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....

31 May 2008

Dard aayega dabe paon.....

I have always loved this poem. There is something deeply poignant and evocative about the imagery of one loneliness being lit up by pain tiptoeing in. Faiz says this pain will leap up like a flame to light up the walls of his heart....

Aur kucch der mein, jab phir mere tanha dil ko
Fiqr aa legi ki tanhaai ka kya chara kare
Dard aayega dabe paon, liye surkh chiraag
Wah jo ik dard dhadkta hai kahin dil ke pare
Shola-e-dard jo pehloo se lapak utthega
Dil ki deewar pe har naqsk damak utthega

1 December 1974

30 May 2008

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear......

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.
There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to reassure me that I really don’t mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources’. People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice, but it seems for a little while to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all that ‘common-sense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace."
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.

27 May 2008


एक हमारा साया ही जो साथ था पहले अब भी है
एक फकीरों -सा एहसास जो पहले था वो अब भी है

कैसे उजाले, कीतनी राहें
कैसे अंधेरे, कीतनी राते
हर नुक्कड़ पर ढूँढा जीनको, हाथों से वह फीसल पड़े
और हाथ खाली ही जो पहले था , वो अब भी है

हर नुक्ते का सीना छलनी
हर लम्हे को जीना मरना
भीख मीली साँसों की एवज एहसान को इमान कर लेना
देने वाला देता रहा, फीर
शीक्वा क्यों ? कैसा ? कीस -से ?
लालच का भंवर तो अपना ही जो पहले था वह अब भी है ...........

I apologise for the ghastly spelling on this post. Blame it on blogger's horrid transliteration facility.

11th October? 25th May?

One of those many dates
that no longer ring a bell.

Where I was going that day,
what I was doing --- I don't know.
Whom I met, what we talk
ed about,
I can't recall.

If a crime had been committed nearby,
I wouldn't have had an alibi.
The sun flared and died
beyond my horizons.
The earth rotated
unnoted in my notebooks.

I'd rather think
that I'd temporarily died
than that I kept on living
and can't remember a thing.

I wasn't a ghost, after all.
I breathed, I ate,
I walked.

My steps were audible,
my fingers surely left
their prints on doorknobs.

Mirrors caught my reflection.
I wore something or other in such-and-such a colour.
Somebody must have seen me.

Maybe I found something that day
that had been lost.
Maybe I lost something that turned up late.

I was filled with feelings and sensations.
Now all that's like
a line of dots in parentheses.

Where was I hiding out,
where did I bury myself?
Not a bad trick
to vanish before my own eyes.

I shake my memory.
Maybe something in its branches
that has been asleep for years
will start up with a flutter.

Clearly I'm asking too much.
Nothing less than one whole second.

26 May 2008

Cheap & disposable.

circles of pain
cycles of hell
lead me to a
wishing well

give me a penny
I'll toss it in
and wish that we were
strangers again

25 May 2008

Patchwork Sunday.

Patchwork is a form of needlework which involves cutting out & sewing together different pieces of fabric - varied in colour, shape & size. I like the metaphor because a patchwork pattern may have a repetitive design, or it may be a "crazy quilt": random shapes forming "crazy" or non-repeat, asymmetric compositions.
Today was one of those patchwork days. The weather went from sunny, to cloudy, to rainy, to misty, then back to sunny, with a short sharp hailstorm thrown in between for good measure. The company was motley: a heritage expert, a housewife, an anthropologist, a financier, a painter, a bureaucrat and a sleepy dog. The food eclectic: maa ki daal, biryani, two chutneys: an envy-green one & a Ferrari-red one, patra ni macchi, pasta, chapaties & raita. The dessert was equally multifarious: sewiyan, chocolate mousse, gur-ki-shakker & ghee on hot roti! (Guddu, you man of parts, take a bow).
I rambled from Willows to my friend Sanjiv's beautiful home in Kasumpti and then ambled back satiated by great food & even better conversation. The best part was hiding in Billy's den to catch a chapter of the madly fascinating adventures of Amir Hamza.
The pictures below may give you an idea of how the day went:

Farhad says this poem by Emerson is most appropriate:
Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,
And marching single in an endless file,
Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
To each they offer gifts after his will,
Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all.
I, in my pleachëd garden, watched the pomp,
Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.

24 May 2008

Taking things easy as inspired by Arthur Maquarie.

A large mug of tea, a newspaper & your favourite music playing - absolute must-haves for a great Saturday morning. This mug was gifted by a kind stranger. It has pictures of all my favourite poets: Dickinson, Whitman, Hughes, Plath, Poe & Shakespeare.

Tell me what boots to battle, when the end
Is foreseen failure? What, by heaven, I ask—
By bearded martyrs, and the holy cask
Of papal comfort, what can struggle lend
Of true nobility to those who bend
Constrainèd after all? ’Twere better bask
With resignation and a quiet flask
Than rush to strokes that heaven will surely send.

