The Storyteller

What fate lies for those who walk
Tempted by stories, teased & mocked

It started as a quest to find
The truth to legends of lands benign
Of love once lost & dreams through time
Those valleys of eternal sunshine

And now there is no home to go
The bridges are burnt and feet slow
His mind it tries to hold the line
The soul knows better & takes its time

“They lied to us, those story tellers few
I haven’t found, it’s long overdue”
He finds no trace of legends true
Rather a twist to the tale new!!

In quiet place on a forest night
With all that’s familiar out of sight
The truth he finds on lonely trails
That the tale it starts, when all else fails

And then he finds the legends true
Those stories came from hearts that knew
They were once story tellers too,
Then one day around the yellow hue

From flames to ambers he waited through
He hears them talking of stories few
Eyes sparkling he said “it’s true…”
“And I have some stories too”

An Invitation to Celebrate Life

Caution: This is gonna be a long one. Hope you’ve got all the essentials at hand 🙂

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The roots to this tale lie in my absolute laziness to cook for myself. I’ve found eating at dhabas, a more convenient option.

For the last 2 years I’ve been frequent to a dhaba on the Mcleodganj square. The place serves fresh, north Indian food for reasonable prices. It’s run by two friends – Ram bhaiya & Abhinav bhaiya, from Salli – a village roughly 30kms away from Dharamshala. My regular visits here paved way for talks other than food. During one such conversation a few weeks back, Ram bhaiya invited me to his home to spend a day with his family.

His face speaks of a maturity imbibed from an early marriage and household responsibilities, yet the innocence of someone far younger – like a common ground, a beautiful understanding, between restlessness and patience. And light brown eyes that smile frequently, outwitting the lines on his forehead. He folds his hands and places them below his belly every time he speaks to another. On most days he wears a mismatching shirt & trouser and some rugged sports shoes to go with it – a simple man.

After working for many years at a local dhaba he saved money and mustered enough courage to start his own.

On the decided date, we left Mcleodganj close to 8.30 am and took a bus to Gaggal. The direct road to his house is under repairs right now. Rumor has it that the road may be operational in another 2 months.

We changed buses from Gaggal to Shahpur. Before taking the next bus to Salli, we made two quick stops in Shahpur – first to buy some milk and second to pick up a cell phone given for repairing. Both these stops were linked by a hilarious back story. As it turns out, Ram bhaiya’s cow had recently given birth and so she wouldn’t be milked for a while. Hence buying the milk. And in the birthing frenzy, the cow had stepped on Ram bhaiya’s cell phone and split the screen into two. Hence the stopping at the repair shop. He narrated the story scratching his head and I burst out laughing.

The conductor on the bus from Shahpur to Salli turned out to be an acquaintance of Ram bhaiya. A lil nod, a firm hand shake and that’s it, our ride was free 🙂 The conductor seemed rather enthusiastic about his job. Every stop was announced loudly, sometimes to the annoyance of regular passengers who made the journey twice daily. Ram bhaiya leaned in and whispered “It’s just been a month since he started this, hence the enthusiasm” and giggled. After this, with every new announcement, we would start laughing.

Twice maybe, the conductor whistled to stop the bus at incorrect locations, to which the driver raised his eyebrows, hoping the rookie would catch it through the rear view mirror. He dodged the look with a great amount of skill.

A little while into the journey, the bus stopped and some more passengers got on. I was asked to shrink my seating space to accommodate a goat. I did so willingly & smiled. As a recognition for this act of chivalry, I was given the honour of knowing the goat’s name. “Kikknoo..!!”, the owner happily revealed. I went on to ask him what it meant and he looked perplexed, wondering why it should mean anything. I kept aside my city bred need for logic and then it made perfect sense. It’s a name given out of love, a sound maybe, pretty much like the mushy names people give to each other when they are in love.

Kikknoo seemed nervous about her bus ride. The gentle neck massage from the owner helped a bit, but what really calmed her down was the window seat she managed to score eventually.

