The Chronicles of Miss Shola

The blog's epitaph: Miss Shola came and went as she pleased

Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

Life should be a Sunday

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#1 Some days just turn around, look you straight in the eye, and with a dead pan expression say to you “who told you it’s going to be easy”. I met six such last week, and tried to run away from them as fast as I could. I didn’t get too far and can still hear the collective echoes of their wicked laughter.

And no, the poem below doesn’t offer hope. It doesn’t tell you that you will be able to escape from that laughter and that it’s all going to be fine just-watch. It tells you that this is how it is and will be, so be happy when that rare day comes along that smiles at you because her brothers and sisters may not be as well-mannered.

The poem also took me to Stephen Fry and I am looking forward to reading more of him, especially his collection of poems The Ode Less Travelled (such a cool title!) that this is a part of.

Kitchen Villanelle

How rare it is when things go right
When days go by without a slip
And don’t go wrong, as well they might

The smallest triumphs cause delight –
The kitchen’s clean, the taps don’t drip,
How rare it is when things go right.

Your ice cream freezes overnight,
Your jellies set, your pancakes flip
And don’t go wrong, as well they might

When life’s against you, and you fight
To keep a stiffer upper lip.
How rare it is when things go right,

The oven works, the gas rings light,
Gravies thicken, potatoes chip
And don’t go wrong, as well they might.

Such pleasures don’t endure, so bite
The grape of fortune to the pip.
How rare it is when things go right
And don’t go wrong, as well they might

*By the way, a villanelle is a lyrical poem of nineteen lines, with only two rhymes throughout, and some lines repeated. I don’t know if the poem preceded this definition or vice-versa verse.

# 2 Talking of getting to know people better, I am discovering so many acclaimed writers that I should have got my hands on so far but was too shy, through the fiction archives of The New Yorker. It’s such a pleasure to read short stories by the ilk of Paul Theroux and Nina Gardiner and see a flash of their brilliance. Best thing to happen after speed dating.

I just completed Apple Cake by Allegra Goodman (another celebrated American author I didn’t know about) who shows that dialogue can be the hero of the story. But the clincher of a line was: She died because she couldn’t breathe. Which seems silly when you read it just as is, but is characterisation at its briefest best.

# 3 The only good thing I have done while I was away from this page was to bring Sunday Loaves to life. I am admittedly not the best baker in town or even in the suburb I live in, or east of it, but it’s brought me the joy of creation. So here’s in celebration of those “smallest triumphs that cause delight”.

glass-empty

Written by Miss Shola

August 10, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Posted in Poetry, Ramblings, Shots

Dolce Vita

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In which I indulge in the littleness of life.

#1 Old music revives memories and new music makes memories. I made one with Raat Raazi. I’ve been tripping over it for a month now after I came across it quite accidentally. Which is not surprising for when I crossed over to the millennium I took my music with me, unsure of how things would sound on the other side. I have since remained a resolute ‘the best of the 90s’ girl and not bothered catching up (someone corrected me recently when I called EDM electronic data music). But when I heard this I realised I’ve been missing out on tagging a passed moment, a familiar feeling, a keepsake memory with a tune. A new tune that is nursed in the cradles of your head until it grows up, bows out and leaves behind footsteps.

So here is to a memory of a particularly difficult summer that heat-trapped my mind till it banged its doors but got no answers. It came back home everyday to the same soothing melody which silenced the noise inside until another day.

 

# 2 And then this from nowhere caught my attention and made me smile. My mother, a kitchen-window bird watcher, has a penchant for feeding crows. She often looks up from that simmering alu gobi (I’ve relished so often) or midway of rolling a chappati to say hello to those men in black and chat about the weather. She knows when they’re hungry and what they’re hungry for, and is just short of naming them after her children. The flavour of the season seems to be Parle-G, for that extra flapping energy, broken into three perfect beak-sized pieces.

image

 

# 3 I came across this piece of dialogue in the movie Lost in Translation. It is simple and depthless but offered me a strange kind of solace.

Charlotte: I just don’t know what I am supposed to be. I thought maybe I wanted to be a writer…but I hate what I write. And I tried taking pictures, but John is so good at that, and mine are so mediocre…and every girl goes through this photography phase, like horses, you know dumb pictures of your feet…

Bob: You’ll figure it out. I’m not worried about you. Keep writing.

