Conversations Over Cream Coffee


It was a chilly Sunday. And the best way to spend it was sitting in the winter sun.

We decided to visit the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place*. We climbed up to the second floor of Mohan Singh Place. There were only a few people on the terrace. Empty tables were spread randomly, while plastic chairs were piled up, one on top of another, along the entrance. We grabbed our chairs, pulled up one of the plastic tables, and sat down to bask in the sun.

Apart from the outfits of the waiters, there really isn’t anything that looks fancy at the Indian Coffee House. Even the food isn’t really great. But the coffee is good, and its cheap! The main reason why I keep going there, however, is that it is absolutely laid-back. There is no such thing as spending too much time here. When most cafés will eventually ask you to leave, no one here will even hint at that. You are more likely to see people stepping in, than stepping out – even if you spend hours. Like my friend said, ‘It’s like being at home!’

We read the menu pasted on the wall, and ordered ourselves ‘Hot Cream Coffee’. A little while later, the waiter kept a pot of coffee for each of us, with cups, spoons, and a small bowl of sugar.

A Sketch Of Our Pot Of Coffee

As we poured out our coffee, and stirred in the sugar, I found myself looking towards the opposite side of the road.  A number of state emporia lined the street.

‘You know, there is a huge flower market here. It opens early morning, and winds up before breakfast.’ I looked towards the pavement. A large number of people were walking there, shouting slogans and carrying banners. It was hard to tell what they were campaigning for, though.

‘We used to come here on Sunday mornings, when we were in school.’

‘I know, you told me.’

‘We would get up lazily, and go about our morning routine reluctantly. And then, our father would ask, ‘Do you want to go to the flower market?’ And just like, that our faces would brighten up, and we’d get ready within no time!

It was such a treat! And I don’t mean just visually. We’d pick up a few flowers – usually roses, or orchids. The orchids would last much longer than most other flowers. And then we’d head over to the nearby McDonald’s. We hardly went to McDonald’s back then. It was a novelty. That particular branch used to open very early. And we’d always order a McShake with our breakfasts. Nah! The McShake was the breakfast. Of course things have changed a lot since then…’

My friend waited patiently, till I realised I had to shut up, and then suggested, ‘Maybe you should blog about it.’

* * *

*Connaught Place is now officially named Rajiv Chowk.

Going through WordPress’ freshly pressed entries, my eyes fell on a familiar image – flower sellers. The post ‘Where guys give roses’, about the flower markets in Delhi, refreshed some memories for me.

More Coffee:

The Delhi Walla’s photo essay, Indian Coffee House
Wikipedia loves the coffee at the Indian Coffee House

A Limited Palette, Unlimited Possibilities


This week, The Daily Post asks the WordPress community:

Are animated GIFs the stuff of junior highschool hijinks or, are they the political cartoons of the new millennium? What do you think?

My first reaction to this question was, ‘Huh! Those silly little things! Who makes GIF Animations any more?  When the web has evolved to PNG and a billion colours, why would anyone even think about a format which has only 256 colours?’

But then… I was reminded of something…

There was a time, when I was obsessed with them. My inbox was full of them. I never had ‘important mails’. But cute cartoons, waving back at me, were important enough for me to collect. These virtual creatures became another collectable item, gathering virtual dust in a folder on the hard disk…

And then, I learnt to animate.

Simple Card For E-mailing Family & Friends

A month-long summer programme introduced to me, persistence of vision, and frame-by-frame animation. An acquaintance showed me the terrifying interface of Macromedia Flash. One look at it, and I came running back to the comfort of MS Paint!

I searched the web-world for freeware. It was fun learning to use applications like Art Rage. Using a small GIF Animator, I strung together individual frames and added, what I thought, were cool transitions.

Dragon Blink
Accidentally Breathing

I found a cute dragon cartoon on the net, and coloured it. I made the dragon blink, and saved the in-betweens in Jpeg file formats. I had no clue, why the quality of the image degraded each time I saved it. Two years later, I got the answer to that.

In our graphic designing class, our teacher tried to explain, what lossy compression meant. While most students stared back with blank expressions, I silently patted myself for being smart!

During our sketching class, I casually mentioned playing with wheat flour, as a child. My art teacher pointed out to me, ‘When you were a child, you were willing to experiment. By using flour and Papier-mâché, you were being creative.’

I realised what he meant, and it applied to almost every other aspect of life. The moment we learn the ‘proper way’ to do things, we refuse to accept anything else. And once we do that, we close our minds. We not only lose our willingness to experiment, but also, our creativity.

Creating these GIF animations was just one of the ways I expressed myself. For me, they were, they are, and will always, represent fun, and creativity. They represent a time when I was willing to experiment, and learn on my own.

New Year Card
Limited Palette, Unlimited Possibilities

*  *  *

I never thought I would ever go back to GIFs. But I did end up making one not so long ago, for a post. And that’s because that is the only format WordPress allows for standalone animations!

Software:
ArtRage – Even after brushing hands with the big guns, I still love it!
Movies13 – a newer version of my main weapon – available at Jans Freeware

Disclaimer: Potential users are requested to use their judgement before downloading any software. Do not hold me responsible for any harm to your computer. While I have used the above mentioned products, I am not, in any way, endorsing these products.

