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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Passion for Photography

   The Indian Blogger Awards 2017

Someone once famously said, ”A picture speaks more than a thousand words and I couldn’t agree more! In the last couple of years I find that photography has grown from a mere hobby to an all consuming passion and I clearly realize that some of my happiest moments are those when I am looking through the lens of my camera. And if I was to stretch that logic just a little bit further, then I would also have to include the moments when I get to download all the photographs taken, followed by the next hour or sometimes even two, that it takes me to satisfy myself that every picture taken is ‘just so’!

Misfat- heaven on earth

Some of my photography expeditions are solitary ones when I click pretty much whatever catches my fancy. It might be something as simple as the seagulls at the Corniche or the varying colours of the sea from one day to the next. Then of course, we have the more structured group expeditions when a few like minded people belonging to one of the photography groups in the city set out for the day. These trips could entail a substantial amount of driving time and take us to places as far as Jabal Akhdar, or then again, to one of the many forts or ‘wadis’ which could be located much closer. While on the subject, I’d like to add that a lot of the fun on these trips comes from the shared bond, which in this case, simply boils down to a genuine love of photography. The other great aspect is that we are very fortunate to be living in Oman, a country which provides people the best possible locations and terrain for all kinds of photography and then some!

One learns very quickly how to behave and act in unfamiliar surroundings. And coming on top of the list is good ‘old fashioned courtesy’, something which can really get a person miles ahead. So what I’ve learnt to do in the course of my wanderings across the hamlets and villages here in Oman is to politely check with the person concerned every time I wish to click a photograph. More so if it involves an older person or a lady as that’s the only way one can possibly do it. There's a particularly interesting phrase that really does the trick, "Mumkin Sura?" (i.e ‘May I click your photograph)? And as I’ve learnt through experience, if you ask, the most likely answer will be a firm “Yes.”

Of some shoots that readily come to mind, one happened to be on the day that I spotted a young man on a lovely morning at the beach. Experience tells us that one of the easiest ways to understand the true meaning of real happiness” is to watch a person's body language. And it gets even better if one is able to capture that moment forever. That day I was lucky for I managed to do just that. He was so happy and I was so happy just watching him.

Then I clicked and hey presto! There it was, an almost perfect shot with the man’s arms upraised and his face looking up a the sky. And there it still remains, frozen till eternity.

The Matrah Souq in Muscat is one of the most delightfully quaint places that one could possibly find. A true amalgamation of the best of sights, sounds and smells, this is one of my favorite places to head to. Reminiscent in many ways of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, the walk leads one through twisting and turning lanes, by-lanes and alleys, each one revealing more and more interesting sights. Silver, coffee, spices, cloth, household goods, all of these and more are available here, and can really make some great gifts. Topping it all, it is clearly a photographer’s delight. Try it once if you haven’t done so already, I guarantee that you will come back for more.

Looking across- Riyam Hill

 What is the real reward of climbing a right to the top of a hill or a mountain top? A view to die for perhaps? Then going across to the other side of the hill, forgetting one’s your aching bones, which have been steadily at it for the last one hour? All of which has been uphill. Then getting to see the beautiful harbour at twilight.

I did this trek up the Riyam hill last year and would do it, again and again! For the best was yet to come. The day as it turned to night, unforgettable moments when all I could see was the vast expanse all around me, the sea and the twinkling lights. Or was it quite simply, a slice of heaven?

And to close, here’s a line that really sums it all. “You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it.” (Anon.)

NB- This piece was originally written for 'My Take' in Muscat Daily

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Turning Point- A short story

Nitin and Varsha were invited to Sulekha's birthday party.
Sulekha was Varsha's 'forever' best friend and the party was something that was bound to be a fun affair. Starting off as a leisurely lunch on a Sunday, it was meant to progress on  to tea and who knew, the possibility of the cocktail hour loomed large as an exciting prospect as well.

But things don't really change very much and  as it happened, today was no different. Nitin was ready, dressed in his 'Sunday best' while Varsha was still in her nightgown.True, she had already bathed and her clothes lay neatly on the bed. Nails varnished and make up applied, all she had to do was change, run a brush through her hair and she would be ready to leave.But what about all the household chores?  There was a mountain of laundry to be tackled, she had to sort out all their clothes for next week's ironing and the groceries had yet to be ordered.

Suddenly it was all too much for her and Varsha felt overwhelmed. The last week at work had been really tough, she had completed a very tough assignment and handed it over to her boss who had taken a cursory look at it and in a few words, told her it wasn't upto scratch. Net result- she would have to go in tomorrow and start it all she had all over again. To top that, she had the beginnings of a splitting headache and despite the painkiller she had just taken it seemed to be building up.

