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....

30 November 2008

The Post Office

Oh, I love post offices!
The sight of this one on the foot of the Mall reminded me of our two legends: Tagore & Ghalib.
Originally written in Bengali in 1912, Tagore's play, The Post Office, narrates the story of a young boy. Confined to his house on doctor's orders, because of illness, Amal watches the people pass outside his window and greets all of them, and as he does, he teaches them and the reader some of life's simple truths. This is Tagore's allegory about a journey of spiritual awareness, written with his trademark gentle observations.

Here's a motley collection of Ghalib's sh'ers on letters.... As best as I could remember them.
लिखवाए कोई उसको ख़त तो हमसे लिखवाए
हुई सुबह और कान पर रख कर कलम निकले
Magar likhwaae koi usko khat to humse likhwaae
Hui subha aur kaan par rakh-kar qalam nikale!
(Should anyone wish to write my love a letter, they should approach me
Every morn I step out of home, with a pen stuck behind my ear).

गैर फिरता है लिए यूँ तेरे ख़त को की अगर
कोई पूछे की यह क्या है, तो बताए ना बने
Ghair phirta hai liya yoon tere khat ko ki agar

Koi poochey ke yeh kya hai, to chhupaye na bane.
(I see strangers walk about, your letter in hand
But if someone were to ask me, i may not be able to hide my emotions).

के ख़त मुँह देखता है नामाबर
कुछ तो पैघाम- -जुबानी और है
De-ke khat moonh dekhta hai naama-bar

Kucch to paigham-e-zubaani aur hai.
(Having delivered (your letter) the postman stares at my face
Is there also a verbal message (from you)?)

And as I started typing out this post, I was reminded of a rather graphic sh'er by Momin!
क्या जाने कह दिया उसे इजतिराब में
कासिद की लाश आई है ख़त के जवाब में!
Kya jaane kya likh diya use iztiraab mein
Qaasid ki laash aayi hai khat ke jawaab mein!!
(I know what I wrote to my love in a fit of passion
All I've recieved in response is the dead body of the postman)!!

28 November 2008

Window boxes.

Window boxes have fascinated me for longer than I can remember. The funny thing is, Indian houses and house-owners have no knowledge of, or interest in them. As a child I only saw them in pictures. Or in my mother's "Better Homes & Gardens". So imagine my delight when, on a Saturday afternoon, I look up idly and spot two of these. Right here in Shimla.
An unexpected treat.

26 November 2008

Sahir The Magician

This morning, for no reason at all, I was reminded of Sahir. Colossus in a world of creative pygmies. Obsessive lover. The man who introduced the art of "adab" (intellect) to the sometimes mindless world of Hindi film lyrics. Thousands of words have been written singing paeans to his talent. To me, he is a man whose words reach out from across time and age. They just go right in somewhere in the heart region. It is foolish to analyse his poetry. His poems are meant to be read, to be felt deep inside in that place where you allow no one to enter....

Here is a gem. Meant to read and cherished, and maybe shed a tear over, since it strikes a chord:

चलो एक बार फिर से
अजनबी बन जाएँ हम दोनों

में तुमसे कोई उम्मीद रखूँ दिल-नवाजी की
तुम मेरी तरफ़ देखो ग़लत-अंदाज़ नज़रों से
मेरे दिल की धड़कन लड़खडाए मेरी बातों में
ज़ाहिर हो तुम्हारी कशमकश का राज़ नज़रों से

चलो एक बार फिर से....

तुम्हे भी कोई उलझन रोकती है पेश-कदमी से
मुझे भी लोग कहते हैं के ये जलवे पराये हैं
मेरे हमराह भी रुसवाईया हैं मेरे माजी की
तुम्हारे साथ भी गुजरी हुई रातों के साए हैं

चलो एक बार फिर से.....

तारुफ़ रोग हो जाए , तो उसको भूलना बेहतर
तालुक बोझ बन जाए तो उसको छोड़ना अच्छा
वो अफसाना जिसे अंजाम तक लाना हो मुमकिन
उसे एक खूबसूरत मोड़ दे कर छोड़ना अच्छा

चलो एक बार फिर से, अजनबी बन जाएँ हम दोनों

Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaayen hum donon.

Naa main tum-se koi ummeed rakkhoon dil-nawazi ki,
Naa tum meri taraf dekho galat-andaaz nazaron se,
Naa mere dil ki dhadkan ladkhadaye meri baaton mein,
Naa zaahir ho tumhari kash-ma-kash ka raaz nazaron se.

Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaayen hum donon.

Tumhe bhi koi uljhan rokati hai, pesh-kadami se,
Mujhe bhi log kehte hain, ki yeh jalwe paraye hain
Mere humraah bhi ruswaaiyan hain mere maazi ki
Tumhare saath bhi guzari hui raaton ke saayen hain.

Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaayen hum donon.

(And here come the best lines...)
Taarruf rog ho jaaye to usko bhoolna behtar
Taaluq bojh ban jaaye to usko todna achcha
Woh afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumqin
Use ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodna achcha

Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaayen hum donon........

And now for my (about adequate) translation of the above. I'm sure others have attempted it too and have fared better than I. It's impossible to love Sahir and not want to share him with everyone! so here goes:

Come, let us be strangers once again.

I shall no longer aspire for any favours from you
Nor shall you look askance at me
No more shall my words tremble at my heartbeat
Nor the secret of your
struggle be betrayed in a glance.

Come, let us be strangers once again.

Something stops you from moving ahead (with me)
I too now wear facades, or so they tell me
The disgraces of my past are my constant companions
And you too are haunted by nights of yore

Come, let us be strangers once again.

