A Lost Soul

For a fraction of a second, I lost control!

Though my hands were firmly on the steering wheel, the sight of that brown slender body darting across the road forced me to halt on a side and get out of the car.

It was a beautiful black Dachshund. And it was clearly lost.

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I strode up and down the road, looking for its owner. I even asked a few passers-by which direction it came from. I looked for a sentry on traffic duty to keep it safe – no luck. And all the while, the little creature kept darting to and away from my heels; running uncertainly on its stubby legs towards, and then almost immediately, away from my car. Clearly the dog was looking for its owner – its instinct for safety made it come near me and my car but then its senses probably told it that we were not who it was looking for.

There was not much more I could do then – I clicked a pic to circulate it in the neighbourhood Whatsapp groups. I left – wondering how it came to be stranded on a busy road – a gate left ajar? A door not latched? Or an owner who could no longer be bothered? For a moment I was even tempted to let it hop into my car but had to drop the idea since I knew someone back home would be far from welcoming.

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As I parked my car in the garage and walked up the steps of my home, Ginger – my brat of a German Shepherd – ran out to greet me. However its enthusiastic licking soon gave way to a quizzical look as it realized that, today, my thoughts were somewhere very far away…

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Music and Mood

Yet another participant of Feeling Bookerish came up with a write-up on music. Adhiraj, a perceptive and inquisitive seventh-grader, is himself a passionate musician and hence he explores the intense relation between a listener’s moods and choice of music.

“Do people listen to music according to their mood?

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Almost everyone listens to music. But did you know that the music you hear is largely determined by how you are feeling at that particular moment – in other words, your choice of music is usually a reflection of you mood. For instances people tend to prefer slow songs when feeling sad; on the other hand, when happy they are likely to choose upbeat songs that may even move them to get up on the table and jive.

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Interestingly music is not just influenced by the listener’s mood but in turn has the power to move people to a particular frame of mind. So if a person who is feeling quite alright to begin with, starts listening to sad songs, it is quite possible, he/she may get pensive too. Likewise a reasonably happy listener after listening to a few intense rap numbers may start feeling restlessness and angry.

All this goes to prove music is a powerful force with strong connections to mood, feelings and emotions of the listener.

 

Joys of travelling

With the year coming to an end, I got busy wrapping up my Feeling Bookerish workshop sessions. Blogging tips turned out to be a popular topic and I agreed to the kids’ demands on condition that they each write a blog post. The first to submit was a quiet and graceful seventh-grader Sana who wrote about a memorable Trip to Kerala

“I get bored cooped up indoors – day and night – especially on weekends or on Sundays. Imagine sitting at one place for hours and not doing anything ! No wonder then, I am often pestering my parents to take us exploring new places. Travelling refreshes my thoughts and ideas as well as calms down my restlessness.

I would want to tell you about my trip from the pretty hill station of wellington in Tamil Nadu to the neighbouring state of Kerala. One bright morning, we took our packed suitcases and started off at around 7:30. After passing through picturesque tea gardens we reached Coimbatore in a couple of hours  and decided to check out a mall. A whole lot of shopping later, we were on our way again and reached Palakkad late afternoon.

Eventually our journey ended at Thrissur- the town of my ancestors. There i met my grandparents and cousins. One of the highlights of this trip was a leisurely cruise on a house-boat. Sailing through the calm backwaters of Kerala,  I took many photos of animals and birds.

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Through the backwaters of Kerala

The following day we decided to have some fun and thus found ourselves at an amusement park called Wonderla in Kochi. The rides were hugely thrilling and the day rushed by in a haze of excitement. Imagine my parents being afraid to get on rides which I found so easy – it was hilarious!

Next day it was time to head back to Wellington – but with a load of good memories. So friends, put that tab or smartphone aside, pack your bags or at least put on your walking shoes and just head out – you are sure to have a great time!

 

 

A Taste of the ‘Figs’

The first time I came across her words were actually in a collection of quotes – I forget now, on what subject. But the haunting simplicity and quiet intensity of the words had me hooked:

“My candle burns at both ends

It will not last the night

But oh my foes and ah my friends

It sheds a lovely light.”

