Posted in The garden

Vignettes of the garden–one year in pictures

Through the window--August 2014
Through the window–August 2014
A view of the garden: September 2014.
A view of the garden: September 2014.

One of the wonderful things about a garden is watching it change over the seasons. On the right is the champa tree that grew in a pot on my terrace in Delhi. I tried to bring some plants with me when I moved to Dehradun, not because they were rare or unavailable, but because left on the hot terrace they may die. I was particularly fond of this champa, and it managed the journey in a truck, and has grown bigger here.

October 2014
October 2014

There was rain and hail covered the lawn in October 2014.

November 2014
November 2014

In November the marigolds glowed like lights in the twilight.

December 2014
December 2014

The marigolds continued to bloom in December, along with button chrysanthemums.

January 2015
January 2015

A new year had begun, and  passion flowers bloomed on the wall.

February 2015
February 2015

Though it was still cold there were quite a few flowers in February, including roses and pansies.

March 2015
March 2015

In March the Iris were flowering.

April 2015
April 2015

In April the garden was full of flowers of all kinds.

May 2015
May 2015

The garden continued to be in full bloom in May.

June 2015
June 2015

There were not that many flowers in June. It was time to go to the nursery and plant some seedlings.

July 2015
July 2015

As the monsoon broke, the plants were drowned in rain. At the back of the house, the rain-fed Bindal river began to flow.

The garden changed with the seasons–one year had passed.

Posted in History, India

One day last week

At my talk
At my talk at the Ghummakkad Narain Literary Festival

‘What did you have for breakfast?’

The front row of teachers looked puzzled. Was this really going to be a talk on history? There were at least 150 students in the audience, aged approximately 12-14, and I wanted to get their attention. At first no one responded, and I had to be more specific. ‘How many had bread, roti or paratha? ‘ A majority of hands were raised. ‘How many had idli or dosa?’ There wasn’t a single one. This was north India, after all. ‘How many had cornflakes?’ There were quite a few.

Then I went on to discuss the history of wheat, from which the first category of food was made, rice, which no one had eaten that morning, and maize, the plant for cornflakes. Along the way we discussed other foods, and when they reached India. I told them a story about a rice goddess in Java, and heard  in turn about a folktale from central India. Demeter and Ceres, maize gods and chocolate gods–there was a lot we touched on, and an interest was generated.

Some in fact, stayed back for the second session with senior students, where I discussed war, peace, and the history of emotions. It was my first tentative attempt to explore the history of emotions, and their role in history.

The two sessions were over, and snacks, tea, and mementos were provided, after that I was keen to get home. I had left the house at 8 am and I wasn’t used to it, had forgotten how exhausting teaching could be.

The rest of the day I relaxed, caught up on my chess games, and read another Louise Penny, a recent discovery.

Posted in life, Writing

Life is a whole

‘Write every day, but don’t put your life on hold . . .’ Vincent Mars.

This quote applies to the way I live. Though I love writing I don’t separate it as ‘work’, and the rest of life as ‘not work’. Everything fits seamlessly into a whole, all aspects contribute to life.

There is so much I do apart from writing–taking care of one dog and several cats, walking in the garden and appreciating the greenery and flowers, going to the market, cooking, other household tasks [though I tend to neglect these], playing online chess, reading, thinking, and interacting with friends. It is a real pleasure to visit friends and have them drop in for a cup of tea or coffee, as long as I don’t have a writing deadline.

I write all day, but in between all this gets fitted in. And there is one more thing I do to relax and to get refreshed, particularly when I am stuck with something, and that is Reiki. I won’t go into what it is right now, there is enough on it online, but I may write more about it later. It can be a life-transforming tool, and I think it got me started on my writing career.

Posted in novel, stories, Writing

If we were having a cup of coffee…

If we were having a cup of coffee together…I’d tell you how I woke too early this morning and had that first hot cup, while planning the day. Maybe today my final read-through of my first novel will be done. It integrates religion and philosophy, yet I hope it is still a gripping story. Should I send it to an agent, a publisher in India, or upload it as an e-book? Haven’t yet decided.

If we were having a cup of coffee together…I’d tell you about the short stories I have written over the years, and now I am trying to find them and put them together.

If we were having a cup of coffee together…you may ask me about my other books, and I would tell you about them–each of them could have been expanded into several, each is dense and packed with information. I often read some poorly researched article, and see that a thousand better articles could be written from just two of my books on religion.

If we were having a cup of coffee together…I’d tell you that I have just received an invitation to give two talks to school students at a literary festival on the 26th–still need to find out the details.

And of course, if we were having a cup of coffee together–I’d ask you to adopt one of my rescued cats!

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Posted in Books, Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain

The original comment

The odd thing is I read The Magic Mountain before I was born….will write about this one day.

