Tag Archives: marriage

Winter’s Thaw

This post is the fruit of our combined efforts, my friend Charles’ and mine. The only two things we’d decided were — a rough plot, and that I would begin the story, whereas he’d finish it. The rest came and evolved on its own. His writing is in blue, while mine is in black. You can find the story here on his blog Mostly Bright Ideas as well.

I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as we did writing it. And that you will let us know, too.

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The list seemed determined to disappear beyond where Jade’s fingers could reach, or her eyes could see.Where had she put it now? The heat and fatigue had been taking their toll on her, and the weary fan above, dripping air like it was doing the room a favor, was no help. She needed that slip of paper because it identified the things that were finished. And those that were still pending.

Spent with frustration, Jade looked around the room, now filled with strips of late evening light. The week had gone in a flash. She hadn’t given herself a chance to see the house, to allow its being to enter her weary heart and pluck at its strings. She didn’t have time for all that. But this room called to her as she plopped on the beige sofa. She looked at the yellowed wallpaper with the white roses. Her lips curled at the memory of her six-year-old fingers trying to pick them out, but never quite managing to. The net door was keen to sway with the elusive breeze; the mosquitoes were raring to come hunting with the setting sun. Her eyes moved to the painting hung next to her father’s antique binoculars. It was older than she was, a rushed watercolor impression of a distant sea, with words calligraphed on the left side of the canvas:

End
The winter
Before the birds
Hasten to distant skies
Hurry

Her mother had painted it long before she was born. She had never come to know whose words they were, but they had always reassured her. They seemed to be keen to make amends, to quickly heal wounds, to avoid losing some treasure.

The last month hadn’t been easy. Jade’s career as a graphic designer in a ruthlessly competitive city was promising to reach giddy heights, when it became clear that she couldn’t avoid going to her parents to help them move. They were both fifty by the time she, a child conceived as an afterthought, was born. Nancy and Blake were eighty-two now, and much as Jade liked to deny it, they needed her help in leaving this house, battered by time.

Jade spotted the list on top of the bookcase. She must have placed it there while trying to open the window, hoping to inject some spirit into the lifeless draft. She grabbed a chair and slid it across the room. It was a timid piece of furniture, made when people required less support. Not sure it would carry her weight, Jade put one foot into the center of the seat and pressed down with a gradual effort, rising into the warmer air near the ceiling. Careful to avoid the fan’s rotating blades, she reached for the list resting in a dusty nest on the top shelf of the bookcase. It was only then that she noticed the slim volume lying on its side, so nearly covered with forgotten years that its title was all but invisible. With the list in her left hand, she reached for the neglected book and turned it over, blowing the dust away.

If Only A Second Chance.”

It was an odd moment, an unseen push from the side that almost knocked Jade off the chair. She had read the book’s title in her head, but the words had been spoken by her mother’s voice. Turning to the right, she saw Nancy standing in the doorway, her tiny figure looking even smaller from the height of the chair.

Jade lowered herself to the floor.

“How did you know the title? It looks as though it’s been up there for years.”

“More than thirty,” said Nancy. “Look at the author’s name.”

Jade lowered herself to the floor.

 

Jade turned the book around to read its spine, because much of the cover had surrendered to mildew. She inhaled deeply to make up for the skipped heartbeat. And then, she read it again. This time slowly and out loud, “Sandra Kitchener.”

She placed the book on the tall side table, her anger evident only when she swatted at the palm fronds caressing the table top.

“Will she never go away?”

Jade really did want this question answered. It was high time. Sandra Kitchener had taken a lot away from her parents, and from her.

Nancy turned from Jade and chose to look at the lint on the sofa, picking at it with her trembling fingers. It wasn’t an easy question to answer.

“Well, I tried, didn’t I? Put the book up there, where we couldn’t see her name,” said Nancy, still unable to look at her daughter. “If only a second chance, indeed.”

“I suppose you did your best,” said Jade. “And he remembers nothing?”

“He didn’t. We don’t talk about it anymore. Haven’t. It’s been years.”

Jade sat on the old chair and stared at this collapsed core of a woman, this person who had given her life, and whose own life had once been so expansive. Almost all of her mother’s connections were severed, shriveled, lost, or forgotten. Her world had shrunk, so that it barely extended beyond the boundary of her tired body. She was like a stove, once pulsing with heat. These days, you had to put your hand almost right up to her skin in order to feel any warmth. She had told Jade the story, once, and answered a few questions on several occasions after that. But always, she cut the conversation short.

