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!
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!
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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→
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.
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
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:
Accept yourself and others
Express who you really are
Follow your intuition
Do 100% of what you know to do—and trust
Finish things and move on
Break with your old reality
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….
After planning, hoping, waiting, fighting, and crying over it, the husband and I finally managed to co-ordinate our days off and go for a vacation – after years and years!! The destination: Jaipur. Although we had been there before, about 5 years ago, and had done all the touristy things, we hit upon it due to paucity of time, and the fact that I wanted to indulge in some retail therapy. And what better place to sooth a girl’s heart than Jaipur, where you get lovely silver jewelry, and much cheaper than you’d ever hope to find in Delhi!Continue reading→
Solitude…a word at once calming and scary. Calming because it is only in solitude that I can get in touch with myself, examine the effect various events and conversations have had on me. I need my solitude to center myself, otherwise I become like a prickly hedgehog, ready to rise to the defence for almost no reason.
Its scary at the same time, because I can squander it away….or go alone to find myself and discover there’s no one there. Even though that at least has never happened.
But in spite of just how important solitude is to me…there are times when I have none. Caught up in this hullaballo of daily life with all its demands, there is no time for self-reflection and contenmplation. And it is during those periods (like right now) that I just wish for a small cottage in a remote hill station where I can lose myself.
Aren’t we all muddled in some way or the other? Second guessing ourselves, wondering about our decisions, going through life with some firm opinions and with others that change. Questioning our faith and beliefs. The rationals among us questioning history and faith. After all, it was recorded centuries after the event. How much of it is true? And how do you sift between fact and fiction? How can blind faith explain certain concepts of relegion – like the Immaculate Conception and the Indian Creation Myth? Do we choose to believe? Do we act like we believe? Not only with regards to relegion, but with regards to the many excuses we hear everyday. How much of it goes on in an endless loop at the back of our minds, as we try and analyze what was said and what may have been implied? Confusion and chaos rule….most of the time….and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know it’s true.