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Monday, September 29, 2008

"Making things possible"..Vs. "Que Sera Sera"

A subject that has been the subject of much debate, and will continue to be so...Possibly with no right or wrong answer....

The more simplistic view to take would be the one which concludes- 'Que Sera Sera' and leave it to chance/fate/destiny....or whatever....And yes, it does have it's merits, for as we all know, human endurance can be stretched only that much, and then let things take shape as they were "meant to be"...

But recently, there has been much talk about 'The Secret' the bestselling book by first time author, Rhonda Bryne." The Secret reveals the most powerful law in the universe. The knowledge of this law has run like a golden thread through the lives and the teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages and saviors in the world's history, and through the lives of all truly great men and women.

"Without exception, every human being has the ability to transform any weakness or suffering into strength, power, perfect peace, health, and abundance. "

My take is very simple-

Do what you have to. And do it as best as you can.
And even if you fail, try it again.
For if you never ever tried, you'd never get anywhere.
And even if you got 'some-place', it was further than where you were earlier.............

Friday, September 26, 2008

Between Nakhal and Rustaq- Ruins that fascinate and intrigue…..

Have you ever come across a place that fascinates and intrigues you? Im-measurably?

Enough for you to recapitulate and wonder about it...... many, many days after you saw it?

It’s happened to me. Fairly recently, at that……

It was on our return journey from Nakhal and we were thrilled with our successful day trip. And even though, we weren't really focusing on the surrounding areas, our attention was suddenly drawn to something on the other side of the road.

From a distance, it appeared to be a small castle, or a fort, but to our certain knowledge there wasn’t anything documented on this stretch of the road. Rising out of the flat stretch of land, and on what appeared to be a hillock was this very intriguing structure in hues of grey and fawn, and if one's imagination could be stretched a tad bit, then it was almost like looking at Roman ruins Almost as of it's own volition, all of us had the very same thought, “We must check this out.”

Taking the very next round-about, we came back to where we had first spotted it and realized that it was actually much further than what we’d first thought. Also that we’d have to drive off the main road and onto the dirt track, which would take us close to this place. The very next moments found us being bumped and shaken as our tough four wheel drive took us closer and closer towards this fascinating monument.

Alighting, we found ourself just off a small village, where giggling little children watched us shyly- albeit from a safe distance. With small flat houses and trees dotting the scenery, we walked towards it, getting more and more excited with each step.

“Seeing is believing” – you only need to look at the accompanying photographs, to feel something of what we did.

But the thought that we couldn’t suppress, why was this place allowed to go to rack and ruin?
And what can we do about it?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The things that matter- Moments in a day

What are the really important things in life?

I'm fairly sure that each of us has a different answer and a different perception.

Making money, lots and lots of it?

Many would put this on top of their list of priorities

Family time, personal time, time for recreation, time to just 'be'...the list can go on and on..

Temporary frustrations or roadblocks can make people look at their priorities differently at different points in time. And so their list will undergo a metamorphosis, and come back on track, perhaps..

Who can really tell?

But there is a simpler way to look at the moments in a day..

I quote Saleh Al Shaibany"In the end, it's the routine that matters, no matter how much we hate it.Lets make the most of our day. You may be tied up in a meeting , but can still step out for a few seconds to send a text message to someone whose day you will brighten up.

Just take care of the moments of the day, and the rest of the day will take care of you when you close the blinds for the night."

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Safe Harbour-Aafreen

"She could hear the Raagis melodiously singing the Kirtans as
she walked up. The whole atmosphere was wonderfully calm and
soothing, yet, so very stirring, that it brought tears to her eyes.
Tears of happiness that she was here. She knew that most people
only remembered God and visited temples and mosques and
churches when they were in need of something.

Sometimes, when they remembered to thank him for the
wonderful blessings that he had showered upon them.
Like the vast majority of people, she too was guilty of the same
sin, that of omission. But that was the frailty of all human beings.
No one could possibly be all things for all seasons or reasons, and
as she had grown older, she had learnt to be more comfortable in
her own skin.

Or was that simply called maturing?

