Saturday, November 12, 2022

Book Review: How to Live your Life

Title: How to Live your Life
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Harper Collins

I have a special liking for the writing style of Ruskin Bond. His writings, especially when he writes about his daily routine, his home, his life, his morning walks and his love for nature, are simple, engaging and refreshing. His words just effortlessly ferry the readers to a land where time moves sluggishly and where one gets to soak in the natural surroundings. His words coax one - to develop a fresh eye to appreciate the tiny creatures on thin blades of grass, to admire the mettle of tender hill flowers against the rocky backdrop, to look for the sparkle of fireflies and to desire to be in the wide verdure. 

How to Live your Life is a collection of his personal notes and suggestions on various aspects of life. One can call it a compilation of his wisdom simplified in the form of brief quotes and suggestions. I specifically likes the subtle way in which one chapter ends and the next one picks from the last thread of the previous one. One can keep coming back to this book to read a page or two for the peace and calmness, which are the hallmarks of his writings.
I cannot complete this review without mentioning that I expected a little more, rather much more from this book which came out as a celebration of his 88th birthday. I felt it ran too short on quality content and substance for the readers to chew on. From an author who has lived such a fulfilling life, I am not convinced that he had so little to summarise and share at this juncture of his life. 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Book Review: The Search

Title: The Search

Author: Sajita Nair

Publisher: Juggernaut

Format: Kindle edition


The Search is the story of an eighteen-year old girl Laya who is portrayed as a regular vivacious girl of her age. Her doting parents, loving friends, a boyfriend and a fun-filled college life complete the picture of her life. A certain event in her life pushes her to take up the quest for her roots more seriously and urgently. As the story progresses, she comes across as a strong-willed person who decides to stand alone than to cave under societal pressures or norms. As she continues to walk on her chosen path, her loved ones join her and provide her the much needed support. While riding the emotional waves at various levels, she realises how going ahead with one decision brings her the wisdom to make peace with the situation of her biological parents.


The narrative is quite fast paced. The first significant turning point comes a little too soon but then the readers get hooked to that momentum. Story is engaging and as one keeps turning pages, one is actually hoping for the same happy ending where the author leads the readers to. Plot is not complicated and it is handled with ease as well. This story is about a young adult and for young adults. I like how author has attempted to highlight the significance of learning to take responsibility for the choices made. The new age young adults feel free and empowered to make choices and take their own decisions, but wisdom is in always remembering that some choices have life changing consequences. 


I remember reviewing Sajita's first book - She's a Jolly Good Fellow, more than a decade back. Not wasting anytime on frivolous characters and events in storytelling has been her forte which I really appreciate. Having said that, personally I was expecting a little more in terms of substance in whatever comes out of Sajita's pen. I will look forward to her next writing attempts for that. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Whispers of Silence

Someone once told me, when two individuals start enjoying the silence between them, that is when they get completely comfortable with each other. I was too young to understand it at that time and kept wondering for quite some time that day, what does enjoying silence mean? It can simply be called an observation or a belief of that person but somehow it stayed with me all through the years. I guess I can really appreciate the depth of this statement completely now. Two individuals can stay comfortably in silence only when they no longer feel the necessity to fill the space with their voice powered thoughts. A lot can be said without actually saying any of it and a lot can be heard without actually hearing any of that. If there is a connection, it naturally gets conveyed from one heart to another while in the absence of that connect, no amount of words seem adequate to do the needful.
Voice doesn’t take long or much to become noise.
After many years of being introduced to the magic of silence, today I want to extend it a little further. When we start enjoying silence in solitude, that is when we get completely comfortable with who we are. We feel liberated from the obligation of keeping our faculties gainfully engaged and we make peace with our surroundings but more importantly we enter a peaceful state with ourselves which transcends all strata.

Silence entails letting things be, without getting invested in them, including the thoughts. It implies withdrawal of energies from what is outside to what is inside. Silence of a person does not imply indifference towards oneself or towards the surroundings. Nor is it burdened by any emotion as emotions usually have the capability of clouding all in their vicinity and thus can rob the essence of true silence.

The wonders of what comes after having experienced silence in its true spirit, can be felt only after achieving that, it can neither be explained nor can it be pretended. Only in silence can we get to delight in the opera of - the palpitations of our heart, the sound of our breath, the flow of our life blood and the analysis and inferences of our mind at work.

It is in silence that one gets to actually meet, know and understand one’s own self - completely and thoroughly.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Change of Guard

The long ferocious summer days come with a dazzling orange blanket stretched in the open, almost endlessly, reducing everything in sight, to cinders. Anyone who dares to not bow to the sheer strength and power of fire, is befittingly disciplined. They continue to test the endurance and fortitude of one and all, day after day, incessantly. It appears that during this time, the Sun and its accoutrements embody attributes like valour, firmness and unwavering resolve.