And how!

"I really must lie down for 15 minutes", she thought. It was just past 10 and they had to leave by 1230 in order to get to Sulekha's place in Andheri East.

The thought had barely crossed her mind when she did exactly that. Five  minutes later, or was it just two, she was lying in her soft, and comfortable bed. 

Fast asleep...


"Hey Varsha, we will be late", called out Nitin from where he was busy watching the IPL unfold on television. 

"Come on, lets leave soon Varsha"

"Or at least as soon as you get ready."

 No response...

Another beer and 15 minutes later there was still no response and that was when Nitin decided it was high time to look into the matter. Driving to Andheri wasn't going to b e easy, even on a Sunday and he wanted to be sure they made a whole day of it.After all, it was the weekend, wasn't it?

Grumbling under his breath, he went towards the bedroom, everything was silent.

"What the"? he muttered and opened the door.

Looked in and saw Varsha stretched out on the bed.

Fast asleep.

Looking around, he could clearly see the signs of all her work in progress. The laundry basket with the dirty clothes, neatly separated into whites and coloureds lay on one side while another basket held the clothes that clearly needed to be ironed.

And Varsha looked so small..and very tired.

He felt his heart melting and in that split second, he realised what a male chauvinist pig he was! In the two years that they had been married, she had borne the brunt of running the household, He was ashamed to recall, the many, many times 
( just like today) when he had treated his "weekend" as sacrosanct and made the most of his time off.

" Chilling out" he called it- a couple of beers, good sex with Varsha followed by the evening out. And to him, it was all perfect- Time out for both of them. 

But something had to must change now,he told himself sternly. 

He wasn't going to be his father all over again.

Sitting with his feet up and relaxing while his mother, also a Professor at a leading women's college, worked hard through the week and then worked hard during her weekend as well. Cooking, cleaning and getting the house organised for all of them.




"Oh God, have I been sleeping"? Varsha woke up with a start.

She felt rested but she also felt worried. She still had to tackle the laundry, the ironing... 


Looking around, she could see that something was different. The room was neat and there was no sign of the piles she had made some time ago.

And what was that sound? 

Could it possibly be...?

the washing machine?

That was when she saw Nitin come into the room. Very quietly so that he wouldn't disturb her.

"Oh you're awake? I hope I didn't...?"

And in a flash, Varsha understood.

Understood why everything looked so neat and clean.And why she could hear the sound of the washing machine in the background.

It was all because of Nitin.


Coming up to her, Nitin stretched out his arms and drew her in gently.

"I'm sorry," he said.

She could see the glint of tears in his eyes and knew that it was a turning point.

Life had changed for them today.

And she was convinced, life was going to stay that way.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Real life experiences in a world of contrasts

The mind wanders and various thoughts come and go. Some which register more than others. In which case, I try to put them down, before they go away. So here’s something which I observed during one of my evening walks.

We have a very large and well reputed Polyclinic in our complex offering a wide range of medical treatments and facilities. People of all age groups
 (mostly from the upper strata) come here to have a range of treatments and follow up activities. As I drew up closer, and moved towards the outer perimeter, I saw an old Omani gentleman in a wheel chair. He was gently being taken down the specially built ramp and into a parked and waiting Lexus ES-350.

My primary observation was that he looked weak and unwell. But overriding that was another one for he also looked happy and content. Even managing a smile back at me as I gave him one while directly passing by. The reason for that happiness was very simple. You see he was surrounded by loving family members, who were there to provide mental, moral as well as physical support. There were three of them, a young man and a woman along with a boy of about 14 years of age.

So here's my take on this- At the end of the day, what are we all really looking for? Just some peace and quiet, and most of all the loving support of our family,particularly if we are weak, old and ill. For money alone can't buy happiness in this world.


 Here’s a contrasting story. It was a cold December night of our winter vacation in Delhi a few years back had just finished a family dinner at 'Punjabi by Nature' in Priya's Vasant Vihar Complex. and were looking for a 'paan' to conclude the eating fiesta.

As everyone wandered from place to place, looking around, I stood near a bangles and accessories pavement seller, looking at his wares and my eyes just happened to fall on an old lady, sitting on a nearby pavement bench. What particularly caught my attention was her sad eyes and an expression of sheer desolation. She looked absolutely lost and alone. The very next moment, she turned and looked at me. Our eyes met, and an unspoken communication took place. I willed her into some semblance of awareness of her surroundings.....and she managed a timid smile.

And then, something happened and which has stayed with me-till today, and every now and then still returns to haunt me.A younger woman, (possibly her daughter in law? ) walked up to her and asked loudly- in Punjabi- "Bunty Kidhar Hai? Kidhar hai Bunty?"( Where’s Bunty?)

