Sunday, September 6, 2015

Life:the play of light and shadow

What an eventful day that was! Out on a holiday, we were my brother's family of four, my parents and me with my two daughters. In all we were nine people.The beach named Alibagh on our way back to his house in Mumbai was the milestone that was to be explored in a couple of hours before reaching home. It did not look as picture perfect as one is wont to expect from the idea of a beach. The sands looked a little unwelcoming, almost as if resentful of having to host a group of enthusiastic tourists. Or I was perhaps made to come back with this impression due to the conspiracy they were going to be a part of, against us: the elements of nature to which the sands could not have been a subdued spectator! Or so i assume!

That vast expanse of that sea stretching far into the horizon spreading and fusing into the distant sky's edge, fading out from the capacity of the normal human vision. It never fails to inspire awe in me but for that ruthless erasing by means of the familiar curiosity with a stale bit of knowledge, of the Earth being a round ball! So that edge is the last visible part of the receding round structure that creates that amazing semblance of the charitable flat surface!

Having left out footwear in the car behind, we were on to wading in the very stretched out shallow beach to the fort stationed upon an island just about five hundred meters away. There were very few souls around on that secluded beach which though was sprinkled with the local flavor of the adjacent populated areas, yet had an unusual sparse presence of people. One lonely hoardings around the beach had something written in Marathi language, thus leaving us ignorant of whatever significant or not so, put up there for the perusal of the passing by population. I only faintly recall that their was perhaps an old style horse buggi type of a ride available on the beach, along with almost a very small number of local folks visible.

Registering all that cursorily we were excitedly on our mission to be heading to our cute palace of a fort lodged fascinatingly upon that island surrounded with water, yet all so shallow that we managed to reach it within roughly fifteen minutes. It must have been an interesting walk while our feet were lodging and scavenger like finding a safe enough foothold upon the invisible surface beneath. There were some nasty surprises awaiting as my mother suddenly happened to step upon something razor sharp, that slashed her right toe ruthlessly inviting a sloshy and angry outburst of blood expressing its disapproval aggressively at that reception! It seemed inconsolably persistent in its complaint!! We were pained to see mum in that state. Having managed to tie her wound with a handkerchief that Papa was carrying , we moved upon the topmost part of the fort.They were evidently dilapidated remains of a palace of a once upon a time flourishing king perhaps. Who knows? We were more keen on sitting down with our huge tiffin and on satisfying our starving stomachs while enjoying the feel of dining at a place as exotic as that!

While we had just about been only half way through our food, I heard this strange unfamiliar siren like sound coming from the beach from where we had started. To my brother it rung a familiar bell! He categorically demanded that we pack up asap and start moving back as the sea was announced to now going to revive its tide ! Meaning it was going to be on a high tide, and not the shallow depth with which we had initially interacted. I now saw how the unusual extended stretch of the beach had a strangeness to it unfamiliar. We packed up in five minutes and began our walk back to the beach. Mum's foot was in bad pain and nevertheless she had to somehow manage.Careful to walk slow to prevent our feet from meeting similar unwelcome lancinating rocky pieces who seemed to be inhabiting that area in hideous numbers, we may have lost some precious time! Or so we realized, when within just about less then half the distance accomplished we were already more than knee deep in the water! The levels were rising!! We had to make it fast! But in the anxiety that was mounting with every advancing step, we were taking the distance that seemed shorter to the beach but as it turned out was deeper and now we were waist length immersed in those threateningly rising waters!

My brother had his five year old daughter by now safely lodged upon his shoulders astride. And my brave bhabhi had the twin son sitting on the same safty zone. My two daughters were holding my hands walking on either side almost on the verge of tears.My parents were holding on to one another by now with utterances as if of the final moments of our lives, for now the water was reaching our chest level!! Mom being the shortest and my younger one the same height that time were the deepest in the menacing waters! We didn't know what to do! We could not have helped ourselves from contemplating the state of my husband being informed about our loss like this! That too after a considerable gap of time, for who would have informed him where we had disappeared!

It was sure that we could not have sustained another 5 mins in that vertical daring momentum that the waters had challenged us with and made us haplessly hoping for mercy from quarters unknown! the fear in our hearts was mounting up.The conflict between the fact of what we were facing and wonder cropping from the deep seated sense that nothing was going to be lost and we were going to make it, was strong. I could see a strange revival of deep love that I had rarely seen between my ever bickering parents. A sense of loss for my husband, impending.

