December 11, 2010

UNFIT TO FIT…the story of Project Sadhana 2010

This post is dedicated to Rachna, who taught me to eat, breathe and walk.

The year 2009, as is evident in this blog, was one where I took on the project to develop and nurture the garden in my apartment complex. My project during 2010 was myself, and this is the story of my journey to wellness. I usually don't post personal issues in this blog. However, I write about this experience because it could help people who have similar problems and are at a loss how to deal with them.

The background: I always believed that to lead a comfortable and happy life, a person has to have three kinds of intelligence: academic, emotional and medical. I used to feel that I have academic and emotional intelligence, but was not savvy when it came to dealing with health issues. The reason I think, is that I belong to an in-between generation. My parents live the natural way…they never got periodic tests done, and only went to doctors when something went wrong…and it rarely did! The generation next to mine seems to be very smart about keeping a tab on their health; some even go and get tests done just because corporate hospitals offer discounts! But me...even though I wanted to be savvy too, I was terrified of doctors and medical tests, and every time I had to go for a diagnostic test, I tied myself in knots.

I have not been as fortunate as my parents. I have been fighting ill health ever since I was 17. Doctors have been walking alongside me through my life, and though they made me go through the trauma of all kinds of diagnostic tests during my teens and early twenties, they finally helped me overcome my endocrinal/gynaec problem. I am eternally grateful to the medical technology that enabled me to lead the kind of life I wanted to lead.

Around the time I got over these health problems, had children and a comfortable career going, and thought I could now travel, trek, climb rocks, learn to hang-glide (something I always wanted to do), I realized that something else had begun bothering me. My legs had begun giving me problems. The leg pain was periodical, so I attributed it to my hormones. My feet and ankles began to swell up and were very painful. I went to my GP and he treated me, but it never got completely cured. It took me a few years to realize that it was something that had come to stay.

2006 to 2009: My condition worsened. The leg pain was becoming unbearable. I had some good days but many bad ones. I even began to have pain in my feet…no footwear seemed right. I went from doctor to doctor, hoping that someone would help me. Each of them made me go through tests and gave different names to my problem. I went through a variety of treatments. Nothing worked. Over these 3 years:

- Doctor 1 (Allopath) gave me 4 pills for 5 days. Nothing happened.

- Doctor 2 (Homeopath) made me go through general blood tests to see if I had any cholesterol/sugar problems. Everything was normal. He then made a wrong diagnosis and gave me the wrong treatment.

- Doctor 3: (Homeopath) gave me the wrong treatment.

- Doctor 4: (Allopath) gave me 4 pills for 7 days and told me a lot of people had these pains and I just needed to go for regular walks (which I already did)…

During 2008, I had a minor fall and since then I started having a pain in the right knee. This added to my woes. I went to Doctor 5.

- Doctor 5: (Orthopedic) looked at the x-ray, and said nothing was wrong with the knee, and that he was not the right doc for me.

My suffering only increased. I began to find that my flexibility was slowly becoming restricted. First I discovered that I could no longer run, hop or skip (I needed to do all these with the children I worked with once a week). That’s okay, I told myself ruefully…maybe it’s the age I am at. Then I discovered that I was not too comfortable at sit-down lunches; my feet felt stiff and ached a lot. I had pain when I stood for a long time (as in the kitchen) and even when I sat working for long hours.

I went about my life bearing the pain. However, me being me, I pursued all my interests including trekking and going for rock walks with Hyderabad’s Society to Save Rocks. I travelled, I went to school every week to take the gardening class…

I was not ill.

But I slowly realized that I was not well, either.

Jan-June 2010: In January, I went to Pune for the Sawai Gandharva music festival. On the second day, I had fever for half a day and after that began the most terrible knee pain I ever experienced. I found that I could barely walk. I managed to attend the 4-day festival and returned to Hyderabad. I lost no time and went to two more doctors. My GP said some fevers come with leg pain and treated me for it. No relief.

- Doctor 6: (Homeopath) made me go through yet another test and gave my problem yet another label.

- Doctor 7: (another Orthopedic), made me go for a ride on an MRI machine, and declared that that there was a tear in my meniscus; that I had osteo-arthritis; and that I would (typically) have to undergo knee replacement 10 years from now.

