Culture · India · Letters · Sikkim · Travel · World

Dear Snow,

There are three times when I have actually experienced snow fall and every time the experience has been euphoric. I can’t smell you or hold you tight but every time you fall it brings so much joy and warmth in my heart. It is winter time and we are soon moving forward in time for another year.

Changu Lake
Changu Lake

Sikkim

We went to Sikkim with my parents. My mother and I went out to buy some handicrafts from the local store. We were out eating Thupka. Thuupka is an amazing soup which was made by boiling broth of vegetable,chicken and spices together with rice noodles. On chilly winters it is the perfect snack to have. We were sitting on a lawn and my mother pointed at the sky. There were million stars shinning bright. On a no moon night it feels really great to look up at the sky and see the dark shadows of the tress and through them see small specs of light shimmering on a dark blanket. My mother told me that we would be going to Changu Lake the next day and it would be a surprise. I couldn’t think of a better surprise than to see the faint Milky Way glittering right in front of my eyes. I wondered looking at the stars far away what it must be to be like to look from the window of one the planets far above.

My mother knew how much I had enjoyed Badrinath and the snow fakes. As we entered the lake I could see snow walls and I was extremely excited. I couldn’t wait to see the lake. Tucked between the mountains is the beautiful glacial lake. There were Yaks waiting for the tourists. I went with mother and sat in front of the lake. The wind slapped on our face but we could see the cloud descending on the snow clad mountain peaks. My mother took out hot coffee from our flask and we drank it. She made the coffee Irish which made us feel warm. We kept looking at the still water. The lake is considered holy by local Buddhists. I could see the exact reflection of the sky on water. It was as if the sky and earth had become one. It soon started snowing. The beautiful snow flakes kissed the water while we sat looking in wonder around a bonfire. We had all the elements – Water, earth, wind, fire and heart.

India · Travel · World

Dear Starbucks,

South Indian Filter Coffee
South Indian Filter Coffee

I visited your den for the first time when I was in Dubai. Coming from a third world country, I wondered why you were so famous. We were inside a mall and that time we had no idea that malls could be so sophisticated and larger than life. Every material aspect which we had craved for was right there in the Emirates mall.

We had just finished shopping and had bought an LCD TV. It was first flat screen TV with my own money. We had to celebrate. Couple of my friends was looking around for restaurants which would be easy on the pocket. One of my friends discovered Starbucks. We looked at you and smiled broadly. The six of us thought conclusively that this is the place to celebrate.

We forgot the indigence and our situation. I sipped my first cup of café mocha and I did not know that I would soon have rendezvous with you. It cost me two dollars which was about one hundred rupees that time for one cup of coffee. I had collected the paper cup and brought it safely in India. On my trip to America I sat with a friend with a coffee. We talked for hours. Every weekend trip had three cups of cappuccino from the beloved Starbucks. In the age of globalization, it was imperative that  Starbucks had to be in my hometown. I still can’t believe it!

I was passing by my college and saw the Ramji restaurant selling coffee. An impoverished lad was serving coffee from his coffee holder. I went inside and recollected the times when I had the South Indian coffee. I was recollecting the times when we had five rupees in our pockets and went on date; endless hours of conversation, laughs and cigarettes. I saw kids who like us were still doing their last-minute college projects inside the local coffee shop. Every project had markings of coffee spilled on sheets of paper.

Yesterday I went inside Madras Café and I sipped the ten rupee coffee. The smell was still fresh and was made perfectly with use of hands and not machine. It takes talent the way the coffee is made with two cups, pouring coffee from one cup to another, without spilling a single drop. Few of my office friends and college friends came over. Cigarettes, discussions and the mindless observation continued. The caffeine in our systems had made us jaunty. The coffee kept pouring.

I walked past the huge mall and I saw you inside the mall. You looked beautiful as ever and right opposite was the local Anna selling coffee on his bicycle and local biscuits. You will were my first love and aspiration; you always will be. But right now, I need to feel like I just need a cup of warmth. You might be the taste of success but I’ll always come back to the local south Indian coffee makers to get the piquancy of struggle.

Culture · Europe · Letters · Paris · Travel

Dear Seine(Part 2),

Locked in love
Locked in love

While Tinni was walking back from the river and wondering if she was really a hypocrite, she came across the bridge filled with love locks. Names of couples written on the locks were hanging on the bridge. ‘Oh my!’ she thought. ‘I bet half them will end up in a break-up. But this will make a great picture’. She stood there clicking photographs so that the picture was perfect with good lighting. She was trying to create love through her camera. As she stood there, she saw a woman putting a lock with only one name written.

