Clinging Shame

While synchronising a book catalogue application with Goodreads today, I realised the huge number of unread books I possess in my collection. Why I never got around to reading them or why I left them unfinished will truly take a large share of my memory to remember! Some days I feel the fire burned & extinguished out of me, while some days it is so fierce that I feel a strong unstoppable force within me. These moments of introspection come not without their terrifying implications on my psyche. Even the festive season is not uplifting my mood. There is just so much going around us at the moment. I am at a cross section of journeys that I feel too stifled to endeavour upon. One would think ageing gives us enough power to confront our demons and demolish them. Not always happening

 

I am reading a lot of diverse material from Gender Studies to Polity and Social Structure of Economies but it leaves a gaping hole each time I dwell upon this utilitarian arrangement we are part of, that leaves us with living each day as it comes for people from varying economic strata. All these festivities have started making me sick of the farce we put up for the sake of our personal gratification. How long can we stay masked till we really gather that it is stripping us of our integrity as sensitive human beings(if at all we still cherish it within us)? I am repulsed at these double standards we have adapted and employed as part of our persona. It troubles me a great deal that my actions and services for an imaginary part of this human world are largely concealed and mangled in the distress of living one day at a time. Who came up with this theory and imposed it upon us with such little consideration for the inclusive wholesome betterment of humanity? *Sigh*

 

Such a glorious waste of our potential when we keep busying ourselves with broken histories of traditions and customs, never amending or adjusting them to the changing times. Our need for better has disrupted many a nature’s forces and indigenous heritage that we still can’t make sense of while wrapped and cocooned in our tangled hierarchies of power. How minuscule our worries are when sided with the struggles of people not barely 5,000 miles from us? There’s war, genocide, migrations, mass disruptions due to climate change and yet all we think of is following some warped concept of calendars to celebrate when our own kind is dying not far from us. We need a rebellion in minds, perhaps socially too but mostly on an individual scale to scrape off this naked shamelessness we have clung into our skins!

Awakenings!

Sometimes I feel like a lamb. Mostly, I try to be a lioness! This is so strange that we keep up pretences to convince ourselves and maybe, others too, that EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT! But is it? What is it that makes us become these different individuals than who we really are? Because we are all searching ourselves in this big crowd of a world.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks. I think I have just fallen in love with who I am as a person. Do I sound narcissistic? I mean, there are times when we don’t like ourselves. I was probably dwelling on the same feelings. I no longer do. The events that changed this thinking are fairly normal, everything that happens with a regular person. I met new people because of work, got out of my shell, realised the love that lies outside in the world and here I am, all new and fresh as a dew! It’s wonderful, like an elixir that’s working on me right now. Good people always bring the best in us! I also saw a movie I had been told about long ago. It was so simple and heartfelt that I couldn’t be any more grateful than I am now to have watched it albeit a little later. I also happened to attend this most amazing workshop ever on Accessibility for the Visually Challenged. The experience not just made me more optimistic about being myself as an enlightened individual about living life but made me feel eternally grateful about being alive and healthy and an absolutely privileged individual.

When I do think of all the irregularities we see and come across our daily routine, it makes me wonder if in running after our dreams and carving out an existence, has made us forget the essentials of being humans with the capacity to sense and love and feel emotions? Have we stopped being sensory to little things like holding hands and feeling the touch and warmth of the people we try to gauge everyday or are we really becoming ignorant to the pleasures of taking in the aura of people we meet? I do feel very, very happy to have become awakened to this new sensation about myself. I am overwhelmed to have met like-minded individuals, who I was discussing about with another friend are such rare species to find, just a couple of days ago. She said, why don’t we come across and maintain lifelong relations with people who share our thoughts and mind? I remember replying, variety is spice of life to which she let out a big sigh. So here is the beginning of meeting not just like minded individuals who share our anxieties and our concerns for the world but who truly are immersed in the very dynamic association of leading lifelong friendships for the better of everyone they meet and touch lives. I feel hopeful about being able to influence and be influenced by people of as diversified vocations as I take a keen interest in. It’s thrilling to be part of this beautifully intense, chaotic, neurotic yet a desirable world only because of all these spirited people.

