Friday, December 26, 2008

Cradling the Sun

The last few days of the year and I've been on a nostalgia trip. Cradling the good memories, clearing out the bad and disturbing ones.
Holding close ... laying to rest. It seems to go hand in hand these days.

I watch the flaming sun misting over with gray clouds. Covering its glory ... yet in a way, embellishing it and making it blaze even brighter.

And one last ray peeps through the enveloping clouds to light the way for a bird to find her way home.

Are you a skywatcher too? Take a look at what other skywatchers are seeing around the world at Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis the season for unexpected gifts!

This seems to be truly the season for unexpected gifts.
The refreshing chill in the air of normally-hot 'nd humid Mumbai is gift enough. But, this vibrant Cardinal Ipomoea stopped me in my tracks . I had thought it was dead after an infestation of caterpillars had stripped it to its skeleton some months ago. But here it was, thriving again and beaming cheerily at me. It had clambered over an overgrown rubber plant growing in our neighbour's garden and was sharing its cheer equally among all.

Then, while scrambling around the far corners of my garden, I suddenly discovered this tiny gem suspended from our fence. It was a wild creeper of some sort which had grown from the wilderness that has taken over our neighbouring property.

And as an unexpected bonus, I got this ... a Common Pierrot came visiting. I had never seen one sit still before in my garden. So seeing one perch on this tiny wildflower was the crowning moment!

This bright red bougainvillaea (I hope I spelled that right... too many letters!) was grown from a cutting that I got from my childhood garden. The mother plant was easily 30 years old at least. Maybe even 50. Does that make it an heirloom?
It has climbed up a towering Michelia champaca tree and blooms its head off every winter. It's a fantastic combination ... the heady fragrance of the champaca alternate seasons with the fiery blooms of the bougainvillaea cascading thickly down the tall tree.

Then I got a visit from this friendly little Whitebreasted Kingfisher. He was after butterflies, not fish. He flew onto a tree close to me, snapped up a butterfly and then decided this rock was a better perch to view the world go by. He was not too bothered about my getting close enough for this shot. Friendly! He even left a couple of brilliant blue feathers for my children to marvel over.

A big surprise was seeing these coconuts sprouting as healthy as you please. These dry coconuts had fallen off the tree but our regular buyer is more interested in buying tender coconuts which he can sell for the delicious juice. So these had been put away to use at a later date but then I don't use much coconut in my cooking so they lay there for a real long time. Long enough to decide to finally get a move on and grow!

And then there is this final gift I gave myself .... these brilliant-red Pentas. A just-because gift. Always the best kind.

A Merry Christmas to all my friends in the blogging world. I hope you have a wonderful day filled with the joy and comfort of friends and family.

I will be away for a few days , so I dont know when I'll get to see any comments that you may post here. But please dont let that stop you; I thoroughly enjoy reading them.

See you soon!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mumbai : City of Gold

They call Mumbai the City of Gold. Looking at these photos, do you doubt it?

Even a fisherman can cast his nets in a molten sea that ripples with golden highlights.

Can a cloud dim the splendour of the fiery sun for long? He will just burn his way through them.

Palm leaves can be the perfect frame for a masterpiece in shades of gold and gray.

And a homeward-bound bird can find his way guided by a golden path glimmering from sea to shore.

These photos were all taken on the same day this week.

Are you a Skywatcher too? See what other Skywatchers all over the world are seeing on Skywatch Friday

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crafting magic from a garden

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother cajoling me to go for a walk in our rather extensive grounds. I say 'cajoling' because I would have rather been flipping the pages of a book than walking.

What was there to see anyway? We never left our own private grounds and all there was to see were acres of coconut trees and mango trees bending over with fruit. There were only a lot of other fruit trees of just about every tropical species, passionately collected by my grandmother (a true plantswoman if ever there was one). At least 4-5 of them would be in bud or flowering or fruiting at any given time ... but who wanted to see that? Not me!

Finally, I would give in and we would set off. I wonder whether you can picture us? A very reluctant child dragging my feet behind my mother, our numerous dogs in tow and wondering when I could possibly say, "okay, now let's go back".
But she would linger, plucking a weed ... and then admiring its flower... pointing out a bird or a squirrel... and all the while she would be fashioning some little craft of her own from the wealth of greenery around us.

(the tribal necklace )
Pulling a leaflet out of a drooping coconut leaf, she would soon turn it into a toy watch and a ring for me. Another would transform into a magical necklace that a tribal princess would have coveted.

(top to bottom : ring, watch and necklace )
A coconut leaflet pin-wheel would join the treasure-trove and then enthusiastically tested.

And then she would pick up some baby coconuts which had fallen off the tree. A quick tug to remove the 'cap' and she would fit the top of the coconut with some looped and interwoven coconut-leaf ribs. Ta-dah! There was a whirling, twirling toy complete with music (of sorts).

You wanted music? She would quickly roll some coconut leaves into a make-shift trumpet. A blaring sort of music, but still, music all the same ... with a little stretch of imagination.

This was in the pre-TV, pre-PC days with no cartoon programmes or High School shows which become compulsive watching. All I had competing for my attention was a huge pile of books and comics.

Her impromptu crafting finally worked... it got me to look at gardens at least twice. And then, thrice. Until a time came when I got my own garden and decided to see if I could coax some of that beauty and enjoyment from it.

And, when she visits us now, my mother continues to work the same old magic on my city-bred, too-old-for-toys daughter. Some things never change... and thank God for that!

All photos except the first one were taken by my brother, Jagan. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 12, 2008

December skies

The skies over Mumbai have been putting on the most spectacular shows these last few evenings. It's almost as if it is trying to make up for the haze of grey that has been covering it for most of the day. Around 6 p.m., the setting sun tears open the veil that is shrouding the city and... ta-dah!

Sometimes the sea joins in with a symphony of its own and the waters glitter and ripple in reflected glory.

No two days are the same. Sometimes the clouds paint the sky in designs of their own. Sometimes the sun wins through. And on and on they go, till the weary sun drops below the horizon in a last flash of brilliance.And as it slips, screaming defiance at the approaching Night, it paints the sea a brilliant hue and whispers, "Remember..."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Elements of a garden

What are the basic elements of a garden? Why, the same as for everything else ... Earth, Fire, Air, Water.
They keep showing up in everything I plant or see thriving in my garden.

Earth-hewn fungi, daughter of the dark monsoon days.

A blaze of red-hot French Marigolds burning the flower-beds with their intensity.
A dash of fiery chillies ... the smaller, the spicier.

A cloud of Skyblue Clustervine billowing over fence and gusting over trees.

Look! they even have stars in them!

Cool, cool water in a natural rock bird-bath for hardworking Magpie-Robins to splash in before heading home.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Morning has broken ...

Have you ever seen a garden wake up?
It doesn't leap up as if an alarm bell had gone off in its ear and it's running late for work.
There is no frantic rushing to dress up and run out without breakfast.
No desperate hunting for keys and praying there'll be no traffic on the way.

Instead, a playful sunbeam will peep in. Wake up the sleepy birds and remind them of new tunes to sing, and wriggly little things spotted near a grassy patch. And each memory brings a new "cheep" that builds into a crescendo of melodies.
Loud enough to wake up sleeping flowers and to shake the dew from the fresh green grass. Petals unfurl, testing the new air. Layer by layer, colour by colour... the garden shakes the night's dreams from its face.

Then there are those who've just finished blooming in the night. While the rest of the garden was sleeping, they turned their charms to the cool night air. And now, all tired out and totally wrung out, they just cant wait to curl up for the day.

Bright sunbeams tease the sleeping beauties; no matter how they close themselves up a tiny little ray always finds its way in and blows the sleep away.

A flowerly yawn and stretch can work wonders to work the crinkles out of petals.

As can yoga and a surya namaskar salute to the sun.

It's a brand new day! Time to be up and doing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Smile over Mumbai !

Believe it or not! This is the photo of the sky over Mumbai tonight. And, apparently, over most of India.

My brother, who lives halfway across the country, excitedly called me up to take a look at the moon tonight. I dejectedly cursed the polluted Mumbai skies and glanced outside and ...! There's a smilie over Mumbai tonight!

Ravaged, weary, dejected, embattled Mumbai has won a natural smilie.
Isn't that the most fantastic phenomenon?! A crescent moon and two stars (or are they planets?) have created this especially for us.

There's a healing moon smiling over us, Mumbai!

Incidentally, these are not manipulated photographs. I wish I had a better camera and better photographic skills to take a more convincing photo though.