Monday, 24 November 2014

A Wait In the Salon

                               Woman with Beauty Salon vector 05
                                                           Courtesy Google Image

     I waited patiently for someone to attend to my scraggly hair that was growing independently in every perceivable direction. It was quite an enjoyable wait though, observing the hair being streaked, lips contorting to accommodate the thread neatly plucking out those abominable little hair growing in the wrong places. What business does cilia  have on the upper lips? The look of bliss as another surrendered the feet in the warm soapy water to be cleaned, caressed and plumped up. Tired housewives looking for minutes of succour before the brats of all sizes barged back through the front doors. Stressed out working women probably making the most of a day off. Everyone looked relaxed except the aproned, nimble fingered girls working behind the chairs.The air conditioner hummed discreetly along with the soothing music being played. A faint squeak of the front door gently whispered the entry of another customer. A young bright eyed  mother walked in with a chubby and cute eight year old. The mistress of the parlour turned her chemical blond head from a hair styling she was attending to. With a smile plastered on her face she cooed, "Oh! After such a long time! So, how was your trip?" 
" Oh! It was good you know!" the shrill voice of the mother sang along.
" Where did you go? Thailand? " asked the mistress of the parlour taking a few seconds off her work.
" No! No! We went to Kathmandu this time."
" Ya, I have also been to Kathmandu so many times. It is always nice. Did you manage to go to the Temple?" asked the mistress looking over her rimless specs. Her tattooed arms moved expertly over the young girl's hair, snipping away a bit of hair here and there, and gesturing to one of the trainees to offer a glass of water to the young mother and the child, all at the same time.
" The trip was good and we had a good darshan at the Temple. It was only the return that was exasperating!" exclaimed the young mother in a snug pair of jeans and t-shirt, both a size too small. A thick gold chain slung around the neck was clamouring for attention. She tossed her hair back
  A raised eyebrow over green shaded eye lids of the mistress was all the cue she needed to spill the words that she was dying to blurt.
" You know how they are at the immigration. 'Are you bringing back any gold?' 'Please, declare any gold.' Oof! There was no respite! Did we look like smugglers or what?" the young mother declared and looked around carefully without seeming to look around, to see the effect.
 The air conditioner hummed on. The other customers were deeply buried in some old issues of the Stardust or Femina. Some had their ear plugs on. A tattoo machine was inking a rose on a supple arm.  I looked out of the floor length window at the traffic jostling by quietly, enjoying every bit of the conversation.
The young mother continued in a voice one notch higher, " I don't have to bring gold from Kathmandu. I have enough here and no place to keep. Pinky! Stop fidgeting with the dryer and jumping around!" she admonished her child who was looking for something to keep her occupied. And Pinky gave one long mournful look to her mother before going through a door to explore the room beyond. Stretched out on two of the beds were  ladies in their forties and sixties, eyes weighed down with cucumber slices over cotton swabs and faces masked in a ghostly greenish layer, in a desperate bid to bring back the glow of the yesteryears.

"... If I have to buy gold I will bring it from Dubai during that Dubai Shopping festival" the young mother continued her supposed indignant conversation with the immigration officials whom she had left behind at the Nepal border a month back.
" Hmmm, the next time  wear an imitation chain while going to Dubai and wear the real one on your return. That way they will not say anything" suggested the green lidded mistress. " So, what will you get done today?" she finally asked getting down to business.
" Oh! Today let it be only a hair wash and a body polish and massage. It is so difficult to wash and manage the hair at home. People do lose weight with the massage, don't they?" queried the young mother.
" Oh yes, they do! Only you have to be regular with it. If you stop in between, it all comes back, you know!" said the mistress taking a long hard look at the young mother, over her rimless specs, before going back to the last few strokes of blow drying the newly stylised hair.

 The young mother settled herself into a plush chair  next to the floor length window with an old issue of Women's Era. Pulling down her T shirt that kept riding up and stretching out her legs in the too tight jeans she called out " Pinky! Pinky!! Come and let aunty wash your hair and give you a massage!"

