Shiva, the Limitless and His tranquil Trimbakeshwar!

Ask me what intrigues me the most. My prompt reply would be ‘the transformer, the supreme concept of Lord Shiva‘. I feel that Shiva is there but no where. How simple, soft, compassionate, straight-forward and formless and yet so powerful, infinite and fascinating is He? He is an enigma.

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Ask me where I want to go all the time. In my mind there is this ancient stone Shiva temple tucked away in a deep forest and with a river burbling by its side, bringing me a whole lot of tranquility and inner peace taking me far from this tumultuous world. Yet, the question still remains. Can inner peace be achieved only by running away to a serene place? What is the idea of Shiva telling me..to run away or to flow with life? And I think, the answer is this simple – “Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected”.

My today’s post is about one of my most favourable places on this earth, the ancient Hindu Shiva Temple and one of the 12 Jyothirlingas, Trimbakeshwar.

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Jyothirlinga, the infinite pillar of light means ‘The Radiant Sign of The Almighty Shiva‘. Trimbakeshwar is surrounded by three hills namely Brahmagiri, Nilagiri and Kalagiri. River Godavari originated in these hills and can be seen distantly from the Lord’s abode. A very serene place, it gets more verdant during monsoons. About the temple, read more here on wiki.

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It is a very positive experience visiting Trimbakeshwar. You will be given yourself after the visit. You will be left with some new questions in mind and you will get some answers too. You will be left in a unique peaceful state of mind to continue your quest for the light. The simplicity and stillness of the place combined with the aura and holiness of the formless Jyothirlinga radiates good vibes and shows you the right direction.

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Did you ever visit Trimbakeshwar? Leave a comment with your experiences. Will see you later 🙂

The unfathomable Grand Canyon.

Let me be frank. I don’t get it when people say what’s in Grand Canyon except for the rock. Personally, I get very philosophical every time I visit it or think about it. May be it’s just me, as it is said ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder‘. So, here is my little ode to this magnificent natural wonder that awe-inspires me every single time I visit it.

Standing royal, the Grand Canyon reiterates the power of nature to us. Every glance at its dimensions takes our breath away and each attempt to peruse it reminds us how tiny we are in this Universe. It inspires us to be undeterred by the trivial problems of life and to stand sentinel to protect ourselves and those who trust in us. Here is my Grand Salute, to The Grand Canyon!

This photograph was taken by me a few years ago when we visited the Canyon during winter time. Isn’t it more stunning to see it dotted with snow, and don’t you agree that no camera can beat the naked eye’s view! 🙂

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Do share links of your blogs on Grand Canyon, I would love to read!

 

My tryst with Madhubani!

Let me begin with this quote, Art takes nature as its model – Aristotle.

I have been longing for a while to get my creative self explore the surreal yet very real Madhubani/Mithila Art. Like they say some days Motivation finds you, today I let my monochromatic black and white imagination flow and take the shape of a Katchni style Madhubani Painting. Before I brief you about this art form, here is the small painting that I finished today…and I thoroughly enjoyed doing every detail, and especially since I chose my favourite Sun God as the subject.

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Mithila or Madhubani Art is a very old art form originating from the Mithila region of India and Nepal, the majority of which falls within modern day Indian state of Bihar. This fascinating folk art which was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls and floors of huts is characterized by the use of geometric shapes and patterns to depict nature and mythology. The themes represent scenes of courtship, wedding and other folklore, and revolve around illustrating devotion, love, prosperity, fertility, valor, good luck etc in the form of specific symbols like fish, the Sun God, peacocks etc each of which has a specially associated meaning. The modern day Madhubani Paintings are being done on paper and cloth also, using colors that are plant derived and paper that is hand made. If you are an avid reader and an art enthusiast and want to know more about this specific art form, this book ‘Madhubani Painting by Upendra Thakur’ is quite a good read.

What captivated me about this art form was the remarkable usage of elements in nature to depict life events stating that nature and man are inseperable. The striking and distinctive style involving geometric patterns for detailing makes it easy to read these paintings. Be it the monochromatic black and white line work called the Katchni style or the Bharni style where subjects are filled with vibrant solid colors or the less detailed Godhna style where figures appear in symmetry and concentric, Madhubani paintings are sure to leave you in awe-inspiration, and like Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

And, I end my small write-up on Madhubani Paintings leaving it all to your art hungry soul to research more about this fascinating art form and if possible encourage. Have a wonderful day readers, and painters. 🙂

A happy day with the Arts People!

