around us

10 lines on love

to zoya…


little bits of allah

frolicking here and there

spreading sunshine with smiles

telling the world to

“be happy, be joyous

life is beautiful

life is carefree”

holding out their little hands

“come dance with us

let us be love.”

Continue reading

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The old zoo on ilha…

It’s been more than a year since I have been passing through the zoo that’s on the road to my house… no matter where I go, I have to pass in front of it. And it’s only about 3 km away. Yet I didn’t enter it until last week.

When I first crossed this huge green place running along one side of the road, I asked what was it? They said it was a zoo many years ago and it was destroyed during the war and then never renovated. I asked can we enter. They said no. You are not allowed to enter it or even walk by it. The whole area is now a favela and not safe for expats.

For a year, I crossed it, peeped in as much as I could and wished I could go inside. It looked so beautiful from outside. A whole stretch of wild growth, lots of trees, an old fence broken at places.. But whenever I asked my driver, he would say “ashima muito bandido, todos pessoas drogas, Ashima não pode entrar”. And I would again curb that desire.

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

the entrance of the old zoo and the fence broken at places with its graffiti covered wall

Last week when nimo came, he was also intrigued about life inside this old zoo. So much that I felt one of the days he would for sure go inside. One of the days when I was returning from foundation, I told diogo “let’s go inside”. He again started “ashima não bom…” before he could go on to muito bandido and drogas, I told him we will just drive through.. I won’t get down and if at any point we feel it’s not safe, we will turn back. On that he agreed.

Inside was beautiful. It reminded me so much of chikubadi in ahemedabad. . There was lush greenery, so many different kinds of trees, bushes and in one area a whole carpet of cactus!

People had made homes inside old containers. We didn’t go all the way to the homes. I didn’t even want to. If I wasn’t getting down, then it would feel very odd for people to see a car just drive through in front of their homes..

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

the jungle inside the old zoo

They have their own private beach entrance. Where lovers meet at the end of the day 🙂 At one end there is a boat making arena. And it seems like a whole marketplace for the park. There was a makeshift small beer shop, another one for basic groceries…

It’s a whole city living inside there!

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

the boat making arena, the market place and the entrance to the beach where lovers share a quiet evening

There were also heaps of garbage and scrap metal lying everywhere. in fact I was surprised to that the collection center for the only garbage company I have seen in luanda is right in the center of the park. Inside the fence you can see heaps of garbage with big birds standing atop and one lone security guard sitting right across.

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

garbage collection center inside the old zoo

But the most beautiful part of the park is also right next to this garbage collection center. A taekwondo class. In this city of the homeless, the bandidos, the drogas is one man teaching taekwondo to kids and young. I was transfixed at this beautiful sight. In so many ways it reminded me of the music classes at the independence park…

taekwondo class in the middle of the old zoo on ilha, luanda

beauty right next to the garbage collection center

Hope. Beauty.

Categories: around us, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Just another story…

“What are stories but a way of helping us see the world and each other better.”

I heard this in one of Pavi’s talk on giftivism and wondering at the simplicity yet the deep meaning of it 🙂

I was part of one such story telling session (it was actually a class on upnishads at Shivananda ashram). When I was going for the class, I was a little apprehensive. I thought it will all be in Sanskrit and most is going to go over my head! But I still went because a friend had asked me to, and I can’t thank him enough. 🙂 And it’s so wonderful that this is the story that started my journey of travelling solo in the mountains and afterwards…

Gopi ji (the Vedanta professor) was talking on renunciation. And he said nothing but share this beautiful story.

Once upon a time there was a kingdom which had a unique way of choosing its king. The ministers will let go of the royal elephant with a garland in the kingdom. The person to whomsoever the elephant puts the garland on is chosen to be the next king. It is taken to be a divine decision by all in the kingdom. Continue reading

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The power of a thought…

Something beautiful happened last weekend.