I was totally disheartened. The supplements the Orthopaedic gave me did nothing to my pain. I went to him every month for 3 months, and he changed the medication each month. No change in pain levels, or in the level of my depression. He told me I needed to lose weight. “How?” I had asked him “Should I go to a gym, or sign up with take up a weight-reduction package somewhere?”. Having always been overweight, losing weight was something I could never do in my life. The doc said I should just go for walks. How could I lose weight just by walking? I knew it was not possible.

I seemed to have hit a wall. Me? Badminton player Sadhana? Osteo-arthritis? I was finding it difficult to walk, even? What added to my gloom was that in this day and age, I was not getting help. I was totally in the pits.

***

July 2010: Hope: That was when I read an article in Outlook magazine, about a nutrition therapist—Rachna Chhachhi—based in Delhi. She offered online consultancy. I looked at her website. The thing that convinced me most was her own story---about how, at 38, she had had rheumatoid arthritis, and how she battled with it, and won. I read every word on her website. Then I wrote to her.

Rachna’s prompt, detailed reply made me cry. Here was one person who understood what I was going through. She seemed to look at my problems holistically, and said she could help me. Her charges seemed steep; I had never spent that kind of money on myself. I discussed with my family and decided to invest in my health.

It turned out to be the best decision I had taken in 10 years. Rachna first made me go through blood tests, asked me to write a complete history of my problems, asked for my height-weight and other measurements I was not particularly proud of.

She then sent me my first diet chart.

‘Impossible’ was the word that came to my mind when I saw that chart, which also included nutrition supplements. I did not think I could follow that diet…but I decided to try. Towards evening of the the first day, I told my family I couldn’t do this. “To hell with the nutrition therapist”, I told them. “I want to eat and live normally”.

Rachna chased me. She called many times. She wrote emails. I did not want to talk to her. I told her to give me time to think about this. After 2 days I spoke to her. I said I would try. I knew that I did not have many choices.

It was a tough 2 months ahead of me. I started on Rachna’s diet in all earnest. We chatted on Yahoo almost every day. She was intelligent, knowledgeable, patient and inspiring. I liked her, and slowly began to believe in her. I did what she told me…about 90%, sometimes 80%. Upon her advice, I began Pranayama. Four difficult weeks passed. It was difficult. Some days when the pain was bad and I asked her what I should do, she would give me a solution that seemed tougher than the blasted diet chart. “I hate you, Rachna, for making my life so difficult”, I told her impolitely during one chat and added “…but one day, I hope to be a success story on your website. ” “Doesn’t matter if you hate me”, she told me sternly. “Just follow what I am telling you and you will be fine. You certainly will be on my website.”

Three weeks passed. One day I felt slightly better. It was a weekend. I decided to test myself, and drove 1 hour in peak traffic to Hyderabad University to attend an all-night concert. The next day was Independence Day. I had to organize a flag hoisting in my building and then a party in the evening. I therefore spent a very tiring day after the night without sleep. The result: I ended up in a very bad state. Rachna gave me a no holds barred scolding, and made a new rule: I take on activities only alternate days, and no more adventures till I became completely alright.

Surprise! It was around Week 5 that people began to ask me if I had lost weight. My pain levels had not reduced, but I did have a pain-free hour or two some days. After 5 weeks, I tried wearing a dress I could not get into earlier…and voila! I slipped in easily. I was delighted! Curious to see how much I had lost, I bought weighing scales—5 kg gone! Wow! My joy knew no bounds…this was something I had always thought I could never do.

I revelled in this, despite the pain. Rachna, during our regular email chats, kept telling me I would be 90% pain-free in 40 days. I soon reached Day 40. Yes, there seemed to be an improvement. It was the beginning of good times. The pain became less and less. I weighed myself again 2 weeks later. Two more kilos knocked off! My poor legs had less to carry and I felt happy I could do this for them.

My clothes were now loose and ill-fitting. I happily began to shop for new clothes…one size less. More and more compliments came my way. I enjoyed them and now have a huge collection of people’s reactions to the new me.

I had started the nutrition therapy end July. By October, I was 90% pain free and felt light and fit. But the stiffness in my legs was still there. Rachna said I should go on to Phase 2 of my treatment—Yoga. I found a teacher—Kamala, Ragini’s friend’s mother, and thus began another journey towards enlightenment.

