Saturday, 13 December 2014

Of Lemons And Leopards

I live in a place which gives me the feeling of staying in a forest resort, all year long. Trees, birds, flowers...Yesterday, this awesome Hornbill paid a visit to my garden, where I was lounging on my bean bag, paying close attention to the surrounding sounds. In the past week or so, I am enjoying my time in the garden less and paying more attention to the surrounding details. Care to know why? Read on..
 As soon as winters arrived in these parts, it became an integral part of my routine to spend some leisure time in the garden, preferably with a piece of knitting and a cup of tea. Though this place is really cold, with snow capped mountains in view, the sun shines blindingly bright and sharp in the clear azure sky.
 So, my current project-in-the-garden is this bright red sweater for my sister. It has been years since she has been pestering me for one. Finally I gave in and started this project which I hope to finish soon so that she can wear it this winter.
I often sit facing the 'galgal' lemon tree that is in the corner, the one with yellowing leaves. The reason of sitting in this particular direction is that then the sun shines on my back and that is the best way to enjoy the warmth of sun. 
A few days ago, the tree was bearing glorious lemons. I would sometimes go under the tree and try to count the gorgeous fruits. There were almost a dozen of them. Nearly a month ago, when the fruits were still there, I had clicked this picture, standing under the tree.
 I did not know much about the usage of such humongous citrus fruits. Once some friends visited and told me that they can be used in cooking and in cocktails etc. Then we brought one inside and sampled it. 
A few days later, when I found some fruits missing, I got all of the remaining fruits picked and sent a few over to friends. I used the rest of them in place of regular lemons.

This area is surrounded by dense forests and there are wild animals and birds in plenty. The most spotted ones in and around my colony are wild boars and leopards. Attacks on pets and small children are not unheard of. My house is in an extreme corner and the forest touches the garden fence. I am always careful, especially with Coco, and never leave him alone outside the house.

It was a pleasantly sunny morning the next day after I posted about lovely butterflies in my garden. It seems one particular big cat took offense at not even once being mentioned here and butterflies getting all the 'lime'light. Notice the white pole on the right hand side in the picture taken from under the lemon tree. It was there, standing on the wall behind the pole. I was getting ready to go somewhere when my husband's buddy called out 'Memsaab, tiger.' I rushed out and there it was. Finally, I saw it in broad daylight, clearly and very close. I had seen a leopard once during these monsoons, resting on a dry spot, some distance away from the residential area, and the next time when it was caught in a trap in the forest, both the times, vaguely and from far away. This was the real deal. The first word that came to mind was 'beautiful'. By the time I could think of getting my phone to click a photo, it turned and vanished into the forest behind. 

Since that day, I cannot sit quietly in the garden as I am always watchful. Even falling dry leaves get me all worked up as I do not want to share my lounging time with uninvited guests.

The next day, a teenager was attacked by a leopard in the neighboring colony.

The above image was shared on whatsapp a few weeks ago by a friend. The leopard was resting on the wall in front of her house for almost an hour. 

Leopard attacks have become quite frequent these days in and around Dehradun in Uttarakhand. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Ek Titli..




                                      
Days are really pleasant in the cold foothills of Uttarakhand with sun shining brightly. I try to finish my work as soon as possible to get some time to sit in the sun. Then we come out, Coco, me and my bean bag, with a piece of knitting and a cup of tea usually. On this particular day, I was beautifying my nails for the evening when some colour other than this bright red caught my eye.

                                       
It came closer, then farther, farther away, hovering above plants, its lovely blue flickering in the sunshine. A lot of butterflies flit around in the garden, mostly yellow and white. Once a really large black one entered the hall and sat upside down on the ceiling for three days before being chased out. This one looked really pretty, and charmed me so much that I nearly missed the little brown moth accompanying it. Look closely!

 I could not stop my lazy self from wiggling out of the bean bag and reach the lime tree to get a closer look. And I was amazed again at my own capability of forgetting myself when the tiny little beauties of nature come to meet me. It is little details that make the big picture worth watching.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

In The Land Of Sand

After celebrating our birthdays, Coco and I went on a trip to Bikaner, Rajasthan, with his dad and a rather large group of friends and colleagues. And the fact that our birthday post was incredibly late is because we left for Bikaner while we were still celebrating. Though I mentioned my trip earlier, I managed to put off telling more about my trip. And that is not forgivable because Rajasthan is my first love.

So, while we were in Bikaner, us girls utilized our time well in shopping. I have plenty of 'Bandhej' and 'Leheriya' sarees, which I had collected during my two year stay in Jodhpur after my marriage. So, while other ladies shopped for these, I reminisced my sweet memories of Jodhpur.

During our multiple visits to multiple shops in famous Ganpati Plaza and Labhuji Ka Katla, we sank into an assortment of heirloom fabrics like Kota cottons and Sanganeri prints among others. We already had long shopping lists from friends back home, primarily for sarees and suit material. The shopkeepers had a tough time keeping track of who bought what above our chaotic and noisy chit-chat, clicking of pictures and sending them to friends and family for approval.
I was chiefly looking for printed tablecloths and bedsheets among other things and bought loads of them to my heart's content. It has been quite some time after we left Jodhpur and its treasures (read fabrics), and the stuff that we had from there is kind of wearing out already. So, my home was in the dire need of the above sheets and covers. 


The above brass doorbell and Old Monk jug were bought from AWWA Sajni shop in Bikaner Cantt, on the last leg of my shopping after I had already crossed my budget, and they have been good conversation pieces at home, at least the jug. As a result of all this shopping, the bags that were half empty while we were going, were now bursting apart at seams with all the load. Daily when I came back from shopping, my husband would click a picture of me entering the room with all my shopping bags, balancing their weight on my arms, elbows, wrists and even fingers. But these jokes were all taken well because at the end of it all, my home looks prettier.




Tuesday, 11 November 2014

How Could I Miss This?

I mean, just how? True, I have been busy and everything, but this is too sweet to be left out. We celebrated our birthdays, Coco and I. Yes, Coco is now a big boy of two years, and I am older too :| . It felt great to celebrate our birthdays next to each other's as it was an extended two day affair of birthdays. Coco watched wide eyed as we sang 'Happy Birthday' for him and duly remembered to sing 'Haapi Haapi' a few hours later for me. Ooh! It made my heart sing with joy.

He is growing wiser and smarter with each passing day. Sometimes it is really surprising to see him doing or saying something that we never thought he knew! His words are fast becoming phrases and further sentences. He is good at remembering names of people. Earlier it was difficult for him to say two words in a go, so he would call his dear aunties by their names. Now he is addressing them as he should. He had taken to calling his dad's 'sahayak' and the maid by their names, as he heard us calling them. After a little emphasising, he is now calling them uncle and auntie too. He also calls me by my name, as he hears from his dad. This usually happens when he is trying to find me or is irritated. I always respond very happily to this. My name sounds sweetest to my ears, when he says it. 
In the above picture, Coco is perched happily on a chair which is a birthday gift from one of my friends. It is so cute, I squealed with surprise! Oh, and the chair has a whistle, so it squeals too when Coco sits on it. So, he jumps up and down on the chair just for that funny sound.

We are trying our best to capture his moments on video. Time seems to have wings and Coco is growing in and out of his clothes and habits so fast, we are missing some things already. It is as if something is slipping out of our hands and we can do nothing about it but be happy as we watch it going by. As I watch him grow, I feel I am growing too. And why not? I am a two year old mommy now!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Quilled Gifts


