Grilled Chicken and The Hangry Hulk at De Pijp, Amsterdam

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“It’s just somewhere around here, honey. Let’s walk a bit more. You’ll love it, I promise you. “ Sandeep reassured me once more as we walk the length of Albert Cuyp Market. I could hear the tension in his voice. I knew he could see me slowly metamorphosing into THE HANGRY HULK and he has to get some food in me as soon as possible. (That was not a typo. If you don’t already know, hangry is the combination of the two words hungry and angry. A common condition in women like myself who lose our shit when starving.)

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It was then three in the afternoon already and we still haven’t eaten anything yet besides our measly airport breakfast. We were under slept and exhausted. We needed a comforting meal but Sandeep was dragging it on and on to find this magical food stall that he loves. I told him I would be happy with a burger from McDonalds when we passed it earlier on the way there but he insisted on finding this gastronomical wonder. He probably thought it would change my life or something once I tasted it. I did understand even then though, that he wanted to share this special treat with me but during that desperate moment the sweetness of his gesture was lost on me.

“I think this is it!’ Sandeep announced triumphantly in front of a food truck serving grilled chicken, meatballs and sandwich rolls.

The tall guy wearing a black apron behind the counter was very animated and was calling the women ladies, almost theatrically.

To me he said, “Are you ready, lady?” as he handed me the enormous burger I ordered.

The stall seemed like a popular spot and was the most crowded food stall among the area. The tables next to it were constantly full. Customers came and went in rapid rotation while we were eating there. Some people were even fine with just standing while they eat their grilled chicken sandwiches and meatballs. Others also came to buy some takeaway.

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Lunch for 2 with cola about 9 Euros

Sandeep loved his grilled chicken wings and chicken sandwich rolls costing him 2 euros each. My 150 grams burger at 3 euros was a bit dry and had a flavor I am not very fond of, so I did not ‘love it’. I could taste cumin  in the patty quite strongly mixed with some other spices I often taste in Indian Kebabs. It was the wrong thing to order I thought later on and if not for my sour mood, I would have like the food too, I ‘m sure.

Though I did not enjoy the meal, my energy was replenished. I began to appreciate the quaintness of the market as we strolled back towards the main street.

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Albert Cuyp market offers a variety of items for sale at a fair price. There are stalls for all kinds of souvenirs, clothing and accessories, flowers, meat, cheese, seafood even CDs, books and vintage records.

We also passed by a huge dried fruit and nuts stall. There were peanuts, walnuts, figs, chocolate balls and the tastiest nougat I’ve eaten so far. It was not so sweet and almost as soft as a marshmallow. We got 200 grams for 2 euros, if I remember correctly.

By the time we exited the market my mood has improved considerably. We sat down for a cup of coffee (6 euros for a cappuccino and latte) enjoying the outdoors devoid of pollution, chaos and jarring noises. That part of De Pijp seemed almost idyllic; filled with people just enjoying their evening , some hanging out with their friends, some passing by on bicycles, a few patiently waiting for the trams that occasionally pass by.

I heard laughter coming from a group of youngsters farther away. The faint laughter sounded dream-like adding a tone of cheer in the scenery. I leaned back on the chair, relaxing while I sipped my coffee, taking it all in. It was a wonder to witness a peaceful and orderly scene not often seen in modern and bustling cities. I knew right away that Amsterdam is an extraordinary city, very, very special, and that I would love being there.

 

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Cappuccino and Cheesecake at Piazza Del Campo, Siena Italy

 

“Honey, you look like Michelle Yeoh in this photo.” Sandeep remarked while reviewing the photos he took of me at San Gimignano. “I look like an inflated Michelle Yeoh,” I replied after glancing at the photo. “Michelin Yeoh.” I added.

Sandeep immediately understood that I was referring to the Michelin man. He laughed heartily as he is always amused at my self-deprecating jokes. Among the things I like about him is that he always gets the most obscure references I use in the jokes I make. It is a relief that I don’t have to explain anything to him and the punchlines always hit home.

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We were then on our way to Siena in a double decker bus. I chose our seat on the top part of the bus earlier when we left Florence. I wanted a full view of the Tuscan countryside as we pass it by.

“Siena used to be a very rich city before the Black Death killed a large part of it’s population and before the Medici conquered the city.” Our German tour guide narrated in halting English over the microphone. She took over for Alice, the pretty olive skinned Italian who initially led the tour.

It was a good thing we got the Tuscan day tour package from Florence itself. The walk-in booking was cheaper at 56 euros each. When we were booking it online, the website was charging us 90 USD each for the same tour. The package includes a visit to San Gimignano, Monteriggioni Castle, lunch at a winery in Chianti and then finally a walking tour in Siena. It’s a 12 hour day tour that starts at 8:30 am from the Santa Maria Novella train station.

I was not really excited about Siena when we book the tour, I have not heard of that city before. I thought it was just one of those minor cities they add to the pad the tours. We chose it over the leaning tower of Pisa because the meeting time starts at 8 am rather than 6:30 am.

It turned out Siena was a pleasant surprise for me and the visit to the city easily became my favorite part of the trip.

Part of what drew me to India was the intrigue shrouding its historical monuments. Siena has the same appeal to me. As we explored its historic center, walking on  the cobbled  streets in between imposing gothic structures really take you back in time. You’ll begin to wonder how the place would have looked like during its Golden Age.

Our tour guide led us to Piazza Salimbeni, infront of the statue of a scowling Sallustio Bandini standing guard in between the first banking houses in Europe. He was a Sienese priest and one of the first Italian economists.

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I can’t help but be intimidated as I gazed upwards and saw the marble heads of famous Italian men, poking from under the roof of Palazzo Spannocchi, all glaring down on me. I felt so  small and insignificant. It disturbed me to see Leonardo Da Vinci and Dante Alighieri looking so pissed at me. If I was a peasant there in those times I will be terrified and trembling in my boots every time I am made to stand in that square.

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Our tour guide asked us to follow a blue flag held by a tall guy from our group so we don’t get separated and lose our way. There were several tour groups along with us. We even got mixed up with a group of Japanese tourists with a Japanese tour guide. Their flag was red. We also came across a group of university students who made fun of us. One of the students raised the bottle of beer in his hands, walked ahead of his friends and shouted, “Follow me if you wanna have a good time.” Everybody laughed and cheered. I told Sandeep jokingly that it would be more fun to follow that group.

What really captured my heart though, was Piazza Del Campo. I was bewildered, then awestruck  after immerging from a dark alley and  seeing the medieval square with its lofty clock tower dominating the bright blue sky. It’s difficult to capture its immenseness in the photos. You have to be standing there to witness its splendour.

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I had an intense desire to cross the huge shell-shaped piazza to reach the coffee shop at the opposite side of where we were standing.

“Twice a year horse races are held here.” Our guide’s voice crackled in the headphones in my ears, interrupting my thoughts.

In the restaurant next to where we were gathered, there was a television where the video of the race was playing in a loop. It seemed like a grand affair. The shell shape area in the middle of the piazza were filled with people cheering as the horses race around them.

After 15 minutes the guide moved on and we followed but I was getting impatient. I wanted  the walking tour to end already  so we can linger leisurely at Piazza Del Campo. We even skipped climbing up the tower of that beautiful gothic cathedral  so we can return right away to Piazza Del Campo. I was glad Sandeep did not mind.

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Sandeep indulged my wish, and ordered us a cappuccino and a latte on that café that I was looking at earlier. I wanted to stay longer so I ordered a cheesecake, which was quite delectable with a hint of citrus on the after taste. We paid 6 euros for the cappuccino and latte, 7 euros for the cheesecake.

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I sighed while I sipped my cappuccino. Ahhh…it was like being in a delicious dream that you did not want to wake up from.

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A cold wind blew a few minutes later, knocking down the wine glasses of the two young girls in front of us. The glasses shattered into pieces as it hit the ground snapping me out of my reverie. As Sandeep paid for the bill, I felt a twinge in my heart at the thought of leaving Siena so soon. I wanted to stay for a day or two or for the rest of my life.

I left a piece of my heart there at Piazza Del Campo and the longing to go back haunts me constantly.