On 12 November 2010, I wrote the following email to to Rachna:

_____

Hi Rachna...

I miss talking to you!

Yesterday, hurriedly wearing my churidar as I dressed to go out for dinner, I felt such a gladness envelope my heart. I could dress quickly, and without pain. Earlier, wearing a churidar had become a very painful affair for me...I could barely hold up my leg and couldn't balance properly. It used to depress me so much.

Another improvement ever since I started yoga is that I am able to sit astride on the scooter (pillion), which enables me to teach Ragini to drive the scooter. Oh, there are many many instances like this. Just now I spent 2 hrs in the kitchen and produced a good meal and am still happy. No need to sit with my legs stretched out on the beanbag.

This is a new life. Yes, it is.

Remember Rachna...during one of our chats I had told you I hated you for making me go on a seemingly impossible diet and lifestyle? In this email I would like to tell you how glad I am that I read about you and signed up for therapy from you. You made a huge, huge difference to my life. Thank you once again.

With affection,

Sadhana

_____

This writeup is neither criticism of doctors, nor an advertisement for Rachna. It is just an account of my journey to good health. But it also illustrates how doctors’ limited focus plays havoc with their patients’ lives. I hope and pray the next generation of doctors look at people’s problems in a more holistic manner. Specialization is not always good.

The new me: My lifestyle has changed from one where I didn’t think about what I ate and didn’t have the time or energy for exercise. In the last 6 months, I have learnt to eat right; I now do yoga and pranayama religiously for 45 minutes to 1 hour every morning at least 6 days a week. I respect my body and have promised myself that I will take care of it. I am now minus 9 kg in all, and that much happier.

It has been a long journey, and at the end of it, I am not tired. On the contrary, I am excited and looking forward to turning 50 in January 2011. Earlier this year, I was apprehensive about this milestone, and unsure of how I would handle the next decade of my life. At the end of this Project, I feel I have already learnt to hang-glide and am all set to land ever so gently on my birthday on 10 Jan, 2011.

Thank you, Rachna, for teaching me to eat, breathe and walk; and for showing me the way to wellness.

Thank you, Kamala, for teaching me the power of ‘Om’, and for putting me on the path to complete flexibility. I can see myself playing badminton, trekking and climbing rocks with confidence from 2011.

My family held my hand through this exercise…Vijay, Ragini, Malini, my parents, and my brother Gautham; they were with me during this journey and bore the brunt of tears, tantrums and bad cooking.

The last word…has to be my mother’s. She taught me the power of faith. All the while I was undergoing this treatment, she went to the temple once a week and did 21 pradakshinams each time, praying for me to recover quickly. I have no words to thank her. She understands.

___

PS: I have skipped the medical jargon and the details, because this is already a long post. If specifics will be of help, please write to me at sadhana_bluepencil@yahoo.com, and I will gladly share them with you.

November 22, 2010

Narsayya

Narsayya, who worked at Ratnakara for several years, passed away yesterday (21 Nov 2010). He has been in the village with his daughter the last 4-5 years, and has been ill the last 6 months.

Narsayya was a very important part of our childhood. From cleaning the house to taking care of the garden to taking the dog for a walk and even catching cockroaches for me and my friends (when we had to practice dissection!), he was truly Ratnakara's Jeeves. Quiet, non-interfering, slow but very dependable...that was Narsayya.

I took the above photo as part of a series (which I did just for fun) about the newspaper Newstime. Its advertising slogan was, "All things to all people". I took pictures of this newspaper being used in different ways. I made Narsayya pose with Newstime being used as a cone filled with peanuts or something! Of course, he obliged...he did everything anyone wanted him to. Good old Narsayya.

November 09, 2010

My garden as it looks now

This is what my garden looks like in November 2010. We planted the first trees in August 2009.

The lawn is the new addition this season. It is not carpet grass..it is the easy-to-maintain gaddi.

I have been waiting for the Passion flowers to bloom. Finally they are!

Hibiscus (planted by my friend Madhavi who lives on the 6th floor) and datura, side by side

This woodrose creeper was beautiful but had become uncontrollable. It was growing 6 inches a day (really!) and would have soon crawled all along the Himayatnagar wires. Had to remove it. Felt very sad, but I couldn't help it. It is now in a pot and as soon as it forgives me by sprouting a few leaves, I will plant it somewhere where it can grow to its heart's content.


