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Mumbai’s historic Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)
Humayun’s Maqbara (tomb of the Mughal emperor Humayun) in Delhi, India built 1569-70
Alongside Chicago river
Clean windows, plain, glass, open, close, bright,
Light, shaded, paned, shuttered, blinded, boarded,
Rusty, dirty, smoky windows.
Broken, shattered, run down windows
Windows that protect and hide, windows to the world outside
And sometimes to the world within
Unraveling layer by layer, revealing,
A tool for introspection and scrutiny,
A glance into a soul, full of secrets and smokescreens,
Evasion, denial, half-truths
Windows, they tell it all.
When the simple act of partaking food becomes a sacred event, one just doesn’t feed the stomach but feeds the soul.
A very good example is the traditional South Indian meal that is served on a banana leaf (biodegradable and lends a special flavor). The food is simple and wholesome, prepared from scratch, with love and devotion. The distinct aroma and flavors achieved by the correct blend of fresh spices such as curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon,cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater.
Whenever I travel back to my homeland, I have the pleasure of savoring such meals in the homes of my family members where tradition is still adhered to especially during festivals and formal occasions. The above picture shows a very basic South Indian vegetarian meal that consists of cooked white rice, banana chips, lentil papadam (thin, crisp, disc shaped, deep fried appetizers), beetroot poriyal (vegetable), savory lentil vada (fritter), yogurt and payasam (pudding made by boiling rice, cracked wheat or vermicelli with milk and sugar).
The wooden man is dressed in traditional South Indian attire of cotton dhoti (long loincloth) and angavastram (upper garment).
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
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
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
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.
From time immemorial
This has been a woman’s lot
That a man is more equal than she
History has not forgot
She toiled with him everyday
Made sure he was fed
Going sometimes without
Would anyone care if she were dead
She bore him sons
Despite incredible pain
Her daughters he rejected
‘Coz they brought him shame
He covered her up from head to toe
Treating her like some possession
Shackled her up in his house
Scourged her for his own indiscretions
Would you find people more hypocrite
In any other part of the world
Who deify innumerable goddesses
Yet smother the baby girl?
` Excerpt From ‘INCONVENIENT RELATIONS’
I AM WOMAN
“Can I speak to Shaan?” The voice was female.
Taking a deep breath, Ruhi answered, “He is still sleeping. May I know who is calling?”
“Tell him it’s Des. I need to talk to him. He hasn’t been answering my calls!”She had a young but high-pitched voice, a woman who was used to getting her way and who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Ruhi bristled with anger. “You can call back in half an hour. He should be up by then.”She hung up.
Soon she could hear him in his room talking and arguing on the phone. She ran into the master and locked the door to shut out the sound.
Almost a month had passed since they had been together, and she still felt clueless about him. He was like a giant jigsaw puzzle with the key pieces missing. He seemed good at times, caring,
kind. Perhaps it was just his nature, and he really didn’t consider her special. What was certain was that he continued to see this other woman, and Ruhi’s presence hadn’t altered it. Her rival appeared larger than life, and she had lost the fight even before it had begun.
“Aren’t you going to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Well, that’s something I cannot say to tell you the truth. You have influenced my taste completely.” He smiled.
“Well, here’s my clean plate as evidence.”
“I’m not talking about food.”
“Then what are you talking about?” His guard was up.
“I have been here for quite some time now, and I still feel that you are a complete stranger to me. I was thinking…”
“What do you want to know?”
“What is she like? Who is she? What kind of relationship do you share? Tell me. I think that I have a right to know.”
“That’s none of your business. I don’t want to talk about it. Another four weeks and you will be back home. Let’s just leave it at that,” he said, abruptly brushing her off.
None of my business. She left the table before she threw her fork at him.
None of your business…
The words echoed over and over in her brain like a never ending sermon.
She sat on the bed with her knees drawn up; her tears had run dry. No words could be more hurtful or decisive. He had been done with her from the very beginning, and she like a fool had believed that she could win him over by playing the ideal Indian wife. He’d probably been laughing at her all along. I can’t stay any longer, I have to leave now! Papa will get me the tickets. Reaching for the phone, she hesitated. Her parents had no idea about what was going on. She had made a conscious decision to not tell them anything. They would be shocked, heartbroken. She had to break it to them gently, but for that, she would need to stay.
But how? Not like this!
Pulling off her maroon sari, she stuffed it in the bottom of her still mostly unpacked suitcase. She hated it. Then walking into the bath, she assessed herself in the mirror. If marriage held no meaning for him, why should it for me? If everything was going to come to an end in another month, why not now? Why continue with this charade?
Unclasping the sacred marriage necklace from around her neck, she laid it down carefully on the counter. Then, wiping off the vermilion dot from her forehead, she examined her face again.
She smiled. Finally, she knew who she was. She was Ruhi Sharma, and there was no looking back.
Do you sense a change of pace here?
The heroine of my book cannot take it anymore. Ruhi’s done trying and has decided to move on. She chooses to lead life on her own terms.
Don’t be deceived by her sweet disposition, or her slender figure for she is ‘Shakti’–a divine cosmic force that can not only create but also destroy. At the base of her spine resides ‘Kundalini’ energy–a powerful goddess waiting to be awakened.
She is bold and liberated. She speaks her mind. She is tough and vibrant. She knows what she wants and doesn’t compromise on her values.
Yes, at times she is also a tease, impulsive, confused, brash, reactive, headstrong, vulnerable, fragile, infuriating and… a spoiled brat, but she is who she is– her own unique self. 😉
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Dilli or Delhi Haat : An open air food plaza and craft bazaar located in New Delhi, India.
New Delhi is India’s capital city.
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.