July 28, 2016


So when did July arrive and when did it decide to disappear so quickly? For the longest time in my life, July was synonymous with holiday or at the very least, anticipating some sort of travel. I can only think of two or three Julys which I entirely spent in one place (usually, Oman), going about my daily life while simultaneously wishing every day that I was on a plane or train or car and heading somewhere.

This July was fortunately no exception though; I have just returned from a hectic five day trip to Bangalore, where I joyously glimpsed numerous gorgeous trees (Bangalore trees, you have my heart), colonial mansions turned into hip contemporary spots, beautiful fresh rangoli decorating the thresholds of homes everymorning, winding roads, overdressed sari shop window displays,  the famous Bangalore weather, and finally, consumed a lot of goodies from Bangalore bakeries and an authentic bene dosa from CTR in Malleshwaram. It was such a good dosa that I doubt that I will be eating one for a while in Delhi without remembering its Bangalore counterpart's finger-licking buttery, goldeny goodness!

However, my two most favorite memories involved visiting National Gallery of Modern Art and spending a very happy three hours discussing everything under the sun and its beautiful, beautiful spreading, giving, warm trees with Vidya, turning our so far virtual friendship into a face to face one. I also spent a peaceful twenty minutes wandering around the gardens of the gallery before she arrived; it was especially such bliss to be in the proximity to this enormous, spreading, long-limbed rain-tree,  whose formidable presence dominantly permeated the whole garden and yet, there was such serenity to be found standing beneath it. 

The other memory involved visiting a quaint little second-hand bookshop, The Select Bookshop at Brigade road; my husband used to buy a lot of books from there when he was growing up in Bangalore and I was charmed by how the book-shop owner greeted him, asking where he had been all this time. Having either shopped from chain-store bookstores or ordering books online lately, I had only heard of such bookshops, where the owners knew your name, thoughtfully recommended books, and took the trouble to find them for you from the depths of the crammed bookshelves. Vidya had also recommended the bookstore to me when I had mentioned wanting to visit another famous Bangalore bookshop, Blossom. It was so calming to stand there and browse through the books whilst soaking in in the wistful-making smell of old books and thinking of the journeys they had travelled when espying years-old inscriptions written in them. I even spotted a book edited by one of the first persons I had followed on Instagram many years ago! Needless to say, I left the bookshop, armed with several new old books that I cannot wait to read.

July has also seen me making my Guardian debut. I am happy to share about my first piece for the Guardian; it is an insider's guide to Jodhpur, where I wrote about its architecture, music, food, green initiatives, art, and more. Writing about cities and that too one of my most favorite cities in the world? I couldn't be more glad! Have a read here!

My other published writing this month was about how collaging and scrapbooking has helped me write better; there is something so orderly about assembling your otherwise scattered thoughts into a jigsaw of collage and watercolor before proceeding to sit down and write.

The rains have poured down this year, walls of rains sheeting down throughout the night until dawn, accompanied by sauna-like humidity, which I am not too terribly fond of. However, all is forgiven when you glimpse how incredibly green everything is! The trees have shed their summer skin of dust to reveal a brand new green being beneath. I have reveled in clicking the green, the rain-drop jeweled flowers, the redness, the greenness, the pinkness of it all. What I especially loved chancing upon was how I found a beautiful, intact, yellow-hued white plumeria bloom only to see that someone had made an arrangement out of few upturned plumeria flowers. Those serendipitious discoveries make my day, honestly speaking!

So this has been my July so far. How has yours been?

July 16, 2016

Poetry: My Week in a Triptych

When You Were Away

I made bread out of bananas,
scented the room with memories
of nocturnal moonlight,
and wrote poetry that I was
never going to read again.

Buying Carnations 
They inhabit a damp black cave,
primly veiled in jute purdah.
The pink is sharp and loving to the eye.
They will die soon
but I will buy them anyway.

Part of Mine

Everyone told me that
Delhi was the most ornate palimpsest:
rococo layers upon layers upon layers.
When I tried to peel them away,
they refused to be pried off -
and without me knowing it,
I had become one of its layers too
and Delhi a part of mine.