This Allamanda replaces the woodrose

Side view of the garden

A pomegranate plant had already been there when we started the garden, but it is only now that it is bearing fruit.

The cosmos from last year's crop are back!

Malini sowed these Vinca rosea seeds...they bloom always and are spreading...almost like the wood rose! But they can be controlled.

New addition this year...it is a wild gooseberry plant;
the small, sour variety that comes in bunches.

October 14, 2010

A labour of love...

There are publications and publications. But some are special. Swara Raga Kadambam will always be special to me. Brought out by Ms Anuradha Reddy of Saptaparni, and written by Sri Suryanarayana, who teaches music there, this is basically a book for students of Carnatic classical music. Beginning with an introduction to the seven notes, this book goes on to describe various raagas and their characteristics, geetamulu, swarajatulu, explanation and pratipadaarthalu of various 'kritulu'. There are exercises, of course, and interesting fillers giving info about the lives of great composers.

I did not do much for this book. I just gave advice on the design (and got credited as 'design consultant!). But it was a pleasure because, one, the book was a great team effort and done with love and adoration of the students towards their guru; and two, they took my suggestions very seriously, and didn't try to twist my arm, for which I am grateful. This resulted in a neat and user-friendly publication, that I feel very proud of (despite the typical editor-speak whispering into my ear that it could have been better!).

The book had a fitting release by Sri Nookala China Satyanarayana at Saptaparni. Before and after this, there were concerts by the students and then by Sri Suryanarayana, who has a good command on the craft of carnatic music (I do not know much of this genre of music, but I can say this much).

My own great moment was when the music teacher said to me..."Meeru chayyabatte eee pustakamu inta baaga undi. Memu artist cheta chala muggulu, designlu dimpinchukunnamu. Anni vaadadamanukunnamu...meerocchhi "Ivanni vadakandi, oka chinna design matrame use cheyyandi," annaru! Mee maata vinakunte, idi muggula pustakamu laga kanipinchedi!"
(It is because of you that this book looks so good. We got the artist to draw many muggus [rangolis] and designs, and wanted to use them all in the book. You came along and said, "Don't use any of these...just use one pattern throughout!" If we had not listened to you, this would have become a book of rangolis!")

This is one of the best compliments I have received in my career! I will cherish this moment always.

My compliments to Anuradha, Rajini, Sri Suryanarayana, Sri Durga (who painstakingly did the layout) and the artist K Sukumar, for the expressive drawings on the cover and inside pages.

For those who want more info on the book, here's a (bad) image of the back cover.

September 24, 2010

Visarjan day - 23 Sep 2010

Woke up at 4.30 am on 24 Sep, hearing the Ganesh procession drum beats outside my window. This is what I saw (above). Went back to bed thinking, "Ah, in the morning, there will be peace.

Woke up at 7 am and this is what I saw outside my window. The Ganesh processions caused huge trafiic jams all over the city, and...there was no school!

September 15, 2010

In Indira Park, one ordinary morning...

It seemed like any other morning in Indira Park, but it wasn't.
There was a daawat going on here! (click on photo to enlarge)

Don't miss the crow watching from a distance...
actually, there was also a dove feeding on the grain, but I couldn't him in the frame!
(click on photo to enlarge)

One wouldn't think these two could be friends! (click on photo to enlarge)

Very busy, very involved. You humans go your way; we are not bothered!
(click on photo to enlarge)

Where did they go?

I stood there amazed, and excitedly taking pictures, but there were other homo sapiens who walked past uninterested, bluetooths/ipods firmly in place...

August 25, 2010

FOUR

I have been blogging for 4 years now!

August 2009 to August 2010 has been important in two ways for my blog. One, I recorded passionately, a long-cherished dream coming true. It may sound silly for someone living in any of the developed countries with all their luxuries, but for my situation, it was no mean task. With the help of children, I developed a garden in a disputed part of my building complex that resembled a junk yard.

My blog space was an outlet during this time, and I poured out my apprehensions, recorded the hesitant steps and then celebrated the colour that slowly crept into the garden. There is much improvement since, and now work in the garden involves pruning and trimming! We have even laid out a lawn this monsoon! Yes, I need to post an update.