She saw her staring at her. She smiled, “Wondering what I am doing?” Tinni was embarrassed. She was embarrassed but she was caught red-handed. “Do you hope of love?”

“I am cynical. I don’t really believe in soulmates”

“That’s not cynical. But do you hope of loving? Loving anyone, with complete heart which is continuous and never-ending.”

She was pondering if this is actually possible – feeling endless love for a friend or mother or even someone special. It was awkward for her. She avoided people who were into sentiments of love.  “I think it is rather taxing and sad. I think we like someone and then focus on building the relationship and nurturing it. It’s simple.” ‘There a good and conclusive answer’, she thought.

“Then why do you like someone. Do you really think that we like someone because of our upbringing or our past? Have you not wondered if you did not have a past, you wouldn’t like the same set of people?”

“I think we have few habits which are innate. For example I am a foodie. I think I always be that way. But I don’t like Death Metal probably because I have not grown up that way.” By this point Tinni realised that she was completely clueless.

“Say you do like Death Metal because of your friends, there wouldn’t be a slightest chance of liking the same people you like now. Even love, would there be no chance of falling in love with the same person?”

Tinni thought for a moment and finally answered, “There will be a chance of liking or loving the same person, but sustenance depends on the past and the environment we live in”

She smiled “Finally logic. Well then stranger let this lock be unnamed. I shall name it the day the relationship has been built rather than having a relationship”.

The sun was setting down. The faint yellow rays were falling on the love handles. She thought it was a perfect moment for a photograph. But some moments can’t be captured just like people who cannot be taken. Not a friend, family or even a foe, people are there, people are everywhere. All we have to do is meet them.

Agra · Culture · India · Letters · Travel · World

Dear Taj Mahal

You are one of the most romantic sites in the world with thousands of stories have been woven around you. I too have a tale to share.

It was a cold December when I had decided to visit Taj Mahal. Obviously not the best of times to go and visit the place. I had booked a bus in Delhi through Delhi Tourism board. The temperature that day was 5 degrees. I was freezing to death since I came from Mumbai and people in Mumbai don’t realize that a season such as winter actually exists. The bus had a bunch of affable passengers. I got into the bus at 6 in the morning and dozed off. I woke up with a start realizing that we were nearing Taj Mahal. I couldn’t see anything beautiful. All I could see was a huge crowd ahead of the bus. We got down and realized that the queue was 2 km long. Our tour guide arranged something and got us in 10 minutes.

When I saw inside, I finally saw you. Hypnotized by your beauty, I kept going ahead and was about to enter when I was grabbed by my collar. Two healthy women yelled in Hindi. I looked at them blankly. “Madam, are you VIP?” I nodded my head. “Then stop being smart and stand in the line”, saying this one the woman threw me towards the long snake-like line. Embarrassed, I stood in the line. The tour guide said we have only one hour to see the place. I saw my other co –passengers had given up already and were roaming around in the garden. Determined I took another route where two male guards were standing. I walked towards them.

“Bhaiya, Please janne do”, I told them with my damsel distress look. The guard said, “No Madam, rule is rule”. I knew thousand bucks wouldn’t be enough to get me inside. He looked gruff and stern. So I told him, “Sirji, I am from Mumbai. I am getting married and I will not be allowed to do much post marriage. I have come here with my Bhaiya” I lied straight on his face pointing to a fellow co-passenger. I was nowhere close to getting married. He looked at me and asked, “You are from Mumbai. My sister is living there, is married there.” I knew then that I had him in my hook. I sat beside him and asked, “Where does she stay?”

“She stays in Dombivili”, he said proudly. “She got her married 2 years ago. She has an LLB degree and used to work here. Now she gets beaten in her house. She is so bright. Now I miss her. I haven’t seen her over a year.”

I thought, ‘Really?’ A person from Delhi complaining about his sister getting beaten up in Mumbai? I thought these things happened more in the North of India. Obviously I had stereotyped a region and made an ignorant assumption. Things like this happen everywhere in India.

Taj Mahal
Beauty Divine

After seven months when I was cleaning my bag, I found a parchment with an address. I had conveniently forgotten about that guard.  I smiled and booked flowers online and wrote ‘To Chotti, From Bhaiya’. I don’t even know if she still lives there. I hoped that she did.

 When I remember you today, I remember purity. I remember a love in the most innocent form- white marbles, Yamuna river and a guard standing every day, praying for a smile.