Archive for January, 2011

I was looking through my files today, trying to find some pictures of India as I was compiling an album on portraits from India on my facebook page. I came upon a folder with pictures I had taken in 2006. The pictures are not of very great quality and as I am not going to edit them, they probably have a washed out look, I just hope they don’t make you cringe.

They are very special to me as they are some of the only pictures that survive of my many outings on the beach with my younger daughter, before we moved to India. Most of the others were destroyed by a virus which ate up most of their digital childhood memories and left me devastated for a long time. These pictures never fail to bring a lump to my throat, for when you have lost the most wonderful memories of your offsprings’ growing up days, whatever is left is a treasure beyond measure. Moreover these pictures mark the end of an era in our lives. On this day my daughter was still a child, she had only known this one place since birth and it was home. Now she would be moving out, going to a new environment, adjusting, growing up, making memories; she would return here time and again but things would not be the same, maybe the carelessness that she had displayed all these years would be changed in some ways. Now when she has returned here for a longer stay she is different, grown up, though she still plays the fool, there is a sense of purpose about her. I miss those days and so does she.

We spent a lot of time on the beaches taking long walks together, or having breakfast at Macdees on week-ends or during holidays. I often spent my mornings on the beach taking long walks or writing poetry when the kids were at school and then went back in the evening with my daughter. Once I wrote a poem on spring in Kuwait and a friend asked me if I had pictures, as he could not find any pictures online. I thought that perhaps painting pictures with words was not sufficient and I should take pictures of my view of my world and share it with people on the net. So began my journey with my 2 mp Minolta point and shoot, recording much of what I saw and sharing it with the world through webshots and a few other sites, like Trekearth. There are so many memories we have of those times together, my younger daughter was always willing to come with me whenever I wanted to go out and we had some wonderful times together. There was the time when I wanted to photograph the sunrise and dragged her to the beach at dawn, she woke up without a protest and came with me willingly. We walked in harmony with each other and with our surroundings, both feeling at peace with ourselves as the sky lightened and grew rosy with the approaching promise of a bright new day.

It was a beautiful morning, the dew was still on the grass and held cupped in the hands of leaves like a precious, fragile object they did not wish to give up but hold on to as long as they could, like I wished to hold on to the beauty of that crisp clean morning, to the quiet sea, the shore half hidden in a slight veil of morning mist, the sky covered lightly with clouds and the sweet innocence of my daughter’s childhood for just a little bit longer.

Our walks were so special that after we moved to India, they were one of the things my daughter longed for the most, though even there we had some special moments together, but the walks had their own place in her memories. Whenever we returned to Kuwait for the holiday’s it was the one thing she wished to do with me and even now we have established our tradition of the beach walks.

One of the last walks we went for before we left though was in March 2006. Kuwait was covered with the green and yellow mantle of spring. There were flowers blooming everywhere and gay butterflies flying merrily among them. The beaches we visited were a few kilometres away from home and not the ones we usually walked to.

That day we had finished some work at the Indian embassy, which is an imposing red sandstone structure on the sea-side, and decided to walk on the beaches instead of heading home.

We crossed the road to the seaside where pruned Florida buttonwood trees stood and beyond them we could see the sea. There were palms and pretty flower beds

and among the brilliant flowers painted ladies flitted and danced holding us enraptured for quite a while.

The promenade stretches on for many a kilometre and links together a number of beaches. We perhaps walked three to four kilometres. Though the bays and beaches are similar, all of them have restaurants and some kind of play area or garden attached to them, which distinguishes them from the others. There is a stretch on the side of the road that is covered by rows of date palms, from which dates start appearing in late spring and early summer and hang heavy as they ripen and turn yellow in the intense heat of the desert summer. date palms are a regular feature of countries in the Arabian Gulf and in Kuwait too they are found everywhere.

As we were walking the beach was to our right and Arabian Gulf Street and apartment blocks beyond it to our left. Suddenly we saw thick smoke rising from one of the buildings, there definitely was a fire, fortunately, it seemed to have been extinguished very quickly as the smoke disappeared soon after. We passed some lovely landscaping on the road again, this time flowerbeds full of pink and yellow blooms.

We soon approached another beach, one we had lived close to once, when my younger daughter was born and we used to come here often during her early childhood. Many were her memories of climbing the bars and jungle gym here and being pushed on the tyre swings by her father. Now once more she began reliving those memories climbing on the jungle gym and see-saw and swinging on the tyre swings.