Written by Miss Shola

August 3, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Quotes, Ramblings, Shots

Fifth Sense

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The other day I encountered the digital fare meter of the rickshaw for the first time. My usual question of “kitna hua bhaiya?” was answered by the unusual “aap dekh lo” followed by a stifled sigh. There it was bigger, shinier with many digits blinking on it in crimson zealousness. I missed the old warm and almost shy-to-show-the-reading meter instantly. It must have been this expression that prompted the rickshaw-wallah to pour out his woes. He started off with a dramatic “ab toh marne ke din aa gaye hain…” that obligated me to pause a few minutes longer. He continued to explain how the now-mandatory digital meter shows a reduced (and incorrect) fare and thereby impacts the daily income of his ilk. Most of them don’t own the vehicles themselves and make their wage from the fare they collect through the day minus the rickshaw rental. All Mumbai-ites whether they use public transport or not, are aware of the unending battle of the meter between the rickshaw unions and the state authorities. These black and yellow odd-shaped creatures that zip through thick and thin carrying all shapes and sizes, spell the road traffic dynamics of the nether part of the city. It is difficult not to know and not to take sides. I have my views on it too, but this is not about that.

In an unrelated episode that occurred soon after, a colleague came up to my desk during the slower half of the day to narrate her predicament. Her old spinster aunt had been suffering from jaundice and she, the only able and available person in a large family far flung across the world, had taken on the responsibility to get her hospitalized. One diagnosis led to another and after many tests whose acronyms she knew at the back of her hand, there was suspected malignancy in the liver and gall bladder. The hospital she was admitted in advised her to be moved to a larger one with more amenities. From a modest background with only energy in her arms and commitment on her shoulders she soldiered on as most relatives backed out one after another. Many more tests were conducted including the much required biopsy, and much money was spent. In hindsight, my colleague felt, the doctors at the first hospital fleeced them on unnecessary procedures that didn’t contribute to the diagnosis. The aunt is still in the hospital awaiting results and the colleague is hoping they are nearing the end of the ordeal and not the beginning of another. First-hand experiences or not, we all have our opinions on and ways of dealing with the supposedly flawed healthcare system. Some have been able to get around it, some have been swallowed by it like quicksand, and the few that remain are awaiting their turn on the fence. It affects most when the means are limited, options are few and consequences are best left unsaid.

Which brings me to Ramesh. Young, sprightly, multifaceted, he’s officially the driver of the family but can morph into a mean plumber, a sharp electrician, a fine pest controller when the opportunity arises. He makes good money for being the driver cum man Friday of a busy household, but just can’t seem to save enough. Of course he has a house rent to pay, family of a wife and child to feed, school education to plan for, but then there are vices that take no time in digging a hole in the pocket. Ramesh can’t handle the extra money, the one that goes a rupee over monthly survival expenses, and spends it all at the local country liquor bar. His wife curses him, his neighbours beat him, his employers mock him but he just can’t seem to give up. When he is back to his efficient sound self the next morning he is repentant but the deed has been done. To rid himself of the habit, he has even made a journey to that revered stone deity in his village, but the gods don’t seem to listen. In an emotionally charged moment, he confessed that he understood the implications of his indulgence well but needed to vent his frustration, this of the daily struggle of life, and found no better way.

These are just three instances of the tribulations of today that people are in the face of, or see through another’s eyes as I have. So much has been said about cases like these, and there is still some more to be said. So much has been done but there is scope to do a lot more. There are adjectives to express emotions and there are verbs to elicit help. It is an everlasting strife and the torchbearers that change lives for the better are few. So what do people like me do in the meanwhile? Those who lack a larger mission, who are non-contributors in the state of society, who have the empathy but not the courage?

Maybe it’s the power of listening that can rescue us from our inaction. Maybe all it takes to feel the pain, show solidarity and extend help is nothing more than a patient ear.

Written by Miss Shola

June 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Ramblings

32 today

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It’s time I get that portrait done before youth, that childhood friend, does its curtsy and leaves the stage forever.

Image

~ An original Anthony van Dyck from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Written by Miss Shola

June 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Art, Ramblings

Voices

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“Enough is enough!” said she, the one with the loud voice. Her words echoed in the small dark room that smelled of staleness and unkemptness and a now-there-now-gone tang of distraught. Its windows were shut tight and the door was closed from the inside, a sliver of light wriggled in from the bottom of the door. There were three in the room, no more.

“Please be kind, you know there have been troubles…” said she, the one who was calmer but had a mind of her own. Characteristically she trailed off; not that words didn’t befriend her, she just liked to leave some for the imaginative mind. She was wont to stopping for a while and wandering and meandering and not getting to the point. That was her, for good or bad.

 “Troubles of the mind, not troubles of the world I say” the loud one retorted.

“Maybe so, maybe not. But give her space and time, she needs it. You know she has tried a lot but…”

“Oh, she’s had enough of time, almost five months now. This time it has to work” The decibels kept rising with every word till it reached a crescendo. The loud one was clearly moving ahead in the battlefield with all ammo directed towards the unseen unheard enemy she called procrastination. She was a warrior of a worthy cause and ached to hold the flag of victory. Whether this victory would lead to more victories and greater ones at that, is something she didn’t want to ponder on just yet.

