Albums and trunks, clearance or remembrance!

OF ALBUMS AND TRUNKS IMG_5699

I thought I would clear some clutter before the new year came in. Little did I think that it was going to be a crying jag of epic proportions.

IMG_5702Trunks: those wonderful things that store everything – I have many – and I thought to get rid of them!! Obviously I didn’t – to start –  it was the girls’ old files – report cards and letters – I was not able to throw out a single one. Then I found an old folder of all the cards that I had kept from my wedding – half those people are gone, but seeing those messages – obviously I just sat there, cried and packed them back into the folder. Backward in time to my own school files and dimmed letters from my grandfather, the ink is faded but the messages remain in that tiny scrawling hand, so many words of wisdom that carried me all this way.

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A dancing Bare Moms

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And dancing parents!

Followed the albums, ancient history, a whole story and so many memories. What a vast family I have, so many, many people that all come together to that one me! It constantly amazes me that I am the only person who has all of these people. Parental doubles, grandparents in quadruples, oh so many aunts, uncles, siblings.

An accident of birth, an accident of circumstance, an accident of plenty yet not any. To belong to so many people, yet to not wholly belong to any – it alternates between a blessing and a craving.

For the longest part of my life I wanted a place and a space that was answerable to none. Today I have it and love it, but, occasionally it throws up that odd alone feeling. This weekend was one such. Do I forget my family or does my family forget me? Probably all in my head and just the memories making me nostalgic and maudlin. 

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A little Maya

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A little Rifq

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Sisters!

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Youth.

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Friends, the dancing ones.

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Bombay: Nostalgia and memories

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The Gateway of India

Bombay, for the last few years I have been coming to a different Bombay – what I knew as the suburbs, but where all the young ones, including my daughters live. This time the girls are not here and I am in old haunts and it is a trip down memory lane. Just how much I realised when I was sitting by the window of my beautiful old room in the yacht club, overlooking the Gateway of India and saw the Naval ensign flying off this venerable old building. Obviously I opened the window and tried to peer through the trees to see what was on. That’s when I heard the announcement for the beating retreat ceremony to be held there forthwith. It is a ceremony that I love, with the marching bands and the melodies. Imagine it in this setting, with the backdrop of the harbour and the ships.IMG_5558

I ran down and out into the street to see what I cold see. Naval personnel all over the place, for an instant, I actually thought of going up to the entrance and talking my way in. Then I looked around at the milling throngs and decided I had been in the enclosures often enough. This time I was going to be just one of the crowd peering in.

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The Naval ships lit up

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Helicopter fly past

Found a great vantage point on the median of the road in front of the Taj Hotel. I had to crane my neck to actually see much, but I could hear the music and I could see the colours of the sunset. The helicopters arriving and doing their bit, I realised I didn’t actually have to see any of it, my minds eye relived it all from so many times, but just the fact of being there – in that place at that time. The haunting melody of ‘Abide with Me’ and the naval ships in the harbour turning on their lights. I think all my ‘naval brat’ friends will understand exactly what I mean, there is a poignancy to the whole; pride and a belonging along with a sense of nostalgia.

That this was to occur just the day that I chose to be here, happy chance!

I am now sitting in the bar at the Yacht club, overhearing snippets of sailing conversation, some gentleman trying to get a pretty, scared lady to go sailing. I look around at the memorabilia of sailing lore and think how much I love the sea. I think i shall go sailing one of these days while I am here.

I am so glad I decided to stay here rather than with family and friends. It reiterates for me that thought that comes so often, how being alone can be such a blessed state. Though I would have taken that buggy ride if there had been someone to share it…..so….

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Lit in tricolour

The fortune of my life that throws up these magic moments makes me sure to thank the powers that be for the enchantments.

PS: My photographs are just for story telling not for their great quality!!

The great Taj Mahal Hotel

The great Taj Mahal Hotel

The buggy rides.

The buggy rides.

The written and the read.