The Geography of Nowhere

I got caught up and obsessed with sculptural edifices for the entire day yesterday. Somehow a dream from Jhumpa Lahiri’s An Unaccustomed Earth made me think of winding, narrow brick lanes and stone sculptures set on pedestals, looking over pedestrians and tourists walking in their slow pace. I ended up browsing pinterest and creating a sculpture board there, pinning and collecting more than 150 sculpture images in about two hours. Was it worth spending two hours on looking at pictures? I definitely think yes. All sorts of stories and theories accumulated in my mind while staring at each one of them. I saw the classical sculptures by Michaelangelo, Bernini, in ancient Greek and Hellenistic styles, by Auguste Rodin as also a lot of garden sculptures and with experimental material usage like hairpins, plastic, masking tape, brown paper. It amazed me and filled me with an acute curiosity to know of what went through the sculptor’s mind when he embarked on creating one of his creations. Sculpting is so much more intimate and passionate as compared with other art forms. It requires a close understanding and openness with the subject.

When I see intricately carved anatomical details in marble, something about the human physical form intrigues me with a compassion so overbearing and overwhelming I can’t quite express. Why have we caged our bodies and our souls in shrouds of fabric is beyond my comprehension?! It seems morally very correct to respect and obey the rules of staying in a socially-knit community but the very emphasis on putting it under a policing eye is retrogressive. It means that we are fighting against the geographies of our bodies and an existence that threatens to becomes volatile if suppressed too long. Surely the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations saw the human body as a more artistic entity and less as a moralistic proposition as we have now created it to be many centuries later. It’s very fascinating to note that while the ancient people had more tolerant and liberal art senses, us modern humans sadly seemed to have shunned the progressive mantle over art.

This very dangerous assumption that our geographies instead of expanding our sensibilities have instead had us descending over a comparative physical existence is saddening. Our capacities for generating personal physical boundaries beyond the ones existing due to a social code of tradition are immensely vast. Each one of us devises a socio-geographical relation with another individual, a place, an entity for our own personal worldly pursuits. Does this then mean that our understanding of ‘being’ is an imaginary concept? Do we belong to some place or just create a visual in time to pacify our restless spirits? There seem to be an availability of monstrous possibilities of our choices, each hurting or helping our individual aim to get through a day, week, months and years, together. I have always felt that not knowing is the biggest salvation as also a great discomfort to many of us who speed through moments hurriedly without stopping by to take in the happenings. It is in this nowhere of crevices that we stop when the world seems to be running away from us. Only in moments of solitude do we look out for the geographies of nothingness and understand the complexities of our contradictory behaviour in private and public space. It is this inward awakening of the darkness and suffering which engulf us, that we truly begin discovering and altering the geography of our existence. Borges wrote about the thousands of images from which he shall pass to one; from a highly complex dream to a dream of utter simplicity.

Camus on a rainy day

I started reading The Outsider by Albert Camus last night after a not-so-great reading week. It dawned upon me as I started going further in the book that this was about a man, a young bloke who is seemingly unambitious about his life. I instantly wanted to shut the book and stack it away from my reach. While we all know that Camus’s writing is depressing as hell, this book particularly came as a surprise to me. The young man who perhaps mirrors a life most of the people live, subconsciously, mostly to just fill their stomachs, work the grind of eat, sleep, earn money, raise families and then die, here this young man doesn’t seem to have a purpose in living. He works at a small office, is unresponsive to work in the manner that when his boss asks him about shifting to and working in Paris to head operations of their office, he declines the opportunity. The woman who he is friends with asks him if he’ll marry her and he replies saying if she wants marriage he’ll marry her. There is no love, passion, or a burning desire in him to spearhead his life in the way most hot-blooded young people do. He is surrounded by depressing and utterly miserable neighbours, one of whom is an old man with an old species of a dog that keeps barking; another is a frustrated man who keeps a mistress and then gets jitters on spotting a group of Arab men among whom one is the brother of his mistress who might thrash him for ill-treating her. Algiers has a dry hot climate which means the author completely took advantage of the fact that such a depressing setting would naturally have characters who live sorrowful lives. All of this is terribly miserable and I didn’t want to associate this misery into my life especially when I feel the dull rains are already creating a not-so-pleasant atmosphere where I live, putting me into a foul mood for hours at a stretch.

