Marigold

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On Sundays, we lie flat on our stomachs and watch Marigold trap sunlight inside her orange scales.

She swims placidly in Mobius strips of water, each fin throwing hundreds of glass shards across our walls. We count them all. They flit between our toes, hover over our cold blue noses, slip through unguarded, berry stained lips. We stretch our fingers out to catch this piscine illuminance, to close our palms around these eely needles of light and swallow them in one quick, winter gulp. The shards dart away; their edges soften and dapple our sweaters as Marigold pirouettes within her water globe.

Sundays smell of gooseberry shampoo, basted chicken and durva grass.

Still splayed on our stomachs across the old Kashmiri carpet, we turn thick, grey socks into muppets, weaving esoteric conversations about apple soda and Mini’s new collection of tin blades. We slither our arms back into our woolly sleeves and bat at each other silently with our deflated paws for a good ten minutes. The wool begins to smart.

Sundays feel like strawberry mint bubblegum being stretched between Time’s willowy fingers; pink, soft and endless. Like slow cotton candy cloudburst. Sugary, wispy, and fuzzy to the touch.

On Sundays, we lie flat on our stomachs and watch Marigold trap sunlight inside her orange scales.

For one breath of a moment, there is a ripple.

We blink,

and it melts away.
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TIL #1

Today I learned:

Courage is about the tiny things. 

It’s not battling dragons and flooring trolls. It’s not rescuing damsels from burning towers or scaling glass mountains. It’s not saving the world from a zombie apocalypse or sacrificing yourself to the gods to appease them. 

It’s not always confrontations, battles and war. 

Sometimes, it’s about coming to terms with a truth about yourself, so atomic and yet so fundamental, that it has the potential to rattle all the shelves of china in your heart; enough for a scare, but not quite enough to topple them over. 

Sometimes, it’s about independence. It’s​knowing that papa won’t always be there to check for monsters under your bed. It’s arming yourself with a broom and poking the emptiness beneath your four-poster before you tuck yourself in (all four limbs safely covered by the blanket of course)

And sometimes, it’s knowing that you are your own best friend. And that sometimes, you have no choice but to believe in yourself. Because everybody’s magnifying glasses are focused on themselves. We are gigantic in our mind’s eye. We dwarf even those we love.  

And that’s okay. 

We are our own best friends. 

And that’s okay. 

Kitchen

Our chef is a sorceress with her box of spices for a staff. A tiara of cumin seeds jewel her brow and her ears sparkle with opal cardamom chandeliers. She twists a single fiber of tamarind into her thinning braid; an amulet of carved cinnamon rests above her navel, hanging down her neck on a thread of peppercorns. 

Within this kitchen, she is in her element. Matchboxes have long been discarded: the hearth is licked to life by flames dancing out of her nostrils. Royal tangerine. The culinary dragon begins her dance. 

Cast iron wok hisses from the assault of a sesame seed rain, perforating the puddle of sunflower oil. Music. The tempo has been set. A cloud of wheat flour rises up to kiss the ceiling, cloves of garlic prance across the wooden counters and sacrifice their pungent lives by cannonballing into the wok of tempered death. The enchantress has stalks of coriander swaying like bohemian wanderers. Basil leaves touch tips and circle in rhythmic leaps around a mountain of crushed fenugreek. Spring onions clutch at their green ponytails and rip them off from their scalps in a fit of robotic madness. It’s the trance of the herbs.  

Lemon grass, venison, pickled carrots, hard boiled eggs. Soy sauce oozes brown over noodle strands, golden quiches swivel and cavort down the oven’s ramp. She wipes her hands on an apron of beige dough. Ice cream dotted with smudges of peaches and cream spoon themselves into gyrating crystal bowls, spinning wildly with near transparent spoons. 

The table has been set, the forks laid out, plates polished enough to reflect bones. Our sorceress is satisfied. 

Quietly, she pads back into her war zone and plucks a ladle of the wall. Culinary dragon then folds herself – amulets, apron and all – into the well of the ladle and curls up for a snooze. It’s been a long day.

