It is still humid , but pink winters are ready to knock on the threshold of autumns door.
A sweet, enchanting and intoxicating smell lures me into its confines, as I step outdoors.
In the dark of the night, something mystical like night fairies allures the passerby .
They are left rather confused, at the mysteries of the night.
Night becomes the messenger of this sweet confusing smell emanating from the hideous
Corners.But during the day nothing strange is visible. Pedestrians walk at their own pace without noticing something strange. As on the wayside we can only see trees in a row.
Amaltas trees stands in all its strength , but without its golden glory , with faded look left only with few clusters of off white flowers . In the scorching heat of the Summers , the brightness of the Sun has taken over the yellow flowers of the Amaltas .
But there is nothing suspicious about them, so I move further, to the next in line, towards the Gulmohar trees to inspect , are they the culprits of the night!!,playing hide and seek and misguiding me.
But soon I realise , the fiery-red nature of the Gulmohar is already on decline, there was a time, once when they dominated the entire landscape with its reddish-orange hues, burning bright like the fire and challenging the dazzling Sun, but now with the fall season , the youthful nature has taken a much mellowed done look.
They are in the act of vanishing now , some still playing a special appearance though ,and still acting as a visual treat for the eyes, even in this act of losing and fading glory.
Soon I realize and come to the conclusion, that it neither Amaltas nor Gulmohar , and apart from these two , there is no one in the close vicinity except for a strange looking single tree , which is hardly visible.
Could this be the culprit of the night, but in daytime it looks so innocent and lonely , and much inferior as compared to the rest of the lot, in terms of the visible beauty.
As the day comes to an end, and I decide to indulge in leisure walks of the night , as well as explore the secrets of the night.
Heading back to the same spot, I visited during the day, I am amused and shocked to confront the same strong fragrance of the night.
I look around , try to figure out the source of the fragrance. And then I notice something peculiar near the lonely tree. In the dark of the night it is no more lonely, unlike the day.
A lot of night visitors were thronging the cluster of the white flowers.
I mistook the flowers ,to be that of firangipani during the daytime ,but soon I laughed at my ignorance and realized that it was not the firangipani but a special visitor/guest of the Autumns . An indicator of the approaching pink winters .
A special guest on a flowering mission for one month and during this phase, it makes its presence felt in leaps and bounds, till it flowers again. Its flowers play peek-a-boo in between the elongated leaves.
But in the dead of the night, the presence of the tree can be felt by its overpowering smell, as I walk on the lanes spread across a few kilometres .
The dense leaves of the tree camouflages with the darkness of the night, the only thing which is registered by our senses is the fragrance spread all around . The dim light of the lamppost acts as a spotlight for the nocturnal beings , who hover in hundreds around the tiny bunch of hiding flowers and enjoy their nigh out thoroughly . The two perform a tango, erupting and buzzing with night life activity.
Yes it is that time of the year, when this tree comes to life . As it is September , and the tree of the night has it performances lined-up for us. The creatures of the night are attracted towards the tree , appearing like night dancers, to many and scaring the rest.
The tree appears to be related to ‘raat ki raani’, but it is rather treated as a poor and inferior distant cousin of it. As despite of the fact, it shares the similar traits with the raat-raani, it is still called the ‘Devil’s tree’.
Yes , it the’ Saptaparni’ tree,(Alstonia scholar is) also known as Devils tree in English. In Hindi it derives its name from Sapta means seven and parni means leaves. But it is mostly associated with evil or horror things. It is considered as the abode of the seductive spirits by many.
The reason much attributed to its stingy fragrance and also due to its nature of being catering to night pollinators .
But in reality, these are just myths which have taken over the actual beauty of this tree .
It actually heralds the arrival of winter season. The strong oozing fragrance like the jasmine , indicates that the winters are round the corner and humidity is about to get over.
It is also known as the blackboard tree, as used in the past for making boards, there is some connection of this tree with dark and black I guess.
