Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pastoral Panoramas


I trotted downhill a couple of miles from home, trying to cover the final third of my journey. A tiny lady walked ahead of me, and as I walked past, waved and said something in Chinese(?)  I waved back with a cheery 'Morning' ( my 'Ni Hao' deserted me at that time, and in any case, might have been the wrong dialect with which to address her.) She was dressed in a dark red coat with pretty flowers embroidered along the front, and a pair of black capri pants.
We had reached a bit of a slope and I pressed on, and the ageless Grandma faltered behind me, having kept up with me until then at a very sprightly clip. I reached the top of the slope and turned the corner, glancing back to see where she was.
She was backing her way up the slope, waving her arms out to the sides. I stared. Was she alright, or having some sort of health problem. I ran back down the slope and she turned around smiling.
'Are you alright?'
She smiled again, saying something in Chinese.
'Are you lost? Where do you live?'
Again, an incomprehensible phrase, but with a hand pointing in the general direction of a few houses up the road, and a vigorous nod of the head.
She was alright, and appeared to know where she lived. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on my morning walk.
Not lost, after all.


M was heading out to London to see the Lion King musical with her uncle and cousin.
'Do you know our address and phone number, in case you get separated from Chittappa in the crowds?'
It was time to grab a piece of paper and note down the essential details.
'Keep this with you, and in case you get lost, approach any lady or police officer and ask them for help.'
M looked highly insulted.
'I'm not going to get lost.' with all the indignation that her thirteen years could muster.
'You are not going to get lost. But better safe than sorry'

She didn't get lost, and got back safely home after a lovely outing to Covent Garden, crowds and fancy car displays notwithstanding.


This morning, M and I walked out looking for a bookstore. M had run out of books to read in the third week of our stay in the UK and I had promised her that I would get her some more.

A little girl with harvest gold hair peeping from under her crochet hat, wearing a pale purple dress,white cardigan,red socks and red shoes, was walking slowly ahead of us. No adult was in sight.
We walked slowly past her, as she ruminated on something, gaze fixed on the sidewalk. I slowed down even further, with an uneasy feeling about this. Sure enough,she came running after us, and kept pace with us as we turned the corner.
She started speaking non-stop, and I strained to make out her accent.

Something about the cat in the corner house, which gazes at me solemnly each morning as I walk by. I tried asking her."Do you live in that house? What's the number of your house?"
She paused her chatter and considered: "It has a seven...and a six."
"Oh, is it 76? Let's walk you back there."
She assented and happily turned around with us. As we walked, I asked "What's your mum and dad's names?"
"My mum and dad died in a fire."
I wasn't expecting that, neither was M. Startled, I pressed on with the inquiries, trying to figure out which house she might belong to. "Do you know the name of the street you live on?"
"No, I don't remember..." She drifted off into more ramblings.
"What's your favorite colour?" she asked. "Mine's purple...and pink."
"I don't have a favorite colour." I replied. A thought struck me. "What is your name?'
"Emma*", she replied, barely audible.
"And your last name?"
"Ooh, blackberries! These taste good!" She reached out and took one from the blackberry hedge at the road corner.
"How old are you?", I asked.
I formulated a plan. I would take her to my sister's house, and call the police to let them know of the lost girl. It was better than leaving her wandering around the neighborhood, especially with the dodgy characters who appeared to inhabit the bus stop bench.
We walked past three or four houses, and paused for her to try shoo the cat which had moved onto a low roof.
Just then, a woman came running up, dressed in sweatpants, no shoes, just bare feet. She gathered up the girl, who launched herself into the arms with a vengeance.
"Is this your daughter? You must have been terrified!"
Poor woman, I thought. She barely spared me a glance, even as I tried to make eye contact with her. "We live at __ , and just happened to see your child walking about alone."
"We're at __, if you ever see her wandering about again", she tossed off in a hurry, as she turned to rush back to her house.

As I recounted the incident later to my sister, she trenchantly observed "She got lucky that you found her child and that the police were not called. They would have placed the kid in foster care, if they found out that she had not watched over her carefully." Ah, the perils of a nanny state.

Lost and found.

