One Billion Rising

In the orange dress with plastic gloves is a volunteer , who was helping out in collecting the wrappers and bottles around. Some song started , and she stopped in the midst of the crowd and energetically danced away. Throwing her hands up in the air and twirling she didn't make eye contact with the hundreds around her, she didn't seem like she was familiar with the 15 odd people standing close to her. She didn't pass around smiles to get to k now them. She just was...dancing .

Halu Halu at the Hyderabad Zoo

Dilli in Janvary - some scribbles

Hauz Khas Complex

We wanted to go to an outlet at Hauz Khas Village and that’s how I stumbled upon the Hauz Khas Complex.  It swept me off my feet, in slow motion.  Was surprised to find that a crazy number of youngsters had parked their backsides there, enjoying the winter sun.  
As the camera was accumulating dust in Hyderabad, I strolled around lazily and took in the activity. Two Bengali boys with a camera arguing jocularly about photo credits, a group looking for flat space to sit around for  birthday celebrations (cake, cold drinks the works), another one (all girls) looking for “privacy” to bring out their stash of cigarettes and alcohol and yet another group of boys with a guitar merrily singing away. Of course, twosomes, looking for a cosy corner. Lots of cameras. A security fella walking around with his lathi . No one was in anyone else’s way and I was not pushed and shoved despite the crowd.

A sense of deep peace amidst such a high energy space. I've only felt that once before and that was ironically (for some) on my way back to the hostel , one humid night in a Bombay local.


Another feel good day in the city was at the Zoo. My memories of the place are of otters (I think that’s what they were), a white tiger, a white peacock, a very pale skinned snake and a happy picture of all of us on a bench under a tree (a winter afternoon).  

After a lot of clash in plans and traffic jams that almost made me weep, we did finally make it to the Zoo . The steps leading inside threw up a memory or two. A tiny me worrying that all of us would get lost in the crowd on the stairs and another one of Preeti prancing around on the same stairs (must have been two different visits). I think this pretty much defines how we were as children.

Mum recalled that during the years when she carted us all here, the Zoo was full of a variety of people (nationality, class, regions etc). This time however not much of that was on display. What did really surprise me was that fact that the Delhi folks were actually much better behaved than the mass we encountered at the Hyderabad Zoo. The Hyderabad crowd was crazy, unruly, harassing the animals with shouts and pebbles and their attempts to feed them. Both experiences were contrary to my unconscious expectations (stereotype?).

This trip the four of us strolled around saw the residents, played with random kids, talked and laughed. We had great time with one or the other periodically exclaiming “abe who dekh” or its Malayalam equivalent. Papa couldn't believe that the crocodile was for real (he says it was cast in stone!) , Preeti fell in love with a Hippo, Mum let out a series of exclamations when she saw some brilliantly coloured large parrots  and I’m starting to take hesitant steps towards appreciating the city again.

Discovering the complex, the lake and walking through the zoo with all this life throbbing around was very refreshing. Refreshing is not an association I easily make with the city, maybe it was the warm winter sun and the slight chill in the air that worked its magic. Dilli ki sardiyon ki dhoop. Never mind the allergic sniffles and the fact that it takes miraculous will power to get out of the blanket on winter mornings.

Looking forward to being home again …..soon.  

Thanks Preeti for the images (psst ...can I have some of the Zoo please , especially the one where you managed to make the Emu look evil?).

Post Script- The emu is here now!

Christmas in Hyderabad

After spending a few Christmases away from home I thought this year I might not miss it much. I was wrong. I pined for carols and you tube versions didn't hold a flame to the laughing giggling carolers who came by each year. Nor did it lessen my longing for choir practice where we struggled to stay faithful to what we were taught and experiment with twists during the breaks. I now understand a little better why mum and so many others break their backs baking cakes and goodies. I did my share this year. Cakes cookies etc more than what the three of us could do justice to and then baked more for colleagues! 

While Christmas mass had long lost its charm ( I think the loss of charm coincided with my irritations for a certain parish priest) , I still wanted to step inside a church soak in the feel. 
A colleagues suggestions on the churches in  Secunderabad piqued my curiosity.

Nimesh and I hopped to a couple - St Mary's , Good News Baptist, CSI Diocese of Medak  and finally the Spanish Mosque. 

St Mary's was overflowing with people and the Mass was in progress. We sat for a bit and were leaving when the homily/sermon started. I stopped dead in my track when I heard the the pretty much atonal priest sing " Its only words and words are all I have ....." aieeeeee! He went on to address the puzzled congregation and draw links between the beaten to death Boyzone number and Jesus as  " word becoming flesh"!

As much as the attempt seemed desperate and populist , I had to give it to him, he got my attention. This being in marked difference from the time I found my distance  from church . I remember series of messages from the parish priests and the likes urging/demanding that we sing only "acceptable carols" and "conventional versions". What was puzzling was that as a choir we weren't even moderately experimental to start with. Wonder what got their knickers in knots?  Another lot emphasized that the congregation should not even hum the final parts of the Eucharistic prayer let alone sing it along with the priest! There were frowns (only from the priests and the purists) when we sang "When a child is born" as it was too close to the Boney M version. 

This experience at St Mary's left me puzzled in puzzled smiles.

Next stop was the CSI , Diocese of Medak  and definitely it was the highlight of the day. The church was deserted when we got there and sunlight streamed in through the large windows. Minimally adorned with Christmas finery, simple huge benches reminding me of some old sofa I've seen in Kerala. We spent a good half hour soaking in the place and moved on to the Spanish Mosque. Here I was not allowed to enter (being female) and resented it every bit. 

But nonetheless , a little bit of Christmas cheer left its mark on me and I went back to happy baking in the evening. Yes , its not the same without familiar faces , family and the choir , but we all reinvent traditions as we move along and carry a feel of what was best in our past. Sometimes it takes a day like yesterday to revisit the memories , hold them closer and send up a thanks for having them in your life. 

Merry Christmas everyone!