I for one, follow the path of this ball of fire, pretty closely. I keep waiting to see its fiery cloak recede up the walls and the tall trees late in the evening after a prolonged summer day. That is the precursor to the time when finally the moon is permitted to offer its soothing hand to the scorched bodies and souls as if trying to heal the wounded warriors of a war after sundown.


But lately, the air is carrying the harbinger of change…


Although the bright scorching sun during the daytime still tries to deceive one into believing otherwise but it falls short in covering up those telltale signs. The dawns and dusks hold the testimony to that.  There are some very subtle signs that the change of guard is happening in nature these days. It is  just a matter of days before one would see no resemblance of the fire-spitting sun with its lack-lustered incarnation.


Winters have a completely different spectacle for the viewers who generally enjoy watching nature's drama in awe and admiration. There are days when one can easily mistake the sun for the moon, as the former appears as cold and as white as the latter. On such days, it is best to stay indoors, hibernate and wait for the sole brightest star to live up to its glorious reputation.


When the Sun does decide to appear with its benevolent warmth on some of the winter days, it naturally becomes the most cherished entity for one and all. I love to keep a close watch on the path of its rays on those days too. The same orange cape that seems to be unshrinkable on the heat spewing days, tends to be in a tearing hurry to recede back soon.

Seeing it moving thus, I often wonder:

what if I could pull down the last corner of the sunrays that is about to move up the wall leaving me longing for more,

what if I could tuck it nicely underneath me like a quilt on those freezing nights,

what if I could knit a sweater out of those bright orange sunrays and wear them day and night

what if I could hold those close to me when I am cold,

what if they could keep me thawed with their warmth and  love always.

what if I could convince even the eerie icy winds to take a nap under their warm cover …

what if…


And once again, the orange hue becomes much more than just a colour - an embodiment of warmth, care, affection and endless joy.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Tea and Me

Dear Tea,


You made an entry into my life quite unceremoniously. I think it was sometime during the hostel years. The evening snack in the hostel mess was always laced with your aromatic presence. I started enjoying your "made for each other" combination with samosa/bread-pakora/potato-cutlet, during that time. The little chit chat with the batchmates and sometimes with others across batches after a long college day made it a classic unwinding time for us - sitting wherever one felt like - on the stairs leading to the mess, on the green lawn or on the chairs set in random arrangement. Sometimes those trivial talks turned into serious discussions on certain topics, planning for some upcoming hostel event,  or confiding in each other. There is something special about unregimented times, it even manages to open the unlocked doors and unvisited corners of one's heart.


Dear tea, during the same time, your Sunday morning appearances became very special for my mother and I at home. After five days of college, I would look forward to be with her for the weekend. Somehow Sunday got unofficially designated as the day for certain time consuming activities like - oiling and washing hair, doing laundry and finally packing the bag in the evening for the next five days in the hostel. Incidentally that was the era when TV programmes had very limited interference in people's daily routines. Rangoli (a medley of Bollywood songs presented on a certain theme) was among a few TV programmes which my mother and I enjoyed watching together. So that half an hour in the morning became our together time - head massage by my mother, tea drinking and Rangoli watching. The same picture comes to my mind whenever I feel the urge to define the word 'relaxation'.


Tea, I could see that you were slowly becoming more and more dear to me but I really appreciated that you never tried to impose yourself on me nor did you try to claim any undue favour. Your mere 4-5 sips satiated me always, never meddling with the rest of my food habits. You stayed by my side as a very understanding and dependable friend who always surfaced to give a virtual warm hug whenever I needed one.


Moving on to the next phase of life. Dear tea, you integrated beautifully in the routine of the two of us. The weekdays, with the office routine of the both of us, were a little rushed but you always brought a welcome pause on the weekends. The times, post relatively  elaborate weekend breakfasts(I should rather call them brunch) still hold a special place in my heart . It was the time to talk, to share, to watch an old Hindi movie in the foreign lands (the charm of which is something entirely different) and similar such. We both were studying for a few courses after marriage and our house at that time almost looked like a hostel room. You brought the much needed breaks when we studied late into the nights.


I think it was during this time that I realised that for me you are not just a beverage, you are a feeling, an emotion, a state of mind, a fantasy and much more. You bring me immense pleasure and joy when I share you with a person whom I love and admire. I think this is the reason, weekend tea-times are still very special to me.


