Creatively inclined

In an endeavour to make office fun (yeah, right!) our firm decided to launch hobby clubs, and the one and only club launched thus far is the photography club. I’m a total shutterbug, but a complete amateur, so I decided to sign up! And of course, given my crazy work schedule, I didn’t attend a single meeting. It took an email by the group head to “force” me to make it for the meeting, and boy! Was I glad I went!! There are a bunch of really talented people in that grup, which honsetly had me wondering what I was doing there! I mean, I may click away with abandon, but that doesn’t necessarily make me even half-way decent!

Anyhoo! Take the plunge I did, and clicked away during the weekend, on the theme that had been decided for the week — table top or still life photpgraphy (which my husband insists on calling industrial photography!). Here are my very humble attempts, and may I add that this is the first time I have ever done this, ever? OK, just so we set the record straight!

The spirit of Delhi

Delhi was struck by 5 serial bomb blasts this Saturday — all of them targeting busy, popular markets and hangouts. While these were supposed to be “low-intensity bombs,” lives were lost, and a few people I know had lucky escapes. Very luckily, everyone I know is safe.

While this is a shameful act of terrorism, and while it brought together strangers from every walk of life to help, it also brought the wierdos out onto the street. While most people were expressing their shock and outrage at the bombings, a mother-daughter duo from Safdurjung Enclave drove especially all the way to GK to see the bomb blast! They had the gall, on national television, to laughingly say that they were “very well aware that there have been 5 blasts in Delhi,” go on to list the places where the blasts happened, and say, “my daughter wanted to see the blast, so we drove down to have a look.” What gall! Is this a tourist spot, or a display, that people are specially driving in to have a look-see? Shocking!

Another thing that has me thinking is this phrase: “Sprit of Delhi.” Replace it with any Indian state that has suffered a terrorist attack in the recent past — things are back to normal the very next day. Is this really the spirit of the city, or are we becoming indifferent to the death and terrorism we see around us everyday? I don’t mean to sound callous, but it is a fact — Indians are exposed to a number of terrorist attacks, religious riots, non-issues being made into issues and what have you, that we seem to have developed an immunity to such events — as long as we are not directly affected by them. We disguise this indifference by calling it our spirit.

But terrorism is a shocking event. While the goal of a terrorist is to strike fear in the heart of citizens, we cannot just get up, brush ourselves off, and go on like nothing has happened. There needs to be accountability in the system. Culprits — the real culprits, not innocents rounded up on the basis of their relegion — need to be put behind bars. The nation should send a strong message to terrorists — that we will not take this lying down. We will hunt you down and bring justice to our citizens.

The police, though, do nothing. The UP police is being partially blamed for the terrorist strike. They apparently had intelligence about the planned strike, and a tip-off on where the terroists were hiding, but were lax in pursuing it. Let’s see how the Delhi police react — they apparently have an eye-witness. How this will play out will be relvealed over the next few days.

Girlfriends rock!

Ever since I decided to take on a couple of new projects, in addition to the work I alredy do. I’ve had a busy couple of really weeks at work. So much so I’ve had no time for hubby dearest, let alone friends.

So it wasn’t surprising when Mridu, a dear friend and an ex-colleague, sent me an email saying don’t just work hard and ignore the rest of your life, take some time time out to just drop a couple of lines and let the people that love you know that you still exist.

I wrote back to her immediately, and decided that I just had to finish up work on time, even if it ment putting a few not so significant things off for the next day, and going to meet her. So, with Swapnil, another common friend, in tow, I landed up to meet her on Thursday — and it was such a blast! I was at her place for about 3 hrs, but it still didn’t feel like we’d managed to catch up! So, we plan to meet again one of these weekends, put our husbands together in one room, and spend some girl time together. That plan will hopefully materialize soon.

Then, on Friday, Swapnil and I made an impromptu plan to go malling @ Central – a mall devoted almost exclusively to clothes, bags, sandals and groceries. What fun that was! We wandered around the mall, checking out clothes, commenting on bags, trying on shoes, and finally ending up with two pairs of pants for her and a pair of cool sandals for me. I had some discount coupons for the grocery sectio of the mall, so we went and stocked up on some home essentials and exotic foodstuffs, before heading over to the foodcourt for a bite of dinner.

The last two days of the week (which also happened to straddle the last day of the previous month and the first day of this one) have been a high-note of an otherwise dreary month of July.

Girlfriends truly rock!

Love is…

Remember those cute black and white love is cartoons?

I found them on the Internet!!
http://www.loveisfan.com/ (updated website)
It’s my favorite place to hang out these days to beat the stress @ work!

Break free

That special pleasure she had felt in watching him eat the food she had prepared—she thought, lying still, her eyes closed, her mind moving, like time, through some realm of veiled slowness—it had been the pleasure of knowing that she had provided him with a sensual enjoyment, that one form of his body’s satisfaction had come from her.
. . . There is reason, she thought, why a woman would wish to cook for a man . . . oh, not as a duty, not as a chronic career, only as a rare and special rite in symbol of . . . but what have they made of it, the preachers of woman’s duty? . . . The castrated performance of a sickening drudgery was held to be a woman’s proper virtue—while that which gave it meaning and sanction was held as a shameful sin . . .

The above paragraph from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged holds powerful meaning and a strange resonance for me. I have always viewed cooking as something I do when I feel like doing it—something special and sacred for the one I love. It has always been a pleasure to cook—on special occasions, when I’m feeling particularly in tune with my significant other, as a gesture of my love. And that is just what I would have preferred to keep it. But thanks to something that someone said to him when he was depressed, we ended up having a huge fight about a year back, and now, it has become drudgery for me. So much so, after treating the whole thing as a challenge, I have now reached the stage when I prefer staying out of the house until late, so I can go home and say I’m too tired to even bear the thought of cooking. The very thought of having to cook as a “have-to-do-thing” fills me with dread….makes me want to bolt. Food has never been a big issue for me. I’m happy eating almost anything. I can get by just fine on soup and toast, as I can on a full Indian meal. But Abid is the opposite. And striking a balance between our different needs is becoming increasingly challenging.

Seems like it’s the season for pets this January! We got ourselves some pretty fish this weekend, and my best friend adopted a dog!
My Fishbowl
I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Internet to figure out how to take care of them, since I’ve killed fish twice before. Aquariumfish.net had some of the best information on looking after fishbowls, though some of the things don’t quite apply here, or are unavailable here. Till now, though, they’re doing just fine! Fingers crossed!

Fairy tale city – Jaisalmer

The Living Fort - Jaisalmer

The Living Fort – Jaisalmer

I had heard a lot about Jaisalmer and how beautiful it is, but nothing can quite prepare you for the city. The fort in Jaisalmer is the only living fort in the world, and we stayed at a hotel inside the fort itself, which is the best thing to do.

The whole place looks magical, like a scene out of Arabian Nights. It looks like someone has put up a historical set, and opened it up for the public, and that the next time you come, it might disappear! There are lots and lots and lots of shops inside the fort – the city, after all, is a tourist city. Its entire economy depends on tourism. Once you’ve been there, it works such magic on you that you would want to visit it again and again.

Jain Temple, Dancers on the Roof, Jaisalmer

Architecture in temple – dancers on the roof

I think I spent most of my time walking while looking up, because almost all the houses have beautifully carved jharokas and balconies. I kept poking the husband in the ribs and pointing out almost every second house! The guide was also amused, said this is so normal for them that they don’t even see it! Apparently, the government has passed an order that all houses built in Jaisalmer have to have a sandstone front and have to have some carving on the doors and window, since the carving and the sandstone is all that attracts tourists to the city.

There are a lot of Jain temples, built in between and 12th and 15th century, inside the fort, and again, all I can say is that the carving is awesome! The biggest temple has got 11 dancers carved on the roof, with musicians below them, and one figure of Indira. The Jains believe that once the temple is closed, the dancers descend from the roof and dance for the Gods. How quaint! The statue looks like it is made of marble, but is actually made of desert sand! Every year it is polished with diamond dust, milk, sandalwood, and turmeric, which gives it the look of marble!

Patwon ki Haveli

Patwon ki Haveli

The entire temple is built on the basis of interlocking columns, since there was no water for limestone joining at that time, and cement was not invented yet. One of the other temples had different form of Ganeshji carved on the roof. Seeing it just takes your breath away! Especially when you think of when they were built and what kind of ability and skill it would have taken then, to make something that is so timeless in its beauty, without the technology that we have access to today.

The museum in the fort had some interesting things on display – line the entire family tree of the rulers, right down to the present king. There was also the king’s bedroom, and one of the king’s nightgown on display. It’s so huge that both the husband and me could fit into it, and still have some space left over!

One of the most elaborate and magnificent of all the havelis (bungalows) in Jaisalmer is Patwon ki Haveli, which was built between 1800 and 1860 by five Jain brothers who made their fortunes by trading jewelry and fine brocades. The entire façade of the haveli is made of sandstone, which has through-and-through, intricate carving. I went crazy photographing close-ups of different sections of the haveli! And the most amazing thing is that there is a similar house, which was made in 1993! It belongs to someone who is based in Surat, and would have cost him Rs. 1 crore to build! The sandstone is cheap, but the carving is really expensive, about Rs. 500 per square foot!

Tazia Tower

Tazia Tower

Following the trend of converting palaces into hotels and leaving a section open for visitors is Badal Mahal, which is topped by the Tazia Tower. Each story of this five-tiered tower has a beautifully carved balcony. Muslim craftsmen built it in the shape of a Tazia and gifted to the king. Tazias are ornately decorated bamboo, paper, and tinsel replicas of a bier carried in procession during Muharram. Visitors can’t go into the tower, because the king has his residence in that section of the palace.

Surprisingly, this desert city also has a lake! A man-made lake, but a lake nevertheless – the Gadisar lake. At one time it was the town’s main water supply, but is currently a big tourist attraction. Who wouldn’t want to go boating in the desert?

And of course, how can I neglect to mention the desert itself?

