Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Walking To A Fish Market Near You…

I’ve lived in Doha for three years and I hadn’t followed my mother’s advice… until today morning, that is.

She’s always told me that the best times to buy fish were in the early mornings. I’ve rewound in my head a million times those journeys, where I accompanied my mother to that market near my house, to buy fresh fish, never later than 5am on each occasion.

As to why I never did the same in Doha, it was because I’d given up on cooking (The best I could do was coffee anyway).

And then ‘Big Chief Eagle Eye’, my newly christened Canon, came into my life and changed everything. I arrived at the market at 3am and didn’t leave until about four hours later.

At 3am, the market was still asleep. People lay curled wherever they could, catching on a few last moments of shut-eye, before the hectic day that would unfurl before them.


At 3.30am, the first few people began to stir and the market slowly began coming to life. Different vehicles reversed softly to a stop next to the common market ground. Fishes of all sizes and shapes were carefully unloaded while a radio somewhere belted out an old Hindi track. A stooped man, holding many cups of steaming black tea, went around waking his mates to the glorious new fish-ey day!

At 4am, groans of wakefulness gave way to alert eyes everywhere. Wheelbarrows were readied, huge blocks of ice to spread atop fresh fishes were shattered, knives and pencils were sharpened, tiny little notebooks were brought out and brooms arrived to swiftly clean the marketplace…



At 4.30am, more trucks started rolling in and innumerable people suddenly materialised out of nowhere. The faint murmur of the crowd gradually rose a notch higher as bidding parties took their designated places. The prayer call from a nearby mosque stilled the crowd for a moment. They respectfully waited for it to end and…


…by 5am, all hell broke loose. People were everywhere, screaming at the top of their voices. One man – the bid organiser – cupped his hands to his ears and shouted in rapid Arabic while others agreed, argued or walked away from him. People strolled atop fish boxes, just like they would in a park, ever so careful to never tread on the fish itself…



By 5.30am, the crowd began moving inward, towards the centre of the wide hall, as each batch of fresh fish was auctioned off. Different trawlers spent multiple days on the open seas to take this catch off nature’s lap. When auctions came to a close, there weren’t a single sad face in the crowd… everyone had made a bargain or the other that day…

By 6am, the outer auction area went back to being deserted. A faint hubbub, of excited voices of the fish resellers, floated through from deep within the bowels of the huge concrete market building. Their day had just begun…


Friday, December 26, 2008

Walking The Souq…


Doha’s Souq Waqif is a five-minute walk away from where I live. Yet, it took me close to three years to cover the distance. And when I did, a slice of Qatar’s history unfurled before my very eyes...

It was like going starting at the beginning of time, to the time when Qatar was still very much an idea, in the corner of a thousand minds. It was like turning the pages of the book of history, swiftly from left to right, in breathtaking seconds of sudden realisations...

Mud brown brick buildings rose to kiss the sky, along the two sides of the stone-sown path. Well rounded pieces of teakwood played intricate games of hide and seek with the mud and brick structures. Candle lights, thinly veiled by multi-coloured glasses, painted the evening with different hues of faint colour.

The sky blushed a deep red of evening, reflecting off coloured sheesha glasses. Sweet scents of peaches and myrrh gathered form as wispy plumes of faint white smoke, rising and dissolving into the cold wintry evening. A thousand sandaled feet made rhythmic music on the stone paths, even as a hundred tongues spoke a multitude of languages, selling wares, dreams and more…

Cheeks touched cheeks and noses, noses, in the familiar routine of Middle Eastern familiarity. The faint aura of universal brotherhood hung in the Souq’s air…

When I woke from my trance, I found myself sitting amidst history, watching tradition blend seamlessly with modernity. People smoked scented hookahs, turned their heads, and surfed the World Wide Web. They sipped strong black teas, brewed together with centuries of knowledge, and conquered the distance barrier by speaking into their mobile phones…

How long does it take for a person to cover 300 metres? For me, it was almost three years. But if that was the price I had to pay for getting my first romantic feel of Doha’s Souq Waqif, I consider it as time and money well spent…

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lost, Atlantis, Found...

I recently travelled to Dubai, with my cousin and went to this awesome place called Atlantis. Its in the Palm Jumeira and it simply rocked.

The place virtually teemed with fishes and the whole place was themed around the sunken city of Atlantis. I could have been lost underground for hours, had it not been for the thought of my plane leaving in about five hours time.

I reignited my romance with the seas and these were a few of the sights which pushed me into doing that. Dear viewer, here, I give in no particular order, some of the sights that transported me to a mythical land sunken beneath the sea.

Despite feeling the dread for a lost civilisation, I envy them for seeing these sights almost every single day....

Here is my tribute to the Lost Land of Athlantis... 

1. The Red Dancer.

It undulated before my very eyes, in deep shades of red. It was mesmerising, hypnotic, and simply stunning.  