July 7, 2016

Friday Poetry: Monsoon


is an artist's thickly-laden paint-brush,
dabbing this
and that
shade of green,
a sea of green green green
until eyes yearn
for an island of iridescence to
be marooned upon.

is memory of rain ghosting up
from moist tarmac, defying gravity:
redolent of crushed, damp
leaves, flowers, fruit,
happily percolating your dreams,
pillows smelling of petri-chor,
its fragrance migrating into your hair.

is a bare gray prarie landscape,
where nothing and everything grows,
where rains root in a parallel universe,
birthing the beginning of forests,
a novel which will never end,
which will keep on growing
and growing.

June 26, 2016

Of Nature's Stories, Land Art, and Morning Altars

The first time I chanced upon the idea of nature/land/earth art was when I glimpsed sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist, Andy Goldsworthy's work in The Clothes Horse's blog. I was simply enchanted by the notion of abstracting stunning site-specific art from natural surroundings, putting together fallen leaves, branches, twigs, flowers, seeds, and fruit, rocks, pebbles, and feathers into art that entirely and literally emerges from and connects to the earth, seamlessly integrating itself into the environment.  I have been lately been pinning a ton of land art on my Pinterest and have discovered examples which left me breathless and marvelling at the artists' ingenuity and creativity, such as swirling twig waters around a boulder, stone paths in forests, and stone sculptures silhouetted against the sky. Here's a gorgeous Andy Goldsworthy in which he arranges numerous stones in graduated shades of gray to form an existential black hole of sorts in the vast universe that is nature.

After seeing scores and scores of incredible land art works, I wondered if I too could create miniature examples myself; a little bit of researching led me to realise that I had been partially doing it with the fallen flowers, seeds, seed-pods, and fruit I found during my morning walks. Having photographed the trees and plants, I found myself engaging with the gifts that they left for the earth - and for us to discover. I sometimes arranged what I found in a simple pattern or grid format, displaying the diversity of what I had found; it reflected both the species growing in my immediate environment as being season-specific, such as summer displaying a great deal of gulmohur and laburnum, for example. This earth art below below depicts the various stages of a gulmohur bloom that I found in one of my favorite neighborhood parks: bud, budding, blooming, bloom, and flower itself.

Yesterday, after posting a picture of my walk finds: a peepal tree leaf, bougainvillea, gulmohur petals, and a branch of lime green neem fruit on Instagram, Day Schildkret of Morning Altars liked it and which fortuitously led me to explore more of his work. I was intrigued by what he is doing: creating gorgeous, intricate morning altars, foraging from his surroundings to create the most exquisitely detailed works. It celebrates the ephemeral and the deeply rooted, nature with all of its bountiful glories and its cycles of death, rebirth, and growth. Here's one of his morning altars dedicated to spring below:

Inspired by his morning altars, I decided to create one of my own today morning. In the park, it was quiet except for the birds twittering and the sound of plum yellow neem fruit plopping on the ground; this was the background to which I created my first altar wrought from bougainvillea, laburnum, and gulmohur flowers and champak and bougainvilleas leaves. It celebrates the joy these nature's morning colors gives me and to brighten my day ahead, the little joys that I derive from these nature gifts and compensating for potential challenges and disappointments that may lie ahead in the day. Of course, I do wonder what will become of them once I leave...will nature find a way to make its own unique installation out of them?

I enjoyed the process so much that I ended up creating two more earth art works later today from found champak flowers, leaves, and neem fruit:

This activity gives me much peace as well as making me aware of the healing, restorative, and creative powers of nature; I find myself contemplating and appreciating nature's diverse manifestations much more closely. In this age, when we are battling climate change, habitat destruction, species' extinction, and many other depressing stories of environmental degradation, it powerfully drives home the message that we can no longer take nature and stories for granted for it may potentially disappear one day; let us hear its stories and more importantly, strive to conserve and preserve them.

Have you ever made impermanent art? I would love to hear!