But presently, it bears the burnt of step motherly treatment ,as compared to its other night-blooming counterparts.
The Saptaparni trees itself is a paradox, as one side it feeds the numerous nocturnal insects and houses them, on the other side it is charged with scary traits and features.
But off late , I have developed a liking for this tree, but still I dread its blooming season as it becomes the major reason for my daughters allergic cough and wheezing.
I in my poetic strain may admire the leafy canopies of the tree, its shade, the falling of flowers with the slight breeze , but I cannot even ignore its true devilish character , as its flowering and pollination is the major cause of breathing problems of my young ones.
It’s ironical that , I love the sweet smell of the Saptaparni tree , as well as, I dread the odour of the devil tree. Its paradoxical nature confuses me to an extent, where I ponder , whether to call it a fragrant tree, soothing the senses or a devil at work, causing respiratory troubles, but I guess it likes to retain its tag or name of being called as a ‘Devil’s Tree’.
More then reaching the destination, the journey itself holds more prominence for me. Whether it is the journey of life or journey to a specific location, we all want those joy rides. But for such rides we need company. Where we can exchange our ideas ,thoughts and stories with our fellow passengers of life and ride.
But what if, a journey taken back home, to eagerly meet your loved ones, turns out to be an amalgamation of emotions . The journey of your life,which leaves you speechless as well as thrilled.
As I was desperately waiting for my train on the platform located amidst the hills, the loneliness of the railway station kept revisiting me, then the thought of meeting my loved ones , once the train reaches its destination (a metro city) kept me motivated and cheerful. And once I boarded the train, I would definitely have some company for sure, I thought.
But the wait for the train all alone ,that too , when it was running two hours late from it’s scheduled time was exhausting. To kill time , I started fiddling with my mobile, but as luck would have it , there was no mobile connectivity.
Soon the train arrived , but there was no screaming coolies or an inferno of heaving or shouting passengers. No opening of doors of the chair-car, along with the platform, even the train wore a deserted look. I did not struggle to get inside my boggy,but smoothly got inside, but still was looking for company, if not company at least some one of the human race or for that matter an animal.
I dismally gazed towards the doors of the train, for the arrival of more passengers. Not a single soul in the vicinity was visible, not even the ticket collector .
Then a distant bell changed ,I presumed it to be the station bell and then the engine whistle shrieked. The hissing engine gave way to slow moving train , ready to leave the station.
I was still peeping from the wide windows of the locomotive, but then it gathered pace, and here I was, all alone, ‘in the empty train’, . Suddenly the carriage jolted forward and I came out from the state of shock and mustered courage to face come what may. I placed my luggage near my seat and leaned against my window . The train was fast moving away from the hills. And now they were only faintly visible as I was still leaning against my window.
Was I all alone in the train..?. Am I the only one here?.This very thought kept my sleepy eyes awake and did not let me sleep. For some time I sat brooding in front of the window, but then I decided to look for co-passengers and decided to go to other coaches connected through pantry and a washroom.
Finding no trace of anyone, I decided to be the lone traveller of the deserted train . I went inside the pantry and grabbed a few snacks. After all instead of taking it as a scary ride or a ghost train, I decided to take it as a special solitary ride, almost somewhat similar to way we come in this world or leave it. Aren’t we all lone travellers!! So I decided to make most of my joy ride in this empty train. I had my grub, took a stroll in the aisle,read books grabbing my window seat and in between looking outside the windows ,admiring the bounties of life.
Life is also an empty train , it is for us to decide, how to take it, to fill it up with courage, fun and enjoyment or leave it empty with disappoint and let the vacuum grow.
I opted for the former , and so I still take my empty train rides to explore myself, to contemplate and simplify the complexities and challenges of life. Because in a crowd we still can be lonely and empty , but empty train rides many times can take us places , to a new Strength, learning and destinations.
Best i have ever read on *Kashmir* situation ….
