Saturday, October 23, 2010


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The Legend of Onam:
Kerala known as God’s Own Country was once said to be ruled by the legendary asura king, Mahabali. In spite of being an asura, King Mahabali was known to be just and generous and was highly regarded by his subjects. The land prospered under his rule and this prosperity made the devas & the King of Gods, Lord Indra quite envious. As King Mahabali’s stature rose as high as that of Indra, the devas approached Lord Mahavishnu and sought help. Since a world with two Indras represented a cosmic imbalance, Mahavishnu decided to trick King Mahabali in to giving up his wealth & stature. He assumed the form of a Brahmin dwarf (Vamana) and approached King Mahabali for alms. King Mahabali being kind and generous and requested Vamana to ask for whatever he pleases. Vamana told the king that all he wanted was land that can be measured in 3 strides of his walk. From the odd request King Mahabali deduced that this Vamana was no ordinary Brahman dwarf but the Lord Mahavishnu himself. But, having given his word he asks Vamana to measure out the land he needs with his 3 strides. With the first stride Vamana conquered all of the Earth and everything on it; with his second stride he conquered the skies and the Heavens. When Mahabali sees that there is nothing left to be conquered with the third stride, he offers his bowed head for Vamana to place his foot. Vamana pushes King Mahabali in to the Underworld. But, because of the piety and goodness of the king, he blessed Mahabali and granted him that he could visit his subjects every year and ensure that they are prosperous & happy. Lord Mahavishnu himself serves as the gatekeeper to Mahabali in the Underworld (Paathaalam).

Onam & Pookalam:
Malayalees all over the world celebrate Onam with as much fanfare and authenticity as possible. Pookalams, Onamsadyas (festive feasts served on plantain leaves), Kaikottikalli (a graceful dance performed by women), Pulikalli (a masked dance performed by men), Oonjals (swings) and Vallamkalli (snake-boat races) all form an integral part of the tapestry of Onam celebrations.
The pookalams are created to welcome the King Mahabali on his annual visits.

Lord Mahavishnu disguised as Vamana  and King Mahabali

The Onam Sadya


Vallamkalli (Snakeboat race)


Pookalam (flower carpet):
The tradition of creating a Pookalam (flower carpet) has been an integral part of the celebrations of the festival of Onam in Kerala, India. For the 10 days that lead to the day of Onam (or Thiruvonam), early in the morning members of the household, mostly women & children gather all sorts of flowers from around the neighborhood and create intricate pookalams.

I will put up a post of the pookalam we recently created in Kuwait. Though, we used materials other than flowers... Kuwait being a desert! :D

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Soft Rain... And Renewed Hope.

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Summer's just started to turn up the heat on us...and already I am in the mood for rain... Not the pouring torrents that stop everyone in their tracks and bring cities to a halt, but I long for the soft drizzles, the bright greens, the washed skies and brand new life.

There is this nice little poem I found online...

There Will Come Soft Rains
- Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Yes, no one would notice us gone... not a bird will sing us a dirge… the sun would still burn… and the earth would still spin… the stars would sparkle on and would still give the moon twinkling company.

I want to stop and watch… before it is too late.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Armchair Traveler: Destination Morocco (Marrakesh)

What is it that my travel dreams always lure me to Africa… is it some ethereal, spiritual pull towards the cradle of civilization? Or is it my Wilbur Smith novels induced and National Geographic fed imagination running wild in my sub-conscious? I know not what it is…but I thoroughly enjoy these wonderful armchair sojourns to these beautiful places. And I make it a point to note them down in my travel diary… waiting for that moment when I get the opportunity to drag my sweetheart and his camera to these wonderful destinations.

It all started with a lovely Moroccan lamp which I saw in the Friday market here (in Kuwait) some time ago. The dreamer in me immediately was spinning tales about the history of the lamp and how it got to the flea market… this trait in me is something my schooling has cultivated in me… mainly the Hindi lectures and exams where we were to write essays on the aatmakatha (autobiography) of some non-living object.

I don’t know why but when I close my eyes and drift in to the Moroccan world, the first image I see is that of an ornate sandstone structure with a bright blue door… maybe it has to do something with the number of pics about Morocco I have seen…all with houses with beautifully decorated facades and bright blue doors. The color blue repels evil… and a blue door should keep all those evil spirits from entering your abode. I wish life was that simple.

