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A Passing Thought...
When the sun rises behind the snow clad Himalayan peaks, pouring colors of gold on it, 
When you wake up to the racket of river Lidder, like galloping horses returning from a battle won,
When the morning raga is all about chirping birds, crickets and twigs cracking.... it makes me sad. 
To think that it's so easy for me to forget 
To be in the center of traffic and wipe out the memories of a better life
To complain about the past and the future and not be content with what I have
And then I look up to dad for his views and all he says is
Life may not be perfect but it is the best thing to happen....
Smile at the concerns and believe that the one above knows it all.
I take a deep breath
Dip my biscuit in the hot tea cup 
.... and smile
 

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Like all good things come to an end, the stay in Pahalgam also has reached it's completion. There are huge drops of tears in the eyes of the clouds, deep dark circles in the sky, the constant roars of Lidder, the cry for attention by the thunderstorms and the brilliant sparks of lighting. It woke me up. From the moment. The deep indulgence of artistic and philosophical enlightenment.

Though I am not sure if it was the play of nature or the car jumping off a puddle or maybe it was a head on that just missed.
The roads are winding up and down with cliffs on the left and the gusting river a few hundred feet below on the right. Sitting almost amongst strangers, I wonder what is going through each one's mind. I wonder what happened in their lives. 

I am awe struck by the scenery and my heart skips a beat every time we get to the edge of the unmarked road but I won't think that the tour guide or the driver notices the same things I do. The driver's concern is currently not the rain, the slips and slides, not the anxiety and the popping eyes of his passengers. He's simply upset about not getting the correct radio station. As I look at his eyes through the rare view mirror, I'm forced to believe that men can actually multitask. 
We're still about an hour away from the famous temple that we have planned to visit. I'll thank him if we reach...



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Alright. I'm not much of an atheist. I have my own very special and personal connection with the super power but with the word temple - now that makes me want to see carvings on the walls and ceilings, pilliars and floors, listen to mesmer
izing shlokas, bells, smell a mixture of burning ghee lamps, sweet flowers, sandalwood, rosewater and fruits and not to mention to witness the spectacular display of impressive idols in striking poses. And temples were built on creative stories of good winning over the bad or one of the thirty six million Hindu Gods did something different. 

I wasn't getting over expectant about the Shankaracharya temple in Srinagar and I hadn't made a mental comparison with the Thousand pillar Chalukya temple of Warangal or the Mankameshwar temple of Agra, however the hype of the rigorous climb up of two hundred steps made me wonder. 

I knew we were getting closer. It was the obvious symptoms. The crowds swelled, the parking lots impenetrable, there were more hawkers selling intricately designed shawls and police officers blowing whistles that fell on deaf ears. What totally always caught my attention was the way the army officials swung AK47s as casually as if they were made of plastic and would spray paint instead of the real deal. I even asked dad if he would take a picture of me posing with the army boys but he shrugged off the idea thinking that it was not only disrespectful but also ridiculous. I think he was just scared. I don't blame him. Any regular Bengali medical school professor has probably not seen so many guns and uniformed people in such close proximity. 

Anyway, as we got closer we were told to get off the car. Baba got to sit because he gets away with the puppy face. Anything difficult, and he has learnt this new tactic of saying that he is an old man and that they should let him be. And they do. 

After being thoroughly checked, mobile phones and cameras taken away we were ready for the climb. Dad and my other trip companions for today, a very loud and talkative couple in their late 70's decided to stay at the base. I climbed. 

Personal observation - it wasn't the climb up that makes it risky. It's the unruly flow of humans from all directions and there's an unexplainable pattern of people holding hands, stopping suddenly, turning around for no apparent reason, walking the opposite direction and then look at you like you have just ruined their entire trip by just being where you are. 

I wriggled. And each time I stopped to get a breath, the beauty of Kashmir unfolded. The Dal lake was filled with houseboats and shikaras. The water reflected the blues and whites from above. The houses and cars looked like leggo toys. The greens, mountains and the skys as usual made it a perfect picture. 

The higher I climbed, the closer I felt I was getting to where I wanted to be. I looked around and people were panting. Smiling. Kids no longer as noisy. 