Breakfast in Paris

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It was a wet Tuesday morning, our second day in Paris. There has been no respite from rain since the day before. It was past 8 am yet the cafe near our hotel, a few blocks away from Jardin du Palais Royal, looked like it opened just then. A guy in an all black uniform, who I presumed was the manager because of his demeanour, was standing on a chair turning  on the outdoor heater hanging under the awning like a lamp. A pretty  black waitress in black long sleeves shirt, shorts, stockings and high heels was fooling around with him, pretending to push him off the chair and then laughing. The guy didn’t seem to mind though he didn’t laugh with her . Her hair was pulled up in a big bun on top of her head accentuating her high cheekbones and elegant forehead. I was amazed at how chic she looked. She greeted us with a cheery “bonjour!” as we sat down in front of one of tables lined up outside the cafe. All the chairs were turned towards the street and I felt like being in front of a theatrical stage where the performers were the passersby who were rushing to work.

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Sandeep ordered a decadent breakfast combo, 17 euros to be exact. I was  tempted to order the same. I thought why not, we are in Paris, I should drop my  low carbs diet on this trip. The pieces of baguette alone that the waitress placed on our table tasted divine, I can’t wait for the other Parisian treats to land on my tongue. The waitress laid down the feast on our table in three sets; first was a plate of danish, croissant and a cinnamon roll, then a plate of salami, ham and some cheeses and finally a plate with omelette. Then came the cappuccino and freshly squeezed orange juice. Given that the tables were so tiny we had to put one of the plates on a table next to us.

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As we devoured our breakfast leisurely I felt a little guilty while I watched the Parisians walking briskly with their long legs, some with umbrellas, some without, impatient to start with their, I could only deduce, a busy day. It almost felt like a sin to be sitting so indulgently, sipping our cappuccino, dry, warm  as if we have all the time in the world while everybody else who were passing by looked wet, cold and off to do something productive. One female passerby with curly blonde hair did glanced at our table with  longing eyes, probably thinking how nice it would be to stop for a while for a hot cup of brew. I saw her shake off the feeling and with determination she marched on towards her destination.

Born Into Brothels

Two kids from the 8 kids that Zana Briski, an American Photographer, tried to rescue from their hellish life made it good. Avijit, a very talented boy who understood the nuances of photography even at his young age and without proper training studied film making at New York University and is set or maybe already working as an assistant director in Hollywood. Kochi, the girl who was the most determined not to become like everyone around her by getting a good education, persevered and was able to study in the US aided by the profits made from the film’s success.  (Check what eventually happened to these kids here)

I can understand the photographer’s inability not to get involved with her subjects. Her main task was to document what was going on in the brothels but to see these kids’ laughter, aspirations and hopes despite their desperate situation can break anyone’s heart and you have to be totally inhuman to not try to help but I am in awe with how much she gave of herself to help them. It must have been so painful for her to see the other kids not able to make the best of the opportunity she gave them.

A truly heartbreaking documentary which leaves you wondering why any kid has to grow up in such circumstances. My tears turned into sobs when I reached the part where the kids saw the sea for the first time. The joy in their faces at seeing something so beautiful was wonderful to behold.

You can watch the whole film at ‪#‎netflixindia‬

That Sunday Afternoon When I Was Speechless In front of Arundhati Roy

The ray of the midday sun was blistering as my husband and I went out of the restaurant but we were not minding it at all. We were having an enjoyable Sunday . Also, we just had a delicious Italian lunch and a delectable cheesecake platter for dessert amidst jokes and banter. Hand in hand we strolled along the shops of a popular South Delhi shopping complex. We were about to enter a bookshop when I felt my husband tugging my hand urgently.

” Honey!” He exclaimed. Half of his body was still outside the glass door of the shop.

I turned to look back and saw him greet a woman who was walking past the shop with a tall man.

I was about to greet them also, thinking they were some artist friends of his but when the woman turned her head towards me, I felt a jolt of recognition.

” Oh, it’s Arundhati Roy! ” I exclaimed excitedly. I felt so embarrassed afterwards but still could not believe that I saw one of my favorite authors. You know what a book nut I am. I feel like a groupie of a rockstar band. Arundhati Roy wrote The God of Small Things and Listening To The Grasshoppers. She won Booker Man Prize for the God of Small Things but she gave away the prize money and royalties from the book to a group, protesting about the construction of a dam that will destroy their village. She was also a staunch defender of the Maoist rebels’ human rights which almost placed her life and liberty in danger. As my husband said, ” That woman has balls.” Continue reading “That Sunday Afternoon When I Was Speechless In front of Arundhati Roy”

We Will Manage

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The future used to worry me. I used to lay awake at night concocting in my mind all possible evil scenarios that can befall me and my family. Things like losing our jobs, our home or even our lives. What if one of us have an accident that will prevent us from living our lives fully? What if Babar, our dog, falls ill and die? I try to imagine how I would deal and cope in these situations. My heart would race and I would become very agitated. I would feel  helpless and desperate as if those things were already happening to me right there and then.

Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher, had said that we human beings, true to the definition of our nature as ‘ beings’, constantly project ourselves in the future; wanting things, expecting things. Ahead is where we truly live not in the present. We exist in our imagination of things we desired to do, and what we desired to be. The same can be said of our fear of misfortune falling on us. It hold our emotions captive, wasting our time and energy. A happy day can turn sour in a snap of a finger just by worrying about the future. Continue reading “We Will Manage”

Babar, The Road Nut And The Search For The Perfect Pet Friendly Holiday Destination In India Part 1

 

The August calendar, I noticed, was looking especially colorful with three dates standing out in color red. My husband glanced at what I was looking at.

“We should plan a short vacation around these dates.”

Babar who was sitting calmly in the corner raised his head, ears perked up. I grinned at him. We both knew what it means. Road trip!

Three holidays are coming up, Eid, Raksha Bandhan and the independence day of India. So once again I went on the internet searching for holiday ideas. We can only take four day leaves from work, meaning the place I have to choose this time should be a one day drive away only which limits my choices very narrowly. To reach the most beautiful places in the hills of India you need at least 7 to 10 days. Otherwise most of the holiday will be spent on the road, which is also fun if we are not taking the dog with us. Babar loves running and hiking with us and I would hate for him to be cooped up in the car for the entire trip.

Babar loves riding in the car. As young as three months old, after his vaccines were completed,we have been taking him in the car everywhere around Delhi. We made sure the destination would always be fun for him and, never to the vet clinic for a traumatic painful injection. I read somewhere that, if his first trip on the car is going to the vet, he will associate that experience with the car so we avoided that. We took him to all the big parks in Delhi instead. Now he is addicted to riding in the car. He has to be at center seat where he can walk back and forth to peak at both windows. On these trips he likes poking his head out the windows,  the wind on his face.

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Choices for pet friendly hotels in India are very limited, almost nil. I have to be very resourceful and search mostly for adventure camps where I think the owners will likely allow our dog to stay with us even if it does not say so in their website.

Finally, after hours of searching, I found a pretty cluster of quaint looking cottages on top of a hill in Narkanda. A place we passed by when we went to Sangla last year. It is only two hours ahead of Shimla so we can reach there in one day if we start early from Delhi.

On the internet, I searched for images of the camp and its surroundings. It is in the middle of a lush green forest with a good view of the snowy Himalayan peak. I became excited. It is exactly the kind of place I was looking for. Crossing my fingers, I called the number printed on the website. The owner answered my call. He sounded nice and accommodating. After inquiring about the availability of the cottages and tariff, I asked the bomb-laden question.

” Sir, we are planning to take our labrador with us, will you allow that? ” I held my breath waiting for his answer which came quickly without the slightest hint of hesitation.

” Yes, you can take your dog here. Our place is spacious so he can run around freely.”

The adventure camp is called, Aagyat Vaas which means, I think, hideaway. And to hide away means you have to go deep into the forest and to reach the secluded peak means to climb dangerously steep narrow roads. Again. Roads in the hills are always the thrilling part of our adventure.

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I realized that after two years of living with Babar I have now come up with a decent list of pet friendly holiday destinations in India. Well, mostly in the hills of North India.

The owners of the places who allowed Babar to come with us are usually dog lovers too. All of them were also very nice, well mannered and treated their guests well. We have enjoyed ourselves, Babar most of all, in all of these places.

Number one on my list is Kinner camps, nestled in the gorgeous valley of Sangla in Himachal Pradesh. Owner Mr. Negi and associates were very nice to us. They were very accommodating and made sure our visit was comfortable and enjoyable. They became very fond of Babar. The tent we stayed at for four days was spacious and clean. Each tent has its own bathroom with a western style toilet.

