Jarada : ‘A place where birds sit uncooked’.

‘Nature: A place where birds fly uncooked’ – Oscar Wilde. Did Oscar Wilde have Jarada in mind when he said these words?  There can be an ounce of truth if someone tells this disappearing island that appeared in front of the Irish playwright, cloaked in her turquoise flowy gown with the black cormorants decked on its hemline, made him gasp out the above words.

Jarada is slowly gaining a lot of attention among the tourists in Bahrain. It takes around 45 minutes on a boat, speeding  through the crystal clear blue water, cutting  the waves and beating up with the winds, to reach this unspoilt stretch of island. She appears in the morning to attract her admirers before she goes submerged in the evening. 

From the boat, we had to wade through the glimmering waters to reach the pristine sands of the island. Our boat driver was worried about anchoring close to the shore thinking of the difficulty in taking his boat off the shore due to low tide, later in the afternoon.

We were welcomed by the nonchalant morning inhabitants of the island – the cormorants who were enjoying the breeze, paying no heed to the mortal feet encroaching their island.

The island looks exactly like a winding marble road with its two ends being devoured by the blue waters. If you reach early in the morning, the whole island is going to be yours!

It is a long walk from one end to the other, with the cold, shimmering water tingling your feet.. But later during daytime, the water may be littered by boats of different sizes and shapes and this island can be taken by tourists. So make sure you start your day early to experience the peace and beauty.

By afternoon you can see the bluish green water blithely coming towards the shore, slowly taking it to an embrace. It is a marvel to watch how the shore enjoys being hugged by the waters! We could see the long stretch becoming two small patches with an aquamarine shroud coming in between as a partition!

No wonder why Jarada decides to hide beneath the waters! “Hear, ye mortals, you cannot ravish my beauty; I can give you a glimpse of my exquisite charm, but never try to stamp your seal on me.” Each sand grain and water droplet scream this to us! Is it a pact between Neptune and Terra to keep humans at a distance? 

Let the pact be never broken! Let Jarada be never vanquished by Muggles!

Whispers of the Soul

There have been many discussions on the power of female intuition. Are women better than men in having a sixth sense? Not sure! However, we have heard  stories about how this intuitive sense in women is proven right though it has been overlooked by men as mere ‘worries of a woman’.

The month of Karkkidaka comes with a lot of importance to Hindus. According to Hindu religion, reading Ramayana is considered as the best way to cleanse one’s body and mind. Recently, I was listening to the recital of Ramayana which narrates Bali, the King of Kishkindha, being summoned by his brother Sugreeva, to have a fight with him for the  second time. And while Bali is getting ready to face Sugreeva’s challenge, his wife, Tara, comes to warn him about the dangers of going for a fight. What made her voice out her worries? The whispers of her soul. She lays out her concerns before Bali and tries to stop him from going. This explicit visual description from Ramayana tansported me to another setting in another country – from Bali’s palace in Kishkindha to Caesar’s palace in Rome. (Often my mind takes its own unexpected flights without waiting for my approval.  Neither do I make an attempt to tame these adventures of my mind.)

The queen of Kishkindha and the wife of Caesar have the same apprehensions about their husbands’ life.  Tara begs her husband not to accept the challenge informing him about the dangers she forsees. But Bali ignores her worries and says he could never say no to a challenge for fight. Is it the same unrest that Tara felt, caused by the stirring of the soul, made Calpurnia stop Caesar from going to meet the Senators? Calpurnia senses the premonitions and takes a decision that Caesar “shall not stir” out of his house. Like Bali, Caesar too brushes off his wife’s concerns and steps out into the dark night.

Why stories talk about women being more mindful of this so-called intuition? Are women more sensitive to the meek voice? – the voice that comes from within and then quickly dies off when heart and brain take control of our decisions. We all experience the inner voice. But we have become fonder towards the voice of our heart and brain. They enslave us and  force us to follow their lead while the whispers of our souls are muted. Our own instincts look weak in the presence of the desires of the mighty heart and the logic of the brain. However, later comes a time, when we feel that it would have been wiser to trust our instincts. Those are the whispers of our soul. Those whispers are not tainted….