I reached. To say the least I was very disappointed. One big rock, with a flower strategically placed on its head, sitting in the middle of a few more flowers and a pool of diluted skimmed milk. I had escaped being crushed in human stampede only to get a few crystallized sugar candies less than half the size of a peanut and the pundit put an orange dot on my forehead. The dot didn't look genuine either as it was on a side. He was in a hurry for some reason. Probably over worked and under paid. No carvings. Unauthentic shlokas. It was an old record being played at the highest volume on an unserviced music system. There was a huge bell and I could hardly ring it as it was so heavy. But not as many as I had imagined. And no idols at all!!! I didn't care about the story anymore. 

The views were spectacular. 360º of sheer beauty. I stood at a quiet corner and even though this didn't qualify as a typical temple there was something that made it worth the effort. The fact that it was constructed here and stood strong despite the years of terror, it showed hope to those who lost their battle with life and loved ones. For those who believe, this is where the questions are answered. 

I smiled. Took a deep breath and savored as much of Kashmir and spirituality as I could before the wriggling game of descend began.






Durga Puja!

 

-Part one-

 

“Ma, barite khabona, Goria haat jacchi!!!” “Mom, I won’t eat at home, I’m going to Goria Haat!!!”

 

Many of us have said this at some time or the other, if we have stayed in Calcutta and it means so much more during the Durga Puga. The chaos, the aroma, the noise, the music, the smell of sweat, the smell of good food, the silence in prayers and the rhythm of the Dhak, the nights and the lights, the traffic congestions and the long walks there are just so many more ways Durga puja can be described.

 

I miss those days when Ma used to wake me up in the mornings to say that it’s the first day of Pujas. Every Puja, for that matter even everyday to school, Didi would be ready before time, her hair still wet and smelling of shampoo, she would wear her new clothes without a single wrinkle, her shoes cleaner than new, she would sit right in front of me with a look of disgust while I would still be curling myself in bed. Dad used to get me that warm glass of chocolate milk and if it was Ma to get it she would purposely make that stirring noise of the spoon in a steel tumbler. The thought of it gets me irritated even after 10 yrs, but at the same time I wish they would wake me up even today!

 

Finally, I would wake up, get ready, sit in the car first and then would start complaining that we’ll miss the Arati if we don’t reach on time. I was always a problem child, but I enjoyed the pampering, I knew that they loved me anyways.

 

I have grown up in Mangalore, so it wasn’t one of those places you get to see the real Durga Puja. However, we had the Durga Protima and the Pandel all decorated with close resemblance to the way it would be done in Calcutta. Durga Ma still looked as gorgeous as ever, her hair cascading down her shoulders, her arms holding lethal weapons and her smile exhibiting poise and tenderness. The colors and ornaments she wore always made her look like as if she was draped in extravagant hues of fire. As a kid, I always wanted to talk to Mahishasur. He always made me reckon that he was an angry man with very little intelligence. He must have seen Ma Durga sitting on a lion, caring 10 hands full of weapons barging towards him, but he still opted to be a Bull! Mahishasur should have gauged the trouble!

 

Anyways, the Arti would always make Ma’s eyes full of tears and every time I would ask her if she was scared she would tell me that I would understand some day when I grow up. I always waited! She would cry one more time, that was on the last day during the Bishorjon. Baba would carry me up on his shoulders to show me the immersion of the magnificent Goddess’ status. That was one of those days that I have seen him feel very upset too. However, the only thing I would care about is the good food, the untimely ness of getting back home, no school/books/home work and dance rehearsals that we used to have for the Puja performances.


 

 

-Part Two-

 

Many such fun filled pujas passed by and so did many years. I grew up to be a woman, saw didi getting married, witnessed the anxiety when I had a nice, also saw those new lines of experience getting prominent on my parent’s faces. I passed each hurdle of board exams and then fell in love, tied the knot with the family of my choice. Mangalore was no longer my cradle; it only was a beautiful page of my book and has now turned into a sweet memory.

 

It was the first pujas in Calcutta after I was married. Some things were just the same but some things had changed so much for me. I couldn’t just say that I am going out with my friends to have phuchka, may be because I didn’t want to...

 

We were in our ancestral house in Bhawanipore. Prithvi and I were given the corner room, where he spent many years of his life when he was still a child. He isn’t one of those people who talks too much, but something about the house made him tell me about all those friends, neighbors and relatives he hadn’t really mentioned to me before. He would suddenly look out of the window and stair into something that wouldn’t make no sense to me. But I am sure he was seeing some part of this childhood, just by looking into nothing. He would then just look at me and smile; and sometimes just hold my hand and say, “Wow, time flies.”

 

This house has my father in-law’s name engraved in a marble name plate and has a very narrow gate. The huge door of the house opens into an even bigger fleet of stairs that rises up to a very specious hallway, dining space and many connecting rooms. There are many windows and opening all of them can bring a storm home! It’s got very high ceilings, four bladed fans hanging low which would move at the same speed despite changing the speed on the regulator. The room has black ancient looking switches and white washed walls, a huge pendulum wall clock, that hasn’t stopped ticking ever, but has discolored the wall behind it. However, my dad in-law makes it a point to spend a fortune keeping the house in shape. I have told him to sell it off and buy something else, but there just seems to be something that doesn’t let him do so. He says he has many attachments with the house. It’s like a constant reminder of those moments which he can’t live again.

 

Well, the windows were my favorite, they are wooden and opens out on a narrow road, generally with two ambassador cars facing each other and their drivers arguing over who will go first. In their peak of anger, I would just feel like smiling as this was one of the rarest scenes to find in Delhi.

 

Every morning, during my stay in Calcutta, I would try to look just as accurate as a married Bengali Bowcould. I would wear white sarees with red borders, mostly the ones I stole off my grand mom in-law’s wardrobe right in front of her. Adorn myself with gold and reds. Every time, Prithvi looked at me he would only wonder if I was the same person who fits in better in T-shirts and jogging tracks.

 

My father in law would bring home some of the best Radhabollobis and Roshogollas. And I have never complained about it. I suppose I am the only under weighed person in the family, so my mom in law’s constant struggle is to make me look healthier. I miss the aroma and the knock at the wooden door that would wake me up in the wee hours of the mornings.

 

During the puja days, I wore the brightest of my sarees, specially bought for the occasion, even though I had heaps, got on my wedding which are still folded. My Shakha, Pola and Loha were still sparkling new. I wore Aalta on my feet and Shidoor, neatly partitioned my hair from the centre. The Bindi and Kajol gave me the perfect Indian look. I have heard a lot of people telling me that I don’t look Bengali, but there was no mistake anyone would make, if they had seen me during the Pujas in Calcutta.

 

-Part Three-

 

My, sister in-law, a couple of years younger to me and yet we are great pals, Prithvi and a few of our cousins went to the different Pandels in the evening. I was too excited; this was the first time I was out on the streets, with no surety of where we were heading, royally clad in bright clothes, we laughed at everything, ate in every stall, walked through the crowds, prayed in every Pandel.

 

It was time for the Aarti. Suddenly, like as if a time-machine had pushed me, back in my childhood, I looked straight into Ma Durga’s eyes, she stared back at me, reminding me of those days when my world revolved around only three people, my mom, my dad and my sister. The Dhaki, seemed to be beating theDhak with so much pain, he’s sweat and devotion, wanted me to hold Baba’s hand. The blood onMahishasur, didn’t make to feel like talking to him anymore, it only hurt me, I couldn’t understand why. I was happy, I was enjoying, but my heart still skipped beats, I still swallowed hard and I was feeling every strand of hair of my body getting tensed. There was just noise and not music anymore; it was only smoke and not aroma, people dancing with burning coconut shells held in their mouths and it wasn’t making me feel good. I wanted to run, run as far, and as fast as I could. I remembered Mangalore, it was more than just a page from my book of life, it was where I spent my life!!!

 

I cried, and every tear that ran down my cheeks reminded me of the times that I had asked Ma if she was scared. She was never scared; she only missed those days of her life, which I never had bothered to know. She must have felt the same as what I felt. The flashes of memory that came as visions were as clear as if it happened just the same day. The Arati, must have lasted more than what I could take.

 

I felt a warm welcoming hand around my shoulder, his deep voice said, “Do you want to talk to your mom? Take my mobile. Talk to your sister too. I am sure they are missing you too.”

