The Silk Trap


“Mommy, mommy!” The little bug ran towards her mother.

“I’m not going foraging!” she cried.

“Budku! What have you told Chitkoo now?”

Budku chuckled to himself and flew swiftly away from his mother.

“Mommy! Budku says there are spiders out there! And they chase gnats into their silk traps! Is it true?”

Mommy bug let out a deep sigh. Budku had always been mischievous. But this time, he had been partially right.

“Come here, sweetie… don’t think too much about it… It’s too early to be thinking about foraging.”

Chitkoo hugged her mother and calmed down.

Mommy bug glared at Budku as he peeped from behind the fungus, even as she kept Chitkoo close to her. There were spiders, yes. But Chitkoo was in deeper danger at home than out there. Just yesterday she had spotted a web close to their home. It was Budku’s first day learning to fly, and he’d had quite the adventure.

“Out there, is a wonderland, my dear.” Mommy bug said softly.

“In a few days you’ll be ready to start flying on your own. And it will be fun. There are peels of fruits and vegetables all over the ground. And there are fungi. So many different types than the ones near our home. And there are seeds too. They are much harder to forage, but they are the ones that have the most goodness – the reward is worth the effort.”

“Yeah, and there are fruit flies,” added Budku. Mommy bug’s glare had had its effect. Budku changed his tone.

“They’re just the cutest – brown and round, floating slowly. You’ll really get along very well with them.”

“What about spiders?” Chitkoo asked, without looking around.

Mommy bug sighed. “Yes, dear. There are spiders,” she replied.

“But they are fewer than us gnats and flies. And they can’t fly. No! They crawl and spin webs, but we have wings and we can fly. Budku was chased by one today. And he was so scared. But he flew away. And you will learn to navigate the alleys.”

Mommy bug didn’t dare tell Chitkoo about how close Budku was to being spider-meal. But Chitkoo would have to fend for herself. Spiders weren’t the only threat.

Chitkoo looked up and caught her mother’s glare. She turned around to see her brother sitting next to the fungus. He loved fungus, and was always nibbling at it. But today he just sat there, too scared of his mother to even look at the white goodie.

Above the ground, the other gnats and flies were busy going about their foraging, when the heavens above opened up. “Giant alert! Giant alert!”

Bright light filled the the sky, and it began raining. The gnats and flies flew, as far apart as they could. The spiders ran for their lives. The giants were notorious for squishing the spiders, purely for game, it seemed. They sure didn’t eat the spiders.

It was all over in a few minutes. As it always did. The rains were always heavy, and buried the slower flies and gnats. But once the sky closed back, it was a feast. A fresh pile of food, and the spiders away for some time.

To be continued.

Cover image by Atul. (@chitraakriti)

“We’ll draw a green thumb”


“Why can’t I have green fingers?” I asked my unsuspecting friend, one day.

“It seems everything I plant just refuses to grow. Everyone in my family has green thumbs. Why am I not able to grow even the easiest of plants?”

“Oh, is that all?” said my friend. “Don’t worry. One day, you and I will sit together and draw a big green thumb!”

I eventually married my reassuring friend. And sure enough, we began growing a few plants, most of which survived! One of my wishes had been fulfilled. But in my heart, I knew there was only one way my garden could be complete. If only we had a real garden.


A real garden, to me, was what my grandmother had at their house on the outskirts of Chennai – a lawn in the front, with three hibiscus trees, a car shed with a guava tree as a roof. Papaya on one side of the house, bananas on the other. The mango and lemon trees were in the backyard. There was even a pineapple plant, and two coconut palms – my father had brought coconut sprouts all the way from the Andaman Islands. There were numerous flowering plants and cacti too.

Almost every time that we’d visit, we’d carry a pineapple, mango, coconut or some lemons back home. Once, I saw my grandfather climb up a tall stool to harvest a bunch of bananas, while I stood nervously on the ground praying for his safety.

Having lived in apartments all my life, I had made peace with the fact that we probably wouldn’t be able to have that sort of an area for growing plants. But the one thing that completed the garden, was a compost pile.