The calm one didn’t react to this outburst but readied herself for the next round. The loud one made use of the opportunity and took the lead: “It is now or never! Seize the moment”

“Please don’t get excited. So what if it didn’t happen this long, it doesn’t mean anything. She has to be in a good place to do this. I have full faith in her.”

“Actions, not words. Well, in this case, just words. All we need is words”

“Don’t scare her so please. The best of them have gone through this…this lull…this blankness…this itch that you can’t scratch…this wall that seems too high to be scaled…”

“And all of them got over it and emerged unscathed, what stops her?!”

The third, a mangled up fusion of the loud and the calm, couldn’t handle the warring anymore. The loud one was becoming hostile and the calm one defensive – it didn’t seem that they would retreat to the far corner of the room and leave her alone as they usually did after this predictable tussle.

“I will do it now” said she finally, the one holding the mighty pen, and forced open the door of the closed room to let the sunlight rush inside.

Written by Miss Shola

June 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Ramblings, Shorts

And then there were 132

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It was a quiet sultry night of October, just like it is now, when it came into existence. A pair of small black eyes was peering at it oddly and the whirr of the fan could be heard at a distance. Very tiny it was then and uncertain of its future. What if the monstrous Writer’s Block wrung its neck and left it to die? What if the witchy Had-Fun-Bye-Bye abandoned it when it was just learning to crawl? What if Update-Once-In-A-While left it crying in a dark corner for months? But it lived. Small black eyes made it hear a lot of stories, fed it good food, read out many poems and held lovely paintings for it to see. It grew, matured and was happy with its few loving caretakers.

 Happy 2nd TCOMS! And thank you for bringing me joy.

Written by Miss Shola

October 11, 2011 at 12:09 am

Posted in Ramblings

Adventures of a Warrior Cook

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She sat on her bed reading her latest pick in apparent rapt attention, but she was hardly following it. Her ears were perked absorbing every wave of sound emanating from the kitchen. They were avalanching towards her – the running water from the tap above the sink, the clanging of the pots and pans as they were being dumped into a large steel tub, their temporary resting place until they retired clean and dry at their usual spots for the night, and of course the continuous chatter interspersed with giggles of the two maids presiding for the moment in that large breadth of space. The TV in the living room was still on and the other women of the house were still in command.

This setting remained unchanged for another twenty minutes or so until the double doors of the house shut in quick succession marking the exit of the one of the maids and a change in scene. The sounds began to wane from this point on. Randomly a kitchen cabinet would shut or the master of the kitchen also her mother-in-law would shout out to the maid-in-waiting  to check if the gas had been put off. Finally she heard the TV die a sudden death and the withdrawal of footsteps behind closed doors, followed by silence; for a minute and then four more.

This was her cue. She put down her book, got up determinedly and walked over to the kitchen that had already been put in the dark. With just a click of a button it came alive, her spick and span workstation for the next half an hour. She had rehearsed the procedure (from the recipe she had found on the www) several times in her head and now it was only a matter of putting it into action, in quick, knowing and efficient steps.

First, she dragged out the biggest cabinet of the kitchen and removed from inside a deep box a 50 grams packet of walnuts (that she kept aside for a date and walnut cake on a wintry day) and cut them into pieces with her bare hands. Next, she went over to that larger-than-life fridge and brought out 2 cups of basil leaves (or in local parlance, tulsi leaves) that she had purchased for just Rs. 20 from the market in the morning. She had spent a good half an hour then to separate the leaves from the stem, wash them and pat them dry. That initial investment of time would help her at this late hour.

She plugged on the mixer and first went in the walnuts for 30 seconds and then the basil leaves with a sprinkling of water for another 30 seconds or so. She cut up two plump pods of garlic and put them in too. The grinding continued, interspersed with pouring olive oil (about 30 ml in all) into it, till the mixture was smooth like chutney. For the final grind, she put in half a cup of cheese (again grated and stowed away in the fridge earlier). She looked inside the mixie jar, quite pleased with the consistency of the mixture, not too runny or too dry, and touched it up with a dash of salt and lot of pepper; never was she a miser with her favourite spice.

She then poured out that pleasant smelling mixture into a big glass jar – that previously held Nutella, but had been washed and cleaned just for this purpose. She ran back into her bedroom and wrote out a small chit of yellow paper and pasted it on the bottle with a flourish. It read ‘Pesto Sauce’.

She could now use the Italian sauce as a sandwich dressing, or spread it on her khakra or even use it as a wafer dip.

Written by Miss Shola

September 26, 2011 at 1:55 am

Posted in Chow, Ramblings