Tag Archives: people

Where all that glitters IS gold.

Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is called the golden city. All the buildings in the city (yes most of the new ones too) are made with locally available golden yellow sandstone. When you view the city at sunrise or sunset, it simply takes your breath away. The entire city takes on the hues of the sun and just glows. Golden. I was there for 2 nights and 3 days and felt like I could live there for a lifetime and not get tired of this sight.

Well, that’s about the buildings.

What really amazed me was the people of this city. In a world where people are getting more selfish, self-centered and extremely busy, the people of Jaisalmer come like a breath of fresh air. They smile readily and seem to have all the time in the world to talk to you. No shopkeeper tries to push his wares on to you. They are happy to just talk – even if you don’t want to buy anything. They gladly offer you ‘chai’ and ‘nasta’ two seconds after you meet and greet them with a smile. You stop to ask someone for directions and within minutes you’ve exchanged your ancestry with them! If a shopkeeper does not have what you need, he will happily give you his competitors’ location where you can get exactly what you seek. I found this the most endearing trait. Live and let live.

We stopped to have breakfast at a restaurant called 8 July and formed bonds of a lifetime with the incredible couple who run the place. Jag Bhatia with his cowboy hat, Cary Grant smile and constant chanting of Jai Shri Krishna heartily welcomes anyone who walks in and is full of stories about his travels and life experiences. Rama Bhatia – his wife, is a personification of all maternal impulses. She loves to feed and fuss over people. She personally made Rajasthani special ‘Dal Bhati and Churma’ for us and literally fed my daughter. I can’t imagine any restaurant owner anywhere in the world ever doing that! The next day Rama and my daughter disappeared into the restaurant kitchen where they made waffles together – much to my daughter’s great joy!

The taxi driver who drove us to our camp in Thar desert was just as endearing. He kept us entertained with stories and local folklores. There is a little government authorized ‘Bhang Lassi’ store in the market and this became my husband’s favourite spot. The guy has a range of lassi’s – baby lassi, medium, strong and super power (he says after you drink that no toilet no shower – only sleep!). The store owner too became a good friend and we watched with fascination as he interacted with tourists switching with ease from English to Spanish to French to Hindi – depending on the nationality and region of the tourist. The guys who hang around this store also became our friends. One of them directed us to a local puppet show and we had such a lovely time watching this quaint show.

Jaisalmer will always hold a special place in my heart, not just for its majestic fort and ancient havelis but also for its burst of colour, its music and above all its golden hearted people. If you’re visiting, be warned that most places here do not take credit cards – we spent almost an entire morning bouncing around in a rickety auto, navigating between cows, going from ATM to ATM – trying to find one that spews money!

Let me sign off by saying, if you’re looking to reinforce your faith in humanity – do visit the place.

 

my Gemini twins

Loneliness and boredom are the twins that reside within me. Like spoilt brats they quarrel all the time and vie for my attention. And like a hassled mom I try to favour them both equally. No wonder then that I feel bored and lonely in equal measure – all the time!

Sometimes I’m amidst a million people and I suddenly feel so alone. Like a stranger amidst a sea of familiar faces. Then there are times when I’m alone and incredibly bored. Making me wish there were people around me creating a comforting cacophony.

I wait all week for the weekend. On Friday I’m my chirpiest best at work. As a rule I do not go in to work on Saturdays. Given my pathetic social life, the weekend is generally dedicated to activities that centre around my daughter. So I plan in advance and think up of things that will interest her. When the weather is good, I plan picnics with her friends. I scan the papers to look for plays or events that would be interesting for her. Sometimes we plan a chef style weekend and bake cakes and cookies. So, usually by Friday I know what I’m going to do over the weekend. Why then does boredom set in on Saturday mornings? I go through the motions of the well laid out plan. By evening I’m gloomy. Not that this happens as a rule – but the Gemini twins within me do seem to control the pitutary glad a lot!

So am I feeding these twins and letting them grow? Should I ignore them and hope that they will die starved of attention? But I have no idea how I can ignore them. Like babies in the womb they kick and prod, claw and scratch. Until I pay them some attention.  They nonchalantly toss away my sense of joy like  a much abused toy. Then they go ahead and play with my emotions. And then I go from irritation to guilt to anger to loneliness to acute boredom…

Many years ago I attended a 10-day yoga session. I still remember the face of my master. It was incredibly devoid of worries. So fresh and clear. So peaceful. I swear he was glowing.  How is it possible to not worry or feel upset or guilty or angry or even exuberant? To just be. To be  so wholly at peace with oneself. And all these years later I’m still wondering. Of course, as you can see I have reached nowhere.

I want to put an end to these parasitic twins. I want to feel contented. I just want to be. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can do that?

Sunday evening at Marina

Admittedly Chennai’s Marina beach does not feature anywhere amongst the most peaceful places on earth. Certainly not so on a Sunday evening when about a zillion cackling, screaming, plastic laden population descends upon its shores. If you’re snorting and laughing at me for even mentioning the oxymoron here – hold your breath…

It was my daughter M who decided (sigh! as always) that we all need to go to the beach in the evening for some fresh air. “Not to wet my feet amma. ‘Cos I don’t wanna get all that icky sand on my leg. Just to play in dry sand and get some fresh air.” She declared.

So as ordained by the mistress of the house we reached the beach, struggled to park the car and managed to squeeze it in somewhere – feeling much like Mr. Bean carefully parking his mass of metal.

We stepped out of the air conditioned environment of the car and the sea breeze hit us like a sucker punch. The breeze was so strong it left me breathless for a few seconds! Wow. Ages since I felt such fresh, cool breeze on my face. It felt good. I was instantly grateful to my little princess for suggesting this happy outing.

We stepped in to cool sand and navigated our way past the various species of human race that had assembled at the beach. The ‘bajji’ ladies were doing brisk business. Merrily frying onion/cauliflower/potato/chilly/brinjal and other yummy smelling varieties of bajjis in their giant woks filled with oil. All of it served so casually in oil stained newspapers.

The sundal/murukku guy was also enjoying his weekend bonus. He followed us for a while, hoping we will get tempted, but then trailed off. A guy in a four wheel cart was selling something white and fibrous. This thing was displayed in a glass jar – I was amazed at how many people were buying that suspicious looking thing!

The most amazing of all were the corn sellers. They were roasting corn on a little stove fired by coal and the wind was carrying the embers with it. Making it look like a formation of fireflies! In the fading evening light this looked almost surreal and magical. I stared at it fascinated, until I was pushed ahead by my impatient daughter who wanted to get close to the water.

Finally we reached the edge where land met sea. The sea seemed angry. Spewing forth frothy waves and spitting out all the muck that humanity flings into it. So the shore was lined with all kinds of muck. Plastic glasses. Rubber slippers. A trouser with just one leg intact. A wooden box. And what not!

The air was filled with the fragrance of salt and ozone. A lovely primeval smell that somehow helps you connect with Nature. I sat there with family, watching the waves and inhaling the freshness. Each of us absorbed in our own private world. Each of us deriving our own sense of peace. Each of us incredibly alone amidst this mass of humanity.

It made me feel so humble. It’s so true that ultimately you are all alone. You need to find your own peace and your own happiness. Amidst a zillion screaming people, amidst the tinkling of the sundal seller’s bells…I felt so calm. Amidst the slapping wind, the thrashing waves and the flying corn embers I found peace. Nothing else mattered at that moment.

Yes. It’s true. I felt it. You can find peace – no matter where you are. Yeah even at Marina beach on a heavily crowded Sunday evening – you can.