Clouded Views

Drives across the vast freeways of the USA can get you present to ‘size’ in a special way. The cars are large. The roads are wide. The billboards are wider. And if you stop for a bite, the portions can serve you for a lifetime. Or two.

But there is another reason that I like them for: the view of the sky. The Sun stays up and shiny till 8.30 PM. The blue shades of dusk that stretches beyond, like a reluctant goodbye of a loved one at an airport. When you drive into the setting Sun, you get an inviting view of the clouds. It is magical.

On one such trip, the little miss shouted out, “Snow White” pointing to an array of clouds. I looked in her array of clouds and found no “snow white’. At best, it looked like some full grown cauliflower.  I said, “I don’t see any Snow White“.

At first, she withdrew in silence and then, said, “Don’t be silly Appa”. Can you see the head there? And the body and the legs. She is bending over searching for something. I can also see her scarf. Can you not see?”

I looked harder and deeper. A head emerged and I could imagine that it belonged to Snow White. I could not see her bending or the legs or the body. Or the scarf for that matter. “I can see the head”, I said. In all honesty.

“If you can see the head, you can see more Appa. Try”. She said.

The wind was playing a cruel trick and before I could see any further the clouds were rearranging themselves. Snow White was gone even before I could place her fully.

In a bit, there was a new cloud array. A quick dash question came my way. “What do YOU see now, Appa?” It became a super game and kept chipping away from the familiarity induced boredom that the vast roads bring along.

Intermittent to her questions and my answers, I kept thinking of how sure she was about what she saw. And how I just couldn’t see what she saw without some prodding and help from her.

It reminded me of what I needed to do more of.  Perhaps what the world needs to do more of as well.  To try and see what others see even if at first, we cannot do so. To help others see what we see, even when they refuse to do so. That is building perspective! And to understand the clouds will move with the winds and the wind will keep a relentless pace.

Long after it was all over and as I was tucking her in at night, she asked what the clouds were doing just then. “They must be playing their games”.

“Will they be good Appa?”

“I don’t know. But we soon will know”

“Why Appa?”, she asked. With an inquisitive arch of the brow.

“Because”, I said, “it soon will be dawn”.



Monsoon showers

There is something about rain. As its constant pitter-patter rattles the window and shakes the thin steel sill. It began with a drizzle a while back. As the two arms move with ferocity on the watch dial, the drizzle has morphed into an ominous thunderstorm. Gusts of wind announce their presence by a ‘whoo’ noise that tears in through a crack in the window. Just like a scene straight out of horror movies. The ‘whoooo’ that precipitates the entry of a ghost or a grand ending!

Today, the horror movies run only in the mind, if they run at all. The wind continues to drive more drops of rain to the window with a ferocity that could be compared to the hunger of a famished jungle cat. The tea in the cup is fast exchanging some of its warmth for some chill in the air. The clock ticks in the background. It is surprising how the sound of the ticking clock reaches the ear. Beating the ‘whooo’ of the wind and the incessant pitter-patter of the rain drops marching in random splendour.

In a distance, the leaves sport a new coat of green. The rains wash away the dust and soot to the give the leaves new radiance and energy to the roots. The leaves and branches sway with recalcitrant ease. It’s some sight. A perpetual random sway of a swathe of green like an unkempt ruffle atop a drugged out rockstar on stage. These days the fields that gave the first space for the roots of the trees to spread are now paved with cement, tar and potholes. Potholes that warm up to the season by gluttonously filling up with whatever rain water that they can hold.

Beyond, the hills of Powai sprout patches of green. The washed out brown that was in vogue as the summer collection of sorts, is just about getting dismantled. Think of a mannequin in a fashion sore that’s getting a new set of clothes. The ‘Rain Collection’, if you will, is here.


A single rain drop holds on to the window grill with steely will. When it finally parts company of the grill and heads ground bound, there is almost melodramatic sadness from the separation. Like a lost love.

