Gen

The beauty of a few concentric circles

It’s amazing how a few concentric circles slowly evolve into a beautiful mandala. Each line emerges on its own. Most often inspired by something seen in the nature or work of friends. These mandalas started as a gratitude offering to the universe, for everything that I have been generously bestowed with.

how to make a mandala drawing

I am no artist but once I learnt how to make mandalas with a basic template of concentric circles, there is no stopping 🙂

While making these mandalas or stitching the hearts I experienced a beautiful calm that would take over me. I haven’t been able to sit in stillness in a long time. I think it has been almost 6 months that I was able to sit for an hour. Whenever I started on these little gifts, my mind would soon forget its entire chaos and the ordering of the “to-do” list and just focus on one petal to another or one stitch to another. Even though I wasn’t sitting in a specific position or had my eyes closed; it was akin to meditation for my mind and body.

When I start, I have no clue how it will turn out to be. I have no clue of how the design will grow. Sometimes I will start with a pattern and then look it from far thinking this won’t look good. I wasted a card. But then I will go on and complete it only to realise that each has a life of its own and each is beautiful. I often felt like my hand was just a tool and someone else had the design in mind :).

mandala designs

Some of the mandala cards I made. Some original, some inspired, some copied 😀

With the heart bookmarks, I wanted to write a quote on each one of them but was lost on which ones to pick. Just then Vandana didi started on this beautiful project of one-canvas-a-day with quotations and I found my quotes right there. Every day is a beautiful start with her paintings and quotations.

Paintings with quotations

Every morning Vandana didi sends us a picture of her beautiful art. I would say it is her sadhana!

I usually try to sit down for making any art when I am in a happy space but a recent turn of events showed me how art is the best therapy. When I was so stressed that I could do nothing else, I would sit down with a pen and paper and soon my mind will be lost in thinking about how to extend it and just for those few moments forget the impending problem and relax.

All these cards and bookmarks have gone as gifts for friends and strangers. I don’t know when, how and who will receive these or has received them. I am so grateful for having this opportunity to be able to gift some love through these little cards. Each one of them brought me a lot of peace and I hope it does the same for the noble friend who receives them.

Heart bookmarks! The bright African fabric were scraps given by a friend who uses them to make wonderful bags. I love these prints!

Heart bookmarks! The bright African fabric were scraps given by a friend who uses them to make wonderful bags. I love these prints!

With all my love

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a happy night is better than a good night :)

Every culture has there norms for greeting. In Angola, depending on the time of the day, the usual greeting if you meet a stranger (or friend) are:

Bondia  — Good day

Boa tarde — Good afternoon

Boa noite — Good night

Boa continuação — literally means ‘good continuation’ but is used as an equivalent to “have a good day”

But today, after 3 years of living here, for the first time, I heard a different greeting and it made me smile instantly.. which has kind of stuck to my face for now 🙂  I just got back from my neighbourhood grocery shop.. smiling all the way back. At the cash counter, the lady wished me “Feliz Noite” (Happy Night) and the guy at the door wished “Feliz Sabado” (Happy Saturday).

a happy night is better than a good night

I wish you a happy night; a happy Saturday and a happy moment every moment

Usually we almost keep happy under lock and it comes out only for special occasions and festivals… Happy Birthday; Happy anniversary; Happy Diwali; Happy Holi etc.. Why can’t every day and every moment be happy?

Isn’t happy a better state to be in than good? Why should happiness be reserved for special occasions? If you could see me now, I am smiling from ear to ear. ‘Happy’ has a bounce to it which ‘good’ lacks. It instantly plays the happy song in mind.

I am going to be so wishing you a happy morning, a happy day and a happy moment… because I’m happy..

 

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Esperança – Hope on the street

Hope is the only word that comes to me when I recollect what was it that I saw today.

