Monday, 21 April 2014

Monochrome Memories- Banda Revisited


A popular superstition in our part of the world says that when you leave something behind while saying goodbye, it means you will revisit the place. For me it worked the other way round. It seems when a place gives you so much in terms of contentment, warmth and above all a treasure of memories, it can't be that you ain't gonna be back soon. It can not just be fate which brought me back to Banda exactly two years later to the place that was once my home for over a year.

Dappled sunlight over the golden fields of wheat
So much and yet nothing seems to have changed. For one, the house has seen quite a few occupants in the interim and much has been modified by each one of them. But certain things are intrinsic to a place and much as we may try, they remain unvaried. The flocks of parrots on the Neem trees in the garden, the constant hip-hop of the peacocks in the courtyard and above all, those last rays of sunlight filtering through the bedroom window each evening- these alone suffice to provide me joy and justification of revisiting the place. 

Leaving Banda in the August of 2012, I carried a monochrome image of the house in my eyes,  and expectant hope of a new life inside me! Retracing my footsteps in the March of 2014, as an apprehensive and overly cautious mother of a one year old, I could not imagine living in the same house in a new role and performing old duties alongside. Not just my worries but every imaginable misgiving was laid to rest soon enough- little N not just enjoys the immense feeling of space and the lovely outdoors, but also spends half her day chasing peacocks and the other waking half answering their calls!!

Leaving this place, irreligious though we are, me and A had prayed to the presiding deity of the region (Lord Rama in the form of Kamta Nath at Chitrakoot where he spent his years in exile) that if our child was born safe and healthy, we shall come back to the shrine for his/her first ritual shaving of the head (mundan sanskaar). When the time came we could not live up to our vow; but the benign presence of our dear friend M this time around, as Collector Chitrakoot in his new avatar, ensured not just best hospitality at Karwi while we fulfilled our promise but also the blessings of an affectionate Uncle for our little N.

Family of peacocks in the garden

I continue to believe that it was unfinished business which has pulled me back to this part of Bundelkhand- there were quite a few places left to be visited, quite a few journeys to be made and yet another Bundelkhand Summer to be lived and felt. I hope to be able to record some of those unsung stories this time around and be able to capture some pictures of a place which is often derided at thanks to misconceived notions and falsely painted pictures portrayed by our 'vigilant' media persons (many of whom I recently learnt, can not even pronounce the name of the district well!).

During a visit to the vertical metropolis of Mumbai, a few months back, I realized how little time and open space there was and pined for the relaxed lifestyle of our recent hometown Lucknow. Visiting the distant pockets of habitation in far-flung areas of Banda, we realized time stands still in this part of the world in many ways. Its not just about open fields and clear skies as far as the horizon stretches, in terms of progress also nothing seems to have moved for the last 200 years when the British must have first brought this area into their dominion way back in 1811. Except for the ubiquitous mobile phone (which too did not work on the Kamasin road where we went for a routine official visit!), the majority of houses are still kutcha (as they appear to be in the paintings of the Raj Era), people still fetch water from miles sometimes, electricity supply is pretty much a matter of luck, there is not much difference between roads and dirt tracks (how else could a journey of 25 km take 75 minutes) and agriculture is not just rain-fed but also geared primarily for subsistence alone. Yet, it is precisely on these trips that I truly begin to appreciate the meaning of words like- vivacity, resilience and exuberance. Despite all the decades of wrongs done to them, (either on account of neglect or willful omission), even the people of remotest hamlet seemed enthusiastic about casting their vote and choosing some candidate who will bring positive change to their lives and villages.

Flitting in and out of the house (read headquarters), I sometimes feel as if one is alternating between dream and reality- a house beautiful as a dream and a reality so harsh it jolts you from deep within. For all the people whose lives could change even marginally by our efforts, one feels happy and encouraged, but for all the millions who continue to nurture hopes of a better tomorrow, one prays one is able to reach out to and give wings to their aspirations and dreams of change!

It is precisely this reason that my memories of Banda are not colored but monochrome for I truly hope that in my own lifetime things will improve and the monochrome images imprinted on my mind will be filled with all the vibrant and vivid colors of a rainbow!

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” 
― Ansel Adams

PS: The above pic featured as one of the Design Team favourites at Artistic Inspirations Challenge MonoChrome/ Anything Goes and here's my badge

Monday, 14 April 2014

Like Wind... Like Light..