 The older lady lady looked up, totally confused for she hadn't even realised that Bunty wasn't there. She started stammering," I don't know, he was just here" desperately looking around, for she really had no clue. 

All the while the younger woman continued with her ranting.

Suddenly, a boy of about six came running right up to the older woman. Then hugging her he said, "Sorry, I had just gone there... for a moment."

The lady was so relieved that in that moment, tears spilled out of her eyes.  

I stood watching, having understood what I had just unwittingly been a mute witness to-total disrespect of an older person. It was obvious that she was now without her partner. And that's why the younger woman had the audacity to treat her this way.

Life took over, and I went on with my family in the next few minutes, but not without turning to look back at her. Still sitting there yet, the child was holding on to her hand.

In some of my quiet moments, I often wonder, what happened to her from that day onwards?

NB- This piece was originally written by me for 'My Take' in Muscat Daily

Friday, July 7, 2017

The grey Lladro Vase

Crash… went the sound and my heart leapt into my mouth. 

The cleaner was at work and I knew what I’d always feared had happened. I also knew exactly what had been broken, for there was that particular sound that indicated the breaking of exquisitely delicate glass. 

I made my way to our passage, which was where the sound had emanated from, trying not to look as panic stricken as I felt inside and there was the sight and sounds of shards of glass being swept away. The man looked ashen faced and knew that he had done something that he would probably regret for a very long time thereafter. I looked at the remnants of our grey Lladro vase being swept away and along with the sudden dryness in my mouth that threatened to turn to nausea in the very next minute, a hundred thoughts flashed through my mind.

( Pic sourced from the net)

It was exactly nineteen years ago that we had picked up that vase at the Annual Sale of one of the leading stores here and it was easy to recall the pride and joy that we had felt while placing that vase at the exact spot and the even more exact angle that we had wanted. Everything had to be ‘just so’, for we had been eyeing that piece throughout the year, knowing that the best way to get it was when that store went on Sale. 

Time passed, we moved houses, added a whole lot of new things to our collection, some of which were way more expensive than the grey vase, but that vase continued to be one of my favourite things.

I would pass by many a time and glance at it as it stood silently, yet proudly in its place and felt a smile begin. That particular smile that came from the inside, not merely the kind that showed up on the face.

“Sorry Madam”, my thoughts were broken as I heard the sound of a man in great mental stress. He knew very well that there was nothing he could do about it and I realized that only too well myself. 

So I did the next best thing that I could manage at that particular moment in time. “It’s OK,” I told him, “I know that it was an accident, so just be careful while you clear it up, for we don’t want any glass pieces being left behind.” 

And then turned away before he could see the stubborn tears that had welled up and now threatened to spill right over. For that just wouldn’t do now, would it?

Swallowing and heading to the kitchen where I made myself a strong cup of tea, I reflected. 

It was finished, over, and nothing would bring it back to me. As I sipped the calming hot tea, from somewhere at the back of my mind I recalled what my mother had always taught us, albeit in another context, “There’s no looking back, only moving forward.” 

With each sip of the tea came the necessary strength and my resilient nature re-asserted itself and I resolved to do just that.

Stepping out with my head held high, I looked at the man cleaning another section of the house, and happened to catch his eye just as he looked at me. 

And then surprised myself more than I probably did him. 

“Theek Hai," I heard myself saying, “I suppose I could just as easily have broken it myself one day"….”

NB- This piece was originally written for my column My Take in Muscat Daily

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Magnificent Prague, an unforgettable visit- my You Tube video

The iconic Charles Bridge, the stunning and legendary Prague Castle which thrives on the legend of Golem and so much more, our daily walks in the old town square, the midnight 
( and really scary) ghost tour, the trip to the Jewish quarter which brought a lump to my throat.

The food, the flowers, the smells, the glorious weather and most of all, the superb architecture of Prague made it an unforgettable trip.

I've tried to encapsulate all these in my You Tube video  and have succeeded to a point.

As to the rest, will leave it for another post on another day.

Would love to hear what you thought, so do tell folks!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Monsoon Magic

Waking up to this

The last fortnight in Delhi/NCR has been hard to bear on some days. With temperatures soaring to over 46 C its not difficult to imagine how daily life is impacted.

The weather man promised some rain but who knew how things would pan out.

Then this morning we woke up to this..
When a morning walk becomes a  pleasure

The sweet smell of rain and soil mingled and between the short showers we managed a morning walk. 
Sun, shade and a splash of pink

'Delightful' would be an understatement!

Better still, the day panned out much the same way so here's looking forward to many more such wonderful mornings....