Trust your intuition. Don’t ignore the messages that this higher self gives you!

Whose house is this, I think I know..

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange’s quote is truly relatable to many of us. Don’t we tend to imagine things beyond what we see through the lens? Many a times, a scenic vision tickles your imagination to let it run riot and you start weaving stories around it which may, occasionally,  die within you. At times, it remains in you, nourishes your soul like a soft breeze that kisses your face to make you feel refreshed.

This green dale with a solitary house near Chatsworth House is one such picture which has bewtiched me immensely. It has spun webs of tales with its finest threads of silk .. The house stood in a wide span of greenery with a line of trees holding it as a treasure not to be encroached upon. There is definitely something dreamy about it, my imagination has whispered to me.

Isn’t it the abode of a Medieval Knight who is polishing his armour and sword to set out for another battle? (My imagination knows how to deliberately ignore things-  the four-wheeler, in this case!) Didn’t I visualise the teary-eyed Lady in the room heaving a heavy sigh and looking out through the windows, thinking about the young man and the warfare?

Or…….

Is this the abode of an elderly couple who, having spent their entire youth in this rural setting, is deliberately wiling away the hours, finding solace in each other’s company? Will they be waiting to hear the tiny footsteps and the laughter of their grandchildren to sweep off the monotony and boredom of their lonely old age? Will there be a corner in the house yearning to be adorned by a Christmas tree?

Each time I come across the picture, it still puzzles me , making me wonder about the inhabitants.. Sitting in this country far, far away from Derbyshire, sometimes I regret at my own cowardice (or was it my utilitarian mind?) which stopped me from going there and knocking at the door to find out who resides there.. The next minute, I feel happy about not doing it. Had I done that, I wouldn’t have been looking at the picture, still wondering and thinking about its enigmatic charm and mysterious inhabitants. I don’t regret…

The dale is lovely, green and deep

And it still quaintly amuses me….

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”(As You Like It)

The dawn had whispers to tell me. It was an April morning and true to what The Bard has quoted, “the uncertain glory of an April day” exhibited all its beauty through the glittering rays and blue sky. It was at the crack of the day, we started our journey to Stratford-upon-Avon. The sky hadn’t had enough time to sweep off the ragged shreds of satin clouds. The air was clear with a cool breeze humming tunes to make the cherry and elm trees dance in unison. The day was dreamy and road to Stratford-upon-Avon from Sheffield was irresistibly alluring.

Nothing can match the greenery of a country side with the winding roads. Adding to its beauty are the scattered fluffy lambs on the meadows, on both sides, idly lying down, too lazy to start their grazing. “Why hurry? Take it easy”, they seem to tell us, the mortals!

For me, the excitement of visiting the birthplace of the greatest playwright was immeasurable. Being a literature student, my five years of study was predominated by Shakespearean sonnets and plays.  The universality of his themes, the originality of his characters and the freshness of his language still amaze anyone, regardless of time! The road trip turned out to be a smooth and pleasant one thanks to my friend who was also equally excited to show us the place where the poet grew up.

Stratford-upon-Avon got its name from Celtic and Saxon words. It is a combination of strǣt meaning street, ford which means a shallow part of a stream and avon which means river. Henley street on this famous, historical town, stands with all its splendour and pride – proud because of its status of being the cradle to the world’s greatest dramatist. When you walk on the streets, you can feel the pulse of each tile on the pavement, throbbing to tell us these stories through their silent screams. As the welcome board says, beautiful Britain was in bloom, welcoming the tourists and leading them through the streets which still has an old charm.

At the end of Henley Street stands the bronze statue of the Jester, Touchstone, who with a cynical smile on his face, seems to be calling the onlookers ‘O Noble Fool! A worthy Fool’. For a fraction of a second, he tears apart the veil of wisdom we wear, exposing the hidden shades of follies and foibles in us! Our mortal forms are downsized by this life-like statue on a stone plinth.

The cobbled street of this town has lots to offer to the visitors – Shakespeare giftshops, half-timbered traditional buildings, performers dressed as Shakespearean characters and the list goes on.