The garden here had a lawn and a number of ficus trees. To our utter amazement we saw, what was unmistakably a crow in one of the trees. Now, never before or since have we ever seen a crow in Kuwait. There are more than 200 species of birds here, many of which are migratory birds but a few like doves, pigeons, sparrows, even bulbuls, are found throughout the year. Through winter we have seen egrets, gulls and a number of migratory birds flock to the beaches but never a crow! We have seen crows in Dubai and many of them in Sharjah, but never in Kuwait. That day was etched in or memory forever, as the day we saw the crow in Kuwait. Yes it was ‘The Crow’ and not ‘a crow’ as it was definitely not one of a number.

The beach beyond the trees had a number of jet skis for hire, sitting in a pretty and bright row awaiting customers.

beyond we could see the landmark Kuwait towers in the distance and other jet skis and motor boats leaving white wakes in the sea.

We walked past the benches and Florida buttonwood trees, that line the promenade, and beaches with doves and pigeons on the sand and in the water. We approached some gulls and they suddenly took off in a flurry. All the while, Kuwait Towers seemed to dominate the scene, even from a distance. In places my daughter would climb down to the rocks for a bit, she was having fun, though I kept fearing she may fall.

Though we had not walked a long distance but we had been on our feet for sometime ,as we had stopped on the way to enjoy and admire everything so by the time we reached the beach with Kentucky Fried Chicken we were both quite hungry and ready to head home. The sun too had grown hot by now as it was afternoon. I took some pictures of the beach, picked up a couple of meals from from KFC and we made our way, with me trudging painfully by now, to find a taxi to take us home.

We returned tired but satisfied. A walk is such a simple pleasure and costs nothing, yet it can leave memories that one can cherish and treasure forever.

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Love and Longings

Last night we watched the 1993 version of ‘Shadowlands’ the movie based on the love story of famous writer C.S. Lewis and American poetess Joy Gresham. I woke up with a strange thought and lay in bed following its threads for a while, till police sirens and the clanging of fire engines forced me to jump out of bed. The fire which was in the building opposite was extinguished in a short while. Luckily no one was hurt and the interested onlookers returned to the humdrum of their normal lives after that little bit unexpected excitement, that probably gave them a subject to talk about for sometime, while the resident of that flat was left with dealing with various official departments and coming to terms both with his feelings of loss in terms of material goods, as well as gratitude in having escaped with his life.

I went back to the thoughts I was mulling over; C.S. Lewis when he met Joy Gresham was not just teaching at Oxford, he was also a famous and celebrated writer, he was a bachelor and was quite satisfied with the way his life was going. He did not miss the presence of a woman, he was not actively looking for love yet when he lost Joy he was devastated. We can live our lives without something and yet once we have known that thing, we can never go back completely whole, to the way we were before. some vital, intrinsic part of us gets lost with what we have lost. Often we long for things, marriage, children, we know that our life needs something more, yet we have no idea how these are going to fulfill us or fill our lives or what pleasures and pains they will bring. We dream about them while we do not have them and fear losing them when we do.

At no point do we think, “I did not have this before and now I am blessed with it and it has brought me such great joy and happiness like I have never known before and enriched my life in ways I was ignorant of.” No we cannot say that in a way that means we are ever ready to let go or live without it, perhaps because we know that our lives were incomplete before and it is only these people whom some part of us knew existed, who have now brought us happiness.

While I was still thinking on these lines I suddenly told my daughter “you know I lived without you for 32 years” to which the instant retort from my eighteen year old was “baby you didn’t really live those 32 years” Yes, and now you all know how old I am.

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I have always had a deep affinity with the sights and sounds of moving water, right from the time I was a child back in my native India, be it a tiny babbling brook, or a stream, or the waterfalls gushing down the mountains during the monsoons, or a wide river flowing gently and of course the sea. The sea back home is wilder, especially during the rains, when it lashes relentlessly on the coast, and yet the wildness in us used to respond to its call and we would stand with outstretched arms and hearts beating with excitement on the shore, waiting for the waves to come and drench us. It was both exhilarating and rejuvenating.