Methinks the base desire to change our stars
Is but the taint of old mortality,
And as the wavelet curls in every sea
The schoolboy bares his wounds and thinks him Mars.
Give me Petrarca and a pot of tea,
And carry thou thy honourable scars.

12 May 2008

Things I like. And things I don't.

This is such a nice sight. An example of the Himachalis' devout nature.
What you see in the picture is a local devtaa (deity). In all likelihood, the deity resides in a little temple in a village somewhere close to Shimla. Occasionally, the residents of village take him or her for a joy-ride through town. No money or offerings are demanded from passers-by. If anything is offered (and this happens infrequently), it is accepted in good grace.
Notice that the lady making an obeisance before the devtaa has taken off her footwear. But the bearers of the deity's palanquin haven't. Good solid practicality & devotion co-exist happily.

And here's what I detest about Shimla. These shops down the Mall & along Lakkar Bazaar which sell utterly ghastly, tasteless souvenirs of the most inferior quality. It is a bit frightening how all-pervasive this kind of stuff is! You find it not only here, but also in Mussoorie, Nainital, Manali, Darjeeling, Ooty, Dalhousie....

Kitsch, kitsch hota hai...

10 May 2008

Saturday afternoons...

There's much to be said for them! But I shall leave this to Amy Lowell:

All the afternoon there has been a chirping of birds,
And the sun lies warm and still on the western sides of swollen branches.
There is no wind;
Even the little twigs at the ends of the branches do not move,
And the needles of the pines are solid
Bands of inarticulated blackness
Against the blue-white sky.

Still, but alert;
And my heart is still and alert,
Passive with sunshine,
Avid of adventure.

I would experience new emotions,
Submit to strange enchantments,
Bend to influences
Bizarre, exotic,
Fresh with burgeoning.

I would climb a sacred mountain,
Struggle with other pilgrims up a steep path through pine-trees,
Above to the smooth, treeless slopes,
And prostrate myself before a painted shrine,
Beating my hands upon the hot earth,
Quieting my eyes upon the distant sparkle
Of the faint spring sea.

I would recline upon a balcony
In purple curving folds of silk,
And my dress should be silvered with a pattern
Of butterflies and swallows,
And the black band of my obi
Should flash with gold circular threads,
And glitter when I moved.
I would lean against the railing
While you sang to me of wars
Past and to come—
Sang, and played the samisen.

Perhaps I would beat a little hand drum
In time to your singing;
Perhaps I would only watch the play of light
Upon the hilt of your two swords.

I would sit in a covered boat,
Rocking slowly to the narrow waves of a river,
While above us, an arc of moving lanterns,
Curved a bridge,
A hiss of gold
Blooming out of darkness,
Rockets exploded,
And died in a soft dripping of colored stars.
We would float between the high trestles,
And drift away from other boats,
Until the rockets flared soundless,
And their falling stars hung silent in the sky,
Like wistaria clusters above the ancient entrance of a temple.

I would anything
Rather than this cold paper;
With outside, the quiet son on the sides of burgeoning branches,
And inside, only my books.

4 May 2008

Windvane. Weathercock. Whirligig.

This first weathervane known to mankind probably stands near the Acropolis in Athens, built, it is said, in 48 B.C. The oldest British Weathervane is at Ottery St. Mary, Devon, 1335, which has whistling tubes to make a 'crowing' noise. We have no record of the weathervanes in India.
This photograph shows the weathercock on top of Viceregal Lodge.
I dedicate this piece of deathless verse to this solitary fowl:

Weathercock, Weathercock, up in the sky,
What can you see from your perch so high?
Watching the clouds, the sun, moon and stars,
The people, birds, horses and cars.
I envy you, Weathercock, your wonderful view,
And wish that sometimes I could sit there with you.

2 May 2008

Summer Storm.

Wild one,
Take me in your whirl,
In your giddy reel,
In your shot-like leaps and flights.

Hear me call—stop and hear.
I know you, blusterer; I know you, wild one—
I know your mysterious call.

1 May 2008

Yaad. Remembrance. Memory. Recollection.

Yesterday, I went for a walk around dusk. It made me melancholic. And reminded me of this ghazal written by Nasir Kazmi:

Safar-e-manzil-e-shab yaad nahiin
Log rukhsat huye kab yaad nahiin

Dil mein har vaqt chubhan rahatii thii
Thii mujhe kis kii talab yaad nahiin

Vo sitaaraa thii ke shabanam thii ke phuul
Ik suurat thii ajab ab yaad nahiin

Aisaa ulajhaa huun gham-e-duniyaa mein
Ek bhii khwaab-e-tarab yaad nahiin

Bhuulte jaate hain maazii ke dayaar
Yaad aayen bhii to sab yaad nahiin

Ye haqiiqat hai ke ahabaab ko ham
Yaad hii kab the ke ab yaad nahii.n

Yaad hai sair-e-charaagaan, "Nasir"
Dii ke bujhane kaa sabab yaad nahiin
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