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Friday, 6 April 2018

You Don't Have to Get Married to Play Hide & Seek

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
― Pico Iyer

Perhaps some of most meaningful conversations I had were with my late grand father, who rarely spoke unless interjected with questions. In his few words he made me realize that it is good to ask questions and there are probably no wrong questions. Or even wrong answers.  In other words it is alright to be!

Sometime in the last decade, I was in a house in Dubai. Attending a get together. It was a religious household with enough evidence of that hanging on the walls. We were savouring ordered out food. It was Chinese. A young lady, the next in line to get married, asked a question. Softly.      

'Can we marry XYZ Catholics?'

The question was familiar. Nobody answered for a while.  One of the elders prompted to no one in particular, 'Why? Have you found one?' Everyone grinned behind their chicken lollypops.

Another seemingly friendly elder, came closer and muttered softly, 'If he is a nice one we will... but usually we don't. Don't you know that?'

Grins were covered by the second course. Spring rolls filed with shredded chicken, cabbage and carrots.

I thought it was important to give a clear answer. I borrowed a line from my memory and uttered, 'You can marry anyone you like to.'

Nobody responded, for or against the motion. There was pin drop silence. It was time for the main course anyway.

End of scene one.


I was 11 or 12. One random day, I was fussing over meeting a kid whom I had met recently at a get together at my grandparents'. I wanted to play with him and kept telling his name, asking when we will go to their house in Kollam. Pullu, my grandma, was visibly unimpressed when she said, 'Why are you going on asking this? We are not getting you married to him. He is a Nair. We don't marry Malayalis or Nairs.'

Puzzled over her reaction and the possible meaning of a marriage, I turned to grandpa.

B'lu: Pappa, can I marry Chikku?
Pappa: No
B'lu: Why?
Pappa: You are too young.
B'lu: Who are Nairs?
Pappa: They are a community from Kerala.
B'lu: Are we not from Kerala?
Pappa: Not really. But we are born here.
B'lu: Is it wrong to marry a Nair?
Pappa: No
B'lu: Why did Pullu say you can't.
Pappa: (Hands & head nods in 'I don't know gestures')
Pappa: Why do you want to marry now?
B'lu: To play hide and seek.
Pappa: For that you don't need to marry.
B'lu: Then why do you need to marry?
Pappa: That only the person who wants to get married will know.
B'lu: Who should I marry?
Pappa: Anyone you like to.

The aroma of freshly roasted cashew nuts, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, drew us children and elders from the varandah to the backyard where the help was thrashing the freshly charred nuts open. The sky above us was an abstract canvas with a bizarre mix of oranges and mauves. The sun painted all the way to his exit. A beautiful vault of heaven opened to trap the wild blue yonder into its deep starry folds. It was not less than in a fairytale... even thought eyes were wide open.

Twilight: The window seat once captured the splendid sun set and a rising moon...  Can you spot the moon? It is a tiny dot of light.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Life must go on...

On a flu-striken cold winter morning I decided to start writing this. This that am not sure what it is. A blog post, a catalyst to a book or simply a Facebook post for my friends who read.

I woke up feeling like crap. It was already two days since I took a bath. I was woken up by the alarm at 5am. I was then in the middle of a dream, a nightmare of some sort, about which I cannot remember the details anymore but there was some vivid details that passed on into my waking up moments. Details that made me sigh in relief. That it was not real. It was a dream. Not a great one for sure. Or else why should I feel relieved. It was much like an interrupted story though.

Ashvin mumbled something about the bed. I did not understand. These are my usual first few minutes in the morning. I remember when I was working early morning shifts in a newspaper, I used to make eggs and oats before running off to work. Most often, almost everyday, I would drop the egg while transporting it from the fridge to the pan. Early mornings are a bit like that for me. It takes me a while to come back into my body in the complete sense of it.
This month the story about how Pablo adopted us was published in AMOR, A Magazine of the Random. Read the story HERE

Bed what? I asked as I pulled the quilt tightly around my neck. Nothing, he said as he disappeared behind the bathroom door. The bed what, I thought to myself. Yes, I remember. I forgot to tell my help to change the sides. Once in three months, the sides of the mattress needs to be rotated for better comfort. I got the sheets changed just yesterday, I should have got this done too. I will need to tell Daisy to toss the sides. It is heavy to lift by oneself. I will help her do that today.