“He used to say that he never would have done it. That wasn’t him. Especially for a poet. He hated poetry. Always had.”

“Then where was he going that day?” asked Jade. “Where does he say he was going?”

“It was all erased. When he regained consciousness in the hospital, he had no idea where he was or how he’d gotten there.”

“What about the car? How did he explain that?”

“He didn’t explain it. He thought I’d been driving, that I was the one who’d hit the tree.”

“But he was going to find her. That’s what you said.”

“He read that book. Every page. He’d put it back on the shelf each time, but I’d check, and the slip of paper was always in a different place.”

“This hater of poetry.”

Nancy looked hard out the window. Even now, thirty years later, she seemed bewildered by the entire incident. “Turning fifty did something to him. Scared him. He said he was afraid he was running out of time. That he’d wasted his life.”

“But that isn’t the father I know.”

“No. In a funny way, the accident changed him. Made him more aware of himself. More sensitive. By the time you came along, he was a different person.”

“But the damage had been done.”

“He was going to leave me, Jade. He was going to find this woman he’d never met. A woman he said touched his soul with her words.”

“After fifteen years of being together with you, he decided that a faceless woman had touched his soul with poetry? Poetry, Mom?”

“It does have a way of getting inside the hardest of hearts. With time. And your father had a soft heart to begin with. You know that.”

Jade hadn’t come here to rake up old earth. She wanted her mother to know that she understood, but without trying too hard. The dam had burst, let out the emotions it had stored, and was ready to get back to work.

“I’m eighty-one now,” Nancy said. “Nothing much stays inside when you’re that age.” She had put her frail fingers on Jade’s arm, hoping that her daughter didn’t feel like she was out in the cold.

“I know,” said Jade. “Yet, a lot does. And you’re eighty-two.”

Jade looked her mother in the eye, and smiled. Then she said, “Come on, we have an old man to feed.”

They made cottage cheese pâtés and cherry tomato salad. Blake would be shuffling in any time now. He’d gone to the general store just across the road to get batteries for his flashlight, and some orange juice.

As if on cue, Blake stepped into the kitchen. “Hey, love,” he said, surprised, when Jade gave him a spontaneous hug. Nancy looked at the two of them and pretended not to see. She was setting the table. The blue-and-white striped tablecloth smelled of a distant sun. Blake poured juice for everyone. It had always been his little girl’s favorite with dinner. The glasses clinked, the cutlery felt safe and familiar. Everything was all right.

Jade rose earlier than usual the next morning to make sure she had done most of the work before Nancy woke up. She decided to begin with the huge tool wall Blake had maintained for years.

On a shelf nearest to the stairway, she found an old carton held together with twine. Inside was an envelope bearing their home address, and a postmark dated September 21, 1980. The sender was a J. Gilbert from Summer Wings Publishers.

“Dear Ms. Kitchener,” the letter began.

Later, while Blake fiddled with something in another room, Jade confronted her mother.

“I don’t even know where to start,” she said, holding the letter at arm’s length. “What’s this about?”

“It’s about poetry,” said Nancy. “That’s all. Something I once did. Something I was proud of, but at the same time, had to hide behind.”

“You never told anyone?”

“No one.”

“How could you stand it? That nobody knew?”

“I knew,” said Nancy.

“But this woman. Sandra Kitchener. You allowed me to despise her. And it was you all along?”

“I’ve accomplished three worthy goals in my life, Jade. I published a book of poetry. I raised a magnificent daughter. And I salvaged something that seemed intent on destroying itself. As far as I’m concerned, everything else is just details.”

Jade moved to put her arms around her mother, when Blake appeared in the doorway. He was holding the watercolor painting of the sea.

“Would you like to keep this, Jade?” he said. “It has that poem scrawled on it, which I’ve never quite understood. But the picture is nice. We picked it up many years ago, at a flea market, I think.”

Blake set the painting on the floor. Then he looked around for a vase in which to place the white roses he had just picked for his wife.

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The poem in this story is called an Elfchen. It is a pedagogic trick to make learners of German practise using the words to make interesting poetry. The words in it are always eleven — hence the name (The Little Eleven), and are always written in this layout — 1-2-3-4-1. The first line is supposed to be the prompt from which the poetry will originate. The last word will sum the conclusion of the poetry.

