Saturday, December 20, 2008


Posting a few pictures of a quirky little stand I found a few days ago.
A carved handle attached to a tiny wooden rectangular stand, which has a tiny little drawer at the side. It is hard to say how old it is or what purpose it might have served.

For now it is happily lending itself to different uses around the house, mostly ornamental.

To house a single stem here.

towels and little things in the bathroom.

Or simply a tea-light sometimes.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

M's House

Had started a thread  a few months ago, only to leave it in limbo like many other things  that need to be done until something the other day reminded me of M. 

Sweet, young and kind of forever pregnant with a protruding belly bearing twins the first time I met her and very quickly, with  a sickly little girl born premature only to die a few months later.

When I think of M, I remember  curly long hair always worn in a single  oily plat and funny ever changing shadow like marks--near the eyes sometimes or near where her cheeks sunk into deep dimples when she smiled.
She lived with the twins and ailing parents in a mud and brick house, right across from the house my family rented for the three summers we spent in her tiny village near Trichy

If I stuck my nose far enough between the trellis patterned grille on my window, I could have a good look at her house and the backyard. A simple affair like the others in the village. Squat, rectangular, covered with ramshackle red black tiles.  A porch running its length. A very white house barring a few flashes of green for windows and doors.

I could see a cattle shed at the back with its two pointy horned beasts. Here M  spent most of her day thwacking dirt with a stick broom,  a stone and mud well where her father did his early morning gargles- loud enough to rouse the village and beyond. What I could not see too clearly was a kitchen that the back door led to. A  window less room, made even more glum  with years of soot climbing up the walls and the chimney. 

I have vivid recollections of drinking coffee sweetened with tiny jaggery dumplings in her kitchen. Her mother called it `Kapi', the, sweet dark broth that left brown sand like grit at the bottom of little tumblers.
I had to steal into her house after school to drink the coffee, and that was the best part.

For reasons I only understood partially then, my mother strongly disapproved of us going to M's house. I had a feeling it was because of this funny looking man I saw on the porch one morning a few weeks after we came to stay in the village.

I saw him  sitting on his haunches in a dirty vest and rolled up lungi tied at the waist in a half skirt. Large red eyes looking vacantly at nothing in particular. A dark and brooding guy with curly black  stubble for hair.  His mere presence giving  the house an oppressive air.

I understood why that night when we woke up to loud noises coming from M's house.
Groggy and heavy with sleep , I looked out of the window to see, M's parents hunched over near the door on the porch. Loud screams followed by whimpering noises echoed out of the house for long.  I did not see M the next day. She emerged a day later in her backyard scrubbing the shed as usual.  She had a few new shadows on her face,- angry and purple.

We soon realised it was a frequent event in the life of the household and the village. Occurring every fortnight or so when M's husband Mutthu - the dark guy sitting on the porch -would come visiting from his transport business in Erode.  I heard people murmur, it was because Mutthu was a `drunk' and it was some `business'  between husband and wife.

The only night I saw anybody bother about it was a few weeks later, when my father went up to their porch and asked M's father to stop Mutthu.  The old man just shook his head in quite desperation and murmured something about fate and not having done his bit years ago when the girl was born in the first place.

I remembered M well, but comprehended her story fully only years later as an adult myself.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Getting back to blog after a longish break. Plenty has happened.  
Summer has very slowly changed to winter here for one.  These are the sweet days of the year, when it is chilly but not the biting kind of cold, not yet atleast.  The winds roll but not with the intensity of gales. The suns rays warm and benign  slant ever so little but not in an evasive kind of way.

It feels to good to be here like this.  A time for reinventing and reacquainting with life. Time to revisit my much neglected house and blog. Posting before and after pictures of  the living room, as it changes with the season from summer into winter.

Living room in Summer....transformed quiet simply by breaking up the sectional sofa, replacing the rug and shuffling the accessories  and art work around  little.

making the area a little cosier and more intimate for the winter.

This winter I am promising my self to rest and just be.  Turn inwards into meditative silences. Treat myself to more  solitary afternoons spent with books guzzling endless cups of tea.

Celebrate  the colours of the earth and skies, with  winter flowers fruits and berries.

Listen to music on long chilly evenings...... 

To all my blogging buddies out there,  enjoy this time to rest and restore, love and be loved. Do also  visit this  space again and have a wonderful season !

