“Flowers for you”

If it weren’t for a pandemic, I wouldn’t have received this bunch of saptaparni flowers from a fruit vendor. I’d most likely be out at work or at the institute at that hour. A lock down rearrangement has made place for work and play, with greater flexibility. There are days I work in the morning and then there are days I spend the first half outdoors. Leisure first then work or vice versa.

The fruit seller had seen me admire the flowers a few nights ago and was amused at my fascination. The hour was late, he was packing up but we exchanged a few words about their lovely scent. He mentioned that it drove him mad at times, it is indeed a maddening fragrance. They’re blooming early this year, I’ve usually seen them around Navratri time. Yesterday morning I walked by again just to meet the tree and he snapped off a branch and handed me these bewitching beauties. They are wonderfully fragrant especially in the nights. They go by the botanical name of alstonia scholaris or the common Devil’s tree or Blackboard tree. There’s a lovely compilation on it that I came across which covers some of the traditions associated with it from across the country.

The weekend that passed was a leisurely one meeting friends over coffee and Ganesh Chaturthi sweets. The picture above is from a friend’s home, she is an artist and makes beautiful paintings in the Thanjavur style. The Ganesha in the image is one of her earlier creations.

Some of it was also spent meandering along the sullied rivers of Pune watching our winged friends. There were dozens of them although I couldn’t get any clear pictures on the phone. Cormorants, egrets, kites, herons and the usual smaller ones. The Mula and Mutha are in full flow now and the sound of their waters is mesmerizing. Recently, I saw a movie which had frames of the sea against a cliff and I recalled the sounds of crashing waves at another rocky beach. It’s a treacherous drawing in, the combination of sound and movement. Almost hypnotic and there are times I imagine them saying dive in. Nature’s fury has a wild, raw beauty- dangerous as it is mesmerizing.

Lest it seem like it’s all play and no work, the days have an ‘easy busy’ (like a recent professional acquaintance termed it) nature as far as my professional commitments are concerned. A rather incidental fall into teaching also happened a few months ago and I discovered that I enjoy the process of sharing what I have learned. It is a deep contentment to see eyes light up when others experience the awakening and awareness of their own bodies. It has made me a better student too. Despite the devastation and loss wreaked by the pandemic, there have been gifts, like an unfettering in the way we work, learn and play.

It’s a beautiful world

What a beautiful world we inhabit!

Lately the walks have been sporadic considering the extremely wet weather. There have been the odd late night ambles and some highway tripping though. The latter was an absolute delight, long stretches of pitch dark and very little traffic. This evening, I went for a short walk and it was another one of those bursting with happy kind of days. Just at the sheer pleasure of being alive and being able to enjoy the lavish spread of nature. The green is lush and walking under their cover is incredibly rejuvenating.

Inspite of all that we’ve ravaged, there’s still so much magic in every step. From rot to ripe, a continuous cycle of rebirths. Seed to fruit and back, endlessly. The same in the animal kingdom with species continuing to keep themselves continuous. Endless procreation in their own image even as their lives get snuffed.

As I walk in the now, I’m conscious of the insignificant tiny blip of my existence against the long past of this universe as we know it today as well as the unknown length of the future. I look at the fallen leaves and imagine that hundreds or thousands of years from now, some one may unearth fossils from this ordinary piece of land and imagine how things would have been in 2020, the year of corona. What would a world in 3000 look like? What imprints would our species carry into that millenium?

Some sights from today as I walked with a skip in my step and music on my lips. It’s so easy to slip into a make-believe world. 🙂

Unfolded. Refolded.

Sarees were a constant until a couple of months ago when I traded them for shorts or pants depending on whether it was yoga or walking. Monsoon days also mean longer drying time for clothes and cotton sarees take their own sweet time. I’d still wear them for some online meetings but largely they remained in the dark confines of my cupboard. Today afternoon was spent refolding them, something I do every few months to prevent them from developing fold marks.

It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. As I unfolded and refolded them, they reminded me of many people, experiences and thoughts. I was reminded of the days when I would post regularly on IG and some of the lovely people I got to know thanks to a common love for the six yards. Some of the sarees were bought on travels, some from the saree seller who would come home every few months, many were gifts, some were shared, some were mother’s and a few of them were from a stranger I haven’t even met! The last lot were vintage sarees, over 50 years old and found their way to me via a rather circuitous route- NY to Montreal to Toronto to Bombay to Pune.