This morning I went to a public park in the middle of Luanda city. Something tells me it must have been a great place long time back.. there is a broken popcorn machine, some beaten benches, a taped fridge. It must have been a place where kids played, people came for walks and just sit together and chat in the evening. But now the usual scene at the independence park in the morning is children and youth lying around – mostly high on gasoline.. you can smell clothes soaked in gasoline; the park is strewn with chewed up pieces of fabric.

volunteering in Angola

But lately every Tuesday and Thursday morning this scene changes. That is when Osvaldo and Costa enter the park armed with their guitars and lots of stools. They set up their stools under one of the shades in the park and start playing..

One by one street kids who sleep in and around the park come and sit. They then hand over the guitars and slowly begins the music class. They are still high on gasoline… it’s difficult for Osvaldo and Costa to do anything but they continue… The first thing they ask from the kids sitting in the circle is to throw out their gasoline soaked fabric.

Naama tells me that that Osvaldo himself was a street kids and was struggling with the drugs, but he found himself in music and brought himself out of it!

Some kids start listening.. some don’t care, some are fighting and some keep playing with the guitar. Most are more or less under the influence….Osvaldo and Costa know all this.. they know and they have all the patience in the world. They then start to teach them how to sing and how to play the guitar…

I had always wanted to be a part of this wonderful morning and finally it happened today. As soon as I entered the park I smelt gasoline and then I saw the class going on under a shade…It was beautiful. Osvaldo and Costa have their own ways of controlling and yet not controlling the kids… The only thing they ask of all the children and young to sit in the circle, is that they throw out their drugs.

music classes for all

Today looked so promising… of the 15 children that were there at least 5 were sober… For the first time there was a girl in the group… There were smiles and there was respect for each other. There was laughter. After almost 2 months, in terms of music, the group is still learning that a guitar has 6 chords but they are learning there is more to life than the street and drugs. They are seeing that they can be someone else.

They were creating a music of their own. The music of hope.

music of hope

I first shared this experience on Volunteer Weekly.

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Of new years and resolutions

Let’s start with a happy new year! At least till the first month we should be allowed to say it 🙂

This last year went so quickly. It seems like just yesterday when I landed in Angola. And said hello to a new country and a new life. There were lots of new things in 2014 – new land, new home, a new culture, lots of new friends,  a new language, a new volunteering opportunity. I still haven’t been able to absorb all fully :).

I hope 2015 will bring in as much opportunities. Actually one of my resolutions is to see each day as an opportunity – 365 opportunities to learn and grow! Wow

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Last year, inspired by my friend Shalini, I had taken the resolution to not buy anything new for myself. And surprisingly it was pretty easy to keep that resolutions and one year later I feel I really don’t need so much. What I have is so much more than what I need!

This year what are my resolutions? In the first week the resolutions change every day and so I refrained from writing this post :).

This year, I want to meet as many friends and family as possible. So many incidents happened last year that brought me face to face with the uncertainty of life. When I thought of a resolution, I asked myself that if this year is all I have, then what is the first thing I want to do? And the answer I got was that I want to meet the people I love. So I want to try doing that 🙂

Another is to attempt trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro. More than the real trek, I think the training is what my resolution is. By the end of this year I want to get back to an exercise and food regime.

As far as resolutions go, I would stick to only two. But if I want to write down my wish list, it would be an endless list…I want to get back to the morning meditation practice; I want to learn salsa;  I want to learn how to make a website from scratch; I want to learn photoshop and lightroom; I want to write more regularly on all my blogs; I want to do more with Feito com Amor (Made with Love)….

For now I will just say it’s a living list. I will keep adding to the list as time goes by 🙂

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Day 1: Durban and let’s hit the road baby!