Many years have passed since you made your first appearance in my life and I can say - I don't drink tea because I have to, but because I look forward to the whole picture that becomes perfect with your presence.


There are actually certain images in my mind which get more beautiful and worthy to strive for when I imagine them with you in a tiny, bright-hued cup, infusing the perception of leisure to the whole illustration.


Dear tea, I want you to know that you are a cherished companion, a friend and a very significant part of my fantasies of happy, peaceful and relaxed times.

So, thank you for being you!!!

Friday, June 12, 2020


As I sat today to write something, I wondered what should it be: my analysis of the unprecedented times that we all are witnessing currently, about the wisdom this situation has(or should have) imparted to humankind, about my personal learning curve, on nature getting a free reign to exhibit its prowess or perhaps something on the many disturbing issues - precious lives being reduced to mere numbers, endless woes of migrant workers and underprivileged or similar such.

I am sure all of us have read, analysed and discussed at length about these over the past three months. I decided to refrain from all, despite the fact that I strongly feel about each one mentioned (and many more unlisted).
Even if the times are gripped in the tangles of fear, uncertainty and anxiety, life doesn’t cease to continue. In fact, these are precisely the times which offer immense opportunities to an individual to reorient oneself towards what one deems absolutely significant in one’s life. 
For me, it is something that gives me perspective, solace and peace. Hence trying to bind that feeling in words here:
I am the sparkling dew drops on a new petal
I am a tiny crease on one of the shriveled faces
I am in the dimness of the dusk and of the dawn
I am in the brilliance of the bright noon
I am the crowning splash on the rising wave
I am the lowest point in the ebbing ocean
I am that silence in the darkest spot of the night
I am also the deafening noise surrounding the peace
I am a tiny speck on the slope of a mighty mountain
I am that fluffy cloud shadowing the summit of the cliff
I am the froth dancing with a merry cascading river
I am a pebble happily settled mutely on the river bed
I am at the zenith of the towering redwood tree
I am a blade of grass rising its head from the crack of soil
I am in the varied merging hues in the sky
I am the pristine white and also the stark black

I am in the vastness of this “Nature” and yet
I am in the minutest of the details in everything
I reside silently in every thought and every emotion
I am also in the multitude of actions and the activities
I am in all and all are in me, validating the oneness
I know, I am just a part of that ultimate supreme
hE always resides in mE and I in hIm and thus
I am, what He wants me to be !!!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

To 5, from 45

I see her quite vividly in a floral printed frilly frock.
She was fidgety and feisty - a bundle of boundless energy, enthusiasm and excitement, hardly knowing what all that truly meant. She had time to spare for everything in the world - from accompanying whoever stepped out of the house, to giving company to one and all, from being a part of any conversation in the house, to being a spectator or a listener anytime anywhere and for anyone who desired to have (or not) one. With time, she grew up to be a strong-willed and an impassioned individual. She developed emotions, rather fierce - of any and all kinds. She loved deeply and hated even more passionately. Situations and experiences in life continued to essay the script of her life. At 45, if I see that same 5 year old around, I would love to tell her a few things to remember, as life begins its task of carving her with its knives and chisels -
Adding grace is good but the sprint in your feet is too high a price to pay for it.
Embrace every emotion but let the deluge of emotions not wash away the natural sparkle in your eyes.
Laugh more and longer, and do not let this laughter lose the directions to your lips ever.
Do not let the definition of your identity lean on the presence or pleasure of any ‘name, place, animal or thing’. Make an effort to keep redefining yourself - for yourself.
Do not be afraid of voicing your opinion but set it free from the condition of being heard.
Do not let the quantum of work worry you ever. Feel grateful that you have been handpicked for the same.
Don’t wait for anything or anybody because it tends to siphon the energy reservoir of a being. Know and remember that yearning does not make things happen.
Work extra hard to not let the battering of years wane the innocent twinkle in your eyes.
Always retain your energy, enthusiasm and excitement, rather, keep refueling them from time to time.
Feel free to harbour strong feelings and emotions, nurture them warmly, guard them protectively but learn to not let them seep through to your inner self. 
Do ensure to have that 'spare time’ always because only when the required is accomplished efficiently, does one get the opportunity to knock the doors of possibilities and potentialities.
Let your dreams soar high because they must. Value them because they are most dear to you. Chase them because no one else can and will.
Feel proud of your accomplishments (significant or otherwise) because you would know exactly what all went in making each one possible. 

Live every moment before it hands you over to the next.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Everyday masterpiece...

