April 20, 2012

A Year Blogged Away: Thoughts

I can't believe that it has already been a year since I began blogging! In my first post, I had written about that hesitant, tentative first step into the world of blogging...at that time, I had yet to know whether I would continuously blog or indeed, more significantly, as to how much I would enjoy blogging. Indeed, the fact that I have so enjoyed and looked forward to blogging has been one of my greatest self-discoveries this past year - and I dare say that the newbie blogger excitement still thrives at my end:)

I am grateful to all the readers who have stopped by and taken the time out to peek into a slice of my thoughts; I have often wondered if my thoughts make any more sense when blogged than when they are floating around in my mind, restlessly hopscotching from one mind universe to another. Yet, this blog has been that one space where I have permitted myself to put these thoughts down and let them assume whatever shape they wanted or needed to. So thank you to everyone who has listened to my thoughts and interpreted them as they would...

So what lies ahead? Having written these words, I must confess that I quite don't know myself. I certainly hope to continue to be inspired by the fantastical visual universe that surrounds me...and blog about it. However, there are certain other new ideas and innovations for the blog in my head that I hope will become clearer to me with time and I hope to unfurl over here!

Meanwhile, I would like to conclude with an image of a collage I created several years ago; at times, when I do not have the energy or inclination to paint and yet still crave to 'create' in a hands-on fashion, I often turn to collaging. There is something quite fascinating about putting together seemingly random scraps of paper into a visual narrative and it reminded me of the similar peace and satisfaction I used to derive from doing jigsaw puzzles during my childhood. When I was younger, I would often mix collage and water-colors together to produce (what I did not know then) mixed media works. The reason why I have included it here today is because it reminded me of my foray into blogging; this was the first collage that I had worked upon after so many years and I was still undecided whether it was, well, any good! Would it convey anything to the viewers? Would it just be an incoherent jumble of colored scraps of paper, a woman with melancholic eyes, and a crown of green leaves? Yet,  it had afforded me yet another creative space to narrate a story - and that was and has been enough for me.

The Bride (2007)

Update**: I was very honored and touched that fellow blogger and Renaissance woman (film-maker, author, poet, translator, photographer, artist) Khadija Ejaz was inspired by my collaging efforts; please check out her funky pop-art-y collage over here:)

April 12, 2012

Notes from Al Khod Wadi: When the Djinns Come Out to Play

Twilight at Al Khod Wadi
For me, I cherish solitude as much as the presence of company;  rather, it is absolutely essential for me to carve out chunks of time for myself to think and reflect upon life and its contours and trajectories..and if I am able to do so, I particularly appreciate experiencing solitude outdoors in nature. I wouldn't call myself outdoorsy in the sense that I need to hike or trek or play sports in open air - rather, I appreciate being out in nature, soaking in its sights and scents and sounds and savoring the present for once, rather than constantly flash-backing or fast-forwarding into the past and future respectively. I must admit though that such moments come by but rarely, making them all the more precious.

Yesterday, what with April being a moody month here in Oman and currently undecided whether it wishes to transit into summer or not, it briefly rained - and instead of hotfooting it to the beach as I usually do when it rains, I instead preferred to visit the Al Khod wadi.

Over-hanging rock formation at the Wadi

This wadi is located at the foot of the mountains and almost immediately following a heavy downpour, the water gushes down the slopes and rapidly streams into the wadis; within a day or so, the dormant wadi-beds are gurgling with sounds of flowing water. Numerous tiny stone-colored fish dart beneath the rippled water surface; otherwise dusty and seemingly unremarkable pebbles and boulders metamorphose into objects of speculation and interest when seen beneath the water, reasserting their original colors and textures and becoming worthy of admiration. While some wadis in Oman contain water all year around, Al Khod wadi becomes rejuvenated only post rain-fall though, subsequently attracting visitors by the droves.

However, the rainfall yesterday was too scanty to have awakened the slumbering wadi from its stupor; the wadi beds were baldly dry and empty, the jagged, striated water-eroded rocks and boulders appearing more like displaced museum stone sculptures. There were hardly any people around, apart from a couple of solitary walkers; it was so purely silent that the sudden keening call of the Indian roller bird rudely jolted me out of my reverie, rather like a pebble disrupting a pond's mirror-smooth surface. The wadi's starkness, absence of people, and the dwindling purplish light all collectively combined to invest an austere, ancient  and a dream-like quality upon the wadi: I in fact could not help thinking that we had somehow stumbled upon ruins of a building or a place, rather than a natural location. It seemed not as much as uninhabited as temporarily empty. 

Moody sky...and air

It was why I felt that we had encroached upon that time of the day when an invisible world awaited our departure to emerge from the shadows; it seemed that there were djinns* lurking in the wadi bends, the luxuriant green huddle of the water-rushes, the tightly fisted acacia tree branches, and the over-hanging rocks. When will you leave? the gusty breeze seemed to whisper on the djinns' behalf. When will you leave so we can come out to play? 