Durban has a lot to offer to a regular tourist.. There is a beautiful port, aquarium, sea world.
But all these places need a lot of commitment. Sikander said “if we go to the aquarium,  it’s at least 3 hours there.” So we decided to skip that part. We have seen enough big aquariums for now.
Food on the other hand was the biggest thing on our mind. It’s been a long time we had Indian street food and durban being the biggest Indian settlement outside of india, I wanted to have samosas and poori bhaji :). sikander wanted to have bunny chow – a durban Indian speciality where they serve mutton or chicken or veg curry inside a big bun.

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Durban Indian speciality - bunny chow 🙂

We went to Victoria Street market. It’s chaotic, but it’s the perfect place to buy souvenirs, if you are looking for some. Sikander had to buy a spear for his client… I was just looking at some knick knacks and picked up a few gifts for friends and family. In the shops we also spoke about our road trip plan and how is the route and what should be careful about. The main advice we got was to not drive at night on the highways. There are a lot of erratic taxi drivers at night and the chances of an accident are very high.

After our shopping and lunch we walked back to hotel and as we were walking back we saw a flea market :). I picked up an African shirt, a friend had asked for. And then it started to rain. But not so much to need us to stop. We walked around the downtown area and came across a wall full of graffitis. Graffitis about rights – right to education, right to health, to fair trials, to equality.. It was quite interesting to sit and read through it all. Later I read it was part of a community wall mural project. As we walked along the wall, at the end we came to a stone on which it said this wall was part of the durban central prison. It’s interesting how just this one wall from one light post to another has been preserved in between the swanky downtown as a reminder of the past.

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Durban central prison wall

As we left from durban it was still raining and that added to the beautiful scenery all along the highway. At one point we left the highway and went on a parallel road inside that was along the coast. We had planned on doing only about 100kms for day 1 and stop for the day at a town called south broom. There were estuaries along the way and you could see the brown and the blue waters meeting. We entered into the driveway of our beautiful guest house – white shores. The hosts – Vivian and Trevor were there to welcome us and show us the place. And we had the whole house to ourselves for the night as there were no other guests! For dinner we went to a local bar called Mariners. It seemed like th place where all the local south broom people come for a chat at the end of the day, discuss their catch, have a beer.

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White shore guesthouse in southbroom

After an evening of drinks and dinner, we headed back to our room and to an early night.

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Day1: The first morning in South Africa :)

Our first stop in South  Africa  or rather I should say the starting point of our road trip is Durban. We arrived last night around 10pm. We had earlier planned to rent a car at the airport, stay the night at a hotel and start early morning the next day. But we were advised by many not to drive in durban at night so we took a taxi for the night. At 10pm there were just two taxis at the airport and everything seemed pretty dead.

There is a fundamental difference between me and sikander when it comes to holidays (even weekends!). On a holiday I love to get up early and then I have the whole day to myself. There is no work to be done. Sikander on the other hand loves to sleep in till as late as possible!

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The view from our room in hilton, durban

So right now as I am sitting in the restaurant eating my breakfast, he is fast asleep :). We have decided to explore Durban a little in the morning and hit the road by 2 pm after having lunch.
Right now I can’t wait for him to get up and the trip to start 🙂

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The travel begins..

It’s been more than a year since we decided to go on an African adventure. The main reason for us to take a posting in Angola was to be able to travel the continent but due to the inexplicable visa rules in angola, we could not travel anywhere for the last one year. And now finally after 1 year of wait, we are on the flight to south Africa 🙂

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I feel like a child.
I feel like a bubbly… ready to jump around and do the happy dance. I don’t remember when was the last time I was so excited about a holiday. My be it’s because it’s been over a year since me and sikander went wandering.

Something tells me it’s going to be a special trip.
Though that something can also be the bottle of shiraz I just finished on the flight along with two very romantic movies – before sunrise; after sunset 🙂

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All my bags are packed.. I am ready to go...

PS: I am planning to keep a journal on this trip.. hopefully will be able to upload them as often 🙂

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The longest 3 minutes …

It was a pretty hap-hazard and hectic morning. Sikander had a flight, I was leaving with him to go further after dropping him to the airport.. we were just rushing out of the home when I got a call from my neighbour.. she urgently needed some ground cumin. I hate saying no and I thought we’ll I will just take the lift up and drop the cumin to her house by the time Sikander keeps the bags in the boot.