This whole India Pakistan Mess 

Just recently as I was scrolling through the Facebook pictures, which I usually do, I came across one very offensive picture. It was of a few Sardars stepping on a Pakistan flag. They had an expression of triumph as though they had won over the country or maybe they had gained control over the situation that we are in for years with our next door neighbor.  In any case I continued scrolling through the rest of my Facebook page. Many of my friends have children and their profile pictures were becoming more and more difficult to recognize with the increasing age and size of their kids! Some others had posted status messages and pictures while they had gone on trips all over the globe. Some others were still unable to disconnect the link from late teenage, they were the ones I envied most as they were still able to pose despite being drunk at wild parties. Not that I don’t have an option to do so, but I think I have got old now! To my amazement, I was also tagged in many pictures with funny and sensible proverbs however, what really amazed me was that I was virtually lined to at least another 45 people who were also tagged on the same picture! May be they had something similar to me? Or maybe we were all completely dissimilar people webbed together through a picture that must have reminded someone of me in some way. The possibilities are unlimited with such social networking sites.

 

I sighed and then took the cursor back to the top so that I can restart scrolling through the page again in a few more hours. But then I noticed that same flag picture again. I took a better look at it this time. I spent more than a few minutes on it than what I would spend looking at some of my friend’s new born baby’s picture. And honestly I didn't like it! A feeling of utter disgust cropped in my mind. I checked who had posted that picture and it was a friend of mine, or rather an acquaintance from a previous job. I had probably known him for less than 6 months. But like how it happens with the social networking sites, we tend to develop a habit of adding on new people to our friends’ list without really bothering too much about the real definition of the word ‘friend’. Anyway so here it was posted by this guy who I hadn't really spoken to for at least the past 3-4 years. I can’t say that I am a shy person but I am usually not the kinds to pick up an argument. But that picture! It didn't let me just scroll past it again and not bother. I looked at the background too. There was filth and run down shops behind those Sardars. I had a sudden disrespect grown in my mind against them and frankly, they didn't look like they were educated and neither did they look like they hailed from well to do families. May be they were rich people but they may have earned their living by farming or grazing cows!

 

Anyway, so I went on an clicked on the ‘comments’. And to my dismay, I saw that many Indians had posted their thoughts of encouragement and honored that picture. They said that he had done the right thing by posting this picture on his wall! There were people saying that this is what should be done. It is a right thing to humiliate another country this way! There were more offensive comments than what I had expected. These were the youngsters of my country!! And there was absolutely no control of their emotions. There was only one person who said that this was a very wrong thing to post on a social networking site. He even used pretty harsh abusive slang words to convey his message. I read his name and it was very obvious that he was a believer of Islam. However, with a name like his, it would make it impossible for me to understand if he was actually from India or from Pakistan! As far as my knowledge goes, however limited it may be, I know that there are more Muslims in my country than what they call is theirs. Anyway. I ‘liked’ his comment and also added a comment saying that my friend shouldn't be uploading such offensive pictures. It is a country flag. And how much ever we have troubles with them but this is not the way to propagate anti-nationalism. I was more furious than what I think I should have been. It was after all just a picture on Facebook. Maybe the others who looked at it, just scrolled past it. But, it made a very negative impact on me. I wondered why!?

 

But then, I had an image of this guy in my mind as a fun-loving cheerful young person. He was younger to me by a few years. He was way above average when you think of him as handsome. He was tall and anyone could guess that he had a very well-toned body inside his clothes. I later had found out that he was a model too. He had been on the cover page of various health and fashion magazines back in the early years of 21st century. We used to talk. But only limited to work and a few other chats while we were going from one meeting room to the other or may be when we would travel together between floors in the elevators. I liked his hair style. I don’t particularly like men with long hair but the way he had grown his rather healthy brown hair beyond his shoulders looked different and made his appearance very ‘Greeky’. I probably was a secret admirer of his looks and hair in particular. But I remember one day he came to work with his head shaved! Dude!!! I mean.. seriously!!!! Was the first set of words that came to my mind! Who in their right senses would do something like that??? I think I was just as loud as that under my breath. I happened to be in a meeting with him a few days after and as we were the only two people in the room till the others arrived, it was only obvious that we would talk. And my curiously did make it up through my lips. I looked up at his neatly shaved off round head and raised my eyebrows, smirked and asked,

 

‘So, what’s the deal with the new look?’

 

And he smiled back and said,

 

‘Okay, so for the millionth time this week – We are a group of 4 friends. We have been together in crime, joy and otherwise all the way from school and have promised to be friends for life. I know it sounds childish coming from a rather grown up man but it’s just one of those promises that we still haven’t had a good enough reason to break. But destiny has a different plan for us. One of them has cancer and is going though radio therapy at the moment. The chances of his survival is very lean and he has also lost all his hair due to the strong radiation and medication. It’s sad to see him lose the battle with life like this and even though we can’t really do anything more than what we already are doing, we have all thought of being together with him in his fight till it lasts. We all had similar hair styles but now we have all shaved it off. We are not suffering in the exact same way, but we have all promised to stay together for as long as we can.’