Last weekend, as the sun shone bright, I reached the venue where I was supposed to volunteer as a Vendor Relief, and was so looking forward to it. With not many expectations in mind, I checked in to the Phoenix Festival of the Arts and took my badge and t-shirt.

Spotting this mom-dotty duo who were volunteering at the entrance welcoming guests and just began to have their lunch, I took a quick chance to approach them and ask for their company as I was already starving. So, that’s how my day began, with very pleasant and welcoming lunch partners. Is this how life feels in a strange land, with strange people? Yeah, I think being in the company of total strangers is one of the nicest feelings in this world. No prejudices, no barriers, no opinions, no distances and no strings attached. We enjoyed lunch together while we spoke about what and why the volunteering, etc. Also, I got to see this Christmas Parade by some pretty  children in the Fair Grounds.

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My next stop was the beginning of my volunteering. So, this event was an Art Festival held by the Phoenix center for the Arts every year.

As a Vendor Relief, my job was to go around booths asking if they needed some break and I could watch the booth for them. “When you help others, you actually help yourself”, said Swami Vivekananda. And yes, how true is that! Every time I volunteer, or help someone, or do good, it comes back to me. And what is it? The positivity, the goodness and the satisfaction. And also I get a good exposure of the world, the people in it, their stories, their joys and their sorrows. It opens up my mind to wider arenas and my heart to acceptance. This time also, I am so thankful to the Universe that I had a fantastic experience and I got to learn many new things from all these artists. So, why don’t do you join me and share my experience? 🙂

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First things first. Dressing up to the occasion. Well, it is definitely a choice, if you don’t want to. But, dressing appropriately to an occasion connects you to the event, puts you in the right mood and also changes the way people look at you which is important if you want to ‘connect’.

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Since it was an Art Festival, I decided to give an Ethnic touch to my ensemble by wearing a Red Cotton high-low kurti with white printed designs on it that I got in India paired with blue jeans. Wearing an Indian Kurti, when you are in an Art Festival on a Foreign land is for sure trendy and classy, and makes it look unique. I paired this attire with big cream colored Stone ear-hangings, and a knitted scarf to beat the cold in case. But, tee hee..once I got the volunteer t-shirt, I had to layer myself up with it that’s a different story though 😉 To perfectly complement the outfit, I carried my favorite Fossil Explorer Straw Cross Body Bag and wore my perfect colorful Mojdis bought in a craft expo in Hyderabad, India, though replaced them later with my comfy Crocs as my walking time increased. Ta da! Didnt I pretty much nail the outfit?

My first stop was this booth where a lady was exhibiting her hand made jewelry. Call it an act of Universe or not, a particular blue resin pendant caught my attention and it had etched on it, Dancing Ganesha with eight arms. I am a Hindu, and all our prayers and Pujas first begin with praying to Lord Ganesh. You can read more about the significance here. Isn’t it interesting that you are alone on a strange land, with complete strangers around you and how the Universe makes you feel that you are still connected and belonged. I asked her if she needed a reliever, to which she said No and then we had a brief conversation about her beautiful jewelry creations. It was a fun start!

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Moving on further, I found this very creative artist Kelly, who is a graphic designer and also creates her own designs and prints. Her designs were beautiful and after discussing about both of our interests and goals in life, what and how etc, I watched her booth for a while and she took a quick break. This meeting is so special to me because of late I was looking for some answers regarding Graphic Design and related fields, and voila I get to meet with this awesome artist specialized in the same field! Visit her website here to know more about her works.

As I kept walking further down the aisles, the talent and creativity of the various artists and artisans enthralled me and the variety of stalls that lined up amazed me. The diversity of arts included Pottery, Canvas Paintings, Glass Art, Hand Made Jewelry, Homemade Bath and Body Products, Arts and crafts made of Recycled metal, Handmade bags, Custom Printed T-shirts, Pashmina Scarves, and what not! There was live music and food trucks served up delicious warm food. Kids played around in merriment. It was a fun-filled warm sunny Saturday.