Sikander and I were driving back from Ahmedabad at night. On the expressway between Vadodara and Ahmedabad a lot of time it so happens that drivers lose patience and want to overtake from all sides and at all times even if you are driving at the same speed as them. We had one such person right behind us… he kept flashing his headlights even when there were trucks in the left lane and there was no way we could give him way just then.. but the flashing continued until we gave him way and then he continued this behaviour to the next car. Once it so happened that we were right behind the same car.

“Why don’t you also flash him? He will get a taste of his own medicine.”, I said to Sikander

What Sikander said next left me speechless…

S: “If Gandhiji was here, would he have done it?”

A: “No, he would not have taken offence in the first place and the question of tit-for-tat just doesn’t exist in the non-violence philosophy”

So we didn’t flash but the dialogue left me pondering. Ever since interacting with a lot of people living their lives on Gandhian principles, I have myself been trying to control my behaviour. I have been trying to not reply back, to not get annoyed in the first place. And I have always shared these thoughts with Sikander. I was amazed that while I’m still trying to unfold all the teachings from the books and the people I’ve met, his conscience actually processed it just by my sharing them with him.

Last week I had shared H.H. The Dalai Lama’s views on violence and non-violence (last week’s reading for awakin gathering) with him and shared how my whole understanding of violence was so limited! Even a good act with poor intention is violence. So often I have arguments with shop keepers over bills and things I feel are being done wrongly. Instead of just leaving the shop, I’m actually hell bent on making him understand that I’m right and as Sikander has rightly pointed out on many occasions, I do make the other person feel bad. I may never raise my voice, but my words are harsh. In the end it’s not him who is responsible but the shop owner who is not even available and will never really come to know of this conversation. The end result is the shop employee is feeling bad and I am feeling bad for being so mad at him because I know I was wrong as well… And I carry that negative emotion long after the encounter… I always come back with a head ache, a back ache or some real physical pain from such encounters… In the end the encounter left two people unhappy. Why?

I found this Dharma comic which so rightly describes the situation…

dharma comics

We are what we think and I am trying to change what I think. And I want to start by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my behavior and I promise to myself to check it and let it go.

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What is it in a train journey?

man looking outside the train

a dreaminess fostered by the noise and the views from the windows. Image source: Flickr

What is it in a train journey that takes us to a land of day-dreaming and deep thinking? I have always felt a calm in the rhythmic movement and sound of the train wheels moving ahead on the tracks and the occasionally loud horn.  Every time before a train journey, I would pack a book that I intend to finish during the journey. In addition I would also buy some magazine from the vendor on the platform; as if the book won’t see me through! 🙂 But more often than not I end up reading just a few pages from the book and manage to flip through the pages before losing myself in some thought trail. Suddenly the fellow passenger will bring me out of my reverie and ask “Can I borrow your magazine?” and I would say “Of course! Here” and that would be the last I will see of the magazine during the journey.

Slowly as I start looking out of the window, I would again be lost in another day-dream. And the thoughts will be far off from what I would normally want to ponder on. They would most definitely not be something I have been “planning’ to sit on for some time, when I find time. And when I have all the time during the train journey the slow pace, the chatter of the passengers, the fast moving scenes outside have their own way with my thoughts. Why does that happen?

I always wondered, until I read something that nails it so well!

“… the silence that reigns inside while the wheels beat in rhythm against the rails outside, the dreaminess fostered by the noise and the views from the windows, a dreaminess in which we seem to stand outside our normal selves and have access to thoughts and memories that may not arise in more settled circumstances … Journeys are like midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train… Of all modes of transport, the train perhaps is the best aid to thought: the views have none of the potential monotony of those on a ship or plane, they move fast enough for us not to get exasperated but slowly enough to allow us to identify objects.”

-excerpt from chapter On Travelling places in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton [p56-57]

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I can do ‘something’ with this

Ever since I started working from home, I’ve been more aware of the amount and types of things we throw in the bin. Sadly more than 80% of it recyclable but due to lack of any recycling facility it usually finds its way into a landfill L So I decided to reuse and recycle as much as I can, collecting everything that I feel can be reused/ recycled in a cupboard.