 

I felt a huge lump grow in my throat, I found it difficult to gulp it down and my eyes automatically filled up with this strange salty liquid that tried its best to flow out and create gullies of black eye make-up down my cheek but I struggled hard and maintained composure! I took a deep breath and simultaneously he gained a whole lot of respect in my heart. I didn't know what to say nor did I know what the right expression should be at this time. I just sat there and my rather huge wide eyes stayed focused - looking at him in disbelief. I was young too and the words cancer and death had always stayed away from the realms of my existence.

 

This guy was hardly in his mid 20’s. Good looking, working in a multinational organization, friendly, chirpy and a model – Probably a photographer’s plaything! I always had a preconceived notion about boys and girls belonging to the 'modelling' industry! I wasn't much of a party-goer myself but more often than usual, I had noticed that good looking youngsters of my age who went to the gym, wore fashionable clothes, drank vodka or tequila shots and smoked were the ones who were popular, they knew the right dance moves and looked good while they flaunted themselves. It’s not like I had never tried to blend into the bandwagon but fell flat on my face a couple of times and then figured that the grapes are sour. I am better off blogging and painting – may be write up occasional poems to feel good about myself. I wasn't the kinds who could stay up all night to loud music and nibbles. I couldn't understand rap and I still needed to master the art of using appropriate slang in a sentence. The convent education and moderately strict parents had left an everlasting impression in my character and behavior. A few vodka drinks always worked as slow killing tranquilizers for me! My idea of fun was generally limited to slow Jagjit Singh or Kishore Kumar songs with a bottle of chilled wine while I tried cooking up an Indian spicy mean meal! I had always felt like they belonged to a league of youngsters who didn't know how to respect women, elders and kids. They were probably the kinds who stay drunk over weekends and their house would be filthy - filled with rotting take away food, pizza boxes and beer bottles lying around on the couch and floor. But here I was looking at a person who won brownie points in ‘good character’ like how one wins all the consecutive the lucky numbers on a jackpot, he made it to the top list of people I admired! It was almost the same time that I realized that I was staring at him so I build up a sentence to mutter out but thankfully, by the time I could open my mouth, the others made it to the room and the meeting began. It was the usual monotonous monthly review meetings complimented with dark coffee, dry cookies, slide packs, printouts of presentations and colorful charts showing us our current financial situation and expected goals by the next quarter! 

 

Ever since that day, I hadn't really spoken much to him; not because we avoided each other but because we never really got more opportunities to interact. Even though there was a paradigm shift of his image in my mind, I could still not be very comfortable being friends with a handsome man posing topless with low-waisted pants and getting those exclusive pictures printed on magazine covers. However what he said about his friend and the question of whether I would shave my own head off if I was in his place always lingered around. I luckily hadn't known anyone personally to have been effected in any way so brutal but even then, would I be able to be so bold? I had hair till my hips by then and even though my mother thought they were never well taken care off, the thought of even trimming them by an inch had brought about some sort of sadness. Anyway, every time I saw him, we exchanged smiles and almost automatically his words would flash back in my mind; honestly till now they didn't really faded out.

 

Time and years passed by and I had met many other people. Grown in different directions, got myself a decent education and a job. Various social networking sites caught my attention and blogging had started to become my new trend. I came across him as a mutual friend on Facebook. Instantaneously  I sent him the friend’s request which he promptly accepted. I was amazed that he still remembered me. Perhaps my expression made him wonder about my impoliteness. His pictures and status messages were not out of the ordinary. He had traveled a couple of times within the country and beyond. He has a few of his modelling pictures but most of them had him decently covered. He had been tagged by friends on pictures of crazy parties and the usual other things that we find in a normal youngsters' profiles. his hair was grown to a normal length. He was probably more of a corporate professional than a professional model. Nothing in his profile was completely out of the ordinary. We had even chatted a few times on the Facebook messenger and I got to know that he had moved from Bangalore to Mumbai. I had also moved from Bangalore to New Zealand. Sometimes these chats and pictures meant a lot to me. It brought back the memories of a time which was precious in its own way.

