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Saturday, 26 May 2012

She came and hugged me last night at last
And I wafted into my imagination and dreams

She wrapped me in her arms as she kissed my crown
Melting away the thorns by her gentle crystal springs

She ran her fingers over my wounded back
Spreading the wings and giving them air

Yes she came and hugged me last night at last
Without intimidation but with symmetry of a lost wish

She kissed my lips, first tenderly, then hungrily
Feeding me with reasons to write stories and realize dreams

So I gave myself to her,who was me and she, gave to me
And yes all this was just fair and happened with a mysterious ease

Then she touched my chest, with her hands, eyes and lips
opening the cage she set my heart free

Yes she came and hugged me last night at last
And I wafted into my imagination and dreams.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Darkness and silence,
Silence and fear,
A crack in the door, a sliver of night
Rushes of insanity, claws of dread sink into the mind's flesh
Fear and pain,
Pain and terror,
Covered by shame, armour of skin proves hopeless
Killed by guilt, strangled by nightmares
Choked by tears day after day for years.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Fallen Angel

A chill follows as I walk into the room
And that overpowering stench of scorched flesh
I see nothing, but feel the presence of hers.
Fear crawls over me; I know she moves but makes no sound
And all the while watches me with those razor like eyes.

" I know you are there and I have felt you before" I shout.
A warmth envelopes me and the room seems empty now.
Who is this demon in my head that leaves me when I scream
To go away to return when I am unprepared; unaware
A perpetual emptiness; a loneliness that I cannot spare?

Weep if you want, or yell or better beg.
Pop pills or drink yourself till you are almost dead.
What you want most is that you can never have.
Cause you have never learnt to love your own self.
The shadow will vanquish you to the brink of insanity.

She is back again, now I see her blurred in the mirror
Bound by the chains of her own images and errors.
She speaks not, nor seeks any help; just stares
Angels say that if I stop tracing her patterns in my heart
I can see her clear; for she is nobody but a fallen me. 

Come, let's sail on those unknown waves
Do not ask me who I am.
And I will not ask you what you are.
Just come with your solitude.

Come, let's drown our pasts in the deep sea.
Do not ask me what the boundaries are.
And I will not give a care what the rituals are.
Just come with your solitude.

Come, lets bury our memories in the sand.
Do not weave the threads of dream.
Do not carry the specks of hope.
Just come with your solitude.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Some things begin with a smile... ( Bhutan Story 2 )

So with the cooing of the pigeons and a butter-like sunshine and the great bursts of leaving growing on the trees outside my arched windows, I got up with that familiar conviction that the day if not the whole life is beginning again and I can make it as good or as bad as I want to.

Now, now do not get me wrong. I am certainly not a moron but all these Zen like wisdom dawns and re-dawns on me only and only when I am travelling. I can be curious, energetic, philosophical alias sensible, enthusiastic, adventurous with a bit of madness while I am wearing my travelling shoes. But take off those shoes, and tie me in the house or the office and oh, you are then the cursed one, who took away the very energy, the very oxygen that keeps me ticking.

But ah, I need to tell you where we are heading now....or at least were supposed to. The Tiger's Nest. An extremely revered monastery, perched gingerly on a cliff, requiring hours of trek up, all for the one moment, the precious moment of bliss. :)

But some phone calls and we realise that all the good resorts/ hotels in Punakha and most in Thimpu are booked for the Royal Wedding. In fact some guests with confirmed booking at Punakha were requested not to come as the invitees for the Royal Wedding had already started coming. Personally I can do with the basic. Not that comforts and once in a while luxury does not matter to me. Like you know most of the un-ushered think ideal romance should be flowers, wine and Paris. But usher yourself into travelling, let it grow in you and you will realise that romance can be up in some mountains, biting the freshly plucked apples and lying on the shadows of the apple trees with the sun caressing your bare legs.

And you can always replace the sun with someone's hand if you wanna.

Well, so the sun is still butterly warm and nice but plans need to be replaced. J and M need their comfort. Not just clean beds and a clean shower kinda accommodation for them. So how positively we accept this unaccepted news and decide to change, decides how the rest of the holiday would feel. The original plan of Paro, Haa, Thimpu and Punakha changes to Paro, Thimpu and Bumthang.....and we return to the hotel to pack our things and head to Thimpu as we just have one working day to see that we have our permits with us. Yes, for Paro and Thimpu Indians do not need permits but to venture else where you need permits from the Bhutanese immigration office.....that can be done in person, through the travel agent or even the hotel help desk.