2. Blue Dancers.

And then there were many of them, ululating, wandering around, gently touching one another, disappearing behind one another, just like the faint whiffs of smoke, coming from a warm chimney, on a cold winter evening...  


3. The Blue Dancers, in a lighter mood...

When the lights turnes upon them, they were fainter than the faintest ghosts. And then they began their dance of hypnotic serenity.


4. The Being. The God. Atlantis.

If ever there was a god in Atlantis, he would look something like this. The King of the Volcanoes, who breathes flame and snorts out tarred smoke.


5. The Five Thousand Merry-Go-Rounders.

I entered their realm, of the deep sunken city of Atlnatis, and this sight greeted my eye. About 5,000 lovely warriors with silver gills, went round and round and round and round in a pure glass chamber. Eternal, lovely, peaceful, hypnotic.  


6. Follow My Leader.

To the end of the world, to the end of time. The view of fishes following one another, to the ends of Atlantis and Back, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...


7. And The Ethereal Light Shone Down...

The clear lights from yonder shone down, and a thousand fishes answered to its creator. 


8. And A Thousand Bubbles Burst Forth...

This was the most beautiful sight of all. The lights from hig above, from the heavens, shimmered down the deep blue waters above the sunken lands of Atlantis. It ignited a thousand splendid bubbles, all lapped up hungrily through a thousand hungry gills. This sight, I shall never see again. At least, not ever with the same intensity asI did before... 


9. The Sting Ray That Ended A Legend...

He was Australian. And he was the greatest animal lover the world has seen. The Sting Ray which stung him should really have felt bad for years after. 

10. The United Colours Of Atlantis.

Do you see the bright difference between yellow stone and blue fish. It was as fantastic, and maybe even more, than is actually depicted here. Nothing, can recreate god's natural work of art.


11. The Man Who Never Sleeps.

He's 45-years-old, weighs 150kgm, and hasnt slept over all these years. I wonder what must have kept him awake all this while? The first time i saw him, i couldnt help but stare in awe. He was a revelation, and I'll leave it at that.




EPILOGUE: All Good things in life should come to an end. I once again reached the beginning of the end. I was richer by the experience.

And one day, if by a queer chance of fate, i find Atlantis, I'll tell those fishes that I already lived the life with them, in a land high above them, for a few brief moments in time... 


Monday, November 03, 2008

I Miss You So, Ammachy…



27 years a go, my appachan wished to see me hold a little bag, with a tiffin box and water bottle in it, and happily hop off to school.

27 years later, I wished that my ammachy could see my child do the same.

Both those dreams, which were happy thoughts when first dreamt, will now never happen. The sun around which our familial planets revolved, set one final time. Almost her entire family sat by her, singing hymns that she taught us throughout her 73-year-old pious life.

I believe that she waited for months, biting down searing pain, just to see me, before she became a collection of beautiful memories. She shunned death with the same gritty determination that made her the adorable woman she was. Aware of the depth of illness, the entire family got together to celebrate the Christmas of ’07. I lost my chance. To this day, I sport an empty chapter in my book of memories…

When my appachan passed, leaving her midway through their journey of life, she never once broke her stride. Her step-in into the great big void was effortless and natural. She easily kissed things back to life and we started living again…

The family built their annual get-togethers around her. Never once, until her very last, did she admit that she was tired. She proudly took the reins in hand and led us from the front. We laughed and she laughed with us. We cried and she always said never again…

And then as gently as a little stream ebbing away, her life began to seep out…

I’m happy that I spent some quality time with her, at the fag end of her days on earth. 
I used to kneel by her bed, gently massaging her hands and feet, listening to the incomprehensible once-in-a-while utterances, talking to her, letting her know that I was just a breath away…

I once gathered her up in my arms, from the hospital bed to the comfort of her little bed at home, just like she did over a million times with me, at different stages of my growth…

It’s hard to imagine an empty house, without her reassuring presence. It’s hard to imagine a life without her, and her gentle toothy smile. It’s hard to imagine, that in a moment, time stood still and that it would never come back…

It’s hard to imagine…

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happily Ever After...


September 11, 2001, people cowered in fright as terror dawned on the US of A.

September 11, 2008, people beamed with pleasure as another institution was firmly established.

My sister, the only one, got married.

Standing an arm’s distance away, resplendent in a white sari, awash in the yellow glow of halogen lamps, was the being which I had protected all my life, with all my will. She had transformed from ‘our little one’ to a confident young woman. It did not feel like 23 years had passed since I first held our family’s ‘little bundle of joy’ close to my chest, next to my mother’s cot, in the hospital room.

When happy memories rush at you from all sides, it feels delicious to submit to its joy. Growing up was certainly more fun with her around. She taught me to be a big brother, in her own subtle way.

There were times when I took her hands in mine, while crossing busy roads, and then there were times when I covered for her mistakes, earning sound thrashings in return. There were times when we used to make hand-drawn birthday cards (competing to outdo the other) and other times, as kids, when we used to count the number of cows during long journeys.

