Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

15 February 2011

Give me one lonely hour to hymn the setting day.


Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.

You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs-

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~ 

have heard the sunset song of the birches, 

A white melody in the silence, 
I have seen a quarrel of the pines. 
At nightfall 
The little grasses have rushed by me 
With the wind men. 
These things have I lived," quoth the maniac, 
"Possessing only eyes and ears. 
But you -- 
You don green spectacles before you look at roses.
~ Stephen Crane ~ 

14 February 2011

I love you for a hundred thousand reasons But most of all I love you ‘cause you’re you

14th February. Valentine's Day. What better way to celebrate the day than to tell the one you love how much you love them and why you love them! In my case, I dedicate this Valentine's Day to my one true love. 
Shimla, I love you for your-

Little lanes and roads. Winding, meandering, rambling, zigzagging to no-place-in-particular
Houses, ramshackle, rickety, tumble-down, rinky-dink ones. Haughty, sumptuous, lofty ones.
Spectacular sunsets: lilac, russet, sylvan, caramel, chartreuse.
People: poet, painter, author, mother, dreamer, healer. Each one of you teaches so much.
Walking: a joy and a luxury not available in most other towns in India.
Summer storms which bring drama thunder and lightning right outside your window.
Beryl, cerulean, cobalt, indigo, sapphire skies.
Early-morning birdsong. Bulbuls, orioles, thrushes, magpies, parakeets, owls, kites, babblers, tits.
Minerva. Munshiram. Kahanchand. Gaindamull's. Bhuttico. Trishul.  
Annadale. Sheogh woods. Dhanu Devta. Glen.
Flowers, wild & domestic: gazania, potentilla, wisteria, fuchsia, orchid, columbine, clematis, daisy.
Viceregal Lodge. Yarrows. Gorton Castle. Railway Board Building. GPO. Town Hall. Gaiety. Christ Church. 
Mehroo. Sher-E-Punjab. Balji’s. Sol Café. Sitaram. The late, lamented Barista.
Clouds. Ashen. Iron. Peppery. Pearly. Silvery. Smoky. Somber. Blithe. Puffy. Light.
Trees: cedar, pine, oak, poplar, dogwood, rose tree.

Thank you, God, for giving me Shimla. 

13 February 2011

Ik suKhan aur ki phir rang-e-takallum tera... Harf-e-saadaa ko inaayat kare ejaaz ka rang

Today is 13th February, the birthday of my friend Ranjani. She and I go back a long, long time. What brought us together all those decades ago was a love of poetry. At a time, when our class-mates, giggly teenagers just like us, were devouring romances or action comics, we were poring over Urdu and Hindi poets' books and swapping favourite bits on the last pages of our school-books.

13th February is also the 100th birthday of one of the greatest poets to have walked on South Asian soil: Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Many learned people have said much about Faiz - this one being a notably learned and non-hagiographic piece.
I'm only going to quote a small poem which is a great favourite of Ranjani's (and, by corollary, mine), written by Faiz:

Nahin nigaah mein manzil to justajuu hi sahi
Nahin visaal mayassar toh, aarzuu hi sahi

Na tan mein khuun faraaham na ashq aankho.n mein
Namaaz-e-shauq to vaajib hai be-vazuu hi sahi

Kisi tarah to jame bazm maikade waalo.n
Nahin jo baada-o-saagar to haa-o-huu hi sahi

Gar intezaar kathin hai to jab talak ae dil,
Kisii ke vadaa-e-fardaa ki guftaguu hi sahi

Dayaar-e-ghair mein maharam agar nahin koii
Toh 'Faiz' Ziqr-e-watan apne ruu-ba-ruu hi sahi

I came across a translation of this classic in English. Deeply unsatisfactory, but it may give those who do not follow Urdu an idea of what the poet says:

Though our journey's end eludes sight, let the quest be;

Though union defies attainment, let the longing be.

The body lacks blood, the eyes lack tears;

Yet the prayer of desire is obligatory, without purity though it be.

Let the gathering come alive somehow, O those of the tavern;

If not goblets of wine, let light-heartedness and laughter be.

If the wait is unbearable, then in the meantime, O heart;

On someone's promise of tomorrow, let conversation be.

In this land of strangers, if there be no confidante,

then Faiz! Let the invocation of homeland with yourself be.

11 February 2011

A feeling of sadness and longing That is not akin to pain, And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain...

How serendipitous it is to stumble across these lines by Longfellow!

All day it has rained. I watch this cloudy evening fall after a day of rain. Shimla looks especially verdant after rain. As the light increases, I discover around me an ocean of mist, which by chance reached up exactly to the base of the tall Akashvani tower in Chaura Maidan. It shuts out every vestige of our town, leaving me feeling as though I am only a small speckle in cloudland! All around me, as far as the eye can reach, is an undulating country of clouds, answering in the varied swell of its surface to the terrestrial world it veiled. This is Shimla - such a place as we might see in dreams, with all the delights of paradise. 