Babar had plenty of spaces to run in the meadow near Baspa river, slightly below the camp area. Babar made a lot friends over there. The kids adored him.

There are also plenty of scenic places nearby, like Chitkul, Kalpa and the charming Batseri village.

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On the other side of the Himalayas in Uttrakhand lies the mystical mountain of Chopta. And somewhere hidden in the midst of its endless sage green meadows surrounded by a dense forest, lies Magpie camp.

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For 3500 rupees a night (including meals) we had an amazing time, for we were the sole guest of the camp during our stay. Babar roamed around freely everywhere without any screaming, complaining auntie anywhere. Although I got spooked by their talks of leopards stalking the camp at night but the only cat Babar came across  was this one!

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In order to initiate Babar on our vagabond lifestyle we took him on a nine hour ride to the nearest hill station in the Himalayas. He was not even one year old then. We had a slight difficulty with his toilet habits during the trip. For the entire nine hours on the road he did not pee, even when we stopped at  many places. We were just fearing his bladder would blast. I read somewhere it is difficult for dogs to relieve themselves if they cannot smell their urine anywhere. But as he grew older this problem got corrected.

His first long journey was the trip to Sola , Shogi. There we found a pet friendly adventure camp with small charming cottages. The Hotel Oakwood Hamlet. The room was nice, the staff was helpful and the food was decent. Although the front yard was not spacious enough for Babar to run around. For guest with pets it is good for a stop over if your destination requires more than one day of travel.

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In Kufri there is another good stop over if you are traveling with your pet. Hidden in the middle of the forest are these charming cottages of Eco Village resort. Although the room is very basic, it is comfortable. The place is actually an apple orchard where guest are free to pick as much as they want. A few horses also gave us a surprised visit in the morning.

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For our stop over on our way to Chopta, we stayed at a camp in Rishikesh near the river. Babar enjoyed his sprint along the sandy shores and the sunset reflecting on water was gorgeous. If you like roughing it up I will recommend it but it is not for the finicky. The tent is not comfortable, toilets are communal and the food was awful. But it was nice to spend the evening near the water.

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I am sure the list will grow longer in the years to come. I will also try our luck in the deserts of Rajasthan. That would be a completely different experience for Babar.

The quest for the perfect pet friendly holiday destination in India can be very frustrating as you will not only get negative reply from most hotel owners but also disapproving frowns from fellow guests. But if you are patient enough when finally you do discover a perfect oasis for you and your pets it would be the most awesome vacation you can ever have.

-JMKhapra copyright 2013

The Unbending Laws Of The Universe

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Do you have foresight? Given your current situation are you able to predict where your life would be in ten years? It is eerie how the vision of the future unfolds clearly before my eyes. It makes me believe even more that life is not random. It moves in a neat straight path, unbending and sometimes unforgiving. I am tempted to throw physics in the equation again. Please don’t roll your eyes, I know I talk about that a lot. It just that the universe is so completely precise in all the laws that governs it. It can be very stifling.

There are times my mind would open up. I am able to calculate human nature plus a given situation equals the inevitable result. Older wiser people will say, oh that is just what we call experience. Human actions and its consequences always fall into some kind of pattern that makes it easy to predict the outcome. I guess so. Still, I find that fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Rebels of the rigid rules of life always end up defeated in the end. There is no way to cheat the system. Continue reading “The Unbending Laws Of The Universe”

Heal This Broken World Please

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I thought I understand this world but, it turns out I truly don’t. After a series of life changing experiences, I secretly prided myself that I get it. I know what this life is all about. That the meaning of life depends on what its means to you. That the question of life is unique to each individual. That your life is how you project yourself into your reality. That everything takes place in your brain. That each decision in choosing the path you take is the result of how you process your life experiences in your mind. That you have a choice how your future will shape up.

I have been living in a bubble of bliss ever since I met the love of my life. Our life together remained harmonious and happy for more than six years. Life is beautiful. Full of sunshine and laughters,inside our home. But the longer I live in this kind of misty existence, the longer I cannot ignore the chaos outside; the violence and hatred that filled the streets; greed and selfishness that lurk in every corner. Unhappiness exists. Evil exists. And they weigh heavily upon whatever it is that is beautiful in this world. Continue reading “Heal This Broken World Please”

How To Edit A Flashback

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I’m an editor. U-hu. A common reply when people ask me what I do. A video editor. I would elaborate. And again. A-ha. They would hide their confusions by this curt reply. I am prompted to explain. I work for TV. Their eyes would lit up. TV. Finally a word they can relate to. ” For ABS- CBN.” Their eyes would show interest. Really? Is Piolo Pascual gay? I would try not to roll my eyes. I will not reply so they would ask, ” Yes, but what, exactly do you do there?

What exactly do I do? I edit. I cut. I paste. I fast forward. I rewind. I can slow down time. I can freeze a moment. I can play a song while a women jilted by her lover sobs in utter desolation. I can put laughter when a boy trips over a wire. I’m a mini god over the lives of those who inhabit my sequences. That is, when my director leaves me alone. If not he then plays god over me. Continue reading “How To Edit A Flashback”

The Golden Notebook, Not My Cup Of Tea On A Rainy Afternoon

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The heavens suffered from diuresis after a full day of intense heat and humidity. The asphalt road sizzled as the unceasing rain poured into it. I was brewing tea when all of a sudden all the water from the sky came down with a vengeance. Babar, my dog, and I rushed towards the front door. The amount of downpour washing away the dust in the air of this arid city is a beautiful sight. Babar wagged his tail excitedly and I was smiling ear to ear. We both love the rain. My plants on the front yard lifted their heads and arms to welcome the long awaited shower. I can almost see them smiling too. I looked gratefully at the sky and sent my thanks to the heavens for this blessing. The terrible heatwave that cursed the land for more than a month is now over. Relief for all has come. Of course, I am trying not to think of the flooding that will inevitably follow this. I wanted to enjoy the cool, wet weather for now.

So with a warm cup of darjeeling tea and my dog dozing cozily near my feet I settled on my cushiony sofa and I opened the book, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, with anticipation. The one I picked from my bookshelf to snuggle with in this special occasion. Finding this book was quite a tale in itself. Continue reading “The Golden Notebook, Not My Cup Of Tea On A Rainy Afternoon”

What It’s Like To Have A Two Year Old Labrador

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At two year old, Babar still displays his puppy cuteness once in a while but sans his tasmanian devil-like energy which nearly drove hubby and I to the mad house when he was just months old. Our house has resumed its peace and order which in two years I have almost forgotten what  feels like. He also stopped stealing pillows and wrestling with it. I can make up the bed without keeping the pillows inside the closet or out of his reach. I can again display my favorite Indian cushions on the sofa without its guts getting ripped out.
I have also returned my books to a low bookshelf ( almost level to his snout) and arrange it together with some wooden knick knacks we collected during our travels without worrying them being knockdown and chewed to pieces. I even placed some hard bound books on the coffee table without the fear of him snatching it and tearing the pages apart. Oh how I mourn the literary casualties my book collection suffered during one of his manic moments. A book of short stories by Saki lay wounded and spineless somewhere in one of the cabinets. Baudolino by Umberto Eco is defaced, hidden in between his other books. Continue reading “What It’s Like To Have A Two Year Old Labrador”

The Thief And The Bar Girl

” Let’s put up a trap and then when we caught her in the act, let’s lock her in a room and we will then take each turns to rape her.” All four boys laughed, hooted and discussed the possibility. I stared at them wide eyed. Their excitement and anticipation impregnated the dim lit room, shadows falling on their faces as they squatted on the hardwood floor. I wondered at the nightmarish quality of the moment. I could not believe what I was hearing. I felt Analyn who was sitting beside me in my bed, shivered. The landlady looked at the boys approvingly and giggled.

The boys were talking about Chona. One of the boarders in that boarding house near the campus where I was enrolled for college.They suspected her of stealing the landlady’s money and a ring my mother had given me a year ago as a gift for entering my first year in college. Chona was a trash talking good looking young woman who dressed in shorts skirts and tube tops all the time. She chain smoked and engaged in late night drinking with the boys on her day offs. She was always in need of money and had left college to be a bar girl. Base on that the male boarders seemed to think that she was also capable of stealing. I used to like her before she started working in bars. She was fun to be around, honest and was genuine. But when she quit college and started working in the evenings she became withdrawn and antagonistic. She often came home drunk and would sleep for the entire day until she has to go to work again in the night. Continue reading “The Thief And The Bar Girl”

My Dearest Young Filipina, Educate Yourself

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My Dearest Young Filipina,

Educate yourself. Who is going do it for you? Your politicians won’t help. They are too busy figuring out how to keep you ignorant and poor so they can go on manipulating you.