There is a change, rather a shift. When it started, I savoured the feeling considering it to be an exception but I am happy that it has lasted the initial euphoria stage and now it seems to have settled for good. Well, predicting anything to last forever is pretty preposterous, yet, for me 'for good' has itself taken a new meaning, which is - as long as it (anything) happily stays with me.
I think I have spent the last couple of decades or so of my life trying to run a competition against time. I often derived an exceptional thrill in packing maximum in minimum so that every moment is used to the fullest. In fact I have tried to manage parallel processing on various fronts so that every moment becomes manifolds. In my mind, I have planned before leaving the bed - which sequence should I follow to gain the most. I do not have any regrets for having spent a good number of years doing so. But all of a sudden this changed one fine day.

Early in the morning while coming back from my usual yoga practice I heard my mind telling me, rather commanding me thus  - there is no hurry, there is no rush, do everything peacefully, sit comfortably to have breakfast, it is perfectly fine if the lunch gets ready by the lunch time only and not way in advance and it is permitted to do activities sequentially. I listened to my mind that day, I slowed down and I thoroughly enjoyed that pace. I could not help noticing a certain calmness engulfing me engaged in this manner. I enjoyed every single moment that day, although none was power packed. From that day on, I have been mindfully trying to work at the new pace. There is no tearing hurry to squeeze out time for some more of this or that - art work, reading, cooking, learning new things and many more. I realised, there is no competition that I have to take part in. I do not have to prove to anybody that I could read a certain number of books in a year, that I could cook five dishes in one hour, that I could make a piece of art worthy of appreciation. Even if I cook only one dish in a couple of hours - it is not less than any piece of art. It is for me, because it gives me immense satisfaction after having created it.

More than a year back, owing to some health issues I felt the need to hire a cook for the daily cooking. It continued for a year or so and I rationalised the new setup thinking that there is no charm or fun in cooking the same classic everyday dishes. I should rather devote my time and energy to adding newer things to my skill set in different fields. Incidentally, that feeling also changed with the altered pace. There may not be any glamour in cooking the same old dishes but then every mundane activity is an opportunity to perfect it even more while completely dedicating oneself in that time to that activity. There is nothing which cannot be turned into a masterpiece. Isn't it?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Backyard Special 'Garam Masala'

As I sat today sifting through the pages of my food memories, a very peculiar leaf brought a smile to my face as the whole scene written on that page danced before my eyes. The brightness of the day, the wide expanse of the backyard(so it seemed to my little eyes at that time) of our paternal house, that custom made cemented water tank with its heavy iron lid, a green patch running along the width of the backyard and our all-purpose foldable cot - all of which  may seem very insignificant but added up to make a beautiful cherished memory. Oh yes, and there was that swing too which was the last entrant in the backyard. It was very intelligently designed by our father. The inverted 'V' on both the sides and the top horizontal bar were made up of old poles of TV antennas of the olden times. Two iron hooks on the horizontal bar held four chains and the loose ends of the chains had smaller hooks which held the grooves of the cane seat.

I think I have mentioned many times through my stories that the Sun in all its glory was highly valued, almost revered by our mother. Her daily routine would begin much earlier than the first rays of the Sun to gladly receive them. Her activities in and around the house remained in close tandem with the trajectory of the sun as it crossed our backyard. Though it was never specified explicitly but It was almost sacrilegious to be sitting in the rooms in artificial light when natural light was abundantly available outside. I think, all through the school years, especially till 10th class, I have studied in the backyard during the daytime. It was only in higher classes, when I sought complete isolation while studying, that I started sitting in a closed room even during the day.

Here I would like to mention the role that the backyard played in our lives as we were growing up. It was a very significant extension of our house which happened to be open. The doors that opened up into the backyard were never bolted, and were often kept wide open to facilitate the ease of movement in and out. Now that I am writing about it, I think this small practice made all the difference in seamlessly integrating the open space into the covered portion of the house.

In summers, the days would begin very early in our home. It was almost a ritual to go out in the backyard as soon as one left the bed in the morning. Reading newspaper, having the morning tea, cleaning and chopping vegetables, running the washing machine in a corner, studying or just lazing around - that area would silently witness all. As the day progressed and the heat intensified, the cool confines of the covered region gave refuge to us. But with sun going down at dusk, the activities in and around the backyard increased again, almost compensating for the time lost because of blazing heat.
In winters, however, the routine almost reversed, chilly mornings and evenings were spent indoors but the golden sun was diligently chased as soon as its rays made their appearance in the backyard.