But as I enter through those ornate blue doors, I pass in to another world… a sea of orange and caramel sands… undulating dunes stretching as far as the eye can see. Like a dream in a dream, I sleep-walk through the winding valleys formed by the sand dunes, the morning sun glinting on the sand and the rising heat causing shimmering mirages… of a wispy camel caravan led by men and women in colorful robes and headgear. As I move closer the mirage is dispelled to show tanned, wrinkled but bright and happy faces of the Bedouins. Their camels loaded with Moroccan treasures… beautifully crafted metal and glass lamps, lovely rugs and carpets and silver jewelry, hookahs and other treats and trinkets. It all seems straight out of an Arabian Nights’ story which it well might be.

Walking with the caravan as far as the market place, the desert turns in to an oasis… a riot of bright colors… the shamianas that provide the shade and a place for the tribes-people to sell their wares. The colorful yurts that are provided for a weary traveler to rest are decorated wonderfully enough to suit any Saladin (I don’t think he has any links with Morocco…well, his loss, I might add). I am lost among the riches.

On the horizon sandstone and mud houses form an intriguing skyline… it is evening… the setting sun once again turns the sand to gold… alchemy before your eyes. The night falls with a different sort of alchemy… the gold turning to silver… a silver moon watching over silver sands.

It is time to wake up now.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Of Heartaches And Homesickness...

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It has been eleven months since I have landed in Kuwait… and I have survived. Doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, does it? I know it doesn’t, but to me it is. From the hustle and bustle, the happening life of Mumbai to a much laid back lifestyle in Kuwait, it has been a herculean task to adjust…And no… I am yet to find that much needed equilibrium.

For an outsider it would seem to be a joke if I say that life in Kuwait is not fun. What lacks? Don’t we have everything here… loads of dispensable money, everything money can buy and more. Hmmm… yeah, we have all that here... but yet, I miss the pulse of life here. The excitement that is there even in the mundane when I am in Mumbai… that heartbeat of a city which keeps it alive is missing here. You find a tiny bit of that in Kuwait City, but it is no match for what I am accustomed to.
But, this ain’t a crib-fest against Kuwait; rather it is the pining of my heart for my home, my Mumbai! It just happens that when anyone points out one awesome thing after the other in this beautiful desert-land; in my mind I can picture something better in Mumbai… always!

There was a time when people used to flock to the ‘Gulf’ – the term given to the Middle East, in search of its vast non-taxable riches. But now, the Gulf is in the midst of an economic slowdown…we all saw Dubai lose some of its lustre. Kuwait has never been in your face or over the top or flashy, but it still is one of the richest countries in the area and well, in the world too… somewhere in the top Ten! But, the fact that it is has more sober and subtle roots maybe the reason that it does not appeal to the young crowd or the Generation Next as we call ourselves. The religion and culture in Kuwait though not as strict as in its neighbor are still far from forgiving.

Today, in spite of the pull of money and the promise of a luxurious future I still find it extremely difficult to curb the urge to return to India, to the city of my dreams, Mumbai! And, the argument against all those who tell me that I am throwing away a bright future is that money to me is a well-balanced income which I would easily get in Mumbai and luxury to me is being in the city I love, the city of my birth and being close to my loved ones. I cannot think of a better future than settling down in the concrete jungle of Mumbai in a 3-BHK flat overlooking the at times rowdy, at times serene sea… with the music of the never sleeping city buzzing in my ears.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kuwait… A Shoppers’ Paradise, A Fashionista’s Dream!

Desert life is taking its toll on me… boredom has seeped in to the marrow of my bones… to the extent that I have weird thoughts of skydiving from the 19th floor of my building (hey, with proper equipment!)

I don’t believe there could be a more boring place on earth than Kuwait. How do people survive here? There is absolutely no way a person can engage any of his senses here… at least, not in the conventional way – entertainment, literature. I can’t say there is no cultural activity here… there is a beautiful Arab culture hidden somewhere in the non-existent sand dunes of Kuwait… just that I haven’t yet caught more than a tiny glimpse of it.