Educate yourself about your health, how to avoid getting pregnant at age 13 or contracting sexually transmitted diseases because no one else is going to tell you how. Your church is tight lipped about the matter and will continue to say, ” no pre marital sex for you.” And because you cannot pin your hopes on the aborted RH bill as your politicians cannot risk you becoming an independent woman who has a say and control over your own body and therefore your votes.

Educate yourself so you can stop waiting for Mr. Prince Charming to help you. He is broke and his treasure chest has gone bankrupt. He needs help too.

Educate yourself so you can get off the Internet trying to find a 70 year old white man to marry you and save you. Or send you money. So the world can stop saying majority of the Filipinas are prostitutes.

Educate yourself so you don’t have to post naked pictures of yourself on Facebook for likes and be someday a rich man’s doormat. Or a porn star. So you can tell your father or brother they should get a job and provide for the family instead. So you can argue with your mother that you being only 12 years old, you are too damn young and naive to work in the middle east for people whose culture are very different from yours. So your lifeless body would not be found floating in the drainage in the basement of their house later on. So you can tell her that falsifying your age on official documents is very wrong.

Educate yourself so you can stop gyrating half naked on noontime shows while lecherous men leer and pawn on you. So you can avoid powerful men from using and abusing you.

Educate yourself so you don’t have to end up in a sex slavery trade. So you can report any pervert who will make you an indecent offer. So you can stay away from men of shady character.

Educate yourself so you’ll never lose your self respect and pride. There are worse things than hunger.

Educate yourself so you can have the confidence to tell your friends that there is more to life than expensive handbags, iPhones and designer labels.

Educate yourself because only education can help you survive the quagmire that is our country. Read. Learn. Learn to read. Be aware of what is happening around you. What is happening in your country and in the world. Be proactive about your future. Since you cannot rely on your government nor society, you have to rely on yourself to be well informed and educated. You cannot rely on your beauty forever for it fades sooner than you think. Only wisdom and knowledge can help you cope and understand the long complicated life ahead of you.

Love,
Your very concerned Ate

*If you are a young Filipina or just someone who is concern about the eroding quality of young people’s education please share.

Anecdotes From Home: The Tale of The Two Starving American Soldiers

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Most of the time my father is a tight lipped man but since this summer all of his kids were together again under his roof out comes pouring his jovial nature. He has been telling my husband and I that in the recent years flashbacks of his younger mischievous days plague him constantly. Some he regrets, some he revels upon.

My husband shares my enthusiasm in listening to old people’s tales. Their stories are goldmines for those who want to write novels with a magic realism genre since sometimes the sequence of events does not make sense at all as memories blur over time. What they remembered might not be what actually happened giving the tale a fantastical flavor. Plus the stories are likely to have happened around a historically significant period. Like one particular anecdote he told us which easily became our favorite. The incident happened during World War II when the Japanese army occupied the country (he was just a very young boy then but he has lots of colorful stories about that period.) Continue reading “Anecdotes From Home: The Tale of The Two Starving American Soldiers”

How I Applied Newton’s Three Laws Of Motion To Improve My Life

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One morning on our way to McDonalds for breakfast we passed by the remnants of demolished car repair shops along the road. It rained the night before, whatever was salvageable in the wreckage now buried in muck. Among the rag pickers scavenging the area were some shop owners sitting dejected and hopeless staring in front of the rubble. With their source of income now wiped away they must be feeling that life has dealt them a bad hand. I thought of the families they have to feed. Of their kids who have to go to school. Of how they will manage now.

” But they knew it is illegal all along.” replied my husband when I told him I felt sorry for them.

Which is true. Sometimes we make decisions to do something even though we know we would be on the wrong track and would try to risk it, crossing our fingers, hoping that just for us the universe will adjust and give us the outcome we hope for. This never works. The universe is governed by its own law. Like the law of gravity, what comes up must come down. Except of course if you are a satellite in space. So if it is illegal you will get caught. And if the clouds are dark it will rain. Continue reading “How I Applied Newton’s Three Laws Of Motion To Improve My Life”

Enchanting Adventures in A Magical Place

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We climbed gingerly, Babar in silent awe as we navigated the narrow looping roads going up the mountain curtained on both sides by trees huddled closely together amidst a think blanket of foliage. A sharp chill in the air made us shiver as we went further up, lush vegetation obliterating the sun turning day into night at four o’ clock in the afternoon. Mini waterfalls every time we turned into a curve trickled down on the side of the mountain licking the verdant leaves of enormous ferns lining the road. Our excitement mounting as we drove higher and higher. We were on the last stretch of our fourteen hour drive from Delhi to Chopta. Chopta is a beautiful hill station known as the mini Switzerland of India, located in the mountainous state of Uttaranchal in the northern part of the country. It is seven hours further away by road from Rishikesh.

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Continue reading “Enchanting Adventures in A Magical Place”

My Thoughts On Feminism And Gender Wars

 

I am not a feminist. I don’t like the idea of ‘gender wars’. Men vs. Women. I don’t see men as the enemy. A woman can also hurt another woman as badly as any man can. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses regardless of gender. I find the terms ‘ that woman is strong like man or that man cry like a woman’ amusing. Both male and female as we all know have masculine and feminine qualities in them. I might find a person incredibly gifted/ intelligent or I could find a person unbearably stupid. A person. Not a he or a she.

I remember a funny but pointless debate I and my female friends used to have when were teenagers against a group of boys. Numerous times we argued with them that women can do all what men can do unlike men one time giving the most obvious example that only women can give birth. ” That is true but Jofs, can five women pee simultaneously in one pot?” Responded the leader of the boy’s gang. We all burst out laughing. It was funny and also true. Blushing the girls would feel defeated and outwitted. Ganging against each other had been embedded in us since we were young. Discarding the gender bias requires a lot of effort as we grow older because of the nature of romantic relationships. Our hearts get broken at one point in time. But it’s neither the men nor women who do this to each other. A person hurts another person. If only we can look at it like that and not crucify nor blame the whole gender for it. Continue reading “My Thoughts On Feminism And Gender Wars”

The Golden Notebook A True Gem

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What an incredible, wonderful exhausting book to read!

The last page has been read, the book closed, kissed and kept away yet the sentiments of those beautifully crafted words still linger around me like an intoxicating perfume leaving me dazed confused and lost in a different world and time. The protagonist’s depression rubbed on me a little. Leaving me pondering over my existence in this world as woman and what have I contributed for the betterment of humanity. I am ashamed to admit that most of my energy and efforts revolve around myself, my family and my friends’ concerns. Whatever good deed I dished out to someone or to some organization had been too inconsequential to even mention. Perhaps it’s not too late. There are so many chances to care for others and be involved.

Needles to say the book moved me very deeply. I fell in love with Anna’s (the protagonist ) beautiful, lucid introspections that assaulted me page after page, sometimes finding myself closing the book when it’s about to overwhelm me. Continue reading “The Golden Notebook A True Gem”

Response To The Post “Women Are Second Class Citizens “

jalal michael sabbagh on October 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm said:

Jofelyn,your post about women being second class citizens is true in most 3rd.world country .l believe firmly God created us equal.Man is the one who invented laws to be the boss.I believe Women will do much better job if they rule the WORLD.My regards.jalal

Jofelyn M. Khapra on October 11, 2012 at 6:30 am said:

Jalal I would rather live in a world where a person is no longer define by gender but as human. Where he and she is irrelevant. The person who have the best capacity to rule should rule regardless of gender. 🙂

Ruth Rainwater on October 11, 2012 at 12:44 am said:

Unfortunately, it isn’t only in 3rd world countries where women are second class citizens, but in the US also. Women have come a long way here, but there is still a long way to go. I look forward to a time when women can be who and what they want to be, just like men are.

Jofelyn M. Khapra on October 11, 2012 at 6:26 am said:

I and my husband had been discussing this same issue a few weeks back, we came to the same conclusion, sadly.

The Quote:

‘Anyone could tell us two writers shouldn’t be together. Or rather, that a competitive American shouldn’t be with a woman who has written a book.’
‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘It’s a challenge to my sexual superiority, and that isn’t a joke.’