I have never hated the rains with such a dramatic intensity as I am hating it this season. Usually Camus’s writing which I associate with depression anyway, perks up the thinker (if I may say so) in me. I had also begun reading The Plague last month when a friendly bookseller gave his beloved copy to me seeing my love for Camus. I have to write here that even the most dreary landscapes have come alive in my imagination but the ones mentioned in The Plague just refused to get away from my eyes. I dreamt about plague ridden ancient citadels of Rome for weeks at end. Something about ancient cities and their perishing reasons that come down to either geographical or biological upheavals has me interested for a long time. But my reluctance to focus on Camus’s writing in either The Plague or The Outsider has got to do with his basic premises of treating the subjects. As a young woman who looks towards life with passion and soul, I abhorred Mr. Meursault’s character for its lifeless and cold attitude. I might just as well start resenting existential crisis solely for the reason of having read Camus’s extreme characters who don’t fit in society. I know that is the point of his writing but I have this sliver of hope for everyone who shows signs of instability and boredom with their lives that they can shape their existence in a better way if they take it upon themselves rather than giving it up altogether on destiny and fate. I am huge believer in active and sustained course of actions rather than passive submissiveness to problems. It doesn’t help when one reads Camus and decides to compare everything that he so vividly, I must say, paints with his words. They prick and trick us into believing everything he writes to be true. A good writer must be successful at doing so to his readers, but it becomes burdensome when such questions harm us more than solving our existing crisis. For all of Camus’s writing strength, I generally give up his books halfway during my first read and reread them usually after a long time just so to dust away the seeds of misery he seems to be planting in his readers’ minds.

I have seen young readers in their early twenties’ read Camus and I have always wondered at their thoughts about this writer and his depressing take on life and humans. I started reading Camus fairly late in my life, after I turned twenty-five. It also perhaps was good because his hold on sorrow and its depths would have otherwise crushed my senile self in my early reading years. Some writings we must read at an age group when perhaps they are long past their relevance. I certainly don’t regard reading to be a compulsive vocation as a person but it’s always wonderful to have an alternate world of theories where we can dwell as freely as we wish to. The real world often traps our minds and degenerates them with the material availability of possessions, but the reading world opens up channels of vast multiple routes that we can hop into without their implications burdening our souls. This is the reason why Camus is so successful in hammering his readers with a guilt of looking into their behaviour and finding something amiss that tries to shatter their protected bubble of existence. So often, he breaks my anger into different balls of satiated energy that I throw back into the world and announce to my heart and mind that spirits once ignited are hard to extinguish by mere mortals.

A Tale of Loss

Years ago, when I first read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and last week when I re-read it, I realized this one feeling I had even then that no matter who you trust, however trustworthy and kind they seem, you’ll end up getting betrayed and hurt. And, its very true even today. Human nature just hasn’t evolved over time. These characteristics of Anger, Jealousy, Hatred are still pretty much alive and kicking us with their ugly heads more than ever. Dickens knew what he was writing. Us, humans- we’ve set up boundaries for everyone, even ourselves. We won’t cross them even when we know we are wrong, or mistaken or that someone is in distress because of us. We love massaging our petty mindsets about our greatness and our potential when the only thing that should really matter is being a better human being. A better person to our own selves and to others. That would do a big service to the entire mankind than anything ever done. Of course, we are bound to get disappointed with people because we tend to measure and see everyone according to our set notions and ideals of perfection. For this to not happen, developing an attitude of kindness largely helps. Try accommodating people’s whims and eccentricity because they are just how we look at them through our eyes. If we think they are betraying us, yes it’s largely a figment of our own imagination. And Lord, how abundantly are we blessed with a wile imagination! What I always feel through all of this is the loss. Sorrow washes over me and refuses to let me part with the goer’s belongings. Not material but meta-physical. Yes, they reign on in my mind for a long time. It’s absurd to think I would give so much importance to someone so that they eventually affect my life. Yes, despite trying to get a firm hold over my attachments and the greed for human association and feeling loved by all, I fail mostly.