उम्र *जन्नत* में रह कर उसे उजाड़ने में गुज़ार दी ….,
और जिहाद बस इस बात की थी, की मरने के बाद *जन्नत* मिले…
As I was flipping through the various News channels yesterday ,it caught the attention of my six year old. She could not understand why was I so perturbed. She could no longer contain her curiosity as my eyes and ears were glued on the television with concern . With innocence she asked me: “Mama what is the difference between ‘martyred ‘and killed”.
For fraction of seconds I was dumb-founded, to explain such a small child the difference between the two. But this time instead of following the rules of adult supervision , I rather followed my heart and poured it out and told her :” A martyr is a saviour , who saves us from demons , protects us and our country and faces the Devils from the front and ‘killed ‘ (in this context) was used for the cowards , who in the dark of the night attacked the napping soldiers. ”
They did not have the guts to take on combat forces of our country , as they themselves were not brave men in the uniform but bunch of spineless cowards sent by a country ,which umpteen number of times faced defeat from our military and now had gone into hiding and resorting to cheap tactics of sending these home-grown paid terrorists.
But then suddenly the thought of the families of those martyred came to my mind and us being only the Nation of spectators, who cry for their soldiers , share online messages and after a week long discussion and condemnation , forget till the next attack on our security forces takes place.
What saddens me more is the way our men in uniform , especially in Olive Green are butchered by the act of cowardice by a nation which is much inferior to us , but we in the act of generosity pardon them every now and then.
Our soldiers , for whom it is always ‘Nation before self’, have always been given shoddy treatment when they talk about their dues.
False promises given by politicians , who themselves are busy in foreign tours or mud-slinging on opponents never pay heed to the military . They themselves do not support their own Armed Forces.
For politicians, passing the legacy to their children comes easy but for a Defence Personal getting their children in to the parent units is a mark of great privilege and a proud moment for their progeny .
Despite knowing the fact that , it will be a tough journey ahead for them , being posted to insurgency affected areas , encounters or ambushes , staying away from family for months , but still they take all this with pride .
But remember , to be an Officer or a Jawan in the forces does not come easy , it requires intense and rigorous training , they are not born with silver spoons but do make sure with their duty and courage that our country does not lose its lustre and sheen.
But it is high time , we nip this problem called terrorism , in the bud. We have played submissive for too long now, as we are on the receiving end , with such dastardly acts .
Good Fences do not make good neighbours any more, as the barbed wires are the major security concern now.The act of kindness has not gone well with our neighbours, rather we have become their punching bag.
Why do we seek approval from other countries to condemn the wrongdoing of our neighbour!! Why only rhetorics takes place and nothing substantial on the ground takes place.
Those soldiers who laid their life for the Nation, those martyred brave young men were not Guinea pigs or scapegoats but men of flesh and blood.
These soldiers face multiple security challenges , such as operational preparedness , ceasefire violations,infiltration , along with stone pelting but again providing aid and succour to disaster hit areas becomes the duty of armed forces.
The paper work of treaties , hotlines, flag meetings have only given us heavy casualties . Shivers still run down our spine , when our neighbour gives us a nuclear blackmail.
But for our Soldiers, from facing tough training to facing difficult terrains , from breaking bread together to spirit of camaraderie in remote as well family stations , from unwavering dedication with determined footsteps and marching forward, away from their homes and hearth, facing death lurking in every corner, they take all this in their stride with courage with their heads held high.
When someone loses his life , in the line of duty, he or she becomes a martyr and those who ,indulge in backstabbing are put in category of cowards and need no empathy but only to be killed .
It happens so many times, that a particular sight, smell or for that matter an experience registers itself as a part of good memories and every time association with such things transports us back to those happy old days, whether it was our childhood or youth. The days full of exuberance, enjoyable, jolly and of course the unforgettable days , the thought of which makes us nostalgic. Nostalgia has its own unique fragrance and sight, redolent of beautiful times. For instance, the thought and sight of rhododendrons makes me nostalgic, reminds me of the life spent on the hills.Having an opportunity of travelling to various places has helped me accumulate various experiences, but some places do leave an indelible mark on our memories, yes the imprint of certain places is for a lifetime in our minds.
