Thursday, October 19, 2006

Alley Cat

I’d just parked my byk after coming home from gym, when I heard a faint meowing. I tried to locate the owner of this sound. A lot of cars were parked around on the road, so it took me a while to look under each one. The meowing continued, infrequent and faint. I was not sure where to look. Suddenly a small body appeared in between two cars.

The cat was a badly mangled fellow, just about managing to stand on his feet. They were bent at awkward places, and fur sparsely covered the tiny body. There was a sign of an old wound on his torso. He could barely get any sound out and seemed to be one his last legs.

Poor sod, I thought, if the dogs don’t get him, the crows will. Yet, the fellow definitely had lots of dignity for he was moving his tongue over the non existent whiskers and grooming himself like cats usually do. He’d let out a whimper in between licking himself allover. The tail swayed in rhythm. The grooming over, he finally sat down. The act of sitting itself was an achievement for he seemed to be in great pain. After he had settled down, there was a content look on the scrappy face.

I watched him, thoroughly admiring his attention to detail. Even when others had given up on him, this small cat refused to give up on himself.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Paradigm Shift

Imagine you're in London's Heathrow Airport. While you're waiting for your flight, you notice a kiosk selling cookies. You buy a box, put them in your traveling bag and then you patiently search for an available seat so you can sit down and enjoy your cookies. Finally you find a seat next to a gentleman. You reach down into your traveling bag and pull out your box of cookies. As you do so, you notice that the gentleman starts watching you intensely. He stares as you open the box and his eyes follow your hand as you pick up the cookie and bring it to your mouth. Just then he reaches over and takes one of your cookies from the box, and eats it! You're more than a little surprised at this. Actually, you're at a loss for words.

Not only does he take one cookie, but also alternates with you. For every one cookie you take, he takes one. Now, what's your immediate impression of this guy? Crazy? Greedy? He's got some nerve! Can you imagine the words you might use to describe this man to your associates back at the office? Meanwhile, you both continue eating the cookies until there's just one left. To your surprise, the man reaches over and takes it. But then he does something unexpected. He breaks it in half, and gives half to you. After he's finished with his half he gets up, and without a word, he leaves.

You think to yourself, "Do this really happen?" You're left sitting there dumbfounded and still hungry. So you go back to the kiosk and buy another box of cookies. You then return to your seat and begin opening your new box of cookies when you glance down into your traveling bag. Sitting there in your bag is your original box of cookies -- still unopened. Only then do you realize that when you reached down earlier, you had reached into the other man's bag, and grabbed his box of cookies by mistake.

Now what do you think of the man? Generous? Tolerant? You've just experienced a profound 
paradigm shift. You're seeing things from a new point of view.

Is it time to change your point of view? Now, think of this story as it relates to your life. Things may not be what they seem.

P.S. This piece is not an XiC original. A friend sent this to me and I thought it'd be great to share. Thanks M!

Two to Tango

It takes two to tango…we’ve formed a pattern, this friend, T, and I. Once every month, we search, find and research the ‘bestest’ restaurants in town. After zeroing upon the one that suits our fancy, we go stuff ourselves to our respective hearts content. Boozing is moderate since we have to drive home.

Gastronomic delights are hard to come by for her, since she cooks her own food (if she reads this, it’ll be my last post ever :P). As for me, I have her enchanting company and a gastronomic adventure to look forward to. Also, it fortifies amy appreciation of home food all the more (Thanks Ma! :) ). Our choice of places leans heavily towards the casual types. And since we go directly from office, we are ready to bark at the slightest hint of formality.

As we wait for the valet to hand over the counter coupon, we are eager with anticipation. There is so much to catch up on and the smells have already enticed our noses.

A couple minutes later, we are seated. Our tongues start the warm up dance. What are we going to drink? Will it be wine today?..Oh Ok, so the restaurant has a beer fest on. As much as you can drink for 200 bucks!! No thank yew, we’d rather hold on to our pints. The individual who designed the pint size must have done that out of guilt for consuming a whole sized bottle. Pints are so easy to toss in; you don’t notice you’ve knocked down a few until you are on your fourth. Besides, they fit snugly in the hand (and in the beer coolers).

