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....

27 January 2010

Expecting rain, the profile of a day, Wears its soul like a hat....

No words, just a swirl of colours, and as always a little poem, not wholly apposite, but sort of mandatory!

While the hum and the hurry
Of passing footfalls
Beat in my ear like the restless surf
Of a wind-blown sea,
A soul came to me
Out of the look on a face.

Eyes like a lake
Where a storm-wind roams
Caught me from under
The rim of a hat.
I thought of a mid-sea wreck
and bruised fingers clinging
to a broken state-room door.

~ Carl Sandburg ~

17 January 2010

Peddler of dreams

Got me a new job today -
catching sunbeams
and hawking them
to those in need:
the only requirement being
a hungry heart
and an outstretched hand.

The Peddler ---

Lend me, a little while, the key
That locks your heavy heart, and I'll give you back--
Rarer than books and ribbons and beads bright to see,
This little Key of Dreams out of my pack.

The road, the road, beyond men's bolted doors,
There shall I walk and you go free of me,
For yours lies North across the moors,
And mine lies South. To what seas?

How if we stopped and let our solemn selves go by,
While my gay ghost caught and kissed yours, as ghosts don't do,
And by the wayside, this forgotten you and I
Sat, and were twenty-two?
Give me the key that locks your tired eyes,
And I will lend you this one from my pack,
Brighter than colored beads and painted books that make men wise:
Take it. No, give it back!

~ Charlotte Mew ~

15 January 2010

Aankh se door na ho, dil se utar jaayegaa...

said Ahmed Faraz one day. Not likely, beloved poet.

On your birthday yesterday, 14th January, I raised a toast to your memory which lives on in my heart, and in the hearts of all those who love your work.

Jis simt bhii dekhoon nazar aataa hai ke tum ho
ai jaan-e-jahaan ye ko_ii tum sa hai ke tum ho

ye khvaab hai khushboo hai ke jhonkaa hai ke pal hai
ye dhundh hai baadal hai ke sayaa hai ke tum ho

is diid kii sa_aat mein ka_ii rang hain larazaan
main hoon ke ko_ii aur hai duniyaa hai ke tum ho

dekho ye kisii aur kii aankhein hain ke merii
dekhoon ye kisii aur kaa chehraa hai ke tum ho

ye umr-e-gurezaan kahiin thahare to ye jaanoon
har saans mein mujh ko ye lagtaa hai ke tum ho

har bazm me.n mauzuu-e-sukhan dil zad_gaan kaa
ab kaun hai shiiriin hai ke lailaa hai ke tum ho

ik dard kaa phailaa huaa saharaa hai ke main huun
ik mauj mein ayaa huaa dariya hai ke tum ho

vo vaqt na aaye ke dil-e-zaar bhii soche
is shahar mein tanhaa ko_ii ham sa hai ke tum ho

aabaad ham aashuftaa saron se nahiin maqtal
ye rasm abhii shahar mein zindaa hai ke tum ho

ai jaan-e-'Faraz' itnii bhii taufiiq kise thii
ham ko gham-e-hastii bhii gavaaraa hai ke tum ho

And then, as though on cue, my other favourite, Gulzar mentions you in his poem today!

Aankhon ko visa nahin lagta
sapnon ki sarhad nahin hoti
band aakhon se roz main sarhad paar chalaa jataa hoon
milne "Mehdi Hasaan" se!

sunta hoon unki awaaz ko chote lagi hai
aur ghazal khamosh hai saamne baithi huyi
kaanp rahe hain honth ghazal ke
phir bhi un aankhon ka lehzaa badlaa nahin ---
jab kehte hain
sookh gaye hai phool kitaabon mein
yaar ''Faraaz'' bhi bichhad gaye, shaayad milein woh khwaabon mein!
band aakhon se aksar sarhad paar chalaa jataa hoon main!

aankhon ko visa nahin lagta,
sapnon ki sarhad, koi nahin!

This is a snivelling attitude, but it is impossible not to feel a strange delight, a strange gratitude when reading your poesy..... A perpetual sort of te deum in being given, in you, a source of so much pure and unmixed happiness!