He pulled out the track pants and jacket from the coat hanger, while Pablo's gasps in anticipation for his first loo break for the day, is audible. It was about time. The dog is so patient. They left the room while I was still under my quilt. I heard Pablo's harness being being strapped on and the leash's metal hook clamping. Now Ashwin was wearing his shoes. The door opened and closed. I strain my ears every time to note every detail even while my eyes are tightly shut. This must be every light sleeper's curse or joy.

The door opened. Meanwhile, I had slept a few more minutes. Those precious few morning minutes in the winter. No matter how brief. Even 10 minutes, is wonderful. Still unwilling to wake up fully, I asked for what the time was. It is going to be 6, the answer came in promptly. Damn! Somebody is going to be late today, I heard myself.

It is damn chilly, you better wear something warm when you take him out later, he said while rushing in for a quick bath. Still under the quilt, I calculated what needs to be done to whip up a breakfast. Dosa batter is there in the fridge and fresh coconut in the freezer. I will need to put the filter to drip the coffee first.

Ashvin was now almost ready, and I was feeling like crap. That is enough. I told myself and leapt into the bath. Took a shower and shampooed my hair. Smeared rasnadi podi (an ayurvedic powder that grand mother used to rub on the crown to not catch cold) on my head and sniffed my hand. No smell! Yet! The darn flu.

Wow! A puzzled partner said. I felt like I noticed his eyes for the first time in many days. He was actually puzzled. I said, sorry I know there is no time but I had to bathe.

As I blow dried my hair, I announced that I feel better after the bath. He agreed, that he too felt better after a bath, during the flu few days back. He said, the old belief that one shouldn't bathe during flu is not really true. After all he is a doctor, he must be right!

There was really no time now. Pablo tailed me to the kitchen. Dosa, chutney and coffee happened as usual. Ashvin asked for one last dosa while craning to catch a glimpse of the clock to say 'I am late'. I agreed, as there was nothing to contest here.

He reminded that I better take rest for one more day to get the flu out of the system completely. And that he will take care of the framing for the new art works that need to be despatched soon.

The hungry dog was now waiting for more dosas. I mixed his chicken with rice and lentils. Topped his bowl with a dosa and slid the bowl under his chin.

Ashvin left for work. 

Pablo and I had our breakfasts. He finished before me. It was time to acknowledge that his bowl was empty. I did that. He rolled over like a baby, to make the most of the pampering hour.

(The writing was interrupted by a friend's call to reschedule the coffee date for the day for later. Now the dog is ready for his second walk and he does that dance nobody can ignore.)

Signing off for now.

Season's greetings.
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<3 nbsp="" p=""><3 br="">PS: So, it is a blog post for now. ;) It is an year later that I have written one here at bluvian, my original blog for random thoughts. :) It is a strange good feeling... like one feels when flu leaves your body! :p<3 3="">

Saturday, 24 December 2016

7 Ways to Make Creati-witty Your Best Friend

This year was phenomenal - mostly they were ups but there were downs too. Life! Would like to share some lessons learnt about 'social triggers' this year.
1. The next time you're faced with feedback that's difficult to handle, remember this - it's not always about you... it's mostly about the other person. Many people don’t realise this. When we face criticism, we slip into questioning our value. We tend to hide our truth and thus limit our potential. Face the music but don't dance to it!
How to stay inspired in your distractions: I never thought I will find a similarity between celtic knots and South Indian kolam drawings. Yes, they do! Now that I put these dots in place... it is a celtic kolam. When something original is born... it is a distraction worth keeping!
2. If you choose to respond to haters, then surprise/kill them with kindness. Nobody can be too rude for too long to people who have their guards on and have mastered how to behave/keep calm. If they choose to completely ostracise you - thank your lucky stars! ;)
3. Reduce your negative interactions with anybody.  When somebody doesn't want a solution or wants to feed on the negative stress - accept the truth. This is how they deal with their feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Move on. Leave them high and dry! Just like they wish/rant/sing songs about. Keep 3 minutes maximum time-limit to rants. Rise above the negative. Distract and divert attention to something positively exciting. Make creati-witty your best friend.
Keep the fire straight from your soul alive: Why did I paint Bob Marley? Of course it was only childhood nostalgia of listening to his music. But when this work was exhibited it did get a lot of eye balls... to what lies beneath the art. Not just nostalgia but coffee... in this instance.
4. No matter what you do and how well you do it, there will always be someone there to rain on your parade. There is no point yelling and kicking. Handle it like grown ups do. Ignore!