Now residing in Lutyens Delhi with Nehru park in close vicinity, what more can one ask for? The Park abundant with Gulmohar, Amaltas, Silver Oak and even Pine trees. During Summers’ the sight of Fiery-Red Gulmohar and Golden-YellowAmaltasflowers is at zenith of its blooming and a sight worth- watching. But the hills still beckon me, i still miss the Beautiful ‘trail of rhododendrons, on a small stretch of road connecting Banikhet to Dalhousie. Rhododendrons – the flowers only found on hills, known for there multifaceted and multitasking abilities. Also known as Brass/Buransh ke phool in Hindi, well not to be confused with the metal called brass as apart from the name both hold no similarity. Rhodon means rose and dendron means trees in Greek language and as it combines to form ‘Rhododendron’ ,it becomes a Latin word meaning cluster of flowers. Some of palatable and some of poisonous variety.
Religious books describes this flower used by Gods/Goddesses, it is the state flower of Himachal and National flower of Nepal, there known as “LaliGuransh’.
Recently, when i received a parcel containing dried rhododendron flowers, sent by an old friend, the whiff and warm memories were re-kindled. The thought of flowers on the tall green trees glittering like the red rubies and some fallen fresh from the tree on the road side came to my mind. At times while driving back to my destination, the colour red appeared to be like the traffic light, wanting me to halt for few minutes and look at this mystical and magnificent hill flower. Yes, the flower also symbolises caution, warning and some varieties even have hallucinogenic and laxative effect, but what is visible to the eyes was pure delight to feast and indulge on the beauty. Many times parking my car on the road side i have got down to admire and feel it.
Now far away from the land of rhododendrons in a city where traffic jams make me wait for hours, out of choice, i miss that small trail of rhododendrons, the burst of various hues and shades of rhododendron colours, the chilling breeze, chirping birds, niche to the silent sentinels. The sunlight filtering through the rhododendron trees and deodars creating a combination of shade and darkness. The blood red flowers at the tree top peeping like a newly married hill bride from the corner of a window and the ones which have fallen like a springy turf underfoot carpet.
I still remember the tangy taste of the chutney prepared from these beautiful flowers which was like the smooth ride on a small stretch that surprised and challenged me with sharp turns and bend every time. The sight symbolic of caution as well the colour red indicating the time of jubilation, merriment , so very pristine. But receiving the dried buransh ke phool( dried rhododendron flowers) in the city which is far away from the serene and calm hills, has given me a reason to look back at happy times as well as a hope to look forward and visit the ‘trail of rhododendrons’ again. Joy de vivre.
Why do all Hindu boys worship their mothers?Because their religion tells them to worship the cow.”
– Twinkle Khanna
( Mrs. Funny Bones)
The Facebook status of a friend of mine read “Mooooo 🙂 ( With a smiley) -feeling blessed”, which led to series of comments in the form of a conversation. Some congratulated her including me saying “Happy mooing”-COW, knowing very well the reason behind her ‘ Moo’ but some were astounded, that why a lady is mooing and feeling happy on being called a COW .
Well ladies do get flattered and feel elated if appreciated and compared to animals such as fish for their streamlined bodies, the way a cat walks; i mean the catwalk, if eyes are like a deer, voice as a cuckoo’s, nose like a parrot, attitude like a lioness / tigress, these metaphors do pleased them but what was this?? What on earth makes a lady happy on calling herself as a COW or mooing like one.
Cow is associated with motherly love, also called as Holy cow,pious but being called a full-fledged cow was definitely not sounding like a compliment, to many!!
So , soon those who were not acquainted with this terminology were enlightened by my dear friend. In Military lingo, unofficially the COW stands for Commanding Officer’s Wife.
