Wednesday, September 28, 2016

River's song

(Inspired from River Parvati in Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, circa 2016.)

Open up your ears; hear the river sing as it goes
The melancholy song of the river holds a million woes

My ear picked up a feeble note as I sat there flinging a stone
Into the water for every time I'd ever felt alone

The voice I heard was familiar, but the chord it struck was new
The river sang to me the way my mother used to do

Off tune but full of love, she'd sing and I'd turn quiet
I'd drift off to dreamless sleep with the same song every night

Monday, May 30, 2016

Once upon a weekend in Kasol...

It took us three failed attempts at planning a trip to actually make one happen. It was Shristi's birthday, her little brother was flying in all the way from Bangalore, and she demanded (yes, literally demanded) that we all get our shit together and take her to Kasol for her birthday. We had little choice.

And so, with minimal planning and no fixed itinerary, we were off to the Himalayas for the third weekend of April - 9 of us too, no less. Some of us were wary of travelling in big groups; so many things could go wrong. But we were determined to make it work. Since the plan was made at such short notice, we couldn't get seats in a Volvo. So we hustled it all the way to Bhuntar aboard an HRTC non-AC seater bus. Needless to say, the going was tough, but the morning breeze blowing in my face as we entered the mountains and the hot cup of tea I had at our first stop all but made up for it. After a long overnight journey, we reached Bhuntar by noon. Famished and bedraggled, we found a restaurant, freshened up, and ate, before catching a local bus to Kasol from the bus stop down the road.

The sights I saw on this 1.5-hour bus journey are indescribable. I've been to the Himalayas a lot, but you have to believe me when I say, Parvati Valley is something else entirely. The gushing river smoothing pebbles on its way, the cattle grazing on its banks, the lush green mountains in the background, the grey skies at was a heavenly ride all the way to Kasol.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Learning to cycle at 24... (Part I)

Back in the late 90s, my parents bought me a flashy orange Hero kids' bicycle to encourage me to take up cycling, like my sister, who was rapidly gaining height wheeling through the narrow lanes of our neighbourhood. But truth be told, I wasn't much inclined towards physical activity as a child; I always saw myself as the creative one, not the active one. (And that didn't change as I grew up - the one game I ended up playing at the national level was Chess.)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Life in the Metro

I sat across from her on the yellow line of the Delhi metro. I was on my way to my workplace in the heart of the largest vegetable market in the city. It was almost noon, I was drowsy. She had boarded three stations ago, standing for a while in the corner until she managed to find a seat, luckily opposite to mine. She looked 25, but could have been younger or older; I am not a good judge. I was distracted by her appearance. She was voluptuous, with extra generous curves and very fair skin. Dressed in jeans and a loosely fitted shirt, she sat staring into her phone, conscious of all the eyes pinned on her, including my own. The air was heavy with sweat and masculinity; she looked diminutive, almost non-existent, in comparison.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sister's wedding and all that jazz

It was one of my first cousins' wedding this past weekend. It would only be fair to call her a sister though, since we've lived together in the same joint family for 20 years and shared so many important moments in each others' lives. She is the first out of the six of us (cousins on my father's side) to enter holy(?) matrimony, and naturally, we were all super psyched and anxious for it to all go well.

Several weeks of preparation on our side, and of course several months of it on the couple's respective families' sides, went into making this wedding the great affair it ended up as. The proceedings weren't, of course, without their share of minor and major hiccups, but as the cliche goes, all's well that ends well. And this one ended at the crack of the dawn of my sister's brand new life with her husband and partner in all crimes. So no one should ideally be complaining (though that's a Utopian idea to harbour - but I digress).

It is world renowned that if there is one place where there's a riot of colours, festivity, loud music, dancing, endless drama and lots of hoopla, it has to be at a Punjabi wedding. It would not just suffice to say we had it all, and more. So I'll stop writing and share some of my shots from the Mehendi, Chooda and wedding functions to illustrate how beautiful the whole affair really was and how much fun we had.

The happy bride getting the traditional mehendi (henna) applied on her hands...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A misplaced idea of love

A mistaken sense of belonging
A misplaced idea of love
Is it real, what I perceive as mine?
Who am I? Where do I belong?

Finding comfort in pages and words
Impervious to faces, voices, and noises
Am I estranged from the world?
Or am I lost to my mind?

Here today, gone tomorrow
Transience has been me eternally
Memories plague me, certainty evades me
How long will I live in ivory towers?

A beating heart, a twitching ear
An insomniac's urge to run
They ask, what is out there?
What beckons me to fly?

Flitting between physical spaces
No semblance of ground in sight
Have I left home forever?
Or am I homeward bound?

On the trail of a place under the sun
I've lost track of where I come from
Will anything ever tie me down?
Is there no cornerstone I will find?

And in the wake of every flight
In my heart will I always find
A mistaken sense of belonging
A misplaced idea of love?

© Mahima Kohli 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Memoirs from Gujarat: Reliving Bollywood, one palace at a time

The sights and sounds of Gujarat constantly remind you of one or the other Bollywood movie. Filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ashutosh Gowarikar, and Sooraj Barjatya, smitten by its picturesque locales and larger-than-life forts and palaces, have repeatedly taken recourse to shooting for their films in Gujarat, giving birth to such visual treats as Lagaan; Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam; Kai Po Che; Ram Leela; Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster; and most recently, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.

This past December, my friends and I took the opportunity to explore the filmy charm and beauty of two such palaces in the Kutch area of Gujarat. The first palace on our royal itinerary was Vijaya Vilas Palace, which many will recognise as the British house from the movie Lagaan, and also Aishwarya's Rai's family home in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (refer to this video).

Friday, January 15, 2016

The One with the two Secret Santas

"Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give a gift."
This is how Wikipedia defines 'Secret Santa'. I have vague memories of having heard of or read about this tradition on American TV series and the Internet. But come December 2015, I saw this amazing activity unfold before my very own eyes at the Young India Fellowship. It turned out to be an immensely beautiful way of spreading love and cheer around Christmas, and I'm sure the world would benefit greatly from more people adopting it.

Here's how we executed it: an excel sheet was sent to everyone, and those who wished to take part in the activity put in their names. A random assortment algorithm was then used to assign one Secret Santa to each person, so that every person got one present and in turn gave one present. It was overwhelming to see a large majority of my batch sign up for it - it reflected the deep sense of giving and sharing that the people around me harboured. The deadline for the exchange of gifts was mutually set at 22nd December, since that was the last day for most Fellows on campus before leaving for the holidays. For over a week after this, there ensued on campus a heart-warming gift exchange drive, mostly in the form of surprises springing up on people in random places at random times. Some would wake up in the morning to find a present and a beautifully written card/note on their doorstep or table. Some would receive presents from messengers. Some would return to their rooms in the evening to find a surprise waiting for them on the bed. Some lucky ones even received a series of presents for each day in the run-up to 22nd! It was an utter delight to watch the entire spectacle unfold.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Memoirs from Gujarat: Why Gujjus are such wonderful people

The year 2015 was all about travel for me. It took me to Bombay, Nainital, McLeodganj, Dalhousie, and the United States (some of these places twice in the same year). And if that wasn't enough geographical variety, the run-up to the New Year washed me up on the westernmost shores of our beautiful country - in Prime Minister Modi's homeland. Travelling in Gujarat was in striking contrast to all my other trips of the past year. The land was arid and devoid of colour or vitality in a lot of places I visited. Everywhere you'd look, you'd find vast, naked landscapes. Your eyes would be deprived of conventional scenery, that is, unless shrubs, grasses, and rocks appealed to your senses (which was certainly the case with me). It was while on this trip that I began to develop a deeper understanding of and a profound respect for the people of Gujarat and Rajasthan. It also occurred to me that their colourful costumes, accessories and traditions could perhaps be their way of making up for the barrenness and lack of colour that characterise their desert lands. Plausible? No? Okay.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dusk on the Arabian Sea

Sometimes, just sometimes, you want to be left alone to your thoughts.
Sometimes it's not love you want, but the wondrous sight of dusk at sea. 
In those times, all else seems to stop existing around you.
All that is alive is the sand, the sun, and ripples of the ocean.

Sometimes you don't want to go with the flow, or stand against the tide.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you want to stand by and watch the raging waves.
You want to be swept away by the wind but stay rooted to a speck of the earth.
You want to stop moving and listen to the sounds of what's past and what is to come.

In these moments, you cease to be you and float above
To discover, you are the world, and the world is you.
You are the cool of the breeze and the pink of the setting sun.
You are the salt in the water, the voice of the places you have been.

Stranger tides may have tossed you ashore,
But here you are today.
The water is calling, the sun inviting,
Dive in and find out what lies deep within.

Because in this moment, you are you.
And nobody can take this away from you.
Savour the sensation, for it won't last
Neither will the world, and nor will you.