 The distance was still an intimidating one and impossible now for our petty feet that were creating craters wherever they placed themselves! People on the beach who had swelled up slightly in number were standing and watching us aghast at the plight we were reduced to wading between life and death. Having been reduced to a spectacular parade in front of them, they had now  begun shouting and screaming to pep us up and to speed up, only if there were the possibility!

Herein appeared the horse buggy wala with one more person to assist him suddenly rushing to our rescue! Were we going to heave a sigh of relief? Mumma and the kids were made to climb followed by Papa, me and bhabhi and then my bro! But Lo! The bugghi went deeper into the sands refusing to budge! For once we were blank but the next instant jumped my bhai, his wife and I who could not have remained inside in spite of their appeals. The wheels lifted out of the stuck sandy bed, and courageously pushed strong enough, to enable the light of the day finally beaming upon the faces of us all, out of those ravenous waters!! Or rather out of those kind waters who were just having some innocent fun toying with the little playthings?

Did we actually make it!! Were we actually so completely alive this moment, unlike the moment before when we were so thoroughly surrendered to our fate mocking at our petty efforts!! What a play of light and shadow by the naughty clouds was the taste of that slice of life, the memory of which still relives with the excitement of visiting the mysterious! The same moment could have meant annihilation...and here we were alive and ticking...strange feeling ...confounding explanation!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

that room of mine has so many stories....

A room of my own is perhaps a gift, the value of which I didn't realize till I talked to a recent and a very accomplished friend of mine who told me that she did not have the luxury of her own space during her formative childhood years. Just  like we  undermine so many other things that we take for granted that we are awarded without ourselves making any effort.

Oh how I felt an empathetic gush of emotion towards her when she divulged this fact, for the closeness that I feel with her. She belongs to another full fledged space for herself. Coming to the recollected vision of my favorite space, my room: the first memory that comes to me is that of the vast open sky over the terrace space that led to my very own small yet large enough territory. The sky space was also available through a window as large as a door posted in my room. It was securely partially grilled for preventive measures while allowing the upper part thoroughly free to connect to the open area outside. I remember standing there more often than not drinking from the city scape scenes outside. There were sights and sounds that greeted innocent visions now and then popping up sensational surprises. The most entertaining of the scenes were enacted by the dramatis personae I'd like you to make an attempt to guess.

Without unnecessary delay I must whisper in your ears that they were none other than troops of monkeys that harmoniously co existed with the humans in those traditional residential areas adjacent to the locally flavored bazaars. Oh what antics they would award us with every now and then! And for all the harmony that coexisted between the two species, there were only these very frequent visitations by their shrewdly demanding blackmailing  herds. All that they would very politely do was just to snatch away the clothes that would gullibly be drying up upon the unsuspecting clotheslines! And if the poor owners weren't buoyant and quick witted enough, before they would realize the clothes would be meeting a terribly mournful fate of being turned to tatters within as much as the blink of an eye! The simians would generally nevertheless end up being rewarded  with rotis or any thing for that matter temptingly edible that the owners could fish out as instantly as possible! And Lo! The clothes would mostly be parted with and dropped back while you would be looking on with utmost hope flickering through its last remnants towards any life still remaining in that outfit!!

On one instance I recall my mother bravely snatching back a very expensive shirt of my father that would otherwise have met with the same ruinous misfortune! It was about to be dying a premature death at the hands of a ravenous female monkey who knew howto get her job done. The joy of that victory is still potent enough to bring back a smile of a puffed up chest at the recollection of a warrior mom!!

One more very hilarious event that I was lucky enough to be an inadvertent spectator to was when i saw a child of about 11 or 12 years mishandled rather unceremoniously by a senior patriarch of the clan. I was just as usual ruminatively posted over the huge and expansive window of my very own room, when all of a sudden i accost this very unusual spectacle! He, the graybeard must as I assume now, had been ill treated by his wife, or perhaps his boss, oh who know's what..was definitely in a bad mental demeanor. Thus he naturally found his frustration venting itself out upon this boy so strangely! All that the poor ape did was catch hold of the boy's hair with both his hands while shaking his head to his utmost oscillatory capacity before he decided to spare him. I could almost pinch myself back to senses, or wildly rub my eyes to believe what i had just seen. It was not the normal way the aggression of monkeys was known to have expressed itself. There were serious monkey bite instances often heard. But this was a mild treat in comparison. The little boy must have been as zapped as i was just viewing the scene from my far off window!