Covering her head and then taking the karha prashad and
paying obeisance to the Guru Granth Sahib, she walked over to a
corner, and sat down. Closing her eyes, she focused completely on
her inner space. This whole experience was wonderfully energizing,
and to her, it felt even better than actual meditation. In her thought
process at this point, there was nothing and no one around her,
just the sound of the hymns, her breathing, and the feel of a higher
power and its presence."

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Where does one draw the line?
How much is ever enough?

A very difficult dilemma, and one that varies from person to person..

And more importantly, from time to time............

Or then again, at different points in time...
For those who didn't "aspire to achieve" never went places.
Or those who tried too hard, didn't reach far enough..

Yet even for those who "run as they go along", sometimes it's almost as if the Goal post seems to have moved further and then..... further away...

But if you never "tried" you would never really know, now would you??

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Approaching Autumn

"There is a harmony in autumn, and a lustre in it's sky.
Which through the summer is not heard or seen.
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!"

Percy Bysshe Shelley.

And who would not agree?

Autumn- When summer leaves us, and we approach the year's end.

When the leaves on the trees start changing colour, and there is that very slight nip in the air...Or did we imagine it?

When sunsets become even more beautiful, and makes us want to watch them just that much longer....

When we start debating, do we need to delve into our wardrobe, again...for could winter be far behind?

When Caramel Machiatto with cinammon scones is just ir-resistable....

When festivities abound..... wherever you may be in the world.

When every photograph you take has just that "teensy weensy" sharper edge.

And finally....

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
George Eliot

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kalimpong- 'Singhmari' and the Kanchejunga

Moments that stay in one's memory: the first glimpse of a wonderful mountain peak...the first look at your 'just born' child, the first sight of a loved one, in a long, long time...the first sight of the wide open expanse of sea.....

And one such, is the memory of the time that we went to Kalimpong, shortly after we were married. Booked to stay at the wonderful cottage 'Singhmari' run by West Bengal Tourism, all that we had been told was -we could expect to find a place of extraordinary beauty.

It was a late on a cold November evening when we arrived, and there was a warm glow around this wonderful cottage, (which I relly felt, welcomed us), as did the care-taker....A quick dinner, and bed..

Next morning as we awoke, we drew back the curtains, which opened out to a big Bay window...
And gasped sheer disbelief.

For what was facing us was a sight of incomparable beauty. We could see the entire range of snow capped mountains.In in the centre of which, proudly stood the Kanchejunga mountain, in all it's all gold, red and white resplendant and breathtaking beauty.....

A moment that forever stands out in my memory.....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Terror- A Nameless, faceless entity

New Delhi 13th October 08-Saturday evening.....

The week-end, when families head out for an evening of fun and frolic.To put the travails of the working week behind them and get a well deseved break.

And then in the most unexpected way, terror strikes, catching them unwares. A bomb blast and then one more.....a series of them....

A wife dead, a brother dying, and a daughter lying bleeding on the ground.Combined with the sounds of sheer panic and pandemonium.Sirens of ambulances covered up by those of people running in fear, not knowing what would hit them next ....or from where?

...Such were the gut wrenching images that we saw late at night on our TV screens , broadcast all over the world..

Scenes that left us numbed by the realization that 'Terror' had struck again.An insidious, nameless, faceless entity.

The final thought -When and where would it strike next?

Friday, September 12, 2008


"If music be food for the soul...... Play on...."
As someone famously said. Or words to that effect. Makes complete sense to me.

When the mind need to rest, play on...To soothe and to calm, "Play on"....

What comes to mind, is an unforgettable vignette, a scene from Shashi Kapoor's movie, 'Kalyug'.
Loosely based on the 'Mahabharata', the movie was one of its kind and brilliantly directed by Shyam Benegal.

There's this particular moment when Shashi Kapoors character 'Karan' discovers that he's the illegitimate son of the Matriarch of the family that he's vowed to destroy.To do that, he's set an un-stoppable and irreversible chain of events in motion. And then the moment when his mother reveals the truth to him. And his reaction..

Coming home, he shuts all doors and windows, puts on a particular piece of intrumental music-violin (?), curls up into a foetal position on his bed, where he the camera zooms in, closer, and then pulls back, to give us an aerial shot. Simply heart-wrenching, and incomparable.

Something similar appealed to me in 'Junoon', also produced by Shashi Kapoor and directed by Shyam Benegal. The very last scene, when the main protagonist, gallops like a madman, just to have a glimpse of the woman that he's passionately loved, a Britisher, played by Nafisa Ali and is now events of the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857.

That particular moment, their great unspoken, mutual love and then his turning away-
Accompanied by music that tears at one's heartstrings ...

Music, really does say it all....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Safe Harbour -Trishala

"Life was strange", she mused, as she walked, faster and then, even
faster. "You were up one day and then down … the very next."

Coming to her favourite resting spot, she stopped. This was
the bench she sometimes rested on, admiring the view. Sitting
down she realized that her heart was pumping furiously. But the
walk had done her good.

The sun had come up and the morning was a clear, serene one.
From where she sat, she could view the sea, a lovely aquamarine
blue. Calm, unhurried, the waves gently lapping at the beach.

Looking towards the sea and the view she loved so well, she resolved
that she would do everything in her power to ensure that her
children got what they had come looking for.

A happy, warm, loving family reunion..................

................Looking around later, Trishala thought that these were really the
simple, everyday joys of life; watching one’s family enjoy a lovingly
thought-through and prepared meal. Sitting around a table together,
laughing, chatting, pulling each others’ legs. ..........................

................She also realized that she had changed as she grew older.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ageing=Growing more comfortable in your own skin?

Applies to most of us.....
Or then again, does it?

When things like the dinner party that you host must be 'Just so 'cease to matter.
After all Friends and bonhomie are what make or break the event.Not so much, the crystal, the pate or the liquers.

When every piece of clothing that you wear need'nt be perfectly matched or accesorized.Because even that good old Tshirt at the back ofyour closet will do!

When a little bit of dust collecting on your mantelpiece fails to make your blood pressure rise. After all, tommorrow is another day.

When a simple, soup, bread and cheese meal will suffice for dinner.
Without laying out the fancy set of china .....

When you can decide who you want to meet,on a particular day, or not.
Without feeling guilty or apologetic about it.

When you dont really care if you're caught without your face on. By your next door neighbour.

Ha, but that really needs maturity!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Random thoughts-Friendships

I wonder sometimes- It's strange how friendships evolve, develop, bloom and then stay..

Of course, there are those friendships that are developed right from the time that one starts school, and if one's lucky to stay in a place for a few years, then one has the opportunity of making a more lasting, and possibly deeper bond.

New school.New friends......

Some that pass like ships in the night. Some that light up your days, and make life so much more pleasurable.

And then college. When there is so much more to share..Studies, games,hobbies, love, laughter, fun and tears.

Becoming a mother- and in dire need of bonding- from others in the same situation. Crying babies, dirty nappies, sleepless nights.

As well as the immense joys of motherhood. 

The first smile, the first word, the first.......

It's only friends who would know, possibly even more so.

More to follow...

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Silence...and then some more


Only your thoughts surrounding you.

And possibly, in communion with God/the Omnipresent being.....

A wonderful way....... end the day

Saturday, September 6, 2008

RGO Stables in Seeb –A brilliant showcase of superb horses and their show-jumping skills.

There are some places one goes to that leave a mark on one for a lifetime.Along with members of the Women’s Guild of Oman, I had just such an opportunity some time back.A visit to the RGO stables in Seeb, provided us with a delightful mix of action, grace, beauty, pageantry. Above all, we were treated to a display of the highest calibre of musical rides, show jumping, dressage and regular horse riding-all in the span of just one morning.

After reaching the RGO Stables in Seeb, we were all warmly welcomed by the Stables Manager, Major Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Balushi, who gave us a brief introduction of the set up there, and then gave us a tour of the place where we were treated to a delightful display of ceremonial splendour.

And it was then that the real show began……

The band struck up the beat, and there they came, two rows of splendid horses, coming in from both sides of the field….They moved majestically, those proud horses, and their riders. We watched with bated breath as they first trotted, then cantered at a faster, and then even faster pace. It was clear for all to see, the intangible bond between each of the horses and their riders, was a unique one, and one that went beyond set boundaries.

The music apart, there was much for the audience to feast their eyes on: the men wearing dazzling green and red coloured military uniforms, as well as dashing black uniforms. These soldiers and officers treated us to a complete routine, one where horses, men, and the accompanying background music of the highest order, first mesmerized, then, wove a spell around the audience. To top it all, there were the superb notes of the gleaming brass instruments. Such was the magnificence of the setting that it was hard to judge whether the music complemented the occasion, or the occasion complemented the music.

We were doubly lucky on that particular day, as Col. Brian Watson, and his wife, were present at the RGO stables that very morning. According to Maj. Mohammed Al Balushi, to Col Brian Watson goes the complete credit for training and setting up the first ever Mounted band in the Sultanate of Oman. In 1978 after the commissioning of the first mounted troops in the Sultanate, based on a personal request by H.M Sultan Qaboos Bin Al Said, Col Brian Watson set about training a team of young, unfettered boys, some of whom had never even worn closed shoes. These boys, included Maj. Mohammed, then a very young boy himself.

The outcome, achieved in a record time of a few short months, saw the first- ever performance of a ‘mounted band’ which accompanied the march past and the other celebrations. This band performed at the very first National Day parade in Salalah in 1979. There were a total of nine performers, of which eight were trumpeters, mounted on horses. And as Col. Brian Watson narrated the anecdote much to the amusement of all present, H.M Sultan Qaboos Al Said, while congratulating him for the success of the presentation and parade, told him that he wanted to see at least twenty five members in the band for next year’s parade!

So, one year, and many broken drums and sticks later, this too was achieved. And so began the real foundation of what has grown and matured extremely creditably since that day. Today the Mounted band of the RGO in the Sultanate is 45 members strong. They have come a long way indeed, as the RGO stables team today is about 102 members, and has 76 horses.

The Royal Guard of Oman (RGO)- A background
The Royal Guard Regiment was formed in 1973 to protect and escort His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said as well as to guard Royal property and visiting personages. It is a ‘corps d'elite’, which is trained as both a combat and ceremonial unit.

One of the most notable things that we all registered while walking around the stables was a marked absence of a ‘horsy' smell as we took in our surroundings. And the stables, they all had gleaming white and polished exteriors, through which we could see the proud and graceful horses- a definite tribute to the excellence in the systems and techniques of Major Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Balushi, and his team.

A ‘Horse shoeing’ demo, was next on the agenda, and we saw at close quarters, the various steps that were entailed in the process. And, couldn’t help but marvel at the expertise of the soldier assigned for the task, combined with the patience of the horse that was being ‘shoed’!’

We were then introduced to Dr Ilias, from the Veterinary Department who gave us a brief background on horses, their physical health and care, and patiently answered all our queries.

Historically, Oman has been famous for it’s pure-bred Arab horses. The perfect Arabian horse has a small head, proportionate to the rest of its body; large eyes; small, pointed, erect ears; and a short, wide back. A very interesting fact that came to light was that each horse is given an ‘Equine Passport’ by the Omani Horse Register (OHR) which is the equivalent of it’s identity card.

We also learnt about how horses were actually bred at the RGO stables. This is mainly by ‘artificial insemination’, after a complete gynaecological check is completed. Since the need of a mounted band is that of bigger and stronger horses, in order to carry both the rider, as well as the instruments, The resultant output, the horses bred at the RGO stables are thorough-bred, as well as of mixed blood.

Shortly after this, we were introduced to ‘Shahba’, a beautiful tall, white horse. Major Mohammed informed us that this mare was the tallest in the Sultanate, measuring 18.5 hands. As such, she clearly occupies a pride of place in their stables.We also had an opportunity to see some of the sweetest foals that I remember seeing, along with a couple of majestic goats- complete in scarlet splendour!

Walking around had made us all hungry and thirsty, and we were then informed that refreshments had been laid out…. Tucking into the delicious that awaited us, made us ready for more!After we had all enjoyed the hospitality of the team at the stables, the tour ended with our entry into the 'Saddle room', where we were amazed to see the large number and types of saddles that were kept there. We learnt that all saddle making was done ‘in-house’, and looking at the beautifully crafted saddles, we could clearly see the high standard of craftsmanship that the stable team have attained.