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I went on to ask him what ‘Kiknoo’ meant and he looked perplexed!!

The road coiled along the mountain side. The sky was clear today and the sun strong. We reached Salli in the afternoon. We got off on the road and started walking downhill to Ram bhaiya’s home. A ten minute walk and we reached his father’s home.

A typical Himachali home in these areas is something like this. The home & the rooms are coated with layers of mud & cow dung inside & out. The roof is made of a wooden framework and systematically lined slate tiles. Slate is the base stone present in the mountains here. It is chiseled and shaped into thin rectangular tiles, then carefully laid overlapping one another. And here’s the interesting part. The tiles are not held together by any bonding material. Just the placement is such that it goes through all season.  If you were in the kitchen cooking something and things got smoky, all you had to do was take a stick and poke a tile in the roof to shift it. And that’s your vent – simple, functional and beautiful. There’s homes are literally Earth & mountains. Living in them, one is subtly reminded of an intimate connection to everything around. One comes to see and appreciate how beautifully nature works to provide for us. These homes are as alive as their dwellers.

Most homes open up to step farms ahead. The front porch is replaced with patches of cultivation. The farms negotiate the mountain slope gradually and then suddenly disappear into the vastness of the valley. They are not very big. The space is enough for a family to grow food and enjoy its bounty throughout the year.

I was obviously the outsider and quickly grabbed everyone’s attention. The family started off with a signature hushed talking and then suddenly the welcome erupted. I was rushed into an inner room and the fan and television were switched on. The younger daughter-in-law came with a hot glass of fresh cow milk which was delicious. One of the walls was lined with photos of Gods; too many actually to miss. Literally every calendar and wedding card that ever came in was preserved & displayed.

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I pulled out my camera to take a few shot, which was met with excited but supressed screams from the kids. Soon after that I had lost its possession for the next few hours. I maintained the cool tourist look on the outside, while on the inside I sent out prayers to every God on the wall that I may receive back my camera intact.

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All Gods – old and new

Soon after our arrival lunch was ready. I was asked to climb the wooden staircase in a corner of the room. I followed and discovered a space that was an attic, a kitchen and a small bedroom rolled into one. I was smitten by the simplicity and functionality of the home. It was meditation with eyes wide open.

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The space that was a kitchen, an attic and a bedroom 

The food was simple with most ingredients home grown. What really had me going were the barley rotis. They were made from fermented barley, were soft, puffed up and they tasted a lot like beer. This was rather interesting. Daadi and I spoke intermittently as I savoured the flavours. She nodded her head and looked at me with sympathy when I told her how far Bombay was and how crowded it was.

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the lovely barley rotis, tasted like eating beer

It was a wholesome meal. Waves of gratitude in me translated into a toothless smile on Daadi’s face. After lunch we retired for a short nap. I requested and had my mattress placed outside on the porch. The sight of golden wheat fields swaying in the breeze, disappearing into the mountain valley was all I could ask for.

By later in the evening, the kids had become more comfortable around me and now there was no stopping their chatter. They spoke of some foreigners who had visited their home the previous year, while enacting their hand gestures and accent. They sounded a lot like the antagonists from some late 80s Bollywood movie, when the white man still pulled some ire in our minds. The tales from the school went on till later in the evening. Ram bhaiya had to come about and remind us it was time for dhaam at Abhinav bhaiya’s place.

Dhaam is a serving of traditional Himachali food on plates made by stitching leaves together. It is customary to have such feasts on any occasion that call for a celebration. Abhinav Bhaiya had recently been blessed with twin daughters and this seemed like the perfect way to offer thanks. The entire village had turned up for the celebration. We were seated on the ground in rows of two and then it began. First a serving of plain rice and then mutter paneer, chole, sambhar and khatta. The portions were unlimited and we did take undue advantage of it. Sitting in the open mountain air and eating with hands really sensitizes the taste buds. The last addition to the plate was saffron coloured sweet rice, laced with dry fruits, absolutely sumptuous.