 

Anyway, so everything I knew about him was positive so then how could he have posted a picture like this? The thought stayed in my mind and I finally sent him an offline message. I emailed him on Facebook saying that I was really amazed how an intelligent and educated man like himself would post a picture like that. I also built up the courage to say that it was a shameful act to do something like that. In response he said that he respected my views however he would still stay stuck to his stand. He said that he moved from a cosy life in Bangalore to Mumbai and saw the sufferings caused due to the bombing in which Kasab was arrested and well taken care off in the Indian prison. He said that he was sad and angry at what had happened. He also went on to talk about the recent terrorist attacks in India and the beheading of the Indian soldier and the mutilated body of our jawan at the front. He sent me a few links of youtube videos and said that I should listen and understand what the messages were.

 

But I didn’t do that. I didn't click on those links and I didn't want to read the posts that he had sent to me. I have already read, heard and discussed so much about this topic that I am actually tired. Though I have done absolutely nothing at all to fix it. For most people I have really been a useless Indian citizen staying outside the country and the only link I have back to my mother country is via Times Of India via by smartphone. I visit during Durga puja and when the tickets are cheaper to get there, when the weather is tolerable and if someone is getting married so that I can wear my own new gorgeous Indian clothes. It surely doesn't paint a pretty picture of myself but then, I was still unable to comprehend the reason behind stomping another country’s flag. 

 

So I replied to him. I said that I knew about the current affairs of the two countries just as much as he did via the news reports and even though I totally understand and respect his frustration and anger, I also reminded him that there are ‘normal’ civilians in both countries. There are people who want peace in Pakistan too. They are innocent and they love their flag just as much as I love mine and he loves his. I said that there are a few mindless people who have misused their powers and have caused horrible scars in the minds of people from both sides. I went on to type that it takes a brave heart to look beyond the obvious and try to promote something more positive. By stamping on another country’s flag one can only promote more resentment and anger. In retaliation, Pakistanis may post pictures of vulgarity or disrespect which would only spark more controversies and hatred. Besides, I live here in Wellington. I have friends of different nationalities and some of them are Pakistanis as well. And if one doesn't see their passports they won’t be able to say the difference between them and us. We talk the same language, eat the same sort of food, sing to the same tunes which are more often Bollywood beats sang by Pakistani artists, watch the same sort of movies. Then how can I not retaliate to a post that causes more rift? I told him that it is about showing respect to the millions who actually want truce than to promote and respect the handful of those who don’t. Because by posting such pictures we are only encouraging the wrong doers to carry on doing what they are proud off. I really hope he understood what my views were when I said that he should try and not stoop down to the level at which people usually do to humiliate each other.

 

He hasn't replied to me yet. And I am sure or rather I am almost certain that he will not be able to agree with me and my views. Not that I am a Gandhiwadi. I believe that the Gandhian ways were not a 100% perfect, but without being generalized, the question is how long will this go on. And what needs to be done to change the views from resentment to acceptance? Its changing the mindset of the youngsters; and I know that but the burning question I always ask is "how"? What can be done to bring about a situation of love and growth instead of pointing fingers and killing each other. I know I sound all too artificial and made up because, you’re right, here I am in my cosy corner in one of the calmest cities of the world and typing out to a whole bunch of people who don’t even know me. Am I doing this because I am scared or is it merely because I don’t have another option? 

 

I would like to know your views. Did I do the right thing? In any case, I will respond back with his reply. But he hasn't replied yet.

mboyant display of exotic flowers in the widely spread out botanical garden, it is the hub of education, governmental practices, theater, films and music - in other words I'm in the center of an undisputed tourist destination. 

In the past, when I had decided to move into the hussel bussel of the clamorous capital of this picturesque country, I had created an imaginary fantasy of a perfect corporate lifestyle. I wasn't wrong to think that it would be best to stay in close proximity to work yet remain connected to friends and others - all within the luxury of walking distance from each other. I didn't own a car then. So I enjoyed the long strolls across the parades, listening to street singers, watching magicians brag about their uncanny alchemy of pulling out rabbits from hats, free shows of volleyball and sun basking beauties on the beaches and not to forget the doll look alike kids playing in the parks which are just minutes from where I work and live. But just as the saying goes - The more the merrier. With the car, came the need to drive around town, the need to explore beyond the limits of the city and to reach out to those untouched sands of the cold pacific ocean. 