Meanwhile, children play. For them, the first rain is to be soaked up and wrung well. Not the sophisticated children who live in the air conditioned high-rises, relishing the freedom that ‘3d animated’ video games offer. The kids that are soaking up the rain today are real children, with life, jumping with joy. Raindrops driving away every worry on the brow. Shrill hoots and aimless running to catch other. Its a feast for the eye. The soul’s hidden thirst for such sights reveals itself in the voracious quench.

In a short while, the gusts of wind become a spent force. Suddenly a milder gentler breeze rules, in a change of guard that is smooth. The rain changes from pitter-patter mode to a drizzle-drizzle mode. Nature’s infinite assortment of ringtones never fails to impress with its variety and depth. The tea in the cup has traded its all of its warmth for a dose of chill.

Warming up to watching the rain and getting soaked to the toe is an allure that has held invitation beyond reason. There is something to the rain that elude words.

People, monsoon showers are here.

Whimsical streams

How long back did you do things on a whim?  If you point to buying a chewing gum or a magazine that was carefully placed by marketers, near the cash counter to induce a ‘whim’, well thats not counted.  You know what I mean, don’t you? Just on a whim, ‘doing’. No, don’t count ‘impulse buying’!
A friend in the village had invited me over.  I had to drive through a set of small villages. I was late but getting there as fast as I could. 

Apartment complexes gave way to single houses.  First dense back to back constructions. Then, a house amidst a set of clutch of mud walled huts. Then, huts and houses amidst green fields. Not very long after, plain green fields. They came at me unannounced, redefining ‘pristine’ and causing me to slow. 

In sometime, they went as unannounced as they came. A few barren patches, stood alone, amidst a some construction activity. 

I watched the landscape change as the roads got narrower and finally trickled down to a pathway that would barely accommodate one cycle rickshaw.  At some places potholes and patches made the road, and a semblance of a road that was there sometime back, would make an appearance now and then.  The perfect setting to elicit a set of indignant tweets and blogs if this was the state of roads in a big city! 

The road itself cared less. 

The narrow road curved and suddenly only to reveal a stream striving hard to flow. Not a soul on the road on either side. A struggling stream that was struggling to flow, yet managed to stir up a quiet breeze. A few coconut trees on the other side lent themselves and swayed just a bit. 

The promise to the friend beckoned. But nature painted such a picture of allure that a meditative trance enveloped every pore. In the next five minutes, the last remnant of mobile signal was used to call up the friend. The voice kept breaking which I took for an ominous indication of the immersive pretty picture I was in, didn’t quite like intrusions. 

I sat down beside the stream and realised that there is something to sit down beside a stream. And that it was  a long time since I had last sat beside a stream and lost count of time. Memories of sitting by more sparkling streams that were in a rush, rushed in. Every stream is its own, I realised. The state of the mind caused the real flow. 

Cows, mopeds and villagers passed me by. First dishing out a dismissive look of comical curiosity and then, ones of a mild anxiety.

In the calm of the limited flow, the stillness of the air and the jutting trees in the horizon, the beauty of the moment brought lightness that is beyond description. The load seemed to evaporate, slowly getting untethered from my soul, leaving in its wake a wistfully empty light space. 

As the stream continued to struggle and the distant trees did a mild jig in honour, a few things came alive for me. One of them, was this : Do things on a whim. They have a charm that charm can’t fully explain!  

What does it take …?

I run my hands over many layers of bark. They are sharp. I didn’t expect them to any otherwise. The bark is dry. I look up.

For a height that seems insurmountable, the bark and the wood beneath extends above my head. I arch my neck.

Many feet above, there is green.

What does it take to stand tall ? Without being upset with the wind or whining about the sun ?

What does it take to take to the withering that time brings with ease?

How does it feel to grow leaves, shed them every year, and regrow every year.

What does it take to stand tall and provide shade to the child and to the wood cutter with equanimity? Without pausing to think of how much is there to be given.

When the height is immense and the vastness so mighty, how deep must the roots run ? How much grounding is necessary for the height to stay high?

How old yet so full of life. And hope.

Why must a tear form in the corner of my eye. As I run my hands over bark and arch my neck and try to look at its zenith?

