Sunday, 14 December 2014

Vignettes of Ahmednagar

When I was first told that I had to attend a NSS Orientation Programme in a place called Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, I was completely at a loss. I. did. not. want. to. go. But I had little or no choice. This was sometime in August.

Come November end and I realised with a bang that December was fast approaching and along with December, my time for Ahmednagar was at hand.

The journey began at 07: 45 pm on 30 November. Alone, I trudged with my baggage and thoughts for company. I wasn't thrilled or expectant.

But as always whenever we grumble about something unknown and yet to be experienced, chances are that the experience itself will remain forever memorable and that is precisely what happened.

The moment I beheld the campus of Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar, I was smitten. The sprawling 80-acre campus was a delight as it brought memories of my 375-acre Madras Christian College. I like big campuses, I must admit. The weather was another factor that added to the charm of the place. It was cold and almost always we had to wear socks, shawls and cover our heads but still it was lovely to not sweat and feel the heat. And, going from the warm of Goa to the chill of Ahmednagar was definitely welcome. And right next to where we were housed, was a hostel of students from the North Eastern part of India. Every night the students would sing to the accompaniment of a guitar and me being the romantic would fall asleep listening to the guitar strains and songs. And, I think on the third day of our stay, there were carol rounds and I could hear Christmas songs throughout the evening and night till about 3 or 4 am. What bliss!

The training per say was predominantly in the local language, Marati but some resource persons were kind enough to present talks with English and Hindi thrown in liberally. If I was keen, I was also able to catch some meaning in the Marati lectures.

Kappad Market (Clothes Market): My usual hangout while in Nagar. I walked through the markets, looking, buying, smelling, laughing and sometimes staring. I had company most of the time (fellow NSS Programme Officers who had come for the training) but still I walked alone with myself and my senses.

Ahmednagar Jail/Fort: Before going to AN, I read up on the place and found that Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India was jailed in Ahmednagar and while in the prison, wrote Discovery of India. I did not want to miss seeing that jail and so when the entire group decided to visit, I was thrilled to bits.
The place has some beautiful sights and the jail itself had been converted to a museum. I also had some good conversations with some of the fellow participants. A broken frame of Gandhi was lying in an obscure part of the jail-turned-museum and I was but taken aback by the state of that picture frame. The play of the sun and the backdrop of the fort was a lovely picture to take back home as a memory and that was what I did.
The broken frame of Gandhi in the Ahmednagar jail

If not for the trip, I wouldn't have known the existence of the quaint town of Ahmednagar and the splendid campus of Ahmednagar College.

I do hope to go back to the College. Fingers crossed.

The silhouette of some participants against the flag in the fort

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Clevage, cats and fish

If you have visited the fish markets of Goa, then the title would not make your mind wander away. The markets are a 'must see' place if you are keen on experiencing a slice of the Goan way of life and believe me there is more than fish here. Well, if you are a fussy vegetarian who cannot ingest the smells and sights of slaughtered sea creatures, then I suggest you stroll in the beaches and update your Facebook status with sun, sea and sand and of course you spoiling it all with a wide grin! No offence, please.

When I first stepped into the market, the assault on my eyes and senses were incredible. I loved what I saw is an understatement. Of course, the smell was overpowering but so is culture! Fish - big, small, medium, white, yellow, orange, black, and the shapes and the variety was indeed a treat. And added to the fishes, crabs and prawn were the fisherwomen - buxom, garrulous, colourful, gold laden and flowers on their hair. They were a picture to treasure. And some had cleavages that could be mistaken for a tunnel - dark and deep. Some of my friends tell me that the cleavage sells more fish if the customer is a man. Well, do we actually need to hear it to know it! And if someone asks for a discount, then . . . the rest is history!

Oh oh . . . did I also mention cats. They dot the entire market and again we find, striped, plain, dotted, black, brown, white, black & white, brown & white, black & brown - They either sleep, eat or longingly stare at the fish and almost always their wait is rewarded. I must say that the cats are fat and lazy. Each one has a favourite spot at the market which can either be at the foot of the fish monger or the spot where the fish waste are thrown or on the lap of the woman/man. People and cats love fish in equal measure in Goa --- some like it raw while some like it hot!

Mario Miranda's depiction of a fish market in Goa

On one side of the market are men who cut the fish for customers for a price of 20 rupees and often while at the job, they strike a conversation either about fish - the cutting and cooking or about life in general and while the tongue utters the hands cut. Their knives, which is a prized possession makes smooth slices of the fish. Some salivate just by watching the fish being cut - Food like sex is a very personal and intimate act and knowing one's taste is the key to enjoying the process.

This reminds me of the film that I watched this afternoon, A Hundred Foot Journey which discusses the culinary experience of a young and handsome Hassan Kadam who enjoys and savours food that he goes on to becoming a Michelin chef. Every time he held an ingredient, I could see that his senses were aroused and delighted - nothing short of an orgasm. Well, I did say that food and sex were not quite different.

So, when food and sex can be mentioned in the same sentence, why not fish and cleavage (too much of Freudian symbols, I reckon ;) )

Image: Internet

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Fear is something that manifests itself in different ways for various individuals. All of us, I reckon have some fear that is ever present, throbbing and threaten to rise any moment. It might be a fear of spotting a spider unawares or bad toilets or simply safety of a loved one. And, for that matter, most of it is psychological.