My dear friend had recently joined this bandwagon or rather call it, the Cow’s breed.
Her husband had picked up the rank of a full Colonel and so she could not stop mooing now and ready to take on the grass on the greener pastures and go chomp-chomp, but it was more like a lioness/tigress leading the herd or group. It was time for her to celebrate moo-mooversly i mean marvelously and ring the bell and go moo-moo.
Moving to the real cows now: The real ones are struck or saved between the beef ban. They are not as lucky as the acronym (COW-Commanding Officer’s Wife) they stand for. I am not a vegetarian but yes beef is definitely not my cup of tea or rather would say not on my platter. I am an animal lover and especially an animal which serves us through out its life cannot be or should not be slaughtered, that is what i personally believe but every individual is free to make their own choices. My reasons are not religious or political, as cows have more or less have become Political animals- struck terribly between the political conspiracies created by humans and now the poor cows are on the receiving end.
I have seen my grandparents in the village milking the cows, worshipping them and treating them as their family members and how can we slaughter our family but moving to the city life, i have no choice but to have packet milk and witness the sad plight of the cows, the cows in the city are just left or would say abandoned once the purpose of owners is served. .They are seen crossing the roads and hit by the reckless drivers, slithering in pain and mooing helplessly, the green grass of the villages is replaced by the plastic and garbage. So many unlike me would support cow slaughter. But would like to question all those who support ban, that what have they done when cows in their locality roam helplessly grazing on plastic and poisonous left over.
Still remember my first essay in Junior school was on the ‘ Cow’ in English as well as Hindi. Where i described it as an animal on four legs , grazing grass, worshipped, gives us milk and is like our mother, but things have drastically changed now, where as an adult i see milk laced with detergents, the pure milk of cows and buffaloes replaced by the synthetic ones. The home made kheer, buttermilk and curd being replaced by the packet ones. There were times when even the shit and urine of the cows was not spared, in some parts of our country it is still being used as fuel in form of cow- dung cakes and even as mosquito repellent, disinfectants and urea.
With changing times, the cow once revered , is now struck in controversy of beef ban or no ban. There were times when girls were compared to cows for their docile and shy nature, the cow-boys meant men dressed up in long boots, wearing a hat and riding horses and cow-belt areas meant backward areas. But the poor animal now is on the verge of neglect and numbers fast declining.
Cows have truly served the human race in every aspect, from milk, to flesh , to manure to fuel, the list is endless. These creatures of God have also have socially complex ways, shed tears, feel the separation from their young ones. They have been burdened with moral stories and faced the pressure to live up to mythology, after all they have been in true sense a social animal like dogs and when we can adopt and keep dogs then why not cows!! why abandon them or sell them to the slaughter houses after all Cows has served us in every which way, so let us give them back their due and it’s time for us to serve them by opening more cow sheds and looking after them in their sunset years
Indian marriages are all about ‘fun’ and ‘frolic’ , because it not just involves two individuals, but two families too, and with the families comes the whole baggage of relatives, of all kinds.
When relatives are busy feasting and enjoying, the parents of the Bride and the Groom are busy monitoring the arrangements for the guests. The people in question, that is, the ‘dulha’ (Groom) and the dulhan (bride) are no where in discussion.
From setting up the dance floor to lavish spread of buffet, it is all done keeping in mind the taste and preference of the guests.
But, the million dollar question is, will our guests, still be pleased?? Well it is definitely the responsibility of the parties concerned, but do relatives in Indian marriages have only one role to play!! and that is to complain and frown about the arrangements not up to mark.
Well if I go by the chronological sequence of events involved in our Indian marriages, especially the North Indian ones, I may end up writing up a book, but to keep the things ‘crisp and short’ I follow the random path, and I am writing what ever funny comes to my mind, while witnessing such events and celebrations.
Recently attending a family wedding, up close and personal, I picked up few points, which as a guest I would not have.