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Trip To Tukreswari


     It took me fourteen years to set foot on this place although I whizzed past it every year with the same refrain coming from the driver's seat.
 " This is where the king of the monkeys lives!"
Ever since I went past this hauntingly beautiful hillock as a bride, Tukreshwari was just a name tagged with the same story of monkeys. It was made out to be the land of monkeys as many places of worship tend to be. And the image I conjured up was a hillock teeming with the simian lot at every step. Anecdotes abounded of the many antics of our four legged ancestors. But strangely very few of those people, from whom I heard these, had actually ventured up there for a first hand experience.

A view of a distant hillock 

    And so one sultry afternoon, we set out from Goalpara town for Tukreswari which is about 25km away on the NH 37. Yes, it was that close and yet it took me 14 years to finally reach that place. From afar the hillock looked formidable with dark hued rocks and boulders jutting out from dense foliage. I was always under the impression that this rocky hillock probably had no trail that would take one to the top. Influenced by the stories and a far away perspective can so hamper the reality. Right at the foothill was a temple dedicated to Lord shiva and his consort Parvati. The doors of this temple are kept locked and there is a grill enclosed verandah that gives respite to the devotees from the simian pranks and snatchings.

View from one of the resting spots

    A path beside the temple leads to the stairs that winds up the Tukreswari hill to the top. And that is where the main temple is. And here I was thinking I would have to trudge the way up following a dirt track. Climbing up I could see the steps disappearing behind huge boulders dotted with ferns and other foliage. Trees grew from under them, around them and also sprouted from them. Huffing and puffing my way up with sweat making rivulets down my forehead, we stopped at the little bends to catch our breath. Peeking through the foliage, the branches and half obstructed by the boulders was a stretch of lush paddy fields all around dotted with more hillocks in between. The NH 37 snaked through in bits and pieces from my view point.

The Assamese Macaque

     A place not frequented by many at this time of the year, it felt like intruding on the silence. I was surprised not to have come across any  monkeys in our climb so far. Just one odd loitering around. Must be a young one out to have fun while his mamma was enjoying a siesta on one of the branches. This is the abode of the Assamese macaque. And whenever an offering is being made, especially in the morning and in the evening at the temple, all of them congregate on the branches, the rocks jutting out, the steps. And wait. They wait for their king to come and partake the offering first. It is only once the king has had his share, that the minions come forward. So we were told by our guide who accompanied us with a long staff to ward off the macaques.

Statue of Joy or Bijoy

    The steps are a new construction and fairly in a steep incline. They say the dirt track was a better climb. On the way, in the nooks and bends are few more recently installed statues of deities. Flanked by the carvings of Joy and Bijoy, the two gate keepers to the temple on the top, an iron ladder hanging from the huge rock that is crowned with the temple, is to be negotiated for the final climb.  A beautiful and serene panoramic view of the surrounding green paddy fields interspersed with hillocks and the distant rolling blue Garo hills greeted us. We just sat there for a few minutes soaking in the serenity sans the simian natives.
Tukreswari Temple In The Right Corner

    There was a small temple, said to have come up when a small piece of Sati fell on this part. Hence the temple of Tukreswari, in the place called Tukura. The temple below was constructed so as to make it accessible to all without having to trek uphill. A very simple temple on the hill top at the edge of rock, enshrining the spot of the fallen piece,  looked out at the highway and all the villages, mostly of the Rabha community. It looked more like a shed of iron and tin sheet. The door to the temple is kept latched mostly and opened only for visitors.

Another View In The Fading Light

   We did not get to meet the King since it was not the offering time. We spent a good amount of time just sitting there on the flat top of the huge rock and gazing out. After a while it was time for the descent though we would have liked to absorb a bit more of the tranquility. Tukreswari did not let me down. The sun was slipping down in the horizon. Very soon it would be dark. It is an effort to tear oneself away from such peaceful places. I have often thought of how trivial all our worries seem and how many things gain clarity when some time is spent in these places. Climbing down the steps as the evening light faded, my mind was at peace of finally having made this trip. After all these years.