5. Set boundaries.
6. Read outside social feeds and have an opinion. It is important to speak to your mind, even if you may not have a social handle to do so.
7. The best way to silence the destructive criticisers or haters is to do more of what they hate.... cos haters will hate... while doers do!
I always thank my supporters but I would like to extend my gratitude to haters too this time. If not for you, I would have not had a chance to unlock my creati-witty in this direction :)
Thank you for staying amazing, abundant and generous in love and kindness... more power to all... this new year.
Happy holidays! 💖

- B'lu ps: this post is not just for the creative minded but for anybody who wants to know how to stay creative in your day-to-day lives... anybody who wishes to outwit the unnecessary... or focus on the important.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

When Man Meets Mountain

I'm going to be a mountain someday, collecting crystals from the heaven and dispersing them to thirsty fields, tilled by hardworking humans. I will be a mountain, firm and humble. I will urge the brave to look up and rise above the banality and hostile indifference. The memory of the white of the snow peaks at a distance holds me rapt. I'm going to be a mountain someday... for this I rise up.

Back from the foothills of Himalayas, nestled among the Kumaon hills is Almora - a rustic district comprising of breathtaking views of a landscape not seen anywhere else in the world - am at a loss for words. The trip served as an appetiser to a main course of deeper subjects I wasn't aware I was seeking.

8 lessons I learned while standing face to face with the mountains of Uttarakhand:

1. Meditation: People seeking spiritual strength have long looked to the mountains to be inspired in their prayers and meditations. So did I. And glad it was found. Long, blue, spiky-edged shadows crept out across the snow-fields, while a rosy glow gradually deepened and diffused every mountain-top in a new hue that crept down to its foothills. This was the Himalayan glow, to me the most impressive of all the terrestrial manifestations witnessed so far. At the touch of the morning light, the mountains seemed to kindle consciousness. The peaks stood silent and devout like worshippers waiting to be blessed.

2. Gratitude: Dear mountain, we take the world for granted, please accept my apologies. We take you for granted for your gracious gifts that we do not earn, for the daily strokes of luck that we do not merit. Please accept my confession as we acknowledge our self-absorption nowadays through our cell phones, our short-sightedness; our failure to care for all creation. I can already hear the rivers clap their hands as the mountains echo - Amen.

3. Humility: The mountains and its rocks, rivers and valleys, animals and plants forgive us our devotion to greed, destruction, and selfishness so that we might be freed to truly see the other as ourselves and hold the care. The mountains are never tired of seeing us standing in admiration. These mountains have seen untold sunrises, they don't long for anything. They stand silent watching man's weak praise.

4. Faith: All you need is faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move the mountain. You can climb high up there and wonder how you made it.  When faced with a mountain, you can also choose to see several options. You can climb it and cross to the other side. You can dig or blow it up. You can turn around and go back the way you came. Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home. Or you can pretend it's not there... like you never saw one. But that is just not possible after all the faith it brims you up with.

5. Time: The greatest gift of life is time. Time to think or not think - to sleep or take a walk in the woods or to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. While sitting idle I produced nothing. Not even words. I realised time is just as stretchable as we can imagine it. By being utterly useless in the calculations of time while stuck in a zone that demanded never looking at time I became useful, at last, to myself.

