I first came across live Steel Drum Music in New York.My father was a fan of Calypso Music of West Indies and he spoke often about the beautiful and catchy Beats it had.For me it was always fascinating--the beautiful rhythmic beat striking a chord deep within.Till I saw this Instrument I had no clue what it actually looked like and I first set eyes on it in New York City---and as the Music washed over me in bright energetic waves I gazed awed at those young West Indian men who played it with such open enjoyment and aplomb--their obvious delight in the Music they made added a new dimension to it.
It was our first visit to New York and we were standing in line for Tickets of the Ferry which would ferry us to the Statue of Liberty.The day was bitterly cold and windy and despite wearing Thermals next to our skin for additional warmth, we were still chilled to the bone and shivering terribly each time a gust of Wind caught hold of us.Sudhir,Sayali and I began listening to the beat---Sayali swaying to the rhythm much to Sudhir's discomfiture and as the Music grabbed hold of our senses even he unbent enough to hum along to the more familiar tunes.Most of these were old Calypso Music--some old Songs like Harry Belafonte's Yellow Bird, Banana Boat Song, Jamaica Farewell, Island in the Sun were well loved favourites--but the highlight for me was the Bobby Mcferrin Song "Don't worry Be Happy".It was the Cherry on the Cake!!!The warmth of this Music stayed with me throughout that chilly day---and when I discovered You Tube at Sayali's that year I just went berserk looking up all my old Favourites--and found almost 90% of these there!!
I have always loved this Song--but then I love all such upbeat Songs!!These are always the ones to put me in a sunny mood--and listening to these old Favourites on Youtube is something I love--and of course they help to make Life that little bit easier!!
I have always been a Radio Fan more than a T.V. one----maybe because of the Era I grew up in.For me Nostalgia means Memories of listening to the Music while falling asleep----in my childhood it was the Radio that played softly in the background as my parents discussed their day with each other in muted voices.For me even those muted voices humming in the background would be a major distraction--and I'd feel like shushing them soundly because this interfered with the strains of those beautiful Songs in the background.Today I have the facility of searching out many of those favourites online---and meeting even one such Song on the Internet gives me a wonderful feeling of Happiness and immense Satisfaction.
After I married Sudhir I'd tape different Songs in various permutations and combinations--for instance all the Songs that had "Night" as their theme and shared the same mood would be clubbed together--those featuring "Moon" or "Eyes" in another.These acted as our Lullaby each night--though Sudhir irritatedly grumbled that curiosity about which Song came next kept him awake till late each night--I could well see that it actually induced a relaxed and stress free night---for Music soothes the agitation and worries away!!Besides since early childhood I've always loved happy Songs---these just appealed to my positive nature!!Even today I still love those Songs---specially old Hindi Bollywood Songs--I marvel at the Poetry used by the Lyricists--who incidentally never made the grade as Poets except for a very select few!!Listening to the words for me is a high--for Sudhir it was the Tune rather than the words.He sang beautifully and while earlier I did sing Western Music the Hindi was somehow out of my range--except Songs by a seductively husky voiced lady named Geeta Roy Dutt!!!While I love many Songs by Lata Mangeshkar,Mubarak Begum,Sudha Malhotra and all my ultimate favourite singers however are both Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle--whose seductive and sensous voices weave a magic spell on one's senses!!
I still remember when I met Asha Bhosle face to face at a Wedding some 12 odd years ago.I was completely overwhelmed with emotion--my throat dried up and my voice froze--all I could do was just stand there clutching both her hands tightly in mine and just gaze at her awe struck--without saying a word for over 10 minutes!!Today my Cache of Music is vast--each night I listen to so many old favourites recorded in accordance in my preference on CDs each night---closing my eyes and imagining Sudhir next to me helps me drift off into a dreamless sleep.I have this beautiful CD of almost silent Songs headed by one of Asha's best--"kaisey kahoon main baat jiyaa kee Saanwariya" from an old Bollywood film named Gehra Daag.The rest just follow--each as good as the last.Another Song that gives me Goosebumps is Mubarak Begum's title Song from "Hamari Yaad Aayegi"---"Andherey chhaa rahey hongey" these strains haunt me as do those of another one sung by Sudha Malhotra and Mukesh for the film "Didi".It begins as "Tum mujhey bhool bhi jaao toh yeh Haq hai tumko" full of a very haunting and painful yearning for Love!!
While I love Richard Clayderman and Sudhir loved Floyd Kramer the one that we really were very fond of was Kenny G.Many of his beautifully played Melodies clutch at my heart--and make me weep for all that I had then and no longer do today!!Today the strains of his Saxophone transport me to a happier clime---when my days laughed and my nights sang!!These have been witness to the Love Sudhir and I shared and today are a testimony to my aching loneliness and solitude.