                                     Quilled earrings
Some of my friends have become quite the fans of my quilling since they saw my quilled explosion box card. A couple of them also wanted to learn it. But some or the other engagements kept us all busy and before we could all get together for a quilling session and a cup of coffee, one of them had to leave station due to her husband's posting. Yes, this happens very regularly with army wives, friends going away... but it is also fairly regular to make a lot of friends and to meet those friends over and over, in different locations. 
Anyways, senti stuff apart, the one who was going away kept mentioning quilling whenever we met, and I wanted to make it up to her by gifting her something quilled. I thought over many ideas and the best thing that I could think of were quilled earrings, along with a quilled card or something if I had time.
I searched the great ol' Internet and many interesting patterns came up. Now, I like to refer to patterns or designs and give them my own little twists, instead of copying them. It's not something moral, but it has got something to do with my critical eye which makes my brain itch to add something here, cut something there etc. Many times, I take so much time mulling over the colour scheme or pattern that my projects refuse to get started and take forever to get finished, if they start at all.
But, in this case, I did not have the luxury of unlimited time on my hands. Plus, if it is openly available on internet and I can figure out how to make it, it is not copying, it is called getting inspired! And I did not have quilling strips of the colour scheme of my chosen pattern, so I used different colours. See, I did add my twist after all. 

So, here we are. After the earrings were all ready, I also 'figured out' how to make your own paper bag, made one with some fancy paper available with me and in went the earrings, lovingly kept in a 'shagun potli', not made by me. :D Do I need to mention, my friend was incredibly pleased to receive this gift.

When I shared some of its pictures with my sister, she liked them and mailed me some patterns asking if I could make those for her. So, here we are again, making quilled earrings, on one of my kitchen counters. If you are wondering, I have three counters in my kitchen (wide smile here!), of which, one is my dedicated crafting counter, away from Coco's reach.
This pair is almost finished and I have to figure out how to insert those tiny hooks in these thick paper beads. Meanwhile, I have moved on to other projects which can be done sitting in the sun, like knitting ;). The lovely warmth of sun is too precious to miss. Winter is here in Cocoland!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Happy Diwali!

Of the five Diwalis after my marriage, this one was only the first time that we three were together, Coco, his father and I. It had to be special. I remembered what I used to do on Diwali during my college days. I would spend the entire day decorating the house with flowers and making rangoli. These used to be two of my favorite activities on the festival of lights, which actually gave me the feel of the festival, apart from my mom's Dahi-vada. Somehow, I could not carry on both these practices for various reasons after I left home.

Celebrating this Diwali as a family of three, I chose to do what was closest to my heart, but in a much more organised(read scopeful of being lazy) manner. I asked my husband to bring marigold garlands and left him to decorate them as he pleased. That is one major task done! Without even moving a finger. I love delegating tasks suddenly. And I love my husband :)   
Then , I dedicated myself to making rangoli, with colored semolina (sooji), which was also coloured by yours truly the previous night, while preparing Dahi Vadas and Gulabjamuns on special demand. :) (I am not so lazy, people!) With most of the cooking out of the way, this day was carefully kept aside for decorating garlands and making rangolis etc. so that we could enjoy everything about the festival without being too rushed. And I must admit that the task of making rangolis is not only enjoyable, it makes you proud at the end of it too. 
See what I mean? I have captured a picture of this rangoli from every angle possible, feeling better at every shot. A sense of relief, calmness and happiness, all come together and envelope me.
 And this is the bigger picture, which shows where actually was this small semi circle of colored sooji present on my veranda. (Those spears have a long story. Some other day!!) And you can very well sample the fine work that my husband did with those flowers. ;) Earthen lamps were placed on the rangoli in the evening after Laxmi-pooja duly and happily, though we were getting terribly late for our social gathering. 
 And this is something that was lying as an empty rum bottle behind the dustbin in my kitchen for a couple of months. Then it spent a few days on my craft-counter, among paintbrushes and colours. Their company surely transformed its personality but on Diwali day, it took 5 minutes and a fairy light string to further transform it into this glamorous lamp, suitably lighting up a dark corner.