She was the one who always called my bluff and found that I cried while reading Reader’s Digest articles. She was the one, who in the darkness of countless movie theatres, found that it was not only my mother who had streams of wet tears while watching sentimental scenes. She was the one who knew all about my crushes, since class nine. She was my fashion guru and she was my rock. Correction, she IS my rock!

Not having you around is going to be hard. But knowing that you got the best mate there was, makes it a bit easier.

I now close a little box, inlaid with velvet, deep in my heart, about happy memories of you, from 23 years, till now. Once in a while, I will open it, living again the joys of our yesteryears. On September 11th, I opened another fresh little box in my mind, where shall reside the happy memories of your second phase in life.

NOTE: I dedicate this piece to every brothers this world saw, who enjoyed seeing their little sisters grow up from being shy youngsters to charming princesses.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Song For December...


The memory of my first hearing this song, on a cold December evening three years a go, is still fresh in my mind.

I was walking back from the St Stephens College Library, in Delhi, arms full of heavy books on Indian history, cursing our curriculum that made me toil so hard, yet was stingy in appreciating the efforts. Cutting and walking across the basketball court, I heard this song for the first time. Although four of my friends were singing along loudly, fittingly out of tune and reminding me of croaking frogs, it didn’t matter in the least…

…the song had already captivated me.



“Bulla Ki Jaana Maen Kaun” or “Bhulla, I don’t know who I am”, sung by Punjabi rock singer Rabbi Shergill, immediately went to the top of the list of MY favourite songs. It stays there, firmly at the top, to this day.

It was then strange that it took me three years (until today, June 25, 2008) to finally watch the song’s video. Once again, it blew me away. It reminded me so much of the past that I left behind, it reminded me so much about home…

...The green trees, the inky darkness of the night, the cold kept away from me by four layers of clothing, the warmth of the camp fire, the hotness of delicious tea against my freezing, ungloved hands, the mouth-watering smell of fresh made omelette, jam-packed between two lightly-brown roasted breads, the old radio hanging from the wall, blaring out the song which I fell in love with...

The song has made different impacts on different people. Over three years, I have heard some say that “Shergill sings with gay abandon,” while others “I could feel the heart-wrenching pain in his voice.”

For me, it was both.

This song, each time I got lost in it, made my heart soar like a bird who made its first flight into the deep blue sky. This song made me feel like having taken a prolonged dip in a cold river, on a hot summer day, refreshing me to the core of my being. This song made me feel like a lover, pining for his long lost one. This song made me feel... so much like myself.

Try to hear, see and feel this song.

Do not worry about lyrics, they have been deciphered for you. The camera work is awesome, capturing India’s mood perfectly.

Someday, if I meet the Punjabi gentleman who gave me a song to love forever, I would hold his hand in a firm shake, look into his eyes and say softly…

“Thank you…”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Dance Of Death!


Today, on March 26, 8.30 pm, I was involved in a spectacle I had only ever heard of before. The Qatar-Iraq World Cup qualifying match having concluded at the Al Sadd Stadium, I was walking towards the place where my car was parked. The atmosphere was a bit windy, balmy and thick with excitement…

…and smoke…

…and screeches of raw rubber burning on asphalt, on the huge parking area, where my Don Whito Corleone lay…

I was witnessing for the first time how Arabs truly proclaimed their happiness. Land Cruisers, Hummers, Nissan Patrols and even a flame red LAMBORGHINI danced the mad dance of victory, the mad dance of death...

A huge circle of cars, mostly white, all turned inwards, with their lights on, made up the arena of fun. Cars, in huge numbers, raced into the circle from different directions, at each other. Swerving at the final moment, they skidded sideways, in full circles, burning rubber, throwing up gut wrenching screeches.

The pattern of the mad, deadly dance shifted with the passing time. Starting out with just two cars, the numbers gradually built up and so did the cheer from the watching white-robed congregation.

And then, another strange noise, like that of croaking frogs, overtook those of the screeching tyres. The people, almost on cue, turned and fled. The cars stopped their deadly antics and rushed for various exit points as one. The revolving blue and reds were here, the cops…

They came in packs, flooding the arena in their powerful Land Cruisers. They cut off the exit points, caught a few death dancers, while many fled. The spectacle, which lasted more than ten minutes, was busted in less than one.

Sometimes, I believe in fate…

Had I decided to go back to the stadium to collect my friend, as was the original plan, I would have missed the entire show. I would not have had anything to write in here.

Now, when me pops asks me if I ever saw the dangerous side of living in Qatar, I can smugly say…been there, done that!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Resolutions!

 


Thats the new look for the new year.

It will last a few months...

...or till the time my sister, or mother, finds out about it!
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Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Is Dead, Long Live 2008!

Words won't be necessary.

These are pictures of 2007. Selected at random.






No, things weren't as bad as that, and NO, I AINT down and out...

Mr. 2008, here i come. Stop me if you bloody well can!