There were two easy breezy mul cotton sarees on the line today thanks to a respite in the rain and as they fluttered, I wandered through the sarees that have come to occupy space in my shelves. Unlike other clothes, the six yards somehow hold memory more firmly. Some of them happy and a few that also hold darkness but that is the fabric of life. A little of this and a little of that.

A couple of days ago, I wore a Sambalpuri ikat with the most gorgeous design of fauna and flora on its body. A jeweled green and red, this one was an impulse purchase on one of my trips out of town. The technique is a marvelous one of mathematical precision and craftsmanship. Ikats look identical on both sides. Most of the designs are drawn from nature and motifs include flowers and leaves, peacocks and elephants, lions etc. The single ikats are a tricky proposition but the double ikats are even more mind boggling. Both the warp and weft are dyed in the desired designs before being woven. They are not unique to India and the form has been practiced across different regions like South America, Central and South East Asia. Truly art that can be worn. Even within the country, there are different clusters that have their unique style, like the Patan Patolas or Pochampally ikats or Chinnalapatti silk cottons.

A closer look at the motifs

This country is rich in its textile heritage and the sheer diversity is staggering. It’s interesting to trace the way techniques have crisscrossed the country, a perpetual assimilation that continues to this day. Some of the migrations have been slow and organic while others have been a violent clash. I’m partial to the soft cottons from the south or then the light as air taants from Bengal which are perfect for our tropical summers. My favourite though remains the kora kasavu from the land of my foremothers for its timeless elegance.



“I wouldn’t be Lorena without my skirt.”

Running films do something inside, they give rise to an ache and a firing up simultaneously. It is a sport alright but it is also something more fundamental at its core, a way to go beyond limitations. As a novice runner a few years ago, Born to Run was the first running book I read when I was nursing an injury. A few weeks after I started running, I fell and tore the ligaments on both sides of my foot pretty badly, necessitating a cast and a longish recovery. It was frustrating to have a grinding halt just when I had begun to run 5ks with ease and was enjoying their rhythm. That’s when my running mentor and friend gave me ‘Born to Run’ and I devoured the book as I waited out the injury. Perhaps that’s when the seed of running barefoot was planted although it took a while before I ditched the shoes.

Yesterday, I watched Lorena and it took me back to that book and the heady days of running. The film reminded me of the silence that would come after a long run. Before I learned to quiet the mind in less exhausting ways, running long and far was a way of emptying it. On the ground, there is nothing but one foot in front of the other and the swing of arms and a head full of chatter which settles into calm as the body and breath finds its rhythm. Walking is different, it slows thoughts to pick them at leisure, atleast the kind of ambling I indulge in.

The film speaks in the whispers of silence. As a composition, the movie is in the nature of an observation or contemplation, a looking from the outside into the quiet of an ultra-marathoner. The landscapes speak more than the individuals and give a glimpse into their stoicism, Resilience and quiet certainty of their lives. They make the threads of the 30 minutes and the rare smiles that the ultra runner flashes light up the screen as brightly as her yellow skirt. Running strips one of all that is unnecessary and some days the longing for it is almost unbearable.

image courtesy: Wikipedia

There’s one place where she impishly comments on her clothing during runs, “I wouldn’t be Lorena without my skirt.” In one section, she lifts her skirt and runs while swinging it in rhythm, an unconscious action but such a fluid one. Her footwear is a pair of humble sandals that remind me of the rain shoes we use to wear to school during the monsoons in Bombay. It was an aberration in the uniformity that was the norm otherwise in the school. We could wear any rain shoes as long as it was black but every other element of the school uniform was the same for all the kids. The pandemic has put a halt to walking barefoot outside considering that our roads are not the most hygienic of spaces.

The days have been full and incidentally work has been about a film as well. We were meant to shoot in the last week of March and then the lock down happened. Finally, we shoot today and I’m looking forward to watching some young talent do their magic. It didn’t strike me until today that it is a Saturday and a national holiday. These days have blurred the separation lines between work and home but strangely, I find the work-life balance better now.

Sunday Morning To-Do vs Did

Made a To-Do List and proceeded to do none of the tasks on it.


  • cooked and ate a piping hot khichdi with bhindi, liberally garnished with ghee
  • watched birds and butterflies, buffaloes and dogs from my balcony
  • pretended to tidy up but only shifted books from one side to the other
  • read pages of said books 
  • washed the house with music


Not a bad Sunday morning at all.

