Sunday, May 28, 2017

'Love Scenes' captured by Dan Llywelyn Hall

We all have that one moment in our lives, the one that we'd like to carve in stone, or press between the pages of a book, or capture in some way to perfectly depict the mood of the scene, to make it timeless.

I know, I do.

And more often than not, these scenes are about love. Love, no doubt, is timeless. And when an artist like Dan Llwelyn Hall, uses love as his muse and picks up some of the greatest scenes in antiquity, literature and film to inspire him, the result is engulfing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rome Diaries: Falling in Love

After half a day in Rome, I got a message from my sister, "How is it?" she asked. "As romantic as it is depicted in the movies?"

It sure would have been, if not for the scorching sun and the long queues. We had taken an early morning flight from London, reached our hotel in Rome around lunch time and headed straight to the Vatican city. You can't enjoy on an empty stomach now, can you?

"We haven't actually seen Rome, love. Give it a chance!" my husband reasoned in his genteel voice. I can't argue with Mr. Right and so ignoring my growling tummy, I opened my arms and embraced the city of Rome. And as it happened, I did fall in love. The next time a message popped up on my phone from my sister, I did not hesitate before replying, "Yes, yes it is!"

I don't know the exact moment I fell in love with Rome. It was not love at first sight, it was rather a slow build up, but Rome with its historic scenery, stunning architecture, and sunny piazzas did not leave any stone unturned to charm its way into my heart.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rukmini #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

A woman dreams of her marriage ever since she is a little girl, playing make-belief in her little room with her friends. What she doesn't dream is of running away on the night of her wedding. That dream came to me. That day as I put on my maang-tikka and looked at myself in the mirror, I smiled after ages. "You are going to run away from your own wedding!", a mischievous reflection answered back.

Earlier that day, my trusted aide, Sunanda, had delivered my message to Lord Krishna and I knew he would come. I had confessed my love for him and also informed him of how my brother, Rukmi had arranged my marriage with his friend Shishupala, the crown prince of Chedi, against my wishes.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mandodari #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

The skies were grey and thunderous, the flowers in my backyard were colourless and dead, and the palatial rooms seemed closing in on me as my husband informed me of his conquest. For sometime now, he had been obsessed with Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. When Surpanakha, came to her brother, complaining of how the princes of Ayodhya, Rama and Lakshman, had humiliated her and cut off her nose, Ravana did not think twice before marching out. Was he directed by the need for revenge, or was he enamoured with Sita's beauty, that led him to use trickery and force to abduct Sita, is a question I keep asking myself.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Prepare to Be Illuminated!

I have a smile on my face, even before I'm inside. Walking on the streets of Soho, the buzzing atmosphere and the non-stop entertainment, is making my head spin and I am looking for a perfect place to crash.

And that is when I peer in to this window. With lights ablaze, I can't figure out if this is an art gallery or a cafe. Undecided, I step inside do find out, that it is both.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Kaikeyi #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

I am told no one will ever be named Kaikeyi.

I am told that I am a disgrace and that my obstinance killed my King. The King whom I had loved the most; The King for whose safety I had given up my own.

I was raised as a warrior princess. Growing up with seven brothers, I never had any maternal influence since my father, King Ashwapati had banished my mother for not being a good influence, when I was very young. Did I harbour my insecurities from that early point on, I sometimes wonder when questioned why I did what I did.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jambavati #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

When a child goes astray, whose fault is it? Why is a child only a mother's responsibility, and not so much the father's?

Growing up, my father, Jambavan, the bear king, told me stories of Lord Rama and his wife Sita. His proud moment was when he assisted Lord Ram in the battle against Ravana, and every night he would narrate to me the details of the fight and how the victorious Rama returned back to Ayodhya and was welcomed with praises and showered with flowers and gold. But he always missed one important detail, the story of Janaki, Maa Sita.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Indrani #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

Being beautiful is often a curse. People don't see beyond the beauty, they never speak about your hopes, or your dreams. With beauty comes the burden of jealousy, of desire, of vanity. So when people describe me as 'The endless beauty' they also describe me as the Goddess of 'wrath and jealousy'.

I sometimes think if ever my husband saw me for who I really am? Or he too, like others thought, I was just his shadow? Indra's Indrani?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hidimbi #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

When I was five years old, I prayed to Lord Shiva to make me beautiful. Being looked down upon as Mumulaikanni, "the three-breasted maiden", had become a day to day thing. Sleeping myself to tears had become a day to day thing. 

My strict tapsya pleased Lord Shiva and he offered me a boon, that when I meet a husband fit for me, my third breast would disappear and my ugliness would be replaced by great beauty. So it wasn't a surprise to me that I lost all my senses and fell deeply in love with Bheema, the moment I laid my eyes on him. It was love at first sight, that which transformed my heart from that of a rakshasi to a woman wanting nothing but a man's love.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Gandhari #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

The war has ended but the cries will echo for years to come. My tears flow unabashedly but on the inside I am ashamed and numb. I look over at Draupadi and recognize her anguish too. Draupadi's children died because she could not forgive. I lost my hundred sons because I turned a blind eye to their actions.