Human life is dreary. However, one thing that helps me get over the chaos life presents is kindness. Be kind to your own self and you shall see the kindness in the world. Yes, it sounds idealistic, and many of us are idealists who live in a seemingly bad world of competitive edge and being better than others surroundings, but this world of kind people is possible. It’s not just an ideal. It’s a way of living life. Let it go. Let things unfold at their pace. Learn to forgive and forget. That’s how meaningful your existence will be. Hold grudges and we hold hot cinders in our heart forever. Who burns? We do. How to avoid being burnt? Simple mantra- Let it go. There are plenty of happy tales untold in the world. They need our voices, happy, excited, gleeful voices. Let’s go unveil them. Or we could sit all day long mourning our losses. I think not. Happiness beckons. Spread the love and cheer. One life, is all we have! Make it remarkable. Amen.

A Sultry Melancholy

I was going through my diary entries from last year and found the following lines written on one of the pages.

 
‘Summer days I remember
The Sultry melanch’

 
I don’t quite recall now why I have left that word incomplete and where do these lines belong. I have never left anything unfinished and this is really a mystery to me. The first two entries on the diary page are lines from Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot. It’s quite strange to be honest. I have googled a very many combinations of these incomplete lines but nothing has turned up so far. I am not sure if this is a poem or a verse. Aah! I wish I could just go back to last year when i was writing it and finish the lines. I get quite restless if I can’t decipher a puzzle. And this is nothing short of a mystery.

I suppose its time hasn’t come yet. Someday I will know what words come next to melancholy. Right now I feel what Virginia Woolf once felt.

Woolf
I wish it were possible. Things come to such a standstill when we don’t know what it is that we are looking for. There is a constant search for something that we haven’t seen and yet we long for it. Longings and belongings also bring a great grief for those who cling to them. One of my favourite poems by Dylan Thomas is Love in the Asylum and he writes in there,

A stranger has come

To share my room in the house not right in the head,

A girl mad as birds

I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.

I forever feel enamoured by that stranger. Is it me or my imagination that each poet tries to tell me what I don’t wish to accept about myself? I am learning to embrace both the stranger and the girl who’s mad as hell but knows she can get out of this misery to fall into another reverie, even if it is not forever.

Under the Stars

All writers are a sum of their experiences.

Heard this in an independent movie I saw on a dreary rainy morning. It might be a little delusional to write about seeing the starry night before it started raining so hard that it was impossible not to curse the fat raindrops for blocking my glasses. I ate a giant scoop of cold ice-cream that cut harshly through my teeth and sent shivering down my entire body. I walked in the rain, aware of the water gushing through the streets and through my summer sandals. I don’t know why I wear them usually in the rains. Something about splashing water around the ankles makes disliking the rains a little bit more acceptable.

Last night, I had strange dreams about my friends who are readers. I met them in my dream while they were tying their shoelaces, ready to spring through glass doors with yellow walls. Amusing how I can recollect these little details but not the actual conversation from the dream. One of them was crying over something and I hated seeing this in the dream. She is a very strong girl and not even in my dreams could I ever imagine somebody like her in tears. I hope she is all right, Would it be strange if I call her and share the dream? Maybe in a few years, I will tell her about it. It’s amusing that my dislike for rain is creating such wistful moments in my head. I went on the terrace and tried not to get drenched in the rain while looking at people moving in the streets trying to avoid the gushing water from the cars. People look so different when viewed from a distance. Everything they do, unmindful of someone else watching them is sheerly surreal. And the rain doesn’t seem too mindful of my thoughts when I make my disdain so visible to others who love it. Some days are sweet, some hardly pass by without a mention of all things sorrowful.