There are numerous memories that are tumbling unstoppable as I have taken a willful dive into that lovely past, that are endearingly related to that loving, cozy, pampering, motherly room of mine. So I cannot help but promise to come back with many more sensational one's that are waiting to take off from the precipice of those nostalgic branches.

Wistfully Yours,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

All is Well That Ends well...

That day could have been the last one of my life, without whispering any such premonitions into my innocent ears! The day of one of my ultimate infantile adventures, which for all you may guess could be pedestrian from the point of view of veterans. Actually it was something that I glamorised within the heart of my hearts to venture into. I had after all heard of many, every year crossing The English Channel! If not as soaring, I could do something as simple as crossing that little stretch of the backwaters which happened to be right behind the resort that we were staying in at Kerela. And that was it.
Kerala is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is blessed with high mountains, beautiful coastlines, dense rainforest, aromatic tea, and coffee and spice plantations. The cultural heritage of Kerala goes back thousands of years, but one aspect of Kerala that I liked most during my trip was the backwaters in there.   
The thought germinated into a full-fledged, well-conceived fanciful plan and was now at the verge of taking off. The authorities back in the resort had given us a clear green signal in favour of the little adventure, adding to my motivation with the bit of information of lots of foreigners doing it there. Sanjay, my very responsible husband decided to take care of my little one in his arms while himself lodged in a small boat being rowed parallel with me all the way to the other end. The plan was that we shall together be reaching the bank on the other side which was actually an isthmus separating the river on our side and no less than the magnanimous Arabian Sea on the other! What could have been a more mouth-watering idea than to be undertaking a project so miniscule and yet so mighty as to venture into the river waters, to be exact, the famous back waters of Kerala! From a macho swimming background in a pool maximum of 50 mtrs to a meagre river stretch of at least 500mtrs joining into the enormous Ocean, wasn’t such a big thing, was it?
We started early, assuming the feat shall be through in an hour, since like I said, the stretch didn’t seem so uphill. And there I was, wading in those back waters of an almost welcoming lagoon. A lagoon, just for reminder’s sake (I didn’t say you almost forgot your basic geography) is, a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs. Yes! It seemed that this almost still body of water was going to assist me in reaching my destination within no time. But once having been commenced it was already beginning to give me some jitters that entailed these tingling sensations resulting from brushing against long sea weeds or for all I could guess, unidentified sea creatures. No, no!! No psudo attempts to rake up sensations already. There weren’t any sharks or crocks lurking in those non transparent waters so to speak as confirmed by the resort people. Yet anything even far smaller was enough to trigger some goose bumps, in spite of my brave attempts at overlooking them. Thank fully I was safe as far as any such dreadful possibilities were concerned. 
Having started in my free style stroke, to prevent exhaustion from taking over I found myself switching over to the more relaxing back stroke sooner than later. But something unusual was beginning to happen. I noticed my husband’s boat drifting away from me instead of maintaining the parallel track it was meant to. I was clueless. My mind however did not intensify the inquiry in that direction. I was more or less still at ease dealing with the here and now of managing through those shallow waters that I realised were much shallower than I could possibly imagine. They were as I understood later a proper coral inhabited area. But the fact of their boat mysteriously distancing itself from me did not become my boiling query, which by all means should have.
I was still lying with my back upon the cushy waters managing my distance with mild leg movement, that all at once I noticed my hubby wildly gesticulating something at me. I was bewildered at that body language. My ears that had all this while been immersed in the water jerked themselves out with my head becoming erect to gather some meaning out of all that confusion. And I instantly understood that I was being commanded by him to do something that was imperative. I could faintly gather him instructing me to another direction, away from where I was heading. I have thankfully been an obedient partner at times, and fortunately so in instances like this one. I followed suit and I saw a host of local fishermen gathered there on the bank vehemently conveying me to be out of the waters while simultaneously beckoning me towards them. I found myself instinctively compliant. And whoa! Here I was pulled out and now standing on my two feet being given the facts with a dash of a hype deservedly awarded to the possibility I could have rolled into. I was heedless towards actually being siphoned into the ocean with the outward flowing backwaters!
Really! But how come? They divulged something that we should have been informed by the resort authorities in advance.
The night before, due to heavy downpour the backwaters were on a high tide. And the current was very strong.  Now I could see the pieces of the jigsaw making some sense…No wonder I was sweeping towards another direction. Because it was the current that was pulling me!! So while Sanjay’s boatman was taking the boat in the intended direction I was headed towards another. And it would have been a matter of a couple of more moments before it would have put me in the very mouth of the ocean becoming a tiny morsel to it. Its mighty suction would have made it impossible to be pulled back from as confirmed by the experienced fishermen who looked so alarmed at the prospect of somebody getting into it in front of them. Phew!!
Safe and sound, I can propound Shakespeare’s “All’s well that ends well”, without of course not overlooking the role that fortune plays in our lives.