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cat Street

 Uploading a few shots from an aimless tread around Upper Lascar row, or`Cat Street Bazaar' a few days ago.

In the true style of flea markets, although mostly situated astride a single street, this one is dishevelled, aging and full of odd things.

I  start  somewhere at the end of Hollywood road. Walk past old antique shops, cafes, and swanky new service apartments. A little near Man Mo temple, a narrow alley beckons me,  I walk in, contemplating the graffiti on a crumbling plaster wall. Behind a row of glitzy stores and cafes, the alley is cool and deserted. A blast of hot dog smoke blasts from the back of a charred makeshift chimney. The smell lingers only moments before the rancid smoke bearing it raises to the heavens.  At the far end of the street disembodied Buddhas sit chained to rusted iron stands. A plastic sheeted Vishnu waits patiently for a buyer. 
A nose-less ear-less wooden horse,  keeps the Gods quite company beside a reeking yet ever flowing drain.

Endless, unfathomable fascination with graves, foot binding shoes, spittoons and Chairman Mao draws folk down to Cat Street. Queer looking utensils, wine holders and chamber pots sit beside each other with new found dignity on dusty shelves. Their vendor swats mosquitoes with practiced flair, incinerating fidgety creatures with a battery run, racket like contraption.
 An old lady, strings of coral and turquoise in hands haggles with shoppers. 

Cat street is awash with objects, things old and new. Piled in mounds at every corner, pillaged from graves, dead people's homes, garbage dumps, flea markets, and dingy Chinese factories that churn out souvenirs in bulk by the hour.

Even with a surfeit of things around, more arrives here each day. More is created here, in this quite, old span of a few meters, way smaller than its former self, or so I am told.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

In red and black

Detail of a Chinese lacquer table 
Of the enduring craft traditions of south East Asia, Lacquer ware is most certainly my favorite. Its production is said to predate written history. In China excavations have unearthed lacquer bowls dating back to the Neolithic period.  In Japan, lacquer coated eating vessels were popular much before the introduction of ceramic tableware. Today, the tradition continues to flourish in idiosyncratic styles and methods throughout Asia. 
The naturally occurring plastic obtained from the lacquer tree (Rhus Vernicifula) native to Central and Southern China was the authentic raw material of choice to coat every day objects with glossy, richly textured and intricately patterned veneer.

Purse and offering holder from Burma

As opposed to Chinese lacquer, its Burmese counterpart is made from the sap of the Melanorrhoea Usitata, a tree native to South East Asia.  It is completely unrelated to the shellac used in India and Europe, which is made from the resinous secretion of the insect Coccus Lacca.
All this is information is of course gleaned from various sites on the internet. Most of what I really know about the craft is thanks to my Nani.

Assorted containers on a lacquer tray from Burma 
Having spent quite a few years in Burma, she has managed to amass an impressive collection of artifacts, lacquer ware being a good part of it.
Her possessions have been a source of endless fascination and conversation on long summer days during our vacations.  My love for objects and how they colour our imaginations and histories entirely grew out of there.  

 Burmese betel nut boxes  
Nani had endless stories about Burmese fascination for Betel. Each house has an assortment of lacquered betel nut boxes - a cylindrical box made of woven bamboo and fitted inside with a pair of shallow trays to hold betel paraphernalia.

Headrest from Burma 
In an embellished account, almost story like, she told us how one of her small bowls was fashioned out of real hair, probably alluding to a peculiarity of Burmese lacquer, a technique whereby objects are made of individual strands of horse hair woven around a frame of very Finley split bamboo.   The object is made sturdy with application of successive layers of lacquer before the final coating of embellishment and pattern can be worked upon.  Tediously made over months, objects thus produced are soft and pliable, unlike the containers made from coiled bamboo or  Jack fruit wood.

 Chinese Lacquer coffee table 
Taking a cue from early memories, I have naturally gravitated towards collecting lacquer from all over. The not too shiny, not to matte finish of Chinese lacquer, makes it suitable for coating furniture. Its incredibly polished appearance and strengthening properties make it an ideal choice for an array of very handsome looking furniture.