Everyone mourns along with Draupadi for her five sons, who were killed mercilessly by Ashwatthama in the middle of the night. The mourn for Arjun's son, Abhimanyu, who fought courageously inside the Chakravyuha battle formation as his own uncles attacked him simultaneously. They mourn for Bhima’s son, Ghatotkacha, who served as a human shield for the Pandavas and was killed by Karna's Vasavi Shakti. They were the heroes. 

But no one mourns for Duryodhana, who was killed by Bheema in a mace fight, by unfairly hitting him below his torso, on his thigh. I mourn alone. I get no sympathy because my sons were deemed the villains, they were the ones who were on the opposite side of dharma, on the opposite side of righteousness.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fullara #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

What is done is done. Here I lie, part of me, just my lower lip, and I look at my husband carrying my charred remains, tears rolling down his eyes, moaning in pain. Here I will remain, and devotees will build temples around this site and call me Fullara Devi, but no one will understand the meaning of it all.

What is desire? What is the meaning of vengeance? What is our purpose in life?  I find myself pondering over these questions as I look at my ascetic husband. Smeared in ashes, drunk on bhaang, covered with snakes and accompanied by ghosts, he is so ignorant of the world. He is unaware that his sorrow threatens the well-being of the world. Oh my Bholenath - the ignorant one, how did I let this happen.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ekadashi #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

Bhima was the Pandava brother with the most strength and appetite. He understood only logic and so once when no one could satiate his curiosity as to why one keeps an Ekadashi vrat, he went to the great sage Vyasadeva, the grandfather of the Pandavas to get some advice.

“Oh great and learned grandfather, my brother Yudhisthira, my dear mother Kunti, and my beloved wife Draupadi, as well as Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva, fast completely on each Ekadasi and strictly follow all the rules of that sacred day. Being very religious, they always tell me that I should also fast on that day too. 

But, grandfather, I tell them that I cannot live without eating, because as the son of Vayudeva (the wind God), hunger is unbearable to me. I can give widely in charity and worship Lord Vishnu, but I cannot be asked to fast on Ekadasi."

Hearing these words, the grandsire of Bhima, started to narrate the story of Ekadahi.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Devaki #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

For years, I have been dreaming of the day when I would finally meet my Son. What would I say to him? How would we make up for the lost time?

I only gave birth to him, but I could never be his mother. I was not the one who raised him, who protected him, who fed him, who taught him; where do I stand as his mother? These were questions I asked myself every night as I cried myself to sleep. And every night, my husband, Vasudeva, would remind me that our Son was no ordinary human, he would remind me that we were just vessels serving a much larger purpose.

I remember with painful clarity the night that changed my life; that left us helpless and in shackles in this stoned prison; that destroyed my every chance at being a mother. On the night of my marriage King Kamsa, my brother, the ruler of Mathura was driving our chariot, when a roar from the skies stopped us in our tracks. The voice was loud and clear, prophesying that my eighth son would be the destroyer of Kamsa. My brother had immediately pulled the sword on me, and I wish now that my husband had let him end my life then. At least, I wouldn't have died a million deaths since, as Kamsa mercilessly killed six of my sons right in front of my eyes.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chitralekha #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

Living in Banasura's kingdom was suffocating -  the grey concrete walls, dimly lit windows, damp floors, with no sight of gardens or anything beautiful, made me nauseous and ill tempered. I often argued with my father, who was Bana's minister, as to why we had to live here? And he would only reply with a guilty smile. Banasura, was one of the most powerful demons. Strong and fierce, he had also managed to seek a boon from Lord Shiva by pleasing him with his devotion. And now, Lord Shiva guarded the gates of Banasura city himself. It was difficult to escape from Bana's clutches.

The only solace I found was in painting and in the company of my dear friend, Usha, Bana's daughter. She was beautiful and kind, unlike her father, and together we dreamed of getting out of this place someday.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bahuchara Maa #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

"What makes one a woman?" Daya cried.

I looked into her wounded eyes and searched for an answer. Though I am the dadaguru of the family and have helped many find their own path in this dark world, each time I am asked this question, I fumble.

"Daya, have you heard the story of Bahuchara Maa?"

I stroked her hair and wiped her tears with my pallu. I pointed to the picture frame hung on my wall; the Goddess triumphantly sat on a rooster, trident in one hand and scripture in another.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Anjana #AtoZChallenge‏ @AprilA2Z

"Tell me again, Ma, the story of my birth."

I looked into my son's beady little mischievous eyes, as I nursed his jaw. His attempt to eat the Sun, mistaking it to be a ripe mango, and thus avoiding an eclipse had made Lord Indra rage after him. But he is but a child, I will never forgive Indra for having thrown Vajra (thunderbolt) at Anjaneya. Now he has a permanent mark on his jaw.

