Thursday, 13 November 2014

A City Autumn

The pumpkins are dozing in the sun.

Princess Jasmine is chasing Snow White and Cinderella (or is it Anna from Frozen, Princesses are so hard to tell apart). Iron Man and Captain America are hanging upside down from the monkey bars. The school playground seems to be holding a symposium of Princesses and Superheroes– the genders neatly set apart. The pediatric dentistry nearby is handing out free candy. It is good for business, I suppose. Little plastic pumpkin buckets overflow with high fructose corn syrup wrapped in crinkle.

The dogs are out on the walk of shame: the Terrier is wearing a pink tutu and the Bulldog is a pirate. The Chihuahua with the playboy bunny ears is hiding behind the trash bags. The non-costumed Retriever looks at me, I look at the costumed humans around me, and smile back in sympathy.

Oh Halloween! How you’ve become the least loved of all occasions for the glorification of the two dreadful S’s– sexism and sugar (the new cocaine, the opiate of the masses). 

One day I step out of the house as usual and come upon this. How unexpected is autumn’s advance. How soon it peaks. And sooner still it is gone.
Even that street reluctantly trudged through during summer now seems almost inviting. Almost. As Ghalib said,

Hum ko maaloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat, lekin
Dil ko khush rakhne ko Ghalib yeh khayaal achcha hai

(Roughly translated: We know the realities of paradise, but/ to keep the heart happy Ghalib this is a good thought)
The light bounces. It is a fact and the unintended consequence of skyscrapers with glass windows. It isn’t just the sun’s trajectory across the sky that determines where there will be light, and where the shadows will fall. The light now received is offered back. Places that once resided in shadows, host startling light projections.

A city park at any time of the year is paradise within reach, unequivocally. Especially, the less frequented parts. I think even Ghalib would have agreed.

“Next stop is 14th Street.” Booms the voice through the air vents on the sidewalk and the subway rumbles on under my feet. Yes, yes, I too could have been on that train and there in the next 4 minutes. But for Sumac’s blazing glory. A sight definitely worth hundreds of footsteps, if not air miles.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

October State of Mind

Last October while walking in Central Park we made three wishes. In time all three came true. How were we to know that that particular twilight was infused with pixie dust? For if we had known we’d not have been so casual with our wishes. And of course, been mindful of the caveat: be careful what you wish for.

Some years ago, we received a benediction; you are lucky to be able to do what you want and to do it at your own terms. The benediction was heartfelt, but how it weighs on our heads. Can you imagine what the benediction entails?

We say, ‘come to think of it all regrets, if there are any, are about not compromising on our principles’. But it is only the foolish that regret, and only the foolish that collect causes for regrets. So it goes.

October is always a state of mind.

October when the harvest comes home. No matter where you live, you reap what you sow. Back home the beginning of celebrations, most prominently marked by the start of the great Indian wedding season. Out here in the global West with the sun low in the sky, the leaves turning color, seeds parachuting in the wind, the harvest ushers in another state of mind, and one that closely resonates with mine:

“Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.”

October, gorgeous October. 

Today it gently rains and outside my window there are yellowed leaves in the wind: hundreds of twirling dervishes, mesmerizing, hypnotic. Now the wind pauses and a lone yellow leaf launches from the rooftop garden far above. Unlike the wind orchestrated frantic twirling from a few moments before, it makes its way down slowly one floor at a time. It took an eternity, but there it is now one with the yellow pile by the curbside.

 It is only the foolish that regret, and only the foolish that collect causes for regrets.

(For another look at autumn in five pictures and poems begin here: