Sunday, December 29, 2013

Precarious edges

My second youngest niece, Neeva will turn a year old soon. There is something unique about each one of my nephews and nieces. Whenever I think of them, that one special thing pop’s up in my mind and brings a wide smile to my face.


As we all were thinking about the gifts we could give her on her first birthday, I wanted to personally make something with my hands for her. Children will play and interact with whatever you give them, then they would start relating to it, cuddle it, tear it apart or just stare at it; in a short while that something would have a name; a story. At times the most joyful thing is to see a child break something you gave him/her into bits and pieces because what matters is that the child interacted with it.

I like the precarious edges of the doll; the raw stitches, the naïve hands and the expressive eyes just like little Neeva. The best thing about making a gift yourself is the warmth hidden in it and the secret story between you and the person you are giving it to. If that someone is a child, then it’s the icing on the cake!

So this perhaps is the last blog from the magical year of 2013. As much as the year seemed challenging in the beginning, it turned out to be quite an intriguing journey. Hope you have a beautiful and safe New Year's Eve. I have some stories in a new medium for you early in the new year. 


Friday, November 1, 2013

The Obsolete Acquaintance

As we raise our heels and stretch our little hands to touch the sky, there are some old friends we forget on our way. Very soon or sometimes never do we realize that the sky is actually very very far from us, and when we feel we are close to it, we are actually still far away.

In this festival of lights there is one old acquaintance who is not around anymore; a sprawling mango tree I woke up to every morning.

Goodbye Acquaintance...

Hope you are having the brightest and most beautiful week of the year, for my readers who are not from India, Diwali is a week long festival of lights we celebrate during this time of the year. It is believed that Lord Ram returned after fourteen years of exile and he was welcomed with lit ghee lamps.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Illustrated Obituary

When I visit people's homes, I often see these huge framed photographs of their family members who are not with them anymore. Sometimes these frames are hanging in an acute angle supported by a rusted metal chain or sometimes they are placed on dusty cob webbed corner tables. Some photographs have dark intimidating frames while some have custom made thin borders. Some fresh and pale flowers linger around these photographs as the bent incense sticks spread the smoky fragrance all over the busy household.

Very rarely have I come across photographs of the gone which depict their actual persona. Most of the pictures seem intimidating and stern. But in our mind we always like to remember them for what they were, their brighter side.

Let’s go to the south of India where a little girl finds a way to remember her dear paati (grandmother) just the way she was, vivacious. The story will metaphorically take you through one of the most intricate art form, that of Ikat work; now a dying art.

For the uninitiated, Pochampalli Ikat is a weaving art form where the warp, weft or both are tie-dyed before weaving to create intricate designs on the fabric.  Precision is the sole skill of this technique and one can experience the authenticity of this textile by visiting Pochampalli which is a cluster of several villages to the south of India.

We live our life just the way we do so that people around us remember us for what we are, while we are there and when we are gone. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The garrulous 'adda' ~ a photo-essay

As the book worms bury themselves in the book shops aligned along Kolkata’s College Street, there is something contrasting and bustling for the garrulous; the Indian Coffee House. A dark and broad winding stairway adorned with stickers, weathered posters and electric wires on the adjacent walls make way to a huge hall of echoing voices and broken words. One cannot grasp the visual at one go. As you look around, you would see people engrossed in conversations, arguments, a few staring at you and the waiters wearing crisp white stand collars with fan like attachment to their phetas running helter-skelter.

As you make yourself comfortable on the quintessential ‘coffee house’ chairs, one of the hospitable waiters will run to you and then there is a wide variety of culinary delights you get to choose from. “You have to try their mutton cutlets and fried fish”, said my Bengali friend who took me there. Two cups of strong coffee go with the turf, you can’t miss it.

Until we waited for the coffee to arrive, I looked around. There were old friends catching up, regulars arguing and taking a pause only to take a few puffs of cigarette,  women draped in quaint sarees heading to see the Durga Poojo pandals in the city, youngsters bunking lectures and gossiping and some sitting alone and observing. There was something for everyone regardless of age and interests.

As me and my friend chatted sipping on the refreshingly strong coffee and the cutlets and crispy fish served with sliced onions and mustard sauce, the noise around dissolved in its echo. That’s the charm of such places, you can avoid the sound when you want to and you can get lost in it when you are alone and observing.

Time flies while you are at the Coffee House and you keep ordering for more and wonder how the waiters keep a track of your order. You are distracted every now and then by people, noises, echoes and smells but you relish every moment of your time spent there.  

This photo-essay is dedicated to Debjani and Swetaketu Ghosh, parents of my friend Lopa who took me to Kolkata to relive their nostalgia.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

En route the eastern glut of visuals

Much awaited tête-à-tête with the land of conversations, nostalgic warps and wefts, iconic expressionists and food to die for; to say the least. Traveling to the eastern glut of visuals- en route Kolkata. Also straight away diving into the celebration close to every Bengali's heart with two quintessential Bengali friends; that of Durga Pujo!

Shall see you in a short while, till then keep dreaming and keep telling stories.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Conversations with Samten

As I flew back from Dharamsala to my home, several stories flew with me as well. (Thanks to the airlines that they yet don’t charge extra for mental baggage) Yes, I said ‘home’ because I couldn't wait to get back and put pen to paper. There were so many stories that hovered around in my mind for a long time, one of which was of Samten. But there was something unique about it; it hovered in my heart.

So easily I used the word ‘home’ in the above paragraph and I am sure most of you read it just like you would read any other word.  Perhaps because we know we can go back home at the end of the day, cuddle up in a warm blanket and stare at the ceiling fan confining our world within those four walls. Only because we ‘can’.

Conversations with Samten is a linear narrative of a series of conversations with a monk who was one of my students in the English conversation class in Mcleodganj. There were students of all age groups, genders and backgrounds that came every evening to the volunteer centre and interacted with travelers from across the globe. The conversations went on for an hour every day after which some of the travelers would accompany their students and explore the town. Through Samten I discovered a different world in which Tibetan people were living in their own land under the Chinese rule. He metaphorically represented those thousands of people who came to Dharamsala to follow one man and his teachings, The Dalai Lama. These people have been living in exile in Dharamsala and have tried to make a home there ever since.

Samten has been applying for his passport at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi for the last three years but they haven’t approved it yet. With watery eyes he took me through the photographs he clicks in his free time and I was touched to see how he compared every landscape in Dharamsala with his homeland, Tibet.

When I was traveling to Delhi from Dharamsala, an American teacher who also volunteered there said to me, “It’s unfortunate that the children in the US are absolutely unaware of what is happening in this part of the world!” I smiled and replied, “We Indians are equally unaware of it despite of been in such close proximity of this land.”

This appeared in The Mint last Friday and was published by Manta Ray Comics, the finest and most sensitive storytellers I have worked with.

Have a homely week, we are half way through this week but anyway. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bas thoda 'adjusht'

Today I want to leave you with just these sketches, so that you can get ‘adjusted’ to them. I don’t wish to write much because such sketches come from the visual milieu a scrutable Indian lives in. We Indians had to never look up the dictionary especially for this word, ‘adjust’ or more likely ‘adjusht’.

If you are traveling somewhere soon then you would come across this on the railway stations anyway, and for those who aren't, you should probably do a train journey soon. Have an ‘adjustive’ weekend, it keeps life simple. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The sculpted Modak

Maltitai was my grandmother’s eldest sister and also her favorite one. She was a widow and lived alone all by herself for more than six decades in Pune. As much as the previous sentence would sound grim, her personality was absolutely contrasting. She lived alone but she was never lonely because she considered all her siblings as her family, their families as her own and their children as her very own. So did the latter.

The inseparable sisters- My grandmother (R) and Malutai

Malu tai as everyone fondly called her was the liveliest member of her generation. A very warm person with an unmatched sense of humor; an artist with extra-ordinary cooking skills and a storyteller in every sense of the word. She played the sitar and her passion for the instrument reflected in her choice of sarees, her culinary experiments and in her smile.


