BREXIT? Britain just did it!


Across the world, people were waiting in anticipation for the results of the UK referendum held on June 23rd. And the results did not fail to deliver. It sent shockwaves through global financial markets, sending stock markets tumbling, while jubilant as well as disappointed voters gathered on the streets to fully comprehend the meaning of this epoch-making moment when the United Kingdom rewrote history, once again.

After WWII and peace treaties, the world had settled into a comfortable space with most of Europe coming together to allow the free movement of goods and people across borders. On the agenda was also a plan to stop the bickering among nations and open up better employment opportunities for the people. It also meant that the sovereignty of the nations involved had to be sacrificed at the altar of EU.

Those who favoured Brexit at the referendum, the ultra conservatives, hated that Brussels poked their nose where it was not wanted. Being a part of EU meant a lot of bureaucratic intervention, and Britain was sick off waiting to cut the red tape, time and again. Not to mention the Brexiters wish to control their country’s borders. If you think about it, Britain’s always been territorial, so it’s no wonder EU was a thorn in the flesh.

On the other hand, Bremain supporters are vaguely concerned about employment opportunities and what it would mean for trade relations with the rest of Europe. New trade laws might mean exports and imports will have to be navigated on stormy seas and this could lead to trade wars. Moreover, they think that peace between EU nations and the UK would be affected.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel considered Brexit a ‘blow’ to the Union while Trump as usual seems to be going against American sentiment in saying it is quite a good decision. There are some who think that UK is setting the precedent for other nations to follow.  This might lead to a collapse in the world’s biggest trading bloc and crashing economies could mean bigger political consequences.

Already there is news of France’s far right National Party calling for their own Frexit, to back their anti-immigration anti-Europe policies. Following suit are far-right parties in Netherlands, Italy, and Greece. There is talk of a eurozone breakup, with fears of the single currency losing the war.

Americans meanwhile are scrambling to make sense of the chaos that will hit them following this historic vote. It could hurt their economy as the pound is falling and UK is one of United States’ largest trading partners. And an unstable Europe would mean an unstable America. But hey, the vacationers to Britain can look forward to a cheaper trip as the dollar is currently standing strong against the pound.

In spite of fear mongering, there are those who think Britain has absolutely chosen freedom for itself. 43 years of dependence and many of them have had enough of the endless levels of governance and rules and regulations that seem to serve no real purpose. More importantly, rising terrorist attacks in the rest of Europe would have opened many eyes to the need for border control and strict immigration laws. I’m guessing, it was the immigration bit that Trump probably liked.

Now, Britain will be able to choose who enters and exits their country, lessening the danger of attacks on British soil. Britain also stands to regain its fishing rights around its coast. UKIP leader Nigel Farage thinks Britain could follow the lead of Norway, which has access to the single market but is not bound by EU laws on areas such as agriculture, justice and home affairs.

Britain has nothing to lose at the moment if we look at their current standing. Unemployment is just 5.5%, which is close to full employment figures. Inflation is low, real wages are rising steadily and more people are able to invest in real estate. Also let’s not overlook that Britain has good trade relationships with many leading economies.

Besides, if we look at Greece, we can see that EU does not do much good other than offering loans for a bailout during a crisis which is rather like tightening the noose around a flailing person’s neck. And talking of economic figures, Germany seems to be sitting pretty with booming profits.  Isn’t that proof enough for unequal growth within the EU?

As one of history’s most celebrated alliances break apart and the United Kingdom learns to stand on its own feet, I can’t help but wonder if the UK did more good for the EU than the EU did for them. Whatever be the outcome, there is no denying that June 23rd 2016 will go down in history as a
game-changer in world politics.

The world as we knew it just turned on its head!

 

 

 

 

The Souvenir


(Writing a story after a long time. I hope you’ll overlook the wordiness and the errors. Since it’s way too long, I’ll post this in three parts.)

Part 1

The late evening sun poured a golden hue over everything it touched. I slumped down on a restaurant chair facing one of the larger fountains at Piazza San Marco and looked around. That feeling of having stepped into a picture-history book had not faded even though I had arrived a month ago. Every dome and marble and brick talked to me of something I had missed, because I was born at the wrong end of history.  Julius Caesar, frescoes, Hemingway, the Vatican, Raphael, orchestras, Godfather, the Colosseum, Charlie Chaplin, Gladiator, Pizzas, Toscanini, wine  … my thoughts were tumbling one over the other as it had been for the past few days.  As though in slow motion, a hand came into my field of vision and dived into the bag of groceries I had left on the table. Grabbing an apple from the bag, it started to move away.

Startled I looked up. An old man of 60, shabbily dressed with unkempt grey hair, the owner of the hand, was dawdling off into a crowd of pedestrians and motor cyclists. I jumped up and started running after him.

“Excuse me, sir? What do you think you are doing?”

He threw back a glance but didn’t stop. I ran up and reached for his hand. Angry words were frothing up but no sound came out of my mouth. Dumbly, I looked at him as if he was just another scene from history that invited me to take a look without allowing me to participate. After what seemed like a few moments, he shook off my hand. In a low bass voice, he responded,

“Yes, miss?”

I realized immediately how ridiculous it was to raise an alarm. He had taken just one apple. Was he hungry? Mad perhaps? Too dangerous to follow him. Simultaneous voices were screaming within me. Unfortunately, no one else had noticed the peculiar man.

“Sir, you have no right to take my apple”, I said cautiously.

“Your apple? Can you prove this is yours?” he asked in perfect English before biting into it. I was taken aback.  After taking a few steps forward, he paused, turned back and added,

“Perhaps I should carry that bag for you? You seem to be struggling under its weight.”

Incredulous, I stammered, “Are you mad? Do you think I will give this to you?”

With a crooked grin, he replied, “You look like you are new here. I can be your tour guide.”

I sized him up. Although his accent was without fault, his heavy jaw line and sharp inset eyes belied his Italian ancestry.

“Is this how you get customers, sir? If that’s so, I doubt you’ll have much by the end of the day. Perhaps that’s why you stole that apple.”

He chuckled. “You cannot forget your apple. Let me make it up to you. I’ll ferry you down the canal. It’ll heal you of much.” Catching the look in my eyes, he added, “They are expensive to hire unless you are rich. I don’t think you are though. Why would you grudge one apple, if you were rich? “Anyway,” he added, “I have a friend whose ferry I can borrow if I carry passengers for him in the morning.”

I was offended but surprised at the ease with which he spoke to me, his accuser. He was a con man for sure, a smooth-talker. But his offer was tempting. I hadn’t had the time to explore the canal with my busy schedule. To have someone who knew the canal take me on a near gondola ride was a glorious opportunity. I worked myself up into a reckless mood.  There was nothing much he could take from me except the groceries. I had left my passport and belongings in the room before walking down to the market. Besides, he didn’t look like he would attack me. My instincts had never failed me before.

“You are not going to lead me into a trap, are you? I asked a little naively.

He shook his head, “I won’t harm you. I need to take the ferry down anyway. You’ll have to come back by the vaporetto if you choose or take the train back.”