14 January 2010

The climate's delicate, the air most sweet, the temple much surpassing the common praise it bears

The road From Shimla to Rampur snakes its way from Cart Road, passing the suburbs of Sanjauli and Dhalli. It winds its way through the evergreen forests, skirting the wonderful Catchment Forest of Sheogh. En route fall those two ugly, concrete-covered tourist traps of Kufri and Fagu. Also on this road, you find some enterprising fellows who have set up shop - for tourists with a penchant for having themselves photographed in ''local dress". (It's a different matter that no local would ever recognise these outfits, much less be caught dead in them!)

This road wends its way past the truly unattractive town of Theog. You'd be forgiven for driving past it without a second look. But then, you'd be missing a little gem of a village which lies just a kilometre outside Theog. The place is called Janog. I found a pair of lovely temples. One all done up in candy colours, now fading to a nicety; the other, a typical wood and stone structure, its stone and wood attractively ageing thanks to the elements of nature.

The "younger" temple is that of Chakreshwar, a local deity. It is a pretty, two-storeyed structure currently squeezed between the homes of the inhabitants of Janog. Like many I've seen in Himachal, it has attractive embellishments: beautiful floral, curlicue patterns edging its sides. As always, wooden tassles, alternately coloured pink, blue, yellow and white, dangle and sway in the light breeze. Also as in Himachali temples, one has to rest content with looking at the structure from outside as noone but the temples caretakers are allowed inside.
The local pujari informs me that Sankranti, a festival falling on 13th January, is an important one for this temple. This is the day when the Gods are taken out to meet the devotees. This confluence of the sacred and the secular is an intriguing one, especially since the presiding deity is expected to troubleshoot on behalf of the devotee. The diwaan of Janog informed me that usually a goat is sacrificed on the occasion, not on the express wish of the deity, but so as to allow the locals to enjoy a hearty celebration meal afterwards!

What you see below is the "older" temple, or the deora. Hindu temples are never de-consecrated, so to that extent this remains a holy spot. However, locals have long since abandoned it in favour of the newer version. It has a little place for the homa, the sacred fire lit for special prayers, and while parts of it are still cheerfully coloured, it wears the slightly folorn look of someone whose time has passed. Devout men and their religious texts do not sound a canting peal in its walls, yet, there is a sense of the resting of spiritual oars here.

This is the frontal aspect of the temple. This is yet again, a pretty example of the attractive sloping-roof style with its typical projecting horizontal pillar.

The roof is graven with a thousand images of joyous celebration, men and women holding hands as they dance to the tune issuing from myriad musical instruments.

The pillars and the cross-beams hold faith firm and encircle the temple sanctum with affectionate gravity. There are no walls to shut out the clamour of the outer world and direct the mind to higher realms. Yet, the mundane and the sacred meld into one here.

10 January 2010

Only the knife knows what goes on in the heart of a pumpkin.

Yesterday, I spent a happy afternoon exploring temples in the vicinity of Theog. The sky was the most cheerful blue, the sunshine like molten marmalade. It felt good to be alive, and these lines by Willa Cather sprang to mind:

I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

8 January 2010

A magic web with colours gay

What you see below is a temple I found in a place called Kunihar, not far from Shimla, thanks to my friend Dr. Usha Bande. Loved its psychedelic colours and the dizzy joy in the candy-coloured lines and dots. Ever so often, we seem to forget that religion is not just a space of solace, or redemption, but also of merriment, felicity and the celebration of God's benediction.

By the lamplight stall I loitered, feasting my eyes
On colours ripe and rich for the heart's desire —
Tomatoes, redder than Krakatoa's fire,
Oranges like old sunsets over Tyre,
And apples golden-green as the glades of Paradise.

And, as I lingered, lost in delight,
My heart thanked God for the goodly gift of sight
And all youth's lively senses keen and quick...
When suddenly, behind me in the night
I heard the tapping of a blind man's stick

~ Wilfrid Wilson Gibson ~

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