Riding Into the Sunset, Jaisalmer

Riding Into the Sunset

We went to Sam Sand Dunes for New Year. It is a one hour drive on a lonely road, there are hardly one or two small villages along the way. Sam is not really just sand dunes, though, there are a lot of shrubs too, which I wasn’t expecting. It just didn’t fit into my mental image of what a desert should look like, but it did give me a sense of serenity and timelessness, despite all the crowds that were there for New Year. We plan to return here again, and spend a couple of days in the desert.

Rajasthani dancers

Rajasthani dancers

New Year celebrations were organized by the hotel, and were held at one of the many desert camps. There was traditional Rajasthani folk music and dances organized at the venue, along with dinner and drinks. While we had originally planned on staying till 12:30 am at least, it was too cold to even think about it. While we were sitting in front of the fire it was fine, but our backs were bearing the brunt of the cold air blowing in, despite all the layers of clothes we were wearing!

The New Year program was an interesting experience, though it wasn’t really what I was expecting. I had a completely different image in my mind, fueled by all the things we had heard from people when we mentioned we were planning to spend New Year at Jaisalmer! It was a little disappointing, but an experience worth remembering nonetheless.

(All images copyright Modern Gypsy)

The Blue City – Jodhpur

Traveling is one of the best ways to expand your horizons and learn about different cultures. It has been such a long time since I’ve taken a long holiday with no obligations attached that I had almost forgotten what a wondrous experience it is!

Cenotaph at Madore Garden

We were to travel to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer during Christmas and New Year, and the excitement was building up since almost a month. I spent quite a bit of time after work looking for places to stay and researching the two cities and all that we could do, that I was dreaming of all the places we would visit and what they would be like weeks before we even left!Continue reading

Jaded Consumerism

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I was discussing the changing face of consumerism in India with a friend a few days back. There was a time, even until about 4 years ago, when almost any purchase could give you a high for at least a few days. Nowadays, we seem to be so jaded, that even when we buy something we’ve been hankering for, the joy is missing. Like 6 years back, when I was staying alone in Bombay, I spent a “princely” sum of Rs. 2,000 on books, and I was kicked about it for weeks! I could never have imagined spending that much on books before, not for lack of money, but for remonstrations from my mother. Now, about a month back, I spent Rs. 8,500 on a woolen rug for the hall, again something I had been wanting for a long, long time, but when we came home and laid it down, I just looked at it, said yeah it looks nice, and that was it! Even when I bought my first car a few months back (ok, I know, I learnt driving really late!) it should have been a monumentally happy occasion—but it was not! I just felt like yeah, ok, I got my car. Why?? Where’s the joy gone? It’s not like these purchases were “unnecessary” and neither is it that I have truck loads of money and shelling out about 9k is no big deal—9k still is a lot of money for me! But there’s just no joy!

Maybe it’s just that it has become easier to buy things, what with banks falling over themselves to give you loans and credit cards. Or that we are earning increasing amounts of money with lesser time to enjoy it; so, when we do buy something, its generally taken such a long time to manage to get the time out and buy it, that we just don’t get that kick anymore. Or could it be that we are so spoiled for choice, that we’ve become jaded about our purchases? Whatever it is, it isn’t a very pretty place in which to be.

Connecting to the Wellspring of the Universe

I was reading an article on Flow, and how it can be easily achieved by everyone. Flow is the current that enables our lives to unfold effortlessly, and moves us toward a feeling of “completeness” and harmony. When we are in flow, we experience synchronicity—events line up and fall into place, and obstacles just melt away. Flow has tremendous power to transform our lives, for it is dynamic and moves us unfailingly toward joy and aliveness.

When we are in flow, things happen, seemingly without any major effort on our part; almost as though we were in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. But it’s been a long time since I’ve felt connected to the Universe. There was a time when things just seemed to happen, when I just knew something was pre-destined, and events unfolded almost perfectly. I seem to have lost my way to the wellspring, and can’t seem to find it!

According to the article I was reading, there are nine qualities that engage flow:

  • Commitment—Living by our deepest values
  • Honesty—Telling the truth to ourselves and others
  • Courage—Overcoming fears
  • Passion—Engaging with what we care about
  • Immediacy—Being in the moment
  • Openness—Saying Yes to whatever comes our way
  • Receptivity—Listening to inner and outer messages
  • Positivity—Finding the value in each situation
  • Trust—Having faith in ourselves and the Universe
  • Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to spend time dreaming, to be receptive to things around me….I forgot about me and how to myself….I had no time to purse my passions, or to look at things objectively and honestly. With no time to introspect, it seems to be no wonder that I lost my bearings.

    However, the article does go on to list out techniques that help us deepen the aove qualities in ourselves:

  • Be aware
  • Accept yourself and others
  • Express who you really are
  • Create silence
  • Follow your intuition
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Do 100% of what you know to do—and trust
  • Finish things and move on
  • Take risks
  • Break with your old reality
  • Appreciate yourself
  • Express gratitude
  • Give of yourself
  • Get a point of view from the Universe
  • So, will I have the time and the courage to find my way back? Only time will tell….