We had reached the end of the Piazza San Marco Street by now and were looking out at a vein of the Canal Grande of Venice. I looked about me while trying to imagine his story. Maybe he took this canal every day to get home. Maybe he was just a hungry and frustrated tour guide. And I – the rich tourist in his eyes.

I had dreamed of the gondolas and the romance of Venice’s waterways as a young girl. A chance to enjoy it without having to pay a fortune made me feel like a princess in a Venetian fairy-tale.

“Do you have 5 Euros?” he called from the bottom of the landing steps.

I gaped at him as he balanced himself onto an old and worn ferry, which had a few sacks and provisions arranged on the far side. That was half a month’s spending money, he was asking for. If that’s what it takes to enjoy Venice, I’ll part with it, I mused.  I handed him the money after counting out the 2 Euros for a train ride back. First he had taken an apple. Now he wanted 5 Euros. Robbing me with my permission, was he?

I climbed carefully into the long, narrow traghetti ferry (he told me the name) which would carry us down to St. Lucia’s Station.  It was not quite a gondola, but a cheaper version like a canoe and badly maintained. As he pushed off with the long oars, I ventured timidly, “You could have taken a tourist for $20 or more. Why me?”

“I wasn’t planning to use the ferry for service,” he shrugged.

I did not press further and looked across the canal. It was breathtaking all around me. The sun hung low on the western horizon and the waters shimmered golden green. The famous San Marco Basilica loomed high in the east and the Campanile’s pealing bells resonated through the waters from where it stood proud and tall.

The buildings further down that fringed the murky waters were like toy houses, colourful and at once surreal. Along the streets that lined the canal walked tired tourists, wayfarers returning home with their booty, street vendors – there was so much more than my senses could take in at once.

Sometime in, as he was navigating through the dark, mossy alleyways of the canal crammed in by red brick buildings on both sides, I noted that he was keenly watching me, so I asked him, “What do you do for a living?”

“I am an artist. Street artist.” I started.  A street artist in Venice who was also a ferry man and a thief was surely a find.

“What do you make?” I asked a bit too rudely as though I didn’t believe him yet. The sun’s rays were streaming in at the end of our alley forming a light bridge that we could pass through. Venice was pure magic.

“Portraits and landscapes” he replied.

“Do you earn enough to call it a livelihood?” the question came out before I could stop myself. I was being too inquisitive as was my habit with strangers.

He seemed to think about it for a moment before saying, “It’s what makes me happy. My art.”

A man who could not provide for his family could never be happy. So I asked again, “What about your family?”

“I have no family. I married once but that was not for me.”

“Ah the artist. Quite enjoy the free fare, and women, don’t you?” I bit my lip.

He gave a strange, even hurt look at my judgmental tone.

“What are you doing in Italy?” he asked after a long and awkward pause but his tone didn’t match mine. It was rather kind.

I averted his gaze, “I’m doing a short course on literature of the Renaissance period. I came as an exchange student.”

I tried explaining when he pressed me about my interest in the subject but he probably found me unconvincing for he didn’t bother me again till we reached our stop.  The programme had just been an excuse to escape from reality for a time, although, I didn’t tell him that. I watched the narrow waterway open into a wider section of the canal. It was already getting dark but I could make out the landing station in the distance. I felt sad for some reason unknown to me.

“So will you do a portrait of me? I would love to take back a souvenir,” I smiled.

“The light’s too dim. Come back to the piazza early tomorrow, to the eastern side of Doge’s Palace. That way you can see Giuseppe Poggi’s masterpiece and even enjoy a view across the Bridge of Sighs.”  After a pause he laughed, “The place reeks of Renaissance.”

He was already pulling the ferry onto the landing place. He gave me a withered old hand to step up.

“I will be there tomorrow for the art appointment, “he called in parting.

That should be my line if this were a movie I thought as I watched him struggling to climb out with an arthritic leg that was almost immobile. I wished him goodnight and walked down to the station.

“Hope he won’t charge me a lot,” I whispered aloud to myself in amusement. Maybe he was trying to redeem the apple.

(Continue to Part 2)

A Centre That Cannot Fall Apart!


On the one hand you’ve the pseudo-entertainers stoking the fire of baseless ideologies in a society whose very fabric is being ripped apart. The last remaining threads of values can barely hold the weight of what’s happening in and around it. The value of empathy, the value of purity, the value of love, the institution of family, the importance of God – they’re all disappearing like melting crayons, leaving in its wake abstract puddles of colour.  And people are busy lapping it up like the post-Renaissance man did surrealism or Dadaism, cubism or abstract art, none of which anyone understood.  With no ideals to fight for and no pressing needs in life, we see young men and women give their own meaning to what has lost its inherent meaning.

The visual media is riding on this confusion by promoting voyeuristic, self-effacing, consumerist ideas to a generation which thinks it is feeding on organic food while the very genetic make-up of what they eat has been altered.  This visual media that penetrates the unguarded minds of millions spews forth the degenerate waste of wicked human imaginations. Almost everything from alternate reality games to movies border on pornography. Well, man’s imagination has been attacked and conquered through the power of the visual, so the sewage of evil is now attacking the intellect and through it the will of man.  The lust of the eyes has been served through the media. The lust of the flesh is currently being served and it is fast seeping into our societies.

Homosexuality.  Live-in relationships.  Sex the moment you attain puberty. Extra-marital affairs.  You say every society has had them throughout history?  Yes, but back then there was the accompanying sense of shame. There were prohibiting laws. There was the voice telling them it is wrong, if not by the force of culture, then their own consciences.  But do you know what is happening now?  These choices are being projected as the individual’s own choice and therefore as being right. There is no source to point fingers at. That’s the power of evil. It has no face. It assumes the face of the one who accepts it. People are placed on pedestals with their bodies symbolizing the ultimate source of pleasure. Is it really the ultimate source of pleasure? Is that all there is to life?  Is there anyone who is ready to think through this confusion and find answers? This is a generation which does not know what to stand up for or what not to stand up for. With no one to question and no answers given to valid questions, the society as we knew it is tumbling.  Who can stop this cascading of evil into our midst?

On the other hand now, you have the God-lovers who are enthusiastic about proving to the world that there is a God while their lives are blasting out a different message. It’s the Christian who carries the name of Christ, who is doing more damage to the watching world by living out a poor testimony.  They force the rest of the world to say again and again that a person without God lives a more moral life than one who imagines he knows God. These so called Christians nations and its teeming millions walk around like they won a lottery ticket to engage in bigotry.  Pathetic ? Yes.  Do you know why? Because they don’t believe in what they say they believe.

Christians are called to be the sons of God. Can they even imagine the power that such a position entails? Can they imagine what they are called to? Can they begin to imagine the depth and height and heaviness of that grace and love that they are supposed to reflect?  Sadly, they love the world too much to be set apart for God or find out the answers to these questions. They have not tasted of that glory to begin to speak about it. They have only silenced the voice of God with their actions along with the rest of the world. And the society as one is moving farther and farther away from that God. Is it any wonder then that the rest of the world under the guise of atheists and rationalists are crying out against the existence of such a God?  The Christian who does not believe in what the Bible says is as lost and rudderless and immoral as the next person. In fact, the so called Christian more-so, who does not understand the value of the Cross.