‘I know it isn’t. But please don’t give me any more of your pompous socialist lectures about the equality of men and women.’

‘I shall probably give you pompous lectures because I enjoy it. But I won’t believe in them myself. The truth is, I resent you for having written a book which was a success. And I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve always been a hypocrite, and in fact I enjoy a society where women are second-class citizens, I enjoy being boss and being flattered.’

‘Good,’ I said. ‘Because in a society where not one man in ten thousand begins to understand the ways in which women are second-class citizens, we have to rely for company on the men who are at least not hypocrites.’

‘And now we’ve settled that, you can make me some coffee, because that is your role in life.’

‘It will be a pleasure,’ I said, and we had breakfast in good-humour, liking each other.

– from The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Greed, Negligence or Laziness?

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Today I experienced an incident which I concluded to be an allegory or a microscopic example of a simple chain of corruption that pervades our society.

Last Friday, I searched for the book Ten Novels and Their Authors by Somerset Maugham, online. A book I had been looking for in bookstores for a long time but could not find. I found it available on a website I regularly order books from. The edition with the price of 399 rupees was out of stock. A copy worth 701 rupees was available though so I ordered it. I was informed the shipping would be on the 5th and delivery on 8th.

I assumed that the 399 rupees edition that is out of stock must have been a re-print from a local publication and the 701 rupees edition would be coming from abroad therefore more expensive and probably printed in a much nicer paper. Sadly I was wrong.

The package came the next day. I was pleased but puzzled. I asked the courier man how come it came so early. The man vaguely replied. ” We found it ma’am.”

I opened the package. The book looked old. Brown and spotted at the edges. The letters are printed in the ugliest font possible. It hurts my eye just looking at it. The paper is cheap and coarse. On the front page tuck in between the pages was a piece of paper torn from a notebook indicating this is from the batch 2011. Therefore an old stock. At the back of the book there are 3 tags, the logo of the website, a price of 399 rupees with the name of a popular local publication above and the third one, the price of 399 rupees with the name of the original publication. Obviously they gave me an old stock which has the value of 399 rupees instead of 701 rupees. I felt robbed.

A couple of scenarios played in my mind. I don’t know how this business works. But I am guessing that when I placed the order in the website it was passed on to another another company who will search and deliver me the book. Where did then the corruption, neglect or laziness occurred? From which end?

Let say Mr. B is the second company who search for, buy and deliver the book. Mr. B found the book right away, an old stock for 399 rupees but he sees the the customer is charge 701 rupees. What should Mr. B do? Should Mr. B call the company who hired him and inform them of this fact? If he is honest, thorough and reliable he should have. But he didn’t. Did he keep the 300 rupees extra for himself? Or is company aware of these discrepancies? Is it laziness to do the right thing which prevented them from correcting this irregularity or did Mr. B wanted to make extra money from cheating the customer crossing his fingers hoping the customer would not notice? Are they so without shame that they did not even bother to remove the original price tag from the back cover? I could not find any justification for the extra 300 rupees they charged me for the book.

I wrote them a letter and complained about this, demanding they give me back my money or deliver a book of my choosing having the same value they owed me.

Today someone from their company with a machine gun for a mouth called me. After asking him to slow down, he proceeded to explain how their company works and in a defensive unpleasant tone told me, ” It is not as if we deliberately overcharged you…” I stopped him right there and told him I don’t care how their company operates, that is not my concern. I ordered a product which has a value of 701 rupees instead I got something for the value of 399 rupees so obvious there was no point arguing about it. I told him whatever it is that happened between ordering and delivery should not be my problem and what is due me should be given to me. He grudgingly agreed and promised me vaguely that he will ask his supervisor and see if I could be compensated for this. But I have a feeling this issue will not be remedied. That won’t stopped me from hounding them until I get my money’s worth back though. Social media like Facebook and blogs are great platform for this. There is no escape.

I don’t see what the big deal is. What I asked is simple. Give me back my money’s worth. Someone made huge a profit and someone else may have to pay for it. I don’t care. To keep your customer happy and regained their trust a manager or whoever is responsible for customer related issues should pay back even from his own pocket the money they clearly owe the customer.

Be honest. Be fair. Be diligent. Then these kind of problems will not happen. You cannot lose the trust of a customer for a meager 300 rupees. I told them businesses also rely in the power of the word of mouth. An incident like this can easily ruin their reputation.

I am currently awaiting their reply for the second letter I sent them.

Now isn’t this exactly the kind of frustration we faced everyday because of laziness and greed? Be it in obtaining justice for bigger crimes or just a matter of getting your official documents done, someone is being sloppy and lazy and someone is out to get that unearned quick buck. If I just shrugged my shoulders and kept quiet the thieves would have merrily went their way without a second thought. We have the power now to demand what is due to us. Do not let anybody rob that right from you.

©JMKhapra

I Will Buy An e- Book Written By Bloggers

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I have been following closely a lot of amazing writers in WordPress and a realization dawned upon me. This is truly the future of book writing or book promotion. Bloggers have swayed a staunch paperback reader like me to start downloading ebook editions of novels I like from online writers I have been reading religiously.

I am an avid reader. I read news, articles and books. Lots of books. I spent a fortune on them more than on anything I have. Like clothes or shoes, gadgets etc. I buy tons of books I will be reading five years from now. I don’t go anywhere without a book attached to my armpit. Armpit? Lol. I have more books than furniture. In my cupboard instead of food you will find neatly stacked copies of classics, books written by Jane Austen, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hemingway, and their contemporaries. In my closet competing with my clothes for space are books by Umberto Eco, Marco Polo, Salman Rushdie, Naguib Mahfouz, Orhan Pamuk, Gabriel Garcia Marquez…( I have a long list and I don’t want to bore you with it). . .so yeah, I love books.

But I am unable to read books for entertainment so definitely I would never pick up a book like’ Fifty Shades of Trash’. I apologize for being a book snob. But more than money I do not want to waste my time reading something insipid which for sure will fail to evoke strong emotions in me nor will illustrate life and living in the truest sense. I no longer indulge in fantasies. I don’t want to escape from reality. I want to know it, shred it piece by piece, inhale it, bathe in it and let it seep in my pores until I reek of it. So. (shrugs)

I say future of book writing because after reading bit and pieces of wonderfully crafted stories or even just beautifully strung phrases from bloggers I came to the conclusion that yes if they have a book available online I would want to read it. And I would be willing to  pay for it.

Blogging is the reality TV of the literary world. And I have seen a few Kim Kardashians in here.

Day by day I watched these men and women spew genius online. And so close at hand not some remote obscure author I heard from a review or from a friend. Feeling even some delusion that I am developing some kind kinship with them. They are reachable, breathing, living, human authors not just a name below the title of a novel. They respond when I reach out and show appreciation of their works.

I felt a sudden shift of attitude towards the kind of books I will read from now on. Of course I will still buy books from my favorite famous authors but those are few and far between so in the meantime I would gladly watch out for future ebook publications from my favorite bloggers.

©JMKhapra

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The Confining Walls Of Our Beliefs

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” I think you should not marry him.” Bonnie said emphatically. I looked at her sadly. She was my last hope. Her opinion being the last sign from which my decision would be based upon. Yes, in days of confusion and indecisions, I too fell in the trap of ” looking for signs ” while contemplating a pertinent problem in want of a solution. Needless to say these signs only led to more confusion and further indecisions.

Bonnie sighed, her face contorted with remembered pain. ” Marriage had not been easy for a Christian woman like me marrying into a family with a different religion.”

We were sitting in her spacious bedroom at that moment but when first I came to her house and was introduced to her in laws I did not sense any tension between them at all. I wondered what she was talking about.

” My father -in-law had beaten my husband black and blue when he insisted on marrying me.” she continued. My eyes widened.

It was unfathomable for me how a grown man can be beaten by his father. But apparently in that country it is quite common.

I met Bonnie when I went for a Sunday mass in a Christian Church in the city. Praying in an empty church has always been my one solace every time my life is caught in a whirlwind. At that time I was in the middle of a milder thunderstorm and like a guardian angel she sat by my side. My face must have been as gloomy as the church interior for she asked, ” What’s bothering you child?” My answer was a quivering sigh. Tears held at bay, brimming at the eyelids where one kind word would send them cascading down my cheeks. She patted my hands and whispered to me that I should meet her after service.