It is a beautiful 2 hours drive from Paro to Thimpu, along the Wang Chhu ( river) and you can stop to buy the fresh fruits, churpis ( if you have the taste and teeth for it) etc from the road side stalls. But NOooooo, the Thimpu of my parents' days, with those quaintly carved stone houses, forests that ended almost at your fence had changed. It looked like an ugly, concrete mess mushrooming haphazardly where ever it found some space. The malls and the hotels were an eye sore. Only one night here and no more I decide. Yes, there are some nice places to see like the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Mini-Zoo, the Institute of 13 Art forms of Bhutan ......

The last seemed the most interesting to me. And we head to see it. Yes, they are still done by hand with lots of respect and dedication and the artists still earn a lot of reverence if not money. I try to spent sometime talking with the students, wondering if I am an intruder.....but they are polite and with again that infectious smile that follows you so often, they explain to me with patience the art, its intricacies and the years of labour it requires to master it. They give a throaty laugh when I tell them how clumsy and hopeless I can be in art....and say everyone has something within as the creator cannot create anyone without leaving a piece of that within the person. I give them a smile, if it was a joke, I love it....and if it was the truth...i love it more.
And with that sheepish smile still on my face I continue admiring the art forms.

1. Dezo or the art of hand made paper making,  made mainly from the Daphne plant and gum from a creeper root.
2. Dozo or Stonework or Stone arts used in the construction of stone pools and the outer walls of dzongs, goenpa (monasteries), stupas etc.
3.Garzo, the Blacksmithing used to make everyday items such as farm tools, knives, swords, and utensils.
4.Jinzo  or the Clay arts used to make those beautiful religious statues and ritual objects, pottery and the construction of buildings using mortar, plaster, and rammed earth.
5.Lhazo or Painting one sees on thangkas (religious wall hangings), walls paintings, and statues to the decorations on furniture and window-frames.
6.Lugzo, the  Bronze casting learnt to produce bronze roof-crests, statues, bells, and ritual instruments, in addition to jewelry and household items using sand casting and lost-wax   casting. Larger statues are made by repoussé.

7.Parzo - Wood, slate, and stone carving used for printing blocks for religious texts, masks, furniture, altars, and the slate images adorning many shrines and altars.
8.Shagzo or Wood turning for making a variety of bowls, plates, cups, and other containers.
9.Shingzo the Woodwork in the construction of dzongs and goenpa (monasteries)
10.Thagzo - Weaving: The production of some of the most intricately woven fabrics produced in Asia.
11.Trözo - Silver, Copper and Goldsmithing make jewelry, ritual objects, and utilitarian household items.
12.Tshazo - Cane and Bamboo Work: The production of such varied items as bows and arrows, baskets, drinks containers, utensils, musical instruments, fences, and mats.
13.Tshemazo – Needlework to make clothes, boots, or the most intricate of applique thangkas (religious wall hangings).

We go to The Telecom centre to get the view of Thimpu town.....and yes, it is a beautiful valley you notice and can give some wonderful night shots. But I am in a mood to race M down the road and J has to find a Prado by night for the long journey to Bumthang we have planned for the next day.

Bhutan has many and various kinds of SUVs but peak season and yes, you need to really work for it. We did and the next morning I see the Prado parked outside the hotel and M gets so excited he baptizes it with a new name the Beast.
After J's spinal injury he needs a comfortable vehicle to do long distances and the Beast was just right.
The journey begins and as soon as you reach the outskirts of Thimpu town, the apple orchards, forests of blue pine and mountains become your companions. Goempas and lakhangs are numerous on the route but we decide not to do too many lest we become " goempa fatigued".

 So our first stop is at Dochu La ( 3140mts) marked by an array of prayer flags of all hue and 108 chortens. A place I fell in love with instantly. Imagine oneself sitting on the steps or the green grass amidst the silence of chortens and watching the snow-capped Bhutan Himalayas.

Yes, things that give you the real peace or pleasure can not be bought by money; they are simply priceless. I do not know how long I sat there.....soaking the beauty,listening to the whispers of the prayers carried by the winds with each flutter of the flags, unconcerned about the occasional noise of vehicle crossing by.

But if you can drag yourself away from the chortens and still want the view with some warm delicious coffee then drive up to the cafeteria a few metres ahead. They serve meals, beverages and sell souvenirs, and some of the 13 art forms of Bhutan. Yes the art do not come cheap. So I had to do with just admiring and dreaming of being rich one day.

