Second Day

Zoning in on a quiet,  level road to walk on Day 2, wasn’t too difficult. The road from Fernhill to Avalanche via Kundah has always been a  favorite. Smooth to drive on, tracts of cultivated land lining one side, passing through numerous small villages; this road leads to many interesting spots.

But since I was going to walk, it was doubtful whether I would reach even one.

Passing the bend at Cairn Hill, I met some monkeys  sipping water from a small muddy pool near the road left behind from the rains. They eyed me warily while they pushed each other aside for their turn.


Later, I met some cows grazing happily at the side of the road. Besides us, there were no other pedestrians on the road, it being more of a highway. On one side were verdant green tea fields and on the other, fields being freshly sown for the next crop.


Further on was a carrot washing shed. Always delightful to watch the carrots go in muddy and come out a fresh orange. Why dont’ they do it for radish or potatoes ??


30 minutes later, I was gazing on the slopes of Mullikorai., a prosperous looking hamlet. A stream flowed through the valley below cutting through fields of cabbage and carrot. The school was freshly painted and gleamed in the evening sunshine.


The charm of small houses always attracts the eye. Brightly painted, the areas outside swept clean and tamped down,  the bare sparseness speaks of simple living and one imagines, contentment.



On my way back as I crossed the Bhavanieaswari temple;  I watched a mother sitting outside the house attached to the temple, in sweet ease with her children . How many mothers Ive heard , wishing to live again  those  simple, busy days  when their children were young and life less complicated , although life’s material riches are now more in abundance.




Stepping out

I was looking forward to May as a time of rest and being at home and pottering around but all that is getting a bit too restful . My friends are busy with visiting children or visiting their kids. The town is too crowded to drive and park and do anything much. I’ve been doing a bit too much work in the  garden with not so good consequences for my back although the garden is looking rather colorful .  So Im finding it rather painful to walk on slopes. And I’m not sure that stoicism in this case is a good thing. So haven’t been walking much either. All that is my sad story. 
Then today there was a friend setting off to the hills in the Northeast. 
And after getting over the wave of envy and resentment that washes over one when someone else seems to be doing something adventurous which we wish we had the gumption to organise ;  I thought -I am living in the damn hills after all!  So why dont I use this time to explore .
I  took the car out to the Lovedale road, parked and walked along for an hour. I got my walk on level ground on a nice well tarred road which contrasts with our pot hole ridden one ; a new place to explore, velvety green tea fields on one side, tall trees on another, vistas of train track and tunnels.
Most of all there was the joy of stepping out of my usual ruts . It takes a little leap to do something new, to go somewhere new… and to do it alone. And the happiness in overcoming inner resistance to actually do something a little difficult is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
 Somewhere new I promised myself every day of this week.
In the rush of leaving I had left my phone behind, so there was no stopping to take photographs. Another time!

Feeling The Earth

IMG_2942This is one of my favorite days of the year – the day when we re-pot the plants.  We sit in the sunny garden the whole day and go through a cycle of replenishment  and planning and hope. The pots are emptied, scoured out, washed and then filled with a happy  mix of manure, sand and soil.

We decide which plants should be split and which goes into which pot . We’ve been doing this for more than 10 years, Dhanraj , who came to help as a young teenager and still helps part time, and I. I have the book learning and he has the experience of his years in the fields with him. We’ve both learnt on the job; he to act as if he was bowing down to my superior knowledge and me to trust his green thumb even when he chops the roots rudely and shoves the plant carelessly into the soil.

The pots recall a number of stories. Some of them are from the times long ago, when as a green girl,  I used to go to the market and buy the pots and lug them home anxiously in  a bag.  Some from a time when the house was newly built and money was very tight but a visiting niece persuaded me to buy all, all the pots a vendor was carrying on his head right on our road. A couple of tiny pots from a train ride up north when Laloo Prasad created an outlet for potters by selling tea in terracota  cups on trains. A bunch of small pots used for serving kulfi when my brother in law and sister ran a take away catering service. Some rounded pots used for the children’s wedding ceremonies. A couple painted by my sister and filched from her, when she wasn’t looking.  Some gifted by a friend who was leaving town. It is like looking through  a photo album.

The process usually takes place in January; the feeding of the soil and the planting of new seedlings so it will all burst gloriously into flower in May – the Season. A British relic, of course, that all we Ootyians  embrace.  Some of the more serious gardeners will compete in the Flower show. We have no such ambitions.  Enough if the plants flourish and flower and amaze us and our visitors .Till then we will anxiously water and potter and nourish the garden.