"Oh, Hanuman!" I let out a sigh as I looked at him. "Hanuman", I mumbled, 'one with the broken chin'


"Yes, my love...." I began,

"Not so long ago, in a place faraway from here, King Dasaratha of Ayodhya was a performing a yagna. Like me and your father, VeeraKesari, the King too was praying to have his own children. After Sage Rishyashringa performed the Putrakameshti yagna for King Dasaratha, Lord Agni came before Dasaratha and gave him some payasam (pudding) which was to be be shared between King Dasaratha's three wives."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shakti #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2Z

After much second guessing, here it is - I take on April A-Z challenge this year and bring to you, 26 short stories based on the female characters from Indian mythology. Now, my knowledge on Indian mythology is very limited - stories I've heard from my grandparents, the retelling of the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata I've read and seen, the rituals I've observed during festivals - all have left a impression on me since childhood.

Growing up I was never self-conscious of being a Hindu. Yes, I learnt the Hanuman chalisa by heart and every Tuesday during my summer holidays, I went with my Nanaji to the Hanuman Setu in Lucknow and helped serve water and prasad; till date I can recite shlokas in Tamil fluently, which were taught to me by an aunt who lived nearby our house in Annanagar, Chennai; and mythological stories that came from Amar Chitra Katha and few teleserials fascinated me to no end. At the same time, I went to a missionary school and sang hymns at school assemblies with joy, visited Nizamuddin Dargah with my parents and immersed in the soulful qawwals of the dargah, marveled at the beautiful churches and basilicas of Goa when vacationing.

Writing these stories on Indian mythology are a way to understand the human conditions, the human dilemmas, to introspect and question once again, what we perceive as right or wrong. I am sure anyone who has heard stories about Lord Ram and Lord Krishna have questioned, Why did Ram, the righteous Lord, the 'Maryada Purushottama', abandon Sita? or Why did Krishna, the inclusive leader, the perfect Statesman, adopt unfair means that went against 'Dharma Yuddha'?

The quest for knowledge (Saraswati), power (Durga) and wealth (Lakshmi) is what our society revolves around and what better way to understand this than to look into the stories of Shakti.

Focusing on the female narrative is important to uncover the layers and bring out the essence of life. So join me through April , and see the stories unfold.

P.S. I am trying to schedule my posts beforehand but till now I only have three stories written, so let's see how this goes. But I am hoping like my first time, in 2014, the rush and the deadline of writing every day pushes me to complete this challenge successfully, and leads me to a second published book.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Re-Discovering the Classics

We’ve been always told to never judge a book by its cover. But there is no shame if a beautiful cover entices you to pick up a classic. 

Many designers are foraying into the field of book designing with the aim that good literature is read by many, and one way of doing it, is by communicating what a book holds inside by depicting it in a modern way on the outside. The visual imagery that urges one to pick up a book is what new book covers are doing for the good old classics, and I for one, am totally buying into this so called ‘gimmick’As a book hoarder, nothing excites me more than the look and feel of a new book. And when some of my favourite classics are re-imagined in a way that connects instantly to the literature and the intent of the author, I buy the book without giving a second thought.

Read the rest of the post at Kubashi

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Guerrilla Wars #WomenOfBlogging

Last week I was at Tate Modern, where I was introduced to the Guerrilla Girls -

" The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists. We wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture. Our anonymity keeps the focus on the issues, and away from who we might be: we could be anyone and we are everywhere."

They were formed in response to an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1984 where a revolting fact came to light, that of sexism in the art world. Amongst the 169 artists represented, only 13 were women. When normal protest did not rouse any interest from the public, they found new ways to revolt using street art. In the middle of the night, they took to the streets of SoHo and pasted posters that named New York galleries that showed no more than 10% women artists and listed successful male artists who allowed their work to be shown in galleries showing little or no work by women.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

10 Unique Experiences in Iceland

Iceland - it will leave you speechless and turn you into a storyteller

The thing with Iceland is, it offers you one breath-taking sight after another and you are left enraptured, not knowing that your soul will linger in the afterglow of the experiences - experiences of gushing waterfalls, bubbling springs, galloping horses, majestic mountains, daunting volcanoes, melting ice and dancing lights in the sky.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Discovering Iceland through Folklores and Sagas

As I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac at Keflavik Airport I was met with cold wind and rain, and right there was my first introduction to Iceland's formidable climate. Over the course of next few days I happened to see the most beautiful and awe-inspiring dawns, and also stood cold and shivering on stormy nights, all in the name of an Icelandic experience.

Barren and remote, this island on the edge of the Arctic circle was discovered by Norwegian exiles as they set sail in their viking ships possibly fleeing conflict in their own lands. It is said that the first permanent settlers in Iceland were a Norwegian chieftain named Ingólfr Arnarson and his wife. They made home in a place he named Reykjarvík "Smoky Bay", probably due to the steam rising from the several hot springs around. Today we know it as Reykjavik - the capital and the largest city of Iceland.