Friday, 14 November 2014

A Child's Play

                                                      IndiBlogger Badge

        The last few days I have driven half across the city looking for a boy who stopped smiling; waiting to buy a song so it could be sent to a village or to watch man take flight to distant planets from the caves. Usually all that driving makes me nuts going round and round in circles. If you have been in Lutyen's Delhi with a faulty in built GPS in me, you will know what I am talking about. But this once I did not mind being behind the wheels. 

     For that matter, winters makes the city of Delhi come alive with a kaleidoscope of events  happening simultaneously. And for the greedy like me who want to soak in every bit of it, it is cruel to have to choose from! This year, I was determined to let the child in me peep out for sixty to ninety minutes. For that's how long the plays lasted at NSD's Jashnebachpan. The National Children's Theatre Festival organised by the TIE ( Theatre In Education),  also known as Sanskaar Rang Toli, segment of NSD, put together around twenty six plays from theatre groups across the country. Walking in through the colourfully done up gate filled us with the thrill of anticipation. And once inside the building we were flanked with photo exhibits of the participating directors with glimpses of the plays being presented.


      The first play we managed to catch was the non verbal  "Bharari"  by Natyashala Charity Trust  from  Mumbai directed by Bharat More and Anvay Ashtivkar. As expected the audience comprised of children of all ages,  many in  uniforms from different schools coming from as far as Doon School, and children from NGOs with shining expectant faces chaperoned by the patient sirs and madams and then of course there were grown up children like us. Under a fragment of the winter evening sky edged with the stray canopies of the surrounding trees, the play began on the Open Lawns of NSD. Through miming technique, catchy rhyming sutradhars, the non verbal Bharari traced the beginning and evolution of life stage by stage, leading to applauses from the audience. Humour and colourful laser images of butterflies and planets, the lyrical narrative delighted the audience. Bharari ended with man taking flight from the earth in search of more challenging frontiers! This fine balance of history of evolution and flight of fantasy delighted us enough to make us give a standing ovation. Only we did not applaud. Instead we raised our arms and shook our hands in the air. Of the 26 performers 18 were hearing impaired.


    The next time we went rushing through the traffic was to figure out the lost smile of a boy. This time we had to walk through a passage skirting the Open Lawns to Abhimanch at NSD where the play  Jaimini Pathak's "The Boy Who Stopped Smiling"  was to be staged. A chanced glimpse at the ceiling revealed a continuous stretch of montage of the many plays staged at NSD. It felt hallowed to be walking under the frozen moments of creativity. While we waited for the entry, colourful suspended butterflies, smiling snails and bright caterpillars kept us company.  Squashed between the myriad expectations of his parents, the boy, a chess prodigy who dreams of beating Vishy Anand, stops smiling while groping with the changed equations in his environment. A play that addressed the vagaries of growing up as well as the tight rope walk of parenting.


    Lost in the urban chaos is our connect with nature and the joy of finding pleasures in the simple things of life. The old woman in the village sends her old man to the city to buy a song for her so she can sing it near the well where all the other women of the village sing as they continue with their daily chores. A simple play with some great sets and a profound theme. " Geete Gaathe Milan Mala" by Seagull and directed by Bhagirathi came all the way from Guwahati to prod the audience with a simple message that left most of us thinking. Folk songs from across the communities of the state were beaded in to bring this out.

    There were some great plays from Manipur, Kerala, UP and other places which we couldn't make it to. The festival held up a mirror for all of us, to realise our follies and foibles and also to emphasise how theatre can be utilised to impart education and help put on the thinking cap. The lessons taken came in much later. It was the sheer pleasure of watching a play with the children that mattered the most. In retrospect I realise we were laughing along with the children shedding our grown up garb somewhere along the way.