Having come to the wadi to cultivate solitude, it seemed that we had somehow poached upon others' solitude instead. Even though I wished to linger longer to appreciate the sheer quality of the tranquility and silence at the wadi, I knew that it was time to leave. And so I did, without turning around...

Bidding adieu to the wadi...

The wadi, it seemed, was not asleep, after all...

*Djinns popularly feature in many Omani folk-stories and tales; if you are so inclined, you can read up more about djinn encounters here

April 5, 2012

Visual Mutterings

In a rather obvious nod to my blog name, I am going to entertain you with a collection of those visuals that  have recently caught my eye. Yes, I also know that this is what Pinterest is for but bear with me, will you?;) Incidentally, how many of you are on Pinterest? Do you think it will be as popular as Twitter or is it enjoying more of a seasonal popularity?

While you ponder upon that, here are the visuals below:

While I have had my doubts about Sonam Kapoor's acting skills (loved her in Delhi 6 though), I have  been a big admirer of her fashion sense since she debuted in 2007. At the cost of stating the obvious, she is one celebrity who has always consistently experimented and innovated with her fashion appearance; I may not necessarily always agree with her fashion presentations but I nonetheless appreciate the fact that she strives to ensure that her looks are deliberately distinct from one another, constantly mixing it up. While this recent Harper Bazaar India cover is undoubtedly styled and I find the pose a tad awkward, I nonetheless love the juxtaposition of red and purple - and those fantastic turquoise and gold danglers. I *need* those earrings!

I have extensively extolled about photographer, Dayanita Singh over here and when I found her photo-novel, House of Love, I couldn't help but marvel at her ingenuity once again; playing homage to and  exploring the relationship between text and image, House of Love is a photo-novel, consisting of nine photographic chapters. The novel is also interspersed with text such as Vikram Seth's poetry, assorted quotes, and essays by Aveek Sen at the end. The title, House of Love, is in actual reference to Taj Mahal, which is one of the photographic representations of the iconic symbol. Each of the photographic chapters is a stand-alone story in its own as well as a running episode. As you 'read' the novel, intuitively  gauging the mood and narratives from pictures, you realise you cannot read it enough  number of times. 

My first introduction to the world of graphic novels happened through Iranian-born French author, Marjane Satrapi's novel, Persepolis; it completely and fundamentally redefined how I viewed the art of story-telling and that too through comic strip visuals (you can read more about why graphic novels are not necessarily always synonymous with comics over here). While I have been reading graphic novels on and off for the past several years, I haven't been able to follow up with Satrapi's work...so it was with great pleasure that I chanced upon her most recent novel, Chicken with Plums and returned to appreciating her unique turn of wit and phrase and the ability of comic strip visuals to convey nuanced narratives. Chicken with Plums has also been turned into a film so I would like to see the transition of the graphic novel visuals into cinema frames!

Discovering a lovely new blog is always a joy and for me, these days, it is an even greater one to find a photo-blog! Land of Cheese is a Hong Kong photo-blog and this post happens to be a color-coded ode to Hong Kong's subway stations. I simply loved the colors in this post and this image was my particular favorite!

Did anything riveting particularly catch your eye this week?

April 1, 2012

Short short: Magnolia Buds

For some reason, I have been continually encountering references to magnolias for the past few days and when I chanced upon an absolutely stunning picture of a magnolia tree in full-bloom in the newspaper today, I thought it was appropriate to post this short short.


Many years later, we were to meet in Central Park. It had been an unusually warm winter and irises the color of the sky just before it turns into night were blooming around us. The newspapers had been pessimistic though, predicting their death if the temperatures were to freeze again – but for the time-being, they were blooming and quite happily so, savoring the unexpected gift of warmth, uncaring of what could lie ahead. I wanted to pluck them – I was about to pluck them – but I kept on looking at Vartika’s hands resting in her lap, as they clasped and unclasped with regularity, clearly decided to be unstill. She had bought cupcakes for me from Magnolia Bakery and even though she had yet to open the box, she kept on talking about the bakery, pronouncing Magnolia as one would pronounce magnificent. 

As she talked, her hands unclasping and clasping, the box trembling in her lap, I thought of spring-time and magnolias buds in the quad and how they would try their best to bring their parent trees' skeletal branches to flesh-life again. And yet, no matter how intense their infant beauty, the unflinching innocence of their color, they could not soften the decrepitude of the buildings around them - or assuage the branches' weariness. And by acknowledging so, how tired they had looked only within days of blooming, already resigned to exhausting themselves into nothingness even before they had fully bloomed. 

Image courtesy: Brooklyn Street Art