Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Signs of genius are aplenty at the campus. From the line of poplars and willows that line the drive (also work as a wind breaker) and the tumble of green of the farms and garden. Then you look around and see how the site has been chosen atop a cliff—so that was more than luck at work when the heavens opened up and poured in 2010, a meadow nearby became a rough gorge. The buildings are built  back-to mountains— solid protection  against the cold, gale-quality wind that begins every afternoon .What looks like building at different levels is smart thinking that has taken advantage of the difficult terrain… rooms have been set into a cliff, and mud construction used to make the rooms weather friendly. The larger buildings have glass facades, but the floors are stone set into mud, like mosaic, with wooded pillars and wood first floor built up patta-style. Not anti-plastic – plastic sheets used where sensible, in the stairwells for instance.

Realized just how cold it was when I reached the airport which was bricks-and-cement built.

Thoreau would have been pleased. As also Emerson. Almost completely self sufficient. Solar power. Solar heating. Solar cooker. Tap water from harnessed from a glacier stream. Drinking water from a handpump, groundwater courtesy the Indus that zestfully flows by. Milk from their cows, Badol and Baskit (little Thoksar is too little to but moo).Abundant farms—on difficult terrain, yes they use IV-tube drip irrigation. Greenhouses set well into the ground, stocking up for those killer winter months.  All waste is recycled  into compost, or modified and reused.

SECMOL time is one hour ahead of India time, daylight saving time—you get up early enough to see the first orange glow outlining distant snow clad mountains. Awake to cardamom- cinnamon “Cha” in the friendly common room with its magazines and guitars and insistent cats! 
Trying to get back to “normalcy” after  three weeks of serene, tranquil unconnected living…not much more to do than peel potatoes or roll endless parathas or go for a walk down the winding road—or just try teach some Hindi or English… At the campus there were 34 students who were taking their 12th, and about 15 college students who were commuting to the Leh college every day. Amazing spirit. The campus is run by them, they allocate different duties.

After the minus 8 minimum or more like 15-18 deg day temp that the (solar heated, mud wall rammed earth structure, all nature friendly) campus was maintained at, getting back to Mumbai has been a bit of a drain… just feel so hot all the time! The campus was v interesting—solar power, solar heating, own food grown on the farm, milk from cows, own water from the Indus, great library—but no cell signals, poor internet (via satellite) and a 3.5 km walk through rough terrain short-cut to the highway if you want to reach Leh, 18 odd km away… but what quiet, just the roar of the Indus past the cliff and the roar of the wind down the mountains…

The work days were pretty easy with plenty of free time. Then the whole jingbang decided to go on annual long tour to Himachal—a bus was hired, and all the camping and cooking good piled on top and away they went… about 8 of us volunteers stayed behind not wanting any more adventures with the great roads and cold… their 5 day trip turned into a 9 day one… vacation within a vacation… read a lot of good books and went on long walks. Ruth Jhabvala and RK Narayan…And slept—must have caught up on years of sleep deficit and built up reserves for years ahead. Such stars and clear skies the likes of which I’ve never seen.
But what kind of place is this, no one locked up the rooms, or was afraid of anyone dropping in unannounced—other than the Dzo ( a cow +yak mix breed), perhaps who would meander in every night jumping over the makeshift gate and try and eat up the vegetables and green…

"All is well!"—the SECMOL founder was the inspiration for the 3 Idiots character Phuntshok Wangdu, did you know that??

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Back, but
holding in my veins
the quiet of the mountains
changing colors of the willow- poplar
and afoot
the dancing Indus

as yet, 
unruly, untamed.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

  A pre trip publication bonanza, though some of these did get published earlier, only I found them now....

  A poem here:

Two translated poems here:

A short story here:!store/c1r46/!/Child-of-Words-Issue-2/p/41351903/category=8768132

Monday, September 15, 2014

Leh. One more week to go. Less than a week. That hollow-gut feeling. Wondering what 16 deg C and 6 deg C (and lower) will feel like, after the salubrious climes one is used to.  Well, when it rains here it rains the hell out, but that’s it.  Since one had booked oneself way back in March, its not as if this is a surprise.  Even if flight no’s have changed, flights dropped without any notice --that got me scrambling for the workplace travel desk. Volunteering . This time the living is going to be different. No qualis, no hotel room, no chattering tour group “safety in numbers”. I have a sleeping bag meant for the Arctic. And I will find my way there. This season the air will be very thin and oxygen scarce. Last week I was worried about the weather there, but this part of the state seems to have been saved of the natural disaster that has finished Srinagar for now. The Chini do periodically threaten, but that is par for the course, in the army museum one gets the feeling that this particular war was not over, it was just put on hold a few decades.

For some reason it seems important to remember the rain in A’bad that afternoon. Where did the gentle rain I was familiar with back in the 80’s go? This was pelting, drench to the skin rain, wading required—though I compulsively carry rain gear wherever I go. The home situation was sobering. Hammers home the point—life is a privilege. Life is too short. Do what you must do.

9000 full-grown , magnificent trees. That’s what BMC will massacre to widen one wandering lane (that was once a walking track) so as to join two suburbs better. I’d like to box their collective ears. For each full grown, few decade old tree they’ll plant 5 saplings and not one will survive past week 1. What rascals. The group ought to be airdropped on Khardungla and asked to breathe—that, gentlemen, is what low-oxygen  content air feels like. And yet we have people like Dr. Usha and Renee to honor and cherish the green we have left—the teak are in bloom.

How can this scoundrel carry this off so well?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Today I've cancelled, booked and rebooked tickets. Maniac style.
How quickly bad goes to beyond worse. How quickly the big C takes its dues, wipes one out, no mercies, no quarter given.
Even if you've read someone's face month after month, seen the writing there.Yet.
I'm all right. This is not about me. Other than the much-ignored wake up call not to take life for granted.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cat-and-dog and the zoo rain where the heavens send sluices of water on hapless denizens. Just after I assured someone monsoon was over and done with.  Sneaky rain this, the gardener at the park had to lend me an umbrella. One minute sunshine, next rain. Like life!

Behadd was so GOOD. Why can’t we make TV programs half as good as theirs, considering we have almost the same gene pool etc etc? Had stopped watching Sat. night taken aback at what seemed like a standard storyline. So glad I caught up with the rest y’day.. superb storyline. Umera Ahmed is a stunning writer.

Model Town Andheri W Ganpati. That’s where these pictures are from. Beautifully crafted.