I wish to drive away these images stuck in my head of the people I’ve been before and turn a new leaf every single time I look up at the sky. I hope whoever is reading this knows I am speaking to you and those delusions you and I keep having about the universe we know doesn’t exist but still don’t stop dreaming and believing in it. All things matter just in this moment, as I write this, it is raining outside and through the windows I see the yellow skies, depressing as hell and yet recollect how once upon a time I walked through such rain to meet myself. It was, but, a long time ago. I remember a guitar string and the music we thought we heard through the vacuum, of the conversations I thought I will never forget throughout the life but whose beginnings I’ve begun to lose somewhere in my mind itself. I am not sure if I am making them all up, or just recollecting the fragments in a vain attempt of trying to keep you near me, in myself. If only it were possible I’ll never let you go, your words, your laughter, the way you look at me that cuts through my soul, and makes me uncomfortable as if you know what I am thinking. I wish that moment never passed by but now that it has, all I do is close my eyes and look through my eyelids, remembering you. Seeing through your honey-eyed gaze, I feel so new. Come soon, whenever you can. Know that I am here, waiting to talk to you in person, our late-night walks and defending ourselves against our thoughts. It is such a comfort to walk side by side, engrossed in the meaning of words we fight for, never realising these stay only in bits and parts of talks I struggle to keep pieced together in my mind.

This is where I head in my reverie when I think of you and all the people we’ve been before. Tricking me into revealing something and reviving the old memories because someday even those might fade away. Slowly there will come a time when I’ll forget dates and time and moments of the day I can so vividly recall now. Whenever that happens, I will be happy if I have you to share this, knowing you will always fill in the blanks of things I am forgetting. If only I had a memory chalet and I could keep you still in it.

Saturday musings

A guy, whom I had not known for long but now is a friend, once said to me, “I want to be like you!” When I heard him say that, I was a little surprised, and maybe out of sheer amusement over his statement, could not react and I did not ask him why he wanted to be like me. Isn’t it funny, how we constantly think of approvals or opinions from people, and even mull over what they think and say about us!

I think of my school friend whom I got in touch with after 10 years, and thought will always now stay in touch, but surprisingly and sadly, that did not happen. We were very enthusiastic about knowing each other and filling the long 10 year gap, so we were very close for four years which also happened to coincide with our graduation years. And, once we were out of college, we also were out of each other’s lives. How much I miss our talks, the pondering over social issues, and the common high enthusiasm we shared over so many things! Initially, I was so angry and could never understand the reasons why our conversations had ceased. I was depressed over how new life had taken over us both and especially, him. Unfortunately, I had always been just surrounded by him. I had no other real, close friends. No one who I could talk with on the same wavelength. I missed his familiar understanding of my thoughts. I could never again gel with any other person with the same confidence. Thankfully, I overcame this depression and emerged with a mature understanding of how the world functions, and how our lives go on.

Today, I have friends, albeit a few, but each one with special traits and my different but strong bond with them. I have long and since learned that people will come in our life and go away. But, they’ll leave their memories, either pleasant or unhappy ones and they’ll teach us things, give us experiences both good and bad, which probably would never have known to us, if we would have not met them. Of course, it’s human nature and our emotions will make every effort to make us long for all those people, but we’ll emerge stronger, and maybe a little wiser.

My friend, Sneha who lives in a different continent once emailed me and signed it off saying, ‘Always be happy and the crazy and witty chick that you are!’ I realized how I always saw myself as a serious person, but others see me differently. And I am so glad they do and they also let me know about it. Keeps me sane. Feels good to be part of such a nice universe!