In effect, people are running amok looking in all the wrong places for love, happiness and trust.  There are millions committing suicide around the world. Elsewhere there are people being killed in the name of Allah.  There are hordes of people falling prey to alcoholism and drugs. There are a million others being led astray by the promise of love through homosexuality, bisexuality and so on which is really just lusting after the flesh. People no longer depend on God to meet their longing for happiness, sustenance and protection. That need has been wiped away and in its place the self has taken the centre. But has anyone thought about what happens when the centre falls apart?

The innate ability of man to recognize between right and wrong gets lost. Faith hope and love disappears. In its place fear, lust and pride appear.

Isnt’t that the reason for the existential chaos around us?  Is there a way to restore balance to our societies? Look to the cross today.  You will find there the power of evil. Its power to break.  To cut open. To lacerate.  To completely destroy. That is what sin is doing to you and me today. But it is on that same Cross where God took upon himself the world’s sin that you will find the holiness and faithfulness of God, the power of His grace and love that calls you and me away from that sin. It is not enough to know this. You and I need to feel the brokenness and the healing with our heart.

So let’s begin by recognizing in our self the emptiness and the need for a standard against which we can measure our self i.e.,  a God who cannot fail you and me.  A centre that cannot fall apart. There is such a God who can fill the emptiness within us. There is a God who can pull us together and love us eternally. The one who gave his life for us and rose again by the power of God.  A God who will come again to judge you and me.

Who would want to find themselves on the wrong side of the power and the glory on that day? It’s time to turn from the world’s wicked ways. Let’s open the Bible and read what the Word says. And let’s watch in awe every single one of the promises come true. And every one of the warnings too.

Who Am I


A poem that resonates with me at this point – Who Am I? by Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As thought it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

The Lucky Red Seed of My Childhood


I’m not sure if I will still see it when I walk down the familiar path of childhood. Only children are blessed with the ability to seek out those tiny forms hidden in the depths of the earth. Like love, you know. Is it possible to attach a price to it, you wonder as a child?  Surprisingly, someone will invariably tell to your face that it’s worthless. If that broke you then, let me tell you this. Within the seed’s sacred shell contains the secret of childhood. That incredible capacity for wonder intertwined with sublime innocence. Together they make the fleeting hours of childhood magical. Even though, it does not last. No matter how hard you hold on, those muscles that blessed you with imagination atrophy. Mental muscles that so easily get tired of growing.  In turn, childhood eventually fades into the periphery of one’s mind. Leaving a longing in its wake, to go back to that place of gladness. And if you ever look back like I’m doing now, those little red seeds will remind you of it.  And you realise, you tried to attach a price to the ‘Manjadikuru’ because you did not know then that it was priceless.

Photo Courtesy - flickrhivemind.net

Photo Courtesy – flickrhivemind.net

A Malayali in the Malayan Peninsula


After a lengthy 4 hours on a cramped AirAsia flight, served by less than casual stewards and air hostesses, we finally fly down into Kuala Lumpur (its golden lights fluttering like a million fireflies) and from there we take a taxi to a comparatively run down area of Malaysia – Petaling Street. Its 3 am and our group sets down gear in cubicle sized rooms, almost immediately drifting off to sleep with dreams of the morrow bordering our subconscious minds.

Excited as we were, we rest till noon before setting off to explore Petaling Street with its famous China Town, a fusion of colour, noise and people. This place, with its cluster of fake-branded items, is a shopper’s paradise if we are willing to haggle. We don’t try our luck yet. Right now we have food on our minds, and wandering down the street which goes every which way at right angles into more shops, we chance upon a Chinese restaurant. This particular place turns out to be our mainstay for the rest of the trip. My friend being from the North-eastern part of India, is delighted at the sight of food- boiled, stewed, poked, herbed, grilled or fried. However, I am overwhelmed. I gingerly choose a few items, after making sure they are nothing out of the ordinary. But the little that I taste wins me over completely and I top it off with a Chinese herbal tea (This I understand is good for the immune compromised, sniffling traveller).After lunch, we wander further down the street which is almost completely canopied by paper lanterns – orange and yellow and charming with its air of chinoiserie aesthetic.

A little later, we take the metro to the city centre to scour the market places, in particular the Sungei Wang Plaza, Lowyat Plaza and the surrounding areas. By sundown, we move to Jalan Alor to check out South East Asia’s most visited food street scene. Oh what a sight! The variously shaped paper lanterns, designed intricately with Mongolian art, are a photographer’s dream, when lighted up. But quickly overshadowing this is the sight of food (I use the term loosely) in glass counters – ingredients both gross and unimaginable for someone all the way from South India. Sundry items on sticks, ready to be barbequed, give vague ideas of their previously active selves. I decide that it is better to capture their essence through my lens rather than torture my taste buds. I tag along with my excited friend looking for exotic but palatable dishes. In the end, my foreboding native sense restraints me to a measly Bean-sprout Chicken Rice. My friend orders a Chinese dish, the name of it eludes me now, and we enjoy our respective choices while thinking of those which we discarded.

As we laze around the street after dinner, the crowd catches my attention, because they reinforce in my mind the idea that food connects people. They gather by the hundreds in that street looking to indulge their different tastes at restaurants which range from Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese to all that is European and Continental. I busy myself, focussing on snails in water, frogs on sticks and cute mushrooms all waiting to be cooked (or photographed). I pick up a Durian- the king of fruits – but the taste is so outrageous it makes me want to throw up even now. I also try the Dragon Fruit which in contrast is so mild as to be almost tasteless.

Our senses still active from all that we had seen and tasted, we restlessly retire for the night. The next day we cruise along Times Square, taking in the sights and sounds of Malaysian culture. The Malayans live in a land which is a mix of the old and the new- the old stamped into a rapidly changing landscape. The monorail and the skyscrapers look out of place in a street dominated by faded old buildings and crowded advertisements. The constantly moving crowd, with its fair share of loungers, easy-going tourists and prostitutes, make up the population of the city centre. Of particular interest to me are the old troopers at the street corner – three grandpas – trumpeting out a lively jazz tune, oblivious to the world around them. How they were enjoying themselves! In contrast, there is also an electric guitarist strumming out sounds indecipherable to me, a few blocks away. The old and the new blends in Times Square, where the hop-on hop-off buses appearing once in a while calls out to eager tourists and the purple Go KL buses – absolutely free for natives and tourists- encourages public transport. Malaysia is definitely an inspiration if anybody wants a lesson on tourism development.

Our next few days are in Langkawi – a tropical paradise, but soon we are back in KL and hurrying through the rest of our itinerary. During our free time we discover Berjaya Times Square, the biggest mall in Malaysia. Like the bull set loose in the arena, we romp around, gathering all we can on a dwindling budget. Even then, the narrative is incomplete without a word on how the maxis and the dresses, the sweaters and the jackets makes me long for another trip to Malaysia, just for shopping.