Time flies. Its been a decade since our paths crossed- not just once but over and over again, tracing patterns which remain as incomprehensible to me today as they were back then.Its not always that people drawn from the length and breadth of this country come together at a juncture in their lives and from that juncture their lives are intertwined forever. Being the pragmatist that I considered myself to be, I never thought that when we will finally say goodbye (for however short or long a duration it might be), we will leave a slice of our lives behind or perhaps something more vital like some broken fragment of our existence. 

Prayer flags in Mussoorie

In the past few days, it occurred to me more than once, that when I feel happy for a friend who recently got married or feel overjoyed for the laurels heaped on another, its because I have known these people for one-third of my life (quite literally!). In more ways than one, we have lived like a dispersed family across space and time, knowing each other's failings and strengths all along. And while modern means of communication have revolutionized things indeed, our bonds were sealed with the language of silence and remain intact as ever. Its not important that we articulate with exquisite expressions because we remember each other in our thoughts and prayers. Life would be incomplete but for the memories that I have carried along and relive in moments of solitude and peace. I wish I could write an entire blog dedicated to preserving our collective memories, some secrets which are yet to be shared and the beautiful times we have spent together but then so much will still remain unsaid and unspoken. 

On several occasions, I wished I could send something across but the trappings of existence always seems to get the better of me. And today while I chose these pictures to write on something entirely different, my thoughts took a completely distinct course and I ended up here instead. Just as these Tibetan prayer flags make the winds carry the prayers written on them across the mountain and the seas, I too utter a little prayer of hope, happiness and contentment for you and urge the winds and the skies to carry them across.

Like wind-- In it, with it, of it. Of it just like a sail, so light and strong that, even when it is bent flat, it gathers all the power of the wind without hampering its course.

Like light-- In light, lit through by light, transformed into light. Like the lens which disappears in the light it focuses.

Like wind. Like light.Just this--on these expanses, on these heights.” 
― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings

Friday, 11 April 2014

House This!!!

House This!!!

All these days I have been trying to take some time out to be able to pen down a few thoughts for my blog but the election fever in the state, A's posting to Odisha on Observer duty and my own transfer on the day he left meant little respite for days to follow. Little N has shown understanding well beyond her years (she's not even 14 months as I write this!) while Mamma discharges the election duty and stays away for hours on end. Once again as I find myself in complete solitude after the day's work and as little N sleeps peacefully after chasing peacocks all day, my thoughts wander back to the days when A was still in Tripura and I endlessly pursued a zillion hobbies to keep my hopes from fading and my energies creatively channelized. 

I had brought along with myself M-i-l's book EASY EMBROIDERY by Lis Paludan and had wanted to start on some work of my own too. The way her book is written, it seemed like a matter of patience and practice before even a novice could embark on embroidery project of sorts. One of my two initial choices was the embroidered houses which seemed simple enough to begin with.

During the recent visit to my parents' house in Delhi, as I looked at the houses I had made, I reminisced about the winter evenings I spent confined to my Agra house all by myself and doing embroidery for hours on end. My dear friend P made an interpretation of the same work too and if it were not for the countless happenings in her life these days, I could have showcased her work too.

The work comprises of 11 houses stacked in three rows of 3-4-4 respectively. In the bottom row for example, the outline of the houses is done with black running stitch, the rooftops are done in pink asymmetrical running stitch, blue satin stitch, yellow chain stitch and dark pink and red chain stitches respectively from left to right. The doors are mostly in chain stitch while the daisy flower petals are done in french bullion knots. The marigold flower and the windows of the second house from left are done in buttonhole stitch.

The Bottom Row

The Middle Row

The middle row too comprises four houses done in outline black running stitch. The roof of the first left house is done in a mix of buttonholes and french bullion knots while the windows are outlined by chain stitch in two colors. The chimneys of all the houses are done in chain stitch. The roof of second house has a double outline done in chain stitch and filled with satin stitch, windows are filled with buttonhole circles and double chain stitched door is adorned with french bullion knots. The third house from left is a classic example of chain stitch and buttonhole stitch while the herringbone roof of the last house lends a real touch to the depiction.

The three houses in the top row are largely a mixture of chain stitch and buttonhole stitch used in tandem.
The Top Row
While I truly hope I have tried my best to preserve the beauty and color scheme of Lis Paludan's work,the unavailability of certain colors' threads and my own lack of discipline coupled with the fact that the project was completed in over six months in different cities with different states of mind, meant a melange of ideas on the fabric. The left panel is my work and the right is the original depiction as given in her book. I really hope my sister M loved her long promised gift when she saw this!