning Ma Saraswati. ( Ma- Mother)

i shall not hesitate now to show through some of mine and also the borrowed ones what i mean.
First the wonderful jujube. That which i could indulge into some.
Ziziphus jujuba i remember that clearly of what we call in Hindi as Baer. Resplendent as the color of spring.
Then that gooseberry Physalis peruviana. We called it Makko. But those selling these in the baskets roaming on the roadsides with bunches clipped together chanted Rasbharee, Rasbharee in a strange manner which made such a lovely name Rasbhari meaning juicy sound like some magic voodoo chant. The one i could barely eat through half.
Also spring colored.

Saraswati Pooja (worship of Goddess of Learning) and since i could not find anything appropriate of my own place Patna i shall borrow this which was the closest i could get to my own rituals which in all resembles this one excepting the language which is in Bengali.

Before i forget just another one. Sweet Boondi
Boondiya as we called it and for which we hopped the very many pandals and let me be very honest here. Boondiya came first and then Jai Ma Saraswati till we were grown up enough to know the difference between faith and sacrilege.
A visit to the pandal with rituals reversed now, first Salutations to Ma Saraswati and then Tirth/ Charnamrit ( Holy Drink) and finally The BOONDIYA!!!

Definitely the post is not complete without this. Hahahahahahahaha....Oh those dance moves that sent us into uncontrollable fits of laughter and in retrospect i think that perhaps it was done on purpose. There was no sadness to crib about the happiness lasting too soon of that sudden holiday...of the pandal that looked deserted and strewn with  the remains of what was just a few minutes back of a celebration...just happiness and laughter as we looked forward to comparing notes and mimicking the CCs the very next day in school. There was abundant joy of the celebration gone by heralding another lots of fun one- the festival of colors-Holi. 
Thanks to Mr Ravi Verma for uploading this...the sight that made us laugh and still does as we watched from our terrace/ balcony/ verandah. The day of the immersion of the idol in the nearby river. For us in Patna it always is The Ganges.

i have to get moving now...i have my own  real Pandal hopping to do. i have to hurry now if at all  i have to share that which is not in the memory but here, NOW. The Bengali association of our housing society has invited me to the Saraswati Pooja and i sure am looking forward to seeking the blessing of the Goddess, drink the Holy Drink, eat the Prasad and finally all that color playing , the dancing moves, the works...
O' and before i forget Pandaal is the colloquial word which means temporary structures erected during Hindu festivals. Canopied and decorated the pandals are where the idols are installed and later the rituals are performed to seek the blessings of Gods and Goddesses. Anybody or everybody is free to go, invitation or no invitation. And they all receive everything.

So then here's a glimpse of what i have just had the opportunity of receiving.
Goddess Saraswati  holding the Veena on one hand and Showering blessings with the other.

Her Face...the face of Mother

Prasad with Boondiya already eaten

Prasad to be shared with boondiya intact

Janta ( public) enjoying more varieties, hot, fresh and scrumptiously yummy Prasad and here too Ladies + Kids first.

The forehead smeared with blessings and Holi

Last look at Veena Pustak Dharani Ma
And since The Mother knows EVERYTHING i have no qualms in expressing that while the heart chants the shloka Ya Kundedu Tushar Haar...

...the words that spill out of the mouth is Sarsattee Mata Kee Jai! Sarsattee Mata Ki Jai!!.
Glory be of Mother! Glory To The Mother!!

.                                                                     Glossary:
                                                        Veena: Musical Instrument
                                                        Pustak: Book
                                                        Dharani: Holding

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


i have always been a radio girl for as long as i can remember. From the time which stores sepia tainted images of me in frilly frocks to being an incurable romantic teenager in slacks/ bell bottom pants. From when that gadget called a Receiver for Worldspace was my prized possession till date when another most valuable to me called Bose Speaker rules my temperament for the day. The distraction called idiot box is there too but just like how i'm more of a local bazaar lover than being an ardent mall hopper, i was i am and will remain an inexhaustible enthusiastic fan of The Radio. Actually an addict.
To the extent that last time i fought then sulked through the entire journey which otherwise could have been so pleasant just because my husband was not caring/ concerned enough to subscribe to that taxi that had a Radio but had some stupid MP3 instead playing some cheap item songs.
That's how bad it is- i just don't seem to have enough of it. And if it could be permitted i would let the radio remain playing even when i am sleeping.
i find the constant non-stop renderings of varieties very comforting.

Therefore i don't need days, special days to commemorate Radio. For me each day is Radio Day. And when it's not then either i am sick just too sick or i am dead. And when i remember Video killed The Radio Star i actually endorse everything it says.

Now i am pining to have all back...that big old Philips Radio and transistors in all sizes everywhere. In all the rooms, including the kitchen or even the loo.
i want everything FM, AM Aakaashvani and definitely VIVIDH BHARTI...
i want to turn the round smooth turning knobs and surf the world...Radio Australia...Radio Ceylon...Radio Nepal...Voice of America.