My parents-in-law have come to stay with us for a fortnight and through them we are experiencing the play of fear. They have come here from god's own country and it would not be an exaggeration if it was said that fear covers Kerala like a shroud. Open doors and windows after 7 pm make my parents-in-law quite tense. The freedom of having doors kept open even at 10: 30 pm gives them a shiver. My father-in-law especially gets restless and time-to-time asks us, "Shall I lock the door?" to which we casually mention, "No papa, it's fine." He cannot sit still and finally when we are not looking, he quickly closes the door, latches all the three locks and goes around to find other doors to close and latch. Well, my husband and I find this quite amusing but we also recognise the force of habit and the fear that is so etched in their minds. The same quality can be extended to many areas of our lives - Children fearing doing something because the parents have threatened them with dire consequences. Sometimes the fear never leaves even when the children are no longer children. Women who do not change some patterns of living long after they have divorced their abusive husband. Senior citizens who have long lived with certain ideas and routines and so on.

Fear is not entirely a negative emotion. Sometimes fear does help - for e. g. butterflies in the stomach before a speech or a class helps in better performance; a small fear before embarking on something big is generally positive and keeps us grounded and gives us a counter emotion to perform better and turn the fear into a motivating force.

But the kind of fear that has gripped my parents-in-law is not quite positive because it creates a tension of danger which is an impediment for them to feel safe and sound. The fear prevents them from enjoying the beauty of the calm night's breeze or the sighting of the moon through open windows. I still cannot blame them but hold the state of Kerala responsible for not providing the necessary policies and system to keep the place free of crime and robbery. Inspite of a police station located right in the adjacent street, my parents-in-law are scared of robbers who usually use different gimmicks to steal from houses.

Some fears don't go away - nor time nor god nor anything can enable a complete removal of the fear. I pray that such fears never grip us at any point of our life.

Dear reader, what is your fear that paralyses your living.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

November jottings

The harsh rays of the mid-day sun have become mellower and gentle. Some of the birds have gone away. I think winter has arrived! I love this time of the year. I actually like the time beginning with the Fall, as it is referred to in the Western countries. We have no Fall, but we do see a subtle change in the weather. We complain less about the weather and generally a happy mood prevails. Winter, as every other season, has a special set of memories with it. And, winter in Goa is no different. It was in winter that we first arrived in this small state with our head dizzy with the picture-postcard frames and images of beaches floating in our sub-conscious minds. December will mark two years of our sojourn here. The first arrival now seems like aeons. The entire stretch of land after stepping out of the airport is a vacant and distant speck in memory. We pass the Airport quite often now and have lost track of the number of times we played and replayed the first scene of our arrival. Sometimes the roads still challenge me to a bout of nostalgia - about my Chennai. I see the Airport in Goa and think of Chennai. Airports have always been there in my cycle of life. I was born near one, grew up next to one and now, live next to one. Airports and winters, I reckon, are recurring points in my nostalgic diaries.

Coming back to winter, I remember the sweet nothings that were part of my teen and adult life. Bus rides, special classes, Christmas and many more. The soothing breeze is fit for a book and lovely coffee, both which are slowly disappearing from my horizon. One suffers due to time and the other due to taste/health. Such is life, I come to accept. I am not complaining. At different phases of one's life, there are different occupations and engagements. One has to make peace with them and learn to befriend them otherwise it gets a bit hard on us.

I am now getting ready to hop to the nearby beach. I am looking forward to soaking in the lovely evening glory of the mild month of November. I know that a million thoughts will cris-cross my mind but then, I want to be empty-handed and so will keep the thoughts safe in some corner of my mind.

Dear reader, hope you are enjoying the last months of this glorious year. Pray tell me, what are your thoughts.

Friday, 17 October 2014

When two friends from those times came visiting

The past two days have filled me with a special flavour of joy. One doesn't use flavour in the context of joys, isn't it. But joy does have a flavour - nostalgic flavour, romantic flavour, happy flavour and so on. Well, the flavour of joy that filled me was the nostalgic types. Yes, in the span of two days, two bloggers/friends who had not paid a visit to my blog for a long time stopped by to say hello and record their thoughts.

The connection between Asif and me goes to 2009 when he used to frequent my blog and I his. We shared similar thoughts and a love for fine words. His comments were long, succinct and warm. His words filled me with joy and I would wait for his knock on my blog.


Asif stopped his visits. We did correspond over mails but even they stopped in 2011. Then wonders of wonders, I find his comment on my last post. he brought back memories of those days when traffic to my blog was heavy and comments came pouring in.

It was a joy to see Asif stop by and record his thoughts like old times.

Thanks Asif.

The second visitor is a long-distance runner whom I met over words and thoughts - Myriam Loor. We chanced upon each other's blogs and were quite regulars at each other's space. Running took her away from blogging and though she is a fantastic runner, I miss reading her blog posts which were practical, everyday instances which I could relate to. We are Facebook friends and pass by each other quite often but the intimacy we shared over our blog space was special.

Thanks Myriam for the comment. It was indeed a joy to see your name in my inbox - a reminder of earlier times.

Blogging is indeed special and it always will be!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

35 years on the face of this earth!

It has been a long time . . . nearly 35 years on this earth. It does evoke wonderful feelings of warmth within my insides. Does it feel different? No but still everything is not the same as before. I have always maintained that birthdays are special - not because i celebrate my birth but because I am alive to celebrate life and its fulness. No, everything hasn't been a smooth walk on a clean surface but yes, the walk has been worth the journey. I revel at the small and big joys life has given me and also my ability to receive them.

I celebrate the thirty-five years of having seen, experienced and lived the life that I call mine. I deem it as my joy to have shared this span with many people - some who still remain and some who have taken different paths. I am grateful for the treasures of music, emails, bloggers and books that has enriched and sustained me.

I raise a toast to the joy of breath and thought.


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