We push our tired selves to the Aquaria which holds the wonders of the deep sea, albeit in man-made gigantic underwater tunnels and tubes. The slimy, translucent jelly-fish is the most attractive of them all.  Later on, at the Petronas Twin Towers, we put our photographic skills to the test under a scorching sun, trying to fit the steel and glass structure into one frame. Inside, we explore the sky bridge with its 10 inch thick walls that twist and turn to brace the massive tower against the wind force blowing at about 170 kmph. The tower offers panoramic views of the city melting into the horizon while in the immediate vicinity of the tower, cars look like tiny toys arranged on cardboard streets. Later on, as the tower becomes illuminated in front of a multi-coloured dancing fountain, we marvel at its architecture and the imposing sight it is. Fourth only to Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the tallest twin towers in the world, it is no small wonder. Our dinner that night is a blur of exotic dishes as I am tired from the activities we had packed into the day.

The last on our list is the bird park, but it is the most awaited part of the trip. The burst of colourful feathers, the flutter of wings and the strutting of the birds in open air makes it a bird paradise. The birds are free to roam as the place is fully netted above the trees. How ingenious! The innumerous birds, walking in step with us, include peacocks, egrets, flamingos and storks. At the photo booth, macaws and cockatoos clasp their claws on my hands and shoulders, while a pelican cuddles up on my lap. They seem more bothered about posing than fearing my presence so we click some amusing pictures.

More trips to the shopping streets including the famous Central Market (established in 1888) follow. Central Market is an artist’s heaven with handicraft items sold for exorbitant prices. Hopping from one shop to another, we pick up souvenirs and memorabilia, to bring back to our loved ones some tangible evidence of our vivid experiences in Malaysia.

 

Serendipity


What does the songbird pick up
That I do not?
What fills its heart with-
Sorrow or cheer,
To render vibrations
In musical muse?

What does the artist envision
That I do not?
What colours flow with
Ease and blend
To render scapes
In artistic muse?

What does a mother perceive
That I do not?
What is that touch on
A hapless babe
To spread warmth
In loving muse?

What does a cook relish
That I do not?
What fills their dishes with
Spices and flavours
To sauté combinations
In delicious muse?

What does the animal whiff in
That I do not?
What teaches them of
The world around them
To be and survive
In instinctive muse?

I know not all the answers
Yet as I seek, so I learn
And live and speak
In sagacious muse.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands: A Surreal World


Our spirits soared as the airplane lowered through ‘rows and flows of angel hair’ onto the paradisiacal island. The first glimpses of the cluster of islands were in itself a play of color – brilliant sparkling blue all around with the green islands spotting the seas in emerald hues. The bright Andamanese sun welcomed us as we landed. We flipped through local directories and eventually found a small cozy lodging – originally the owner’s house, with tiny rooms that could barely hold two people – to save up on costs. Surya inn, as it was named, was hidden away in an unpretentious neighborhood at the top of a hill and the meandering roads leading onward had glorious view points from where we could see the whole town of Port Blair.

We started out to Marina Park, all eight adults stacked into two auto rickshaws.  This beautifully landscaped nonpareil park, complete with war monuments from world war days and Tsunami memorials from the recent past, was set against the mainland winding up gradually on the one side and the Bay of Bengal gently lapping against its boundaries on the other side. The turquoise blue waters and the white sand visible from mainland was only a telescopic glimpse into the real paradise that awaited us as we went from island to island.

Our first adventure on these uncharted waters was from the Water Sports Complex at Marina Park – a thrilling water scooter ride across the seas to Ross Island, which had us shrieking as the glittering blue waters showered us from head to toe.

We photographed every moment of the endless wonder that awaited us in the form of limestone caves, primordial species of birds and fishes (with forgettable names), mangrove forests with lurking crocodiles, translucent waters through which we marveled at a whole new world and an island with a volcano. We also became the lucky witnesses of a still tribal people who seemed as if they were made out of wax.  The whole archipelago collectively called Andaman and Nicobar Islands consists of 527 islands out of which a dozen or so are only accessible to our species and the rest remains an elusive, imaginary land, even now.

The sparkling waters and white beach sand of Jolly Buoy Island was approached on a rakish old glass bottom boat, through which we peered at fleeting, colorful fins. Changing into swimming gear in an interim thatched hut, we paid meager amounts to our guides, measured against the magnificence of the world we were about to gaze upon.

As I peered through my snorkeling gear, I came across star fishes, sea anemones, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea lilies, water sponges, clown fish, parrot fish, silver fish, octopuses, corals and more colorful corals and innumerous invertebrates. I forgot in those moments that the life I had lived on land was ever significant.  Designs, shapes and the vibrant colors of that world made my heart leap with the same grace that moved these creatures.

Moving on to Ross Island, we appreciated an old church in ruins with the penetrating roots of age-old trees holding it up as a monument of the past. We also saw the Chief Commissioner’s residence, the troop barracks, the gallows where prisoners were hanged and a quaint old British bakery from a still unforgotten era. The history surrounding Ross Island is rich with its own tales of valor, strength and power.  But on a lighter note, we galloped with friendly Sambar deer and posed for pictures with some wizened turtles and hares. Back in mainland, visits to the Anthropological and Naval Museums gave us a potted history of this little known paradise, the lives of its indigenous tribes and their sad tales of colonial intrusions, its endemic species of plants and animals and its jewels in the form of shells and corals.

Glimpses of the limestone caves left us wondering if it were really made of gold and silver and the chilly dark interiors of the cave wrapped itself around us as we tried to find our way out. The next stop at Volcano Island, observed from a distance, gave me a chance to boast when I got back home because surely I would not come across another person who had seen a volcano in this life, would I?

We collected oyster shells ( without the pearl – which was a loss), and miscellaneous other exteriors of crustaceans along with coral strips to take back to land with us as we walked along each of the spectacular beaches  and drank in the picture postcard surroundings.

But all along the way, we also saw the grim stamp of the Tsunami that devastated these islands in 2004; water pools, tilted landscape and tree stumps were the least of these markers.

On the way, we captured the stunning orange ball of fire in the sky, flashes of colors in nature’s blooms, frothy foam against sapphire blues and brilliant creamy sand set against the verdant greens.

As we sat around in roadside eateries and relished the taste of freshly cooked seafood, strolled around in the vegetable and fish markets to buy some of the local produce, and even scoured the souvenir shops to take back some solid memories hand crafted by the native people, we were charmed by the raw simplicity of life that surrounded us and we forlornly wished we could continue in this fairy tale land forever.

Born free to follow your heart!!


ONLY CAT LOVERS READ THIS. OTHERWISE YOU MIGHT DOZE OFF IN FRONT OF YOUR SYSTEM.

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My little darling when he was 7 months old

January 2012

“Dad, I want a kitten.”

Dad replies, “Yea, right.”

I go back to watching cat videos on YouTube.

The conversation repeats itself every night at 10.

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February 2012

“I really want a kitten, please.”

Dad responds, “Hmm” (More like a grunt)

The conversation repeats itself every night.

March 2012

“Kittens are so adorable. I want a kitten.”

Dad grunts, “Will you please keep quiet? I’m reading the paper.”

I sulk. This happens every night around 11. I go back to watching my cat videos especially Sparta and Loki. (Check them on YouTube people.)

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“Appa, I want a kitten.”

Dad throws daggers at me with his eyes, “Don’t ever ask that again. Keep quiet now.”

I sulk. This continues for a few days.

I relent. By May – June, I ask for a baby elephant, a rabbit, aparrot, anything to keep me occupied and irritate Dad. And by this time, I have literally watched 1000s of cat, puppy, dog and kitten videos on YouTube.

July 2012

Thursday morning. Around 10’0 Clock, I open my sleepy eyes to the pitiful cries of a kitten somewhere nearby. I turn over fighting the voice in my head urging me to go out and help. The second voice reasons, “There is no way Dad is going to let you keep a kitten. There is no way you can help the creature.” I can almost picture Dad’s BP rising.

Saturday morning. Around 10’0 Clock, my eyes flutter open to the sound of the same kitten pleading for attention. I drag myself out of bed and into the garden. There in a corner, a little white kitten is hoarsely meowing. I ask a few questions as to where it came from and being answered with a few hoarse meows, I go back into the house. I come out into the garden. I go inside. I come out. Its cry has turned into a real croak, the sounds of which resembled– mac – mac – mac.

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Picturesque!!

My mom’s hearts has melted seeing me stand and talk to the kitten. She appears with a little cup of milk. Now you, the readers, should know that I have almost succeeded in drowning out that second voice of reason in my head. I open the garden door and walk towards the kitten. It moves away.  I move towards it. It totters away into the array of plants. I follow. It runs. I follow. Finally I sprinkle a little milk towards it, almost performing a ritual of welcome. It stops for a millisecond and then it flees.  After sometime into this drama, running up, down and around the garden, it runs right up to the place I most  dreaded it to go. Under Dad’s car, somewhere into the deeper recesses of the its engine compartment.

Now a duet begins. The kitten goes Mac, I go meow. The kitten responds Mac, I cry meow. After 15 minutes of meowing, I pull out a hose and spray water under the car.  No sign of the little creature.  Again mom appears- this time, with the car keys. We open the hood to find it shivering with mischief on top of the engine.  Immediately, it jumps under, only to be stopped by its tail by mom as I watch.  I religiously hold him by the neck and take him all the way down to the backyard. I place the cup of milk in front of it. The terrified creature realizes it is milk once it has calmed down enough to allow its sense of smell to take over.  Once the milk is lapped up in under a few seconds, he resumes his song – mac – mac- mac. And it laments on, into the night.

Next day morning, a groggy-eyed and furious Dad comes out of the kitchen with a cup of water. And he tries every trick in his bag to scare the kitten away.  No one dares to stop him at the point, although, I’m already scheming. But miracle of miracles, it refuses to leave. And it continues to cry day and night – lamenting the loss of its mother and siblings. I start feeding it. Now the cries reduce to when it wants to see me. It would stop only when I appeared. So I appeared all the time. The little white kitten thus cried its way right into my heart.

Another week passes by. One day around noon Dad asks, “Where is that Mac-Mac?”

I answer with a smile, “It is right outside the kitchen, playing.”

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Posing for the camera..

Thus, a name was born – Mac Mac.

I prepare a presentation of Mac Mac and I sent it across to friends and relatives. Everybody said they loved it. But the truth rears itself in my sister’s impetuous question, “Where exactly did you find such a pathetic looking scrawny kitten? I gasp. Mac Mac was the answer to many months of pleading and wishing. It was the manifestation of my very wish. And to me, Mac was beautiful.

A special bond starts to develop between cat and cat lady. Through the weeks and months that ensued, Mac followed me around like a dog, played endlessly, and ate insatiably. It responded only to my calls and let me alone touch it.  Through hours of sickness, depression, sadness, happiness and boredom Mac stayed by my side. And seeing the change in my character – sulky to happy – Dad stopped objecting.

Fast – forward.

During this time Mac made a new friend- a beautiful yellow and brown long-haired, bushy tailed kitten from next door. He invited it home to stay. That kitten was too scared to let any humans go near it. So, from a distance, I watched the two of them play happily, without a care in the world.Image

But do you think I left it alone? No! With food, Mac’s presence and trickery I manage to pick up that kitten too – once twice, thrice. Now dad starts his old antics, trying to drive away the new cat. Sis tries her best. Mom tries her share. Me? I feed it, love it and win over its confidence. Why? Because, it was Mac’s friend and hence my friend. As the two of them grow, other litter mates and friends start to appear in our compound.  I delight myself in taking pictures of Mac and the friends, in fact, hundreds of pictures.

Fast- forward

May 2013

I leave for a distant land for a time. Mac is lost without my love. Desperately Mac turns to Mom and my sister. And he demands that love by not leaving their side. One day, my sis relents and bents down to pat Mac, only to find that she has fallen in love with him just the way I did. Only difference was that Mac had grown into a beautiful cat – lovely to see and dignified in its manner. (Until my sis revealed it to me I imagined Mac to be a girl but as it turned out, Mac was male – a good looking tom cat and the envy of many other male cats.) Why was he envied? He got free food, had a girl friend (the brown cat was a female as luck would have it) and was a WEAKLING who did not know how to fight back. (I guess he never learnt, having lost its mother at a young age and not having litter mates.)

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Enjoying each other’s company

I returned home to find the brown kitten (a cat now) pregnant and screeching all the time for food. I then named her Keet (meaning- to screech). Around this time Mac was continuously being attacked by other male cats in the area but he was in love with Keet as much then as he ever was. They play. lick, court and mate?? (I don’t know). Anyway, the day comes when, to Dad’s ultimate horror, Keet gives birth to two tiny little critters right outside our kitchen door.

The story will continue in my next post. Stay tuned.

Arabian Dreams – Dubai


A glimpse into the ‘greenest’ desert in the world

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Downtown Burj Khalifa – the tallest tower in the world in a city that comes alive at night

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Miracle Garden – a world of colourImageImageImageImageImageImage

Atlantis – The Fishy chambersImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Safari in the Arabian desertImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

And other sights

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Dhow Cruise on the creek

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On top of Burj Khalifa – Dubai from 829 metres above the groundImageImage

Hope you all enjoyed – Thank you for visiting my blog 🙂

Dimension


Sprinting through soft blades

Hues of yellow and green

The meadows of childhood breaks

Bleating in the heavens, jolts

Spring – load and bounce

Chase the tremulous sound

Crash into the distance

The thud, a definite throb

Puissant upon the softened clay;

Hoof-prints into the sunset

Orange and yellow and red

In Blue, a little white crescent moon:

A splash, a million tears

Then the double sprint,

Reigning in ascendant strength.

Neighing past the blurry pines

Darkness gathers, light fades

Downward slopes; braking bends,

Unsettling dusts – disappearing within;

Forward thrust, over the log

There in silvery blaze

The sinewy muscles, Grunts

Unyielding to halt – billowing mane

Circling, turning, skirting

Magnum Opus

Proud tail – bushy and white- askew

Largely brown, and bred

I race, my pleasure and my pain.

                                                                                                                                              

Just to amuse you – my old folks at home 😉

The girl from music school.


Photo0737Small gestures, random smiles, laughing together, loving each other, caring without demands…  Everybody dreams of that perfect relationship with the significant other. But to sustain it and keep it going over the years is nothing short of a true miracle. Over the years more can change than just the shape you initially were in ( I mean both physically and emotionally) but to be able to accommodate your love into the very soul of the other being is real love.