This Season

This season stirs the rain, reminding that the wet’s fury will soon be gone, prodded along by winds that hurry to find their break. It is the beginning of a season of festivals and will continue across months until it culminates in fireworks marking the turn of another season. There are festivities across the length and breadth of the country, all accompanied by flowers and foods of the season, offerings and benedictions, passed on from generation to generation. Some homes ring with peals of tradition while others bristle against it.

This season stirs more than rain, it whips up memories of a mute month by the sea. The grey skies blur into grey waters or is it the other way around? Perhaps, it is best not to find out. The ambiguity is better, a blending into rather than a separation. The seas are rough, their dance too wild for domesticated festivities. It is the season of storms and the sea has to spend herself, so she whips herself into a frothing that will die multiple deaths on the sand. Her churn is restless and sometimes you can hear her wails that beckon you to walk unarmed into her reckless bruising. Some have been known to succumb to her beguiling calls. Maybe beneath the undulating unrest, there is silence, comfort and stillness like in the womb.

This season stirs torrents, banks that overflow and floods that lay stake to the right to devour- in the sky, on the ground. It also feeds, a lush feeding of greens that are goaded into awakenings. Shraavan’s rain is the mother of all things that birth in the soil but a capricious one that will leave her offspring to the vagaries of the next seasons. The price for making a verdant world- lives demanded through uncontrollable waters or claimed by millions of invisible fevers festered in winds. It is just the way of the seasons, always has been.

Birth, Growth or Death. Awake, Dreaming or Sleep. Morning, Night or twilight. Earth, Heavens or the nether worlds. In threes. The trinity of creation, sustenance and destruction. A three sided coin that is the currency of existence.

The luxury of being all on my own

And just like that I find myself with the luxury of complete solitude. An empty house, a clean one and all the time in the world. I took the day off work today and let the hours unfurl at their ease. Like the fox tells the little prince, “it is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” And important it was, I saw a rainbow, smiled at the sun and enjoyed a nap before lunch. Without child or mother, I was a teenager left to her own devices. Swathes of nothing time and short, meaningful stretches of listening and reading. Days as these, my tongue forgets to speak, to make shapes of words. Maybe we never really do quite grow up, we just play at being adults.

Actually 2 rainbows

This morning, I got to know that Mr. M passed away due to Covid-19. He was a stocky man, old but one could never quite make out his age. (He was 72.) Energetic, strong and quiet, he was always willing to help and served quietly. He used to assist at the yoga institute since the 70s and was a familiar face to all of us students. I’ve been the recipient of his sharp eye and gentle compassion. Every time I adjust myself or someone else in one of the poses he corrected me in, I remember his attention to detail and not losing on the basics. Some day when the institute opens and I go back to the large hall to help out, I will miss his presence, him in his shorts hoisted high up on the waist and white vest. He’d slip in quietly with his old fashioned bag that would hold his regular clothes. Before class or after, he would often be seen draped on one of the props and resting. M is indelibly associated with one of the long standing students, an elderly gentleman who would always be assisted into the various supported asanas by him. I wonder who will adjust the old man now. And then a stray selfish thought, when can I go back to the large hall and breathe in its cool air and feel the touch of the cold floor.

I also stumbled on the story of Mr. Ripple and it reminded me of Kailash, the gola wala who would frequent the lane where I used to live. One afternoon, I ran down to speak to him when I heard his bell, I needed to know his story. You could read about him here. The upturned and locked handcarts I saw today reminded me of him too, he would get his impounded every once in a while and would often arrange for another one rather than getting it back.

In today’s unplannedness, I also ate a delicious masala dosa at the little joint I would frequent pre lock down. Of course, it was washed down with a piping hot filter coffee. It’s an outdoor space with sufficient space between tables and not too many diners now. Pre-pandemic, the place would be packed and like any self-respecting small joint, would not encourage lounging around. Today, I sat and enjoyed the sounds of the rain and the sun as they played together for a long while before heading back home.

A hearse in front of me

Death, life, living and in all this, I find a quiet meditation, a refrain that our lives are meant to be lived in joy. It’s not a happiness borne of things or accomplishments, just the deep contentment of being fully alive, the satisfaction of service. The words of B.K.S Iyengar say it best, ‘Live happily, Die majestically’. Much of living is an exercise in productivity, accomplishment, getting somewhere. So, we study, work, plan and do the adult thing and forget to lavish time on things that have no purpose save that we enjoy them, they are the sap of our lives.