Salty water burst forth like in a broken dam from my eyes when finally I related to her the whole story, sitting in a room at the second floor of the church where she taught Sunday school for children. With a motherly sympathy she told me she will pray for me and my troubles. And she will ponder over the situation and would call me if she has an answer for me. She called after a few days. So there I sat in front of her while she dashed my hopes and dreams over coffee.

Bonnie is a beautiful tall woman from the North. She could easily been an actress or a model in my opinion. She has those perfect cheekbones and soulful light eyes with a curtain of the thickest lashes I’ve ever seen. With her beauty complemented by her tender heart, it was easy to see why her husband fought tooth and nail to keep her. Their relationship endured countless attempts of separation from her husband’s family but without success. They even threatened to disown her husband. But nothing fazed them. Against all odds they wed and are now blessed with three kids.

” I insisted we marry in a Christian church. Afterwards I fought hard to remain Christian. I did not convert. My faith is all I had. It is my choice. The only thing left of my independence . I held on to it.” I could feel the passion she had for her faith very strongly. I wondered If they beat her up for that too. She did not hint on it throughout the conversation but I thought it was more than probable.

” But then came the children.” Pain flitted in her eyes once more.

” Though my husband never asked me to convert, my in-laws of course would never allow my children to be Christians. This is one fight I could never win. I could never get them baptized. That tears at my heart. How will I save them from eternal damnation? I had to sneaked them out of the house when they were babies just so I can take them to the church. To know the Lord.”

She looked intently into my eyes. ” You don’t want that to happen to you.”

I was speechless. I could not answer her. She was right. It will affect the children’s lives most of all. Which belief would the children cling to before they can choose one for themselves? I said goodbye to her with a heavy heart. Still undecided and all the more confused. I walked away dazed with questions in my head . Plunged in deep reflection.

At the heights of love everything seems so carefree, even childlike in its wantonness . So what was I doing in the middle of something so serious, an issue that keeps polarizing nations apart? Whose God is the real God? Or if there is one? And which religion leads to everlasting life? And again if that is even possible? Why should we give up one for another? Why does it keep pulling people apart instead of together? It was all so complicated. Besides the culture barrier, there is religious barriers too. Why do people constantly build walls to keep each other out? Is elitism such an inborn trait? If other religions do not want Christians in their flock, some Christian are not any better in accepting others too. My ardent Christian friends back home gave me stern advice against marrying outside the faith. Frowning at me, I felt the sting of their scorn for beliefs different from theirs. How ironic. Jesus himself right there written in the bible mingled with everybody. He was the coolest dude who does not possess on single elitist bone in his body.

Without an answer to my dilemma I was only left with a conclusion that maybe people do feel safe if they belong to one “CLUB” or the other. And they fear that someone who does not clearly belong to one is dangerous and must be avoided.

©JMKhapra

A Gathering of Minds

painting by Jofelyn M. Khapra

 

A gentle ray of sun fell on the blooming bushes and trees. A cheerful sight to behold after the gloom the rainy days brought forth. The air was fresh with the scent of newly washed grass. I walked past the iron wrought pavilion shawled in ivy vines and yellow bells, towards an enclosed section of the garden. The circular row of cypress trees standing  in full  attention looked verdant and well nourished after the monsoon. Well trimmed lawn carpeted the green cocoon and decorated with a row of white wicker chairs around a pristine long white table. On it, sparkling under the yellow light streaming down from the azure sky were a collections of my finest tea cups and tea pots amidst an assortment of tea time goodies; red velvet cupcakes, chocolate chip muffin, chocolate truffles, slices of cheese cakes, danish, lemon tarts, eclairs and oatmeal cookies. Fresh flowers plucked from the nursery blushed profusely against the immaculate table cloth. I smiled and sighed with deep satisfaction. I sat on my favorite chair at the left corner at the far end of the table granting a full view of all my friends who shortly would be arriving.

Painting by Jofelyn M. Khapra

I pour my self a cup of Darjeeling tea and opened the IPad with child like anticipation. Out came from WordPress’ portal the Poet, carrying with him beautiful sentiments of the day. Together with his melodious musing he sat comfortably on my side, listening entranced I offered him a cup of Chamomile tea. With boisterous laughter the Story Teller burst out inducing much hilarity. Pacing to and pro a humorous tale she related. The garden reverberated with peals of our laughter, competing with birds chirping in the trees. Clutching our stomachs we were helpless with gaiety. Silence! Cried the Critic who sneaked in on us. ” You are all wrong and I am right!” With angry stride and forceful remonstration his rhetoric went on and on. Arrogant might be his words but it did trumpeted loudly with truth. He cleared his throat upon conclusion. Black coffee he demanded. Scrambling to my feet I searched for the bitter brew. A stronger caffeine I knew will be requested.

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” Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.” Uttered a voice of  Reason. So softly but firm it was almost a whisper. A gentle hush fell over the table. Even the Critic turned his attention to the new comer. With awe in our faces we absorbed the wisdom he imparted. Peace filled our being. Eyes turned towards the horizon we were lost in deep contemplation.

When we were exhausted with words the Artists soothed our eyes with their visual creativity. The most wondrous photographs were passed around followed by the echoes of oohs and aahs. Worked of arts painted the garden with kaleidoscopic hues. Our eyes drunk in nectar of those beautiful creations.

With such lively company the hours sped by easily.  Soon it was noon and time to bade adieu. Far too hot to sit under the sun much longer. With a promise to see each other again the next day each went on their merry way.

painting by Jofelyn M. Khapra

Now that the gathering was over, I was overcome with regret. Wanting to kick my behind I asked myself, where was I ? What have I been doing all this while? What took me so long to join this community? Many pleasurable hours were spent in the garden alone ravishing books one after the other but exchanges of thoughts bring titillating delights. I am energized. Infused with vitality after such communion I felt like a well oiled machine at the height of my creativity.

My fellow bloggers this is my ode to all of you. Thank you for gracing my home every morning with your  intimate musings  and witticisms and thank you for enriching my life with your beautiful thoughts and truths daily. I am much obliged to you. Have a great weekend.

©JMKhapra

Painting by Jofelyn M. Khapra

Conquering The Terror Called Rothang Pass ( Himalayas)

 

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Rothang Pass. No two words can send my heart in a flurry of panic. I realized I have not known physical fear prior to hearing about this place. Until now the lingering memory of the horror I felt after crossing that treacherous peak is so vivid I still think twice about navigating back there every time an offer comes my way. Even on a four wheel drive and even if what lay beyond is paradise. The dread that grips my heart is a vise severely difficult to pry.

What does fear tastes like? It tastes of bitter sour bile regurgitating on your throat from a deluge in your stomach induced by a rampaging tornado that is your heart. It dries your mouth. It numbs your body. If empties your mind. Zombified by fright, leaving Manali behind, we climbed 13,000 feet of snaking, snowy, slippery, wet and extremely anorexic roads towards Rothang Pass. It was the first mountain pass but the most dangerous one we have to overcome to reach the Himalayas. Dangers from melting snow, crumbling roads, stupid drivers and bad luck.

I felt trapped seated behind my husband. There was no choice but to hang on while I contemplated on the possibility of survival upon falling down those surrealistically vertical cliffs. Not a single tree to break my fall. Braving a peek downwards I concluded that chances were nil. Though once in a while snatches of heaven broke the monotony of anxiety. Here and there snow whipped lush green foliage ornamented the mountain side. Generous spray of water falling, melting snow cascading down the rocks. Breathtaking beauty I could not fully appreciate. My concentration was dedicated to the minimization of my breathing as to not upset the balance of our two wheeled drive. The one controlling the bike was confident as we sped up leaving a trail of SUVs full of tourists, being driven rowdily as if we were on a busy intersection in Chandi Chowk. Without a slight consideration that one wrong turn can send them plummeting into the abyss. Present too was that infernal honking agitating my already jarred senses.