In another brief meeting, I met this lovely couple from Berrie Creative who were selling their unique and creative vibrant colored lampshades made of glass and wire. And I did not know that a small conversation with them would give me a hope for a life-time! They told me how to never give up on an interest and keep experimenting. Trust me, I have never seen such creative glass art in my life. The lamp shades were mesmerizing.

Later, I relieved a couple of artists so that they have their lunch. They were very kind and appreciated me for helping them out. Isn’t is wonderful when people realize your effort and good intentions and respond back to you positively. Ohh, what would I do without all these beautiful people in my life!

My next stop was Reflections in Metal, a unique art handcrafted out of rolled steel. Their display had amazing pieces of art and in quite large numbers. The vendors were so welcoming and were explaining well about their art to the guests. I couldn’t remember their names, but after talking about their work I took a photograph with them which made them very happy. And when I waved them Goodbye and Merry Christmas, the eldest gentleman of the two stopped me and gifted me a Metal Cross that was among the items being sold! Wow! What was that! Does affection and appreciation has any bounds? I was so elated, particularly when someone fondly gifted me a Cross, and that too during Christmas season…like I always believe, connections don’t happen without a reason. Now, this Cross is in my Puja room along with the other Gods. I am Hindu, and what Hinduism teaches is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It is a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu texts such as the Maha Upanishad, which means “The world is one family”, and I believe in it. 

My next meeting was with Mr. David Jarvinen of The Mosaic Guys who stunned me with his Mosaic Art work! We exchanged a few pleasantries about India and its vivacious culture, and how David conducts workshops on his art teaching different skills. He has a great knowledge and understanding on art, culture, diversity of India and even Hinduism..so we talked about it for a while. It is very important for an artist to know about different cultures, don’t you think? This awareness widens ones horizons and helps in becoming more creative by drawing inspiration from a multitude of talents. I am so looking forward to meet David in one of his workshops some time in future. I would love to learn various mosaic art techniques 🙂

Taking a stroll asking vendors if they needed a break, I witnessed their passion for art and had many beautiful conversations. Me being an art lover, and a beginner in Acrylic Canvas Art met many Canvas Artists, Muralists and appreciated their work. Some of the muralists were donating the money from their sold murals to a humanitarian cause. It was a therapy to watch the paintings come alive! I made new connections, new friends and drew new inspirations 🙂

A special mention is needed about ‘Paintings by the disabled’ stall. All the paintings were unbelievably lively and excellent! We bought a miniature Canvas Painting of the Prickly Pear Cactus.

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Towards the end, my family joined me in the festival. They enjoyed live music and chilled out on the lawn watching Muralists painting murals under the warm winter sun. The whole environment was fun and frolic lifting up spirits.

And then while finishing up my shift, I met Amelie. With a calm face and a gorgeous smile, she invited me to her booth. Her paintings were so full of life, spirituality and love. I am so glad I got to know her and could make friends with her. Visit her website here to see more of her brilliant and life-changing artwork.

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Finally, I wrapped up my evening at the festival by taking my family around. My son goofed around all the while and really enjoyed each and every aspect of it. There were these folks from circus entertaining kids and adults alike, walking around the place.

We came back home after purchasing a lamp shade and a face balm from Flower Song Soaps.The lampshade now lights up our Puja/Meditation room. Every time I see the lamp, I remember that lovely couple, their smiles and the encouragement they gave me. I am using the face balm daily post scrubbing my face, and it gives me the perfect moisturizing for Arizonan winters along with an exquisite fragrance.

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So whenever I say I believe in Fairy tales, I mean it. Look what all this love gave me in the middle of an ordinary life – in deed a Fairy tale!

Thank you Phoenix Festival of the Arts for having me and thank you for everything. These moments will be cherished forever.

Thanks readers for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed sharing my experience. Do you have any such fairy tales in your life? Did you ever experience such happy moments. Please don’t forget to leave it in the comments 🙂

On a final note, I would like to appeal to you, please encourage and appreciate handcrafts and local made.

The Swimmer in me.

What is life when you don’t do things you longed to? Do you ever think what is holding you from doing them? Is it that may be they are not your thing? Or are you just procrastinating to a ‘some day in future’?

I ask these questions often to myself. Then I realize I have a lot of things queued up in my list and I am just whiling away the time doing things unwanted and unneeded, and so wasting opportunities. That is what I call ‘getting distracted from your purposes’.