Freaked out Dots

Annie! I remember the first time I heard Arundhati Roy’s name. It was in 1996-97 when she won the Booker Prize for her novel, The God of Small Things. It was considered as a major achievement by a young novelist, Indian, mind you at that time. I still remember her frozen image on the TV screen, the curls dominating her delicate face something about which made her so different and stand out from the crowd.

About a decade later, I entered Architecture school. I was still fascinated and hugely obsessed with her. She became a one time writer, published that one and only novel, won the booker and was an architect by education. It was enough to be transfixed with her. In the very first week of architecture school, we, first years were gathered in the big seminar hall and shown “In which Annie gives it those ones”. When I saw the title I thought, what kind of absurd grammar error was that. Then, Arundhati Roy’s name flashed on the screen and I kept my patience. The movie seemed quite rubbish at that point to me because it showed the ugly side of architecture not the fascinating version I had in my head. Of course, my opinion about Roy hadn’t changed much even after the movie. I considered her quite the rebel that she was. The freaked out dots made their impression. Little did I know that in another decade, I would be called as someone bearing resemblance to Roy in my thoughts about Architecture.

In 2010, after completing Architecture school, I got hold of “In which Annie gives it those ones” and this time when I saw it, I resonated with each and every moment of that frustrated architecture scenario in India. The movie was from about 25 years ago, yet nothing had changed in our country. Roy, unsurprisingly had retained and sharpened her firebrand attitude along with the writing. I had been reading most of her work, articles in magazines, even attended her lectures that addressed Capitalism and Caste in Mumbai, debated with architecture friends on her thoughts and mine. We had fierce and fiery arguments in the college canteen and workshop where students dunked a basket ball through the timber trusses and dented them forever. Cheap plastic Chai cups and Maggi plates lined the student built brick forums and broken t-scales found their way everywhere. Those were the days! We still gave them “those ones”– bullshit theories on circular buildings and orientation of balconies with glass facades and iconic skyscrapers while parroting Charles Correa’s Kanchenjunga design principles. Design teachers spew the same old “concept” card at us, building technology classes saw endless doodling that featured in the college newsletter and the craziest ever sob stories on unfinished design sheets and models.

How did we survive? Honestly, it’s not something that can be explained in words. It requires flashbacks into countless memories and heads that turned sleepy and bright on any given day in the leafy enclave of the city. Everybody feels like Annie these days! Me included. Miss that rush of running throughout the studio and lecture rooms and alternating between different floors just on the pretext of finding people for their attendance. That part is over now. Long gone. The wildest have survived and sobered and the confused have gone berserk. Architecture does that, Annie did that then and he does it now. Hardly surprising to see Annie back into the news again after more than four decades, sprightly up and doing what he did best in the movie- Give “it” those ones!

City Trees

for blogSome of my most favourite illustrations that accompany certain poems happen to feature trees in them. Cassia Fistula also known as Amaltaas in India, Copper Pod, Laburnum with its golden shower is also described in a lot of novels written by C.S.Lewis, Oscar Wilde, even J.R.R.Tolkien. In urban spaces, increasingly as there is a shortage of space for housing, on-site trees are often cut by builders and property developers to build a concrete community. We don’t even feel the lack of green where we live as anything amiss in our surrounding environment. Many years ago, I witnessed a giant tree cutting ‘ceremony’ in the locality where I lived as a kid. I call it a ceremony because the labourers who cut the tree over a span of five-six days first offered prayers and applied red vermilion to the trunk of the tree before proceeding to cut the giant. I was very pained to see the remnants of the huge tree afterwards. It seemed like a defaced woman’s body. I have always considered trees to possess a woman’s soul. Perhaps I feel so because of their tender and gentle nurturing aspect.