I recently had the good fortune to watch my aunt, a dedicated housewife, going about her business. Life had dealt hard blows along the way. There had been scary accidents. There had been health problems. The kids had grown ‘up and into’ their own worlds. But as I have come to realize presently, the mother’s love only grows taller as the years roll by. No matter how loud the screams or shouts got, there was always (and only) room for wonderful love.

Getting up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare for a busy day of guests, husbands, relatives, sons was unimaginable to me until I saw her at it( I mean I guessed it, since I don’t wake up that early). Having perfected the art of cooking (the cleaning and the cutting were bonuses I had never thought of before) a number of dishes for the afternoon meal in a matter of few hours before cleaning up for breakfast, making sure that everything looked as sparkling as before, even wiping the floor a zillionth time and then waiting patiently for each member to come and have their breakfast of choice; the last one in being me for a glass of juice when lunch is already simmering on the stove..  ah … if ever there was a wonder woman, it was her (and included without exception, all the others out there who have dedicated their lives to building beautiful families).

In between and around these chores, she would put out the clothes for washing, clean any other part of the house that needed cleaning and continually dish out something to eat for anyone sitting around. It didn’t end there. She could go on a shopping spree which would last hours (I couldn’t keep up myself), come back with heavy legs and still get up and continue the music the next day. Of course, her garden of flowers in the hot Arabian desert climate is another point to be noted. She is a wonder woman also because, through all this, she could talk of a million things -past, present and future and keep you glued to the kitchen chair for hours together. I say glued to the chair because she did not believe in helping hands (and so I did not have to help- no need to consider this heartless). I had in the short time I spent with her,  learned of her favourite plate’s origin and life story and of the marks on her kitchen floor, each of them carrying the history of a dropped utensil or even a coconut by a servant who was long gone.  Every-thing in that kitchen told a story.

I digress from my main point- the love that she shared with her husband, the continuation of a love story that began 2 decades ago. To him “she was still the girl from music college; that beautiful girl who sang like a nightingale.”(And yes, she is beautiful- present continuous). It was a joy to hear him tell her that he will not let her go before his time and mean it too. The amazing part was that when they sang together (with karaoke and surround systems now) and I being the sole audience, there was always the emotions which rang true which no technology could synthesize.  It becomes then for that moment their song, their life.  And I clapped to this.

But beyond the visible, the invisible love was more radiant.  The short-comings which seems unbearable to an outsider could be borne so naturally, each in its own turn, only because of the love which they bore in their hearts. The thing hated did not make the person any less valuable.  In fact, it showed how you could cut a channel right around hate and let love flow through it. Love and prayer.  It is so true that a praying family stays together. Not just in my life, but in many families, I have seen this come true and more so in this one.

That they could call each other every so often even if it is just to hear the sound of each other’s voice and be assured of the love that waited them when they returned home – office, shopping or wherever it was.  In their hearts they are still so young.  Of course, as the years go by it becomes a more serious and independent dependence (which also I commend). But while they were still young in their hearts, they could make melody together. Raise amazing kids.  Weave friendships which would not be severed so easily. Throw memorable parties.  And through it all sing to each other the very love that had brought them together and held them close all these years. Let that love surround and comfort them when life takes unexpected turns and may they grow old together.

This post is dedicated to my uncle and aunt  who put me up at their place for a week and with whom i enjoyed every moment. I kept my promise 😛 but i wish i had taken pictures of you both.

 An Ethereal Land : Andaman and Nicobar Islands


I had the opportunity to visit the virgin islands of Andaman and Nicobar islands.Here is a glimpse into what i saw there on the first day. The rest will follow at a later time.

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I have dreamed as a child, and I see it yet as a child…

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Distant lands, myriad shades, fairy tales and all that is pure …

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First glimpse of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Stunning view of the land, untouched and beautiful

Cardboard boxes , civilization and beauty still..

Speeding on water scooters

Port Blair as the lights come alive at dusk..

Of these, i saw some…

Making a livelihood on the dark waters …

In a frame, beauty that cannot be captured fully…

One of the many islands where much underwater wealth awed us…

On a glass-bottom boat, watching for fleeting fins…

Blue skies, white sand, cottony clouds, distant islands, turquoise blue waters, shades of corals, deeper blues and the stuff of dreams and postcards

All manners and colours of shells move here with the pulse of life..

A lone cruiser awaiting its riders..

When i lose myself in dreams I hear the trumpet notes of reflection

It is without doubt that there is a pattern for everything in nature-
a crab digging into the sand, creating patterns in its wake.

Luscious pineapples waiting to be harvested.

A crude yet beautiful reminder of the power of a Tsunami, a tree
uprooted and left as nature’s monument.

Random Motion and Forgotten Identity – part 2


Well, I guess the last post would have raised a lot of curiosity as to what was on the piece of paper that the rickshaw driver gave me. For those who missed reading the first part, read it here.

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As I continued to walk down the lane, I wondered at the fact that I had been suppressing a part (?) no, the whole of my identity as a believer other than in my very personal life. I have been living a life of random motion and involuntary actions. Even when seeing the world before my eyes, I had failed to recognize all that I was supposed to pray for and thank God for.

Have I been relating to, or doing what I am called to do? It took a wake- up call to help me realize that I was wasting away a good portion of my life when Jesus had said we should be like the lamp that is placed on top of the hill; we should not be like the light hidden under the basket.

What the rickshaw driver handed me was a tract – a tract that spoke of God’s salvation and love. He had probably handed it to me thinking I am an unbeliever. But the rickshaw driver was doing what was possible for him while continuing to do his work. What I could have done was give an encouraging word and be overjoyed that there was this one person doing his part for the Kingdom of God. He was a part of the great family of believers.

Instead I had turned and walked away. There are many, who are of the opinion that anyone can hand out a tract and this is no big deal. But his action of handing out change when he could have fairly asked for an extra 15 rupees showed that he wanted his actions and his faith to match. He was doing his work. He was doing it honestly. And he boldly proclaimed his faith.

I was humbled by this small act of faith. How much more are we called to do, to whom much more is given?

Here is the tract that he handed out to me:

                                                                   REMEMBER

Life is fleeting

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.(James 4:14)

 

Death is sure

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrew 9:27)

Reason being sin-

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12)

 

Christ is the only remedy-

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.(John 3:16)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.(Ephesians 2: 8, 9)

Therefore –

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10: 9, 10)

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come    from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10: 13)

 

Remember!

 

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Hope atleast one soul will be blessed by what I have shared. This post is not just about sharing a tract but also about living our lives meaningfully.

 

 

 

 

 

Random Motion and Forgotten Identity


As usual I waited till the last moment to open my eyes – still heavy with sleep and faded dreams. I dragged one leg out, then the next and planted them on the floor to steady myself. Within a few moments I freshened up and rushed down. The food was swallowed without recognizing the dish or the taste. I then rushed out of the house willing myself to walk faster than usual which is most of the time slower than normal.

The sky was blue and the day windy but nothing registered in my mind. People and places passed by and after getting the photostats, I walked  absent-mindedly towards a rickshaw driver, just allowing a little reason to seep through, to make sure he had clicked the meter on. I had a long distance to go and I felt it was necessary that I got a fair charge. Shops, vehicles and greenery passed by like a faded film being played on fast-forward before my eyes. But I was lost in a world of my own, wondering how a particular shop name, “Mobsroot” could be written so creatively.

