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....

21 November 2009

Impossible stone... crumpled water...

'Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,

In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from its thickening shroud of gray.
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart,
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock,
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks.'

'And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?'

'Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though precisely where none ever has known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalized,
Is a grinking glass:
For, down that pass
My lover and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and it sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in a basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass we used, and the cascade's rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.

'By night, by day, when it shines or lours,
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turns therefrom sipped lovers' wine.'
~ Thomas Hardy ~

19 November 2009

A vote of thanks

Greenhorns in my workplace learn one thing very quickly. It is called "Proposing A Vote Of Thanks". We are taught, early in life, how to stand up in public and express gratitude, not necessarily heartfelt, even if so stated. But this is an admirable practice, a throwback to older, more gracious times and one which, no matter how much I may joke, I respect and do my bit to continue. It enables us to articulate our feelings of indebtedness to those who even momentarily graced and improved our life.
I would therefore like to propose a vote of thanks to the following bloggers who make me smile, enrich my life with their insights and ideas, their words and/or photographs, give me a pause to think, who provoke and delight the mind.

Varsha says "Fitness is not about the way you look but the way you live". Talking to her and reading her posts teaches me more about wellness in an hour than many gurus could in weeks, or even months. To me, the best thing about Varsha and her blog is her no-nonsense approach.

Imran loves climbing and trekking, and has the most breath-taking collection of photographs of the northern regions of Pakistan. Seeing his almost poetic photographs has an instantly calming, and mood-elevating effect.

Shankari's writing defies compartments. To slot her into any category would be unfair to her silvery, sweet-as-jalebi and deeply joyous writing.

Nityin is passionate about all things related to Himachal Pradesh, and a lot of others that aren't! He has, on the last count, three blogs, all of which are extremely readable.

Vinayak has a blog that I visit when my mind's feeling stale and dull.- which happens about once a day! Hence, discovering his writing was serendipitous, really. His ideas are delightful, entertaining and enriching beyond compare. Having had the good fortune of growing up in Kashmir in days more peaceful than the present, I visit also go to his blog on Kashmir for my nostalgia fix!

Beth and I met online many many years ago. I'm yet to "meet" her, but count on her sagacity , keen intellect and gentle sense of humour to give me another "take" on life. (Beth, did you notice the apposite use of take vis a vis your line of work?)

Autar Mota writes a blog on Kashmir. His blog allows me to wallow in reminiscence and at the same time keeps me up to date on the state of affairs in that wonderful region.

Cookie feeds my soul with her really fantastic recipes. She has that rare talent of making tough cooking look simple and this does wonders for one's self-esteem! Her philosophy is summed up best in the title of latest post: "If life hands you lemons, make lemon-pie".

Thank you, each one of you for the joy and the learning you bring. May your blogging bloom and grow!

18 November 2009

The call of the cafe

A small but significant development seems to have escaped the attention of the people of Shimla. There's a new cafe in town, everyone. I call this a significant development because any number of people in my circle of acquaintance have bemoaned the lack of places to go for a cuppa, where one could just sit and share a limberness of the mind, improving the appetite for conversation, refining thought and making extraordinary an average sentence maker!

Finally, Shimla has just such a place. Agreed it is early days yet. But something about the location of the Firestation Cafe and its gives me hope! Along with the mandatory walk to the Mall, the cuppa at Barista, or Indian Coffee House, or the chicken patty at Trishool, I look forward to it becoming a part of our daily ceremonials in Shimla. In my mind's eye, I see cafe-style debates and discussions on culture, politics, philosophy, science and cinema happening there.

This little place has been designed by the redoubtable Abha Narain Lambah. Abha has retained the ambience of the old fire station, using interesting objects and colours, whether its old fire helmets, fire buckets or even a small portable pump. Warm reds grace its walls, as do pictures from the illustrious past of its larger, historic neighbour, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. At present, cafe can only offer you tea or coffee, but one hopes that with the passage of time, there will be more on offer - and not just in terms of eatables! The cafe also has on sale lovely picture postcards and an eclectic collection of books.

Cheers for the Firestation Cafe!

16 November 2009

A great and sacred blessedness

As a person profoundly distant from religion and religiosity, my brush with faith at Batseri was a curious and a humbling one. Having decided to make Sangla my base, it was only natural that Chhitkul should beckon. However, as Lalchand the faithful charioteer made his way up the mountains, an interesting sight opened itself in the distance. Nestled in the midst of the greys and the green and the azures were some peculiar pagoda-like shapes. It was only logical that a detour be made to explore these shapes.
A treat lay in store.
The temple at Batseri would have Durkheim in a twist. This temple has a soaring pagoda roof, far more curvilinear than any seen in Kinnaur so far. The urban eye, long espousing the belief that the sacred should somehow be spartan and spare in its expression, is startled by the curlicues, the ellipses, the festoons anf fixtures of the temple. If it weren't so reverential, the embellishment on the temple would be deeply comic, including as it does a vast range of divinities not normally seen in this part of the country. Dragons compete for space with elephants, Swami Vivekananda rubs shoulders with Ram and Shiva. There are spires and shikharas and entire constellations bedecking its walls.
More than the temple, however, the display of religiosity comes from a simple village celebration. This ceremony involves a ritual - and routine - ''airing" of the Gods. A group of the chosen - all men - carefully place the idols of the "devtaas" on a palanquin of burnished wood. Outside, the temple band has been variously thumping and blowing into its intstruments. As soon as the band espies the Gods, it sets a cacophony. Every possible sound that can emerge from the pipes, the drums and the cymbals does so with a great deal of gusto. The women watch from a distance and clap encouragingly. Children dance around the idol. The palanquin is reverently set up on a trestle. The pandemonium of the music lasts for a while, until, after another ritual circumnavigation, the Gods are taken back into the temple and set to rest.
This, then, is another wonderful example of hierophany... a sort of breakthrough of the sacred into the mundane human existence. This, to me, appears sacrality temporarily transcending the humdrum, elevating the human spirit. Every fragment of this experience is cosmic, and reveals a divinity to those whose eyes are yet innocent of urban sophisticated thought.

8 November 2009

A sound as of a passing bell....

Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn
Indicative that suns go down;
The notice to the startled grass
That darkness is about to pass.

~ Emily Dickinson ~

I am like a flag in the center of open space
I sense ahead the wind which is coming, and must live it through
while the things of the world still do not move:
the doors still close softly, and the chimneys are full
of silence,
the windows do not rattle yet, and the dust still lies down.

I already know the storm, and I am troubled as the sea.
I leap out, and fall back,
and throw myself out, and am absolutely alone
in the great storm.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

3 November 2009

A forest reverie...

'Tis said that when
The hands of men
Tamed this primeval wood,
And hoary trees with groans of woe,
Like warriors by an unknown foe,
Were in their strength subdued,
The virgin Earth Gave instant birth
To springs that ne'er did flow
That in the sun Did rivulets run,
And all around rare flowers did blow
The wild rose pale Perfumed the gale
And the queenly lily adown the dale
(Whom the sun and the dew
And the winds did woo),
With the gourd and the grape luxuriant grew.

So when in tears
The love of years
Is wasted like the snow,
And the fine fibrils of its life
By the rude wrong of instant strife
Are broken at a blow
Within the heart
Do springs upstart
Of which it doth now know,
And strange, sweet dreams,
Like silent streams
That from new fountains overflow,
With the earlier tide
Of rivers glide
Deep in the heart whose hope has died--
Quenching the fires its ashes hide,--
Its ashes, whence will spring and grow
Sweet flowers, ere long,
The rare and radiant flowers of song!

~ Edgar Allan Poe ~

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