It was intensely gratifying to see how I could give shape to my own celebrations with gentle touches of colour and creativity. I am happily skipping like a little girl, standing on the threshold of the main door, craning out to see the rangoli, then peeking back in to see the bottle-lamp, now rangoli, now lamp and again...yayyy!! 

Oh, I remember, there is one more bottle lying in my kitchen, this time donated mindfully by my dear husband, after he witnessed what I could do with rum bottles, er.. empty ones I mean!   

It is amazing how small things are capable of providing such great happiness. One only needs to find the right thing. Small enough!


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Scribbler's Orchard: Part 23

Team Name: Scribblers' Orchard

Read the previous part of the story here

Shekhar, Tara and Jennifer were on the airport, waiting for the boarding call for a flight to Delhi.

Shekhar dreaded asking her, but could not stop himself from asking, after he heard the word ‘PM’ during the call that Tara made to Delhi, ’Tara, where exactly are we going in Delhi?’
‘To meet my father,’
‘You just called the PM’s residence.’
‘To meet my father, the PM.’

Startled, Jennifer and Shekhar both looked at each other and then at Tara. Shekhar shifted nervously in his seat. Tara had never talked to him about her father. He never pushed her too much, sensing her discomfort at this question. He did not like prying much into her past as long as they were happy in present.

‘Don’t you think it is a good idea to bring someone along to such a dangerous meeting?’ Shekhar asked Tara when they were on their way to meet PM. Tara had called and informed his personal secretary already. Other than that call, she had been quiet through the entire Mumbai-to-Delhi flight. Now as she was due to meet him in a matter of minutes, she refused to take Shekhar or Jennifer along.

‘For God’s sake Tara, don’t be so secretive. You have to talk at some point. We are coming with you.’ Shekhar put forth this thought emphatically. Tara kept quiet.

..........

At the doorstep of PM’s home office, Tara paused. They were standing in the wide driveway of the PM’s residence. There was an outhouse in front of them, which bore a fancy brass plate stating ‘Office’. Plush furniture pieces with rich tapestry were visible through huge glass panes of the ornate ebony door. 

Tara opened her mouth as if with great effort,’ I would really appreciate if you two please wait here.’ Shekhar took a step forward in protest but Jennifer held him by the hand. Shekhar glanced back at Jennifer and saw her pointing at her camera. He understood and held himself back. Tara pushed the heavy wooden door and stepped inside.

PM was sitting on his chair with a smug smile across his face.
‘I knew you would come to me eventually.’ His smile grew wider. ‘Those two are waiting outside?’
Tara nodded. PM pressed a button on intercom and said in a smooth voice,’They are here. Get to work.’

..........

As soon as Tara vanished behind the door, Jennifer pulled Shekhar aside,’We should use this opportunity to look around and see if we could find something useful.’ Shekhar nodded in agreement,’So where should we start?’

‘How about going around the outhouse and see if we could enter his private chamber or even peek through a window? ’

‘Jennifer, I think it is a foolish idea’, Shekhar said half-heartedly trying to convince Jennifer. Tara’s shady behavior was still bothering him. But Jennifer was not listening. She was nothing if not adventurous. She almost pushed Shekhar to turn a corner around the outhouse and they were in front of the main door after crossing a lush bougainvillea. Shekhar was about to ring the doorbell, when Jennifer hissed, stopping him, ’Shh…what are you doing Mr. Dutta?’ Then she put a finger on her lips and motioned Shekhar to push the door open quietly.

Shekhar pushed the door with one finger. It readily opened as it was unlatched. He put one foot inside and sliding in, motioned Jennifer to enter. In the same instant, someone put a hand on Jennifer’s mouth grabbing her from behind. She was immediately bound and gagged; her camera snatched away, the glass beads of her multi-stranded bohemian necklace falling on the marble floor noisily. Shekhar turned back but it was too late. 
He too was tied up in no time.

They were now loaded on a tempo, like luggage, running on Delhi roads, towards Humayun’s Tomb.
……..