She would often accompany us children for our summer vacations to my grandparent’s home and with every few miles during the journey, her stories would get more intriguing. She had a knack for narrating her daily incidents which would make good stories for children and the elderly.  In our family gatherings everyone would surround her as she would gradually open her treasure of anecdotes and no one realized where time dissolved. We children used to then remind her of our favorite incidents from her narrations and then she would repeat them as seamlessly as she did for the first time. We would hear all her encounters with the most uncanny characters several times but we would still want to hear them over and over again.

Malu tai probably had a serious side to her as well but none of ever saw it. She did have her share of sorrows but her expressive eyes would only emote the brighter side of her life. Why I miss her especially during this time of the year is because of her finely sculpted 'Modaks'. Modak is a quintessential Maharashtrian delicacy prepared exclusively during Ganesh Chaturthi. It is made of steamed rice flour stuffed with a sweet coconut and jaggery mixture. Then comes the arduous part of shaping them. As much as she was meticulous about the spices she put in her cooking, she took much more efforts in garnishing everything she made. That is the reason I say ‘sculpted’ Modaks. All her Modaks would look alike, every piece finely crafted just like the other.

My memory of Malutai sculpting each and every modak with love, every Ganesh puja morning.

On one of the Ganesh poojas some years back, we children sat down with her to try our hand at this unique delicacy. We all struggled to form the basic shape while Malu tai created series of them. We would make one and then get it approved from her. She was a veteran but she appreciated our efforts of an attempt to try something that takes years of practice to perfect.

Malu tai was one person who taught us that cooking is worship. Its worship to God and more importantly to the people you are cooking for. You cannot take either for granted. As much as someone would enjoy what you have made for them, they must first be able to appreciate it just by its appearance.

I never asked Malu tai her age. Rather it did not matter, she was young as young could be till her last breath. Her ability to connect many families as one, carved a special place for her in everyone’s heart. That is what people like her do to you; they make you believe in love, affection and unconditional giving.

Your Modaks still remain the most sought-after.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Writing makes me live life through different people. It makes me cross age barriers, become younger and sometimes older and at times I get so carried away with my characters that I live an entire day of their life and get back to mine after I write my last word, add a full stop and tell myself, “It’s just a part of what you do.”

Stories that look simple are the ones that need to be thought of the most. There is inevitably nothing ‘simple’ in any form of expression. It is at times tiring but when you think of those dedicated readers who await your stories, you quickly get back to your pen and paper and then it’s you and your world.

‘Jargon’ is my new story for people who use lot of it in their conversations. It is sometimes nice to avoid jargon, be articulate and simple making people relate to what you are talking.

September's almost here and there are of-course many things to look forward to. Have a  lovely weekend and see you here soon!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

haathi mere saathi

Author Barry Lopez says, If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. Perhaps that’s the reason I write because stories come to me and I try and articulate them in a linear form.

I know several parents who belong to the same generation I belong to and most of them are away from home all day and sometimes for days together for work. It’s a time where living itself is the costliest thing and hence young parents strive to balance their work with family.

‘Haathi mere saathi’ is a story of a boy who knows why his parents work so hard and are away from home most of the time. He longs for a sibling to share his space, his mind and his joy. In the eerie shadows of the night he finds a companion, larger than life and someone who was always inside him. 

You can read/download this story on :

The magic begins when the things hidden inside us enchant us the most, many more stories coming out of my stomach soon!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

devoted stomach

The smoke travels its way,
Through the narrow aromatic gallis.

Mohallah that echoes voices
Of the devoted stomach.
The lights that emerge
Atop wired balconies,
A soothing voice,
Guides you and me.

Little taqiyahs shine every now and then,
Some embroidered and some vibrant.
A feast of compassion
That sees no caste or creed;
Welcomes one and all
To join and share,
Joys of all.

Quaint kebabs;
To catch the eye.
A glutton wanderer
Who sees no caste or creed,
Joins and shares,
Joys of all!

So this was the Iftar feast in my city, from an area that boasts of aromas all round the year. I am off to my second home, Mumbai where I will be celebrating Eid ul fitr on Friday. Eid Mubarak to all of you in advance and hope you celebrate it with your mind, heart and most importantly your taste buds!

Friday, July 26, 2013

monsoon {monotony}

Lately the palette around us has been calm, pale and dead. Does anything inspire us in this monotonous milieu? Well, then let’s dive in this story of someone who talks about his Monday morning blues, literally!