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To the Edge We Go

If allowed to, disappointments break much more than hearts. They are like those invisible elements that invade our existence these days — the ones that float with the air we breathe, seep into the earth that mothers the food we eat, and mingle with the water that quenches our thirst. The days begin like any other, the nights break like any other. The house stands just the way it did yesterday, its foundation swaying with the hollowness. But everything threatens to buckle under the stress of ether fumigated with deliberate cause and deliberate effect.

Take for instance the choices of Niyati and Achal, the heroes of our story. A married couple that could quail their surroundings with their mutual wrath. Or blossom flowers with just a glance of their combined goodness. Such was the strength of these two people, joined together in holy matrimony. Or so the pandit at the marriage ceremony declared thirty-three years back. Niyati was twenty-one, and Achal was thirty when they vowed to take care of each other in front of the ever-consuming fire of the havan kund. Niyati, a sweet-smiled waif; Achal a dark charmer. Their strengths, however, failed to transport them beyond their weakness — ego.

Chapter 1 — The Two Aspirants

Niyati grew up with six siblings. Her parents, Ma and Babuji for the children, were indulgent without allowing the girls and boys too much. The mansion made up for the restraint the parents imposed. Niyati and her brothers and sisters managed to sneak out to the mango grove to play endless games focused around the trees. Hot afternoons or humid ones, they knew no stopping. These games were an escape for the children, after all. It might sound like fantastic fun, but there was something slightly amiss. None of Niyati’s siblings was of her age-group, and none of them shared her outlook. The oldest sisters and brother were too brash in their play. The youngest sister and brothers were too frivolous. There was an intimate association between the two age-groups, and she longed to be part of that despite her differences with both of them. She did try, but couldn’t succeed much — sometimes because of their in-acceptance of her different ways, sometimes because of her impatience with theirs.  She danced a different dance than all of the others.

When Niyati was old enough to know that her life’s train would soon change tracks with an arranged marriage, she began to dream of a man who loved her, supported her, possibly even climbed mango trees with her. She dreamed of finally finding a friend, an intimate confidant who’d accompany her to stupendous spans of love, respect, fun and most importantly, propriety. A man, who gave his everything to her, like she would give all of her to him. It was essential, really, for both to be virginally committed to each other — otherwise, it would be half a pleasure.

Achal was a loner of a different breed. He spent time with people, charmed them, but he was mostly alone in his world and never let anyone in. He had four siblings, all of them much older than him, all of them busy with their own individuality. Their parents, Ma and Pitaji for the children, were loving, but distant. If individualism were made the prerequisite for survival, the members of this family would be among the few prosperous ones. Achal went on jeep drives, tiger hunts, picnics around waterfalls, jaunts with beautiful girls — he allowed the world to embrace him. But never allowed it to feel his heart.

He did fall in love with a girl, though. They dreamt of marrying and doing things all those in love dream of doing. He fought a lot with his mother when she put her foot down against this marriage — she didn’t like the girl. Yes, he did fight for his love, but his mother won. The fact that his girlfriend’s mother didn’t support their marriage either did not help much. Achal had no choice but to look forward to a different life with a different woman. It did not weigh on his well being for long. A love, in a way unrequited, was something he was willing to leave behind. He wanted to look ahead. His mother sought another girl for him after his girlfriend got married. Yes, it was going to be arranged, his marriage. His mother was keen to find a soft, gentle girl for her emotional boy.

She found Niyati.

Chapter 2 — The Ever After

“I know exactly what you are!”

“The hell you do! I haven’t forgotten her after all these years because of just one reason — you. You do not let her go, damn it!”

They had been whispering shouts for the last half an hour, having started off their occasional after-a-party argument right after the last guest had left. Their two children, now 10 and 7, were trying to remember to forget this pounding rage coming from the other room before they drifted to sleep.

In the morning, things would be just the way they were in the mornings. Niyati and Achal would transform into doting parents, forgetting — or pretending to forget — that they were disappointed spouses.

This tiny world they had created with love — yes, they did find love in each other, and for their children — gasped for fresh air, and ached for some respite from shrunken hearts. From the outside, it seemed an ideal world. The children’s friends envied the obvious love they received and Niyati and Achal’s friends saw them as a decent couple working through the minor disagreements all married people with dignity have the right to have.

It was different behind the closed doors, now, wasn’t it?

Sometimes Achal wondered whether he really should have been honest with Niyati and told her about the girlfriend who was not to be; and right after their marriage, too. Sometimes he admitted that Niyati first needed to have been given a chance to believe him when he said that his future with her was important to him now.

Niyati did not like the necessity of having to use the now. Its implication — that there had been a then — irked her.

As a consequence, everything they had done in the last eleven years of their marriage shouted out at Niyati’s latent fear of not being good enough, forcing it to come out. And it culled her much-aspired-for hope to find a man who thought she was, in fact, much more than good enough. She couldn’t help overlooking the love in his eyes when their fingers brushed against each other accidentally in a party, or when someone praised the flower arrangement at the coffee table in the centre of the drawing room she so meticulously beautified. Or when he implored her to follow her dream of learning English, just because. She slapped off his unsure hand that was extended with love, hope and a desire to build something good.

Why did she do so when all she wanted was just that? She wanted his companionship and support. She wanted his confidence. Achal misunderstood her changing needs, though. He did not comprehend that she sometimes needed to be led, sometimes needed to be walked with. So he invariably swapped the two — tried to lead her when she wanted a companion, and tried to become an onlooker when she wanted to be led. Achal began to lose interest in his frustrated attempts. Niyati began to believe her dream was now never to be realised; Achal thought she would never get beyond her complaints.

However, Niyati and Achal occasionally surprised themselves, each other and everyone else who’d seen enough of their impatient sparring. They demonstrated supreme compatibility and enviable comfort with each other sometimes. It was so overwhelming, that their children stopped time in their minds to savour this rare treat. As years approached and they accepted their lives with each other, the two also began to look at their own faults from time to time. Niyati told herself that she had indeed been foolish to begrudge Achal his girlfriend, because she was, after all, no one significant in their lives. Achal had withstood all of her moody complaints, and kept his intention of seeing his future with her as the only life he wanted to consider. He did deserve trust in return. Meanwhile, Achal had learnt to appreciate her unique ability of being a great housewife, a caring mother, and a witty companion.

But these acknowledgements were rare. The magnitude of their disapproval was far greater than that of their appreciation. Years got added to the eleven they had already collected. Life went on, disappointments piled up, until appreciation and respect got buried beyond memory.

Chapter 3 — After the Ever After

It was dawn, and the sunlight had found its way in. A white water lily nodded to the gentle winter breeze. Achal and Niyati had spent the night sitting on the couch, looking at the softly lit courtyard outside. They had not slept at all, and talked a little. Just a little about their boy. It had been a year since he had gone away, promising never to come back. He would be thirty-two today. How indefatigable is life! Their first born was gone, but they still lived — life wouldn’t let go of them.

“I’ll make us some chai,” Niyati said as she began to get up.

“No, wait. Sit a while more first.” She sat down again. Her dainty, wrinkled fingers fiddled with a part of her saree’s long edge.

Achal was looking at the distant redness of the rising sun, his forefinger writing invisible words in the air. “Do you remember the first time he cried?”

“Of course I do. He was in your arms, just born.”

“No, not that. First time as a young man.”

“It was the only time.”

“Yes. His sister was about to get married, everything was perfect — until we found it necessary to argue right there at the mandap.”

“We could never do them enough justice, could we?” Niyati shifted a little for no apparent reason, and gazed at nothing in particular.

“I hope we did.”

The birds were coming home to feed their young. Parrots chattered their throats out, as if today was the only day to talk. The day was breaking. Niyati heard the distant ring-ring of the milkman’s bicycle and got up to go and fetch the patila.

“Don’t make chai just yet. Come back,” Achal repeated his wish, and got up to check on the newspaper. It hadn’t arrived. He kept standing at the doorstep, looking out at the plants he’d nurtured lovingly. The garden was full of asters, his son’s favourite. He had never understood why he chose asters over so many others. Perhaps because of his interest in astronomy? He sighed at another unanswered question.

Niyati made to get out of the door to get the milk. The milkman was almost at the gate.

Ramjanam, aaj do kilo chahiye.”

Ji, memsahib. Kuch khaas?”

Haan, bhaiya ka janmadin hai. Aaj kheer banaoongi.”

Ramjanam poured out the milk from the measuring cup he dipped into one of his three huge canisters. He gave her a little more than the two kilos she had asked for.

Achal didn’t say it, but he understood Niyati’s heavy heart. If a mother had to take extra milk to prepare her son’s favourite dessert even if he would never come, it was almost like watering a plant that had long succumbed to the withering rays of the sun. He wanted to reach out and hug her till both their hearts wept out years. The last one in particular.

Her eyes fell on the carved wooden nameplate her son had made for them — Niyati & Achal’s Home, it said. She looked down at the patila instantly, and concentrated on bringing it inside without spilling any milk.

She put the milk on the stove to boil, and came and sat down on the couch.

“Do you want some puris? With the kheer?”

“It’s been years since I’ve had kheer with puri. Yes. Make some today,” said Achal, putting the newspaper away. He wasn’t reading it anyway. “Should I make tea today? It’s been a long time since I made tea for you.”

“It’s been a long time, indeed.”

Achal took her hands in his, and said, “We’ll live beyond all of this. Do you see that?”

“I don’t know how, Achal,” tears streamed down her eyes, as she looked into the old eyes that once mirrored their owner’s hesitant love. They still showed love, this time determined.

“I don’t know how either.”

Niyati felt her usual rage rising from deep inside her again. But she just pulled her hands out of his gently, and looked away. How could he give her hope and then take it back again? She wanted to punish him with her usual vitriol, but didn’t; she was too tired to fight.

“I see nothing beyond. What are we left with?”

Achal straightened his back against the couch back and stretched his arm on its edge, “We have us, broken as we are, and we have our daughter. What about her? Have you thought of what this means to her?”

“She has her family. And I have no energy to think of what she is going through.”

“Are you really that hard-hearted?” Achal began to see his usual disbelief at her attitude resurfacing.

“Have I ever had a choice?” Niyati’s frown was reappearing. She had been trying lately to at least keep her irritation with life in general out of her face.

Achal tried to take one of her hands again; she resisted. He tugged gently at it as tears began to drop down on her saree.

He put his arms around her and rocked her back and forth gently, in turn rocking himself. And he cried with her.

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Unfamiliar words and pronunciations

PanditPuhn-Dit – Hindu priest

Havan kundHuh-Vuhn Ku-n-d – the square pit used to light fire in auspicious ceremonies.

MandapMuhn-Duhp – the usually square area in which the marriage ceremony takes place.

PatilaPuh-Teela – A deep vessel usually used to store milk

Ramjanam, aaj do kilo chahiye. – “Ramjanam, (I) want two kilos today.”

Ji, memsahib. Kuch khaas? – Yes, memsahib. Is there anything special today?

Haan, bhaiya ka janmadin hai. Aaj kheer banaoongi. – Yes, it is bhaiya’s (older brother) birthday. I’ll make some kheer today.

PuriPooree – Flat, deep fried bread made of whole wheat flour.

KheerKheer – A rice pudding made by cooking rice in milk until most water in the milk evaporates and gives a divinely creamy, thick consistency to the pudding.

NiyatiNih-yuh-Tee – Fate

Achal – Uh-chUhl – The Unmovable One, Steady

How much does it take?

I am grinning from ear to ear as I write this. Waiting for B to get us some rum. It’s been a trying week. A challenging assignment I enjoyed doing, but since it involved more brain-work than usual, I am feeling drained. The reason I am grinning is because my radio just played Allen Karl’s Tonight Carmen. I’d never heard him, so his voice came as a surprise.

Old-world and somehow soothing, it boomed through the speakers, and I began grinning. It is like watching an unexpected flower bloom after living in a dry, dry land. Working on an assignment that makes you happy and absolutely irritable at the same time does seem like cruising on a very, very dry land.

Sometimes you need just a little to turn it around.

Have a beautiful time today. And I, I am going to drink rum with B.

Loving, and how.

 
 
 
 
 

I discovered Etheree at Dan’s blog a few days back. It is a concept so beautiful, I am still in raptures. And the name? Etheree. Wow. To make matters more delightful, Dan’s poem added such calm, petal-like softness to its already simple beauty. Perhaps this is what encouraged me to write an etheree myself and see if I have it in me to make it a regular in this blog’s Poesie category.

 

Leave

the cup

and come here

closer to us,

me and the fire bright.

Walls are warm, my heart too.

Close that door behind you, do!

Look, the fire’s ablaze with the wind

the door’s let in oh-so shamelessly.

Come now, the cup overflows so, my love.

An etheree comprises of 10 lines. It begins with a one syllable line, increasing one syllable per line until the last line of ten syllables. The syllable count of the entire poem is 55. The syllabic structure, therefore, is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, and is unmetered and unrhymed.

