The Guardian Angels Among Us

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I was in my late twenties and had made some very poor decisions in my young life. I was too curios about the complexities of the world ( as I briefly mentioned in my previous post) that I ventured to explore even the dark corners of it. I did not willingly go there but the choices I made led me to unfamiliar paths which opened my eyes to the truth that bad people do exist in real life, not only in movies and books. That they are capable of purposely hurting you just for the fun of it. People born in normal middle class families like myself sometimes suffer from boredom making them crave for the thrill of the unknown. I will not go into the details of what atrocities I had unfortunately witnessed in my life because what ever those were, it is nothing compared to the experience of those who suffered torture and abuse but it was also bad enough to make feel sick and disillusioned about the world and its creatures. And because this post is not about cruelty but about kindness. This is a story of an unexpected kindness from a friend who unknowingly saved me from my self inflicted destitution.

David was a colleague from the second company I worked for. He was seven years younger than me and my female friends in the office. We sort of treated him like a younger brother. We discussed women issues around him as if he was one of the girls. He did not mind it. He was fun to be around and made us laugh all the time. We were fond of him. He went with us on lunch dates and coffee breaks even though he was the only boy in our group. Which sometimes made some of our other male co-workers jealous. And he is not gay as one might assume. He did went out with his own group of male friends when he was not with us. He is married now with kids. Some men are like that, they get along with girls very well platonically.

When that start up television company we were working for went bust, I and my friends in that office including David eventually drifted apart. He showed talent in his work and soon found a lucrative employment for himself. Meanwhile my life went on a downward spiral. After a year, I found myself unemployed, homeless and stalked by an ex-boyfriend gone temporarily insane due to a heavy addiction to drugs. My parents knew my ex and liked him before everything went bad. Protecting my parents from worry and heartache I decided to hide the truth from them. I was already living separately from them since I got my first job and didn’t want to move back home. Another bad decision.

I slept on my friends’ couches alternately for almost a month while looking for a new job until shame overcame me. I was not getting any luck on the job hunt as the country was suffering from a very bad recession that year. Living in the city has become very expensive. Sometimes I ended up sleeping on church benches without a penny in my pocket. There was a week I went without a proper meal when I maxed out my credit card limit. I survived on water and cup noodles. There was a couple of days without nothing at all.

Then I remembered David. He was employed in a big company last time I spoke with him. I called him to ask if there was any vacancy in his office or if they needed a freelancer. He told me he had already left the tv network and was doing freelance jobs himself. Times were tough for him as well.

I had gone very quiet after he told me this. I thought I was going to faint. He was my last hope. I did not tell him how desperate I was. I am just that sort of person. I hate obliging others to help me. I was about to thank him for his time when he spoke again.

” Jofs, I got a call from this company asking me to edit a one hour tv documentary. The fee is good. I need the money but I think you need it more than I do.”

Trembling and silently crying, I noted down the address he gave me. My interview went well the next day and with the help of David’s recommendation I got the job. The downpayment the production house gave me was enough to pay for a two month advance for a bed space I wanted to rent. Then even before the project was finished I was offered a permanent job for a big company with a very handsome salary package. The recession has also ended. The economy was back on its feet. Soon, I moved in a one bedroom apartment and I was able to put my life back in order. But I could never forget how David threw me a lifeline without even being aware of it. We met a couple of years after that phone call over coffee and when I told him how he saved me, he was amused that I was making such a big deal out of it.

” But it’s what friends do. ” He said shrugging.

He even insisted on paying for the coffee!

-JMKhapra

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

In addition to paintings Grecian, Roman, Baroque, Byzantine, Renaissance, Mughal, Victorian and Gothic architecture also fascinate me. I am in awe of the ornate carvings and designs of these buildings. I can spend one whole day just staring and studying the beautiful patterns of its facade, pillars,walls ceilings, doors and windows.

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Duomo Cathedral Church in Florence, Italy.

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Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Italy

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Base of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

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Palais Garnier Opera house in Paris, France.

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Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, Rajasthan

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Taj Mahal, India

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Intricate patterns on Taj Mahal’ s exterior wall.

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Rashprati Bhawan, New Delhi. ( Indian President’s Residence area )

Arts And Crafts At Dili Haat

Dili Haat is one of my favorite places to shop in Delhi. A variety of traditional Indian arts and crafts; handcrafted fabrics and handloooms are available in this market everyday for a very reasonable price. And you can haggle too even as low as half of the price they are quoting for you!

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

I am a mountain baby. I grew up in a community on top of a hill. A cliff on top of a mountain is my sacred place. An borderless space to breathe, to contemplate and to rejuvenate. Some of my fondest adolescent memories are those solitary moments I sat on the edge of a mountain looking down at a small village below. At one particular cottage with a garden of yellow roses, in between mango trees. I remember the air up there was always crispy with a bit of chill. And that the village and the surrounding forest was sometimes blanketed with fog. 20130505-141344.jpg

Now that for many years I became a city dweller I have never been at ease in the plains. If not towards the sea I keep running to the hills.

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I love heights. This is at Tanglang la pass at 5300 plus meters in the Himalayas. Second highest motorable road in the world.

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An oasis in the desert in Ladakh.

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From the top of a volcanic hill in Coron, Palawan.

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Fresh water lake on top of that volcanic hill.

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Halfway Tungnath Trek in Chopta, Uttrakhand

When An Artist Captures Your Imagination And Your Soul

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The piece of art that an artist creates is an expression of his inner self, his thoughts, his beliefs; How he sees the world and everything on it. If his work touches you in any way, your emotions, sentiments and intellect; the artist has succeeded in seducing you to look at the world from his point of view and you might never look at it the same way again.

Copyright 2013JMKhapra

Oil on canvas ‘ Surajkund Mela at the Gates’ by JMKhapra

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

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The ‘hippie’ culture is very much alive in Pushkar, a town in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

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Pushkar,one of the oldest cities in India (just two and half hour away from Jaipur) is tagged as a ‘hippie haven’ where you can find a large number of local and foreign hippies. According to some they visited the place during the Holi festival and ended up staying permanently.

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This man is a Sadhu though, not a hippie. Sadhus are sanyasi, or renunciates, who have left behind all material attachments and live in caves, forests and temples all over India and Nepal.( Wikipedia)

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Colorful ottomans with ornate Rajasthani mirror work among some of the arts and crafts that can be purchased on the street bazaar.
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A camel ride at Pushkar festival.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

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A street performance at the Indian festival called ‘Surajkund Mela’

This annual festival is a pure delight to the senses as you are greeted with lively and colorful performances and serenaded with folk music while you gape at the beautiful and ornate, ethnic Indian/Mughal decorations all around the amphitheater near a man made lake. This mela showcases the finest handcrafted fabrics, arts and craft from all over India. Also adding to the total Indian cultural experience are the aromas of different Indian cuisine wafting in the air coming from the numerous food stalls in the area.

The festival is named after an ancient reservoir of the 10th century located at Faridabad, Haryana in India built by the Tomar king Suraj Pal of Tomar dynasty; a sun worshiper who also built a sun temple on the lake’s western banks. Surajkund literally means ‘ lake of the sun’ and mela means ‘festival’ in hindi.

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

Conquering The Terror Called Rothang Pass in the Himalayas on Two Wheels

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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