The Toy Train towards Shimla
I studied in a Convent School--and thanks to the Nuns really loved the Spirit of Christmas.Our School would close for the Christmas Holidays--but before that we'd have our Parents Day function---and we'd all participate in different Skits drawn from and depicting the life of Jesus Christ.Not just that, I was also a regular visitor to the School Chapel--I loved the peace of that small place and would just spend some time there during my Lunch break.Christmas however was a big thing in our home.True to his secular thinking Daddy would insist that we celebrate every Festival there is in India with the right spirit---so a huge Lunch of a Roast--either Mutton or Chicken with all the Trimmings marked the Event for us.There would be a roaring fire in the Drawing room Fireplace and we'd drink our huge Cups of Soup along with Baked Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes that Daddy roasted in the embers of the fire.The smell of Wood smoke and the light from the Fire turned the Living Room into a warm,cosy room for us--and we'd spend time trying to identify and pick out various shapes in the shadows the flickering flames drew on the walls. We'd make ourselves cosy on the Carpet with huge,heavy Cotton stuffed Quilts called "Razaaees" and soft Pillows--spending the afternoons and often even the nights sleeping on the carpeted floor!!
Our Christmas used to mostly be rainy---for there would be heavy Snowfall in the Mountains and as a result the Plains would be bitterly cold--the Rain turning the Weather even colder---and the ground slushy.Once instead of Rain we had Hail----and looking out of our Living Room window we saw a carpet of sparkling White balls covering every inch of the Garden--the Moon that sailed into view later in the night turning every nook and cranny of the Garden surrounding the house into a Silvery Paradise in it's iridiscent light!!That is when Carols like "Old King Wenceslas" made perfect sense---I could imagine him going out in the Snow and the Page stepping in his larger footsteps!!My favourite Songs however were "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" but the closest we could get to these was to sing these ourselves--for the Weather made the Short Wave reception on the Radio precarious--we'd get only broken bits of Carols and Songs thanks to the gusty Winds blowing away around the house.The story of "Silent Night" caught my mind---and the haunting strains of the Carol itself captured my imagination and it along with "Once in Royal David's City" were my favourite Carols.Initially we'd play these 78 rpm records on our Record Player--but after a while leaving the warmth of our snug cocoon became daunting so it was easier to sing these ourselves from wherever we had nested ourselves in the huge room!!
Sudhir too had always loved Christmas and much to the amusement of his parents he'd dress up in his favourite Suits and just take a stroll along Bombay's Chowpatty with his friends---and later once he got his licence drive around town spiffily dressed.After we got married we spent our first Christmas listening to Christmas Carols and Songs at night--and these became "our" favourites--carefully preserved and stored in preference of which ones came first and which ones next!!Christmas for both of us and later our daughters also meant an unending supply of Plum Cake from the Taj---Sudhir could literally eat this by the Kilos!!Each year we also bought a Cake for his sister Kunda who relished it as much as he did---the expressions on their faces as they savoured it was a treat to see!!!We have spent many Christmas Vacations in the North---the one that I really remember was when we took our daughters to Shimla.We stayed in the same Suite we had for our Honeymoon at Oberoi Clarkes and though it did not Snow it was bitterly cold.The Sitting Room and Bedroom had Fireplaces and the covered Balcony faced the beautiful Valley sloping down to the Bus Stand way below us.The Valley was dotted with Conifers and Cottages and steep Paths snaking up and down the Slopes and the Sunlight glinting on the windows made these look like Diamonds.As the setting Sun began turning the Valley into a shadowy misty place in the Twilight the entire picture changed magically.The lingering rays of the setting Sun turned into Banners of a deep orange gradually getting Violet and lengthening into deeper Purple tints as the Sun slowly sank behind the Mountains.The Valley and the Slopes were clothed in a misty veil of half light and Street and Cottage lights began twinkling like Stars in the darkening velvet of the night.The sight of the twinkling,magical Stars carpeting the Slopes and valley was a breathtaking sight--they seemed like they were suspended between Heaven and Earth--bewitching and unforgettably beautiful to see!!
Sudhir and I both shared a deep love of Nature--and have been very lucky to chance upon such moments that we could preserve in our hearts and mind--and later reminisce about fondly.Today these moments remain but he is no longer there and while I'm slowly getting accustomed to his absence, my heart still aches for him, specially on such occasions.Since he passed away I've just not played our usual Cassettes of our favourite Carols and nor have I been upto going to the Patisserie for the Plum Cake--it just isn't the same anymore!!
The Male Himalayan Monal or Himalayan Pheasant
Being a History buff I read the book "White Moghuls" by William Dalrymple during my Chemotherapy Cycles.It was a gift by my daughter Sayali on Mother's day---and today it is well thumbed!!It told of the first few Britishers who came here,adopted the Indian dress and way of Life and married local women to begin a separate class called "The Anglo Indian Community"!!I have always loved to read---and my favourite Authors were and are Rudyard Kipling and Ruskin Bond.Both born in India to British parents had a great affinity for the Country and wrote prolifically about India.Of these my ultimate favourite book is Rudyard Kipling's book "Kim"!!It is with Kim that I travelled on the fabled Grand Trunk Road which runs from Chittagong today in Bangladesh to Kabul in Afghanistan.Kim's adventures on this Road and his friends make for a lively Tale!!!