But it was the quiet calmness of the sea in Kuwait that helped me to unravel my tangled reflections, memories and fancies into coherent thought. It was sitting by its shores that I found I could express myself in words and verse and I grew and developed my writing and poetry. The sight of its placid blueness was always like a soft hand upon my being that soothed my very soul and drove all my troubles away. It opened the doors of my imagination and my mind became a bird and took wing as I sat by its side. It has been a decade, but even now every minute I spend there is filled with delight. I can spend many enchanted hours watching the many changing colours, the gentle lapping waves, the tiny fishes darting and swimming, birds like cormorants, gulls, egrets, snipes, sandpipers, storks, cranes and even flamingoes on its beaches.

One day, I sat by the sea watching afternoon turn into evening and the suns deep warm, orange fingers stroke the Earth in a gesture of fond farewell as it moved on its journey westward. Ships were sailing in from far away countries or were making their way from the port. The sea was full of pleasure crafts: small fishing boats, motor boats, jet skis and yachts travelling through the water leaving behind white wakes. Overhead numerous flocks of birds flew to destinations unknown. The winds carried in the evening chill from some strange land. I realised that everything around me was on a journey, some like the sun moved on a fixed path, some knew where they were going and what path they would take and some were just travelling without any knowledge, letting destiny be their guide and only I was sitting there unmoving upon an equally still bench. But was I? was I not, even then, whilst sitting still, on a journey? A journey whose length and destination were both unknown to me. Did I even know if I had a moment more left on this journey or would it end before the next breath. I could dream of going places, I could even plan my route and itinerary but I could not foresee what the future would bring, if my plans would materialise or if I would be taken somewhere else like a seed blown by the wind with no will of its own. I had already without any desire or plans been that seed that had landed on a foreign soil, taken root, grown and flourished, where now would my journey take me? Would I just float upon the winds or was something in my power? The way I reacted to situations was in my power, as was doing good and being kind, fair and just and to spread love and hope; yes that too was in my power and maybe if I gave a little love and kindness and dealt with all my fellow travellers with compassion, fairness and justice, maybe then maybe I would receive the kindness in return and it would be favourable winds and a gentle hand that would guide me to my destination.

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The good days

I love winter in Kuwait, it is a time of blue skies and deep blue seas, migratory birds on the many beaches, breath taking sunsets through the clouds and a not unpleasant chill in the air. Some days are dismal and cloudy like today, when the sky is covered and grey and the sea is like greyish white jelly or there is a windchill factor that can freeze your very bones, on such days it is nice to stay warm and cozy at home and dream of the days when the world will be blue and green again, or go through the pictures of such times, taken during walks on the beaches or the promenades, or sitting by the still, almost glassy blue sea.
When the sea gleams like a gem in the distance, its attraction is irresistible and even the laziest mood is thrown off like an unwanted, cumbersome cloak and with a new found sprightliness we head towards the beaches. Its colours differ, ranging from the blue green turquoise, to sapphire and the darker shades of lapis lazuli. Most days its waters stay tranquil lapping the shore in gentle waves.

A very few times during the year, mainly in spring or autumn, it becomes choppy, then the waves rush to the shore in mad excitement like wild animals let loose, they jump and land excitedly on the shore splashing cooling spray all around. There is an excitement in the air, the sea turns a strange green colour and one wonders what goes on in Neptune’s kingdom. Sitting by the sea, absorbing the atmosphere around, it is easy to imagine the flurry of activity below the water; perhaps Neptune is in a hurry and the waves are created by his horses rushing through the sea bed as they pull his chariot,or it is a special occasion and all the creatures of the deep, not just the fishes and marine life but also the mermen and maids and water sprites and other spirits of the sea are hurrying and scurrying around running errands and making arrangements, perhaps for a great celebration. At such times it is hard to remember how calm and glassy the sea is most days, twinkling with golden stars scattered generously by a munificent sun or in the night gleaming silver, with a treasure of moonbeams dancing on the ripples, when there are more stars in the sea then in the urban sky, whose starlight is absorbed by the cities bright lights.

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I love to write, I love to conjure up images with words, of places I’ve been to, experiences I have had, or then just pictures which are in my dreams or my imagination. I also like to use words to share my thoughts on any number of subjects. Recently though, writing and I have not had much time for each other, but as expression and sharing are important to me, I have turned more and more to photography for it. With this new blog I hope to share both writings and photgraphs.

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