Passion Parathas

You are in Mahabalehswar. Its the middle of the afternoon. Right there in the main market. There is a hustle-bustle in the air that the chill clime seems to struggle to ward off.

You squint your eye, catch more the air and store some smell of strawberries before you head back to the plains. You have told colleagues who would care to listen that you have gone there to ‘renew’ yourself.

There is a chatter in the air. Sound of cameras clicking. Of Bargain and memento hunters and odd tractor.

Shopkeepers invite you to buy trinkets and trumpets with an ease and swank of sophisticated socialites slipping from subject to subject in another sundry party that would get a Page 3 feature!

Amidst all the chatter, noise and sights, a song reaches your ear. Its not melodious. Its not classical. You don’t know, for you are not trained. But you don’t think it can be classical music. You are sure it perhaps will not pass the muster of the entrance gate of a music studio. Or perhaps it could.

All the same, the song grips you.

You look around. Without too much difficulty you spot the singer. An man kneading dough and making parathas. At the restaurant nearby !

You spot a small crowd outside the restaurant. They seem to be standing there to watch him make parathas. You wonder what attracts the crowd !

You wonder if its the man. A well built man singing loud enough for the market to hear is not common sight. But you realise quickly,its not about him.

You wonder if it is his antics that attract people. Antics. Of tossing up the dough. Catching it. Tossing it into the Tandoor. Picking it right back tossing it back to find the plate, so much so that it could put an established marksman to shame !

Singing all through.

You aren’t sure. Perhaps, perhaps…you think, its the song. You smile. You realise. You nod your head.

Its not the song. Yet. It is the song.

There is a song that the lips sing, when the heart is ‘in’ what you do. You don’t realise that you are singing. When they say, ‘you really are on a song’.

It doesn’t matter, what you do. Arranging clothes in a retail store, keeping books in a bank, making movies or composing music ! Or for that matter, making parathas for people that you don’t know. Or know.

When you are on a song, it shows.

You smile. You know whats missing in life. Realisation that what you were looking for is right here. You feel light.

You squint your eyes, tilt your head and ask yourself… when was the last time you were on a song !?!

Horses for Courses – Part II

Part – I, had fantastic response. So, Staying with horses!

Speaking of horses, hill stations provide you with plenty. Albeit these are horses who humour tourists. The loud children, big men and women, all perhaps in search of some interim pleasure. “Can we go ‘horse riding’ ” is not to be read as a question, but as an indication of an activity whose time has come !

The point really is these are horses who run the same dirt track every day. With an odd tourist in every shape and size. Done without complaints. And done without fuzz.

You can excuse the odd neighs and sundry gallop in the wrong direction. ( Somewhere they ought to be like us, right ?) All that is commonplace.

At Mahabaleshwar though, they have names to the horses.

Names like

John Ibr.
Munna Bhai.

And the chaps that sell rides, proclaim to the world, ‘ How about a ride on Salman ‘ ? Well. Hmm. Now, i love horses. But that marketing pitch didn’t quite resonate well with me. A rose is a rose is a rose. Yes. That’s true. And, in this case it was a horse.

But you know, when i did ride, two things made it uncomfortable. I am an occasional tourist and a rarer horse rider. Ofcourse, the butt didnt take the steady cantor pleasantly.

The other i guess was in my own mind. ” Riding ‘Salman’ ” wasn’t exactly my idea of a holiday. And then, just as i was dismounting and ruing the lack of a clear and steady mind, ‘Sir, would you want to try Bipasha’ said a big gent with another white horse.

And Bipasha snorted. I guess in wholesome disapproval.

The next day, as i took a walk, Bipasha, Salman, Shaheed and the gang, were all being given their bath. Their name tag identities lying besides them. And not on them.

And suddenly, they seemed who they truly were. Simple beautiful living creatures.

I clicked many times. ‘Pics of Salman, Shaheed, Bipasha et al having a bath by the river’ would be a blog title that could cause such a spike in Internet traffic that the world could have to come to a halt.

The horses couldn’t care less. Any more than a vigorous shake of a fresh white head ! And that was to swat a fly !

Monkey Business

clicked at Kates Point, Mahabalehswar

My understanding of Hindi is as smattering inconsistent as predicting a branch on which a lunatic monkey would land. But this one i could follow. Something to the effect of

‘Enjoy. Nuts for monkeys available here. Throw nuts, click a snap, do a good / worthy deed. One packet : Rs. 5/-)

This is as close as it can get to ‘single feature – multiple benefit’ lessons taught in sales training programs ! Human ingenuity can sound psychologically pre-pubescent. But hey, it can get the job done !

The next time you find yourself with a pack of nuts, find a place next to the monkeys. And you know what to do ! Holler from the roof. In the name of photography, art, good cause, place in heaven, price et al. And of course,monkeys !

My diatribe continued, and just as it was falling in familiar ears of the wife and a few other friends, the monkeys decided to take matters (each other) into their own hands! A couple scratched, stretched, rolled over, squeaked, and just went about their business with a special zeal, as though the Pope was in the audience.

Have you noticed that a monkey elicits a longer stare than most other animals that one is used to see often. Perhaps the close ancestral lineage causes us humans to stand and stare at a lost connection. This couple was no exception.

A crowd gathered to watch. And in no time, a hundred clicks followed. And a few were mine. For a moment they stopped. Looked around. Perhaps wondering what all the commotion was about.

And then, nonchalantly, went after a banana that a young girl held in her hand. Shrieks followed. In a few moments, the monkey first couple got a new perch. Right atop the board which stated the multiple benefits of buying a pack of nuts for Rs.5/- !!

Marketing’s woes in recessionary times seem to have been scented by the monkeys too ! And oh yes, the first couple had a banana in hand. That banana that was held till very recently held by the girl with the shrill shriek !