The other important thing I want to record here is that I met three people during this year, who I made friends with through this blog. Lakshmi Prabhala, who lives in Hyderabad, has become a friend and I now once in a while go on photo-shoots with her. I feel privileged! In December I met Anita and Amit Vaccharajani, the writer-illustrator couple (and their daughter Nayan) in Mumbai. Anita and Amit have written and illustrated several children's books. Their home is a treasure-trove of children's books, and we could have spent 2 days in their home just browsing! And then I met Bishwanath Ghosh who came to Hyderabad to conduct a writing workshop; it was great meeting him, and I got him to autograph a copy of his book, "Chai chai".

I wonder if this period looks 'pretty' on my blog. In reality, it was not. I was quite stressed out and 2010 began with more personal challenges, which I am spending the whole of this year trying to address, so that I can write more humorous posts in the next blog year! This season, I am enjoying recording the weather, because rains have been more than good, and have given us a feeling of well being, and the thought that something somewhere is happening right.

With the popularity of FaceBook, I have a feeling that visitors to blogs have become fewer, and there are fewer comments too, simply because a blog comment is not as easy to post as a comment on FB. Which is okay...for, I reiterate, I really write for myself. But I do know that my mother and father read my blog, and miss it when I don't write regularly. So, yes...I write for them too. And if you are reading this, I write for you, dear reader. Thank you for visiting. It would make a difference if you didn't.

Lens and sensibility is just like any other part of my life now. If I don't update it, I get a nagging feeling, as though I haven't done something important. It continues to reflect my life...those aspects that I like to and can write about. I have now given it a new, fresh green look, for nature's colours are really what I like to live with.

In the coming year, I hope to write more funny stuff, and real stories and anecdotes from my large and very interesting family, so that they will be recorded here for my children and whoever else would like to read them.

I am so glad I started blogging.

August 19, 2010

I am my children and everything around them...

I was I for the longest time. Me and my interests and my career and my world filled with writing, books, assignments, clients, sports, cinema, music, theatre, picnics, bike rides...

Suddenly I find my world expanding. As my children grow up, I move with them into their worlds. New worlds filled with fun, new people, anticipation, of course mixed, as always with anxiety. I once again pass through the familiar paths of anger, frustration, achievement, ecstacy. As they dream, I dream. For them, and with them. The fun and frolic of a 12-year old and the inhibited expectations of a 17-year old. I laugh when they laugh; I cry when they cry, and many a time, when they don't.

When they give importance to seemingly insignificant things in their lives, I can see exactly what it means to them. I see their faces with understanding, I know what's in their minds. Well, most of the time.

Many a time I do not understand being the mother of an older child...it is incomprehensible. I think of myself at that age, and how my mother was, when I was my older daughter's age, and still I do not comprehend. I hold her hand tight, but I know I must let go. And then I can go back to being me, with my many interests.

In the meantime, I really must stop crying each time my children sing on stage...what's with me, really?

August 07, 2010

Interesting words from the Kabir Project video...

This is in Hindi...sorry, can't type Devanagri:

Kele ke paat paat mein paat
Gadhe ki laat laat mein laat
Kabir ki baat baat mein baat
aur Manushya ki jaat jaat mein jaat.

(A banana has a leaf within a leaf within a leaf
A donkey's kick is a kick within a kick within a kick
Kabir's words have words within words within words
And human beings have caste within caste within caste.)

August 05, 2010

Very funny

This is here because it is so very funny. I picked it up from FaceBook, where a friend's friend posted it. I have to preserve it here!

Don't miss the bottles holding down the banner :) :) :)

June 27, 2010

FIFA sporting action


I love World cup football. It is like a festival every four years. I love the action, the colours; I love the sheer energy, the hair styles, the passion, the overflowing audiences, the excellence.  Yes, the excellence.

I also love the vuvuzelas....would like one for Sankranthi kite-flying!

I have been staying up till 2 am to watch the late-night matches. Cheered for Ghana against the US (winning a bet with Gautham on SMS!), and what a win they had! Last night I watched Argentina vs Mexico...and also saw good old Diego Maradona in a new avatar. The guy's got style, whatever he does. Remember watching his antics in 1986 in Ashoknagar, with Mohan mama, Vijaya aunty, Rahul, Paru Prashanth, Sammi, Sai...the whole gang, and shouting and cheering, over cups of chai and beer!