6. Rejuvenation: Reaching the destination was a high task. Ravaged by motion sickness, I finally reached there. Almost limping out of our SUV as a new born calf. But this lasted no more after my eyes wandered high and higher still - far somewhere - completely spellbound. The two peaks of Himalayas from the Him Darshan point held me looking up. Never once did I think I should also capture this magnificence in my camera. A new numbness of a good sort enveloped me like as the nip in the air comforted the aches of low oxygen brain. The mountain has left me feeling renewed, more content and positive than I've been. Something has been given back after a long absence. I've let myself be rooted in this unshakable sanity of the senses as I spared my mind the burden of too much thinking. My outward experience translated inward - to savour the pleasures of being me.

7. Strength: I am tempted to answer. But they are offering me a free dwelling without having to conquer anything. The difficult path and its slippery bend - I cannot choose both but I have a choice to make. This will determine my fate. I choose. I choose the mountain. Because only by climbing can I rise above the plane of stress and strain. I simply choose the mountain as I will never stop climbing. This is a promise.

8. Charity: One foot in front of the other, keep walking with your eyes focused on the mountain. Rest your heart on the much around you... on the blade of the grass that sways to show you the direction of the wind or the cloud that moves to others to conspire a sudden burst of shower on you. Just keep walking towards that mountain. Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it. This joy has the power to give up the apex to those who cannot see this far.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

To Snowflake with Love

This story is dedicated to my only pen pal whom I met through a postal mail address exchange section in a children's magazine. 

More than 20 years ago in Delhi.

Her pen-name was Snowflake, like mine was Mowgli. Our real names were not revealed for the six years we were in touch. We lost connection somewhere at the turn of the 21st Century with the commotion of growing into adulthood. Meanwhile, I also carelessly lost my old diary of names and addresses somewhere between travels, moving homes, jobs and countries.

She wanted to gift me something on Christmas and parted with a silver bell locket that her uncle had gifted her 

Snowflake was born in North Korea and was then deeply moved by the 90s famine situation in her country. Children were the most affected. In her last letter which came after a year-long break, she said she was now in a good shape but when she left North Korea was very weak. Her uncle visited her when she was receiving social adjustment training after she arrived South Korea. I remember while reading this I could not hold back my sobbing. I was imagining her away from her family or something more terrible that must have happened. But I was also distracted and amazed at how much she was now keen to talk about origami! The art of making paper sculptures.

That letter came with many miniature paper sculptures that kept me occupied for hours long tracing its folds. She must have made them even during famine and the cross-country migration when she met 'poor children who had frost-bitten toes'. She must have found solace in folding paper. It is perhaps her hobby that kept her spirit together in the folds of the paper, neatly secured in right angles. Her letters were folded in interesting ways. Sometimes it opened into a fish. I clearly remember that the last one opened into a kite.

She had completed the later half of the last letter in Seoul. She had changed. I was too young to even pronounce personality then. But I remember I felt or rather sensed Snowflake melting into a new place.

The last paragraph of the letter had a date seven months after she reached Seoul. She had joined a new school. She wanted to gift me something on Christmas and parted with a silver bell locket that her uncle had gifted her long ago. I still have the locket and look at it more often than wear it. It reminds me how kind she is and that I had a special place in her life.

I miss you Snowflake. 

I missed you when I picked a book on origami and gifted it last Christmas to someone our age when we first wrote to each other. I missed you each time I read anything about Korea in the news. I missed you when I met the Coreyah band of contemporary musicians from your country in Abu Dhabi last year. I think of you when the CD plays Korean folk numbers in my car. Your thoughts flew to me in the Alps when snowflakes touched my bare skin before disappearing. 

You taught me that people come together and go away for no reasons logically possible to establish. And hence we must celebrate exploring every moment we have with anyone who is in our lives at the moment and be willing to let go when things change.

Today, after a long long time, am wearing the silver bell you gave and hope you are fine wherever you are. And somehow I am pretty sure you are more than fine! I am so happy we met through our letters. Thanks to the universe who facilitated that.

Happy New Year!

Your's truly

[PS: Remember you wanted me to get the red shorts that Mowgli had - coincidentally just after I got your last letter and when I went home for vacations, mother had bought me red shorts! I thought she was fooling me as a pen pal, like parents do for Santa Clause. But then mother told me she couldn't get the Korean postal services to stage so much drama. I had to believe her.]

