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....

19 September 2010

A languid atmosphere, a lazy breeze, a dreamy day

Small, shapeless drifts of cloud

Sail slowly northward in the soft-hued sky,

With blur half-tints and rolling summits bright,

By the late sun caressed; slight hazes shroud

All things afar; shineth each leaf anigh

With its own warmth and light.

O'erblown by Southland airs,

The summer landscape basks in utter peace:

In lazy streams the lazy clouds are seen;

Low hills, broad meadows, and large, clear-cut squares

Of ripening corn-fields, rippled by the breeze,

With shifting shade and sheen.

Hark! and you may not hear

A sound less soothing than the rustle cool

Of swaying leaves, the steady wiry drone

Of unseen crickets, sudden chirpings clear

Of happy birds, the tinkle of the pool,

Chafed by a single stone.

What vague, delicious dreams,

Born of this golden hour of afternoon,

And air balm-freighted, fill the soul with bliss,

Transpierced like yonder clouds with lustrous gleams,

Fantastic, brief as they, and, like them, spun

Of gilded nothingness!

All things are well with her.

'T is good to be alive, to see the light

That plays upon the grass, to feel (and sigh

With perfect pleasure) the mild breezes stir

Among the garden roses, red and white,

With whiffs of fragrancy.

There is no troublous thought,

No painful memory, no grave regret,

To mar the sweet suggestions of the hour:

The soul, at peace, reflects the peace without,

Forgetting grief as sunset skies forget

The morning's transient shower.

Emma Lazarus

14 September 2010

Bring the pure wine of love and freedom.

I sipped some of love's sweet wine,
and now I am ill. My body aches,
my fever is high.
They called in the doctor and he said,
drink this tea!
Ok, time to drink this tea.
He said, Take these pills!
Ok, time to take these pills.
The doctor said,
And get rid of the sweet wine of love's lips!
Ok, time to get rid of the doctor.

~ Jalaluddin Rumi ~

The powerful, fortress'd house...

Gondhla is a pretty little, topsy-turvy village located on the banks of the River Chandra. About 18 kilometres along the way from Keylong to Manali, crane your neck out from the window of your bus or car, and you will spot this gorgeous fort considerably off the right side of the road.

A rugged pile, you notice the timber-bonded pattern which is typical of Himachal's forts and castles. Penelope Chetwode observed that this structure was common to both sacred as well as secular buildings. Stone and timber alternate in layers in these walls and are held together by clay. Experts say that it is this style which protected the tall edifices from seismic shocks. Apparently, the absence of mortar between the dressed stone, according to Chetwode, allowed the walls the chance to quiver with the quake instead of opposing the earthquake's movements. What a simple, yet ingenuous solution!

Displaying another typical feature of Himachali forts, a wooden gallery runs around the top floor. I am guessing that this would have served the local ruler to conduct public audience, though what he would have actually heard of his people's grievances is anybody's guess! Certainly, the height of this lovely old building inspires a sense of awe. The very act of craning one's neck upwards makes one aware of one's small size in relation to the fortress.
There are wonderful little windows with intricate bars across them. Great for looking out, but impossible to look into. I am sure they would have served the women who lived there well, considering how little airing women of royal families got in those days! The wooden frames of the windows are delicately carved with geometric and floral motifs.

The related page of the Lahaul & Spiti District Administration describes the interiors and its wonderful contents. But the sad fact is that in the middle of 2010, my friend SdS and I found rubble all around the fort, the main door locked with masonry fallen over it. Bits of the little "kharokhas" - the little wooden balconies projecting out of the windows - have crumbled, the wood eaten away by termites and by the ravages of weather. Parts of the roof and the top room are also falling away. It is tragic that this wonderful heritage of our state crumbles away before our eyes and all we can do is mourn its passing.
Through this blog, I appeal to anyone who is reading to suggest a way. If nothing, maybe we should petition the Government to protect this building which is, by sarkari accounts, over four hundred years old.

10 September 2010

Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language.