While I was doing this M used the powerful telescope and J helped him to identify the peaks: Kang Bam 6526m, Gangchchenta 6840m, Masang Gang 7165m, Tsenda Gang 7100m, Teri Gang 7300m, Jejekangphu Gang 7100m, Zongphu Gang 7100m, Gangkhar Puensum 7541m.

I am not sure how accurate they were in spotting but I immersed myself in a book telling tales of spirits that inhabit the way to these passes and peaks. The cannibal demoness and various others who were subdued by Lama Drukpa Kunley or the divine madman.

We drive further, sometimes dozing off, sometimes watching the vegetation change to alder, cypress, fir and the daphne bush used to make handmade paper.
When we descend to Thinleygang, the vegetation changes to cactus, oranges and even bamboo. The rocks and cliffs have the chants painted on it.
We know we have to reach Bhumthang which was still many many hours far but we just get tempted to make a short visit to Punakha. The story says that Guru Rimpoche and foretold that a man named Namgyal would arrive at the hill that looked like and elephant and built this Dzong which is Bhutan's socond dzong.

It requires a rather child like imagination to visualize the elephant shaped hill but at the beautiful confluence of the mother and father rivers Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu, the impressive dzong was built.
Yes, believe me it is a dzong you will not mind to kill to see it, so marvellous is its beauty and architecture and so steeped it is in folklore and history and so priceless are the treasures it stores.
But preparations of the wedding was going on in the dzong and none could tell how many hours we needed to wait to be allowed to go in. And I really didn't know whom to kill either with a knife or smile so with a sigh and a " next time" we move ahead to Wangdue.

The dzong and palace in Wangdue stands commandingly on a ridge next to Punak Chhu and surrounded by cactii to discourage invaders to climb the slopes. The celebration of Tsechu was in full swing and we join in the mirth.
The comedians offer a break in the Tsechu festival. They often carry an artificial phallus and also dance the legend of this Guru called " Mad man" who subdued demons and spirits.

But the clock keeps reminding that Bumthang is still far and we drag our unwilling legs back to the Beast to drive across the Black Mountains via Pele La ( 3420m), crossing villages which gave a yawned look at us through the golden rays of sun and fields that shone and blushed golden like girls that come of age and know how to lure the admirers. And I do give in to the allurements that nature throws at every bend and corner. Yes, even in Paradise you can not stop yourself to yield into temptations.
 But J and M prefer to give in to deep slumber, and Dorjee , our young driver and I keep our conversations going. Not that he was a wonderful story teller or even a garrulous person but I didn't want him to doze off as it had already started getting dark when from a view point I see the famous Trongsa Dzong and the Ta Dzong, which serves as a museum cum old time watch tower.

I pack my camera. I know more stops will delay us further and we had to reach Bumthang. The valley of Bumthang is supposed to be in the shape of bumpa, the vessel to keep the holy water and thang is field or flat land. Though Dorjee tells me that bum also means girl and the women of Bumthang are exceptionally beautiful. I was yet to find that out but if I went by the looks of the new queen who hails from Bumthang, I know he was not wrong.
So we just drive, watching the numerous waterfalls, listening to Dorjee's occasional tale or his selection of music and then enjoying the moon when it comes up to flood the earth with it's mellow light.
I know our hotel in Bumthang is nice and even if the spa might close by the time we reach, the beds will be warm and inviting. The thought brings a smile on my face. I realise that I had been smiling quite too often in this country called Bhutan.

Time to sleep after an almost 11 hours journey ( breaks included in the time)
The Dzong in Trongsa and the watch tower above......a must see. It is important for the royalty to act as the governor of Trongsa before he becomes King.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Kuzu zangpo ( Bhutan Story 1)

Yes Kuzu zangpo,but from which land?
I would have loved to called it...from a Land of Nostalgia....but since I was really a child when the country was a temporary home, I actually have a few insignificant memories of the land. My parents  could not join me in the trip and hence there is no one to help me hunt the bones of memories.

I will have to open a new page with this country which has earned a bounty of epithets. Clichéd  they may sound for sure, but dissenters you will find rarely. So call it : The Last Shangri-la, The Mythical Shangri-la,  The Last Place on the Roof of the World, Jewel of the Himalayas, Magical Kingdom, A Living Eden, Land of the Peaceful Thunder Dragon, Druk Yul.....

If you are of spiritual bend of mind, go ahead with: Lotus Garden of the Gods, Hidden Holy Land, Heaven on Earth…

And because my visit is during a time of the Royal Wedding, I am not too surprised when I hear tourists refer it as: Kingdom in the Sky, Kingdom in the Clouds,  Last Buddhist Kingdom.....