About the author: Archana RD aka B'lu is a contemporary artist-writer currently based in the Middle East

Monday, 9 November 2015

Nosy Parkers_Gulf News 2007

Just thought of sharing this one from my once upon a time humour slot in Gulf News' Off the Cuff (Published in August 2, 2007). The lesson we learn from a nosy parker is how not to become one... when we meet and greet people/strangers on festivals/occasions! And that is the victory of light over darkness ;)

Happy Diwali! :)

... starts....

Hi!" and then... "How are you?" Why do we greet and then immediately ask a question? When we meet someone, can't we just wish a "hope you are fine" and push off?
I was thinking about the various questions one has to deal in a lifetime. They are just too many to mention. Too many to think, ponder or respond... and most of all funny if you can see the lighter side of the frustrating ones.
One of my friends is having a tough time battling questions from one and all on when she is planning to have a baby, ever since she tied the knot four years ago. It is like everyone's right to ask the question. So? It is high time she had a baby? Why doesn't she consult a doctor? Unbelievably so common and true. Questions flow from all over. Even from strangers who meet her for the first time. So, you are married? Any kids? Are you planning? Why do people want to know so many things? Are they planning to sponsor the unborn kids of the world? Who gives them the licence to ask private and much-confidential things a couple chooses to keep?
Dreadful questions
If it were not those dreadful questions one has to answer, we would not have been what we are. A lot of us would not have even got married. I am reminded of this other friend who was seeing someone and everyone was keen on knowing when she is tying the knot. Is it some sort of a quiz?
Taking about quiz, most of the quiz masters are gossip mongers.
The questionnaire takes you by surprise, even when you are prepared with a not so great answers. They are direct and unwarranted. Most of the time the quizmaster knows the answer or at least the many options one can pick from. But then he still chooses to ask. He loves to exercise his right, as he is your friend, relative, family or just a passer-by.
Is running away a solution? But who says answering is any solution? If you do answer, you let them pop another one. If you keep mum, which is difficult most of the time, it works. Silence is hard to break. The big question is that actually do we need to answer anyone and everyone we know, love and care about? I don't think so. But it still, depends, I must confess.
Once, while attending a family get-together, my baby brother whispered to my mother: "Mummy I want to ask something". She looked at him sternly and and placed her index finger on her pursed mouth.
Mother wanted to prevent him from any gibberish nonsense, that would potentially embarrass all. But the poor fellow only wanted to go to the washroom. Had she let him ask, she could have averted the disaster that followed soon after he kept quiet.
Asking questions to oneself is a good idea. It helps you check yourself before someone else gets a chance to point that out to you. Helps to introspect.
It is a mind bogglingly refreshing hobby. Try it. It is highly recommended.
Harmless question
Sometimes simple and seemingly harmless questions find deeper answers and expose things that one would rather keep than tell.
It is but questions that help the doctor find his way through appropriate cure. Questions that solve a case. Questions that enlighten our need to know more. Questions that keep life rolling. Questions that tell us what holds beneath. Questions, that define a deed. Questions, that yell out the truth of life.
Questions are sometimes the answers to what most of us seek. The wise one says, that if we ask the right question we might even find nirvana.
Life is all about newer questions and answers. Is that so?


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Get Your Chai On!

Society Insider Magazine's November 1, 2015 edition
Have you ever wondered why Facebook does weird and magical things to people? Some suddenly become the persona far removed from their actual selves. It exaggerates and alters behaviour. Smart people write silly things. Airy people write heady stuff. Quiet people abuse awkwardly. Of course, hot red, raving people still rave. Sometimes it is weird how generous people are with appreciation. Have you stumbled upon some praises that are absolutely cringeworthy? It's a doting crowd out there. Why do we turn to our phones every now and then? Why do we scroll or look for people or follow what they do? Why has social validation become a trend?