For the complete story kindly click on

Hidden in the monsoon palette are these small vibrant things that can turn a mundane Monday morning or any morning for that matter into something vivid.

Make the most of monsoons; they come just once a year! I will see you soon here.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The {last} Telegram

Today I am taking you back in time; a time when words had more value and they meant much more than the way they sounded. From an era that has witnessed the end of Telegram services in India comes this story which will take you back and forth in time and space, written and illustrated by me.

For a good read you could download this as well by clicking on this link:

As we bid farewell to the good old Telegrams we must affirm that we won't give up writing because no matter what medium we use to write we must not let go the value of words.

Have a good week ahead, at your pace.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tibetan Hand-type shopping

When we are wandering in a visually enchanting country like ours we tend to buy lot of things to take back home. Since the time I started my journey as a Blogger (which totally sounds like a new age profession) ; whether it was writing or illustrating, my interaction with letters and font styles only grew.

I like the blot; I like how the ink flows freely on paper. So as I strolled along the streets of Dharamsala absorbing as much as could visually, these were some hand painted fonts that intrigued me. Even though the fonts belonged to a particular type family the intuition of the person who painted it could be seen. The palette complemented the place, the people and to some extent even the food of Tibetan locals. At times contrasting, the font attributes caught my attention and made their way to my diary.

While I tried to replicate them in my tiny book I realized the nuances the artist needs to keep in mind because he is doing it on a much larger and uneven surface. However he retains his visual language and still manages to maintain the weight, width and style of that particular font which is incredible.

Ask me the technicalities of Typography and I know none but what I appreciate is the way 
hand-typographers connect you to their intuition.

Have an intuitive weekend and you might want to share your intuition with someone by writing to him/her. It must have been long since you wrote with your hand, so go for it. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The silent steamy affair

I get happy when I have to talk about food, extremely happy. Like I have said repeatedly it’s purely inherited from my family. I heard about momos for the first time when I was in junior college when there were hawkers all around the city selling this steamy affair. It became popular amongst youngsters instantly. Firstly because it was very affordable, it tasted and smelled healthy and it was not too filling. From the name momo everyone presumed it had something to do with the Chinese folks. Well the name is derived from Chinese but it is an authentic Tibetan and Nepali delicacy, ofcourse very similar to Chinese dumplings. I have momos in my city quite often but I always wondered how the authentic ones differed. So when I went to the hills in the north of India where this delicacy is a favorite, I realized it was more to do with the place than the delicacy itself. It is unique; having a momo on a traffic jammed street in our dear cities and having them staring at the grand shy Himalayas.

The several local stalls along the Jogiwara road  offer  a treat for vegetarians
Mutton/lamb momos are popular in the north because mutton in general is more preferred. The authentic ones somehow manage to complement the silence and serenity that the place has to offer. The momos look silent, they look bland but when you have them, they are succulent and intriguing. Punjab and Chandigarh being quite in vicinity, one finds lot of influence of Punjabi spices in some of the momo stalls owned by Punjabis. It’s commendable how they have incorporated their tastes into this preferably less spicy creation. The concept of fried momos works well for a scrutable Indian, who loves everything fried. Trust me it’s delicious.

You will find lot of hidden café’s all around selling momos in Mcleodganj and Dharamsala. You would think all of them taste the same but, I advice that while you are there, you try each and every place because it will have some hidden recipes to enchant your taste buds.

My personal favorite was the ‘Triund café & German’, a small shop on the uphill road to Dharamkot from Mcleodganj. This shop is run by a father-son pair and their chai perfectly complements their mutton momos. Don't miss the garlic red chillies sauce with it. You could ask for an extra rice soup too. As you sip and eat, you could dream away looking at the robust mountains from a symmetrically grilled window in the shop. The father usually never smiles but he is a nice man.

‘The Momo café’ (above in the picture) is on the Bhagsu road and offers a variety of momos. I found their sign board quite amusing; also it had a tiny board hanging saying that it opens at 7.30 am in summers and 8 am in the winters!

Hope you are having a weekend pampering your taste buds, more later!