 Here's something about Maradona and 1986:

Diego Maradona dominated the World Cup in 1986 like few players ever. Argentina won the event, of course, and Maradona was the awarded the Golden Ball as its best player. That was just a small part of it.

In a 2-1 quarterfinal victory over hated England, he scored twice in the disparate fashions that perfectly define him.

There was the “bad” – the illegal, self-described “Hand of God” goal when he purposefully punched the ball in. And there was the “good” – a spectacular, darting 50-yard run that was voted greatest in the history of the World Cup and hailed by many as the “Goal of the Century.”

And that was just one game.

In front of the media he was controversial and colorful and charismatic. He never backed down. He backed everything up. There was simply nothing like him."

It is strange how one associates certain events with a certain time in life. For me World cup = 1986, Mohan mama, Maradona. It will remain that way. I think every time I watch this great sporting event, I re-live that moment in 209 Ashoknagar.

June 18, 2010

On a photo-shoot with Lakshmi Prabhala

Floral mosaic patterns and Koranic verses on the inner walls of the Ashoor Khana.
During the 1908 Musi floods, the Ashurkhana was flooded up to 6 feet and the mosaic artwork washed away. In this picture, you can see the paint below, and the shiny, intricate mosaic above.


Sunday 13 June, I went for a photo-shoot to Charminar with my photographer-friend Lakshmi Prabhala (who I met through this blog). She had decided on a not-so-well-known place she had not visited before. This was the Ashoor Khana, a place of mourning, which is frequented by muslims during Moharram. Just 10 minutes from the Charminar main road, is a gate that leads to the Ashoor Khana. One walks into a compound through a large green gate, and sees old buildings along the compound. It is quiet, despite the hustle of Charminar traffic outside, and there is an old world charm about the place and the poeple who are in charge. Met a genteel young man with the Hyderabadi tehzeeb; he's the 9th generation to be taking care of this place.

The Bade Shahi Ashoor Khana was built in 1594 by Sultan Mohammed Quli Qutb Shahi, ruler of the Qutub Shahi dynasty. It is a classic example of Indo-Iranian architecture, and is a house of mourning in memory of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain.

Lakshmi Prabhala's detailed writeup is here, along with her signature photographs.

Also visited another Ashoor Khana in Dabirpura. It was pouring cats and dogs, but we managed to go in and have a look.

June 02, 2010

Weather watch: Monsoon 2010

10 November 2010: It seems as though rainy season is not yet over! It rained on and off through October and beginning of November came a cyclone and so rainy weather. Today has been somewhat sunny. Prayers more than answered!

26 August 2010: Has been raining every other day. Downpours, usually in the evenings and nights. This year, we know what it is to use umbrellas...we had one, we bought one more! The other day, again on a photo-shoot with Lakshmi, we reached the Edi Bazaar to see Purani Iidgah and it started to pour. We quickly took pictures, hopped back into the auto, and came back through pouring rain. Somewhere, something is happening right, for which I am truly grateful.

19 August 2010: It continues to be a great monsoon. Two days back, the skies dumped rain on us. It has been so good that one doesn't think about rain...we are just taking it for granted! This hasn't happened in the last several years. Thanks, God.

23 July 2010: Yes, it has been a normal monsoon! In fact, yesterday's paper said AP has excess rainfall already! It has been raining every other day. Last night, big rain. Good for the garden...yesterday evening, Nagesh came and laid out the lawn. The place looks so good. One step at a time, but we are taking those steps. And heavens are showering down their blessings. Thank you, God.

20-27 June: Dry spell. Blue skies, but clouds come during the day. Last 2-3 days have been very humid.

19 June 2010: Last Sunday (13 June), I went to Charminar for a photo-shoot with Lakshmi Prabhala. Saw two Ashoorkhanas (places of mourning). I would never have gone to these places but for Lakshmi. Maybe a post on this. But here, I want to record that it poured while we were there, and we got soaking wet. It was fun. During the week, it has been consistently cloudly with intermittent showers. Last night it rained well too. It looks like a proper rainy season, as it used to be when we were children.