At a very early age, we were initiated into composting by my grandmother. There was always a separate bin for kitchen waste, which she’d dump into the pit in the backyard, near the fence.

Back home, my mother did what she could, to use the kitchen waste for the flowerpots – the coffee grounds and tea leaves almost always ended up going to the flowerpots in the balcony. And that was the closest, I thought, that we could get to reusing kitchen waste. Up until recently, that is.


“What are you doing?” I asked my father-in-law. He looked mischievously at me, and picked up the screw driver from the kitchen.

My father-in-law, I found out soon after I got married, loved plants. Our garden was minuscule compared to his large terrace garden. And when he first saw the small take-out containers I had re-purposed into planters, he remarked. “They need a bigger area to grow roots! These are too small!”

Perhaps he saw potential in the garden, or recognised our shared love for plants – he quickly warmed up to the idea of a small garden. He procured a few more plants and helped grow the garden – even helping me repurpose more food containers!

It wasn’t unusual for him to tinker around with the plants. But on this particular day, he busied himself with something new.

I followed him to our tiny balcony.

“I am making compost,” he declared.

Read part 2: A whole new world

You made my day!


As I make my way to the main road outside our home, I take a quick look at my watch.

Quarter to eight.

Dang! No time to walk.

It’s a Saturday morning. I should be lazing under the fan, pressing snooze on my alarm for the fifteenth time. But no time for wishful thinking.

There’s an auto rickshaw on the other side of the road. There’s not much traffic. I cross over as quickly as possible.

“Metro station!”

The driver nods and we don’t speak a word till he’s reached the station. Thoughts of the big day ahead, how ill prepared I feel, and the pressure I had been under for the past two weeks begin to overwhelm me.

I mumble a robotic thank you as the driver returns the change.

At the station entrance, I dump my bag on the x-ray machine and nervously glance at the train timings.

My sandals are slippery. I skid my way to the frisking area.

The lady with the metal detector looks at me and throws me off guard.

“Ma’am!” She squeals with delight.

“You are looking so amazing!” Her smile is big and genuine.

For an instant, my mind goes blank.

Oh my! Thank you so much! That is so very nice of you! You know, I was under so much stress. And I feel so much more relaxed now. You just made my day…

That’s what I want to say. I want to go on and on and pour my heart out to her.

But my throat is dry. I just about manage to blurt out a thank you, and a rehearsed “how are you?”

For what I lack in words, I try to make up by returning her wide infectious smile.

She says she is is fine, and I rush to collect my belongings.

I run down the stairs, as fast as my sandals allow. But I am late. The train doors close and it leaves the platform.

Sigh! Missed by a whisker.

The next train is 5 minutes away. I sit on the bench, take out my phone and stare at the smiling reflection on the black screen.

* * *

In the mad world where we are constantly running, racing against a faster, invisible opponent, towards an infinite goal, when was the last time someone smiled at you while doing their job?

More importantly, when was the last time you smiled for yourself?

Who made your day in the recent past? Whose day did you make?

Serene


This isn’t the first time that a Chennai beach forms the setting for a post. And it probably won’t be the last. And every time I have written about the waves, it has always been with fondness, and serenity.

This week’s photo challenge, Serene comes at the most appropriate time. It has been a month of blogging madness—and a deeply fulfilling creative extravaganza. It’s perhaps most fitting, that NaBloPoMo culminates in that experience, which it perhaps the closest to me.

I wrote previously about the rather sad state of the Marina beach in Chennai. The Elliot’s beach, more popularly called the Besant Nagar beach, fortunately, does not share the same fate, and is my favourite place to visit early in the morning for relaxing—especially during Margazhi.

Besant Nagar Beach
A quiet stretch of sun, sand, and the sea, next to Arupadai Veedu Murugan Temple, Besant Nagar


Photo taken with a Moto G3, edited with Befunky.


This is the 30th, and last post of this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano. Tomorrow, I won’t have the pressure of posting something. A chance to put my blogging feet up for a while, take a short break, and try to put myself back into a more sane routine.