Arjun was trying all the three numbers desperately. He knew that the three of them had left Mumbai to meet Tara’s father in Delhi. What they did not know was that Arjun had left for Delhi soon after them, on a tipoff about Roohi been shifted to Delhi.


Shekhar’s and Jennifer’s phones were switched off. Tara’s phone rang twice but it was disconnected soon after. Arjun thought she will call him back and waited for her call. But alas! Now even Tara’s phone was off. He was surprised at his own stupidity. He should have talked to them in Mumbai itself and should have made a concrete plan. . Now he could not find or talk to any of them. He had only one way of finding though and he tried that. The police electronic surveillance had just told him that Tara’s phone was last active near Humayun’s Tomb. 
.....................

Read the next part of the story here.


“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Monday, 29 September 2014

Coming Home To Bliss



This place is crowded and chaotic. It is not even close to the elegance and charm that I witnessed during my week away on a trip. While I don't like the fact that the fun-filled week away from home is over, I feel hugely relieved to be back home, for the familiar roads and noises, sights and smells. 

This time we visited the sand dunes of Royal Rajasthan, a place which is beautiful and splendid, a place where I first set up home after marriage, and truly lived and loved my life. A place which occupies a little corner in my house, a good share in my wardrobe and a whole chamber of my heart. 
                                         
Though this vacation was really good, coming home was really soothing. The greenery around and the clouds looked a little shocking after a week of sun-burnt trips to the grand palaces, dusty bazaars and barren sand dunes. But coming home has its own comforts. I do not think that anyone on this planet can deny that coming home is the best feeling.

Though there is a lot of mess around which needs to be taken care of at home, its still full of warmth and happiness. A relaxed and rejuvenated me is taking note of everything that needs to be done while basking in the glory of all the shopping that I did in Bikaner to extend my Royal Rajasthan collection. 
                                         
What are you thinking? Nah, I didn't buy the above Bandhej saree, but it is just a glimpse of all the colour and beauty, and some more, that I saw when I went shopping with my lady friends. Could a girl find better reasons to be happy?!!

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Scribbler's Orchard: Part 18

Team Name: Scribblers' Orchard

Read the previous part of the story here

Tara was gathering her thoughts after the black hood was removed. Something about this place was bothering her. Had she been here earlier? Last month probably?  
This day was quite a handful. 
………
They were about to ring the doorbell when Shekhar’s phone started vibrating. Tara was on the other end.
She was at work, trying to resume her work, when they had called. ‘Talk to Dutta. Tell him you are going to lose your only child because of him. He should give us all the photographs and we will return her alive.’
‘I want to meet my daughter. I will do whatever you say after I see her all right. Please, I beg of you!’ Tara almost cried, her sobs drowning her words. The call got disconnected.
Tara left office. She had made up her mind this morning that she would be strong. But the call had upset her, giving her a rude shock that had fractured her facade of composure. They called up again after half an hour, while she was on her way to home. ‘Come to the car parking of Shopper’s Destination, alone, at 12:30. Don’t you dare to inform anyone, or you will be responsible for your loss. ’
Tara suddenly felt a rush of adrenaline. She dialed Shekhar’s cellphone. He was with Jennifer and Arjun, on Ahuja’s doorstep.
They retreated and waited for Tara to reach home. Their plan was ready by the time Tara reached. At 12:30 pm sharp, Tara was in the car parking of Shopper’s Destination, a newly built shopping mall, with many unoccupied shops and mostly vacant, deserted parking lot. She was wondering what she should do when suddenly someone grabbed her and put a black hood on her head, covering her entire face and neck. Then she was swiftly carried and pushed inside a car which sped away immediately.
……
The construction of the room looked surprisingly familiar to Tara. What was it? She glanced across the room. It was a medium sized room painted stark white, left almost bare but for a huge painting on a wall. A painting of fire, depicting sky high flames, engulfing all life forms, birds, animals, humans…no wait, they were actually being generated from the flames, rather than being engulfed. The painting was signed 'Raghav' in a stylish curvy brushstroke on right hand bottom corner.Tara remembered their fortnightly magazine had covered an exhibition a couple of months ago, by the famous painter Raghav, the theme being fire. His paintings had been a sensation and the exhibition was completely sold out on day one.
She looked at the only other feature of the room. The adjacent wall had a Rajasthani jharokha style mantelpiece. Her eyes widened with the shock of this discovery. Shekhar’s study had the same mantelpiece. She now compared the orientations of the two rooms and found that they were mirror images of each other.
The pen in her breast pocket kept recording everything.
Then, the door opened and Roohi almost stumbled inside. Tears rolled down Tara's cheeks as she hugged her. 