All of us came home with a ‘keep- sake’ as well. Not too difficult to guess, it was a ‘horse-shoe’- for good luck!

(My Feature-Published-Oman Observer-Feb 08)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Time shared with friends

The good, the bad, the ugly....Moments that you share with friends, can actually be some of the most defining moments in life.

The time when you felt that the world had come to an end, because you did not pass that horrid math exam .....

Or when you thought that you would never recover from that particular crush that did not move on...the way that you thought that it would....

Or when you laughed till you cried, because your friend told you about how she finally slapped that lousy boyfriend, who was a total creep.

Or when you were so ill that you could not lift up your head, or think straight, and your friends were there for you, like silent sentinels... till you could...

Or just sitting in Barista, Starbucks, Costa any other coffe shop, talking the night away, just because you loved being with them...

Friends, who can make life more so many ways.

By just "being there." Unconditionally.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Random thoughts- Home

One short and sweet word... with many, many connotations.

So what really is 'Home'?

A place to come back to after a long, hard day,your feet hurting, your head spinning...and your most fervent desire- to hit the bed as soon as you can?

Or at other times, where everything you look at- is familiar, comfortable, inviting, and warm? And you know that even if you were to sleep-walk, you can make yourself that "oh so desperately needed" cup of tea or coffee ?

Or a place where you can curl up right into the most comfortable couch, put your feet up, and just settle back to an evening of your very 'personal' kind of music, movies, or start reading that particular book that you've wanted to read for the last 5 months, but just never got around to doing?

Or, where you are 'Queen', or as it may be, 'King' of your kitchen, and can rustle up just what you want to eat, in 15 mins flat?And do a jolly good job of it, as all the ingredients that you'll ever really need- are going to come right out- of your own refrigerator, or kitchen cupboard, or wherever else you chose put them away?

Or then again, where you grow your very own indoor /outdoor plants, from mere saplings, and can watch them grow into strong, happy, healthy greens. Ones that can be a source of unending delight, day after day, month after month, or even year after year....

Where every picture on every wall, or then again,every piece of crystal that you own, was acquired at a 'particular moment in time'- one that holds a very special place in a particular corner of your heart...

Or - where you can just be who you really are, with no need for any sort of pretence. So that you can wake up the next morning and be capable of continuing on your journey- the next day, the next month.....the next year......

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Random thoughts....on Forgiveness

Forgiveness-Often cited as one of the greatest virtues of mankind, I firmly subscribe to this theory myself. It is only when one is able to forgive, then forget and move on...that one has really been able grow as an individual.

And it is also only when one is able to let go of the pain, the trauma and the sadness that generally accompanies the underlying cause, that one is truly liberated.

From deep within....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bahla- A diverse mix of culture, heritage and pottery...

Seeing is believing”- I have always been a firm believer in this particular saying, and found it to be particularly true on a recent trip to Bahla. It was here that one had an opportunity to see at close quarters what the famous Bahla pottery was all about and realizing that it truly was “one of a kind” in the Sultanate of Oman.

Located just about two hours’ drive away from Muscat, and 40kms ahead of Nizwa, the ancient walled city of Bahla is an intriguing and interesting place, with many things, people and places, all just waiting to be discovered. With it’s beautiful winding roads, fertile land, with a wide variety of green plants, and even more interestingly, the famous Bahla fort, that has been declared a UNESCO site, there is a lot that one can actually see and do in Bahla. With a small population of around 60,000 and 46 separate villages, it has a ‘timeless’ air about it, and one that you can actually feel and savour, almost as soon as you get there.

Not yet really a majorly recommended tourist attraction, those interested in archaeology and history, will find that it’s well worth a visit. It is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited regions in Oman, and archaeologists have found many artefacts dating as far back as back the third century BC. It was historically a strategic stop-over on the old trading route from Muscat to other parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Enclosed by a protective, fortified wall that stretches for about 10 km around the town, Bahla is characterized by it’s many winding roads. In fact, some of these are so narrow that you may even have to pull over to let an on-coming vehicle pass. And that in fact, adds to the quaint charm.