Despite the pandemonium of military trucks, cars, people and herds of sheep I could almost see the top as we continued our ascent. Thinking relief was due I finally relaxed. But I was just about to loosen my grip on my husband’s waist when all of a sudden we found ourselves face to face with frozen solid snow walls after an abrupt turn. My husband lost his balance. We skidded on a sleet blanketing the asphalt. We were pinned under the bike in the middle of the road. I stood up immediately while my husband tried to lift the fallen beast to stop the oil spilling from the tilted fuel tank. I saw him struggling as his feet kept slipping on the icy gravel every time he tried to put upright the muscular motorcyle and climb it. I stilled the panic rising in my throat. The instict to survive surpassed the fear I indulged in throughout the ride. The scene below made my whole body trembled. I dismissed it. Quick thinking was required. Fast approaching was a procession of all the cars we left behind. They saw us but none cared. None would stop for us. They’ll not sacrifice momentum for our safety. I understood. I grasped the rear end of the bike to keep myself from sliding while my right foot checked the road for dry spots. Sans snow, sleet or ice. I made sure the soles of my boots gripped the ground firmly . I suggested to my husband he can straighten the bike over at my side. Agreeing, he pushed and I pulled. In no time we were safely on the side while cars whizzed by us. The drivers looking dumbfounded but not one was sympathetic.

Back on top of the humbled beast, relieved to be alive a nervous laughter escaped from me. Elated that the accident did not result in fatality. My husband patted my thigh and whispered. ” Are you okay honey?” I nodded happily and hugged him from behind. He thanked me for staying calm and clear headed then we rode on to struggle more against huge boulders, water and ice. Once or twice the bike got stuck and I had to pushed, shove and nudge but the apprehension was no longer the same. Once terror was faced and dealt with, one realizes it is not as horrifying as one imagined. Four more passes we had to cross. One higher than the other. Each filled with different tales of horror but similar to anything else in life we could not have reached heaven if we didn’t go through hell.

The Challenge

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The Prize

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And This

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©JMKhapra

Rants of A Sleep Deprived Video Editor

I was sitting at the editor’s lounge sipping a cup coffee trying to keep myself awake after enduring a not-a wink-of sleep one week editing marathon when one of the editors I worked with sat beside me. Mr. Editor has been friendly with me since I started working for this company, if not over friendly. But hey, I tend to like everybody I meet until they piss me off.

” Editor A won’t work with me. I think he is jealous of me.” he declared looking forlorn. ” He asked Mrs. Supervisor to remove me from the project.”

Now us editors get paid by the number of hours we edit a tv show, music videos, documentaries or video presentations. If you are really good at your job and don’t think sleep is important then you’ll earn a lot of money in a short time. If a producer offers you to edit a daily or weekly program as the master editor then you hit the jackpot. No need to worry when the next project is coming along. Plus you get to choose who you work with. Most of us relied either on our skill or charm to get signed up for a job. Some producers feel better working with one editor over another. Efficiency regardless.

So back to Mr. Editor. I knew what he was getting at. I was sleep deprived for one week because I was working on a new tv show launching in two days. It was a daily show. And I was the master editor. I already selected the editors I would be working with and discussed their corresponding editing schedules with Mrs. Supervisor. I knew Mr. Editor wanted me to include him. I also noticed that yes Editor A have some kind of an attitude problem. So I felt sorry for Mr. Editor and I also thought his editing skill was up to par. He might be of help to me. How wrong was I.

The pilot episode of my new daily show was a success when we first aired it on tv. We got the highest tv rating for that day compared to the other tv programs in the same network. The editing was flawless, remarked the Master of Master editors. The producers and the CEOs were ecstatic. But the pressure was escalating for me and my team. We needed to whip up the same amount of effort with less amount of time everyday.

Being an OCD editor (obsessive compulsive disorder) is not a disadvantage but a must. One typo can get you fired. How often did I cringe when I watched my work finally showing on television. My heart palpitated every time. Watching out for a jump cut ( when you don’t cut the video properly and one frame gets in between frames), a bad dissolve or a spelling typo. These kind of errors that I might have neglected to check give me nightmares when finally I am able to sleep. To avoid those I went over each videos as much as I can or as much time allowed me to. For this particular program I designed a uniformed look through out the one hour show. Subtlety and neatness added an elegant touch to this otherwise tacky tv series. I could not emphasize these enough to my co-editors who were working on each fifteen minutes content of the program. The four of them would edit one video each and I would then whisk the whole thing together for the perfect finish. Sounds easy? Most of the time I ended up re-editing all of the videos, embed graphics and if I was really unlucky lay in the musical scoring as well . I would be working until only a minute is left before the show needed to air on tv. I could not even excuse myself to pee. Waiting outside were producers who were ready to be wheeled to a hospital suffering from a heart attack. One almost did. I am talking millions of money flushing down the drain if we don’t get the show on tv on time. The show’s sponsor spots were filled. It takes very little to alienate the advertisers.

Mr. Editor started working with us and decided that he was better than all of us and that his fifteen minute video should stand out. So he peppered the frames with flashy wipes and mtv-ish transitions. Transitions are graphic designs we used to change from one scene to another. Sometimes if he was in a generous mood he’ll put color tints on scenes regardless if it was appropriate but just because, hey man, it’s cool. Rad. High five.

Needless to say my blood pressure skyrocketed every time I would receive his videos. Yes, more coffee please but instead of sugar mixed it with Redbull.

When a batch of interns descended upon us, I hit the roof. One night on his shift I saw him curled in a sleeping bag with an intern doing his job. He got a sound lashing from my coffee/ Redbull laced tongue. Next morning he ran crying to Mrs. Supervisor and told her I am meany and I was bullying him. The nerve! Like me once upon a time, Mrs. Supervisor felt sorry for him. She asked me to meet her for coffee (more coffee was just what I needed before I turned into a lunatic) and related to me what all Mr. Editor lamented to her. I sounded like an Editor-zilla from his account of what had happened. Wearily, I tried to explain my side but I don’t think I changed Mrs. Supervisor’s perception of me as a fire spitting dragon.

Of course I stopped talking to Mr. Editor after that and I realized nobody wanted to work with him because it was impossible to work with him but somehow he always ended up being the victim. We did manage to acknowledge each other with a slight nod of the head when we happen to pass by each other on the hallway of the new editing suite but that’s after a couple years when I have sort of forgotten what he did. But as you can see not really.

A Queen Without A Castle

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Illustration by Harry Clarke

The old do envy the young indeed! These budding blossoms primed for the adventures of life. Their first kisses, first heartbreak and first love thrills. Awakening to truth and clarity is not far behind. Some will embark on a futile search for the meaning of life. Then in frustrations will hurl infinite questions that have no answers. Oh the passions and the disillusionments that will oscillate their body and souls. Those were my thoughts as I gazed upon an elderly lady from across the flat who was watching wistfully the young girls playing in the park. Three generations of women, the past, present and future, we were like the circle of life representations.

Quite frequently in the afternoons I see her sitting elegantly in her balcony. Her dignified head titled slightly. I could see she must have been very beautiful once. Her features are regal. An arrogant nose softened by doe like eyes.

I often made up stories in my head about her past. Of how this aristocratic personage had fallen in deep destitution. Their flat was the shabbiest among the colony. Paint chipping off the wall. Undusted windows and lopsided walls.The abode is decorated with lonely ornaments of neglect. A stark contrast to her constant well heeled appearance. My imagination led me to a possibility that she maybe born into nobility. A princess who was dethroned in a bitter twist of fate. She eloped with a poor man, perhaps? I am always amused seeing her with royal bearing alighting from her beat up Maruti Suzuki as if she’s stepping out from a golden carriage. Lifting her shimmering floor length Shalwar Kameez gracefully, she would ascend the stairs as if on the top a throne was waiting for her.

Continue reading “A Queen Without A Castle”

When Days Were Young And Filled With Laughter

Illustrated by Umberto Brunnelesci

Summer had come and the sun was at its brightest but the wind was cool still. A group of friends decided it was too nice a day to spend inside a classroom. A plan was formed. We will all meet at my house and proceed to a nearby waterfalls. Ton ton falls it was called. The house where I lived during high school was inside the campus and my parents worked there. Ten paces from the abode was one of the gates to the compound with a shade from which my friends would be waiting until my parents depart for work. We were skipping classes that day so my parents could not know or we would all be busted. Ate Luz, a cousin of mine now deceased, God bless her soul, was one of the conspirators. As soon as mother and father were out of sight I beckoned my friends to come, all of them more or less a dozen, to the house to prepare for the adventure. It was going to be more than an hour walk through a jungle. Ate Luz then proceed to cook our picnic food. Chicken Adobo included.

