Last month, we went on a drive to Dodda Alada Mara, located 28 kilometers from Bengaluru. ‘Dodda Alada Mara’ literally means the Big Banyan Tree. During the drive, I told my daughter what a banyan tree is, how big a banyan tree can be, and about the aerial roots that start from their branches. I myself visualized a big banyan tree with its roots finding the way down into the soil.
There are mentions of banyan tree in religions, that originated in and around India. Earliest mention of it is in the Rig Veda, that originated around 5000 B.C. Lord Buddha was enlightened while meditation under a huge banyan tree, called Bodhi Tree. Great sages knew some secret that makes this tree something special.
As we entered the gate, my daughter shouted, “Jungle!”. It did look like a mini jungle with many happy monkeys screeching and jumping around. As soon as I entered the gate, my eyes fell on the information board just and started reading. My jaw dropped! What we assumed to be a ‘mini jungle’ was a single tree, spread around 3 acres. “This is huge!”, I exclaimed, and moved on to explore. There is a tiny temple in the premises of Dodda Alada Mara, outside of which, many people were offering prayers. Monkeys were happily climbing up and down the roots. Somewhere in between those roots and those branches, I was lost. Lost in thoughts: A moment of introspection. As we grow old, like the roots of the banyan tree finding its way in to the soil, we too find ourselves going back to our roots. Like the banyan tree grows high up and spread its branches wide, we grow, spread our presence in the social circles we live in. After we mature, like the roots of the banyan tree, we start to find our way back to where we belong – a journey backward. We want to be close to our home land, where we were born and spent our childhood. Our people and our cultures, from where we started our life’s journey seem so dear. I was snapped out of it by the bells in the temple and I heard my daughter ask, “Why are you smiling mommy?”
Red wine, Red wine
I don’t know why I whine!
Saw the up, saw the down
You are the only one my own!
Red wine, Red wine,
I think of you, when I dine.
After a day full of stress,
You are the only one I confess!
Red wine, Red wine!
Oh, don’t worry I am fine!
When the life turns its back,
I just change the track!
Oh, Red wine, I am fine!
“Mr. Funny caterpillar where are you going…
Mr. Funny caterpillar what are you doing…”
Sang my daughter as she got ready for school and the thought flashed in my mind like it did a hundred times in loop. “Had I placed the caterpillar elsewhere it would not have been alive”, I thought again.
A few days back after dropping off my daughter at school, I went for my walk. The pavement surrounding the apartment complex is good 500 meters, an excellent walkway. While walking I saw something moving on the pavement beside the parking lot. It was a big beautiful caterpillar wriggling towards the road from the pavement. I have never seen such a big caterpillar. I was amazed at the different ways in which the Almighty brings out life. So beautiful, so unique! I wondered how the butterfly or moth that was inside would look like. I clicked a picture of it on my phone and continued to walk. As I passed the little voice inside me said “help it reach the garden on the other side of the road”. “May be during the next round, the busy hours of traffic are over, so no worries” I replied to myself and left. As I came closer to the corner, where I found the caterpillar during the second round, I started searching for it. There it was smashed on the road. My heart broke into a million pieces. It was not far away from where I found it. Some car smashed it right after I left. I wish I had listened to the little voice. I stood there for some time as all these thoughts passed. Feeling guilty I walked towards my apartment.
While dropping my daughter off to school today, I saw another caterpillar. A cute little colourful one wriggling on the pavement going in the direction of nearby bushes. I started to search frantically for a twig or something to pick it up and place in the bushes. My daughter’s and her grandpa’s chorus stopped and the duo gave me a what-is-wrong-with-her look. I told I want to help the caterpillar. “Not needed” said grandpa, “I will tell you why, after we drop her off” he added.
On the way back, my heart was in my mouth as I neared the bushes. I searched for the caterpillar, there was no trace of it. I was worried and told my dad why I was trying to save the caterpillar. After hearing the whole episode, dad said “You do not have to feel guilty of not saving the caterpillar. The energy that kept the caterpillar alive must have gone into some other body to keep that alive. That caterpillar’s time on earth had to end, to take some other form. If it had to live, you would have just picked it up without even a thought. It was meant to die, as another form was waiting for its life energy. It is alive in some or the other form. Why worry? Lord Krishna says that in Bhagavad Gita. I think you need to read Gita again”. We both went silent thereafter. The song my daughter sang played with a very different meaning in my mind since then.
“Mr. Funny caterpillar where are you going…
Mr. Funny caterpillar what are you doing…”
In the quiet hours of afternoon, I stood in the balcony watching a Gerbera Daisy bud, swaying in the breeze. A light breeze blew a few strands of hair that were resting on my cheeks and it took me to something back in Alleppey, a smile blossomed on my face.
Alleppey, my hometown is an abode to all sorts of water bodies. It has lagoons, canals, backwaters and beaches. Each time I visit, I am mesmerized by the scenic waterways, and the reminiscence of what was once a well-planned hub of business and transportation. With the development of much bigger Cochin port nearby and other means of transportation like roads and railways, development of Alleppey took a back seat. Small canals, which once crowded with canoes that took goods and people in and out of the city are now covered with a layer of weeds. The city is now a major tourist location.
Whenever I visit Alleppey, I never miss an opportunity to visit the Beach. I hear Her welcomes from far. When I reach close by the welcomes become louder. When I get closer, walking in the sand, Her waves make a big thud and rush to embrace me as if they know I have stepped on her sands. The waves are carpeted with tiny white bubbles that pop at my feet as if in celebration of my return. The canvass of sky bears different hues and strokes each time. Whenever we meet, I make sure there are some quiet moments between us. I close my eyes and listen to the thunderous thud the waves make, and feel the breeze and soak in the warmth of the sun. The Beach patiently listens to the beats of my heart and feels the storm in my mind, strokes my hair with the breeze and calms the storm. As I enjoy the welcome of the waves, one after the other, they dig my feet deep in the sand without my knowledge, rooting me deep within as if they do not want me to leave. Before I get back home, I make a promise to return soon.
