June 17, 2016

Mandatory 'Where has the year gone by' musings + glimpses into my published writing

Where has this year gone by? Seriously, I had just started to become familiar with 2016, its quirks, its flavors, its textures and yet, before I knew it, it was inching towards its middle. And I too have been away from here more than a month: visited Oman in the interim, picked a ton of mogras, ate snacks which I specifically associate with home and communed with the sea, desert, and the mountains before returning to hot, humid, green Delhi with barely a bloom in sight. However, the good news is that the monsoon is due on June 29th so I am looking forward to the rain. I was too unwell last year to really notice either the terrible yearning for the rain or the rain itself but this year, if El Nina doesn't insist on having her way, I am anticipating sitting at my window and watching the water gush down from the heavens and sluice away the inertia, lethargy, and the omnipresent 'this is the hottest summer ever'. Of course, rain will also gift us the return of mutant, giant mosquitoes, more mugginess, and gray rivers flowing down the street but we won't think of that now!

My weather report over, I just wanted to give brief glimpses into the writing that I have published lately; I am veering towards the personal memoir (especially relating to nature), the surreal (the mannequins), and nostalgia, such as these musings about Muttrah. I would like to continue to do a wide range of textured work this year, migrating from one genre to another, as that a) that keeps me much more engaged and b) it definitely results in much more lively writing. Or so I think.

I read in the newspaper the other day that our neighborhood is the greenest one in New Delhi, and I must agree as I observe the sheer wealth of the flora surrounding me. There is a massive peepal tree behind my house, which simultaneously functions as a pop-up shrine; seen from my study window, the first tree to bloom during spring, the appearance of the silk cotton tree’s fat monstrously beautiful crimson or orange flowers herald winter’s end. The gulmohar tree’s bare branches which had otherwise sported earrings of long chocolate brown seed pods (incidentally, they also make excellent rattles) are currently ablaze with crimson blooms.

 If you stroll through adjoining by-lanes, you will encounter baby green mango-laden trees, creamy white neem bloom, laburnum dripping with chandeliers of gloriously yellow flowers, and a garden earlier violently violet with blooming jacaranda trees. Even though trees may send away bits of themselves to the world through their fallen leaves, flowers, and seeds, they are ultimately rooted to where they are, their one and only home. 

Read the full piece here

Arabic, Indian or cross-culture – one question remains about these shops, their clothing wares and the mannequins who showcase them. Who is the consumer? Western tourists and visitors? Arabic-speaking customers? Omanis? Emiratis? Local Indian immigrants? The mannequins, coloured as they are in an unmistakably fair skin colour, perhaps tries to address them all. What the mannequins’ appearance nonetheless communicate to us is how Western looks/aesthetics and bodies are perceived as the norm across the world, even in non-Western countries, where they are costumed in local clothing. Or perhaps, they are arguably protean creatures, changing character depending upon who perceives them.

Read the full piece here 

It is a space where local and expatriate communities' lives and paths have intersected for years. As you cross a glut of tailoring shops, briefly pausing at one, Arjun of Bangladesh reveals that he has been living here for for twenty eight years. The hunger-making smell of frying pakoras and freshly baked bread imbues the air as vividly as sound. Peeking inside a non-descript looking bakery, Mohammed and Aslam vigorously pound dough before rolling out and baking bread in a tandoor. “Our shop is 38 years old. Omanis, Indian, Pakistanis, and Arabs all buy bread from us; in fact, people from as far as Sohar and Barka come to buy it,” Mohammed says. 
Yet, walking through the gullies, you can still content yourself thinking that you are still experiencing one of the multiple cities that constitute Muscat.

Read the full piece here

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