Lacquered spoons and platter from Burma and China
Thicker, textured and malleable, Burmese lacquer is great for turning every day objects into pieces of art.  Worth mentioning here are lacquer traditions from Vietnam and Japan.  The former has a history of about two thousand years. Newer than most other traditions, Vietnamese lacquer resins are harvested from the Rhus Succedanea tree and converted into natural lacquer which is then applied to paintings and fine art. Markets of Hanoi and Saigon boast the most colourful and glitzy display of lacquer ware from local artisans. With the addition of other materials like plant material ash, egg shells gold and silver etc, artisans are able to churn out innovative and vibrant lacquer pieces in almost all colours conceivable.

Burmese Lacquer bowls 

Called UrushiLacquer has been an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle. It has an impressive 6000 year history in Japan. Used to coat a range of articles including furniture and table ware, Japanese lacquer ware has long obsessed the imaginations of the West. So much so that the various methods developed in Europe beginning in the 17th century were instantly dubbed `Japanning'.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The earliest memory I have of a house, is from years ago. I don't remember where it was, or what it looked like too much. There are hazy shadows where furniture might have been,  a kind of faded light permeated everything around.. probably from a 40 watt bulb. 
Soft brown layers of soot rested  on unevenly plastered walls, washed green, or blue? Soot also clung  tenaciously to webs beyond the reach of a round bristle brush attached to a long bamboo pole. 
Really high ceilings, the house was enormous, its walls soared  endlessly before hitting a dark ceiling.. wooden beams? terracotta tiles, I am not so sure now.

I remember a few smells too, a funny metallic eke of  fried fish creeping in through the windows at lunch time..smoke from a muffled cotton wick exhausted of ghee.. the sea, and above all the smell of fear like that of oily hair and  nycil prickly heat powder mixed with sweat-raw and rancid.

I must have been very small. I do not recollect  the source of the odours or reason for the fear. Two or three at the most. Is that old enough to experience fear? guilt?

Wish I knew what led me to this post.
Now that I am here, at the doorstep of this house, at the doorstep of fear, this  monologue has kicked in.  I feel like encouraging it a bit, playing with neglected ghosts and shadows. Who knows what a small fire can grow into.  I can come back with some other house from some other  place, for over the years I have lived in and across from many house- a lot of them I remember well enough to revisit in detail. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Yummylicious! : Masala lemon tea

Sitting down with a moment to spare.. beginnings of a sense of relief. Comes with watching things fall into place.. a sense of regret too. From letting go of chaos that gets you thriving. (A feeling  familiar only to the hormonal, toddlers and  women).
I have finally a moment to dedicate to some randomness. Let me do something I've been thinking of doing for a set of fellow bloggers whom have  managed to get me heavily addicted. 

I hope the chosen ones are listening,  Archana, Prashant, Sas, Vineeta, Shireena, Masala chai, Chamki, Hermit, Udder- all on my `daily fix' list on the blog.  Lovers of chai,  blessed with an middling to obsessive addiction to the brew or not,  these guys churn out fare I am definitely addicted to by now...

To all of them and more I hereby share my own favourite recipe for chai...
It is a recipe for lemon tea,  with a very desi twist to it. If you have never tried brewing your cuppa like this, go ahead and give it a shot and bless me with every ooh and ah of relish that subsequently issues forth your lips, and if you have tried it already go right ahead and make yourself a cup all the same and bless me with every oh an ah... etcetera etcetera..

Masala Nimbu chai

Makes 5 cups


water -6 cups

Lime juice - from two whole limes. I prefer the Indian/ Thai varieties.

Ginger - 2 inch piece, crushed

choti elaichi (cardamom)- 3-4, crushed

Jeera ( cumin seeds) - 3 tsp

Saunf ( fennel seeds) - 3tsp

fresh mint leaves - 5-6

other optionals:

Pepper corns- 3-4

Szechwan pepper/ Timur - 3-4

Saunth- 1 pinch 

Tulsi patta (Indian basil)- 4-5

(the latter are only for those with a stomach for timur and saunth)

Honey - 1/2 cup

Sugar (to taste)/ (optional)

Tea leaves -1 to 2  tsp/1- 2  tea bags ( prefer Lipton yellow label)


Boil the water with elaichi, jeera, saunf and ginger. Add one or more of saunth, pepper and Szechwan pepper  if you care for them. When the decoction is bubbling profusely, and starting to change colour, squeeze in the lime juice and add tea leaves/bag. Shut off the flame. Add mint leaves and tulsi patta and steep the brew for a minute or two.