This is what these innocent places do to you, isn’t it? They cleanse you and connect to your heart so well that no matter how far you go, you find your heart lost in the nook and corners of those places and beating for it.
Mr. Little Cactus sat in a small cup at my desk (the little cactus at the right side in the picture). I looked at him, his little new leaves for ideas to write. He was a source of inspiration for me. He listened to my grumbling and mumbling during quiet hours when no one is at home. Yesterday night when I was going to give him some water, I saw him broken away from the roots. It left me broken. A few moments of the shock-stare seemed like eternity. I was snapped out of it by the little someone who was pulling my T-shirt because I did not answer one of her questions, else it would have taken a little longer to digest the reality. I was sad. So sad.
I went ahead to my little garden to dispose it off. As I was about to do it, I saw something red in the soil in one of the pots. It was a small, tender branch of my Rose plant. I took it in my hands for an inspection. I found out the plant was preparing another flower. A small bud of rose was there safe in middle of those little leaves. That killed me a little more! I gently stroked it thinking about the many smiles it would have brought to me. My daughter would have had some more stories to tell, and a new set of questions to ask. All gone with it.
Now as I am writing, those little guys are there resting in one of the garden pots. They will become manure to other plants. The bud was just not meant to bloom, its time on earth has ended. Like a wave on the beach coming and touching my feet gently they came and left giving me some memories to cherish. Thank you Lil guys!
I had been to Karkala this weekend. A small town in Udupi district, Karnataka, where my husband belongs to. Located at the foothills of the vibrant Western Ghats, this place during monsoon is a nature lover’s dream. All you get to see especially during rains is the fresh lush green growth as far as your eyes could see. I love that place for what it holds within it, people, culture, cuisine, nature and more.
I had ‘Alambo’ a.k.a. Thunder mushrooms, this time during my visit. Though the name sounds something thunderous, they are pretty small and delicious, stemless mushrooms. Its one of the seasonal foods that is available during the rainy season, especially during the rains accompanied by thunder and lightning. My mother-in-law was preparing Alambe Ambat, a sumptuous Konkani dish, made out of mushroom and coconut based gravy, that is loved by Konkanis in the region. She was cleaning the mushrooms, I learnt how to do it and I joined in. As I cleaned it, I was thinking of the many smiles that will come out of the melting taste of it. It has this little bit hard, clingy, rubbery outer skin, inside of it, is a white pebble like delicate mushroom. This is the face of happiness, I thought. Happiness in life is just like those mushrooms. We have to find those tiny bit of happiness underneath the soil even during those thunderous rainy days. Even though there is a little bit of rubbery layer of anxiety or fear that clings to us, tear it off! Enjoy what’s inside though its negligible and momentary! Gather them slowly so that it becomes a handful. Make something out of it so that it melts many hearts and gets those hard to find smiles out.
This place has made me so happy from deep within. Nature, the healer has blessed this place truly. My guide, there in Karkala and in life, is my husband. He takes me to various places there in Karkala. Never lets me sit idle at home. We have been to many eateries, and tourist places there before, there are some places you would want to visit again and again. One such recurrent spot is a Jain Shrine at Gommata betta. Its a rocky hill on to which a 41.5ft granite statue of Lord Bahubali is mounted on a platform. I was amazed to know that the whole statue is carved out of a single stone. To reach on top we have to climb the stairs carved through the hill. The view from there is breathless. Our favourite spot to watch the sun set. As we climb down each time, he asks me “Manchurian at Mallya’s Angdi (Shop)?” without fail, to which I never said a no to and I never will. It is that tasty. My husband surely picks up those small bits of happiness to bring a smile on my face. I surely am a lucky woman!
With the start of the academic year, starts a rat race. A race to get Albert Einstein and Marie Curie out of children. Little do some parents realize that if children are left to pursue what they like, and nurture them, they may grow into Leonardo da Vinci or may be Pele in later years. Let us give our children a childhood full of memories to go back to at later point of their lives. Like I am doing now, as I sit with my daughter’s books and some brown paper to bind. I was cupping my hands and feeling the edge of the book underneath the sheet, and the time line in my mind scrolled a lot back to 90’s when my mother used to sit with me and my brother during the book binding sessions. While she bound my books, I used to always wonder what new I might be learning. And yes I loved the smell of new books. I still do. Slowly my mother taught me how to bind. In a few years I will teach my daughter how to do it. Thank you mom.
Meanwhile, my daughter woke up and came to me. She looked at the books and asked “My books?”, “yes” I replied. “You’ve to go to school today” I said. I noticed her eye brows where pulled together in a Do-I-Have-To-Go manner. “Don’t you want to go?” I asked. “Yes” came the reply. Then I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude towards the teachers at the pre-school who toiled to settle her down and make her feel school is a secure place. Initial days at the pre-school were equally stressful to me and her. She was never willing to part with me. Then after a couple of months the stress levels gradually came down. Towards the end of the pre-school days she used to pick four to five fallen flowers, at the apartment pavement check for its freshness and bundle them with her little fingers while going to the school. Later I learnt she used to give them to her teacher. I was speechless. A little human being, who is two and something was practicing gratitude.
I thank those teachers who wiped her tears and held her closely, during stressful times. A million thanks to you for protecting her from falls and many more for teaching her all good things. May their blessings protect the children they taught like a brown binding sheet to a book, a book in which they will write their destiny!