11-12 June: Yes, it has been raining on and off; roads have puddles on them; clothes don't dry (I don't mind one bit!); and it is cloudy all the time. Varuna Deva...please keep at it. We like you.
10 June 2010: It rains for about 10 minutes at the typical Hyderabadi rain time...the school-leaving time. Vijay has taken the car to OU for his book release function (the ASRao book...it is finally done!). I go on the scooter to pick up Maloo, jacket and all. Then Kobita and I, and the children drive to Hermitage complex to see the cartoon poster show on the occasion of the World Environment Day. Some of the posters were brilliant, most of them depressing.

It pours again in the night, lightning, thunder, the works. Vijay takes us out for dinner to celebrate his book. Post-dinner, we drive to Necklace Road to celebrate the rain.

1 June 2010: I go to the Mango show in the public gardens with Maloo around 4.30 pm. It is cloudy when we start from home, but I think, "It is only 1 June. Officially, rainy season will begin on 7 June. These clouds will go away..."

But, no...there is a a HUGE downpour. Lightening, thunder (I jump up and grab Maloo's hand!)...and the rain comes straight down, thick and steady. Rains for about 45 minutes.

I pray that we will have a good monsoon this year.

May 18, 2010

Icelandic ash

This one's really funny.

After back-to-back disasters, Icelanders seek escape in humour

A joke gleefully repeated since the volcano erupted relates that Britain “wanted cash, but because the Icelandic alphabet contains no letter C, they got only ash.”

Another quip goes like this: “When Iceland’s economy died, its final wish was that its ashes would be spread across Europe.”

One joke perfectly catches the absurdity of tiny Iceland, which doesn’t even have a standing army, going out to bully the world. “You mess with Iceland?” goes the gag, in full Mafioso mode: “We shut down all your airports.”

Thanks to Shylaja Nagasrinivasa for sending it to me.

May 14, 2010

The street parallel to that on which I played gilli-danda

Summer is synonymous with mangoes and pickles. I grew up in a home where pickles were made on a manufacturing scale---500 mangoes, no less. After distribution to various people, these new pickles were stored in 'jaadis' (large ceramic containers) in a special store room. Despite having grown up in such an atmosphere, I must confess that I did not learn any pickle-making...instead, I played gilli-danda, flew kites, played cricket with my uncles and their friends.

Many years have passed since those days. In recent times, my mother gives us pickles in a three-tier tiffin carrier. She and my grandmother still make 4-5 varieties of pickles, but on a smaller scale. I still have no clue how exactly they are made.

Since a few years, some introspection. A feeling that I must retain this art of pickle making, so unique to my people. I can't let it disappear, can I? and unless I learn and make pickles myself, how will I teach my children? how can I let them lead a home-made-pickle-less existence? With these thought constantly nagging me, a few years back, I joined my aunt when she made pickles, and made notes. I came home thrilled, with large bottles of pickles, but with a feeling that my aunt had done most of the work...I had just watched. Ditto when I joined my mother in her pickle-making efforts the subsequent year.

After these attempts, I went back to my gilli-danda ways, and forgot about making pickles. Just bought Priya pickles off the shelf when we needed some...seemed quite sensible, except for the mechanical taste of commercial pickles.

This year, with the long, hotter-than-before summer days ahead, and with not too much pressure of work and added to everything else, the disappointment of a cancelled holiday, I decided to Make My Own Pickles once again. Just to refresh my memory (and to learn their secrets), I went to my Andhra neighbour's house when they were making their pickles, watched them and quickly wrote down their recipes. Aha...I was all set!

Nallakunta market in Hyderabad is abuzz with mango sellers, mango choppers and buyers, who go there unmindful of the heat. There is an infectious enthusiasm there as people buy mangoes in 100s, to make their yearly pickles. As advised by my neighbour, I took a bottle of water and a clean cloth, washed the mangoes I bought, and gave them to the bandi-wallah to chop, and quickly spread the cloth I took, so the pieces fell on my clean cloth and not on his dirty plastic sack.