"An empty mind is the devil's workshop", I have been repeatedly told since I was a child. Yet, it was on one of those very empty evenings that it struck me that I could invite a friend, or maybe even three friends to write a guest post. The one thing that I love about my friends, whom you shall meet by and by, gentle reader, is that they are always game for an adventure. This is Part 1 of that enterprise.
I've known Asha for longer than I care to remember. She breezed into my life and stayed back as my rock, my sounding board, and the shoulder on which I would cry on countless times.
Asha is an expert trainer and has worked with some of the world's biggest corporations. Deeply interested in issues relating to the development of self, she writes a wonderfully thought-provoking blog called Self Leadership. In her blog, she manages to raise issues that we all need to ponder on, but about which we rarely stop to think systematically.
However, here on my blog, she writes not on leadership or decisions or self-awareness, but moves to our common love, poetry. Her thoughts are placed below:

Let me start off by saying that poetry is not one of my current ‘can-dos’. Would I like to compose poetry? Yes! Have I attempted it? No! Having said that, I love reading poetry and one volume that I’ve perused a few times ia ‘Ariake’ – a collection of poems of love and longing by the women courtiers of Japan.

The foreword by Lisa Dalby summarises ‘Ariake’ as follows: “Ariake or ‘the waning moon at dawn’ was an image associated foremost with love in the ancient courts of Japan. Few societies integrated poetry into daily life as devotedly as the court of Japan’s Heian era (A.D. 794 – 1192). The most renowned poets of this era were women. They were passionate and demonstrative – a far cry from the typical portraits of passive objects of desire drawn by Westerners.”

A few samples from this rather fascinating collection!
Were you a string of beads
I would wind you about my arm,
But since you are a man
Of the actual, mortal world,
You are hard in the winding.
~ The Elder Maiden of the Otomo of Sakanoue ~
Look at this keepsake
And remember me, my love;
All the gem-bright year,
Long as its thread of shining days,
I too shall think of you.
~ Lady Kasa ~
As night succeeds night,
I seek in vain to decide
Where my pillow should go.
How did I sleep on the night
When you appeared in my dream?

~ Anonymous ~

My favourite Indian poet is Sahir Ludhianvi. A deeply passionate man, he lived and died a tortured soul. A genius with words, he demonstrated how a lot could be said with very few words. There are so many of his poems I love, and here is one of them.
Maine jo geet tere pyar ki khatir likhe
Aaj un geeton ko bazaar mein le aaya hoon
Aaj dukan mein neelam uthega unka
Tu ne jin geeton pe rakhi thi mohabbat ki asaas
Aaj chandi ki taraazu mein tulegi har cheez
Mere afkaar, meri shaayari, mera ehsaas
Jo teri zaatse mansoob the un geeton ko
Muflisi jins banaane pe uthar aayi hai
Bhookh, tere rookh-e-rangeen ke fasaano ke ivaz
Chand ashiya-e-zaroorat ki tamannai hai
Dekh is arsaagahe-mehnaton-sarmaaya mein
Mere naghme bhi mere paas nahin reh sakte
Tere jalve kisi zardaar ki meeras sahi
Tere khaake bhi mer paas nahin reh sakte
Aaj un geeton ko bazaar mein le aaya hoon
Maine jo geet tere pyar ki khatir likhe

Last but not the least is a piece from Harold Monro on ‘Solitude’. I know Geetali has done a post on ‘Solitude’ earlier. I picked this out of An Anthology of Modern Verse that was gifted by my friend Irene Hawkins. If you ever come across this post my friend, know that you are in my mind and that I miss you.
When you have tidied all things for the night,
And while your thoughts are fading to their sleep,
You’ll pause a moment in the late firelight,
Too sorrowful to weep.
The large and gentle furniture has stood
In sympathetic silence all the day
With that old kindness of domestic wood;
Nevertheless the haunted room will say:
“Some one must be away”.
The little dog rolls over half awake,
Stretches his paws, yawns, looking up at you,
Wags his tail very slightly for your sake,
That you may feel he is unhappy too.
A distant engine whistles, or the floor
Creaks, or the wandering night-wind bangs a door;
Silence is scattered like a broken glass.
The minutes prick their ears and run about,
Then one by one subside again and pass
Sedately in, monotonously out.
You bend your head and wipe away a tear.
Solitude walks one heavy step more near.

9 September 2010

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.

What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream! --

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow

Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act, -- act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o'er life's solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~

3 September 2010

Small, contained, fragile, intent.

That is how I would describe my friend the snail, met in a leaf in Sheogh.

And on seeing her, I was reminded of this John Bunyan poem:
She goes but softly, but she goeth sure,
She stumbles not, as stronger creatures do.
Her journey's shorter, so she may endure
Better than they ehich do much farther go.
She makes no noise, but stilly seizeth on
The flower or herb appointed for her food,
That which she quietly doth feed upon
While others range and glare, but find no good.
And though she doth but very softly go,
However, 'tis not fast nor slow, but sure;
And certainly they that do travel so,
The prize they do aim at they do procure.

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