Although large sections of the wall are still standing, parts of it are in ruins and are proposed be reconstructed in the near future. Whether you choose to explore Bahla on foot or by car, you are bound to find an interesting and eclectic balance of the old and the new. In addition there are numerous date plantations close by, many of which can be used as functional picnic spots.

One of the more intriguing aspects of Bahla, and one that is firmly believed by many Omanis, is that Bahla was once renowned for various types of ‘black’ as well as ‘white’ magic. Now of course, you can choose to believe this or not, but the merest hint of sorcery and magic is enough to make many a person excited about what any place really is about. Some people believe that these spells are still available in Bahla.

More than anything, Bahla is truly famous for it’s pottery, since many many years. In fact, the Bahla Oasis is considered an ancient pottery centre. Bahla pottery was very popular and the archeologists have dedicated a special technique, known as the ‘Bahla Pottery Technique’ in order to distinguish it from the other types of local or imported pottery within Oman. The archeologists trace this pottery to identify the cultural connections between the centers of old civilization. This industry remains popular even until this date, and in fact, the Bahla Oasis is one of few locations, where the pottery industry has retained it’s original style and characteristics from the early Islamic Period till date.

We came upon a very interesting pottery making factory, situated right in the heart of Bahla. Called ‘Abdullah Bin Hamdan Al Adwi Trading’, it gave us a true insight into what ‘Bahla pottery’ is all about. According to him, mud for the pots is collected from an area about two kms away. It is then mixed with two different kinds of mud and then treated with water for getting the required consistency. The actual work of making the pots then begins after the mixture has been passed through a machine which results in the right consistency for working with it. Once on the potter’s wheel, it is shaped according to the requirement and then the work of decoration and other ornamentation completed. We were intrigued to find out that the entire work is done by hand, including all the ornamentation

A very interesting talk with Abul Qasim, the pottery maker at the factory revealed that once the pots are shaped, and formed, the pots are put for baking at a temperature of twelve hundred degrees for five hours. They then need an additional three days for drying. It is only when they are finally tested and checked by their own ‘quality control’ procedure that they are then certified as ‘fit for sale’.

As always, the famed ‘Omani hospitality’ came to the fore-front, and we were pleasantly surprised when dates and ‘Kahwa’ were offered to us. And of course, no-one could refuse such a welcome refreshment !

Happy after that we browsed through the pots on sale, and after picking up a few momentoes, we were on our way.

Enlightened, happy, and contented……

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Safe Harbour-An excerpt

Aafreen's visit to Matrah Souq- Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

"Arriving at the Corniche, she parked directly opposite the
Matrah Souk. The view from here was splendid – the deep blue
sea, the even bluer sky, the ships in the harbour, and the people of
various different nationalities milling around – Omanis, Asians,
Europeans, all looking busy and happy….
Walking across and entering the Souk, she sniffed
appreciatively. She could inhale the mingled aromas of spices, dates,
roasted coffee beans, the famous Omani Halwa, and Baklava,
another popular Arabic sweet. Clicking her first shots for the day,
she was satisfied that they had turned out well.
Matrah Souk represented the best of traditional Omani, as
well as Arabic art and culture. Aafreen knew that if she actually
wanted to buy something, she had to be prepared to bargain, and
bargain hard. She also knew that this was reputed to be the place
where antiques could be picked up at throwaway prices.

Looking around, she could see a host of bearded vendors, old as well as
young, some wrapped in shawls over their traditional dish-dashas,
selling a delightful array of goods. On display were exquisite carpets
in rainbow colours, embroidered Pashmina shawls, traditional
Omani silverware, the most prominent of which was the Khanjar,
the traditional Omani dagger. In addition, she could see a range of
brightly coloured women’s clothing of all types. And was intrigued
by a range of the most amazing marine accessories, including
compasses and steering wheels, that she had seen in her life. On
enquiring, she learnt that they had actually come from a real ship!

Through the entire walk, the delicious fragrance of aromatic
spices and other food items used by the locals, followed her
wherever she went.

Like the tourists and locals alike, she loved it…."