Indeed, what does it take to stand tall?

Impromptu words that flowed from a borrowed pen on to a spare tissue paper. Chancing a tree in a deep wood and thinking of appa & amma.

The grandest of them all !

Faced with this choice maze on commencing sharing of the things we saw, the food we ate, the conversations that we had and such else, some logic had to get applied to get the first topic out.

So it was, and this post is about the Grand Canyon ! Imposing.Colourful. Instilling pride in people . Yet, so close to nature. Most importantly something thats stood around for millions of years.

Here is an attempt at perspective building : Imagine building a road that is TWICE the distance of Mumbai – Pune ( which would be a four + hour drive in sane speeds and simple cars). Quickly imagine ensuring that the road is 30 kilometers wide. Yes. 30 full kilometers wide. Even before that can settle down, think of digging the ground 6000 feet to make this road !

That’s the size of the Grand Canyon. 446 kilometers long. 30 Kilometers wide. 6000 feet deep ! All engineered by mother nature’s masterstrokes. One amongst them being the Colorado river whose continuous flow is said to have created this art in the mountain with corrosion as a tool!

Logical that the posts commence with the Grand Canyon. Isnt it !?!

As we stood on the west rim of the Grand Canyon and looked at the myriad shades of crimson on a series of walls that seemed to extend forever and beyond, greed announced its arrival with a desire to take a closer look. Perhaps touch the sands of the Colorodo river? At a depth of 6000 feet?

America singularly stands out for being a land of choice. If a desire is implanted in the mind accompanied with a wherewithal to act on it, there is always a way to make it happen! At a cost. Ofcourse !

In what can be called a truly Californian moment of budgetary rashness, wringing the last dime in the wallet dry, we chose to have an unplanned helicopter ride.

The ride operators promised to fly us from the western rim of the Canyon, all the way down to base where the Colorodo river runs its meandering course. Plus, take a boat ride in the river! The allure to see the work of mother nature over time, was simply irresistible. We signed up at a speed that could have blinded Lewis Hamilton.

Every wring of the wallet was worth it. The rock pattern dramatically changes colour every few feet the chopper drops, like a synchronous seamless background screen change in a show. At the end of what seemed like an unlikely landing point, the chopper landed and we were face to face with the Colorado

The boat ride in the meandering river showed much of the continuous work at beauty by corrosion! As the June Sun showered his unmerciful rays with a protracted wistfulness, beads of sweat showed up on tanned foreheads, copious sun tan lotions notwithstanding. All of it compensated by a gluttonous feast for the eye and a strange peace in the heart !

The big eagle !

To think of the Grand Canyon a month later, still evokes the same feeling. Of an exceedingly fetching view with a history that can really show what ‘long long ago’ could mean !

Please scroll below for earlier posts on the US Trip. Or find them here

Morning ripples !

The Powai lake right here in Mumbai offers some of the most pristine e sights. Peace like a Buddhist monastery. Tranquil like a double dose of valium. And beauty like a professional photographers frame. Its just there.

On one side there is a hotel called Renaissance! (Let me not talk of irony or whatever). On other there side is the Indian Institute of Technology. On another there is a bustling road, teaming with traffic that can compete with any road for ‘The most snarl prone road in the world award’.

The bustling road opens into a residential neighbourhood which boasts of wealth (residents would file a defamation suit against me, if I hazard a guess about the quantum of wealth! For I am sure I will be off the mark by many marathon kilometers !)

Of course, the one remaining side remains what it was. Untouched. By and large.

Along the bustling road, the government and some well thinking folks have built a park and a joggers track along the banks of the lake. Complete with concrete, spaces for flower beds, children’s parks et al ! All for development you see.

It usually provide a lovely setting . A good run, looking at the hills afar, is always soothing. Blokes like me catch a run in the morning. Children soak in some shrieks of laughter in the evening. The elderly sing a few notes from memory as the moisture laden Powai air comes alive by the lake !