What did I mean when I said I read The Magic Mountain before I was born? First, let me write briefly on this, one of my favourite books. Thomas Mann won the Nobel prize for the book in 1929. Set in a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, the book consists of philosophical discussions on life and death. Outside the sanatorium, life goes on, but within, detached from the world, Hans Castorp and others have nothing to do but talk, until they are either cured or they die. I add a quote from the book, to reveal its dense and profound character.
‘Herr Settembrini listened attentively, legs and arms crossed, daintily stroking with the toothpick his flowing moustaches.
“It is remarkable,” he said. ‘A man cannot make general observations to any extent, on any subject, without betraying himself, without introducing his entire individuality, and presenting as in an allegory, the fundamental themes and problems of his own existence.”‘
I believe Settembrini was right. In our blogs or other writings, we may not write about ourselves, yet we do reveal who we are.
To get back to the comment– Actually I first read this book when I was fifteen. I immediately loved the book, and more than that, every scene in it seemed to be something I had lived through, something totally familiar. It was as if, even before I read it, I knew what was to come. I knew every aspect of those cold snowy mountains. Equally well, I knew I had not read the book before.
I had hardly lived in the mountains, but I was born on one. And I came to know that my mother read this book on that mountain, before and after my birth.
A mystery–could I read through her? And how did I remember? Mountains create such mysteries.

Posted in Chess, Writing

Out of a million quotes

” I suppose I’m one of those who sees chess as a form of therapy. Sometimes I wonder what people like you, people who don’t play chess, do to escape from depression and madness.”

from: The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

I could think of a hundred or even a thousand meaningful quotes on which to base a post. Yesterday they flowed through my mind, quotes from texts of all kinds, quotes from poems, new and old, but today as I sat at my computer to begin work, I knew this was an important quote for me.

In the morning I think over things to be done, things unlikely to get done, and plans I need to make. It could lead to confusion at times. Then I open my laptop, connect to the net, and look at my online chess games–there are ten or fifteen on two different sites, and I just need to make one move in each. I don’t ponder much over the moves, it takes me about ten minutes or less, but at the end of it, my mind is clear and calm. And sharper and more focused. And then I can begin writing.

I had posted that quote on a chess website and many chess players responded and said that chess in fact drove them crazy! I think it is when they are focused on winning, and not on playing, not on seeing the beauty of combinations on the 64 squares on thatImage1356 board. I am not sure if chess is therapy for me, but it is certainly a great way to start the day.

Does anyone else have a similar strategy to get started?

Posted in friends, Writing

Why do I have this blog?

When I started this blog I had certain aims, and they remain constant. Mainly, I would like my books and my writing to be better known. Though I have a number of published books, which are available everywhere, I am quite reticent and withdrawn, and this is also an opportunity to interact with other writers. I don’t have a problem finding a publisher for anything I write, and I don’t have any dearth of ideas. However, I am thinking of self-publishing, to try out something new, and to have more control over my books. I am a good editor, and an excellent proof reader, so I feel I can produce a good book on my own–and this blog may help me to find an audience. I will gradually turn it into a   website–I already have a domain name, but am not sure how to integrate it here.

I have other blogs, but the plus point here is the guidance one gets, and the interaction with others.

Posted in my space, Writing

My writing space

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My writing room is filled with books, most of which I use for reference. There is a desktop, with a wide screen on which I do all my writing. The desktop is usually  not connected to the internet. For the net, I use a laptop. This system keeps my data safe. I have a stack of paper, pens, a writing board, for when I occasionally write by hand. There is a printer/photocopy/scanner. It is a peaceful room, and has everything I need.  The windows open on to the back garden, enclosed for the outside cats. Sometimes the cats come in and lounge on the beds while I write. The side windows are closed as they overlook the house next door, and tall bookcases are arrayed along these windows.

Posted in monkeys, Writing

A monkey story

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A lone monkey had been walking around for days. One day, a friend came and held his hand, as you can see in this picture that I took through my bedroom window. Later, they went off together.
As the forests are destroyed, they increasingly reach habitated areas, and destroy gardens. They are intelligent and care for each other, but people are always chasing them. At a recent lunch, Mrs X, overweight and well-groomed, wanted them sent to other countries where they could be eaten or experimented on! Why were there animal welfare laws that protected them—the minister responsible for these laws should be put in a cage, she said. Others had kinder stories, about dogs making friends with monkeys, and about a monkey who brought a stolen packet of milk everyday for his dog friend.
‘It is strange’, I said to Mrs X, ‘why only people have enmity in their hearts, though animals can be friends.’ ‘I have no enmity for anyone’, she responded. ‘But you have it for animals, for monkeys’, I replied.
There was silence, but she was probably mentally planning on sending me off to another country too.

Posted in Spirituality, Writing

A hidden treasure

‘I was a hidden treasure and I wanted to be known’.

This is a famous Hadis [Hadith] in Islam. The words were quoted to me by a friend many years ago and remained in my mind. What is this treasure? It must be the same as that described in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, the white flame in the cave within the heart [nihitam guhyam], indestructible, eternal, smaller than the smallest, larger than the largest. It must be the same as ‘the pearl beyond price’, mentioned in the New Testament.

Why don’t more people seek this treasure? It can’t be sought through money, success, friends or family. All mystics seek it, and perhaps some find it. Maybe we can learn from them.