Add the honey and sugar and adjust the sweetness/ tartness as desired.

Strain and serve hot or chilled.

NB : Not that it matters too much, but the nimbu chai is great for coughs, colds, chills and sundry other digestive ailments and such like too..



Monday, April 7, 2008


I am exhausted... absolutely done in...  and miserable too. Moved homes last week.  The house is a textbook case in mess. It is not the mess that is bothering me neither the effort and time taken in the process, but the fact that this is the fifth time in the past eight years we've pitched tent and I've had it...

Sifting through piles of belongings, rubbish and dust for three days and I finally threw up my arms in utter revolt.  Again my objection is just not to the physical move as it is to the impermanence of things ...  to owning and possessing .. 

( I am aware i might not be making sense here, simply rambling... that's the way it is.. I am too exhausted to  edit and  rewrite the post.)

A few days ago sitting from where, i took a break,  doodling on  the floor coated with paint dust from a freshly painted wall-  the  set of Burmese lacquer inherited from my grandmother did not feel as dear...The piles of textile collected over the year,s  an encumbrance more than treasure, Loved and prided scraps  of my child's art work, like accumulated junk-  it  occurred to me that something was very wrong with the whole project... carefully accumulated objects and `things'  that in the normal course of things ought to have been a source of joy, or a reflection  of `taste' and `expression' as a lot of  design and art literature peddles, is just that an idea... not an extension of self. 
The `self ' attaches  to a whole lot of things that are just as changeable and fickle as itself.  It comes nowhere close to what `I' the way as I know me and the way as I do not know me, stands for..

The moral of this convoluted rant isn't that it is somehow foolish to like things and accumulate, just  that  there isn't mush point in attaching too much value, deriving sense of identification from them.  A physical space can be adorned to reflect peace and stillness, but  there is not much to it if the mental sphere lacks quite...  

It maybe that in a day or two, when the dust settles down, the art work is no longer strewn on the floor, the books are back on the shelves and corrugated board is a thing of memory, I'll have time to ruminate over colour form shape and texture again,   trivia shall take over  time and senses, but right now I cannot seem to get beyond the dust, sweat and muck around me...

Untill I get to the stage where  i am thankful to the set of circumstances that has led me here, just like the deaths, heartbreaks and dust of the past.... Untill I can look back and be thankful for today's chaos that will set me forward  tomorow...signing off.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A pinch of Pink


pink    [pink] Pronunciation Key - noun, adjective, -er, -est.–noun

1.a color varying from light crimson to pale reddish purple.
2.any of several plants of the genus Dianthus, as the clove pink or carnation.
3.the flower of such a plant; carnation.

Come spring and pink dominates the mountainside. In Fuchsias, purples, almost crimson and magentas to peaches and softer pinks of the Bauhinia, Cherry blossom, Camellia, Azalea the gorgeous Magnolia and a bunch of flowers I've yet to know names for.

Brown hopeless trees burst with a passion unknown to December- populating their branches with blooms of every shade possible in the family.

The profusion of blooms tells you Holi is near. A festival of colours and deeply etched memories of loved faces smeared in shocking-pink Gulal.

For all my love of the colour, I've always been too chicken to surround my self with too much of it.
In its vibrant, more pure shades, pink  dominates and  hogs a lot of attention. It is clearly a colour for the less faint hearted.
Unable to resist, I  tend to use a little bit of pink around the house this time of the year, but in very small pinches...


In a heap of blossoms on my puja thali.


In a little bit of bougainvillea at 
the feet of a stone Ganpati.


In a rose bowl at the feet of my beloved Buddha.

With black .. lots and lots of black. 
Blacks and earthy browns 
tone and also enhance the richness of pink.
Like lotuses set at the feet of a black marble shiv-linga,  a rosebud tucked into neatly braided tressess.

With blue for they go hand in hand. 
Pink swathed trees always come with a blue sky above. like a pink sari drying on a turquoise blue roof top in Jodhpur.


With Jade green, 
reminiscent of chinese silk, jewel tones set againts lustrous pottery.

In a tiny gravy pot on the book shelf. 


With some more celadon green and evening tea for two.


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