Throughout this month, on most days I had absolutely no clue what I would post about, often till the moment I began typing. And every time, I surprised myself. I almost didn’t participate, because I am still recovering from the health crisis I put myself into last year. But it has been an absolutely amazing journey, and you, my friends, have been the best part of this journey. To each and every one of you, who has read, liked, rated, shared and commented, thank you.

A happy reader makes it all worthwhile.


Follow along on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr


If you liked this post, check out other posts on Chennai:
Read more posts about Chennai (hint: it mostly revolves around the sea)

Behind the sounds


Entering the bar, the small stage was straight up ahead—the drums, electric guitars, the tabla, all set up, lit beautifully. The mikes stood straight, the huge speakers on either side waiting for the music to flow through them.

The few seats on the left were exclusively for patrons; the bartenders were on the right.

9:40 pm.

“The show should begin at 10,” Vikram tells me. “I guess we’re waiting for more folks to turn up. We’ve sold 150 tickets!”

Standing at the back of the bar, just beside the entrance, Vikram is busy fine tuning the settings on the mixer. He’s a seasoned professional—I find out that he’s been with Indian Ocean for a while now, and he’s also worked with Euphoria.

“So, these gadgets interest you?”

“Well, yes. I do find them rather fascinating.”

“These are digital ones, the sound isn’t as great as analog. You know, like how digital doesn’t match up with film.”

“Digital? But where’s the touch screen? I see all these physical sliders”

He hit a button to the left of the console, and all the sliders danced their way into different positions.

Oh.

We continue to talk about our digital society, and how it has impacted the way we work, the way we live. And then we get back to the music. We look towards the stage. The crowd had swelled up a little. “The view may be good there, but the sound isn’t going to be as good. That zone there, in the center, that’s the worst place to be. You won’t hear the beat at all!”

So what was the best place to be?

“‘Round here along the gates!”

View this post on Instagram

Coming up INDIAN OCEAN live!

A post shared by Atul Srivastava (@chitraakriti) on

10:30 pm

The band members finally take the stage, and we step away to let Vikram do what he does best.

We cheer and hoot along with the crowd. Some voices request the popular songs. “Bande!” “Kandisa!”

Deeply engrossed in the music, some in the audience sway around with their eyes closed, oblivious to other people’s gaze. And some others, sway with eyes wide open, a drink in one hand, and a hookah in the other, pretty much oblivious to their own selves.

We stay at the back just as Vikram had told us; but only after the first song. We wanted to feel the difference in sound for ourselves, and stood in front for a while, before moving to the back.

11:30 pm

After playing their lesser known songs, the band finally gives in to the requests of “Bande!” And the audience suddenly grows larger.

The first request fulfilled, the crowd insists on Kandisa. The musicians tease the crowd. A few more songs, and the crowd grows restless. Two men, who had had more music than they could handle begin singing Kandisa by themselves.

12:15 am

The first few notes play, and we dance along to the tunes of “Ma Rewa”. The band and the crowd play together—a jugalbandi with a difference. And then the final song of the night. The crowd has now swelled to its fullest strength. This is what they’d been waiting for all night. “Kandisa Alahaye, Kandisa Esana…” the crowd’s voice drowns out the singers’. The strings and the classical vocals fill up the hall, and we sway and sing along too, with one eye set on the watch, the other out to avoid those who had transcended into a different zone altogether.

We give out a loud cheer and clap for the musicians out in the front, and equally for the supporting team standing at the back, who stood sane and still, concentrating on making sure the sounds were just right.

As we make our exit into the cold morning, out of the corner of my eye, I catch Vikram giving a high five to his assistant. All in a night’s work.

Behind the music
Vikram with his muse


This is post #29 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow along on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

The Floating Palace


Udaipur is often called the Venice of the the east. I haven’t visited Venice, but I’d still prefer it to be called the Udaipur of the west! I’ll let the pictures of the Jag Niwas Palace at Lake Pichola do the rest of the talking:

A portion of Jag Niwas Palace
Against the most beautiful blue skies

The Island Palace
The central tower

Jag Niwas Island
The lawns

The Floating Palace
The boundary walls


More photo stories from Udaipur


This is post #28 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow along on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

Oars


Conflicting thoughts dance around his head.
He shakes them off to go earn his bread.