Fortunately, the heritage precincts in Mumbai still have a considerable lot of tree cover in its surroundings. I used to say that only because of the buildings did the trees get an extension to their life. There are many beautiful by-lanes in Mumbai with exotic trees lined up in a disciplined yet charming array lending their names to streets and areas as does Laburnum Road near Cumballa Hill. Mumbai is home to some of the best college campuses in urbanised cities. The University of Mumbai, Elphinstone Institute, Sir JJ School of Arts, the David Sassoon Library all have wonderfully protected trees and gardens. The David Sassoon Library garden is one of my favourites for its magical forestry gateway atmosphere. One enters the library and after walking straight through the corridors adorned with marble sculptures and plaques, suddenly there appears a huge black doorway and out through its steps, do we enter an absolute sacred and majestic little garden with trees and carefully pruned bushes and white coated wrought iron patio furniture. It feels like an entirely different land with paved tar roads just outside the library gates separating the heat and this cool shaded reading space available right in the heart of the city. I once attended an evening of poetry recital by none other than Gulzar here and in that February evening, even the cold seemed to fade away as Gulzar’s honeyed voice swayed with the trees right into my heart.
There was a Gulmohar Villa near the bungalow where I lived in my childhood. The Villa was a huge land mass with Gulmohar trees planted all around the bungalow which itself occupied very little space. I often saw the adults in the villa sit on the benches underneath the huge red spread of Gulmohar in evenings. I envied their luxury then. Once I befriended them, I often went and sat under the Gulmohar arches to read books in summer holidays. It was a dreamy sight with the red all around and over me accompanied by little squirrels running throughout the shaded ground into bushes. But winter bought a very gloomy look to their Villa. The trees stood like old men with drooping branches and a sad forlorn look fell over the villa. I would see the trees swinging and rustling their leaves on wintry nights and they seemed to whisper to me about their sorry tale of lost blooms. I had a happy childhood with all these trees and the colour riot I saw around me.
Another city whose urban layout really impressed me is Pondicherry. I visited Chennai and Pondicherry in early January in 2009. The clean air, bright skies, well-planned housing layouts and lots of trees along the avenues won my heart upon first sight. One of the most memorable experiences there was taking shelter under a huge Bougainvillea tree laden with pink and white flowers whilst being caught in an unexpected shower. I forgot everything about being drenched and couldn’t stop staring lovingly at that full bloomed spread. Promenades in Pondicherry are full of Coconut, Bougainvillea and other roadside shade trees. Every city that I travel to tends to enchant me more when I see trees and green spread on streets. Calcutta is one such city. The old city parts have a massive amount of thick, shade trees planted along street sides. There is a lake in mid-town Calcutta whose name I forget now, which is one of the most scenic areas I’ve ever been to in a metropolis. Nothing soothes a tired mind and body as much as a leafy, green enclave does.
I moan the lack of flowering trees these days. Even the strong shade trees like Neem, Rain Tree are slowly falling prey to real estate sharks lurking everywhere near green open spaces in urban areas. Sadly, rural towns have not escaped the cruel fate of tree felling too. Until a few years ago as far as I remember, every little house in rural towns and hamlets had tree laden front and back courtyards and I loved the sound of saying ‘aangan’ in vernacular. There were so many stories crafted around trees and courtyards by grandmothers for their grandchildren. Swings would be put up every summer for children and a particular festival that called for young married girls to return to their maternal homes for a little vacation. The movies glorified these festivals and regional poetry would have so many songs for girls enjoying swinging on trees and reminiscing their happy childhoods before marriage. I remember so many stories learnt in literature classes in school. The memories come rushing quickly once I decide to dwell deeper into those happier ‘Trees are our friends’ stories from childhood. We have failed to establish a balance between Ecology and the built environment and this failure is badly going to cost the future generations their health, well-being and safe surrounding living spaces. We have both ignored and failed in nurturing the nature and green habitat for the alarm bells are dangerously ringing now. Alas! I feel sorry for myself and the future generations who will never be able to experience the rich cultural heritage of growing up with trees and are stuck instead with living in cemented block buildings that emit nothing but heat and dry chipped nothingness.