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Rhythm & Blues Chap 4: Break Free

R and B

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Chap 4: Break Free

-o-

Dadar station(Major Railway/Train Station in Mumbai, India)

“CHAIYAA! CHAIYA GARAM GARAM CHAIYA!!! Madam Chai?” (Tea! Tea! Hot hot Tea..! Madam Tea?)

Khanak woke up with a start and looked bleary eyed at the thin almost emaciated child with very bright eyes, who was extending a glass full of the milky brown brew. It took her a little while to realize where she was.

Then it all came back to her. What had transpired more than 24 hrs ago; the shock, the tears of anger and disappointment at being considered a liability by her uncle. Why hadn’t her parents  taken her along on their fatal journey? Then she wouldn’t been alive to face this day.

“Nahin chahiye.” (I don’t want it.) She shook her head in the negative.

“Madam..coolie (porter) ?”

“No thanks, mein theekh hoon!” (No thanks, I am fine!)

“Aho bai, tumcha samaan jast bhari aahe! Tumchaashi uchaalal janar nahi” (No madam, your bag is really heavy! You won’t be able to lift it!)

“Kya? Hindi mein bolo!” (What? Say in Hindi!)

“Madam aapka saaman bahut bhaari aahe! (Madam your luggage is very heavy!) Lifting very difficult!” The heavy set rotund and cheerful porter replied in an admixture of Hindi and English.

Everybody seems to be living a wonderful life except me.

“Meine jab nahin kaha toh nahin samjhe!?”(When I say no, I mean no, understand?) She replied sternly.

“Nahi bai saheb, mein uchalun ghein, tumchi je iccha asel te deun dya!” (No madam I will take it, you pay me whatever you wish!) Persisted the coolie now in Marathi tugging at the handle of her black suitcase trying to wrench it from her grasp.

“No you say whatever, but I won’t relent!” She shouted back clutching tightly at the article in contention in which she had hastily packed a few last minute essentials after making the decision to leave the dwelling which she’d called her home for 20+ years. That and she also held on to her shoulder bag as if her life depended on it because it contained all the money she called her own and the big wad of notes which her aunt had thrust into her hand upon chancing on her intentions.

“Okay Bubbly, even if I wish to I can’t ask you to stay because I know I won’t be able to change your uncle’s decision.”

Khanak nodded in agreement. She was yet to come across anyone as hard headed.

“But I will miss you a lot and so will Shreya!”

“Yes, I know. But I see no other option. I don’t want to get married before I make a name for myself, become somebody. At least I want to give it a fair try.” Khanak held her aunt’s hand in earnest. She loved her both as a mother and a friend.

“How will you go about it my child? Where will you go? You haven’t been much on your own at all. Sometimes I think we’ve both cloistered you too much.” Worry furrowed Komal’s brow.

“You meant well, no parent…” Khanak caught herself, “you did what you thought was best. Don’t bother. I’m a city girl and I can take care of myself.” She’d left her with those strong words.

So much for my confidence! Khanak thought as she got down from the train, her mind still a sea of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Have I been too impulsive? She glanced around nervously at the milieu of confused humanity around her; everybody seemed to be heading somewhere or the other, with not a second to spare.

Maybe I should’ve tried to reason with chachu? She wondered briefly before promptly dispelling the thought. No! Who am I trying to fool?  I’d have just bought myself permanent shackles! Khanak shivered at the terrifying image.

She picked her way towards the exit and dialed the number of a friend she knew who resided in Mumbai, working and living independently away from her family. Khanak had always admired her but never quite understood why she insisted on staying alone; but now she did.

She heard an automated voice message; “This is Vandana. Unfortunately I won’t be available for the next several days. I’m getting married!”

Khanak’s heart sank. Getting married? As far as she could remember, her friend had been determined to remain a spinster for the rest of her life but as things had changed for her, maybe they had for her Vandana too.

She sat down on her suitcase, feeling more despondent than ever. She didn’t want to give up after having come this far. Her hand groped for and found the card deep inside her purse. It was the only avenue left.

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Under the Shade of the Banyan

banyan-tree.jpgOriginal art by Sneha (oil pastel)

Under the Shade of the Banyan

`

Banias conduct business

Gods meditate and recline

My leaves dispense knowledge

My structure reflects the world

Material and Spiritual

Study me

 I am the eternal tree

`

The Banyan tree is the national tree of India and Bangladesh. The word Banyan comes from the Gujarati word Bania or trader. The word was picked up by the Portugese to refer to the Hindu traders who used to sit under the shade of these trees to conduct their business and passed it on to the English who began to refer to the ‘Banyan’ trees. 🙂

Interesting? Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banyan

The Bashful Bride – Innocence Unveiled in ‘Inconvenient Relations’

the shy bride

The Bashful Bride

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She sits on the rose strewn bed

A bashful bride

In all her jeweled splendor

Hennaed hands resting on drawn up knees

Innocent and uninitiated

Awaiting the approach of her beloved

`

The bombshell had dropped on their wedding night. He had walked into the room late as she sat there, a shy bride in all her wedding finery waiting, nervous yet excited at the same time, to meet the man she had hardly spoken to or looked at. What would he say, talk about, or do?

She had heard a lot of stories about what to expect, some factual and some fabricated (her friends had prepared her well), but she wanted her own to be special, unique, and it was…

Sitting down on the bed in front of her, he had taken her hand in his and said very gently, as if to tone down the trauma, “I bet you are one of the most beautiful brides in the world, but I’m sorry I cannot make love to you. There is someone else.”- An Incurable Insanity

Solah Shringar

The 16 basic steps of bridal adornment which correspond to the 16 phases of the moon. Shringar is derived from the word Shri or Lakshmi; the Goddess of wealth, beauty and prosperity. The wedding day is considered the most significant in a woman’s life- one which marks her transition into womanhood.

1. Gajra (string of Jasmine flowers): Hair is styled and adorned with the fragrant Gajra and jewelry.

2. Maang-teeka: generally made of gold, silver and precious stones, Maang teeka is worn in the central parting of hair.

3. Sindoor: is the vermilion powder that is worn in the center parting of hair. A symbol of marriage, it is placed for the first time by the groom during the marriage ritual.

4. Bindi or tilak: A red vermilion dot worn in the center of the forehead.

5. Kajal or Kohl: Black eyeliner to enhance the bride’s beautiful eyes traditionally made from the soot of an earthen lamp with the wick placed in clarified butter.

6. Nath or Nose ring: By far the most ethnic and traditional of Indian looks.

7. Elaborate jeweled earrings: whose weight is supported by a chain affixed to the hair.

8. Necklace: Of different lengths and styles adorn the neck. The most sacred is the mangalsootra, given by the groom during the wedding ceremony made of black beads.

9. Armlets: Worn on both upper arms.

10. Bangles and bracelets: Made of glass, gold, silver and precious gems are the most visible sign of marriage.

11. Mehndi or Henna: Applied to the hands and feet in intricate design is meant to strengthen the bond of love.

12. Rings and Hathphool (Flower of the hand): A bride wears 4 rings on each hand which are connected together by a central medallion called the Hathphool, which in turn is connected to a bracelet.

13. Aarsi or mirrored thumb ring: The bride wears this so to be able to glance at herself and take a peek at her husband as well through the cover of her veil. 😉

14. Waistband or Kamarband: A beautifully designed silver or gold belt encrusted with precious and semi precious gems which serves a dual purpose- enhancing the waist besides holding up the weight of the heavy sari or skirt.

15. Anklets or Payal: A chain of silver edged with clusters of tiny bells worn around both ankles that make a pleasant tinkling sound when the bride moves.

16. Toe ring: Usually worn on the second toe of either or both feet are  symbols of marriage.

The Bridal dress: This can be a sari or a ghagra choli (traditional skirt and blouse) and is usually red in color because red is considered auspicious. It is richly embroidered in gold which ensures ceremonial purity.

traditional-toe-rings

BUY LINKS

India Unveiled- Mughal India: Tomb of Salim Chishti

Salim Chisti TombIntricate Jali – Stone latticework window overlooking the Jama Masjid courtyard.

About 25 miles from Agra is the city of Fatehpur Sikri (Hindi: फ़तेहपुर सीकरी, Urdu: فتحپور سیکری‎), founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, which also served as his capital from 1571-1585. Here he proceeded to build a grand walled city which today is one of the best preserved collections of Mughal Architecture in India.

The Tomb of the Sufi saint Salim Chishti (descendant of Khwaja Mouniddin Chishti of Ajmer) built inside the imperial complex is particularly mesmerizing. Facing south toward the Buland Darwaza, the shrine is enclosed by delicately carved Jalis– marble stone screens and topped by a single semicircular dome.

Jama Masjid courtyard

Jama Masjid courtyard

The atmosphere of the place is beautifully exemplified in this haunting melody from the movie Garam Hawa (Hot Winds), 1973.

Fresh Sugarcane Juice- A Taste of Home Right Here!

sugarcane juice

During a recent visit to the Midwest, I was pleasantly shocked to find a desi (Indian) fast food joint that boasted a mind boggling variety of mouth watering delicacies from all over the homeland. And the most wondrous among them all was fresh sugarcane juice–simply YUM!

Where:

Neehee’s

 http://www.neehees.com/

45656 Ford Rd  Canton, MI 48187
(734) 737-9777

 Speak Indian : Desi : देसी (Hindi) meaning Indian

 

Sugarcane press

A classic Sugarcane Press

Indian Cuisine: Favorite Bread – Paratha

Paratha

Wholesome breakfast: Fresh pan fried whole wheat bread (Paratha), seasonal fruit, fresh homemade yogurt.

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Paratha [par-AA- THA] Hindi पराठा is one of the most popular types of unleavened flat breads in Punjabi North Indian Cuisine and Pakistan.

Prepared from pan frying whole wheat dough which usually has ghee (clarified butter) or cooking oil in it, parathas are often stuffed with vegetables such as mashed boiled potatoes or aloo, cauliflower (gobhi), radish (mooli), other vegetables and or paneer (fresh Indian cheese).

Parathas, particularly the stuffed ones, are simply eaten with pickles, chutneys and or yogurt on the side and make for a wholesome meal at any time of the day.

Simple Pleasures

TongaThe Tonga (Horse drawn carriage) as seen on the streets of Agra, India

Simple Pleasures

—o—

I reminisce with immense fondness

 Memories of homeland shores

When life was unadulterated

And goals within reach

Such as…

Walking barefoot on the sand

Gorging cotton candy at the fair

Screaming hoarse along with the radio

And yes, the occasional pleasure ride around town

~

Tonga or Tangaतांगा Hindi meaning Hansom or Horse carriage

Delhi – The city of the big hearted.

delhi haat

Dilli or Delhi Haat : An open air food plaza and craft bazaar located in New Delhi, India.

New Delhi is India’s capital city.

—o—

Dilwalon ki Dilli

‘It’s a jungle out there and Delhi is one of the scariest!’

Or so they say… but to us Dilliwaalah’s (Delhiites), it is one of the most wonderful cities in the world. We embrace fondly both its beauty and its craziness. And we endlessly reminisce and sing its glory.

We wait patiently in the perennial traffic jams honking our horns every 10 seconds to make certain that someone hasn’t fallen asleep at the wheel. We squeeze through narrow streets and jostle with 100s of other shoppers in Chandni Chowk  (moonlit market) to get to our favorite halwai (sweet seller) or Chaat (savory) shop. We haggle incessantly in the sabzi mandi (vegetable market) over a few rupees and demand free dhaniya (cilantro) and mirchi (hot peppers). Precariously perched, we ride the cycle rickshaws for cheap and then wonder how the poor hauler makes ends meet. We chomp on our golgappas (puffed crisp pooris with tamarind sauce) with devout passion and chat fervently over our aloo (potato) chaats (freshly prepared savories).

We shamelessly flaunt our rich in their comfortable bungalows in the upscale neighborhoods of the south as well as our poor in their slums in the east. We consider ourselves progressive and argue for intellectual freedom yet revert blindly to inane traditions when it comes to the crunch.

But despite all our failings, when it comes to heart, no one has one like us.

The Indian Way- Everyday Etiquette: Bhai Sahib and Behenji

sneha3 111

A street side stall where a vendor sells Soan papdi or Soanpapri which is a popular South Asian sweet with a crisp and flaky texture.

—o—

“Kaise diye bhai sahib?” What is the asking price, brother?

“Bees rupiah kilo behenji.” 20 rupees/kilo sister.

A conversation very similar to the above, modified to fit the situation and scripted in various regional languages, can be overheard if one happens to wander inside any store, or pass by a street shop  on any given day in India.

I am not talking about the skyrocketing prices of fresh fruit and vegetables (that’s another topic altogether,) but of the way two strangers address each other.

The housewife who is trying to find the best deal she can as she goes around the market, addresses the vendor as ‘Bhai sahib’ [Bhaee-saab]. Hindi: भाई साहिब  Bhai – Brother, Sahib- term of respect.

She uses this term even though he bears no relationship to her.

Similarly the tradesman or vendor responds with the term ‘Behen ji’ [Bahen-jee] Hindi: बहन जी Behen – Sister, Ji – gender neutral term of respect.

Indians use these terms often during the course of a typical day while doing business with strangers; such as while buying groceries, haggling over the price of fruits and vegetables, dealing with the milkman, or hailing a taxi or an auto rickshaw.

It is a means of establishing a temporary bond or kinship which places the conversation on a congenial and non-confrontational platform.

So on your next trip to India, these two terms should come in very handy.