After the food was a quick round of catching up on village news. The most prevalent topic of discussion was the wheat harvest and how was the produce this season. It was quite late by local standards, almost 11.00 p.m. We bid a quick good night to some hundred odd faces and made our way up to the dark road.

One thing about staying in the mountains is that you never truly run out of things to marvel at. I was unaware that this walk would be wondrously extraordinary. Here I stood in the middle of pitch black nothingness, where to keep eyes open or closed meant the same, when suddenly the mountain lines started to glow unusually. My feet slowed down. A few moments passed and then it appeared from behind the mountain – the Moon – crimson, full and alien like. I stood transfixed. To describe what happened next in beyond my vocabulary. On very rare occasions have I found myself so empty of thoughts. Walking took effort now. It seemed unnecessary. Such serenity, a beauty of such immensity, that in that moment I was not. In that moment I caught of glimpse of what eternity can feel like. It felt unbound, stilling and deeper than deep.

It took me a while to master my senses again. We all walked back silently, no words were spoken. I realised that moment of divinity was witnessed by all.

On reaching home the kids headed straight for the television. After surfing for a while they finally found something of interest and got hypnotised. It had been a long day and I lacked the enthusiasm to sit with them, so I chose to lie down and close my eyes trying to block out the voices from the TV.

A few minutes under the blanket and I was gone, unusually quick for a light sleeper. After a while I opened my eyes, it was morning already. Don’t we all have those nights when the time gap between night and day is but an instant? I woke up and walked out. Swaying fields of golden wheat bathed in soft sunshine welcomed me. I sat on the porch taking it all in. The kitchen was already alive with breakfast preparation. The kids were still in bed. From the conversation I eavesdropped upon, they were hopeful the parents would let them skip school today, since they had surpassed their usual sleeping time last night by several hours. The school was yet to get books for the new session, so time was spent playing badminton or kabbadi. Ram bhaiya agreed to let them skip school on the condition that they would help with the household work. The kids shrieked with joy and did a lil dance which had me in splits.

I decided to make good use of the breakfast preparation time, so went up to the terrace and sat down to meditate. But this was something new for the kids. And you know what this means:

Kids + something new = Ooohhhhh..!! (with widening eyes)

They gathered around and wanted to know what I was upto. I tried explaining and gave them a few tips on sitting up straight and observing the breath. They tried for a while, with eyes closed they made weird faces, their eyebrows arched up and down and then they burst out laughing and falling on their sides.

This shortly followed stories from their school. In particular of one Mr. Sukhdev, their Sanskrit teacher, who contrary to his name, had been the cause of unhappiness lately.

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The kids with their favorite home made toy. An old sock stuffed with cotton. It was the make shift ball during cricket and also used to practice catches.

Ram bhaiya called the kids to come down and have breakfast. It was every bit the wholesome food that gives villagers that envious nutrition. It was lauki cooked in curd and seasoned with turmeric and cumin seeds. Very simple, light and wholesome.

While having breakfast, Ram bhaiya’s phone rang & suddenly I heard him speaking in English- an interesting amalgamation of Himachali, Indian English and Hebrew accent. The call was an enquiry from some French tourists who wished to learn North Indian cuisine. This upset the kids, since we had promised to walk to the next village after breakfast.

I gathered my stuff while Ram bhaiya spent the next ten minutes trying to cheer up the kids, the eldest son was inconsolable, which I later understood had something to do with a set of badminton rackets, he was to buy from the next village. Now that we weren’t visiting the next village it also meant no badminton rackets.

A quick goodbye to his wife, no hugs, no kisses, just a few simple words promising a quick return and a head that bow lower than usual. Ram bhaiya picked up his bag and started walking ahead. I went and thanked his wife and the kids. Also told the eldest son that I would nudge Ram bhaiya to buy the badminton rackets in Dharamshala, they have better ones there. He was quick to smile. And then the kid joined in a goodbye that was way too honest by any city standards.