Soon, I reached my destination. I asked the driver to pull over to the left, and got out. The meter showed a faded 45.00 and with a half-reasoning mind I thought- most of these people charge 10 to 15 rupees extra. But lethargy made me hand out the 50 rupee note I held in my hand. And in return, he handed me a neatly folded paper on which something was printed, even as a defensive wall went up around me.

I asked,” What is it?” not a bit softly, as I did not trust strangers.

But involuntarily I reached out and took the paper. He mumbled a response which I could not make out, owing to my sleepiness, lack of interest or hearing loss. Simultaneously, he reached into his shirt pocket and searched for something. I asked again through my defensive wall, not without irritation and perhaps rudely,

“What is this paper?”

He responded with a sheepish grin,

“Read it”

All my brain could process was – I’m late. Get going.

 

But he gave me pause as he handed me 5 rupees in change. This was unusual. A kind hearted auto-driver at last. I reached out involuntarily and put the change in my bag, as though it made me a little richer than I already was. I turned and marched away from the rickshaw driver. As I walked down the lane, I glanced at the piece of paper in my hand.

Was it a campaign or an advertisement? Or was it a plea for help? Perhaps some notice to follow rules.  I focused my otherwise blurry eyes on the piece of paper. The words came to life before my eyes. And I tripped over- almost. My universe felt like it had tilted a tiny bit. I blinked, paused, smiled and continued walking. But my thoughts had taken on a new twist.

To be contd..

Make the world a better place – Author unknown


(Another of my old favourites- its worth sharing)

Two men, both seriously ill , occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his room mate all the things he could see outside the window. The  man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods when his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played in the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other men couldn’t hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days and weeks passed.

One morning the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body from the room.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to oblige, and after making sure she was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

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This was an article I read in a magazine years ago but I dont remember the writer now. Whoever it was, he did know one thing – 

“There is tremendous happiness in making others happy despite our own situations” 

Gray Areas in a Christian’s life :)


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Place your heart and soul in God’s hands


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Our heart becomes like the world around it when we do not give God place in there.

Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

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If we place it in God’s hands he cleanses it and truth and light starts to shine through.

Isiah 1 : 18- “….though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. though they are red as crimson they shall be like wool.”

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And it will be lighted up by the Holy fire till Jesus becomes our heart; diffusing the darkness around us and spreading the light of God.

1 Corinthians 6 :19 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”

Mat 5:16 – “let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven”

 I remember Martin Luther’s words here – I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. 

(P.S – The pictures are google images which i have edited for this purpose in Photoshop. The pics as such do not belong to me. )

A few lessons from grandpa’s favourite things


Umbrella – No matter how severe the storm, there is always shelter under the umbrella of faith.

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Torch– No matter how scary or dark the surroundings are, a little ray of light can diffuse that darkness.

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Walking Stick– No matter how independent you are, there are times when you have to learn to depend.

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Glasses– No matter how distorted the view on life, a different perspective can give a better insight.

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Grandfather’s clock – Time is ticking, do all you can while you still can, for the Lord.

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Books – Acquire knowledge for wisdom is an asset.

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Lemon SqueezerBe refreshed continually, for health is equally important.

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Time pieceRest is important but be on the alert even then, for there is no time to waste.

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Thanks for stopping by, all of you.

Hope u enjoyed looking at the pics as much as i enjoy looking at his things. They have a world of memories etched on them, especially the chimes of time rung out by that old clock, bringing in the music of a bygone era with it.

Can a Mother Forget?


FaithRises

Image result for mother and baby nursing silhouette

Sometimes when we’ve been praying for something for a very long time, we begin to lose heart, and wonder if the answer will ever come. I know exactly how that feels. I remember praying and praying for God to work a miracle in my life, and sometimes, I felt that God had forgotten about me and my situation. Of course we know that God sees us always, and knows everything about our lives, but still, it is true of us as humans, that we sometimes think that our situation may not be as urgent to God as we would like for it to be.

This is sonottrue!

At one of my lowest points, the LORD gave me a verse which comforted me and reassured me, and to this day, this verse is very near and dear to my heart. In Isaiah 49:15-16, the Lord says,“Can a…

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The Souvenir


Read Part 1 and Part 2

Part 3

I woke up early to catch up on pending work. As I pored over my course assignment on Dante and Voltaire, my thoughts went back to the old man. Today I must ask him to give an explanation for his behaviour. Who was he? What was his story? The questions resurfaced again and again while preparing for the day.

Later at the Institute, I realized I could squeeze in a couple of hours break before my afternoon session. Hurriedly finishing my presentation, I caught up with a few students and instructors before heading to the restaurant. I had not told my colleagues of my rendezvous as I feared they would stop me.

It was past 12 when I reached and the place was teeming with early diners. It was a quaint corner with seating arranged on the cobbled street over which the awning stretched protectively. There were little pots of bright red flowers arranged tastefully to render a spritely look. I saw him sitting in a corner, poring over an Italian book. I greeted him and sat down. He acknowledged my presence and went back to his book.

“Were you not expecting me?” I asked timidly.

Before he could reply the waiter appeared from inside, writing pad and pen in hand.

“Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, mushroom and ham pizza are our specialties”, he offered helpfully when he saw my blank look.

The stranger asked for some house wine too. It was funny how we were sharing a table like family, and sat comfortably in silence. No questions were asked. No explanations given either. By now he had put down his book and was keenly watching a couple at the opposite table. I fidgeted, wondering how to question him. Obviously he had no intention of giving me the portrait.

“What’s your name?” I asked suddenly.

He shifted his eyes to meet mine, “Amedeo, What’s yours?”

“Anna,” I mumbled.

“How long are you here?” His voice was not curious but matter-of-fact.

“I’ll be here only two more days. I will be returning to Florence to complete the course.”

After a pause, I added, “So, have you something to give, an apple perhaps?”

“The apple!” he exclaimed suddenly.  “Why, your thoughts are still stuck on that apple. It was never yours, you know. It belonged to a farmer once. Afterwards, it belonged to the street vendor. You were just a temporary steward. Before it came to me,” his eyes twinkled.

“I paid for it,” I could not keep the resentment out of my voice.

“But I ate it.” After a few moments he resumed, “If it is the portrait you want, I cannot give it. My art is my joy. It will be of no use to you, don’t you realize? You enjoyed the process, I will take the reward.”

I ogled at his nonchalance. In the ensuing silence, the food that appeared disappeared quickly. All the while, he kept humming softly.

What actually did I want from this strange man? The more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that it was I who had been following him, even though he had invited me on both the days.

How could I explain to this stranger that I was chasing something I did not understand? Life was a perpetual chase – relationships, skills, beauty, knowledge, ideas, even God, to make sense of the chaos we are born into. We all run till death overtakes us.