*Not her real name.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Moth

She got the head count for the party from her friend. - sambar for twenty people. "This should be fairly easy," she thought. Having routinely made sambar for ten people, she would just double the quantities and be done with it on the day of the picnic.
The day of the picnic dawned, bright and beautiful, after the heavy rains of the previous night. No more rain was in  the forecast for the day.
The dal was simmering away in the pressure cooker and the vegetables being chopped with alacrity, when the pressure cooker decided to malfunction and release steam prematurely. She rushed to remove it from the heat and realign the gasket. Back to the stove, with fingers crossed this time that the dal would finish cooking in peace. Alas, that was not to be. It turned out partly cooked and needed an additional round of steaming in the dubious cooker.
Finally, a good half hour later than planned, the sambar for twenty was done, poured into a disposable roaster, wrapped up in plastic wrap and aluminum foil ample enough to hermetically seal it for a voyage to outer space. Time to head out to the picnic, which was being held in a shelter at a local park.
The shelter was surrounded by large puddles of water,  the picnic tables covered with bird droppings, the remnants of last year's autumn wood fires in the chimney. A solitary chickadee hopped hopefully on the table, chirping as the people made their way gingerly past the puddles and slimy mud onto the concrete of the shelter. Time to get cracking on spreading plastic sheets and setting up the food for the picnic.
Two hours later, the dingy shelter looked transformed. People filled every nook and cranny, chairs were set up in the drying grass nearby, food aplenty on all the tables as everyone brought their offerings to the potluck. The sambar shared space with the onion chutney and idlis, and a few of the younger kids had already started digging into their share of the goodies.
She turned away from her chatting friends toward the food tables when she spied a commotion around the sambar pan and rushed to investigate. She saw a lady gingerly ladling out a scoop of it, and dashing it on the ground near the post. A black and red moth fluttered to the side, and one of the other ladies nearby took it into her head to attempt to stamp on the moth.
The hostess of the party rushed up. " I must discard the sambar!"she declared definitively and loudly.  Sambar-lady looked up in horror. "Oh no, it was barely in the sambar for more than a couple of seconds. After all my effort...", she wailed.
"Oh, but everyone has seen it fall into the sambar! I know, I feel so bad about having to toss out the sambar... but..." pleaded the hostess.
 "But what will the others do when they come to have the idlis. I don't think the chutney will be enough."
"The sambar is almost over anyway", said the hostess.
"No, it's only about a third done. That is a deep pan, so you will be tossing out two thirds of it. Any way, do what you wish", despaired Sambar-lady.
 She turned away, not wishing to see what transpired with her precious sambar and walked off to talk with other friends. A few minutes later, the hostess confirmed, with much apologies that she did decide to toss out the sambar.
"Watch out for the rest of the dishes that are now sitting out in the open. There are bound to be other insects to fall into them, if we aren't careful." tossed Sambar-lady as a final quip.

As to the moth, who knows whether it survived the stomp. Sambar-lady loves to think that it flew away despite the abuse heaped on its little self. And Sambar-lady will offer to only bring bottles of pop rather than slaving away over a stove the next time she appears at a picnic, as she recovers from the tragedy of the lost sambar.

Mystical Mornings

A picture is worth a thousand words...

Mornings, misty and otherwise.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Baby Sparrow

It looked at me and turned its back, busily attempting to munch on the remnants of an oak blossom stuck to our mat. Only the picture window and screen separated us, as I knelt on the carpet about 2 feet away inside the house, while the baby sparrow sat outside on the deck.

I moved up sneakily, every time its back was turned, feeling faintly like the creepy stone angels of Dr.Who. In just three tries, I was practically nose to beak with it.It stood unafraid and continued to chirp silently through the glass, picking at bits of dried leaf now. I could practically hear it accusing me "I'm hungry, give me food!", just like my human kids coming home ravenous after a hard day at school.

"Come here quick!", I called out to M, as she tapped away aimlessly at her iPod. "You have to see this little bird." She rushed and knelt by my side, as I continued my silent communion with the little feathered friend. It chirped some more, preened its feathers. "Look at the line of down around the wings!', M exclaimed. "What kind of bird is it?"

I didn't know offhand, though it had all the markings of a sparrow. I would need to look it up later. Should I rush for my camera or phone to try and capture it, or rest in the moment and just watch it? Decisions, decisions.  The minutes ticked by, and routine called. It was time to continue getting ready for school and work and the morning rush hour.

I stepped away regretfully, and sure enough, a moment later, Baby Sparrow had flown away.

Here is a photo of a baby sparrow, though not the one I saw, just to give a feel for what my encounter was like.  Although I must say, my baby sparrow was immeasurably cuter.