Continue reading “When Days Were Young And Filled With Laughter”

A Mysterious Death In The Village

Rahul sat restless besides his mother. He could not understand why she would not allow him to go out and celebrate with his friends. He missed watching the final match on tv and did not see how the game was won. The whole country was gripped by cricket fever yet their village was silent as a tomb. Comparing it to a tomb he thought was appropriate since someone had died. Someone important. An old man who was look upon as a benign leader of the community. His death was gruesome and kind of strange. Leaving the villagers mystified and puzzled. But Rahul did not really know him and he found it hard to mourn for a man he have not even met. And that it happened in the most inconvenient time. The fireworks from other villages lighting the sky every now and then were an irritating reminder of what he was missing.

” The bull was there watching from outside the hospital when babaji was taken there. As if making sure he was dead.” One of the old ladies whispered through her ghunghat. The women sitting with her including his mother clucked their tongues in horror and amazement. ” And again the bull appeared in the crematorium when they were burning his body.” The women shuddered. “Eh bagwan!” (Oh my god). One of them muttered. Rahul stood up feeling impatient with the women’s superstitious tales. He wanted to know what was happening in the rest of the country. He could only imagine that everyone’s heart like him was filled with pride for his nation’s cricket team. It took after all a very very long time before they could take home the World Cup trophy again. Continue reading “A Mysterious Death In The Village”

The Merdog In Bhimtal

I was watching him nervously. It was his first time to be on the boat. I could feel his excitement and anxiety as he tried to decide what to do. The boat rocked as he leaned on the edge. I was afraid he would tip the boat over as he leaned closer and closer to the water, it seemed to be calling him, urging him to come to them. His water-dog genes over powered him finally. The blasted canine did it. He jumped in the water! In under a minute Babar, our beloved Labrador, was already  thirty meters away from us. I laughed nervously, so did my husband as we watched him propel his body through the water guided by some primal instinct. I felt proud too though, seeing him swam with ease like an Olympic swimmer. He looked so graceful, so beautiful.

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Because it was Babar’s first time to swim when he retuned to his senses he got overwhelmed. He swam back apprehensively towards the boat. Sandeep helped him climb the boat. He happily shook his thoroughly drenched body once he was safely aboard sprinkling lake water all over us.

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We were then on a boat at Bhimtal Lake in Bhimtal, where we were spending our three day holiday. Bhimtal is in Uttrakhand, India and is just about 7 hours from Delhi by car. It is a nice, green and hilly place with several lakes in the vicinity. This sleepy town remains peaceful and quiet despite it being a popular tourist destination. The weather was nice and cool especially on the hillside where we were staying, just outside the main town area.

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rrWe found a very nice pet friendly accommodation by the hillside. A pretty cottage with is own huge backyard with a fence. The fence was helpful as Babar could roam freely around without troubling the other guests. The cottage that we rented was the owner’s holiday place suited for living with his own dogs.

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Emerald Trail Homestay offers more rooms in the adjacent two-storey house. We were relieved to find that these two properties were separated by a fence and a gate. Babar will not able to scare the other guests who are not fond of dogs. All our meals and Babar’s as well were included in the  3,500 rupees per night room charge (as of August 2014).

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After this trip, seeing how Babar loved swimming in the lake, we wondered if he’ll enjoy swimming in the sea too. So we took him to Pondycherry and Goa. Did he love it there? Well that’s another tale for another time.

A Dog’s Life

 

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After a decadent sleep, Babar woke up and stretched languorously on the carpeted floor. Lazily, he walked over to his food bowl. A full plate of shredded boiled chicken meat was waiting for him. He gulped it all down greedily in seconds. He walked around from room to room looking for his owners. They irritated him sometimes by not walking him more often and by not giving him all the tasty food he likes all the time . He hated it that they put him on a strict diet and were too cautious about him getting fat. He was too young to think about all that. He retaliates by biting their feet and hands when he does not get what he wants. He even learned a new trick of barking at them to receive a speedy response to his demands. Grinning, he was pleased to think about how easily he can manipulate them.

The need to relieve his bladder made him restless. Where could his people be? he wondered. Walking towards the front yard he did a double take when he saw the gate. It was wide open. His owners, no where in sight. He hated being cooped up inside the house. This was his chance. He dashed for freedom.

Lifting his right hind leg, he watered the nearest bush with great satisfaction. A female dog saw him and ran excitedly to greet him. After smelling each other front and back, Babar went on his way. It was a Sunday morning and most of the residents in the community were having tea and reading newspapers in their balconies or gardens. A common indolent sight in his neighborhood.

Walking further he came across a white cocker spaniel accompanied by a young pretty girl in shorts and flip flops. The immaculate canine looked too posh he felt shy all of a sudden. He always rushes towards another dog whenever he sees one but at that moment he was overcome with awe at this cotton like apparition . He just stood there mystified. With an arrogant flip of her tail the fluffy dog strutted away. Babar shrugged and walked on.

An old woman in a beige Salwar Kameez suit stopped on her tracks when she saw him. Babar was feeling naughty and thought of scaring the woman even more. He ran towards her as if to jump. The woman shrieked loudly almost shattering his eardrums. He abandoned the idea. The woman muttered invectives towards his owners and with angry steps walked towards the direction of his house. Babar grinned, unconcerned. Not his problem.

His adventurous steps finally led him to the main gate of the housing estate. It was also wide open that day. Should he or shouldn’t he? Excitement tripled the beating of his heart. He has not been outside the gated community by himself before. He decided to go for it. The street was deserted. Before him were long stretches of roads as far as he could see. And only one or two cars passed by with long intervals every now and then. He ran to his heart’s content. He was having so much fun he failed to notice the scenery changing. Gone was the pathway lined with pretty trees and the neatly trimmed bushes. Instead, rotting mangled cars decorated the road. Garbage strewed all around.

Walking slowly now he saw a man and a woman in front of a house made of two blankets tied to a tree forming a tent. The woman wearing a sari clutched a bare bottomed child to her bosom while making tea on a makeshift stove of rocks and woods. Flies buzzing around them. Two slightly older kids were rummaging through a dumpster nearby. Diligently sorting through the trash for any edible scraps they could find. With them was a pack of stray dogs. Babar walked hesitantly towards them. He snipped what they were snipping.  He thought the mutts must be eating something tasty seeing them ate with gusto. He saw an empty packet of milk. He loved milk. His owners always take  the discarded milk packet he steals from the trash away from his mouth when they see him chewing on it. He was about to grab the plastic pack with his mouth when a thin brown dog noticed him.

” Hey you! You selfish bastard! Are you not from inside that place?” He barked, indicating with his nose the row of flats inside the colony. All the dogs were looking at him now, baring their teeth. Babar changed his stance. The hair on his back raised aggressively.

” Look how fat you are! You must be eating all those fancy food. What are you doing here stealing our scrap? We have to fend for ourselves you know! These leftovers are barely enough for all of us.” growled the black mongrel. Walking with deliberate slowness around him with a menacing expression on his face. Babar did not show it but fear was spreading in his limbs. Five dogs with hatred on their faces surrounded him, their postures geared for a fight.

” He must be one of those who even sleeps on his owner’s bed. Look how clean he is. How shiny his fur is.” sneered a white bitch with a patch of black in one eye. They all laughed at him.

Before they could attack him, Babar jumped over the tiniest dog and ran for his life. He didn’t stop running until he was inside the gate of his society. He saw madness on those canines’ eyes. They were going to rip him apart. His heart thundered in his chest.

“Babar!” He heard a familiar comforting voice calling him and he ran towards the source of that maternal sound like a wanderer in the desert seeing a pool of water. He jumped inside the wide open arms of his caretaker. ” You made us so worried. Where did you go? Honey he is over here.” she called out to her husband.

Babar licked the face of his master gratefully when finally his master called him over to him. The master patted his head lovingly. ” I think my boy had learned a very important lesson today.” Babar wagged his tail in agreement.

Sometimes we need a little freedom to make mistakes so we can  value  more the life we are given.

(*Housing estate or gated communities are called colonies or societies around here, well according to my husband.) ©JMKhapra

Babar And Leela Illustration Series: Carnival

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“Introducing The Amazing Duo, Babar and Leela!”

Babar and Leela illustration series
(Watercolour 36×48 cm)

Babar and Leela illustration series

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“Thank you for taking me along this route,Babar. This lily field is gorgeous. You are enjoying your swim, I hope?”

Babar and Leela Illustration Series
(Watercolour 36×48 cm)

Babar And Leela Illustration series

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“Thank you for pushing me around the pond, Babar. It’s so delightful to be out here on such a lovely day, isn’t?”
(Watercolour 36×48 cm)