He looked at me keenly, “You cannot chase God or run from him, you know. It’s He who holds it together while you run. ”

Caught off guard by his comment, I did not reply. I got up to pay the bill at the counter. I was getting a stipend from the exchange programme, luckily. Use it on whims and fancies like him, I thought sarcastically. He was eccentric. He was kind. He was …

I turned around –

Gone.  So were my novel, street map, hat and the new coat, still unopened, that I had bought for him, to let him know I was extending my hand in friendship.  Though it was not my fault that he had behaved strangely, I was the one who had felt an apology was due on my part. In spite of this, he had taken my things and his gift and walked away.

Disappointed and upset, I sat down. Across from where he had sat, the wine bottle stood like a silent monument to his presence there a few moments back.  Had I let go of that apple, I wouldn’t have had to face this moment I thought miserably. How could he break a naive heart? And spill the last ounce of cherished trust? Was he just a common thief?

The realization, that he gave much more than what he had taken, came much later in life. It was so, that I returned to Venice many times as a professional and with family. Yet, for me, one of the most beautiful memories of the place was that first ferry ride with him. And that one hour when he turned my sadness into beauty through his art. But the biggest gift he had for me was a series of paintings he made with me as its subject. I chanced upon these at a sponsored exhibition in Rome, titled The Traveller’s Search, by Amedeo, ten years later. I finally let go on that day, when I understood.

For now though, as I poured myself the remaining wine, I wept – I was a stranger in Venice with a broken souvenir.

 

 

The Souvenir


Read Part 1 here.

Part 2

By 4’o clock, I was ready in a pretty dress that I picked out at a street market. Leaving my hair in loose waves, I grabbed my clutch and put on heels. I loved the feel of freedom but would it be wiser to have a few acquaintances know where I was? No, I’ll just go, I decided. This was my adventure.

Your choices are often wrong a voice reminded me. Not my instincts I reminded myself as I tried to inject myself with courage, which had waned, as evening approached. I was anticipating the meeting, never doubting for a moment that he would come. I took a train to the nearest stop and walked down to the imposing masterpiece of the Florentine architect, seen from across the canal.

The Doge’s Palace, the seat of the Venetian Republic in the past, was majestic with its marble facades and grand sweeping view of the surrounding. But I was not amused that the floral columns and pillars reminded me of the Mughal architecture of my homeland. The Mughals were plunderers and greedy. All they did was kill people, build palaces, marry women and leave behind obsequious verses and a boring history for posterity to pore over and spit out at exams. That’s what all men did, across time, I thought as I looked about me.

He had asked me to meet him at the corner pillar which looked out on the waters of the Rio de Palazzo. He was already there with his easel and brush. I was slightly disappointed to see him wearing the same shabby coat from yesterday.  But to his credit, he had on a fresh white shirt and a tweed coppola, a favourite of Picasso’s, I had read somewhere.

He tipped his cap in greeting and pointed me to the steps with a compliment. A trick used by artists, but which relaxed my facial muscles into an easy smile. I was trying to hold the smile for as long as I could but only after some time had passed I realized, this was stupid on my part; he wouldn’t have been working on my smile all that time.

To distract myself I looked about and saw the Bridge in the distance. I wondered why it had such a peculiar name. Perhaps lovers parted here when fate beckoned men to battles. Perhaps lonely souls hung about here to grieve their loved ones. Perhaps poets and writers were drawn to ponder on the meaninglessness of life here.

“Why is it called the Bridge of Sighs?” I called out to him.

He barely glanced back and said dismissively, “They probably couldn’t think of a better name.  If you look at the water long enough you’ll sigh.  The beggars and tramps of Venice have pitched tent there since many years now. Adds colour to pity, huh.”

Seeing my annoyance, he said apologetically, “It has something to do with the water’s gentle movement forward, out of sync with the strong breeze that blows backward, creating an illusory effect. Much like life that pulls you backward and forward at the same time.” I was struck by his comparison and relapsed into silence.

When he finally finished and gestured to me, I stretched and immediately cringed at the calf muscles waking from sleep. Limping to the wood easel, I eagerly looked around. He had not used any defining lines but let the colours spread on the canvas to take the shape of my face and torso. A pretty smile. A dreamy faraway look. And shining eyes.

“What? Why are there tears in my eyes? I was smiling the entire time.”

Anger was bubbling up within me. He seemed surprised at my reaction.

“There is sadness in you. Your eyes are not quite lively,” he mumbled softly.

How could he be so presumptuous? Is that why he called me here? To analyse me? Who was he anyway?

He continued, “But that’s what is beautiful in you. You have a certain depth to your beauty.”

I glared at him, “How much should I pay you for the portrait?”

He did not answer me. Instead he folded up his stand and put the brushes into his tool box. And slowly but carefully he started putting the canvas into a large wooden box with a soft lining. I saw that he had many others canvas papers in that box. Once again I grabbed his hand,

“What are you doing? You can’t take that. I want it,” my voice had risen considerably.

I looked around helplessly. How was I to negotiate with this man?

He was unmoved. Closing the lid and locking it with a padlock, he next picked up the stand and the brush holders. There were so many things to carry. I watched him defiantly without offering help.  With the same crooked grin from yesterday, he said, “You can help me carry it to that bus stop around the corner. I can go from there.”

My irritation turned to incredulity. Was he really senile as I had thought? Or had I played into his hands?  He would sell that painting and make money. Yes, that was how he lived. Now I was sure.   Grabbling the extended stand and assortment of brushes from his hands I weighed my options. I could run. But what would people think? That I was robbing an old man? I had no money if police arrested me. It would be shameful if someone at the Institute had to be called. How was to explain this random art appointment with a stranger? I was held in place by the fear of what people would think. He on the other hand could care less.

I looked out of the corner of my eye at the strange man. He looked old and tired. Resigning myself to the unfortunate predicament, I decided to tag along.  While waiting for the bus, he asked me about my morning. I was sullen and angry and did not answer him. Resolutely, I kept my eyes on the bus pulling into the bay.

Just before entering, he turned around, “Come to Castello Pizzeria, north of Doge’s Palace for lunch tomorrow. It’s a good place for a taste of real Italian food.”

Without waiting for confirmation, he disappeared into the bus.

Feeling bruised and angry I went back to my room. After a light sleep, I passed the evening walking across Rialto Bridge looking down the Grand Canal. There was so much to take in, so much to see, so much to make sense of around me. Why worry about some stranger?  For some time I sat and watched the street musicians on accordions and clarinets playing soulful Italian tunes. With their heavy accents it was difficult to catch the lyrics when they sang; nevertheless I spent an enjoyable evening. After a pizza I walked back to my makeshift place, where roommates, exchange students themselves, were catching up on their day.

Tomorrow is a long time away, I whispered to myself, as I tried to join in the conversation.

(Read Part 3)

The Secrets of Staying Young


Good Time Stories

Photo Credit: Alex via CC Flickr Photo Credit: Alex via CC Flickr

Bad news folks…we are all getting old. Every day that passes by is another day “in the books.” The most important thing that we need to remember is that there is a BIG difference of growing old and growing up. You can decide to be a person who will be forever “young at heart” or someone who just sits around and grow “old.”

The following story that I found on The Life of Hope is a heartwarming tale of a special young lady and her exploits in an environment where most people her age aren’t normally found. I trust that this story will brighten your day, bring a smile to your face, and maybe, bring a change to your life.


The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know. I stood up to look around…

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