A total recall

I have been thinking quite a lot about the land of the Bhils and Gonds – the tribals of the region of India I have my roots in. A long time ago, it seems, B and I visited a section of it, and fell in love with the greens and the browns and the blacks of the place. I’d love to, someday, write about it. But today, I am so full of the memories, that all I can do is post some pictures and reload the page over and over again through the day to keep looking at them. Why post them and not see in my personal gallery? Well, posting it in the blog has an added advantage of pretending I am storing it in a diary. And I was a religious diary-writer as a kid.

Besides, I always love to share what I think the world deserves to know. So, here goes a collection of memories from a land that has not seen ‘civilisation.’

The creek that gushes close to where we stayed.
A reservoir close to Bhoramdeo, the place where we stayed for the night. The red soil turns all waters into remarkably dirty-coloured entities. But all is beautiful, still. The fisherman promised to keep a fish for us to take home. We couldn't go back to him after our little jaunt at the hills. Our loss. The cow bells came with me, though. In the mind. I can still hear the sweet sound.
The dragonflies, blurred in the foreground were the stars of the season. It was summertime, the worst time to go there. If the worst time offers such beauty, the best should be just that, no?
This kite flew down to perch on the distant guard rail. As if to pose, it stayed there only as long as we clicked pictures. Quite a celeb, eh?

 

Moti of the Baiga tribe. The man we went to meet because people from the world over come to meet him, to seek cures to their ailments. He claims to walk the darkest of forests with tigers and elephants for company, make medicines to cure anything ranging from constipation to multiple scleroris. He claims to have eaten a herb for the duration he didn't want children. Natural contraceptive. 🙂 Pointing at my spectacles, he said, "I can get these off in one day". I'll tell you the outrageous cure, someday. Suffice it to say, I am chicken-hearted. And they make stylish spectacle-frames these days. All the tongues-in-cheeks aside, he has remarkable eyes. I couldn't meet them for long. He kept looking into mine, deep and deeper. It was unnerving.
Child-mothers, all. The local weekly market is quite a draw. People come in throngs from distant villages to buy several things. My favourite among them? The circlet around the girl's (on the left) neck. It's called a sarota. Pure silver, awesome weight. I got myself one. 🙂
Leopard kitten (a leopard cat is a wild cat, but not a leopard). A domesticated devil at a local village. I'd have taken him if the people weren't so attached to him. Such fire in his eyes.
A lotus pond at the Shiva temple at Bhoramdeo. The temple itself is so mind-numbing, I was slightly scared to click its picture, so I took its companion's instead.
This classy lady is off with her bargain of the week - the mahua. A local wine made of mahua flowers. The blossoms fill the forests during the summer season with their heady fragrance. Lotus-eaters would find these a much bigger challenge. People have been known to have fallen asleep the moment they came too close to a tree in full bloom. Or have been attacked by bears who wish to claim their share. Mahua. A heady, fruity, sweet brew.
Not a great picture. Doesn't quite capture the beauty of the fall, but it is important to post it here because a couple of ten minutes after this, as we trekked along the dirt track, we were to have a memorable experience. Since the track was a narrow one, we were walking in a straight line. The leader was a spirited dog we'd found close to the creek posted above. It wanted to come with us, or lead us rather. He was followed by our guide, then B and then finally, me. After a few minutes of walking along, we heard a rough grunt that reverberated not only through the hills, but within our heads and hearts as well. A growl followed. And then a yelp. By the time we'd trundled to the place, all had already happened. The dog was cowering, the leopard was gone. Yes, there had been a leopard ahead in the path, probably sleeping. Our leader was the only one to sight the cat. A rare example of a dog cowering in front of a cat, perhaps. At any rate, the leopard was gone before we could say Dog. All we had left of his presence was the memory of the inimitable growl (showing disgust, probably at the intruders) and the unmistakable big-cat smell. I can still feel the adrenalin. Our leader deserted us immediately thereafter. We never saw him again.

This outing, just a weekend, was an important one. I grew up very far from all these visions and smells and experiences. Despite the lack of familiarity, I somehow felt a part of it all, as I walked these roads. A feeling akin to home. B; a child of lands much beyond these, lands of tall mountains and great lakes, with people so different yet not quite; also, for some strange reason, felt one with the land. I know no better pleasure. Bhoramdeo is the place that brought me closer. To what? To life itself, I daresay.