When acquaintance sickens, it's best forgotten
When a relationship oppresses, it's best broken
If an adventure on which you've embarked, cannot be completed
One must abandon it on a beautiful turn.

Come, let us be strangers once again.........

In all honesty, gentle reader, the English language has no equivalent for the words "Woh afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumqin / Use ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodna achcha".... One cannot do justice to the genius of Sahir in any language other than Urdu/Hindustani........

21 November 2008

Song of the Soul

In the depth of my soul there is
A wordless song - a song that lives
In the seed of my heart
It refuses to melt with ink on
Parchment; it engulfs my affection
In a transparent cloak and flows,
But not upon my lips.

How can I sigh it? I fear it may
Mingle with earthly ether;
To whom shall I sing it? It dwells
In the house of my soul, in fear of
Harsh ears.

When I look into my inner eyes
I see the shadow of its shadow;
When I touch my fingertips
I feel its vibrations.

The deeds of my hands heed its
Presence as a lake must reflect
The glittering stars; my tears
Reveal it, as bright drops of dew
Reveal the secret of a withering rose.

It is a song composed by contemplation,
And published by silence,
And shunned by clamor,
And folded by truth,
And repeated by dreams,
And understood by love,
And hidden by awakening,
And sung by the soul.

It is the song of love;
What Cain or Esau could sing it?

It is more fragrant than jasmine;
What voice could enslave it?

It is heartbound, as a virgin’s secret;
What string could quiver it?

Who dares unite the roar of the sea
And the singing of the nightingale?
Who dares compare the shrieking tempest
To the sigh of an infant?
Who dares speak aloud the words
Intended for the heart to speak?
What human dares sing in voice
The song of God?

- Khalil Gibran

16 November 2008


The sight of this little old man, deep in reverie, puffing away contentedly, reminded me of this poem by Karle Wilson Baker:

Some days my thoughts are just cocoons - all cold and dull and blind,
They hang from dripping branches in the grey woods of my mind;

And other days they drift and shine—such free and flying things!
I find the gold-dust in my hair, left by their brushing wings.

13 November 2008

How does the earth sing?

Andretta is located not far from Palampur. The village nestles sleepily in the manner of a dog at its master's feet in the foothills of Dhauladhar range. This is the home to the Andretta Pottery & Crafts Society. Set up by Sir Sobha Singh and Norah Richards, the Society today conducts workshops and trains artisans as well as artistes. I am told that it occasionally also hosts artistic retreats for well-known and struggling artistes, where they all gather and create beautiful art in each other's company.

As I looked on in curiosity, the fingers of the potters, young boys and girls, made the earth sing....

When a truck reminds you of a psalm!

If you were to look closely at this photograph, you will notice a rather plaintive cry of "Oh God! Save me!" painted on the tyre bumper (Punctuation added). The sight put me in mind of this psalm:

Save me, O Lord;
for the waters are come in unto my soul.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no standing:
I am come into deep waters,
where the floods overflow me.

I am weary of my crying:
my throat is dried:
mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

And so on....

9 November 2008

How you digress!

I went to Palampur this weekend. This is a pretty, small tehsil town located in Kangra district. Its numerous tea gardens and the large number of men serving in the Indian Army are its claim to fame. It has no "sights" for tourists, so to speak. But it makes a great getaway for this very reason! Here are some pictures of the place:

I hope to write a tiny travelogue as soon as I've recovered from the "car-lag".

7 November 2008

Friday thoughts

Barren of events,
Rich in pretensions
My earthly life.

My real name.

Wholly unto myself
I exist.

I wrap no soul
In my embrace.

No mentor worthy
Of my calibre
Have I.

I am all alone
Between failure
And frustration.

I am the red thread
And Eternity.

~ Sri Chinmoy ~

6 November 2008

Passion Flower

I stumbled upon this Passion Flower or Passiflora growing wild in Naldehra. It has also been spotted in Koti and Mashobra. It was so symmetrical and so delicately tones that at first I took it to be artificial. Closer inspection, of course, told me otherwise. It was seen growing on vines up to 30 feet in height.
Here are the botanic/scientific details before I go on to some interesting details heard locally about this flower.
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Sub-class: Rosidae
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Passifloraceae
Genus: Passiflora.

Padre Jonas tells me that the "passion" in Passion Flower refers not to the romantic aspect, but to the passion of Lord Jesus Christ. I noted down Padre's interpretation and found it backed up by Wikipedia, no less! According to the good Padre:
  • The 10 petals represent the 10 Apostles, excluding St. Peter & Judas;
  • The ovary, in its chalice shape, representsdenote the Holy Grail;
  • The filaments (see the blue radial pointy things in picture above) represent the Crown of Thorns;
  • The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance;
  • The 3 stigmata denote 3 nails and 5 anthers, the 5 wounds suffered by Lord Jesus.
A local said it reminded him of a clock and, fair enough, I found that in various countries this plant is also known as "clock flower" or "clock plant".
B. says that the Passion Flower is grown as a medicinal herb and its leaves and the roots are often rather potent and are consequently used by villagers as mind-altering drugs. Once dried, the leaves can also be smoked. This herb is used in homoeopathic medicine for treating bronchial asthma, insomnia and anxiety.

5 November 2008

Kettle whispering its faint undersong.

Who doesn't love kettles?
I find this old Canadian folk-song very evocative. It strikes a chord - especially on cold winter evenings!

The doors are shut, the windows fast,
Outside the gust os driving past,
Outside the shivering ivy clings,
While on the hob the kettle sings,
Margery, Margery make the tea,
Singeth the kettle merrily.

3 November 2008

Love is NOT all....

SR, inspired by your last post

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay.
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