The lake also comes alive when its festival time. Where articles and idols that were worshipped are immersed ! Last years Ganpati Visarjan for instance, saw huge cranes help the immersion ! it’s a natural process, you see.

The IIT holds bustling thought for the future minds. In this case, there seems to have been a persistent afterthought as well !!

That’s the setting. You get the idea ! Don’t you.

Today, I run. With a lazy drizzle, muffled huffs and puffs, early morning traffic and such else for constant company! From a distance its such a pristine sight. The lake. At least one side of it. With hills and their reflection.

Today, I try and keep the buildings and their reflections away from my sight. Somehow, the hills afar seem prettier..

It is at that time I see him. Majestic and beautiful like a royal monarch inspecting his army.

I stop on my tracks. Open mouthed. Half from the run. The rest on just seeing him. I just stand and watch.

A crocodile.

A few feet away from me. Slicing through water like knife through butter. A small crowd gathers. Mostly staring. Some incessantly chatting. A lady mutters – ‘they should do something about this’.

I notice that I am nodding my head. I notice my nodding stops and my open mouth opens further, like a crocodile would, upon hearing her next statement.

“They cant let such animals live near our homes !” she says.

She could well have been a spokesperson for the crocs ! And spoken the same lines for the crocs as well.

As I stand watching the croc glide away, a shudder goes down my spine ! I wonder what I would say, if my home was encroached on by the buffalo and the bumblebee ! (Despite my home loan)

I stand there. Seeing him glide away. Hoping he will understand the pain and sense of loss some of us share. About his loss and ours too.

He continues gliding away. Somewhere in the middle of the lake where the hotel’s ‘Renaissance’ signboard’s reflection glistens in the morning waters of the otherwise still lake, is where he pauses and disappears.

There are silent ripples. That distort the reflection of ‘The Renaissance’. Perhaps reflective of us and our renaissance !

Nat Geo

Silvaasa. A three hour drive takes me here. This is a resort they call. The night we arrive in is too dark for any kind of soaking up of the place. Except perhaps of the night air. Other thoughts keep me occupied. For i am here on work.

We stay in a ‘resort’. ‘on the banks of the Daman Ganga river’, it was announced with pride. When the first rays of the sun sneaked past the cloud and the December darkness, the river showed up too.

Actually, a huge river bed shows up. The river itself is a trickle of a mix. Of water, chemical, detergent. Largely stagnant. Flowing in parts. Thats a subject for a different post though.

A few meters from the river is this huge banyan tree. This is what it says.

Eye squinting wonder pops in the mind. For this tree must have been witness to life before the Portugese came here. Of portugese rule. Of British rule. Of Indian rule.
There is wonder at the depth of the history that India holds. Every other sundry rock and seems to have along history beneath it !

Coming back to this tree, perhaps in its tall structure and broad all encompassing expanse lie stories of valour and passion. Of kindness and joy. Of meditation and activity.

How must it have been a 200 odd years ago ?

The river would have been flowing in full speed. Taking with it dead leaves and dried wood, perhaps ! The birds would have been chirping. There would have been no need for the bridge across the river.

No vehicles. No building. No resort. Perhaps some monkeys. Some snakes. But then..No TV. No multiplex. No cinema. No Facebook. No EMIs. No newspapers. No traffic jams. No border crossing. No strategy meets. No publicists.

Sitting under the banyan tree and watching the river and the world go perhaps was a National Geographic special of that age !!

‘Sage’, they say. Hmm. ‘Knowledge worthy of Gods’…Hmm !

The 24 ways !

Flowers fascinate. The whorls. The colour. The splendour of the bloom. The fragrance for the bee. The soothing for the eye. The subject for poets. As symbols of love. Sorrow. Happiness. And so on.

For my part, i have always loved flowers. And plants as well. As earlier stated, the Madurai Malli has been a personal favourite.

Many a picture has been clicked from my camera. Many an incomplete poem resides : half in paper, half in my mind. A few posts have also found their way on to this blog !
Today, i was in an institution where i spotted this.

And of course, wondered, if i can ever continue to do all what i do. Read that carefully. There are twenty-four items that the reader is asked not to do. This left me staring in open mouthed awe.