A friend once told me about this gentleman a tech savvy guy who has done something fantastic with concealed wiring in his superbly done up home in Bangalore. The sound of radio/ music reaches everywhere even the loo in a manner that is not disturbing to the neighbors but a pleasure for users...
i was wishing i had known this gentleman to get some helpful tips. It would definitely save me from some conspicuous consumption.

'The Hindu' has reminded me that 13th February is Radio Day and given lots of facts. Some that were new to me and some of which i have known thanks to my addiction.
But i wish i could hear the signature tunes of yesterdays too. Of Jai Mala, Man Chahe Geet, Chitradhwani, Hawa Mahal, Bhoole Bisre Geet, Fulwaari, Chaayaageet... Chaupal and related to Chaupal the voices of Loha Singh and Khaderan ke mother...hear those advertisement jingles in between of Binaca toothpaste, Glycodin cough syrup, Halls, Boroline, 555 Soap, S Kumars, Bombay Dyeing, Hawkins Pressure Cooker...

i love to remember the taglines which are immortal for many of us and just for fun sake i'd like to put some here.
Lifebuoy Soap- tandaroosti kee raksha karta hai lifebuoy...
Hawkins Pressure Cooker- Hawkins kee seetee bajee, khushboo hee khush boo udeee...
Vimal Sarees- Only Vimal Only Vimal... 
Vicks Lozenges- Gale me ho khich khich..
Dipy's Jam- Dippy doo dippy doo dippy dum dum...
Gold Spot Soft drink- Gold spot the zing thing...
Glucon D- Glucon D yeh jaan mein jaan dal de peetay hee...
and how can one forget Lalita jee in that Surf washing powder ad- She talked something about Samajhdari...
Dinesh suitings- Take the world in your stride...
Boroline Antiseptic cream- Khushboodar antiseptic cream Boroline...
My personal favorite Bajaj Bulbs- Jab main bilkul baccha tha....ab main bilkul buddha hoon...lekin aaj bhi ghar ke ander, roshini deta Bajaj .
Oh i wish i could go on and on but memory fails me.

My husband and others who know me well enough always pull my leg by calling me AIR. Not because i gossip incessantly but yes i do reveal a lot about myself when i talk specially my true ones .
Later those true attributes are used against me when i'm branded as a creature who is hysterical, needs psychiatric treatment...too much to handle... .
Obviously the branding is always done by those who won't bother to look at those four fingers that are pointing towards them. By all those who pretend to be Mr/ Mrs Goody Goody two shoes all the time. And i wonder why do they have to be so fake all the time especially when they are among friends. Can one grab attention only by being pretentious ?  We all know "All feet are made of clay'' don't we?
Furthermore too much fake goodness tastes as bad as over sweetened coffee. Also it tends to get just too boring and something that just doesn't feel humanly right.

i do sense that enormous desire to protect in all those chiding i get. i feel grateful and am no longer annoyed with what i used to call erstwhile 'patronizing sermons'... .
Sure adore it when fault-finding dons a benevolent garb. The AIR is replaced by something gentle. Subtle and soft like, ''Shivani you are an Open Book..." .

Funny and strange. He- my husband and few others who actually admire my honesty have often reprimanded me on what appeals to them the most and asked me to be more discreet/ diplomatic. Sound advice and good for me but can't express my exasperation through words how miserably i keep failing in my not- trying- too- hard attempts. i do try though to keep some of myself latent. But Heaven alone knows how when i go talking everything and just everything becomes apparent.
He and they have given up on me and i on myself of turning on a new leaf.

An afterthought- Plants grown from runners and leaf cuttings have the same traits as the parent plant. Therefore they are justified- hubby dear and others who have lovingly bestowed the tiara of AIR on my shorn of lustrous hair instead cropped short pageboy head.

Okay coming back to The Radio...for the smile that it brings and all the nostalgia along with it. Thanks to Youtube and The Samaritans who have been delighting me for quite sometime now with Yesterday Once More.

A clip from the movie Pati Patni Aur Woh has two of Bombay Dyeing and the other for Halls Vapor Action.
Bombay Dyeing in English :
Youuuu the beautiful woman in your husband's life
You You You the beautiful woman in your husband's life
Show your husband the woman you are in 100% polyester and polyester georgette sarees.

Halls Mentho Lyptus in Hindi :
Galey mein ho kharaash
Ya ho bund naak
Halls Mento- lyptus
Aaraam dilayey phauran
Galey kee kharaash meetayey bund naak khul jayey
Halls Mentho-Lyptus Vapor Action.

Will be back with more of me...soon !! Just one more thing before i quit that if there are more and more of  infotainment with Yesterdays Once More like the programmes aired on 92.7 Big FM especially Yaad Shaher by Nilesh Misra and that one of RJ Aniruddh which feature days gone by i'm sure Radio will replace the video star. The fillers aka the jingles need to get back that old charm too...