One such thing in my to-do list that I have longed for was to be able to swim on my own (no supports). Life has given me not-so-many and not-so-few opportunities to learn swimming, but I never really could. I tried a few times and failed because life happened. And when I was ready for it, I did not have a proper guidance. I could swim with the support of an aqua belt, I could do laps. But what is the fun when you are not doing it on your own? I never liked the experience.

And well, like they say, things happen only when it’s the right time, I got a rare opportunity to learn swimming. And yes, this rare opportunity knocked my door just like every time when I was really tied up with the busiest responsibilities of my life and when I am not at all ready. But well, when you have to do it, you have to do it…and I finally learned to swim!

I swam alone, and I swam with myself…not like Phelps of course, but like myself. I will master it some day. But for now, I made a start and I am elated. 

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But, more than the proud feeling of becoming a successful swimmer who can swim in freestyle, tapping my legs, moving my hands, holding my breath and crawling forward making a stroke, what I love about swimming is the liberating feeling that I get.

Swimming takes you to a totally different world. It enlivens you and bails you out of stress. It is an exhilarating experience. It is therapeutic to get lost in the waters and feel lighter. Swimming is like to meditate.

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As I learnt the techniques, I realized swimming is logic and philosophy combined with self-confidence and trust in the science behind it.

Some rules of thumb to swim (not expert tips but major philosophy), from my diary.

  • Believe in the science.

When you stretch your arms and leave your legs to float, believe in the science. Believe in the Principle of flotation and the Archimedes Law. In lay man’s terms, since you are pumping up your lungs with air, you are like a balloon and you weigh less than the water you displace, hence you WILL float (automatically). When you believe in the science, you have no room for fear and you learn the floating technique easily. So, do not force yourself into the game foolishly, instead understand the technique.

  • Face your fears

Why face the fears, when you can not try and run away? Well, yes, you can do it. But how far can you run away and how many times? I love this quote by Nelson Mandela. “May your choice reflect your hopes, not your fears”. Think about it when you can swim but not sit on the banks to watch others having fun. Remember, the moment negativity creeps into your mind, the game is over. Shun it and move forward.

  • Move or Land – don’t be of two minds

When you have started to move forward, keep going. Do not be indecisive. It will confuse you and scare you. You either move forward, or land. Landing in water is also a technique to be learnt. Improper landing can sprain your legs and can get water into you.

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And of course it is absolutely important to master breathing technique and learn the proper posture to become a good swimmer and be injury-free. Bubble (inhale with mouth and exhale with your head in the water, repeat) every time in between laps to relax yourself.

I am hoping to learn the different techniques going forward in life. I am hoping to swim every summer, in pools, in lakes, in rivers and in seas?!

So, why not give it a try today if not already? Embrace the waters and embrace yourself. Find a new world and a new joy. Make a start today!  I hope you will have a happy and safe swimming! 🙂

 

 

Indian Masala Chai – Any takers?

As much as I await the monsoons in India, I also await to sip the comforting and warming ‘Masala Chai/Tea’..oh well, didn’t I say I can’t let go off my roots.

In the initial days when I was still learning to cook I never got the right consistency, taste and color of tea. My husband makes some very yummy tea and over time I learned the right way to prepare the Indian Chai. Now, here I am an expert at it, writing a blog on how to make it the perfect way.

Ingredients:

  • Some black tea, usually made out of boiling the Assamese Tea Leaves. We have a lot of brands that process and sell the leaves in India.
  • Milk (Your choice of cow’s milk, buffalo milk, full fat, fat free, skim milk, anything). I always stick to full fat buffalo milk when in India.
  • Sugar – optional.
  • Whole spices and herbs/Karha masala – hand pounded slightly to bring out the flavors.

Preparation:

  • Bring tea leaves to boil. I use one tea spoon of leaves to make a small cup for one person. If you are not sure about how much to put give it a try a couple of times to know the right measurement, as the amount can vary from brand to brand. Note, the tip for a better tasting tea is to slow boil leaves for a longer time in not too much, not too less water. This way, the black tea that gets made has a perfect consistency.