If you really wanted to do something bad to a flower or a plant, you could. Couldn’t you ! But, in 24 different ways ! Phew !

I wonder if all of this was thought through and made at one go. Or one statement over a period of time, has expanded to become as all-encompassing as possible !

And that includes ‘borrow, break, pinch..’ etc. The essence however resides in the last line. Which states ‘touch’ ! But wait a minute. How can you borrow, break, pinch, endanger, mutilate etc…without touching ?


Did they get to see my snaps ? Or worse, did they read my poems ? Did someone complain ? Or are there many like me ?

And i thought, the only thing that you could do with a flower was to let it be ! Ssshhh..! Dont say that aloud. Twenty five ways’ has a nice ring to it.

Twenty four ways are scary enough !

And so you are back.

And so you are back. After many miles of journey. Roads. Hills. Air. Air pockets. Fields. Villages. Malls. And all of that.

You are back to where you live. And you wonder how right they were. When they said ‘time flies’. You feel this time around, time took the expressway !

But then, its still isn’t long off your memory. One look at the 2500 plus snaps clicked over the 15 days, and your mind rejigs and brings to the fore the exact feeling at the moment captured on camera. You realise you itch to tell the world as many stories as there are photographs. And then you choose some in random.

Like this one. When your heart skipped a beat to see a seeming synchronicity in randomly arraigned coconut trees set against a blue backdrop on the banks of a spanking new highway. Made on agricultural land.

Or to see this man pedal his bicycle, with a lady seated behind. And wonder, when last you saw this scene. And then have your taxi driver tell you that these villagers pedal 17 kilometers one way, to reach the nearest hospital. And your eyes auto squint, thinking of life.

Or to see a far away temple set in the middle of banana plantation. And look towards the sky in awe and wonder about this concept of the ‘faith’ ! And think of the tall towers of Meenakshi temple. And then the small precincts of the family temple. And see faith standing on firm foundations.

And then, you saw stern faces stare at you as they traveled in a lorry meant for goods. And think of the stern face & heaps of abuse hurled by the passenger sitting next to you on the flight, because the air hostess didn’t respond ‘in time’

And you think of this boat. By that lake in Berijum. And reaffirm. That nature soothes a lost soul. Like no other.

And as the memory still is fresh and tumble in one after another, you realise. You are back. With new respect. For life. For living. For people. For dreams. For mother Earth. And your own self.

That you saw what others saw. Yet saw what many others didn’t.

And as you type that line, you wonder, if that sounds boastful. And then, you recall conversations with many here. Those stoical faces and ‘ah-there-you-go’ smiles. And you let that line remain.

And you know. You can go on and on. But you realise. You have got to stop somewhere, somehow. You are thankful for many things. And one of them, is for the love of readers of this blog. For that, you realise, you ought to be immensely thankful.

So you quickly end, where it all started. By stating, ‘And so, you are back’.

It seems.

Of the many wonders of the natural world, the one that occupies attention span is what seems to be the battle between man and nature. 

As man goes about burning up the forests, chewing up the last available shark, and overturning the what were mountains and diverting what were waterway, nature seems to grin and bear.  

Amidst man made smoke, machine finished roads, in the thick of concrete buildings, are natures signs of survival. At least that’s how they appear to me : Plants !!! These are not potted plants, grown for the sake of ‘greenery in the balcony’. 

These are plants that have grown with whatever was available. Clinging to the moisture that is available on the sides of drainage pipes and spreading roots into concrete. These are not creepers. These are plants that have taken root in concrete. 

And as man drains out nature’s resources, nature seems to be doing its bit by holding on to his drainage pipes.  Who will have the last laugh is a laughable question. For it doesn’t have to be asked. 

For now, the concrete towers seem to be rising. And the nature resides in the drainage pipe. Forests keep burning. The smoke keeps raising. And diplomats converge in the capitals of the world. And ofcourse, Our Environment is ‘debated‘. 

Alls well with the world.  

It Seems.