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....

25 April 2010

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex

Some years ago, I was going through a very long, ugly, dark tunnel in life. One night, in particular, so tenebrous that simply ending it all felt like an easier option than to on. That night, a friend called me and reminded me that by focussing on the bleak and the bad, I was ignoring all that was wonderful and made life worth living.
How right she was. When I sat down to list all the things make life special, realisation dawned that many of those were really very small and were things that I was apt to take for granted...

Here is my list in no particular order, gentle reader, feel free to chime in with yours, please.

Being with friends


Being in the mountains

Farmer's omelette (mushrooms, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, green chillis, et al.)

A dog who wants you to throw a ball he can chase

A beautiful baby you met by sheer accident

Windvanes or weathercocks

Chancing unexpectedly on a favourite song playing on an old radio perched on a shelf in Lower Bazaar

Candy-coloured temples


One yellow flower

A singer whose voice drips into your soul

Shafqat singing "rohi"

And, on a gentle reminder from Varsha, ... sitting by running water

22 April 2010

Marvelous Truth, confront us at every turn, in every guise

How does one stand
To behold the sublime?
To confront the mockers
With the belief that the past is over with,
that a new life lies ahead?

18 April 2010

I am going to my own hearthstone, Bosom'd in yon green hills alone— A secret nook in a pleasant land,

My introduction to Penelope Chetwode was somewhat unexpected. I was in Europe, had run out of things to read (an extremely unlikely scenario for me usually) and was in a city which wasn't primarily English-speaking. In sheer desperation, I scoured second-hand bookshops. There, in a dingy corner, was she. Being somewhat partial to travelogues written by women, I grabbed both her books.
It was to be love at first sight and a long-standing love affair.
The first was "Two Middle-aged Ladies in Andalusia": a wonderful account of one middle-aged lady (Chetwode) and her trusty (and equally middle-aged) mare exploring Andalusia in the l960s. Chetwode came across as a no-nonsense woman whose sense of humour redeemed many a peculiar situation she encountered in a remote and almost savage country, with its primitive peasant population and inns evidently medieval in their crudity!
I saved up the second book so that I could savour it slowly, it was an account of one of my most favourite parts of India: Himachal Pradesh. "Kulu: The End of the Habitable World" turned out to be a treasure trove of information, recording not just details of temple architecture of the region, but also a sound knowledge of local customs. Today, many a critic accuses Chetwode of adopting a British Raj attitude, but wasn't she only a product of her times, possessing all the good and bad qualities that went with it? The book essentially recounts Chetwode's journey through Kulu in the 1960s, a full thirty years after she had left India and is a must-read for anyone who loves this region.
Penelop Chetwode's story can be found on my friend Nityin's blog A Taste Of Life. It makes as interesting reading as do her books!
Quite by accident, then, I found myself tracing the route she had taken almost five decades ago: going from Fagu to Ani to Khanag to Jalori, passing through Sojha to head for Banjaar.
In the garden of the PWD guesthouse in Khanag, I found these two interesting memorial stones. Having become somewhat familiar with Chetwode's story, I would love my epitaph to read as hers does: "She died in these hills she had loved so long".

17 April 2010

Crystal wandering water...

Why dost thou wildly rush and roar,
Mad River, O Mad River?
Wilt thou not pause and cease to pour
Thy hurrying, headlong waters o'er
This rocky shelf forever?

What secret trouble stirs thy breast?
Why all this fret and flurry?
Dost thou not know that what is best
In this too restless world is rest
From over-work and worry?

What wouldst thou in these mountains seek,
O stranger from the city?
Is it perhaps some foolish freak
Of thine, to put the words I speak
Into a plaintive ditty?

Yes; I would learn of thee thy song,
With all its flowing numbers,
And in a voice as fresh and strong
As thine is, sing it all day long,
And hear it in my slumbers.

A brooklet nameless and unknown
Was I at first, resembling
A little child, that all alone
Comes venturing down the stairs of stone,
Irresolute and trembling.

Later, by wayward fancies led,
For the wide world I panted;
Out of the forest dark and dread
Across the open fields I fled,
Like one pursued and haunted.

I tossed my arms, I sang aloud,
My voice exultant blending
With thunder from the passing cloud,
The wind, the forest bent and bowed,
The rush of rain descending.

I heard the distant ocean call,
Imploring and entreating;
Drawn onward, o'er this rocky wall
I plunged, and the loud waterfall
Made answer to the greeting.

And now, beset with many ills,
A toilsome life I follow;
Compelled to carry from the hills
These logs to the impatient mills
Below there in the hollow.

Yet something ever cheers and charms
The rudeness of my labors;
Daily I water with these arms
The cattle of a hundred farms,
And have the birds for neighbors.

Men call me Mad, and well they may,
When, full of rage and trouble,
I burst my banks of sand and clay,
And sweep their wooden bridge away,
Like withered reeds or stubble.

Now go and write thy little rhyme,
As of thine own creating.
Thou seest the day is past its prime;
I can no longer waste my time;
The mills are tired of waiting.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~

[On a prosaic note: I went walking in the mountains this week. Walked, on an average about 20 kilometres a day, and I do mean walked. Not trekked, or climbed or hiked. I stopped frequently to smell the flowers, to catch my breath - both from the sheer beauty of the views and from fatigue. Solvitur ambulando, someone said, "it is solved by walking". They could not have been more right. I came back with many mental knots unravelled.
The route I roughly took was Ani - Khanag - Jalori - Sojha - Giyagi - Banjaar - Gushaini - Bhatahar.]

3 April 2010

Embrace your solitude... and try to sing out with it.

"Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away... and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn't necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it."

Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters To A Young Poet)
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