Back home, Tara recapitulated the happenings of this midday, as everyone listened wide-eyed. They were ready.
……………

Acharya rang the bell placed in front of him. A middle-aged woman appeared, her hands firmly clasped into a prayer-pose.
‘Is she here?’
‘Yes, acharya ji’
‘I should see her now.’
The woman bowed and left. A few minutes later, she appeared again with a little girl with two pigtails, her face scrubbed clean and wearing new clothes.
‘Sit, my child.’
The woman made Roohi sit on a chair. Acharya motioned her to leave. She bowed and left, her hands still folded.
Acharya smiled and nodded at Roohi. ‘Do not be afraid, my child.’ He said in a soothing tone. ‘You are in your own home. Are you hungry? Do you like sweets?’
Roohi was looking at him with sad eyes. A few days ago, she would have been dancing at this proposition, the promise of sweet little surprises, chocolates, candies and cupcakes.  She gulped secretly.
Acharya slid a fancy little paper bag with little smiley faces in front of her on the table. ‘Take it. It is all for you.’
Roohi glanced at the bag with slanted eyes and kept still.
Acharya rose from his seat, came close to Roohi and softly placed his hand on her head. How he had missed his own daughter and her family. They lived so close to him, yet so distant. He remembered how he had struggled to find the whereabouts of his only daughter after coming back from his self-imposed exile. His only wealth, after he had lost everything else. After looking for her for years, he had found her, successful in her career, married and a mother. He had known her to be a strong person, who could win challenges, in her growing up years. All these years, he was sure that his daughter must have done something good with her life. Though he had achieved the ultimate knowledge, he was not proud of the fact that he had abandoned her in a desolate state. This stopped him from meeting her or her family directly. Though, he could see them coming and going from the neighborhood. That nobody was bothered about neighbors nowadays had helped him immensely in staying close to them and yet go unnoticed.  
Acharya came back in the present. The phone was ringing. He went back to his chair and picked up the receiver.  ‘What? ’, his smile faded away, giving way to multiple creases on his forehead. ‘But surely they cannot find this place. They have no idea of my reach.’ After listening for a few more seconds, he replaced the receiver and glanced at Roohi.
Roohi was looking on quietly. The little paper bag stayed untouched, the smileys on it appeared as if they were making fun of Acharya.
Acharya, a little unhappy, tried to restart conversation with her, smiling again. ‘Cheer up, child. Do you want a toy? I can get you the best toys.’
She remained silent. Fazed, he dialed a number on the vintage telephone. ‘The girl should not stay here. Make arrangements and send her away immediately. To Delhi.’

................