I had been saving so many old wedding invitation cards, calendars, paper bags, cardboard boxes etc because I knew “I can do something with them”. Finally today was the D-day when I took them and my creative side out!

And here’s what I did! Continue reading

Categories: around us, go green, recycle | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

The SMILE Deck game

Every trip to Ahmedabad gives me something new to write! There is so much that I receive there that I can just not let it pass without sharing and giving back 🙂 I shared it on Volunteer Weekly, but like the Seva Cafe volunteering experience, I wanted to share it here as well. But this one is a shorter version of the original article.

Last month when I was in Ahmedabad; Mihika gifted me a SMILE deck.

SMILE deck, SMILE cards, random acts of kindness, pay it forward, little acts of kindness

Four suits of the SMILE deck

The smile deck is like any other deck of cards – 4 suits with 13 cards each and 2 Jokers – with a twist that each card has a unique kindness idea. These decks were created by a group of volunteers, people just like you and me.The four suits are four categories for kindness towards people you know, stranger, yourself and for the world. You can view all the ideas here:

    Clubs: For People You Know
    Hearts: For Strangers
    Diamonds: For Yourself
    Spades: For Our World

My SMILE deck has become a game now. I started with the Joker card as soon as I opened the deck – telling a joke to the person who gifted it to me. For a week I thought about how to use it. And then I decided to pick one card at random every day and do what it says. I have to confess that I haven’t been able to stay one-a-day with them as I had initially thought but the game is on till the deck gets over and it has been fun and rewarding. Here are some that I have picked till now and what I did :).

Continue reading

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Setting up Shop

life on a bus stand, cobbler, setting up shop

The first customer for the day…

I arrived at 9:45 for a 10:15 bus and while the bus was there, the driver had not yet opened the door. So me and a few more early birds were just standing outside, close to the bus.

A bus stand is always bustling with activity… The newspaper guy has all his dailies spread out; one the side he also selling cigarettes and tambakoo. The water bottle seller, also sells juice and biscuits and chips and candies. The ticket counter is busy as usual. Two little girls are roaming in tattered dresses and begging for qualms; one mother is dragging her child away from the candies; few people are buying water and newspaper for the road.

But the cobbler caught my attention. Maybe because while everyone else had settled, he was just opening his shop for the day. He had a big suitcase like wooden box; a big umbrella; a big jute bag and two wooden poles. After coming to his usual spot, he puts down everything and takes a look around as if sizing up his day from the morning crowd. The then opens his box, which quite smartly opens up completely and become a raised platform which is more or less his entire shop. He then carefully places all his items, the spare rubber soles, the nails, the glue, the cutter and the hammer etc on the “platform”.

Just then he noticed that one of the screws of the box was loose. So he first attends to that. After fixing the screw, he gives it a nice push with his hammer. Thak thak thak…

The sun by now is a little harsh. He puts his hand on his forehead as if to protect his eyes and looks in the direction of the sun. Time to put up the umbrella. He has a fairly bashed up grandfather umbrella whose black colour has now turned to grey after long hours of sun exposure. He opens up the umbrella and I can see the tears here and there… The tears don’t bother him as he uses the umbrella only for protection from the sun. He ties it to the shorter pole and tilts it in the direction of the sun.

All set. Well, almost.

Chotu comes from the tea stall across the street with a tea kettle in one hand and three glasses in another. He gives one to the cobbler, one to the newspaper guy and one to the water bottle guy.

The cobbler sips on his tea when his first customer for the day arrives with a bag repair and he gets down to business. At the same time our bus driver opens the bus.

Categories: around us, Travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

And that’s how the story goes…

बस इतनी सी थी ये कहानी…

yaadshehar-yaadon ka idiot box

That’s how Neelesh Mishra ends his story every evening. His show ‘Yaadon ka idiot box’ is the only show that I look forward to, on the radio. The regular FM channels are now just a few songs in between a lot of advertisements. And these days in Gujarat, it’s become particularly difficult to listen to radio as its predominantly mudslinging between Congress and BJP.