In June, when the rains set in  and we are driven indoors, we let ourselves be enveloped by other concerns and allow Mother Nature to  take over. Slowly , all those boundaries and edges and demarcations disappear  and the garden settles into a green wilderness  which is relaxing and restful. We  make occasional forays into weeding  and pruning but our hearts are not really there. The work will begin once more, truly in January when the compost rots to the perfect pitch in the shed of the cow herd.

Quiet kingdom

Domestic bliss may be bucolic but I am certainly enjoying chewing the cud right now. Cleaning house, rearranging, throwing out or giving away stuff is very therapeutic; leaves you in an illusion that life is under control. And that you are achieving something each day.

Its’ been more than a year since I paid any attention to the house. A pregnancy, an engagement followed by a wedding, a new baby who occupied the whole house, masked armed intruders, hospital visits and visitors , a trip abroad … the year has been so full of life that  the background to living  – the house- has just been that ;  a background that served.

Now, Im really trying to see  the objects around and see if they are necessary or useful. Beautiful, very little. Sentimental, lots. I remove at least one thing from each shelf I clean. And I’ve given away a water filter,  a set of floppy disks (yes, I am blushing) … and been tearing up reams of bills and paper.

It came to me that it doesn’t make sense to keep ‘one-sided- paper’  any more. There’s no one to use reams to work out problems. And kids don’t want this old stuff. And as for the  stacks of sweetly patterned paper – letters are so much in the past.

The questions you should ask while doing a clearing up process are according to Unclutterer 

Is everything in its best place? Does everything still have room for storage? Are the items you’re accessing most frequently in the most convenient to reach locations? Are items you’re not accessing very often in the less convenient to reach locations? Is there anything you need to do to improve your initial organizing efforts?

I don’t think I am using so much of my brain for each decision but as the cupboards get emptier, its heavenly.

I now have monthly shopping lists printed out, where I can smartly tick off items as they get over;  weekly shopping lists which are coordinated with weekly menus.. its an organizational high.

But what I’ve learnt is, while  having neat plans is good, life teaches you that you need more to handle it by throwing bouncers into your plans.  For instance, power shut down ruined my plan of the day  of getting the weekly quota of idli batter ready and  the next day , a falling tree extended  the power cut.

Drawing up plans is nice but learning to deal with the mixups needs more grace. Especially when one has to go help with a sick aunt four days after one lands back home. That showed me how far I need  to travel on the road to acceptance and grace.

Im loath to add any more layers to my life right now, but leaven it , people and incidents will.  Meanwhile, trying  to set routines and menus is nice, even if I don’t follow them a great deal .

Deepavali good times

This was obviously last week. But still gives happiness so Im in recall.

In a burst of energy, I made gulab jamuns, badam halwa, murruku and thengai burphy ( in decreasing order of success). The murukku was a first time trial and I was very surprised at how easy it can be.

Since I was sharing my limited stock with only half a dozen people, I took some trouble over the packing.  I went shopping for plastic jars and ended up with those green glass ones which looked much better. Serendipity was  being inspired to buy small candle holders , filling them with badam halwa and covering the glasses with cling wrap. Im still a bit overwhelmed with my brilliance.

And actually delivering the goods took a whole day, having been rather out of circulation for a while.

So I had my fun tripled – cooking, shopping and visiting.

I must say, all the effort was greatly appreciated. In store bought, driver delivered deepavali-times, home made stuff is hot stuff.




Siragugal spreads its wings

Today is a very special day.

A dream, a vision coming true after a long while.

We found our space for our library, did the puja this morning and shifted all the books we’ve been collecting over 2 years this afternoon. Like a good Mani Ratnam movie, the skies poured in the background but who cared. All the members of our little NGO were elated and we discussed plans long past lunchtime.  Activities, book readings, story telling, contacting the schools, publicity to reach village schools, everyone was bubbling over.

Everything happens at the time it is meant to happen’… Maybe this is true. For the past two years we have been pursuing  Collectors, CEOs, Headmasters,  Councillors in the hope that someone would give us room to open a free children’s library. Commercial space didn’t fit into our small  budget.  We would get promises which would fizzle out.

Finally this space, which does fit into our budget and suits us in so many ways. We saw it last Sat, and less than a week later we are in.