How can I miss mentioning one very significant aspect of mother's routine? I have grown up seeing two big copper plates (thaali) in our kitchen. The bigger  out of the two had raised edges while the smaller one was a flat plate. They were taken out when some spices, vegetables, grains and similar such  were to be handpicked or  dried in sun. In fact, almost invariably one or both of them would be out for one thing or the other. In the scene that is photographically engraved in my memory, I clearly see those plates with some contents lying on the lid of the cemented water tank, although their position kept changing, following the path of sunrays in the backyard. From time to time mother would buy whole spices for Punjabi garam masala. The same were  first diligently handpicked, spread on those plates for sunning and then taken to the nearest flour mill for grinding. Somehow those plates with a variety of contents in them very subtly contributed to making - that backyard a well inhabited place and our house a home.

Even as I set up my own home after marriage, I never used the store bought garam masala as mother would plan to keep it ready for me to take along during every visit. This continued till the last year that she graced us with her presence. I have started using store bought garam masala and sometimes I prepare it at home too but for me, garam masala means much more than the final garnish on a cooked dish.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Sharing Peanuts

Memories of childhood always bring a whiff of nostalgia with them. There is something, rather many things about that phase which make it so very special. As we keep moving away from that time, the past  picture keeps getting better and better, isn't it? I consider it a zooming-out effect which brings out the essence of the complete perspective. 
We often tend to go back to some of those disjointed flashes from the past to relive the soul of the bygone time. Whenever they surface, they invariably manage to bring an innocent smile to our face.

We had a small traditional tandoor in our house which our father got made on order. I think it was made using the body of an old cylindrical drum which had its own lid too. It was a functional tandoor and at least once in a month, usually on a Sunday, tandoori rotis were made to go along with dal-makhani. As far as I remember, it was not a trivial activity. Cleaning the tandoor, preparing it, heating it up sufficiently for the rotis - all this itself would take some considerable time before actual roti making action. After its use, it was allowed to cool down, cleaned properly and secured with the lid.

I am not sure how and when but some years down the line, the usage of tandoor became less frequent. I think it was the time when father got posted to another city. It was later given away to somebody but strangely its lid was retained. I think it was a very smart move as that lid in its upside down avatar, naturally became a serving plate for the birds. Mostly house sparrows, mainas, crows and red vented bulbuls used to visit our home. Out of these the house sparrows were the most frequent ones and often came in large numbers. Those were the times when house sparrows were easily seen in the city. Mother would keep some bajra seeds, bits and pieces of the first roti that was cooked every day and any left over roti or rice in that plate, along with water in a deep terracotta pot - for the birds to feast on. I remember every day, early in the morning, while tidying up the house and the backyard, mother would clean up that plate and the water bowl and would refill both with fresh supplies.

During summers, early morning was the time when the sparrows would visit looking for their first meal of the day, in good numbers. Their chirping, altercations and bantering were a part of the background noise in our home. Their numbers would dwindle as the day became hotter. The pattern reversed in winters. House sparrows would come solo, in pairs, and in groups when sun brought some respite from the chill.

I carry one particular memory of those winter afternoons. Natural light, fresh air and winter sun are perhaps a few things out of many which were highly valued by mother. She always encouraged us to sit and study in the backyard to make the most of these three. After returning home from school during those winter days, we were served food outside on the foldable cot. While basking in the warmth of the sun, we would indulge in the last course of  any winter meal - roasted peanuts and gazak. Many birds, especially house sparrows used to pay us a visit during that time and we would gently flick some peanuts to their side too though cautiously, trying not to scare them away. It was a sheer delight to watch them feast on those peanuts and I must admit a little bit of sense of individual achievement that they ate what one offered. While writing this I can very vividly see that scene in front of my eyes where we all ate peanuts together. Years passed in almost fast forward manner, I moved out of the parental house first for my masters and then to build a separate abode after marriage. On every visit to that house, I couldn't help notice lesser and lesser sparrows coming to the backyard for food. They were fast getting pushed away by the bigger and stronger mainas.

House sparrows were tiny little birds, females had pale brown and grey coats while males had brighter black, white and brown markings. They were very shy birds. Sadly, they have become extinct in our city now. I miss them, because their chirpiness and their companionship are an integral part of my childhood memories. They remain the loveable background sound, in fact, music in my reminiscences.
We do have feathered visitors in our new house here too. After searching online for their name, I came to know that they are Jungle Babblers. They are bigger, brown coated birds with long tails and they chirp loudly. I scatter bread crumbs, leftover rice and pieces of first chapatti of the day for them on the backyard wall. They also visit in groups to eat and then fly away together. They are much stronger and fearless, rather aggressive than my old feathered friends. I like feeding them but I miss the little ones dearly, more so in winters when I eat peanuts.

Dear sparrows, this is my tribute to you. You will always have a special place in my memories. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Related Posts with Thumbnails