Reverb 10.25: A Green Christmas

A photo Reverb10 post! It makes for a nice change. Also, it calls to the old challenge in me about trying to say something with a picture instead of words, of playing peek-a-boo with my readers by showing them something that is me and yet not instantly recognizable until it is explained.

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

(Author: Tracey Clark)


Say hello to my window garden. Does it seem odd to you that I would introduce my plants to you? Pet-owners do that all the time and if you ask me, animals are a darned bigger nuisance.

Late last year, the doctor down the road was having his clinic renovated. I’d drop in for papers and he’d chat. One time he pointed to a green plant close to his table and complained about a patient who had asked for it but never came by to pick it up. I must have looked interested, because, without asking me, he clipped off a branch and handed it to me, asking me to put it in a little water.

I took it home, cradling the thick, fleshy green stem with its stiff leaves, in my hands. And instead of a glass of water, I took an old clay pot I’d saved from somewhere and filled it with mud. Then I stuck the stem into it and gave it some water.

A couple of days later, the leaves were still green so I continued to water the plant. I was up most nights and on my breaks from reading or writing or when I was on the phone, I’d sit at my window, sometimes putting my feet out of the window and resting them on the airconditioner. I nearly knocked over the plant a couple of times. In time, I shifted to a window-chair and got into the habit of stroking the leaves. I always liked the spicy, snappy smell it left on my fingers.

A few weeks later, I thought my ajwain plant looked lonely so I brought in a few mustard and jeera seeds in another old pot to keep it company. The mustard shot out almost immediately, with daily watering. The jeera never took. Mustard I’m afraid lived a very brief but dramatic life. It would look droopy just like a bent old man, in the morning. After I watered it, a mere half hour later, it would up and about, gadding with the other plant and flirting with the sun. And by evening, it would change colour to a yellowish-green. It died out in a few months.

I experimented with cooking, with lessons I had learnt off the internet (which even brought me this writing commission). I fell in love with another plant called basil (a distant cousin of the more familiar tulsi). I couldn’t find the plant anywhere. Even the plant-sellers who wheeled their wares past my colony gate each week couldn’t help me. Somehow I didn’t care for the blooms and petals in their colourful stock. I wanted only green things, edible things, plants that could integrate with me someday, through fragrance and food.

Finally, I picked up a packet of pesto leaves in the supermarket, ostensibly for yet another pesto-treat. But I picked out the freshest looking sprig and planted it. It actually took! Within a week, it was glowing a greener green than I’d seen in the supermarket. In a fortnight, it had shot out flowers. In over a month, the stalk had visibly grown. More basil plants followed with future pesto-menus. One restaurant gave me a packet of seeds as a special giveaway with the bill. And they turned out to be the elusive basil seeds. Not all of them took but I nurtured the ones that did, with pride.

At its prime, my garden had ajwain, mustard and basil all in flower and which could give at least 3 leaves each to flavour my fingers and my food. I rarely cooked with my plants. They never seemed big enough to cut. And in time the leaves would wither away and I’d clean them off, promising to cut the next batch that came up. Eventually my basil plants withered away took, leaving only tall brown stalks. I still water them, hoping that a magical little green leaf with show up suddenly.

I’ve discovered something magical with this garden. There is nothing quite like watching life grow, right under your care, in front of your very eyes. I’m not an animal person so pets are out of the question. People come with their own set of issues and norms and barriers. But plants, plants never let you down. They ask for so little – some water, some air, some sunshine and if you have it (I really do believe this), a little love.

I’m not one of those crazy women who ‘talks’ to her plants. But I do spend time with my garden, as tiny as it is, every single day. It’s the first thing I look at, when I get out of bed in the morning and the last thing that I see before I turn in for the night. When I’m back from a short trip or even a daytime visit, it’s the first thing that I go and check on. Even when I take a break, I like going out to look at my plants. Occasionally I touch them, stroke a shoot, pick out a yellowing leaf from the mud, angle the pot a little better towards the sunlight or just sigh in smiling satisfaction.

I really love my garden. It’s shown me a different side to myself. A side that can care and nurture without feeling the effort. A side that takes take great pride in something that means so little to anyone else in the world. I feel like the garden represents a new aspect of me that I had never known existed, before. A city girl who always lived in concrete and metal structures….and I’m a green-thumbed gardener! Who’d have thought?

Someday I would like to have a living space big enough to accomodate a garden I can walk around in. I’ll want to grow basil (of course), tulsi, jasmine, rose, tomatoes, lemons and the plant that started it all for me – ajwain (in the picture, it’s the plant on the extreme left).