An Indian wedding is all about ‘Feasting and Fasting’, it is a feast for the guests and fast for the parents of the Groom and the Bride, as till the completion of the ceremonies, these two poor parties, who should be in celebration mode, are instead looking for the arrangements for the guests.
The guests not only come in all shapes and sizes, but also with their tantrum baggage. The whole responsibility lies on the shoulders of the parents, some decent relatives lend you their helping hands, but the ones who their weight around and keep complaining are constantly play a spoil-sport , as true trouble-makers. But, I guess, to achieve a smooth sailing or landing , few speed-breakers or turbulence ( trouble-makers) is a must.
Moving on, from the pesky guests, it is time for the ‘Hero’ of the ceremony, no-no it is not the Groom, but our very own Panditji (Priest), who solemnizes the marriage, well nothing can go right or wrong without his permission, or for that matter, not even right or left. He keeps us glued to our seats with his chantings, only to move our hands for taking out ‘dakshina’ (Offering in terms of money) from our wallets, which is rather, frequent in number. He truly holds the celeb status on these occasions.
For ladies it is absolutely the time of their lives , to show-off their fashionista skills, after months of preparations. They do, occasionally throw few compliments here and there , to other ladies but ‘hearts of hearts’ they know or may be assume so, that their attire and jewellery is the best.
On the other side, there can be seen, a beehive like formation, but the only difference is, that, this beehive instead of containing honey has the ‘liquid-gold’, around which our men folk are buzzing like the bees.
As more booze flows in, the dance-floor gets flooded and becomes the hot-spot, as the numbers start swelling up, with young to old, from uncles to aunties all exhibit their dancing moves, even if you are with two ‘left-feet’, but it is an occasion to celebrate and make merry, so they make most of it, even if it is by squeezing the weaker lot of dancers or by stepping on others toes.
The beauty-parlours play a major role for the ladies in question, they are the indispensable part of such ceremonies, to an extent that, I have seen one auntyji missing the major part of her daughter’s ceremony , because of her parlour visit. The guests arrived only to realize that , the mother of the bride was missing, as she was busy getting ready in the parlour exceeding her time-limit.
On the other side we have the photo shoots going on, ranging from selfies to groupies, the bling, glitter, dresses and endless posing can put any Bollywood celebrity to shame.
By the time saat-pheras (seven vows) starts, half the guests have already dispersed to their bedrooms and remaining sleepy ones try their level best to stay awake to witness the mid-night ceremony by indulging in coffee/tea, only to realize in the morning the aftermath of these beverages, which gives them gastric troubles now.
The remaining lucky ones who dozed off in their bedrooms , only show up at the time of the breakfast.
Apart from all this, there are other sub-plots taking place, such as
the groom/bride hunting for the singletons, the sessions of joining hands or charanvandanas/ paripona (touching of feet) or mild flirting by the youngsters.
The ceremonies such as ribbon-cutting, Tilak, nose-pulling of the groom, envelopes of shagun and stealing of grooms shoes adds on to the fun element of the ceremony.
Indian wedding are all about meeting with forlorn relatives of all kinds but the major attraction of the ceremony remains the ‘food-factor’ and of course the hordes of relatives who throng the stage with bride and groom, at times almost sitting on their laps, in urge of getting themselves clicked.
The louder the band plays, more enthusiastic the uncles in the Baraat become,
aunties in their stilettos are no less as they equally participate. No matter how elaborate the arrangements are, few frowning faces are always visible.
Yes there are frills attached to Indian weddings, they are so grand in magnitude that even the wedding planners cannot handle.
But it is important to realize, that by the end of the day it is coming together of two families for a life -long commitment, and for that , petty issues can take a backseat. So enjoy and ignore a few.
As the Grand Indian Wedding Tamasha (drama) unfolds, it only adds on to our entertainment quotient and memories to cherish in the long run.
Date with the old man