And the street leadeth you to the humble abode of the poetic genius. This well maintained 16th century house amidst neatly cut flora and fauna has a mysterious charm  – do you hear some heart beats in the air that surrounds the house ? Do you see the phantoms of his characters gazing at you, who still talk about them, mercilessly analysing their flaws?

A winding pathway from the Bard’s house, for a mile, takes you to Anne Hathaway’s farmhouse. This house and its extensive garden (garbed in a radiating feminine charm, with a streak of wilderness) will attract anyone! The thatched roof top of the cottage, with its head held high, seems to be on a watch out to guard  the idealistic, rural setting. One can see nature there in abundance in the form of traditional thickets, shrubs and fragrant flowers in bloom.

This is where the courtship between Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had taken place centuries back! The grains of sand in slumber might remember him singing to his ladylove:

 “So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet seasoned showers are to the ground…”

Fragrant Flashbacks..

“Memories triggered by scent have some of the strongest emotional connections and appear more intense than other memory triggers.” This scent doesn’t come so easily; it needs a mixture of right ingredients to invoke that same feeling to take you down memory lane. And when the right time comes, it makes you reminiscent and nostalgic. You are transported to your carefree days which always give you a handful of threshed grains..

Down Memory Lane..

Today, my sister and I were talking about those certain scents and those certain memories!  We were always together in the corridors of childhood, never been parted, one being the shadow of the other (I was always the shadow while my sister led the pathway!). Hence one of us can easily associate the smell the other attempts to describe, when she starts to dust off the pages…We were talking more about scents that bring in memories of places. Those memories, indeed, make those dusty pictures shinier and brighter. Can we exactly describe the smell?  No, it is often associated with other senses too.

One of our much-awaited trips was a trip with family to Madras to visit Achan’s brother, our uncle. Lot of attractions came along with the planned trip. Of course, a trip with family had all its charm with our loving parents and ‘sibling time’. Another attraction was an overnight journey in a train with a bonus of spending time with our dear Radhamama, Saralammayi and fun-loving cousins. Madras definitely was a La La Land for us. It was then, for the first time, we saw a black and white TV. I used to wait for the popular show ‘I Love Lucy’ aired at that time, even if I had not understood a single dialogue by the characters sprinkled with strong American accent! This was way back in 1981, I guess. I was mesmerized by the idea of sitting and watching moving figures at the comfort of home while eating dinner! They had a courtyard with a heavily-laden mango tree at the back of the house. This had its own peculiar smell – a sense of perception stimulated and garnished by all these ingredients -mangoes, a majestic iron swing, Tamil songs from a transistor and the typical ‘chennai air’ with its scent of jasmine gliding in!

The monsoon days have its own smell and its own collection of memories. The wet earth with its different shades of green, glossy leaves has its own smell. Along with it comes the fresh smell of books. It takes me to the living room in our house where three of us sit together with Achan and Amma to do an exciting activity – covering our books and sticking name labels on them. Monsoon was the harbinger of a new school year. We had limited collection of name-slips; so, we used to equally distribute ‘the name slips with good pictures’ and ‘bad pictures’ amongst us. (I don’t remember us having fights to grab better things for ourselves which was quite a common activity among most of the siblings! In spite of being the youngest and ‘a boy’, our brother was also always ready to give in! ) Our parents used to neatly cover the books for us, tucking in the paper on four sides to  keep the jacket tight and neat. We used to place something heavy on the books to give the books a neatly ironed coat. We used to take extra care to make it last for one whole year. It was easy with the textbooks; but not so easy with note books. A scent mixed with wet earth and its lush greenery on a cloudy day accompanied by pitter-patter rain, definitely brings in memories of a special time at a special place!

Sometimes, the feeling can also be something unwanted, something which barges in to mess up with the carefully built equipoise in your life… and you feel stuffiness entrapping you with memories that you love to forget. The smell of a particular ‘masala’ and oil mixed with a humid air that seems so oppressive reminds me of my Mumbai life which I hate even to think of! It stifles me, makes me feel ensnared! I make sure my kitchen should never smell like that! I realise a scent can be appealing or appalling because it is conditioned by the memory you recall…

As Oliver Wendell Holmes says, “Memories, imagination, old sentiments and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.”