At the river bank he picks up his oars
And ferries people across the shore.

As he rows he feels happy
His hands and body move in perfect harmony.

He breaks into a smile
And forgets his problems for a while.

The happy customers will pay up the fare.
But the contractor will take the lion’s share.

He sighs and consoles himself
After all, his dream won’t come true by itself.

His simple heart plays its own beat
One day, he’ll have his own fleet.

Oars


Photo taken with a Moto G3, edited with Befunky.


This is post #27 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow along on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

MG Marg at night


One of the things that we found particularly nice about Gangtok, was how clean the city was—despite the extreme weather, the huge influx of tourists, and the logistical challenges of a mountainous terrain.

In the three days we spent, the constant rain may have dampened our hopes of seeing the snow-capped Himalayas, but the stone paths of MG Marg raised them up, and how! In the light pitter patter of the rain, the smooth tiled paths transformed into a beautiful kaleidoscope, reflecting the colourful lights of the shops on either side.

Here’s a sampler:

MG Road, Gangtok
Welcome to MG Marg

Benches in the rain
Benches waiting for company

Gangtok at night
Vibrant nightfall

MG Road in the rain
Shopping


In response to this week’s Photo Challenge: Transformation
This is post #26 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow along on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

 

The mocking mural


Have you ever felt like the universe is sending out messages to you? I ask because that’s what I’ve felt lately. Take for instance, this chain of events that have taken place over the past two days.

Yesterday, quite by accident, I came across a TED talk by Manoush Zomorodi, in which she explains the connection between boredom, or ‘spacing out’ and creativity. She conducted a challenge with her radio listeners, and asked them to switch off connectivity, and actually experience boredom. As she continued explaining, one of the things that struck to me was this:

Some of them (the people who took the challenge) told me that they didn’t recognize some of the emotions that they felt during challenge week, because, if you think about it, if you have never known life without connectivity, you may never have experienced boredom.

Watching the video, I couldn’t help feel smug. After all, I belong to the generation that grew up without affordable & accessible connectivity. I was also a very very reluctant social media user—mostly because of privacy concerns (I signed up for Instagram only last week!) I thought to myself, ‘we’d always find ways to remove the boredom from our lives through creative pursuits. What a pity, the youngsters of today have no idea what it was like, without phones and apps!’

In reality though, I was in denial. Over the past two days, Atul had chided me for looking at the phone constantly, checking my notifications, and not realising that there was tons of work to be done. (I’ve heard very similar rants from my parents too!) Okay, so maybe I was a bit caught up with this month-long challenge. “It’ll be different after November,” I had protested.

Today, I visited my Alma mater, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, and saw these beautiful murals outside the cafeteria. As has been the case for quite some time, my friend Ankita and I took out our phones to take pictures.

Murals at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College
Fascinating and beautifully detailed murals by the students of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College

“So, are you going to post these to Facebook?” I asked her. “Oh, it’s not me, it’s you who’s going to be posting it!” she replied with a hint of mischief.

And that did it. With this chain of events coming together, the full effect of my denial towards my phone addiction, stood mocking at me.

Here’s a closer look at what I saw.

What was most ironical, was that my smug attitude about my immunity to social media addiction was clearly illustrated by the very generation of students whom I had pitied just yesterday.

I believe in signs, and when so many clues point in the same direction, it’s definitely a sign.

Here’s the full video of the TED Talk:

(If you’d rather read than watch, visit the TED transcript here)


This is post #25 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


My social addictions:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

Waiting in the cold


It’s still early winter and there are some brave ones roaming the streets around without woollens. But we’re not taking any chances. As I write this post, sitting snugly in the warm blanket, my mind wanders to our freezing experience in Sikkim last year.

At the Tsomgo lake in Sikkim, we rented extra woollens and boots to help combat the extreme mountain weather. We had three layers of jackets on, but our feet were virtually freezing inside the boots. The yaks, though, were pretty cool and comfortable standing barefoot. Brrr!

Waiting in the cold
A yak owner waits for tourists, who will be allowed to sit on the yak and pose for photographs—for a fee, of course!


This is post #24 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow me on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr