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 March 2009

I say a little prayer for you....

DutchCookie, you're in my thoughts.... Be safe. Be healthy. Both of you.

Daman, may you get what you want.

I say a little prayer for you

Anil, Smita, Rishi and Richa.

Melanie and Dan.

I say a little prayer for you

for peace and consolation.

Christina: for your fieldwork, for your run.

I say a little prayer for you

Sanchia: for peace.

Tulip: for your home issue to be resolved very very soon.

I say a little prayer for you

Rani & Mo: for good health & speedy recovery.

Hannah: for good health.

Ozzie. Because.


30 March 2009

A fashionless delight.... A dateless melody....

The pedigree of honey,
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

Could I but ride indefinite,
As doth the meadow-bee,
And visit only where I liked,
And no man visit me.

And flirt all day with buttercups,
And marry whom I may,
And dwell a little everywhere,
Or better, run away

With no police to follow,
Or chase me if I do,
Till I should jump peninsulas
To get away from you -

I said, but just to be a bee,
Upon a raft of air,
And row in nowhere all day long,
And anchor off the bar,—
What liberty! So captives deem
Who tight in dungeons are.

29 March 2009

A contemplation upon mist...

शाम से आँख में नमी सी है
आज फिर आपकी कमी सी है

दफ़्न कर दो हमें के साँस मिले
नब्ज़ कुछ देर से थमी सी है

वक़्त रहता नहीं कहीं टिक कर
इसकी आदत भी आदमी सी है

कोई रिश्ता नहीं रहा फिर भी
एक तस्लीम लाज़मी सी है

27 March 2009

Temple Redux

Actually, an Arun Kolatkar redux! Here's another favourite:
"Yeshwant Rao"

Are you looking for a god?
I know a good one.
His name is Yeshwant Rao
and he's one of the best.
Look him up
when you're in Jejuri next.

Of course he's only a second class god
and his place is just outside the main temple.
Outside even of the outer wall.
As if he belonged
among the tradesmen and the lepers.

I've known gods
prettier faced
or straighter laced.
Gods who soak you for your gold.
Gods who soak you for your soul.
Gods who make you walk
on a bed of burning coal.
gods who put a child inside your wife.
Or a knife inside your enemy.
Gods who tell you how to live your life,
double your money
or triple your land holdings.
Gods who can barely suppress a smile
as you crawl a mile for them.
Gods who will see you drown
if you won't buy them a new crown.
And although I'm sure they're all to be praised,
they're either too symmetrical
or too theatrical for my taste.

Yeshwant Rao
mass of basalt,
bright as any post box,
the shape of protoplasm
or a king-size lava pie
thrown against the wall,
without an arm, a leg,
or even a single head.

Yeshwant Rao.
He's the god you've got to meet.
If you're short of a limb,
Yeshwant Rao will lend you a hand
and get you back on your feet.

Yeshwant Rao
does nothing spectacular.
He doesn't promise you the earth
or book your seat on the next rocket to heaven.
But if any bones are broken,
you know he'll mend them.
He'll make you whole in body
and hope your spirit will look. after itself.
He is merely a kind of bone-setter
The only thing is,
as he himself has no heads, hands and feet,
he happens to understand you a little better.

26 March 2009

A low temple

A low temple keeps its gods in the dark.
You lend a matchbox to the priest.
One by one the gods come to light.
Amused bronze. Smiling stone. Unsurprised.
For a moment the length of a matchstick
gesture after gesture revives and dies.
Stance after lost stance is found
and lost again.
Who was that, you may ask.
The eight arm goddess, the priest replies.
A sceptic match coughs.
You can count.
But she has eighteen, you protest.
All the same she is still an eigth arm goddess to the priest.
You come out in the sun and light a charminar.
Children play on the back of the twenty foot tortoise.

~ Arun Kolatkar ~

25 March 2009

The sweet especial scene

In the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins:
"Rural scene, a rural scene
Sweet especial rural scene!"

20 March 2009

Art and poetry: on my walls

This morning as I set out for work, I happened to glance at the walls of my home. Right before me lay so many sumi paintings. Created by the waltz of light with the leaves of the rhododendron tree that leans over my roof - a tree that leans lazily like a cowboy leans on the counter in a western bar....
This sight reminded me of delicate sumi-e paintings...

Sumi-e is a style of painting that is characteristically Asian, and has been practised for well over a thousand years. Literally ink painting, it is an art form that strives to distill the essence of an object or scene in the fewest possible strokes. In its purest form, black ink on white paper is considered sufficient to convey the "chi" - the essence or the spirit of an object.

I fell in love with this form of painting because of its emphasis on minimalism. A few, carefully -placed broad strokes that fade off abruptly - these say a lot more than an elaborately-detailed work. The sumi-e style uses what it calls "the four treasures" - an ink stone (as a container), an ink stick (made of pine soot), a brush called hake or fude (made of bamboo bristles) and paper.

In its turn, the thought of sumi-e lead to memories of some beautiful haikus....
Incidentally, for its similarity of minimalism, I am also fascinated by the haiku. This is a seventeen-syllable poetic form that has been created in Japan for over three hundred years. It is a lightly-sketched word picture the reader is expected to fill in from his own memories. He adds his own associations and thus becomes a creator of the poem alongside the poet.

Here are examples of favourite haiku poets:

Good evening breeze!
Crooked and meandering

Your homeward journey


Mirror-pond of stars...
suddenly a summer
dimples the water


Mountain-rose petals

falling, falling, falling now...

waterfall music


Windy winter rain
my silly big umberella
tries walking backward

Buddha on the hill
from your holy nose indeed
hangs an icicle

19 March 2009


In certain Western cultures, yellow is a colour associated with age and aging, also cowardice. Not so in India! Here, we associate it with auspicious beginnings, with spring, with joy. We associate it with bravery and patriotism and valour of the highest order.

This morning when I went for a walk all I could see was bursts of yellow everywhere and I too felt like singing:
मेरा रंग दे बसंती चोला
मेरा रंग दे हाय
मेरा रंग दे बसंती चोला
माये रंग दे बसंती चोला

जिस चोले को पहन शिवाजी खेले अपनी जान पे
जिसे पहन झांसी की रानी मिट गयी अपनी आन पे
आज उसी को पहन के निकला, पहन के निकला
आज उसी को पहन के निकला हम मस्तों का टोला
मेरा रंग दे बसंती चोला
मेरा रंग दे
ओ मेरा रंग दे बसंती चोला
माये रंग दे बसंती चोला

दम निकले इस देश की खातिर बस इतना अरमान है
एक बार इस राह में मरना सौ जन्मों के समान है
देख के वीरों की कुरबानी अपना दिल भी बोला

It would be futile to attempt a translation of this rousing ballad which Bhagat Singh sang as he marched to the gallows... Suffice it to say that the singer asks his mother to dye his robe to the colour of spring. He invokes the valorous memory of Shivaji and Rani Lakshmibai (the Queen of Jhansi) who died fighting for their country. He says, inspired by the sacrifices made by patriots gone ahead, his only desire is to die for his country, for one such death equals a hundred lives....

13 March 2009

Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan......

This post is in honour of spring. I have no idea when spring is supposed to officially arrive in Shimla. But who cares, flowers are in full bloom, the nip in the air is lightening and everyone seems to have a slight skip in their walk!
I looked deep into the hearts of these flowers and found in each a radiant, joyous light. So clear, so true. The light of spring.

I take my heart in my hand,
O my God, O my God,
My broken heart in my hand:
Thou hast seen, judge Thou.
My hope was written in sand.
O my God, O my God:
Now let Thy judgement stand -
Yes, judge me now.

This contemn'd of a man,
This marr'd one heedless day,
This heart take Thou to scan
Both within and without:
Refine with fire its gold,
Purge Thou its dross away -
Yea, hold it in thy hold,
Whence none can pluck it out.

I take my heart in my hand -
I shall not die but live -
Before Thy face I stand;
I, for Thou callest such:
All that I have I bring,
All that I am I give,
Smile Thou and I shall sing,
But shall not question much.

7 March 2009

A Brilliant Day

Yesterday was one of those days from Charles Turner poem: "O keen pellucid air! nothing can lurk / Or disavow itself on this bright day"....
One of those days when pink azaleas flutter their gaudy gowns... One of those days which heralds the fresh, the blossomy year... One of those days when it just feels good to be alive...

5 March 2009


Dreams in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day’s close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland...

Dreams, only dreams in the dusk,
Only the old remembered pictures
Of lost days when the day’s loss
Wrote in tears the heart's loss.

Tears and loss and broken dreams
May find your heart at dusk...

यूँ भी कभी हुआ है, अकेली-सी शाम में
धुंधले-से इक चिराग के चेहरे के पास-पास
सरगोशियाँ-से ढूँढती हैं जब तुम्हारे होंठ

आंखों में यूँ बिलक के मचलती है एक बूँद
जैसे यतीम होटों पे मचले तुम्हारा नाम....

2 March 2009


रोज़ आता है ये बहरूपिया, इक रूप बदलकर,
रात के वक़्त दिखाता है, 'कलाएं' अपनी,
और लुभा लेता है मासूम से लोगों को अदा से!

पूरा हरजाई है, गलियों से गुज़रता है, कभी
छत से, बजाता हुआ सीटी ---
रोज़ आता है जगाता है, बहुत लोगों को शब्-भर!
आज की रात उफुक से कोई,
चाँद निकले तो गिरफ्तार ही कर लो!

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