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I received the most touching mail wishing me well with my new found love.
However, my little anecdote is not about a one love, but the discovery that I still have the capacity to throw my heart over a windmill and perhaps not worry about whether it lands in the right place. Just experience the emotion and the euphoria of doing it, without counting the cost – and most importantly the discovery that the cost is not what matters at all. It is the enjoyment of the feeling; whether it is fleeting or lasting must be left in the hands of the Gods.
I say that quite deliberately, because the moment you start to anticipate the where, what, how, what if ? It’s finished, it’s lost, the euphoria is gone. All those human things will creep in, the doubt, the uncertainty, the wanting, the needing, to have, to hold. With that dissapears the essence of that pure, soaring flight. Why would you want to do that? Also that is what prevents you from throwing that heart over in the first place. Caught for a moment, caught forever, who knows?  If one does it often enough maybe it will entwine with another such floating feeling and fly forever.
Also the learning that no matter what the age, love feels very much the same, there may not be as much angst to it with experience, because perhaps you, like me, can discover it to be a many splendoured thing, but it can be as silly, as electrifying, as embarrasing and as euphoric at 18 and at perhaps 80.
So in short, no my friend, I still have not found the man who will walk beside me and I wasn’t even looking. But now I think, if I can risk it then perhaps there is somewhere out there ‘The Passionate Shephard’ type of man who will risk saying those magic words too.

It’s raining men!

IMG_4251Nice one’s too. I decided a time ago that the male energy does not fit in my space as a constant, it was a lovely, comfortable feeling; I would not be looking for the sharing and caring, just enjoying the fun of it. It’s been wonderful so far. Other than that decision, I also figured that after living a certain number of years one perhaps does not fall in love – or atleast not ‘fall’ like at 18. I once asked my mother, ‘so when does love and sex cease to be important?’ She said, ‘never.’ I thought, ‘sweet Mommy, what a romantic!’

So here am I, following my well laid plans and another delight rains down on me, or rather creeps up on me. We met and wandered up the mountain, delightful. So many intrinsic similarities, so much to talk about, great companionship – total support (remember we take people up mountains and that’s what we were doing) much laughter. The first wariness should have warned me, we were avoiding each other. But this awareness is coming in hindsight. Atleast I was avoiding him, I don’t know if I imagined him avoiding me. But we were still together in strategic places because it was necessary to share those things, we had a connection, it couldn’t be helped – I would wait to show him the best angle for the sunset (eeks) Did I even know I was doing it? This remembrance is wholly embarrassing. Has it started sounding like that 18 year old yet? It keeps getting better. So be together, bond and then feign indifference. Pretending that one is not feeling all the things one is actually feeling ( so comfortable and happy to be together) – know that one? Straight out of trashy romance.

Then it’s over, trip over, large goodbye party, tears and speeches all around – pour the heart out, because there is an excuse for it and you can in public forum – ‘you are like my alter ego – and – I will never forget you’ – cheese and all in the spirit of the moment and you believe it too. That’s all it is another trip, another lot of great people sharing a great time.

Go away, immersed in something completely different. Come back and realize we have a few more days together, just us. Amazing fun and those two days fly and so do I, and now all my preconceived notions have flown away.

The damn heart has a feeling in it, I don’t even want to call it a yearning or a pain, that means it gets a definition. How incomplete one is, when one is conceptualizing this wholly wise being, and you don’t want to admit that Mommy was right, you are an idiot and romance exists and no matter how long that heart has lived it still knows how to go pitter patter. Isn’t that completely exciting, just the discovery that this feeling can still happen – not just the bubbles and glee – but the angst too. Gracias mi amigo for rejuvenating a lost part of me.

IMG_4247Sorry for flawed photographs, but I only try to capture moments and know nothing about composition and the fact that an insect sat on the lens.