Our eyes pretend not to notice the soups, salads or vegetarian fare. Meaty starters and main course it is..always. Choosing the dish is my prerogative and ordering it is hers. We spend considerable time on the main course after we quickly order the drinks. Cheers! Here is to jobs that pay the bills. :) We are all set for a good time.

Tongues roll. Inside news, outside news, news you can use and news you can’t. The conversation takes myriad directions, we like it that way. The food arrives, as if on cue, during thoughtful silences. The constellations of our minds are twinkling with diverse subjects to lead the conversation onwards. We know not where we started and know not where we will end for the night is young and we have miles to go. (This might sound like I’m three pints down, but it’ll seem that way to 4 out of every 3 people.)

It is time for dessert. Nah! We’ll skip it this time. Here, it seems they don’t hurry with the check. So we get in few more sound bytes.

As we head our respective ways, the delicious taste of our wonderful time together lingers.

New month, new place.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

# 15

......curves of a smile
on a radiant face
will the lily remember
to bloom again.......

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

RIP: My Gym Sneakers

I retired my gym sneakers, finally.

At gym they bore the weights,
My steadfast sole – mates,
Had the last workout today,
Before they fade away

They are Reeboks,
Look ma, I wear no socks.
“I am what I am” they say,
I see it no other way

These Spikes of Fire,
Raised the bar higher
They danced and jumped,
As my heart pumped

Been out in all weather,
One rests below the other
Weary and worn,
Of their glory shorn

It’s a touching farewell,
From this poem you can tell
Retired from the race,
Old pals have found their resting place.


The last shot

# 14

....winds of hate
ravish tender faces
score deep scars
where do they begin?
where do they end?...

The last shot

A Room with a view

The Furry one

Sand Dunes at Hunder

The mighty Shyok

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Shadow Play

View from Khardung La

# 13

....I dreamt a dream
the stars shone brighter than the Sun
blinding light
my eyes choked on a tear...........

Shadow Play

View from Khardung La

Road to Khardung La

Leh Logs: Days Four & Five

We had left Leh behind us now. The road traversed towards the Khardung-La. We were proceeding to the Nubra valley which is about 100 kms away from the Siachen glacier. This trip necessitated a night’s stay at Nubra. One reason for this is that it’s a long drive away from Leh and second, cars which cross the Khardung-La cannot return to the pass on the same day. The ongoing road work demands that traffic moves one way in the first half of the day and the other way in the second half.

The beacon like presence of the Shanti Stupa was the only way we could tell where Leh was. This radiant white Stupa disappeared from view only after we reached the Pass. Someone with a lot of imagination has painted a green yellow frog on a huge rock of frog-like proportions. Tourist riding to the Pass can see it on the road side.

It took us a good 2 hours to reach the height of 18,000 ft. The road snaked from one mountain to another, but we never lost sight of the ice laden peak we wanted to reach. But for these signs though, it is easy enough to forget the human sweat that goes into the domestication of this overpowering landscape. And suddenly we were there!

At Khardung-La, the highest motorable road in the world, where travelers dare not linger because of the lack of oxygen and the cold that gets to your heart, we saw small brown men, their snub-noses barely peeping out from their parkas. They were laborers working on maintaining the pass. The majority of them, I think, are brought here by contractors on year-long stints.

The army has a small canteen serving piping hot beverages and biscuits. Of late, they have also started a souvenir shop which sells the usual mugs, pens and tees. Till some time ago, such a venture was unthinkable, but I am glad the set up shop when they did. Yet trust the government machinery to leave its mark. They don’t sell the souvenir mugs singly, you HAVE to buy half a dozen mugs, or none at all. Now what, I wondered, and began making a list of people I could pass some mugs to. As I pondered a possible way out, I saw that an east European couple was stuck in the same predicament. We hit upon an idea and decided to buy 3 mugs each. Just goes to prove that when there is intent language is no barrier. :P

And so it went. One hour overlapping the next, one mile extending into another. The better part of the journey lay in front of us now. It would lead us through Khalsar and Diskit villages to Hunder. The road sloped steadily towards the valley that opened up before us. A number of small blue ponds appeared on the landscape and we could make out tiny black & white dots high up the mountains. Those would be yaks and pashmina sheep grazing in the vale.