The hare married the tortoise

Ears a-twitch, she invites us in to her burrow. The scent of fuming benzoin wafts over the strains of a harmonium placed reverently in a corner beside a camphor lamp. Fumes and strains tangle into each other and land pell-mell over our clothes. 
Paws all a-flutter, her fur glistens in joy as pure as clarified butter seeping into thumb-dug wells in slices of warm rice cake. Tears do not make an appearance. It has been seven years since we met, yes, but a hare has her sensitivity quotient to protect. 

We pad into the burrow, softly, stepping over hurried ‘When did you arrive’s and ‘Would you like some buttermilk?’s.

The tortoise, limbs askew over the red velvet couch, shifts his gaze slowly away from the television screen where the Mumbai Indians are furiously chasing down a target of 155 runs to beat the Royal Challengers of Bangalore. A frantic flurry of beige Willow and crimson cork.  

Sinking into reed mats piled one over the other like the Tower of Hanoi, we settle down with mugs of buttermilk (spiced, tempered, salted, cooled) cradled in our hands and the hall comes alive with the chatter of old friends taking turns in petting the past that romps in – domesticated canine like – and sits squarely on everyone’s feet. Turn by turn. 

We throw treats at it. Point out how it’s teeth aren’t sharp anymore. How the coat has lost its shine but look how the eyes still sparkle like a pool of mango-shower mud! Occasionally, the rabit steps on it’s tail and a whelp! emerges from the mutt followed by a lot of cooing and ruffling of fur and ‘Oh well, it was nobody’s fault’

Meanwhile, the tortoise has managed to crane his neck towards us by a colossal 2 inches. He still cannot see our faces. 150 runs to go

The hare begins to fill us in and we learn that,

Aunt Ratna still has a tumor the size of a tropical bitter lemon lodged within her bladder but at least the recurring dreams of clowns on bicycles delivering soiled laundry have stopped so, thank the Lord Almighty, that’s a relief. 

(4 inches, 133 runs to go)

The magazine seller who wore a table around his shirt collar, fanning out the glossies three hundred and sixty degrees around his head, gyrating wildly like a cotton-clad spinning top to show us his collection, now has a store of his own. He has no use for his neck accessory anymore. His son wears it now. 360 degrees of cheap alcohol, bless his soul. 

(7 inches, 100 runs to go)

And did we know that old Subramaniam now has three children of his own? Twenty years of breaking pots against kitchen walls, barren womb, and the smell of burning chillies. Three little tykes dot his garden now. People have pointed out that their beaks possess the same slope as magazine seller’s son, but really, such talk only makes the tongue curl in ways it shouldn’t. 

(10 inches, the television has been muted)

And of course there’s the story of…

(12 inches, a tooth struggles over the upper lip)

But we never even heard of…

(14 inches, the eyes have seen us, the lips separate​)

And who would have thought..

(16 inches, a gleam of recognition lights up the irises)

Leaving already? Well, okay.. this was wonderful! Such a short visit, really. The next time..

The tortoise is now wide awake. 

He raises an arm,

Scaly lips break into a grin at the speed of molasses oozing down a perfectly horizontal plane,

He wheezes,

‘Welcome back home!’

And that was the happiest farwell we’d had all day. 

Things to do on a warm summer’s day: A heliophile’s guide from A-Z (Pt. 3)

7. Gallop wildly through a clump of bamboo, feet squelching in soft caramel mud, face plastered with electric blue robins and butterflies. 

8. Hose down the tricycle in the garage, stick peonies into the basket, thread candy satin ribbons in and out of its handlebars, tie bulbous red balloons to each of your ears, and pedal furiously down the slope. End in a splash – peonies and all – in the lake.

Things to do on a warm summer’s day: A heliophile’s guide from A-Z (Pt. 2)

4. Down a tall pitcher of ice cold orange pulp, squeezed fresh out of the saffron globes that sprawl pell-mell on the kitchen counter; like fiery pearls from a necklace that Mother Nature twirled around her fingers a little too playfully as she winked at God at last night’s soiree.

5. Empty the glass vial of lilac fuchsia pastel pistachio cornflower blue swirly bubble solution into the tub; Paddle and splash. Let the bubbles waft dreamily through the window and startle the postman whizzing past on his bicycle through grass that snaps at his ankles in perturbed annoyance.

6. Fling a slinky down the stairs; watch it collide with dust bunnies – that you promised to wage a war against this weekend – winking audaciously under the metallic sunlight, throwing psychedelic spiral shadows across every wall in the vicinity.