Such simple people, I wondered. Their eyes sparkle, they laugh often, share without holding back, often giving more than keeping, celebrating the mountains and all her seasons. It is true, if we look carefully and with intent to find it, we would, in absolute certainty, stumble upon beauty in everyone – sometimes not so obvious, but very much there.

Ram Bhaiya still runs the Punjabi Dhaba at Mcleodganj square. If you ever visit here, do drop by 🙂

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Holi @Vrindavan: Culture & Colours

An unsuccessful attempt to travel to Southern India led to beginning this colourful journey. It was mid March and Holi is celebrated throughout India but nowhere is it celebrated as true & indulgent as in Vrindavan. It was an impromptu trip but I was lucky to find the company of two other friends to travel with.

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Vrindavan in Mathura (UP) has been the hallowed grounds for the leela or play of Lord Krishna & his divine consort Radha. It is impossible to understand this celebration unless we understand the essence of Krishna bhakti or worship.

Divinity has many forms and is expressed in a baffling number of ways. As someone born and brought up in India, it is impossible to miss this. Krishna represents the beautiful amalgamation of responsibility with playfulness, a rather unique blend, which makes him beloved to seekers around the world. To be a Krishna devotee means to be drunk on divinity & adopt the same playfulness in life, not as an external practice but as the very act of being. To put it in a line, here celebration is the highest form of worship. Now imagine a city that millennia old, dotted with more temples than houses, population in several thousands and celebrating with fervor as if it were for a God…Now that’s one crazy party.

Otherwise just a day long festival, Holi lasts one whole week in Mathura. The one I looked forward to the most was the Holi celebration for widows, traditionally asked to avoid active participation in festivals. The venue for this hallowed celebration was the Gopinath Temple which has intriguing history of its own.

The temple’s central courtyard, an open space, was covered by an overhead curtain with orange hues. The sharp March sun that would otherwise been unbearable, now filtered in with shades of soft yellow. The blowing of conchs & showering of rose petals marked the departure from the age-old tradition. Colours and sparkles kept flying off the temple terrace and onto a crowd least expecting yet eagerly awaiting. Beating of drums, singing traditional festive songs and the random dancing with those around, equally drunk on festive ecstasy. When the celebrations were over, our feet rested on a cushion of petals & colours several inches deep.

It ended while we were still unprepared, like all good time. The feeling that crept in can only be compared to how you feel when you are in a dream, the most stupendous, vivid and colourful dream you’ve ever seen & the alarm clock wakes you up to the brutality of its ‘non-foreverness’. Heart break now had a whole new meaning for me.

Here are a few shots from that mesmerizing morning.

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The streets of Vrindavan are home to a secret wisdom that the locals share with travelers only if deemed worthy. It goes something like this and I quote – “Bhaiya chasma nikaal lo, bandar le jayega!!” (Remove your specs, the monkeys will take them away). Not once, not twice, but thrice I was stopped up by random strangers who gave me these pearls of wisdom and then disappeared. Hand of God at work definitely 🙂

The narrow market lanes of Vrindavan are home to monkeys that jump around, usually beyond the line of sight and are infamous for their stealthy swipes, taking away anything you may be wearing over your eyes. If they feel like it, they may propose barter against food and return the glasses, if not, they simply leave with them. What they do with all those Ray Bans is something that may be revealed to you after years of meditating in a cave, highly classified stuff!! As for me, given my myopia, I spent each evening in the market without my glasses and in full bokeh vision.

Our place of stay in Vrindavan was way off the main city. It was a bit like an island – a ‘’new’’ construction slapped in the middle of a semi-urban location. The building was located in the center from three distant temples, almost forming a triangle. All dedicated to Radha-Krishna, that’s no surprise, but different styles & sects. With each sunrise and sunset started a steady flow of chants from the temples, soothing, centering. The breeze, as it flowed to and fro, toggled with the volume, enhancing one chant and gently fading out the other. They all came through, in bits and pieces, aligning every fibre of our being to that whom they call Krishna.