Cut to the next few days. The mixing done, every morning for 5-6 days, two of the pickles need to be sun-cooked. So either I go up or if busy, I nag my jobless, holidaying children to take them up to the terrace. They grumble and begin disliking my new pickle-making avatar! But the whole day, as the sun blazes and everyone else is moaning and complaining, I am ever so happy that my pickle is getting the hottest sun possible, and would cook perfectly. Just think---this one thought makes the summer heat so much more bearable! And any sign of even a remote cloud, and we rush to get the pickles back. This summer, the mango pickles became a total raison-d'-etre. Perhaps it has been this way for millions of women all over India for generations. I am happy I finally discovered this.

My kitchen looks special and different. Large vessels covered with cloth sit on my microwave in the ant-less part of my kitchen. I wait patiently till the pickles are finally done. With enthusiasm and care, I trasfer them into bottles. With greater enthusiasm and pride I given a bottle of each to my mother and mother-in-law. And some to my neighbour. The verdict is good. Everyone's enjoying the three varieties of pickles I made. It is great feeling...very satisfactory, indeed!

I have arrived...on the street parallel to that on which I played gilli-danda.

May 04, 2010

Blue

A million thoughts trip over one another and I can't seem to focus. My mind wanders around; eyes look but don't see; ears hear, but don't listen. I search for something even Google is unable to find. I find myself searching on FaceBook...for some clue. I clean a lot, I cook. I even do the dishes. For once these things make me feel better...it is not a writer's block; it is one of those times...

Painting: Mark Rothko

April 15, 2010

A drive from Warangal fort to my home

I have now lived in Hyderabad for 30 years, and in Himayatnagar for 22 years. I regret not taking pictures of streets in Hyderabad, not even those of the Himayatnagar main road, for it has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Our own Hardikar Bagh has changed from a road full of quaint old buildings with large compounds, to a car-lined street with apartment complexes on both sides.

Warangal, on the other hand, has not changed much. I never thought about it, until the other day, bringing back Maloo and her friends from Warangal fort, I took pictures of the roads from the fort till my home. I was amazed that very little had changed over the years. Yes, there are places in the world that haven't changed very much.

Here are some pictures of the roads, plus some places with which are associated, some precious memories.

One of the four beautiful carved gates of the Warangal fort

The children posing at the fort

Warangal main road...it hasn't changed since we were children

An old carved building along the Warangal main road
The road near the Bhadrakali temple

The famous Hanam-'konda'

Yes, one thing has changed. Alankar theatre, where we used to go to see English movies, has been replaced with Reliance Super.

Thousand pillars temple is the same, except that the second part of the temple which was in ruins, has now been totally dismantled and is being rebuilt afresh

Hanmkonda chowrastha has changed, but doesn't look very different

Lashkar Bazar...notice the vast sky, not visible in big cities.

Bad photo...took it for the statue of Gandhi in the background...we used take my brother Gautham for a ride in the car to see 'Gandhi tata' when Gautham had colic attacks.

The town hall and public gardens

The road leading to Nakkalgutta, where my home is located

The turning towards our lane

This road, on which our home is located, has changed...three of four high-rises have come up in the last 5-6 years

Home
The place where we spent many an evening, playing shuttle badminton...the Warangal club

Maloo and friends playing badminton...

April 04, 2010

ITC SRA Sangeet Sammelan

Two days of good music, thanks to the ITC Sangeet Research Academy's programme in Ravindra Bharati, Hyderabad.

The artistes were:
3 April
- Sameehan Kashalkar (vocal), ITC SRA Scholar: Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar's son, this young man is a good singer in the making.
- Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya (Chaturangi -- Indian classical slide guitar). This was the highlight of the day...truly, great music. The instrument is fantastic, and the Tablist Samar Saha) was superb.
- Vidushi Malini Rajurkar: She sang effortlessly, as usual. However, one feels that her programme is somehow incomplete...no tanpura, no shishyas.

4 April
- Aniruddha Bhattacharya (vocal), Past Scholar, ITC SRA: He was good, but not exceptional.
- Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar (Sarod): Something wasn't quite okay with this performance.
- Dr M Balamurali Krishna and Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty (jugalbandi): Two masters in action...much as I don't much like Carnatic-Hindustani jugalbandis, it was exhilerating. As Dr Balamurali Krishna said, the distinction Carnatic/Hindustani came later...what they were singing was Indian music.

Tabla was by Subhankar Banerjee, Mridangal: D S R murthy, Violin Peri Sreerama Murthy. The tabla-mridangam jugalbandi was fantastic too.