Kerala: homestays

Kerala

Do you remember reading stories about sailors’ first sightings of the Malabar coast: the evocative, rich scent of spices, green hills spreading back from the white sands and surf of the beaches? Kerala: a land that fascinates, there are beaches and back waters, ranging plantations full of scents, smells, romance, elephants and bison, chucked in with the odd roaming leopard or tiger. An abundance of wild birds and domestic ducks that waddle through rice paddies. Ayurveda at it’s best: healing combined with nature, the immense luxury and well being of a good massage!

All of this, and then they have fully explored the potential of homestays with their plantation homes, riverside farms and mountain retreats.

I have discovered some lovely places during my travels and introduce you to them here. The prices range from 3000 to 10000 rupees per night depending on season and location, so if they interest you call or mail me, most take guests by recommendation only.

I can create for you a varied itinerary of Kerala discovery mixing and matching with some of these and the super luxury that exists too.

The Whistling Thrush Bungalow at Nelliyampathy.

In the midst of a rambling forest of a mixed plantation: coffee, cardamom, pepper, vanilla. All the scents associated with the old time ships that sailed to our Malabar coast.
Nelliyampathy is the home of George and Anju Anthony and offers typical Kerala hospitality. You can wander and see the working of the plantation, see a host of amazing birdlife, sit and picnic and swim at the little dam on the property, follow the stream and maybe meet a bison. Hike upto the little church on the hill or relax in the garden and drink great coffee.

Prices between Rs. 3500 to 8000.

Tony and Anju also have a jewel of a small resort on the banks of the Wayanad lake: Kayaloram, unlike all the large fancy resorts across the lake from them, is a small 8/10 room place – a great restaurant – beautiful old rooms in traditional Kerala houses and an unsurpassed view of the lake. An ancient lady gives you a wonderful massage (maybe replaced by a younger one now.) You can also choose to take a cruise on their rice boat. It does not get much better.

Prices between Rs. 5000 to 8000.

The Old Courtyard Hotel on old Cochin Island, was a run down old home belonging to an old jewish lady that was converted by Jacob and Rose Kuruvinakunnel into a perfect little property – probably my best place to stay in Old Cochin. The courtyard with the mango tree and open air restaurant where they serve divine deserts and rather wonderful food is the perfect spot to sit on a warm lazy afternoon. The bustle of old cochin’s sea front is a short walk away as is the market. The rooms are individual and interestingly charming. As a gateway to Kerala it is the perfect start.

From 3000 to 6000 per room + 17.65 tax

The Farm at Mankotta Island,Kerala. A family home and working farm that accepts guests by reference only. Jai an ex Naval Officer and his wife Laila invite you into their home and their life on the River Pamba. You lie on a hammock in the courtyard and watch life float by on the river. The low ochre farm buildings have two guest rooms. The main house is an old Kerala home with a steep pitched roof and rambling bougainvillea. Of an evening Jai Chako will invite you to share a drink and regale you with anecdotes from his planters chair on the verandah. The food is home grown and cooked, very delectable. You can explore the farm, visit the nearby village temple, swim in the river and lie under the coconuts to dream.

Prices between Rs. 5500 to  8500

Hill House is situated at Kuttikanam. Set in the Ghats, a five minute drive from the main Kottayam Kumily road, built on a 600 acre estate where tea, coffee, cardamom and other spices are grown. A unique house built entirely from salvaged wood from old buildings that are indiscriminately torn down, overlooking spectacular views of the valley spread before it.
It is a place of peace and serenity, you can choose to do some strenuous or leisurely treks, there are scenic walks on the estate. Visits are arranged to nearby Ayurveda and Spice factories that are run by a local NGO. Thekkady and the Periyar Game Sanctuary are approximately 40 kms away. Guests have an opportunity to see a working estate, a cook and maid are on hand to look after you, your hostess and her family live a five minute walk away and are on hand for advice about activities and also welcome you into their family.

Prices range from:
Rs. 8000 for 1 room, Rs.15,000 for 2 rooms, Rs.20,000 for 3 rooms
This is inclusive of full board.

Please note that all prices quoted are to give you an idea, exact prices will be available on booking depending on time of year and availability.