I went it, took my cumin bottle, took the lift, pressed 6 and waited. The doors closed and the lift went down… down to the basement. I am already running late. So on reaching the basement, I quickly press 6 again but nothing happened. The doors opened for just about a cm and closed again.. I pressed 6. nothing happened. I pressed the open door button. The doors opened a cm and closed again. and then suddenly the lift panel started showing ’n’. I reached for my cell phone in my pocket only to realise, I left it at home. I said okay.. I looked for alarm, I pressed it.. it sounded really loud in my ears but I have no clue if it sounded like that outside because nobody came. I started shouting…

“Hello! Hello! Is there anybody there… I am stuck! Please help.. Hello! Hello! Please help”

And then panic struck. It felt like the whole lift had no air. Claustrophobic as I am, in just a few seconds I had started gasping for air. It’s amazing what all my brain processed in just about a few minutes. I remember telling myself …okay the door is at least opening a cm.. I will get air if only I calmed down. It was a saturday.. there is nobody working in the building so no one will be in the basement! I start shouting again.. I have the alarm pressed. And then what if Sikander tries calling and just leaves for the airport when I don’t respond. He will be mad for sure, but he will not realise I’m stuck until later in the day after he has reached his hotel. Oh my god! no one will realise I’m missing 😦

And then I remembered my big long key! The first time I said thanks for having such a huge key for the little door of my apartment. And I pressed the door open button. The door again opened a cm, I slid the key in and then my one hand, pushed the door a little and then the other hand and pushed with both and then the door opened and I heard rushed footsteps of the guard coming down.. He entered the basement just as I jumped out of the lift!

It couldn’t have been more than 3 minutes but for me they were the longest 3 minutes of my life.

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Mirror mirror on the wall….

What’s the last thing we check before leaving home? What’s the last thought on our minds before stepping out of home? It’s a very subconscious action, but I recently observed that I always brush my hair with hand as I am stepping out of home. If there was a mirror at the door, I would definitely have checked if I was ‘looking’ fine.

The first thing we look into after a shower? The mirror. And so was the case on my first day my in Uttarakhand. After having a bath, I was searching for a mirror everywhere in SNC. After a futile search, I let it be. Brushed my hair with hand and went on with my maths classes. The kids didn’t care how I looked. They cared about what I was teaching.  After a couple of days I wasn’t even looking for a mirror. Days passed, work was happening and one day I came across a mirror. It was almost after 20 days. As I looked into my reflection, it suddenly struck – how liberating it is when I don’t care about how I look! It was almost like discovering a new source of joy! 🙂 A new sense of freedom. I can’t really put it down in words but being able to let go of the ‘need’ to look in the mirror was almost like being free.   Continue reading

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World Mitsakes Day! anyone?

Last night I slept on a funny note. I wanted to read something inspiring before going to bed so I turned to one of my favourite websites – Daily Good and started browsing through the quotes there. One of the quotes was;

Mistakes are the usual bridges between inexperience and wisdom. 

-Phyllis Theroux

This reminded me of another quote by Gandhi ji,

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes!

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes, celebrate mistakes, lime n lemony, World Mistakes Day

and then another which was something like make your own mistakes. I was thinking how so many wise people have always told us to celebrate our mistakes so there should definitely be a World Mistakes Day! Possibly a day when we recount our mistakes; laugh at them and how they enriched us. I searched for it on the Internet. But nope. No World Mitsakes Day.

So I decided to start one for me. Not a day, but a book of mistakes. One day when it is full and when I sit with it; I will celebrate Ashima’s Mistakes Day! 🙂 After all mitsakes are good! 😛

Celebrate mistakes, mistakes are good, lime n lemony

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