For long the heights of the Himalayas have fascinated me.So when we decided to visit Sarahan in Himachal Pradesh I was extremely excited.This place lies just 30 km.s from the Tibet border along the Sutlej River.The beautiful temple Complex of Bhimakali is the hub of the Town and it's architecture is unique.Built of Wood on a Stone base it is situated so that the soaring Mountains--their Peaks blanketed in perenial Snow for a perfect Foil for it.This ancient Temple is even mentioned in the Epic Poem, Mahabharata.We were lucky to get beautiful rooms with a truly fantastic view--the Himalayan Peak of Shrikhand towered above us it Snow covered peak glinting in the Sunlight--like a myriad sparkling Diamonds catching the Sun!!For me it was the entire experience--the beautiful Hotel built on the very edge of a Rock spur---the magnificent open vista of the breathtaking view and great ambience and lip smacking Food!!This was for me the ultimate Vacation---looking out for the rare Monal bird--and catching a pair of them perched on an Evergreen clinging precariously to the steep Mountain slope----the plump brown female not as eye catching as the flamboyant male!!!For me it was like being in a magical World--and I spent my day in the Balcony--just drinking in the beauty and magnificence of this marvellous place!!
Visiting the unique Temple Complex was another high!!Here both men and women have to wear Orange caps,cannot wear Watche Straps,Belts or carry Purses/Bags made of Leather.One then climbs up through a narrow staircase to the top where the chamber of the Goddess is on the second floor.The 800 year old Temple is unique--built in a fusion of Hindu and Tibetan styles of Architecture.The original Idol of the Goddess is made of Gold is enshrined on the first floor of the Temple and is worshipped daily in private and exposed only during during the Dassera Festival.The Second floor is a replica and is worshipped daily.The temple is one of the most peaceful places I have been to--and here in the quiet of the Complex one can readily believe that Sati's ear fell here.Filled with various varieties of heady Himalayan Jasmine,Rambler Roses and the scent of Evergreens wafting on the Air it is easy to believe that The Gods still walk here.
The wonderful Biryani
The Nawaabi majesty of Hyderabad has to be experienced---the bustling Bazaar near the Charminar--the old,established Pearl Shops---selling a variety of beautiful Pearls ranging from the Freshwater ones to the priceless Basra Pearls.The Rainbow hued Bangle Bazaar--all Jewel bright iridiscent colours of beautiful Glass Bangles lined up in their containers--inviting,beguiling and exciting!!This is a very vibrant City--with a laid back,very "Nawaabi" outlook to Life--and why not??It's Nawaab was the richest man in the World when the British left India!!The Hyderabadi Cuisine is as wonderful as the City---colourful,spicy and totally delicious!!Traditional Hyderabadi Food is extremely delicious and makes your fingers smell of the Spices used in the preparation for a week afterwards!!Their mouthwatering Biryanis,Bagharey Baingan,Mirch ka Salan and above all their wonderful Kababs---all are truly to die for.Sprawling old "Havelis" in the Old Quarter bear testimony to it's rich Past---and even now Hyderabad retains the mystique of it's glorious Past.
The Waterfalls at Nagarjuna Sagar
From Hyderabad we proceeded to Nagarjuna Sagar--one of the big Dams built in India.This Dam is on the River Krishna and is situated at Nagarjunakonda--an ancient City of the Ikshvaku dynasty in the 1st. and 2nd. Centuries AD. Excavations had revealed the presence of about 30 Buddhist Monasteries and all these Artefacts were moved to the top of Nagarjuna Hill--today an island in the centre of the Nagarjuna Sagar or Lake caused by the Reservoir flooding.We had stayed at the State Guesthouse here--and I still remember the faces of Sayali and Sonal----refusing to eat because the Roties and the Papads tasted the same!!Lotta on the other hand being a Rice eater, dug into her Dal Curry and Rice with gusto!!This was a real eye opener for Sudhir and me--rural India without the frills!!The beautiful Ruins of the ancient Monasteries were fascinating but the Sun was beating down on our heads--pouring out it's heat on us like molten Lava!!The number of "Limbu-Soda" bottles we downed that day remains a first--never before and never since!!These Soda bottles are capped with a large Glass Marble.The resulting hiss when this pops and the foaming Soda meeting the juice of Fresh Lime poured over lots of Ice cubes to form a chilled fizzy drink--truly a made in Heaven Combination--drunk here on Earth!!!
The Soda Bottles
My poor little Ming and Tina too were completely exhausted by evening and as we returned to our Guesthouse that night we decided that we had to have a leisurely day the next day---the exhausting heat and excessive tramping on the Sands at Nagarjunakonda having taken it's toll on us all!!