My epithets revolve around my own personal experiences....and my grey cells or heart cells ( I am not sure what they are called ie the heart cells and I am certainly not talking of anatomy or physiology) need some time to form impressions.

But the cooing of the pigeons in a resort built in 1974 in Paro, during the 4th King's the only sound I remember from my childhood. But it is only three days, I have just arrived.......

A Living Eden
( People watching the black hat dancers and the cham dances during the festival of Tsechu . )


Altitude 2,280 m.

Early morning.

I look out of the window and see the hills and the clouds move languidly over them; as if they are hung in a completely erroneous time frame where the hustle and bustle of life has no meaning. My breath turns into water as it hits the window. M, my little travel companion enjoys sketching faces on the glass panes. Most of the time faces with funny smiles.

This time I am not alone in my travel. J and M are with me. M says we are  J.A.M and yes he is correct; we are sometimes sweet, mild and flavoured, coloured like jam but there are also times when our different colours and flavours puts us into a sticky moods....

I remind myself that we are three people looking out for three different things from this travel. M is always curious and adventurous, J is the most level-headed and often seeks relaxation, and I, the A, is always seeking something....always sure what she does not want from people, from herself, from life but never sure what she wants.

But it’s time to put a break in my reverie and step out of the room.

The province or Dzongkhang of Paro can be called the rice bowl of the Kingdom – stretches of golden fields of the wonderful red rice, almost ready for the harvest, spreads unobstacled but say by a gurgling stream or the rolling mountains. The 176 big and smaller lhakhangs and the 427 choetens and of course the country’s only airport may break the unending golden view with colours and interests of their own.

Paro Dzong or let me call it by its right name Rinchen Ping Dzong, the fortress on a heap of jewels, is not surprisingly our first stop. An impressive example of Bhutanese architecture, the dzong is across the Paro Chhu  connected by the wooden bridge called Nyamai Zam and was built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and was used on numerous occasions to defend the Paro valley from invasions by Tibet. In fact there used to be old, gigantic catapults to throw the big boulders but it is Tsechu festival time and the music and dances performed in the dochey ( courtyard within the dzong) pulls us. The crowd and security also gently pushes us towards the performance area than explore the fortress which had survived the 1897 earthquake but damaged badly by the 1907 fire.  The present structure is the rebuilt one and houses the statues of Sakyamuni, Guru Rimpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgya. Through the festivity filled air we notice the Utse, the central tower built by the first Penlop (governor of the region) and the many lhakhangs within the Dzong. And we notice the people, gathered as families, enjoying the dances, men wearing the best gho and the women with the colourful jackets and kira.....children alike. And with the colourful attire, all wearing the shy or big but certainly a genuine smile.

( The various dances like the masked dance performed during the Tsechu festival.)

The smile comes easily but the food takes time as we lunch on Norsaa Paa ( Sliced Beef cooked with green vegetables), Kewa Datshi ( Potato with Cheese), some Maaru ie curry made of spinach and the red rice. The food most of the time is prepared fresh and it is always better to place orders before hunger strikes....or keep some emergency food handy.

Tucked away in the soft folds of countryside hills is the ruins of Drugyal Dzong ( Victorious Fortress), which tells tales of invasions and victories and gives a clear view of Mount Jumolhari on clear days. A thick silence envelopes the place; broken only by the birds and the rustle of dry leaves beneath ones own feet.
Kyichu Lhakhang, dating back to 7th century, has twin temples- the older built by Buddhist Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo, holding the left foot of the ogress whose body covers the whole of Bhutan and the eastern Tibet and the new one by Ashi Kesang Choedan Wangchuck, the queen Grandmother of Bhutan. I sit under the perennially fruiting orange tree and meditate on the statutes of Sakyamuni, and the 11 headed, 1000 handed Chenresig while M befriends the stray dogs that inhabit every street, house or dzong in Bhutan and J strolls by......

Images of prayer flags fluttering in the winds, spinning prayer wheels and the monks humming the chants lulls me to sleep.....
Tomorrow should be a good day again.

The red chillies...that spice up most of Bhutanese cuisine are seen drying up along the windows or roof tops. 

Wall painting of Guru Padmasambhabha and his tigress.

Murmuring a prayer by rotating a prayer wheel below the Drugyal Dzong.

Churpi- the dried cheese made of yak milk.

The rice fields in Paro.