It was a short visit to Mathura, but it wasn’t difficult to feel the special vibe bestowed upon the place. Let me end this post on a short story.

One day Radha told Krishna that with the passage of time, the devotees would remember only him and forget all about her. To this Krishna smiled and said, “Every time someone takes my name, it shall be so, only after they have taken yours”. And so it has come to pass, through the ages – ‘Radhe Krishna’.

On our last evening after spending a little time by the banks of Yamuna, we sat at a small tea shop slightly off the road. The tea served in small earthen cups was too strong for our taste. While leaving we thanked the shop owner to which he said;

“Yeh Vrindavan hai bhaiya, yahan thank you, sorry, sab Radhe Radhe” – This is Vrindavan, here thank you, sorry, everything is Radhe Radhe!!

That right there, in one line, is Vrindavan – a living embodiment of what happens when humanity fall in love with divinity.

Radhe Radhe..!!


 

The grey between us..

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They sat by the edge of a valley. Air faintly fragrant with cedar & the ground damp from the late evening drizzle. The soft glow of an almost full moon bathing the mountains; giving them an identity more than just nocturnal silhouettes. The river by the foothills, unseen but not unheard. It ran over the pebbles, making all the music that was needed.

The cityscapes had long lost their charm on him. He preferred it here. For her, she was just beginning to discover, slow, steady. Questions that were carefully buried, now created a riot.

Like the ruffling of some feathers, she was out with it bluntly “Is this not love?”

He used words as honest as he had learnt along the way. “I intend to leave, completely realizing I may never see you again. And this still does not halt my steps. I intended to leave even before I met you. The unknown of tomorrow tempts me beyond my ability to understand”. He realized that words beyond this would be treacherous and stopped talking.

The splashing of the river took the center stage. He felt like the river now, which slowed momentarily to meet the boulders, yet knew deep within, it could not stay. That it would move & seek the ocean incessantly. But would it be right to say, that the river did not love the boulder? All in me that she falls in love with, comes from being uprooted repeatedly and seeking happiness in it. The only place I’ve truly managed to find home, time and again, have not been the arms of another, but the solitude of self. The idea of being a perpetual nomad is my true north.

Words lay heavy in his heart “When I’m with you, I walk towards home and away from it. Such is my irony!!”

“So is this lust then?” she broke the line.

He smiled this time & spoke “I think not’.

“In this moment, where our lips still haven’t met and our fingers haven’t yet tasted union, if you choose to walk away, I too shall leave, smiling. And the only memory I shall carry of us, would be of how it felt like spring on this day, when it’s truly the beginning of winters. Whenever I shall think of you, I shall thank you, for taking this time, from my endless ordinary and making out of it, a memory”.

“This, my dear, is beyond Lust or Love. This grey between us…is true alchemy”.

He looked deep into her eyes and held her hand, then went back to making sense of a darkened horizon.

The meek shall inherit the Earth

In our times, landscapes are presented in high resolution, portraits with extra brightness & reality with too much editing. Obsessed with the idea to showcase something never before seen, first time in human history sort of content, we create an ‘aesthetically revised’ truth. In doing so,we systematically curtail our ability to find the magic behind the common. The more we toy with this idea of artificially creating something visually breathtaking, the larger becomes our spectrum of the unobserved – the otherwise commonly accessible glimpses of beauty. In this post, I’ve put together a few of my shots, which are inspired by the commonality, the unobserved, the beauty which lies waiting behind a thin veil of curiosity. Hence the title of the post, ‘The meek shall inherit the Earth’, inspired by Mathew 5:5. I believe it takes some meekness, a certain amount of humility to find wonder in daily life. Beauty which becomes visible to anyone choosing simplicity over grandeur. And those of us able to achieve this, give back life its ability to surprise us. Let’s find out if the ‘common’ still holds the ability to make us marvel..

Of what lies beyond - Shot from inside one of the room at Leh City Palace. The light filtered in through the doorway rather softly.