While we think about that let us take short break. Let us make some chai! I invite you to blukitchen - my own kitchen cum play area of experiments and dreamy escapades. ‬For the first time Gujarati-staple and my personal favourite ‪snack ‎dhokla‬ fluffed up while the morning ‪‎tea‬ was made to stretch and fall into the cup like a waterfall in ‪‎Kerala‬. Have you tasted the elastic tea? This one is popular by that name. I am not very skilled in this act of jugglery that involves hot tea being thrown from the pan to the cups. This almost-martial-arts-sort of-act of stretching arms, aiming and throwing the hot tea from a cup and catching it with the other was a spectacle for me the first time I saw this at a roadside tea stall in Kerala. Recently an experienced elder demonstrated this to me in my own kitchen! And am learning this new skill that calls for aim and efficiency. The net result is an aerated tea. Refreshingly different from the usual flat one it has a soft and fluffy froth floating peeping above the rim of the cup. One has to softly blow through this mountain of foam to get the tea to the lips. If lucky you get a tea-moustache too! Simply fantastic!

There is no one right way to make a tea. By the way 'chai tea' is an oxymoron. I have no idea why they call it so in menu cards. I like the Delhi-style masala chai much stretched and dropped from high above to fall into my mug like Kerala's elastic tea. There are so many delightful options to make a break mindful that all you need is get a little nostalgic or think about how best you like your cuppa and get from there. Just like there is no certain 'right way' to make a tea there is no one solution for that which distracts you. We are free humans. Your life is nobody else's business. First of all it is not a business! Like a delightful chai can be a priceless experience. 

The day offers many chores between chais. Some chores you don't like usually are the ones that will drive in boredom. That boredom can be broken by scrolling the screen of your touch phone. This activity has the potential to open cringe gates so wide open that a certain thought creeps in and stays with you and feeds on your positivity like a parasite... for days, or months together. Make the simple chai break mindfully so. Chai has the potential to be a spectacular drink and give you a phenomenal experience. 

Sharing my chai recipe here. The aromatic chai's masala mix is not just a heady mix of spices that has an awesome aroma, they are full of well being. Do try making the masala at home, t is aroma therapy in itself. Dry roast few pods of cardamom (mood enhancer), cloves (antioxidant), fennel seeds (digestive), peppercorns (anti-inflamatory) and pound them in a mortar along with some grated dry ginger (antiseptic). Add a teaspoon of this mix to boiling tea leaves. Strain to add little milk and sugar... do the elastic-tea gig. Savour the exotic whiff and take a sip while enjoying the taste of a revitalised drink, the warmth of the cup that you hold and the beautiful day light that dances in as shadows into the room. Aah! More sips! Aha! This exercise transports me to the mountains that grow this magical brew. I can almost hear a bagpiper in the backdrop and instantly feel I am floating amongst the clouds that stoop down to kiss the tender tea leaves. I can keep the chai time on for as long as the brew lasts. Every sip is a ticket free trip to some exotic dreamscape! Why not?

Once the chai time is over, reality strikes back. As far as possible I keep away from opportunities to cringe and away from social networks not because am an introvert. I do this only so that I can behave my best without any network inflicted baggage when I meet a new face or an old friend. There are so many interactions in a day that demand more attention than those virtual ones. We are a net result of all people and activities we choose to keep in our day. 

So why is this a trend - looking for validation online? Is it lack of creativity and thus resultant boredom? I have observed that it is not that people are not creative. Most are perhaps not creating anything of actual value. However, everyone needs some sort of self assurance of their social value and hence they seek it through virtual social opinion. This most often results in increased stress, anxiety and nothing remotely phenomenal. But there is a solution.

Einstein believed in something called Combinatory Play. The idea is simple. By expressing creativity in one realm, you could get inspiration for another. So whenever he was blocked, he would spend some time playing his violin. This activity opened up some channels in his mind, and he could go back and solve that tough mathematical equation easier this time. Whatever it takes to get the inspiration flowing, get it flowing. Get on it right now! For starters, switch off that damn phone and simply get your chai on! Make that chai with some profound TLC. And sit down to enjoy the best cuppa made exclusively for you. Make the moment count.

Thank you for being the change! Happy Chai!