If you have deep, and I mean really deep pockets, you are gonna enjoy Kuwait. It is a shoppers’ paradise. There is no brand, designer or run-of-the-mill so called prêt-à-porter houses, you wouldn’t find here. From GAP to Gucci, from Promod to Prada, from Next to Nina Ricci, from Marks & Spencers to Marc Jacobs, from Debenhams to Dolce & Gabbana, Vava Voom to Versace and Valentino… you name it, you would find it here. What is difficult to find is a normally priced piece of cloth you can wrap around yourself when you just wanna feel comfortable and not like an overworked supermodel! But, Kuwaiti women are very fashion conscious, even under those all covering abayas… though a lot of them prefer to let their designer brands show. But I have to admit, it’s after I came to Kuwait that I realized that even a somewhat religious garment like the abaya can look very pretty and alluring… black silk with Swarovski crystals… coy sophistication!

Notes to Self... Painting again!

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I have started painting… again! I wouldn’t have thought that I would ever pick up a brush and a palette again… but here I am, once again with a drawing pad (no easel here) and a few brand new brushes, some water and acrylic colors (to start oil again... I would need some more time) and a bunch of oil pastel sticks.

Was in pain for two days after I bought my art supplies (no, art doesn’t scare me) and so couldn’t really settle down to start a full-fledged painting. But I still managed to sketch a flamenco dancer… I love to draw the female form… and she is been dancing in my head for a while now! :)

Now, I do need to bring her to life… let’s hope I get the time for it today. It is funny, I have loads of time actually but I am an expert at making excuses and making 24 hours seem too less.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mumbai trip – Dec ’09

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There is that special place in a person’s heart which stores all of his/her favorite memories, things and places they like the most, sights and sounds that please them… It is quite something when one finds a city that contains all that the special place in the heart holds.

A city that’s witness to every special memory; has every one of your favorite things; is filled with the sights and sounds that fill your senses in a beautiful way and of course, it is your favorite city – yes, that’s Mumbai / Bombay . Call it by whatever name, the city is pure magic!

One has to stay away from the city for a long period of time to actually experience the delight, the strange sense of belonging and an unexplainable joy that is experienced as the wheels of the aircraft touchdown on the tarmac at the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport , Mumbai. I have heard it many times from my expatriate friends about how lovely that feeling is… but a first hand experience tells me that no words can do justice to that feeling - A feeling of being home.

This time in Mumbai, I found new bus-routes by the BEST and NMMT bus services – Volvo buses, extremely comfortable and convenient, a host of cab services which give the ubiquitous black & yellow taxis and the omnipresent rickshaws competition and company.

Then there are some things that never change – the roads that are always dug up – in the past the culprits were MTNL, Reliance and BMC and now it seems it is development – Metro, Monorail and Skywalks. Traffic crawls as ever it used to and it is strange that when I was residing in Mumbai, I was so used to the traffic snarls and the creeping pace that it never bothered me and now as a visitor I only find all that endearing. :)

Finally, food in Mumbai – nowhere in the world can one find the variety or the awesome taste that is found in Mumbai. The road-side dhaba with it’s cutting chai to the five star restaurants of the affluent side of the city – equally yummy and absolutely delicious.

And as sone pe suhaaga (icing on the cake) – meeting my boyfriend after years… see, Mumbai is once again witness to the most beautiful moments of my life.


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A poem I read when I was a kid... but it is stuck forever in my head... a silver moon!

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;

One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;

Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;

From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep;

A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;

And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

- Walter de la Mare

A series of notes to self... to remind awaken me...

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To leave the armchair, to take wing to all those places I have been to, a million times in my dreams.
To Egypt...

To stand in the shadow of the Great Pyramids of Giza and whisper a question 'how were they made?...and see if the great stones would whisper the answer,

To ask The Sphinx a riddle which will make his absent nose twitch,

To stand in front of the Temple of Abu Simbel and blow a kiss to Ramesses II and see if the Lady of Abu Simbel - Nefertari would mind,

To float on The Nile, fall down the six Cataracts of the Nile, to close my eyes and picture the beauty and splendor of Thebes, Luxor and Karnak when Osiris walked Egypt in each pharaoh,

To see for myself if the Nile crocs are as vicious as their reputation goes and if the lazy hippos mind a canoe bumping into them,

To ride a camel across the beautiful sand dunes on a moonlit night,

To hold a handful of the sand which might have witnessed the victorious return of Ramesses II after the great Battle of Kadesh,

To hope a khamsin would transport me to Ancient Egypt.
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