At Khalsar, we stopped for lunch while Mohammed went to fill up the car’s tank. As we were settling at the table, a gaggle of girls came in. They were from the USA, as was apparent by their accent. They spent a long time studying the menu, and ended up ordering flavored sodas for themselves.

Soon the gorge gave way to a flat stretch of road with another enormous valley unraveling itself like a plot from a Hitchcock novel. Perched high above on the ridge it was a mesmerizing view of the Shyok River beneath. We followed the turbulent and muddy Shyok as we climbed down into the valley. As it grew wider, so did the valley. We soon came to a bifurcation - the right fork leading to the villages of Sumur, Tegar and Panamic and onwards to the Siachen glacier; the left fork going to Diskit and Hunder.

We took the left fork. A really straight road leads to the ghat which goes on to Diskit. Saser glaciers, Turtuk and the mighty Siachen were now hidden behind the mountains to the north. We moved in deeper towards the end of the pasture, past farms hidden from sight by tall thorny shrubs. We crossed all mountains there were to cross. Suddenly, the path opened and an amazing sight unfolded! Dunes of white sands greeted our eyes.

Further up the road as we drove towards the Hunder, we encountered a rolling meadow with a stream running through it! Horses and cows grazed peacefully. Here nature danced to the tune of chirping birds, trees swayed in the breeze echoing a haunting whisper across the meadow. Rocks whispered magic words that made the stream gurgle with laughter. We turned to other mortal necessities like finding a hotel for the night.

We found a guest house away from the sand dunes at Hunder. It was a very pretty place and we had a room with a view. By about 4.00 in the noon we were all settled and ready to leave for the sand dunes. This area is famous for the double humped Bactrian camels. These ships of the desert served in caravans taking the Silk Route to Tibet. Since the Route is no longer operational they have been tamed. It has not been easy, and to prove that we saw a sole wild camel rushing about in the wild growth. Sometimes he followed us and other times resisted any attempts to get near him. Oh but they are such furry creatures! I always wanted a puppy, but I’ll settle for a baby Bactrian camel, I think.

Father, on the other had, furiously killed all attempts to get him to ride a camel. For Mother, it was one of her must dos in life. So while Father captured us in print, we braved a camel ride. I had a shaky start with my camel unhappy at being hitched, did a little jig with me on its back. I briefly got the distinct feeling of being hung and left to bob up and down an elastic rope.

My furry ship had loads of attitude. He pushed Ma’s camel away every time the fellow came any nearer. This was a complicated task considering they had been tied together at the saddle. The camel-wallah had cunningly abandoned us to fetch a third camel from the starting point. So our little circus sauntered along, Ma trying to save her feet from the furry mêlée and at the same time shouting for the camel guy to catch up fast and discipline my camel. I was in splits and tried to tell her to simply kick my camel you-know-where, so that they would stay apart. But you just don’t do such things with Ma and get away with it. I got a tirade on how-my-camel-ride–is turning-into-a nightmare. Meanwhile, the camel guy caught up and separated our camels for good. Now the lone wild one put in an appearance and the camel guy was away in flash chasing him. Another outburst from Ma followed. Father, composed as ever, was calmly walking behind us taking snaps. “Well, I consoled her, he did not run away or anything with you on it. And you are still in one piece.”

The eventful ride later we hung around the dunes. I sat and watched the sun setting gradually over the distant peaks, casting long shadows in the valley while removing some from my mind. I managed to capture a beautiful frame of huge mountains looming in the background of a cows returning home for the day.
Back the guest house, the manager-cum-waiter-cum server-cum cook made us nice hot tea which we enjoyed under the twilight.

For dinner we had ordered some Chinese fare and I wolfed it down. I tasted so good. By 9.00 I was all ready to sleep. We would start our journey back to Leh the next morning along the same route and cross the Khardung La for the last time.