Siragugal is taking off.

warm and fuzzy

Two friends from school days came to visit.  Intelligent, curious , a zest for life and fun. With true friends, defences don’t exist.  You just are. Fat, thin, rich, poor.. ..nothing matters except joy. Being together in a very carefree way.

We talked and laughed and talked. A little about children and less about husbands. A lot about the aging parent in our lives . About friends and happenings.  About the recent trip to Kumbakonam they had taken with another friend and recounted so well by Meena here.  Meena and Miriam insisted on eating things from the garden, garden fresh so to speak, raising alarm in my conservative soul.

We didn’t take photographs which would have been nice for this blog post. And the food was very simple too. With two fantastic cooks and hostesses around, there is no buzz to compete. Maybe there is an internal letting go, which is good.

Meena’ s mother is going into surgery today. And that she had made the time to come and visit speaks a lot about her. We have to live for ourselves, stop worrying about what others think and do what is good for us’. Great motto for the fifties.

Wheels in the head

Im afraid this blog is going to take a nasty, self-congrajulatory turn.. this post at least.

Today, I got onto a two-wheeler and did some tooling around the roads of Chennai while the rest of the traffic whizzed by and around. It felt good to break a mental barrier and know I could do it. Guessing my way around one-way roads, figuring out lanes of traffic and of course, driving a two wheeler after a long while. It does come back and feels very good, to get from one place to another- fast and on your own.

Zipping along in a vehicle does give one a heady feeling of being in command… and maybe that is why men/boys take to it so easily. For  women folk, its more a skill to be mastered which  helps with all the other stuff we keep doing. How many of us actually drool over the acceleration and power under the hood? Maybe we never drooled over arrowheads and straight spears and that’s why we don’t really take off on injection fuel systems or miles per litre.

Still, its good to have those wheels.

Do you recall the last time you wanted to do something so intensely but fear got in your way? We all have those moments when we are enthralled with an idea only to have fear prevent us from moving forward…..” from Nadia-Ballas-Rutta on a good post on Overcoming Fear at Think Simple Now

The 5 Duties

I’d gone to meet a lady tailor/designer and she told me about the 5 duties of Man.

1)      Give thanks: Be grateful for what you have. Think this one often. “ I am open to all the abundance and riches in the world. Everything I need I have and everything that I want comes to me.”  Saying affirmations may sound like the thoughts of simplistic mind. But research has proved that positive thoughts are mood lifting. Which influences behavior. And creates a positive flow. Riches do seem to flow to people who already, in other people’s eyes, have abundance.

2)      Think of your ancestors: While this may sound like brahminical mumbo-jumbo ; it really means be grateful  and be aware of  what you have inherited in the form of money, objects, genes and your environment. ‘The first educated person in a family lifts the family out of where they have been’. Your parents have made you what you are by their hard work. Thank your parents for all that they are and all that they have given you. Respect the elderly, learn from them and be kind to them.

3)      Appreciate Nature: Look at all the plants and trees around you and enjoy them. Be grateful that they exist. Try to spend a little time everyday in touch with the earth. Cultivate some plants. Or just go out and breathe in the fresh air and think of the plants that are giving you the oxygen that you breathe in. And supply a great deal of the food you eat.

4)      Be Kind to Animals and to all lower orders: The food chain and our environmental systems wouldn’t work without them. Be appreciative of the miracles of nature.

5)      Make each act an offering to God: Do your duty well without too much focus on the reward it will bring. Every little act that you do, every chore, do without resentment and perform it as well as you can. Think of each job, even something as simple as wiping a table as a service to God, an offering.

Do not do any work as a chore but as a joyful opportunity to serve Him or Her.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

A beautiful day. One when we give thanks for blue skies, fluffy clouds, green grass , distant hills and a sofa to lie on and look at  it all lazily.

This  view is through  window glass which is why it is not too clear. The greys of the past month has made this day and view doubly precious.

I spent most of the day outside the house. Some of the time with a friend. We went to have passport sized photos taken. Having formal photos taken  is like shoe shopping. You know the results will leave you feeling rather unsatisfied   and wishful for something better……but still you hope this time , a magical transformation will make you look glamorous. Oh well, next time.

I had been eyeing this cheery solar cell powered little thingamajig  for the  car dash for some time in the shop window. And not buying it. But my friend stepped right in and got it for me. ‘ Gratifying those small wishes go a long way in brightening our days’, she said.  I’m extremely glad.