‘Yaadon ka idiot box’ is a radio play narrated and enacted only by Neelesh Mishra. The stories are regular, everyday stories from your or my life. The characters live in a fictitious small town called yaadshehar (यादशहर) created by Neelesh Mishra himself. A small town where all of us had once lived. Its neither too far nor too close. It’s in a time when  only Sharma uncle’s house had the telephone in the whole locality and everyone would go to Sharma uncle’s home attend calls. There were black and white televisions with wooden shutter doors (Oh! How I wish I had a picture of our’s). I still remember how mummy used to clean the screen and then close the shutter :). Every night after the prime time shows.

antique black and white TV with shutter

I don’t have a picture of our antique B&W TV, but this one comes fairly close 🙂

I discovered ‘Yadon ke…’ By chance and now, as much as possible, I try to be cooking during its airtime so that I can listen to it without any interruptions :D.

I don’t know if many would remember “hawamahal”, a radio play that used to (& still does) come on Vividh Bharati ( the DD equivalent of radio). Hawamahal is mostly comic story lines and there is a whole cast with different characters being played by different people. Unlike ‘yaadon ke …’ there is no narration.

When we were kids, we lived on the 1st floor and had a huge balcony-terrace. There was a tall eucalyptus tree, extending way beyond our terrace, on one corner. Every night after dinner, all four of us used to sit in that corner, enjoying the night breeze and listening to hawamahal on our antique radio! It was a red and silver color radio set, with three buttons, one for tuning, one volume and one power.

Those were the days of black and white TVs with wooden shutters & no remotes (there was only one channel so no issues of changing channels:)); small radio; one telephone and those were the days when we had time to sit together and enjoy a radio program and not just limit it to drive time.

I miss my childhood.

I miss my childhood, nostalgia

It was so much fun back then!

Categories: around us, Family, Old times | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lies of our childhood

Never tell a lie (else your nose will extend like Pinocchio!). This was and still is a consistent teaching from my mother. But during this vacation, while trying to make my 5 year old niece eat her food, I realized that our childhood is full of lies.

why I lie to my kids

Oops! I swallowed a seed!

And as innocent we are as children, we believed in them. I don’t remember even once challenging them. Things like don’t eat the seeds of a fruit else you will have a plant growing inside. I still remember on days when I accidently swallowed a seed, I actually used to dream at night that there will be branches and leaves coming out of my ears and nose when I wake up.

Or don’t go outside the gate alone; there is a baba on the street who takes away children.

The maximum lies were in food items. I used to hate yellow moong dal and love yellow urad dal. To make me eat that moong dal , my mom said it’s chota urad (small urad dal) and after that I ate it.. Despite the fact that I still didn’t like it’s taste, just because it was the smaller version of a dal that I loved I ate it. And this is the lie that I believed in till I went to college and fellow students in the mess told me that there is nothing like a chota urad and that this is moong dal.

Then another one that I remember was for arbi (colocasia). She made me eat it saying it was potato! Though I am proud to say they weren’t able to fool us for baingan, lauki, torai, tinda etc (eggplant, bottle gourd, snake gourd etc) :D.

A recent retort by Nandini (my niece) to didi made me realise not only were we innocent, we were also outright stupid :).

Here’s the incident:

Didi: Nandini sit upright.

Nandini: No. I want to eat like this.

Didi: You should not eat while lying down.

Nandini: Why mama?

Didi: If you eat while lying down; all the food goes in the donkey’s stomach.

Nandini: It’s okay mama. Even the donkey should get to eat.

Lies parents tell to their children

It’s okay mama even the donkey should get to eat!

There was obviously no reply to this one and we all just started laughing. Laughing at her response or laughing at the fact that all through our childhood our mother was able to fool us with this! 🙂

And then there are the bigger lies of Tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Of course these lies were for our own good. I sort of agree to a fellow blogger’s argument that it’s not lying; it’s parenting!

And come to think of it what would childhood have been without the ‘Lion’ who was always hiding behind the sofa ready to leap if you didn’t finish the bite!

Categories: around us, Family, Old times | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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