Of what lies beyond – Shot from inside one of the room at Leh City Palace. The light filtered in through the doorway rather softly.

The gentle tenacity - Everything seems to gather life around monsoons, sometimes, even the barb wires

The gentle tenacity – Everything seems to gather life around monsoons, sometimes, even the barb wires

A tale of spring time - The beautiful green needles that spurt out from the branch

A tale of spring time – The beautiful green needles that spurt out from the branch

A weaver's story - Seen at the side shops that line the temple road in Mcleod, This shot is a close up of the threads used by macrame artists to create a range of accessories.

A weaver’s story – Seen at the side shops that line the temple road in Mcleodganj. This shot is a close up of the threads used by macrame artists to create a range of accessories.

The sound of emptiness - A lil girl who was participating in our kid's workshop the last year. Her fingers moved gracefully on the flute, with wisdom and patience beyond her years

The sound of emptiness – A lil girl who was participating in our kid’s workshop the last year. Her fingers moved gracefully on the flute, with wisdom and patience beyond her years

A bright outlook - Shot in Khajuraho,  Madhya Pradesh, India. He lent us the utensils to prepare for a feast during Holi celebrations. The room was musty, with the blue sometimes disguised as turquoise and sometimes fading into white

A bright outlook – Shot in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India. He lent us the utensils to prepare for a feast during Holi celebrations. The room was musty, with the blue sometimes disguised as turquoise and sometimes fading into white

The desert Rose - During summers, musicians from the Bhopa community of Rajasthan travel to Himachal as street performers, There She sat next to her husband, meekly, yet certain of a meal at the day's end.

The desert Rose – During summers, musicians from the Bhopa community of Rajasthan travel to Himachal as street performers. There she sat next to her husband, meekly, yet certain of a meal at the day’s end.

Accidentally born - This lil fella here sometime thought it was inside an egg & curled up to make sure it fit right :p The Sun was just a bonus :p

Accidentally born – This lil fella here sometime thought it was inside an egg & curled up to make sure it fit right :p
The Sun was just a bonus.

But the illusion was usually broken by the cars passing by..

But the illusion was usually broken by the cars passing by..

Drop by drop - This one I took in Nepal. A bunch of dogs that would run around in the gardens around Fewa lake and then jump right in for a quick bath

Drop by drop – This one I took in Nepal. A bunch of dogs that would run around in the gardens around Fewa lake and then jump right in for a quick bath

Of some birds tamed in an untamed world  - This was taken at my room in Himachal. The late afternoon Sun came in strong through the opposite widow, casting a shadow on the walls. Seemed like an interesting frame to capture.

Of some birds tamed in an untamed world – This was taken at my room in Himachal. The late afternoon Sun came in strong through the opposite widow, casting a shadow on the walls. Seemed like an interesting frame to capture.

For whom the bell tolls - This is from the trip to Khajuraho last year. A small village temple that holds stories of  a living spirit that guards the place and its people. And sometimes dispenses justice by slapping the offender. Interesting :)

For whom the bell tolls – This is from the trip to Khajuraho last year. A small village temple that holds stories of a living spirit that guards the place and its people. And sometimes dispenses justice by slapping the offender. Interesting 🙂

Reflections of a soul - It was Dec of 2014 & the winters in Himachal were picking up. She used to wake up early and sit by the window to savour the morning sun. Reflection of the balcony plants emerged onto the glass pane and on her.

Reflections of a soul – It was Dec of 2014 & the winters in Himachal were picking up. She used to wake up early and sit by the window to savour the morning sun. Reflection of the balcony plants emerged onto the glass pane and on her.