Peacock


This coming week, India celebrates Karthik Poornima. The peacock is Lord Karthikeya’s vaahana (vehicle).

According to Wikipedia:
Karthik Poornima (Karthik purnima) is a Hindu holy day celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month Karthik (November–December). It is also known as Tripuri poornima and Tripurari Poornima. It is sometimes called Deva-Diwali or Deva-Deepawali – the festival of lights of the gods. The Karthik Purnima festival also coincides with the Sikh festival of Guru Nanak Jayanti.

Karthik poornima is also the birthday of Matsya, god Vishnu’s fish-incarnation (Avatar). It is also the birthday of Vrinda, the personification of the Tulsi plant and of Kartikeya, the god of war and son of Lord Shiva. This day also is considered dear to Radha, the lover of Krishna – Vishnu’s incarnation. It is believed that Krishna and Radha danced rasa and Krishna worshipped Radha on this day.

Waiting at the airport


Boarding pass in hand, the family waited to board the flight. There was one seat less, and the young teenager sat on the baggage trolley. Perhaps even if there were enough seats, she would have preferred to sit on the aluminium structure and slide around. She was getting bored. They had been up early in the morning, but the flight was delayed.

She looked around, trying to amuse herself. Near one of the check-in counters, she caught two gentlemen picking up their passes. Gosh they looked awfully familiar! Where could she have seen them? The one nearer to them was slightly shorter, with a moustache and a short beard – much like that of a goat. The other one was much taller, and…

Her eyes grew wide. She called out to her mother, “Look!” She pointed in their direction. “Look who’s here!”

The two men saw the excited girl. One smiled, and the other waved his hand slightly – perhaps they felt a little embarrassed…

She smiled ear to ear, and looked at her mother, “He waved to me! Loy waved back to me!”

Perhaps, Mr Ehsaan and Mr Loy, you are used to this sort of attention. You must have encountered fans giving you such horribly wide-eyed looks several times. You may not remember that little girl on the trolley at Chennai International Airport so many years ago, but you sure made her day!

*  *  *


Even Wikipedia is a fan! Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Taking Payal Home


She was standing at the base of the stairs leading up to the main road, in the subway*. She wore a checked kurta and salwar. A neatly folded dupatta was slung across her shoulders formed a ‘V’. Her hair was braided, tied with ribbons. A huge school bag completed her school uniform. She may have been in middle school. It was lunch time, so it was not unusual to find school students wandering about, and I would have never even noticed her presence.

She held on to the railing, and took one step on the staircase. She dragged herself slowly, up one step. It was then, that I observed her. Her entire body was shaking, as if she had Parkinson’s disease.

I tried not to make her feel like she was out-of-place, and pretended to have not noticed her. I suppose I failed at that. As I walked past her, she spoke, ‘Excuse me Didi! Time kya hai?‘ I looked at my phone and informed her of the time. She then asked me, ‘Aap ek  phone call kar sakte ho?‘ I agreed immediately. She called out a number, and asked in Hindi, ‘Please ask my father to come and pick me up… My name is Payal^.’

She was still holding on to the railing of the staircase, taking one slow step at a time. I dialled the number she called out. It was unreachable. She dragged herself up, and I walked beside her, trying to match her pace. I tried to call the number a second time – still unreachable. Perhaps the network was poor. Maybe I could try once again after exiting the subway. A young man climbing up the stairs looked back, and enquired what the matter was. He seemed a little sceptical, and asked if she came this way everyday. He kept looking back, as I called the number once again.

Once we were on the footpath of the main road, with no more railings to hold on to, she held on to my hand. The young man asked in Hindi, ‘Shall I put her in an auto**, so that she can reach home?’ I ignored the man. Even though I had just met her, I felt responsible for Payal.

I asked her where she lived. ‘I live just behind that’, she said, pointing towards a bend in the road. Her father’s number was still out of reach. ‘Shall I take you home? Do you want to go in an auto?‘ She paused, and then nodded her head. She said we could walk.

She had just met me, and she trusted me enough to put her safety in my hands. I held her hand and we took a few steps. It didn’t take long for her to realise it would be a very long walk. In a soft voice, she asked, ‘ham auto le len?’

I agreed and stopped an auto on the road. I asked the autowallah# if he could take us to her house. I pointed towards the bend in the road. No autowallah would travel such a short distance. The expression on his face, upon looking at my new friend, changed. ‘Baitho,’ he said, gesturing towards the seat. I asked him for the fare. He waved his hand, as if to say, ‘don’t worry about it…’

We hopped in. Payal began feeling a little comfortable around me, and attempted to speak in English. She asked me my name. ‘Its a nice name. You going to office? College?’ She gave directions to her house. It was perhaps a kilometre, and I wouldn’t have minded walking. But for Payal, it would have been a huge struggle. I asked her which school she was in, where it was, and how she ended up at the subway. She told me her school bus dropped her off there, and she was waiting for her father to pick her up.