 Read the next part of the story here

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Friday, 12 September 2014

The Scribbler’s Orchard: Part 1

Team Name: Scribblers' Orchard

Shekhar woke up with a start. The doorbell was ringing, with urgency. He had fallen asleep on his writing desk, resting his head on the keyboard, thinking over the incidents that took place in the past week in his life.  He looked at the wall clock with half open eyes. Half past eleven. ‘Must be Tara,’ he inhaled audibly and ran a hand over his bald head. Nowadays, any ringing bells brought only bad news. Irritated at this thought, he got up from his desk to get the door.
‘Clink’ went the dirty tea cup left on floor. He ignored it and chose to answer the door first. But the leftover tea was spilling out on the floor, between cigarette butts and ash. He glanced at it sadly. He remembered how Tara hated his messy ways.  He hastily pulled a paper from his desk and covered the spill. Then he dragged his feet to answer the still ringing doorbell.
 Shekhar Dutta had wanted to change the world. He was the evolving face of courageous and dedicated fire brand journalists of India. He was already the established nightmare of corrupt politicians, exposing them on social platforms and brewing up quite a storm.  One of his recent posts on bringing back black money to India quoted a hacker’s post in a popular forum. It had revealed the details of many politicians and their bank balance which gained him more popularity and support. Tara used to worry a lot about him always inviting the ire of influential people. ‘Why don’t you join me instead?’ She would say. He would shrug and smile.
Even before he opened the door, he could smell her presence. Shekhar suddenly felt that his hands were made of jelly. He wanted to just leave everything and vanish into an abyss. Their eyes did not meet when she walked in. Crumpled business formals, mussed up hair, puffy eyes and slumped shoulders… Tara looked poles apart from her old self. Unhappy, accusing and angry. She walked off to the bedroom wordlessly. Shekhar stood there for a while, not able to decide what he should do. A pall of gloom had descended around them. Pictures on the wall in front of him were mocking him. Pictures of him and Tara, on their adventures, pictures of Roohi…
‘…Roohi,’… a numb sensation ran through his spine and as he stiffened, his hands nervously searching his French beard for answers. All the pain came back, suddenly pouncing at him and stabbing him with its many serrated nails. Roohi, their chubby, bubbly little girl, who had been the core of their lives together, was now the center of their two different worlds, like an amoeba nucleus.  
Of late, rather than being parents, Shekhar and Tara were acting like two contestants pulling at the opposite ends of a rope in a game of Tug-of-War. In order to defeat each other, they were using all their might. But it was Roohi who ended up being pulled apart. He looked at the pictures again, and his self-doubt rose up, high, like a snake’s hood, threatening his very existence. He wanted to give up his million twitter followers in exchange for little Roohi.

It had been two days since Roohi had gone…

-----------
Shekhar was nervously pacing his little home office. He checked the time for a hundredth time. He could not calm himself down since he had heard from Jennifer Joseph.
‘Mr. Dutta,’ a ringing female voice had addressed him on the phone, ‘I just might have found something very valuable for you.’
Shekhar could not believe what he heard. The entire episode had unfolded in front of her eyes. Being a photographer, Jennifer was trying to find the best angle to shoot the old church when it happened. She could see them from her vantage point without ever being seen.
Her words were replaying in his mind like an old cassette.
Shekhar could not stop himself from running up to the door when the bell rang this time. She smiled and Shekhar could muster up a weak smile in reply.
‘Hi, I am Jennifer. May I come in?’ Shekhar nodded, mesmerized, and slid to one side as if in a trance. She entered, all her bracelets tinkling, her heavy camera swaying delicately with its strap wound around her wrist, as she walked. The camera strap was half covering what appeared to be a tattoo.
She reached the center of the room and stopped, and then she turned towards Shekhar, as if asking where to sit. Shekhar, staring blankly, motioned with his hand and she smiled again. Then she sat on one of the lounge chairs, simultaneously placing her camera on the coffee table.
Before she could say anything, Shekhar blurted out, ‘Does anyone else know about it?’
She seemed ready with the reply, ’No. I know it is important for you and kept it a secret.’
 She immediately reached for her camera and switched it on.  
Shekhar suddenly realized something and asked, ‘Would you like to have a glass of water?’
‘Sure,’ she smiled.
Shekhar contained his impatience and went in to bring a glass of water. When he came back, she was shuffling through the images while her many bracelets jingled and tinkled. Shekhar sat down.
She picked up the glass of water and placed the camera in front of him. He picked it up as if on cue and adjusted his glasses to have a good look. The girl had captured pure gold! Shekhar smiled, for the first time in many days.
‘People must have seen you coming here.’
‘I am not scared, Mr. Dutta.’
‘The Orchard is surrounded by news-hungry people nowadays. ’
‘No worries, they can think of me as one of them, what with my camera and my casual look.’ Then she paused, and added as an afterthought, ‘I am leaving for Kochi tonight. May God bless you Mr. Dutta, and may you find your daughter soon.’
----------------
“ Read the next part of the story here

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Nowadays...



