Winter in Baroda is my favourite season. I say this faithfully every year when the winter peeks out at me from the dust and grime of my once grand city of Baroda, the centre of learning in the princely state of the Gaekwad's. I strut about our home these days swishing my sari pallav and filling the morning and dusk air with incense and the fresh fragrance of traditional galkota ka haar's (that most often are gifted to us by our spiritual children); and which hang from the old brass bells at the entrance, in our living room and on the stairwell landing that leads up to our bedrooms.
Perhaps old memories from my own childhood and stories narrated to me by Surendran of his; of lamps lit in the dusk in Bangalore and Kerala in both our respective ancestral homes, that cast flickering shadows and a divine glow that evokes the well being of the inhabitants of the house; becomes the magic that we unconsciously recreate as the emblems of home and personal traditions.
When flying back from Kerala two days ago the night landscape of flickering city lights appeared like millions of tear drops glistening at me, as though grieving with me over the loss of our loved one. Home has those connotations that give to your heart what you desire, where even those run down spaces of your own existence hold the familiarity of comfort and solace and give to you a space of belonging that is precious and real.
I often keep my favourite photographs inside the books that I have loved reading. And so when I leaf through them again I chance upon these treasured images, and delight in the way they are brought back to my attention again unexpectedly.
As I sit to write this blog the afternoon light falls on the wooden slates of the chattai in my studio verandah and the birds in the mango trees in my neighbours garden converse noisily, perhaps having a tea party I am not invited to! My studio fans whirl slowly and my adopted grand-daughter Aditi sits next to me immersed in her classwork preparations on the computer. My facilitator sits on the other side of me completing a task on the other computer, and of course Begum our cat snoozes on the chaise lounge replete and exhausted as usual from doing nothing other than eating!
The winters in India cover the most extreme contains of cold to the areas that remain hot through the twelve months of every year. I like the in-between zones where it is moderately cold in a cosy sort of way. Where bhajiya's and cups of steaming masala chai is the call of the hour. Where hot chocolate and cup cakes can be downed without pangs of guilt over calories. And where curling up with a book and a blanket is sheer heavenly bliss. Tonight I will sit out with my two spiritual daughters on our front verandah with the fairy lights blinking , and we will have green tea and chat.
Small rituals that make memories of home and belonging.