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  • Once you see black tea is ready, add the desired amount of milk. I use more milk and less water. I have seen people doing the ratio they want.
  • You should keep ready the hand-pounded spices and herbs. Usually, cardamom/elaichi, Cinnamon/Dalchini, Ginger/Adrak are used. You can very well use other spices like Black Pepper, Cloves etc. A gentle pounding will do. This spice mixture when added to the tea that’s ready for a good boil, lets the aroma, taste and the juice in it to seep into the tea.
  • You can add sugar at this point, or add it later/leave it.
  • Let the whole black tea+milk+spice mix+sugar boil on a slow flame. The more it boils, the better it tastes. Do not overdo boiling of course.
  • Turn off flame once the tea has completely boiled and come up the pot.
  • Use a tea strainer to catch the leaves, while you fill your tea cup with hot, yummy and comforting Masala Chai 🙂

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                                    Are you making yourself some tea then? 😊

Beyond this world, he belongs to the promised land..and he hypnotized me!

This post is a re-plug of what I wrote a few years back in my previous blog. It is very close to my heart, and so is the venerated gentleman in the post. Hence, I have chosen this to be my first post on this blog.

I remember it was the August of 2008. I had been to Vizag, my home town for a weekend. My dad asked me if I would like to go with him to meet an elderly gentleman aged 72 years who had been suffering from the dreadful Parkinson’s disease since two years.
I vaguely remember seeing him when I was around 8 years old in a social gathering, and since then I never got the chance meet to him again except for hearing about his where-abouts. In fact, I even forgot how he looked like. Now, when I had learned that he is in a very poor health, I readily agreed to accompany my dad to his home. But, I was a tad nervous and worried about seeing him nearing the end of his lifetime, and so the jittery butterflies fluttered in my stomach and the umpteen questions rose in my head.

The time had arrived and we were at his house’s door step. An elderly lady of age 67, opened the door. Upon introduction, I came to know she was his better half. I also learnt that they were childless and the fact that she and her mother who was nearing 97 by then had been serving him since the time he was complete bed-ridden took me by surprise and gave me the chills of inspiration.
I could sense an awesome flavor of spiritualism, repose and unflappability as soon as I entered their home.
This venerable couple were retired illustrious professors in a renowned University (he was a Telugu professor while she had been a Physics professor).
She helped us to get into the room where he was resting on his bed. Contradicting the thoughts and imaginations I had about this gentleman’s condition, I was pleasantly surprised to see his welcoming and smiling face as soon as we entered the room. The actualization moved me. For some time I completely forgot that I had come to meet a patient who would leave this world forever very soon.
This gentleman who was supposed to be a very tall and handsome personality in the past, had been reduced to mere bones. Bed sores got his back and he could hardly move. It was extremely awe-inspiring to find him smiling and unperturbed, even in such a bad condition with a body that is totally paralyzed.
To add to the stunning state of my mind, he recognized me and he also managed to utter my name with his extremely feeble and meek voice.
He also told my father that I sing well which I still wonder as to when he actually had heard me sing at my age of 9 and how he could remember that at this stage of his.
His mind as steady as before, his persona very young, lively and active as ever, his thoughts and wits still very wise.
That wonderful moment is the most inspiring and cherishing moment of my life. He also asked me to sing for him and I started off with an Annammaya Krithi without any mere hesitation, fully gingered up. He was very satisfied, relieved and happy to listen to my song and complimented me saying it took him into a divine world.
His attitude changed my mindset completely…in fact I realized that I was the real patient, who was very hesitant, scared, depressed and was in heights of my emotions to meet him. His encouragement had given me the courage and boost to sustain for a lifetime.
When my parents visited him after a few months, he took my name again and remembered my singing.

Ohh what a blessing I have had in my life, meeting him. Yes, it is in deed true that “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

And now, this day I am writing this blog as a tribute to this great person who had passed away recently.
Having attended his memorial service, I feel blessed to have listened to those awesome experiences that many people had in his company.
The happenings in his life and the good things about him that his friends/students/colleagues/relatives have shared were really enlivening. He is a great personality and is an inspirational icon to each and every person that had a chance to meet him.

I end this with my hearty and deep condolences to his family. I end this with a heavy heart. I thank you Sir for all those inspirational moments, I would carry that wonderful experience and inspiration throughout my journey.
I feel blessed to have met a great personality like you, and I pray God for your soul to Rest in Peace!
You truly belong to the Promised Land Sir, Subrahmanya Sastry Garu! Take a bow!