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From the balcony
It must have been the same view that held the Muthuvan gaze two centuries ago. The tree line, the undulating hills and the Western Ghats segued into the argent skies through a thick veil of mist. In the calm of early dawn Nature stood motionless narcissistically occupied by its own unrivalled beauty, posturing for a heavenly selfie. I sat on the balcony of the homestay, go-juice forgotten, with the wonderment of peering into a zoetrope. A church … More»

 
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A tribal woman, heavily pregnant, leaned against the iron gate sliding it open and walked into the health centre. Her gait was strained as she had broken water. Too weak to press the electric bell she just about managed to spread out a mat on the corner and collapse. She was alone; her husband was a rabble-rousing  Captain Cooker with political ambitions who believed pregnant women were hoodoos to be avoided at all costs. The saving grace about him, I … More»

The last time I came to Jharkhand was when ‘selfie’ was, forget the culture it is today, nowhere in the lexicon-horizon even. It was seven years ago to make a film for a livelihood program funded by the central government ministry of rural development and implemented by Don Bosco Tech in the more backward districts of the state. There was the internet, yes. But smartphones had just made their foray and I was yet to lay my hands on one. … More»

There was more to it, and she was trying to get it talked out. After a time, she quit trying. Why don’t you dance?, Raymond Carver.
For most part of the wedding ceremony, the bride was missing from the altar. She was puking her guts out because of all the spice she ate. She was also six months pregnant. 
“My mother told everyone it was gas from eating too much spice,” Jimmy told me with a straight face. I looked at him sideways … More»

 
They are all Meeras 
Throbbing notes twanged out from a three-string kamaicha. Wood-ringed fingers tapped on a ghara. A sadhu with the longest dreadlocks sat like the sachem he was surrounded by attitude and subalterns and general onlookers including me. Thick wafts of grey-blue smoke rose from a smouldering chillum that briskly changed hands in the nippy morning. Sensuously draped eunuchs swirled in and out of the billowy screen singing paeans to Meera, the most devoted of the Krishna bhakts. Their … More»

It’s like your first dinner with a date – you take a while to gather gusto. Except for the food on the way you know little else. You look around and take in the décor with intensity, inspect the chandeliers, peer approvingly at paintings and nod at waiters. You laugh nervously, not mirthlessly, a few decibels above normal. You forget to drink water. 
In Pachkoti Hotel – the original, there’s an imposter even, apparently, which is the one you didn’t go … More»

 
There is not much difference when you look at Bahraich from half a kilometre in the sky and from street level. It is a tumbleweed cluster of shanty dwellings, lean-to shops, road-facing sculleries, pointy minarets, lowing buffaloes snacking on plastic, milling rickshaw pullers and little figurines cowering in black, chaffering with lingerie and veggie vendors on pushcarts. Main drags radiate like a Merc-sign from the town centre, the ‘Ghantaghar’ or Clock Tower. The grounds of this Raj relic are the … More»

Heritage plays a temporal trick – it can make history feel within reach. I walked up the pathway leading to Lahori Gate, entrance to Red Fort, where friends waited. On my right was the eyesore barbican built by Aurangzeb; Shah Jahan, his father, who built the fort, was miffed with the looming gorgon in garish orange. ‘You have made the fort a bride,’ he wrote from his house arrest quarter overlooking the Taj Mahal in Agra, ‘and set a veil … More»

 
Butterfly, butterfly
Fly in the sky
Butterfly, butterfly
Flies so high
Butterfly, butterfly
Lands on my thigh
Butterfly, butterfly
Motionlessly lies
Butterfly, butterfly
Gracefully dies
(Full transcript of poem ‘Butterfly, butterfly’ by Adryan Bates.)
For a life that rarely goes beyond a couple of weeks the amount of cloak and dagger was overwhelming. I, for one, stood agape, eyes wide with incredulity and misted over with marvel. Lepidopterist extraordinaire Peter Smetacek held forth on the survival tactics of butterflies. Camouflage – trying to look like leaves and twigs – I … More»

(Buoyed by the inclusion of my short ‘Highway 666’ in ‘Have a safe journey – The world’s first collection of short stories on road safety‘ I thought I’d do another zany one. While the first one takes place in a world I am yet to accustom – the underworld (of the Gehenna-order), this one I am closer to – the blogging world. Inspired by some wily ones, similarity of any character to somebody you know can be negotiated.) 
‘Like a gecko on … More»

 
We are on the Kumily – Munnar route, one of the most scenic drives in Kerala. I am being introduced to a large canvas – from where smaller ones originate. There are two via options – Kattappana and Udumbanchola – the latter, along which we are now, is simply breath-taking. Our eyes are alternately soaking up the lush rain-washed valley and peeled for the rare and endangered of the region – laughing thrush, wood pigeon, pipit and grassbird. We followed … More»

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