Kite

In the midst of a crowd
And imprisoned behind the bars of indifference
You still reached out your heart to me
Through the tiny windows of your eyes

And in that look, that one look,
I caught hold,
swearing I wouldn’t let go
Till I’d traced it to its source

At the other end of that glance,
What I found,
Tied me to you
Profoundly, irrevocably

But know this,
My memories of freedom come with me
And someday they’ll be yours too
And till then, the dream of wings will carry me out

You with me.
Because, like I said,
I won’t let go
Irrevocably, profoundly

Playground Panorama

The open space opposite to my building affords a number of interesting sights. It inspired this story, for one. That was about the ground as a separator. But how about the ground as a space in itself? Here’s what it plays home to.

Yesterday evening, I spotted this man walking his dog in the pouring rain.   Now, I have heard of doggy-sweaters before, in cold places. But this is the first time I’ve seen a dog in a raincoat! What was funnier was that the man himself wasn’t rain-protected. Some people sure love their animals more than life itself!

The summer was full of screaming kids, playing crazily in a way that only children on summer vacations do. In one of those brief lulls, the park looked almost desolate. Except for its lone guest, a solitary bicycle parked right in its midst.

The same thing a few weeks later, right after a particularly rainy night yielded this sight: a log right in the middle of the empty ground, now lush with grass.

The weather hasn’t deterred our young, budding sportsmen.

Any semi-green patch in Mumbai acts like a magnet for all the children of the vicinity. This particular park doesn’t belong to any one housing society and doesn’t have an entrance fee either. So it often plays host to impromptu cricket matches, rainy football games, bat-and-ball toss and sundry other games that appeal to every boy under the age of 12 (and most of them above to, in retrospect). The kids come from the surrounding colonies and also the adjoining slum area. I’d like to say it’s a place where they all mingle but that isn’t really the case. They play in their own groups but at least they all play within close vicinity and I haven’t seen any territory battles happening.

A cricket game had just begun. First, a lone ranger staked out the pitch. Or perhaps he was sentenced to a remote fielding location. Either way, he didn’t look too bothered by it.

I was most intrigued by the batsman, being as he was the same height as the bat he was holding…just about.

They were watched by a cosy duo sitting on a log in a corner. I wondered what these two had to talk about that was so important. *Sigh* The good old days of a bestest friend to share playground secrets with!

In another corner, I spotted a bunch of boys practicing dahi-ka-handi for upcoming Janamashtami (which also kicks off festival season in Mumbai…hooray!).

Childhood is never out of vogue, even in a concrete jungle. It stakes out its own spaces and finds plays to jump and play.

The Colour Of Nostalgia

“I miss the good old days when portrait painting was the only form of visual reproduction. But of course, you are too young to remember that.”

I read the words in a tiny glass screen in the palm of my hand. Not a muscle moved, not even an eyelash flicker.

You don’t show emotion, reading an SMS. And yet, those stark words behind a scratched window, no bigger than your palm, tie you to another person in another frame, another time. How can you not respond?

I wonder how to say it’s not déjà vu if you remind me of an emotion, not a place. And it’s not who you remind me of or when or even why.

It is that you do
and that connects you
to things
and times
and places
that you never were at,
through me.

It connects you to me.

I didn’t remember what it was like to feel this way and you reminded me. And all those memories that lined up behind the me that you know, of the me that you never did? How young am I if I can remember all that you don’t even see? Time is marked by the trails it left and not by how quickly it passed. And what else is nostalgia, but tracking those trails, with the imagination following them back as far as they go?

And all of that can be said in one look but not an SMS. I put down my cup and type,

“I have memories, alright. Sepia-toned ones.”

And underneath my words, a swirl of cream turns, speckled with tiny spots of coffee.

Time To Stand Or Stare

What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand or stare?

- W.H.Davies

There’s no point in having a window with a view if you never look out of it.

- IdeaSmith

terrace-view.jpg

Yesterday was such a beautiful day – not rainy, not sunny…just perfect! It didn’t even matter that it was a working day and I was at office in the middle of a busy schedule. I took my work up to the terrace with a cup of lemon tea and spent an hour quietly immersed in numbers and charts, occasionally indulging in the sneaky joy of being distraced by the birds on the banyan tree next door.

What bliss, what luxury! In the midst of a maddening city beset by horrible weather, I found myself experiencing something rare, virtually unfamiliar – contentment. I wasn’t thinking that I’d rather be out shopping or watching a movie or swimming or curled up in bed with a book. Everything was as it was; perfect.

I worked late into the evening leaving just a breath before 10 and it took me close to an hour to get home, stuck in traffic jams and bad roads on the way. But it was a perfect day.

And today it rained. *Sigh*

At least I was given yesterday and I took it.

Room With A View

The room has a view. An expensive view.

She says,

Take a walk in the mud. Stay out in the rain so long that you never feel clean and dry again. When you return, you won’t need to stand at the window to see the view.

He shrugs,

Too late, I already paid the rent.

Friends Are For Telling Secrets To

I am there if you ever need to talk. And remember, I can keep a secret!

She smiled a warm goodbye thinking,

Yes, I would trust you if I had a secret
In fact I almost wish I had one right now,
Just so I could share it with you

What an appropriate welcome gift!

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