And now a question for you : Can this i call this a free show !?! So much for good deed and good thoughts, for all of Rs.5/- !

One morning at Mahabaleshwar !

The still chill morning air of Mahabaleshwar was inviting. Inviting enough for me to ensure i won a battle with slumber and was out on the road that you see here. Of course with the camera slung across the shoulder and wife in tow !

We marvel at the birds chirping. In the silence of the morning, many new sounds come alive. Like a distant rustle of the undergrowth. The swoosh of the shaking tree, long after a bird left its perch. A dog urinates in a distance with gay abandon.

Today, there is just nobody on this road. Just me. My wife. My camera. And a great passion to soak up that morning spirit and perhaps capture as many images as the camera would allow and perhaps have simple conversation.

We walk. And walk. And walk. I notice we talk less.

I spot a bird sitting right up on a tree. In complete serenity and comfort. I take aim. A few snaps later, i zoom in. Suddenly his head pops up. He looks in all directions and with a great hurry flies off. I wonder why. The camera was silent. So was my I. So was the misssus. Then ?

We continue our walk. I see a unique flower in royal splendour. I try hard to get all of it on the camera. With a focussed mind, arched back, squinted eyes and a mild tremble in the hand.

And then I begin to hear movement. Some rumble. At that moment, up ahead where the road curves, i spot two men jog towards us. I shake my head. ‘Ah. The fitness types.’ I think.

And return to look at the flower by the road, through the lens of the Canon.We hear a dog bark. A loud bark. The beauty of the flower overrides the ferocity of the bark. I continue staying where i was.

Click. Click. Click. As though moving an inch here or there would cause the flower to wilt !

And then i hear engines. A distinct slow yet steady engine. Engines. I look up from the flower, wincing at the noise. I notice that the stick in my craw, happen to be the two gentlemen who are jogging towards me, followed by two monstrous Land Cruisers at a steady trot.

With a sardonic wince at the interruption to a quiet morning, i go back to the beloved yellow flower. Only to be disturbed by louder barks. Boww Boww Boww ! The barks go.

Now i am alarmed. I look away from the flower. And then at the two men running towards us. Followed by those oversized white vehicles on this narrow road. I still am looking for those dogs.

At that instant, one of the two men, a big burly fellow, shouts. ‘Boww’. ‘Oww’. ‘Boww’ ! I am now really alarmed. I pay real atttention to the two men now.

The one running ahead is in a red tracksuit. Goggles. et al. The big burly fellow is in a safari suit. At that instant something strikes my infantile mind. I look at the chap in the red track suit with a lot more intent to identify.

Anil Ambani !

Ah. I think. In a few seconds, he passes us by in brisk pace. Followed by the big burly gent in a safari suit, shouting like a dog. At 6.15 in the morning.

And then, the first big car passes us. And then, the next one does. A few pairs of eyes look at us from within. An egregious air permeates what was pristine, just a few minutes before.

With a vengeance i return to my beloved yellow flower. My mind still with Anil Ambani and his safari clad mimicry artist. “Who does he think he is ? The world is not his. Where is equality ? ” and such other sundry questions race to the forefront.

And then i look in his direction. By now, I can only see the backs of those big cars. And think of his life. How must it be to have a truck load of guns following you when you go for a morning walk, i think.

I pity the man. Not that he has asked for any. And not that he will have any value for it. But this is what i feel. I wince through the lens. The yellow flower is shaping up well.

And then i think, ‘what does he have that i dont?’

Well other than, those mimicry artists, huge cars, billions and a mention every other day in every other news paper worth its name, nothing much. Ofcourse, thats not including a fueding brother and a saddened mother!

Click. Click. I get the yellow flower. It looks pretty good.

I wonder if i would like to trade places with this gent.

Not that his place is on offer. Neither is mine! I vehemently shake my head. Of course not. “mera pass ‘peace of mind hai’ ! ( I have peace of mind) !

Anil Ambani and his entourage must be far away. I dont hear them. And where the road takes another curve, there is a new flower i spot. With a dew drop tethered to it by sheer magic. My sentient camera readies.

I am glad i saw him. For suddenly, i seem to relish the dew drop more.

A Diwali that was besides the point !

Deepavali or Diwali. This year, it was markedly different for me. For us. For the first time in our lives, we chose to embrace the festivity with a ‘getaway spirit’ than a ‘stay and splurge’ spirit. So we chose to drive away into the mountain whorls of the Western Ghats. And headed to Mahabaleshwar.

The stillness of the morning air. The smooth chill. The green. The no-network coverage for mobile phones. The well laid out roads. Mother nature’s inviting green & pristine colours. And the need to just put a leg up in the air and reflect on whats been and what will be. The scent that the winds would carry in the near and far seasons perhaps need a quieter sniffing.

That to me was good. All good. Diwali after all is the spirit of victory of good over evil. Isn’t it. ( OK, I grant it. ‘Strawberry with cream’ is definitely EVIL. But that’s an indulgent evil, if that was some consolation !

Getting away for four days was good. But getting back to spots of road that are present amids roads of potholes, concrete ‘uprisings’, the computer, killer news ridden news papers et al has been quite an effort.

But the days spent in quiet hibernation seems to give me momentum. The open space, fresh air, star filled skies have evoked a spirit that says, ‘a difference can be made’ !

So, this Diwali, we were bereft of a slew of things. New clothes and calorie rich spirit and smoke ridden happiness and jazzy clothes and ever beeping mobile phones and ever growing ‘to-do’ lists.

But why am i feeling richer ? Is this really victory of good over evil ? hmm!! , i would like to think so.

But that really is besides the point !!! Or atleast, was besides many points. This Diwali !

Happy Diwali. Cheers for a great festive season !