The Last TIME

When staying in the mountains, its almost an unwritten rule to go for walks randomly. The ‘Quora walk’ in Mcleodganj, a narrow path around the Dalai Lama Temple is one of my regulars. Within the compound is the Jampaling Elder’s home, where a lot of the elder Tibetans stay. Despite their age, they ceremoniously do the walk daily, prayer beads dangling between the fingers and lips gently bringing the prayers to life. Their presence commands a lot of respect. Acknowledge them as you pass by, with a slight nod or a smile, and you will receive in return, something that would tell you what a smile ought to be like – warm, heartfelt, genuine. The kind of smile that makes you feel you’ve come home. Yep, that’s how it feels. If you’re planning a trip to Dharamshala, I suggest you put this on the list of things to do – To share a smile with stranger on the Quora – Check 🙂

Before the path turn and reaches the temple, there’s an open marbled area to offer prayers. I was sitting there taking in some sun. I guess it was an afternoon in October 14’. The winds had picked up the winter chill but the sun still maintained some dominance. It seemed like a good idea, so I closed my eyes and sat there, partially between a meditation and an afternoon nap. A few minutes in I opened my eyes & sitting next to me was an elder Buddhist nun, clearly in her 80s. Head shaved, wrinkled face and a toothless smile that was perpetual, the kind that dint need a reason to stay. Draped in maroon, she carried a small leather bag, which soon revealed its secrets. The wrapper crackled as she pulled out a few biscuits and the strays gathered around her rather confidently. It seemed to be a daily affair. She ate one and then offered two to me. I smiled and took them, thanked her with a namaste. She smiled back and got to work. Behind the cupboard was a wooden plank of sorts and some cushions. Pulling them out she set them up. Then began what the Hindus know as Sashtang pranam or a full body expression of reverence. She lied down completely facing the Buddha idol to offer her respect & then got back up. I dint count, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she touched a 108. I was stunned. To get up each time, then again go down completely and then back again..108 times!!! That’s hard enough for most 25 yr olds to accomplish these days. And god knows, she dint break a sweat. Oh I was in absolute admiration!! IMG_8687

When she was done, she stood up and looked at me. For some reason she believed I would make a good student. Like most elder here, she spoke only Tibetan, which I knew nothing of. But that wasnt gonna be an issue. She asked me to repeat what she did, held up three fingers, gesturing that three times would be enough. ‘This is fun’ I thought. The first time, she corrected how my elbow be positioned, then watched the remaining two times and nodded. I stood up with the glow of a kid who had just cracked his first maths problem. I helped her fold the blankets and keep the apparatus back in its place. Before leaving she smiled and bowed, I bowed back. It was special. I watched her walk away to the Elder’s home slowly & then disappear. A lil later I left as well.

The Sun was nice and warm for a second day. I was feeling lucky so went back to the Quora about the same time in the afternoon. A lil while later the monk was here again. Today it was apples – two actually, one of which came to be in my tummy. No need was felt to ask for names, the idea of identity would have ruined the innocence at work. She pointed towards my camera bag curiously. I nodded, held up my hands like I was framing a shot & then twitched the index finger to show a click. Her lips parted slightly to say what seemed like ‘Aah’ minus the voice. I took the permission to click her that day. I ran back and forth, to get a few good shots. What I thought would best capture that gentle tenacity. She smiled like a shy grandma on camera. Our meeting were really growing into a special bond.

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On the third day, we found each other at the same place. After her daily ritual, she made a gesture with her hands, “let’s go and have tea”. I was very happily surprised. We walked out from the temple area and to the Tibet café that stands opposite to the temple entrance. Its a small place overlooking the valley. She called for tea and I got a ginger lemon honey and that’s it. No words, no urgency to be someplace else, no agendas for meeting up. Just the vapours from the cup fogging my glasses and random attempts to rake up a conversation, that felt unnecessary each time. I felt an inexplicably calm, something I haven’t been able to replicate at my many tea meeting since. Rearranging the things in her bag,she pulled out something. A simple watch, white dial with black plastic wrist bands and hands that were stationary. I took a look at it and then did this, step-by-step.

