Wednesday 30 March 2011

Resplendent spring

The bud
Raring to bloom
Flowering at last
The colours that herald spring; the bare tree branches that have begun to sprout green, the flowers—a sight getting rarer in Delhi—bursting into amazing colours; the birds suddenly trilling away, louder than one remembers.
My camera phone remains quite busy when I go for the rare walk. Not knowing the names of most of the flowers is no deterrent. That can come later. It’s more important to capture them while they beckon to you—playfully, nodding, a bud today, in full bloom tomorrow. This blaze of glory is so short-lived, for the summer heat is already taking its toll.
In full glory
The young couple next door has planted a variety of flowers outside. The yellow ones especially bring William Wordsworth to mind. They aren’t daffodils, yet they are as enchanting.
Long years since I read any poetry, and sure didn’t appreciate it half as much as I do today:

By William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Growing up on a BSA bike

I could not help myself. There was this young journalist in our apartments whom I saw tending to his Royal Enfield. I just had to stop by and ask if he always cleaned it himself.
“Always,” he said emphatically, patting the seat with great affection. “I never let anyone touch it.” He knew everything there was to know about his bike, he informed me.
Walking on, I smiled to myself. The last time I had seen anyone so much in love with a bike was when my father used to own one. And I loved it too. Dearly.
For as long as I could remember into my childood, we'd had a motorcycle: first a BSA, then a Royal Enfield as well. By the time I got married, the compact BSA had become too expensive to maintain. So the loved BSA went, and the heavier bike remained. Of course, it too had to make way for the car a couple of years down the line.
As they entered their teens, the Enfield was supposedly the royal one for the younger ones, but for me it was the BSA always. The Enfield was an also-ran. I think my father agrees.
I had virtually grown up on it, first as a babe-in-arms, then as a toddler, and later taking innumerable rides sitting on the tank, secure with my father behind me. As the family grew, I got relegated to the pillion. I would sit in my mom’s lap, then behind her, with very little to support me if my father were to brake hard. I never did fall, though.
As my siblings grew up, there were occasions when I had to be left behind so that those two could be accommodated. Daddy got a carrier welded to the back of the BSA, so we all five could ride together sometimes. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind that.
There were oh so many times when Daddy raced the school bus because I’d missed it.  Sometimes we did catch up with it. It was very callous of me, I know now, but I didn’t mind being dropped all the way to school. I cared little that my dad found it annoying. I just loved riding pillion, never holding on to the seat or carrier, cockily sure-seated. I could even leaf through my books as I rode to school as the wind flapped at my skirt and coat!
Daddy would attend to the BSA himself. As my siblings grew up, he would sometimes let them do it. The smell of petrol, the brakes, the grease, the rare day when there was a punctured tyre and the heave-ho that followed, the strong beam from the headlight that lit our path in the days when street lights were scarce…the memories came flooding back as I plunged into nostalgia.
I looked up the internet to read up on the motorcycle, and giggled at the very first piece of information. The manufacturer was Birmingham Small Arms Company. How quaint could we get?
My father tells me the original owner gave him the bike in lieu of some small amount he owed him. Bless the debtor. Now I am eternally in his debt. I trawled the internet to find a picture of one that looks closest to ours so I could put it up here. Wish I’d had the foresight to get myself photographed with our BSA. Age truly heightens sentiment!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

The greencoats

Young and smart, they knew exactly what will cause me to spring out of my chair and rush outdoors. I could make out they were daring me, that unmistakable, distinctive sound, as they pranced around on my guava tree.
I peeped out from the window. Wearing green coats and oblivious to the havoc they were causing, they were prancing in sheer delight at the sight of so many guavas. The fruit was so enticing, not fully ripe, making it all the more important for them to steal some off the tree!
I reached out for my phone to click the little thieves in the act. They turned around as I opened the door, unperturbed by the click as the key turned. Nonchalant, they carried on without missing a step. It was as if my presence was no deterrent, determined as they were to get at the fruit.
Let me confess—I’d initially thought I was dealing with only one thief.
The sun was in my eyes, but I tried to click the one who’d called, and who continued to make small screechy sounds. The other made no sound, ambling from one branch to the other as it scouted coolly for the best pick. The presence of an accomplice was a stunner. I literally stopped in my tracks and forgot I was there to take pictures.
I’d meant to catch them red-handed, but who can catch red-beaked thieves that take wing with hurriedly snatched fruit and then dare you from their perch on the overhead cable!
Yes, indeed, these two feisty parrots stole a march over me, and stole fruit from my tree as well. I loved it all: the teasing call, the mocking, daylight robbery and the revelry up in the air that followed as I watched them from my lawn...helpless, yet happy.