one of my favorite childhood places...

Here rang the lunch bell in my school, and there we would be marching enthusiastically towards our generally visited place. Away, “far from the madding crowd”, ha! Interestingly impervious to inviting one and all…a secluded spot in the midst of a green thicket adjoining a highly coveted swimming pool that lay deserted and empty. Those years were spent craving to get into that irresistible reservoir. Though as good as sterile for its hapless water less ambiance, its existence seemed insatiate, for this was all it called for. All these put together, had as though those low frequency calls as made by the elephants inaudible to the general ears…perhaps. For I found a unique fulfillment in that locale, and was never too habituated to it, to have it drone monotony.

It was upon an elevated pedestal like structure i.e. towering slightly higher than the rest of the vast expanse of the landscape. A landscape that constituted the seeming endlessly green football field beyond which lay residences outside the lilting and trusting low rising boundary walls. They really were as I imagine such innocent walls, to the world we now live in, wherein that height would be a mockery to the idea of safety …This pool however had a high wall surrounding it withal. Though it was an altogether different matter that we found ways to sneak into the arms of it once or twice still.

So as the bell would announce the commencement of lunch, I and my dear friend would, with our march along with our humble tiffin’s, reach this back side of the pool. An area out of bounds for the primary and the junior school children, as given to us to understand. But like I said it were these chaste infringements that are characteristic to the temperament of the likes of children born with lesser ability to adapt to the conventional skills of social interaction. So activities like these would perhaps be more fulfilling to the otherwise unexpressed beings, awarding them with a dint of courage at doing things others were not bold or perhaps creative enough to do. All accomplished unintentionally…

Here we were calmly adjusted upon a wide wall that had adequate place for us to spread our platters and ourselves upon it under the canopy of a love showering tree densely drowned in the cool shady patch of a prolific out pour of leaves, offering its affectionate muscular branches a secure entertainment for us once we were done with our lunch. Though I only faintly recall that part, the teen shade was on one side on top of which we could climb and walk, and the other was this wall extending into this huge almost paternal tree further followed by an almost steep downward slope awarding a brisk walk back into the fields on one side and the school building on the other.
Back within no time, as that one generous hour of lunch break would fade into memory of a few miserly moments, from whose treasure chest have I bartered these nostalgic recollections sprinkled with a an urge to reach out to touch it just one more time…Something so much a part of my being, so thoroughly etched in the stone pillars of my regurgitable memory banks, yet so far away as to never get one more chance to touch and feel them as real as they were, once upon a time. ‘Time: the eternal illusion’ seems then, wisely expressed.

Bhoomika Jain

Monday, February 2, 2015

Drop your guards!!

At one point it felt like
she was left with no desire
at preserving trust remnants..
The world seemed too often
overwhelmingly difficult to withstand...
These ever mounting waves that
looked and seemed friendly
inviting her a splashing interaction
had stuff like stinking jellyfish
lurking in there...
Smiles she greeted them with,
progressively erased rudely...

Cowering in the dark den
wanting invisibility
seemed like the only option left...

Vigilance, all empowered vigilance
towards one and all seemed like the
only option...
Though so difficult to be
armed with such heavyweight artillery
and shields all the time
did she have an option
she wondered...

And came the reply 'NO'
in emphatic capitals... cannot drop guards
against anybody...
And that includes
yourself along...

can you?
Answer my dear!