  • Step 1: I pointed at myself
  • Step 2: I pointed at the watch
  • Step 3: Made a clockwise motion with my finger over the dial
  • Step 4: Using my hand to gesture ‘ok & well’
  • Step 5: I pointed at her

I used half my grey cells to figure out how to convey to her that I’ll get it fixed and return the watch to her. Luckily she understood my sudden burst of enthusiasm and hand modelling. I kept the watch in my pocket. We left the café, I bowed, with an unspoken promise that tomorrow same time, she would have a fully functional watch. Immediately after that I started walking towards Kotwali bazar in Dharamshala. That was a few kilometres downhill & had the closet watch repair shop I knew of. The watch-smith took a careful look at it. A simple case of dead battery, took no more than 5 minutes to fix. I tucked it back in my pocket & took the next bus back up. The bus journey was full with anticipation of seeing her the next day and returning the watch, maybe catch a glimpse of her child-like smile.

The next day I reached at the prayer place on time. Happiness had a sound today, it was tick-tock. I sat there waiting, she seemed to be delayed than usual. An hour passed by, she hadn’t come in yet. I wondered if maybe I came in late or had she left earlier. So I waited a lil longer, then decided to return the next day. I was a little disappointed, maybe it was the anticipation. The same got repeated the next day and then the day after that  😦  She dint turn up for the next 3 days. ‘Maybe she’s unwell’ I thought. But I was restless; I had to get the watch to her. I dint know her name, but I did have her photograph.

On the seventh day, since our first meeting, I went to the elder’s home. Showing her photo around to those staying there & someone from the staff, hoping to get pointed to a room shortly. But they all seemed clueless, said she doesn’t stay there. It was a dead end. I dint know anything about her, coz in those three days, we never shared a word. Worst even, I was scheduled to come back to Bombay the next day. I left the watch and the photograph with a friend who stayed in Jogibara, hoping she’ll be able to return the watch. Over the next few days I called my friend, but narrated the same unfruitful story.

Its now been six months. A few minutes, few deep breaths each day are spent going over our meet cute. It seems a lil unfair for it to be that way. I am however, a believer of destiny. I believe we have roles to play in each other’s lives. There are no accidents, no chance meetings. After much deliberation and searching for an explanation, I was given this understanding that eased my conscience – That maybe it my role, to relieve her of her last material possession. I felt it was something that she too, as pious Buddhist nun, would eventually conclude.IMG_8688-2

Whatever may be completion here, those three afternoons I now eternally cherish, as the most treasured game of dumb charades I’ve ever played.

A Bday in Nepal, Nov 2014′

For my 28th Bday, I decided to take a solo trip to Nepal. It was long overdue & made sense considering that funds were a bit tight & Indians don’t need a visa for Nepal 🙂

It was a 12 day trip, which I spent completely in Pokhara by the lakeside. With a lil help from Couchsurfing, I met a bunch of amazing people who made sure my bday would be a special one. These photographs are my memoirs from the trip. Hope you enjoy them..

A synchronized performance

A synchronized performance

They told him he would have to leave his home behind to travel. He discovered that was a fallacy.

They told him he would have to leave his home behind to travel. He discovered that was a fallacy.

A Grim outlook

A Grim outlook

Time out in the Sun

Time out in the Sun

Flawless design

Flawless design

It seemed strange to the passer bys. But they had met again and again, in time and long before it

It seemed strange to the passer bys. But they had met again and again, in time and long before it

Good deed for the day :)

Good deed for the day 🙂

Mother Nature was kind enough to lift the fog on my bday. I got to see the 3 majestic peaks of the Annapurna range From L-R Annapurna III 7555Mts. Machapuchare 6997Mts. and Annapurna II 7937Mts.

Mother Nature was kind enough to lift the fog on my bday. I got to see the 3 majestic peaks of the Annapurna range From L-R
Annapurna III 7555Mts.
Machapuchare 6997Mts.
Annapurna II 7937Mts.

There was more to that meeting..

There was more to that meeting than they realized. It was only with that which was hidden, the picture completed

The mild side of real estate

The mild side of real estate

Introspection

Since he was a kid, he sought his truth in the wavy reflection of the lake. On some days, the shadows spoke to him, more than he could understand, on others he let their voices drown