                                    
 Nowadays, I peep out of my living room window and get enchanted...at the absolutely green surroundings. The yellow miniature sunflowers are sprawling like wild bushes and are covering more area than they are supposed to...but they add a lot of flower power to the surroundings and that is all that matters, and works well for me. 
Nowadays, the days are bright and lovely here. Full of sunshine, pleasant weather, with little rain showers here and there.  

Adjacent to the sunflowers are the zinnias, the gorgeous, colourful and very durable flowers...that are capable of charming me into walking out of the front door at noon, without any purpose other than just gazing at them. There they are, beckoning me with all their beauty and colour, instantly transporting me to another world, where only we exist...those flowers and me!
I start walking towards them, and then the bright sun catches my attention. A look above, and there are cottony white clouds above huge forest trees, indicating the receding rainy season. Quite pleasant, combined with a breeze which is beginning to give that festive-wintry feel that comes only in late October in the great plains.
Receding rainy season, and beginning of wintry feeling...ooh, my favourite part of the year!
And those lovely-lovely Zinnias...in the brightest of hues. Nature has the loveliest colours and designs. Ah, yes, it's all right there- at my doorstep. I guess, I can put everything else on hold for 5 minutes and admire the beauty around.


 Look at that colour, and the blinding sun adds another fiery dimension to this bright orange-red. So it is nearly impossible to capture the real colour, that too with a phone.
 I tilted this one a little so that it would show its real pink colour. Awesome, isn't it?
One more shot at the red-orange one, and... nah! It is just not going to happen...its so bright out here.
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So we move to a cool shady photogenic area and clickety-click some more! Oh, it is so fulfilling, the company of beautiful flowers. Absolute stress-buster! Getting so much visual pleasure is certainly one of the best things about life in a cantonment.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

For That Sweet Smile!

I spent a few years of my initial life in a village in eastern UP, with hand pumps for water, no toilets and no electricity, only plenty of fun with a lot of village kids who would play hide and seek with me in and around cattle sheds and farm equipment.

One of the many vivid memories is how my mother tried to keep me well groomed and how I always ruined her efforts by playing with tractor grease.

I clearly remember how she took time off from her busy schedule, made me sit on a peedha (low wooden seat) near the hand pump and brushed my teeth with a simple kids' toothbrush and Colgate tooth powder. That made relatives make faces at us, mommy and me, for spoiling me silly. They would smirk and taunt 'There's one more of this kind, in my brother's house, a spoilt little brat whose mother brushes her teeth like this. Huh, so much Seva (service) for a Beti (Daughter).' (My mother did a lot for me, but I remember her brushing my teeth from my early childhood because of such comments from visiting relatives.)

Why am I saying all this? Because Coco has got his first toothbrush and toothpaste that look more like toys than toiletries. First of all we did not know that babies' toothpaste is different from adults'.Also, never before had my husband and I imagined that a toothpaste tube could have a cap that looks like a rooster! Welcome to the joys of parenthood, y'all! 

All that, and we keep them in the kitchen because Coco uses RO water, since he does not know how to spit and gulps down all the water that goes into his mouth to rinse it and we are worried  that the bathroom tap water might just not be right for him. 

Every time I make him sit on the kitchen slab near sink and brush his teeth, I cannot stop smiling...not only do I love doing it, I also remember the above story and my mom. Son or daughter, every child requires mommy's help. Coco, mommy at your service...happily always!