The naked eye cannot make out any edges or any boundaries, all forms appear dimly still through a mist; but they have no chemistry to fix them; they fade from the surface of the glass, and the picture which the Divine Painter painted stands out dimly from beneath. The world with which we are commonly acquainted leaves no trace, and it will have no anniversary. 

Some figures go past me, cloaked. They walk cloaked in mist and rain and suddenly I feel a commingling of a contemporary elation, new fervour, old griefs and griefs not yet begun. It is as though the pale blue mist has wandered absolvingly past all it touches, yet hangs like bated breath.... 

The damp stands on the long green grass 
As thick as morning's tears, 
And dreamy scents of fragrance pass 
That breathe of other years. 

Emily Jane Brontë 

9 February 2011

Poetry - the higher algebra of metaphors.

I am an unabashed lover of poetry. I do not remember a time when I have not loved it, even at a time when I was too young to go looking for it, poetry, as with Neruda, came in search of me.... Wherever I turned, there it was: like a gleaming piece of glass found on a vast beach, like a gentle drip-drip on a rainy afternoon, sometimes a bright flame, at others, a warm fire. It fills me with a sense of magic to discover the secret of life in a sudden line, it grabs me by the throat, shakes me up and says "how could you have missed the blindingly obvious?" It has been profound as philosophy, it has brought me the sort of delight a child finds in a picture with bright colours. As William Carlos Williams says, it has helped me close the doors of sense and to roam in other worlds, my anguish mended, my doubts answered, my anxieties borne away on the wings of a page or just a few lines..... It has been my solace in dark hours, soothing, comforting and uplifting me by turns. It has imbued me with ideas, it has spurred me on with heatening tones, made me weep, made me chortle in glee at a recognised discomfort, or delight me with an insight. 

Dylan Thomas says it so well: 
I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books, 
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words, 
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, 
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

And here are two poems on poetry that I love tremendously: 

Introduction To Poetry

ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light 
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to water-ski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means. 
 Billy Collins ~ 

 I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all 
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one 
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become 
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of 
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.
~ Marianne Moore ~ 

8 February 2011

Chaste as the icicle That's curdied by the frost from purest snow....

Hiatus [hahy-ey-tuhs] is a break or interruption in the continuity of a work. Sometimes, it's a natural fissure, other times, a missing part, or lacuna; but if viewed sympathetically, wholly necessary at all times! I've been away too long from Gallimaufry, because I have been away from Shimla, from writing and from photography. But hopefully, with the blessings of the Higher Spirit, the Pledeian High Council or whoever it is that controls thoughts and actions of mere mortals, one shall be back in the creative groove with renewed vigour...

January was a cold month for us. But the cold, which preceded and followed the two snowfalls was wholly welcome. Snowfall in Shimla, as elsewhere, is an event much recorded and celebrated. However, another interesting phenomenon unfolds gently and quietly on the sidelines. And that is the formation of icicles. An icicle is a spike of ice formed when dripping water freezes mid-air. Icicles typically form when snow melts in the sunshine and the melted water runs off into an area where the temperature is below 0°C, which causes water to freeze again! The continuous run-off of water helps form icicles. 

As a child, I had seen icicles in Srinagar, Kashmir and so I was struck with wonder to see lovely cold tassels decorating the eaves of my roof.  They looked like a row of daggers pointed downward, their pointy edges thrown in sharp relief against a cobalt blue sky. 

I'm reminded of some lines by Shelley: 

Oh! take the pure gem to where southerly breezes,

Waft repose to some bosom as faithful as fair,
In which the warm current of love never freezes,
As it rises unmingled with selfishness there,
Which, untainted by pride, unpolluted by care,
Might dissolve the dim icedrop, might bid it arise,
Too pure for these regions, to gleam in the skies

26 October 2010

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart.

"Walk, Shimla, Walk!" exhorted the wise Sushil Tanwar. On 23rd October 2010, We walked from Chaura Maidan to Cecil. I'm happy to report that the young in Shimla responded with fervour. This says a lot about their spirit and their foresight. I'm equally disappointed to report the near-absence of older people. This tells me a lot about their indifference and their cynicism. I was chagrined not just because they did not show up, but because so many people came up with excuses for what kept them away... When, dear Shimlaiites, are you going to wake up to the ills that plague our lovely town? Are you ever going to involve yourself in its affais, or must one quote the poet who said:
"Ay mauj-e-sabaa de inko bhi do-chaar thapedey halk se
kuchh log kinaarey par se hii toofan ka nazaaraa karte hai"!

Sushil Tanwar who runs Ashadeep. A source of inspiration for all around him.

Little girls with big ideas.

"Pollution! Pollution! Trees are the solution!" was a popular slogan that day.

A lovely poster depicting pollution and the damages it causes.

Placards which said: "Save the environment". "Plant trees. Make Shimla beautiful". "All is well. Without trees, all is hell"!

It isn't the size of the placard, but the intention that matters!

Curious onlookers.

Curious onlooker #2.

Still, on a day of hope and excitement, we chose to focus on the positive and could only say "Sabko sanmati de bhagwaan"! (May God grant everyone good sense).
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