When we neared the apartments. She smiled widely, and said, ‘Welcome to my home! Please come home.’ We got off the auto. I asked the autowallah how much was the fare. As I paid him, Payal cried, ‘Wait, I will get money from home. No you don’t pay.’

I told her its okay. He had charged only the minimum fare.

I gave Payal a silly excuse to leave. She repeated herself, ‘Welcome to my home!’ I followed her up to the doorstep of her house. Her mother stepped out of the house, and clearly alarmed, asked Payal how she came, who I was, and why she didn’t call. It’s hard to tell if she was angry, or if her natural tone was like that. She tried to give me an explanation, for why no one was there to pick her up, as if she were, in some way, accountable to me.

I hastily said goodbye to Payal and left. On the way back, I couldn’t help but feel sad for Payal. She was such a small girl, and she had to face such huge challenges on a daily basis. At the same time, her courage to put up a brave face, and smile so sweetly, was inspiring.

As I walked back, I caught myself smiling, just as I had caught the autowallah smiling, when he was about to leave.

*  *  *

^Name changed
*subway : also known as underpass –  a walkway that passes underneath an obstacle such as a road (Wikipedia).
**auto : short for auto-rickshaw; also known as a tuk-tuk – a three-wheeled vehicle.
#autowallah : the driver of the auto rickshaw.

The Rare One


If the value of the three paisa coin has appreciated, then I am perhaps responsible for the fortunes of another girl 😀

Coin Album
Coin Album With An Index

I loved collecting coins as a kid. I’m not sure when and how it began. Perhaps it was the discovery of a small bag of coins at home, or a few foreign ones left behind by visiting relatives. At first, it was restricted to ten paisa coins and cents – we had an abundant supply of them.

As word spread of my interest in coins, friends and family members, who had been travelling abroad, generously donated currency. I was even given a coin album. It had clear plastic sheets with small pockets to store individual coins. I arranged my coins and added small notes about the country, year, and the symbol and slogans on the coins.

Three Paise
Three Paisa Coin

I had big plans! I thought the collection would grow very large. So using my foresight, I made an index of the countries and currencies to manage the treasure.

I even began keeping coins and notes, which were still in use – I was a ten-year old, and I was already investing in currency!

Close Up Of Page
Close Up Of Page

Even as different countries resided within my book, I discovered coins in my own home – one, two, and three paisa coins. I had only one one-paisa coin. But I was more delighted with the three paisa coins. Three was an unusual denomination for a coin, and I took pride in owning two of them!

I spent nothing, and yet owned a lot. My successful collection, soon got to my head. I boasted about the large variety of coins I possessed – far more than I should have. Once, I even took some coins to school, as proof. And that’s when it happened.

A classmate of mine was very impressed with my coins. She asked, in the nicest possible way, ‘Can I take one of these?’

And like a fool, I gave it to her. To this day, I regret that action. I could have traded it for something else – but no! I had to act magnanimous. That’s what happens when you allow ten-year olds to handle so much money!

One Paisa
Holy Coin! One Paisa

A few years later, deep within the depths of my eldest aunt’s huge cupboard, I uncovered a gem – the 1 pice coin. It was older than the Indian democracy, and it had a hole in it! Nothing could have been better than that.

I’m sure there are lots of people who collect coins – and would buy old coins like the one with the hole. In old Delhi, I found coin sellers selling such antique coins on the pavement. The realisation, that the coins I had, were all gifted to me, made me feel great. But my coin collecting days were numbered.

The European Union was formed, and I grew up. The album was relegated to the cupboard, and my collection, nothing more than a lost memory.

A chance discovery of some coins in a piggy bank made me pull out my album, and I found that my foresight was rather too great. I had one, two, and five rupee coins and notes stashed up inside – which I could still use today! Time to add the ten rupee coins I suppose 😀

*  *  *

I had posted some photographs of coins a few weeks back. One of my favourite bloggers, pointed out the scarcity of the three paisa coin… This story was supposed to be a part of that post, but now, is also in response to that comment, and today’s prompt on The Daily Post!

Renewal…


Brushes
Brushes of a different kind of artist

It’s been a very weird past week or so… I have not really had much inspiration to write. To get my mind off, and to ‘renew’ my thought process, I pulled out a make-up kit, and tried to photograph it.

There is a reason why this fancy kit is completely unused. I deplore make-up. Make-up would be the absolute last topic on which I would write.

And yet, here I am, admiring this set of brushes, and the soft shimmering palette of colours that is a part of the kit.

Colour Palette
Colour Palette

Putting on make-up must be hard, and must definitely involve skill and artistic abilities. Perhaps I’ll put it to use someday – I don’t know. For the moment though, I am content just admiring the colours.

Wonder how it would look on paper!

A late entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge – Renewal. Aah well, I shall renew it for this week 😀

Happy Deepavali!


Diya Painting
Happy Deepavali!

Today, on the festive occasion of Diwali, I painted this little Diya…

Here’s hoping every home has a lamp, and a bright future.
Wishing everyone a very happy, cracker-free and safe Diwali!

Around The World – Without Going There!


Foreign Coins.
Some from another country, others, from another time!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Foreign