Anyway, getting back to the virtual reality of life and browsing through the real estate websites, every time I enter the 'requirements' in the 'search' field and wait in anticipation for the appropriate property, I almost get disappointed to find the results that meet most but not all the criteria needed to satisfy my wants. Its funny how finicky and choosy we have become isn't it? It sometimes is scary to observe myself and notice how much I tend to become uncompromising to the things I didn't know had alternatives. Be it the taste of food, the clothes I wear or even the things I wish to know about via the extended channels of media.

Looking back at the memory lane, my parents were simply blessed to have found the perfect place to nest us. The perfect number of rooms, sized suitably to accomodate not just my sister and me, all our school books and magazines but also those various other possessions that we thought we would never part with. I will always remember those admirably colored shells we picked up every time dad and mum drove us to the beach, not to mention our beach toys - that equipped us to build dams and tunnels which could mysteriously pump water out of the sea, connect our feet under the wet sticky sand or construct castles that resembled those from the era of Cinderella and Rapunzel. There were also a number of aged tropical trees canopying around the place we lived and I was fascinated by the uniquely shaped black tamarind seeds that ware sure collectables during summer school holidays - When we finally left Mangalore and I had to make the hardest decisions to pick what was exceptionally important to take along with me, I saw I had boxes filled with such colorful seeds! I must had grown out of collecting seeds as it didn't take me too long to convince my heart to let go of such trivial mementoes so I filled up my handbag with the life long collection of greeting cards, glittery stickers, the countless sketch pens and color pencils, magazine cuttings of my favorite singers and actors. With time, those possessions got replaced by secret diaries, special gifts, face packs, curlers, nail paints and so many other attractive 'girly' stuff which also made its way into the corners of our territories! Our individual spaces had a character of its own, revealing our identities as ladies. But now, I'm left with a few dried petals and leaves that have captured an epic of emotions pressed between the pages of old dictionaries and novels. When I go through those belongings and this strange feeling of loss kicks in, I look at up at my fourteen year old niece and spend some time in her room. It works like a window letting me peek into my own past. The choice of books, the way her teddy bears sit on top of her bedset, the cute hairbands and hand bags - they all are the most cherished assets that will play an important and everlasting impression on the pages of her memory thats been written right now as I am writing this piece. 

So, the more I search, the more I come to terms with myself that I'll probably never be as capable as my parents to have aptly calculated the distance from school, market places, restaurants and also keeping in mind the proximity from my friend's residences. Our dwelling had an amazing balance of greenery, play areas, hospitals, dentists and just about everything else one can think off. And surprisingly we stayed in the same house throughout my childhood. It was the same place I learnt how to quarrel with my best friends and yet love them unconditionally, experience the greatness in sharing chocolates, bicycles and stolen raw mangoes; I understood the real meaning of laughing out loud - till tears rolled down our cheeks. It was the same place where the everlasting impressions on the pages of my memory was getting engraved. Each word I uttered or heard still lingers somewhere in my thoughts. Sometimes when I close my eyes after a long tiresome day and wish for peace, the smell of the first monsoon rain still fills my soul. The calm sound of the distant church bells still brings a smile on my face - a hope to look forward to.

But now, I live in a time when I can afford to have the maximum exposure to advanced mediums to search for property online or otherwise, however I still fail to find the one that fits in the best way. Probably because I've got a wealth of expectations to cope with or may be it is because of the same good old proverb - The more the merrier! And as there is no end to creating imaginary fantasies - so why not paint a pretty picture of having a place to live where there are hot water pools with the backdrop of blue mountains, cascading waterfalls draining into cristal clear lakes, leading to a lagoon of undersea life, surrounded by lush green walkways, peacocks and white pigions flocking around in my backyard, spotted deer leaping and gorgeous stallions flaunting their manes with bloomed Kowhai's to alert me of spring time. 

I'm smiling at my childishness and also realizing that I'll need to complete the online form to finalise the property that I have decided to settle into. I've now chosen to draw up yet another chapter in my life by opting to live in the suburbs of Wellington. The regular train trips will possibly give me more time to think about those aspects of my life that have been forgotten for a while or will most likely let me dream for a future in another place - creating more imaginary fantasies and sharing such thoughts with you.
 
 
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