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I dug deeper and found out that this was actually an entire poem titled ‘First Fig’ by American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Edna St Vincent Millay who was famed as much as for transforming the sonnet with a new sensibility as for her independent sexuality. Her life and art are filled with instances of standing up to sexual and social norms of the time and one such anecdote that caught my interest was her struggle to claim her own name early in life. Apparently despite being named Edna, she wanted to be called ‘Vincent’ and even crossed swords with her school principal on the matter.

This biographical anecdote lent a fresh perspective to yet another favourite piece of mine from Figs from Thistles, titled ‘Prisoner’:

“All Right,

Go Ahead!

What’s in a name?

I guess I’ll be locked into

As much as I am locked out of!”

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Super-powers of the Deep

Recently I came across something very interesting about certain creatures of the deep sea. At great depths of the ocean where there is no natural light, there are a few species which actually produce their own light. The angler fish and the appropriately-named flashlight fish are two such kinds. In fact the angler fish has a spinal projection from its head at the end of which is a bulb that glows – it can even switch on and off the bulb by controlling the flow of blood to the particular part of its body. Incredible!

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Photo courtesy: nationalgeographic.com

The phenomenon of living things giving off light is known as bioluminescence. And while glow worms and fireflies do this by mixing chemical compounds in their bodies, the deep-sea fish described above, do it with the help of special light-producing bacteria in their bodies.

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Photo courtesy: Ammonite Films

Then at the other end, is a kind of deep sea fish which has the ability to make itself practically invisible. Known as the hatchet fish, it has sides covered with large silver scales that act like mirrors besides two rows of light-producing organs on its underside. With any light falling on the fish being reflected back by the mirror-like scales, it can easily escape detection by its enemies and predators.

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It is only a matter of time, I guess, before DC and Marvel Comics come up with a super-hero inspired by these amazing creatures of the deep!

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On a day when I left chose a quiet drive into the mountains over shopping malls and city restaurants, this quote by John Muir said it all for me:

“Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”

With worldly commitments, a week away would have been clearly impossible, but I did come away refreshed in soul and the smell of pines in my hair…

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A Sunday Treat

Tucked away in a corner of the Nilgiris, one gets to appreciate the true bliss of a misty Sunday morning. With arrangements for brunch safely out of the way, I slid back into my snug bed with the Sunday papers and my second mug of coffee that morning. After lazing about for more than hour, I decided to get up. Reheating the said mug of coffee for the fourth time, I strangely felt comfortable in my warm kitchen even as I could see a grey mist just hanging out from the windows. I left the clothes in the adjoining verandah to their damp fate on the line and allowed the aroma of the coffee to swirl through my veins. My eyes fell on two golden yellow mangoes in the fruit basket and I remembered how I had blogged about the divine fruit a few days ago. A thought started taking shape through the wispy coffee vapours…

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What extra-ordinary experiences are possible when technology and nature come together! Thanks to broadband connectivity, within 5 minutes I had found a recipe which listed most of the ingredients that were lying around in my pantry. To get me going, I chose to play Tagore’s Megher Pore Megh jomecche  in Suchitra Mitra’s powerful voice…

“Clouds gather on the horizon,

darkness descends on my sky.

I stand at the doorstep, My Beloved

You make me wait – Oh why ?”

Perhaps the comforting aroma of baking somehow clashed with the melancholy lyrics but by the time I was tidying up the counters, my senses were awake in a curious way – alive and saturated, as though, in all that was beautiful and evocative…

Oh – in case you were wondering about the recipe:

Pre-heat the oven at 200 degree C and line an 8 inch round tin. Cream together 2/3 cup of unflavoured butter and 1 cup of white sugar till light and fluffy. Beat well 2 eggs into this mixture. Sieve together 1 ½ cups plain flour with 1 tsp baking soda into the mixture and give everything a gentle swirl. Now fold in ½ cup buttermilk (can be substituted with sour milk – for that add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in half a cup of milk and rest it for 10 minutes) very gently. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for around 40 minutes. When it has cooled, glaze the cake with warm mango jelly and finish with a mango rosette on top!

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