More Things From (a hotel in) Bangalore




More flowers

Things Seen in (a Hotel in) Bangalore

A butler in the club bar

Sunlight picked out these leaves and made them burn with green flame - in the small back garden of the suite


Raat ki raani (night queen) - though it was bright morning when its flowers shed their fragrance on me.

At Elliot's Beach

We had coffee near Elliot's Beach in Adyar. I saw these things:

The Motorcycle Seat of Broken Dreams

Braque-ish colours

Demonic Possession

Kiss of Dawn

I was going through old papers, and came across these photographs, the first R ever took, as a boy, using a borrowed box camera. As it happens, when I was a child my mother gave me the box camera she had used as a child - seeing these photographs I groaned at the thought of my own efforts:

"Kiss of Dawn" -- Tiger Hill, Darjeeling (1948)

Burmese Pagoda, Eden Gardens, Calcutta (1948)

Gandhi Statue from window of the police chowki,
Juhu, Bombay (1953)

Two of his photographs were published in Navroz, a Parsi magazine based in Calcutta, in 1953, with an article about Darjeeling. When he went with a posse of his classmates to collect the promised payment of Rs. 5, they were told that they should go away, and be happy that he had gotten his pictures in print at such a young age.

R entitled his picture of Tiger Hill "Kiss of Dawn"; but because of his strong Gujarati accent, his friends heard it as "Keys of Dawn." It was only when they saw the name in print that they realised what the name really was. Apparently no one wondered what "Keys of Dawn" might signify.

(Photographs by Ramesh Gandhi -- his website:; his blog:

I commune with my weeds

It was raining when I came downstairs. The air was beautifully cool. I don't go into the garden very often: I look at greenness from inside. Heat and insects usually defeat me. Rain is a sound first, and then a picture, framed by windows. But this morning I was so entranced by the changed air that I unlocked the door and went out to the verandah.

I heard rain, and one cat, plaintive - in heat? hungry? A few subdued crows.
We haven't had a gardener for several months, and weeds have elbowed out the grass between the walkway stones. They have become beautiful in their variety and, in the saturated air, intensely green.

My thoughts have been so inward lately, it was a delight to look and listen without the pane of glass in between; to move outward into a simple space: a ragged green garden. I sat in a cane chair drinking coffee, and wrote a little, by hand, with a pen, on paper.

I brought out my camera and took pictures of the weeds. I wanted to lie on my stomach and shoot them from ground level, so that they would look like thick jungle; but the ground was sodden, and I was afraid for my camera. I decided to wait until the rain stopped and try again. But an hour later I saw that the new gardener, who began work today, had decided for all on his own that the very first thing he should do was to clear away all the weeds: he scraped them down to bare dirt.

This is their memorial, until they spring forth again.

West End Window

I love windows. I love old, untended buildings. I loved this window and this building, and painted them from a photograph which I took last year in Bangalore. While I painted I listened to songs by Kabir. Everything came together in my mind, though of course, the painting is full of flaws. It was a good learning experience. Ramesh Gandhi gave me valuable colour advice when I needed it. So there it is.

Vegetable Thoughts

(Please click to enlarge!) Cool weather flowers, in Coonoor:

(Pansies = pensées = thoughts)


Life bursts forth everywhere.

Coonoor: the graveyard next door

Green and peaceful

A Dead Flower

The real flower is on the left :)

Coonoor: A Morning Walk

On my first morning in Coonoor, in the cool Nilgiri hills, I went for a walk. Here are some of the things I saw:

All Saints' Church

A troop of monkeys living in style above a roadside garbage heap

Empty, meandering one-lane roads lined with wildflowers

Attractive bungalows, half-hidden behind trees

A No Tresspassing sign -- but since it was in Tamil I felt that I could ignore it ;). I walked down a path and saw

A tea garden, planted on a steep hillside, with a gurgling stream at the bottom, and forest rising on the opposite side

Dilapidated but charming buildings

More tea gardens, with a poor section of town below

A dead rat



I was roaming around the house aimlessly, wondering what I should be doing, and suddenly I saw it as if I were a visitor. When you pass through the same rooms everyday, their contents are hardly visible, a white-noise hum. The indistinct background of a dream. Turn on a light switch, and things pop into view. That (object)! How long has it been lying there?

My paper stash! I must throw it all away. Seize the moment! I reach to clear the shelf, and almost before I know what my hands are doing, I am folding papers into signatures, punching holes, hunting for the waxed linen thread. I sew graph paper, wrapping paper, opened-out envelopes together, and make a book.

R's photographs are lying all over the house. Boxes of enlargements, envelopes of negatives. In a plastic shopping bag I find faded 2x3" prints, outtakes. Their blandness is mysterious: I feel obliged to look long enough to find meaning in them. I glue a few into my book.

I can’t sleep. At 3:00 a.m. I come downstairs to get some writing paper. As I pass through the atrium I hear a splash. In the fish pond, concentric rings of water are lit by the moon. A dull brown fish has made itself known. Usually they are silent, gliding along their underwater paths. They eat puffed rice and mosquito larvae, and survive. I feel a pain in my chest, as though they were very dear to me.

I draw Julius Caesar, his stone face split down the middle as if struck by lightning, and then other statues. Repetition is order is harmony. Their blank gaze is soothing: they are not interested in my nooks and crannies.

Should these water buffalo vertebrae, which I picked up off the ground from some land we had once, still be on that table, fifteen years after I casually dropped them there?

On the way to the car, bones:
White shards half-buried. Old news,
not enough to make a whole of anything.

And those chairs in the hallway! Only crazy people would not have discarded them long ago – their foam collapsed, home to generations of lizards, whose miniature broken ping pong ball eggs we sweep up from time to time. Can I point my finger and dissolve them into atoms?

The big copper water vessel, those pinecones from the hills. That brass thing from Thailand that someone gave me, I never even liked it much, but here it is. Too many books! Too many dishes! I'm sinking, I'm about to disappear.

The utility room! so full of old newspapers, bottles. I must call the scrap man with his cycle-cart. But first I pull out some torn paper, and glue it in.

Okay, I'm feeling calmer now. I’m listening to a cheerful Hindi song, with a chorus which means approximately, "You bastard, you're finished! You've had it!" It's so incongruous with the bouncy music that it makes me smile. I'm drawing and singing along under my breath -- 'tu saala kaam se gaya!' The house is still a mess. Never mind.

The Inner Life of Things II

A prehistoric survivor, Corkscrew soars above an unsuspecting populace.

Twittering My Life Away II

R advised a friend to start an effigy-making business. “Since they are burned every day in India, it’s a good source of income.”

My cook asked if she could sell ten of our surplus coconuts for 30 rupees. I said okay, while holding a packet of imported pasta costing 285 rupees.

A Marwari wedding procession passed my house, the band blaring triumphal music from a film about a Mughal emperor. The bridegroom on horseback, not quite kingly.

A rare sight: a monkey loped into the garden, bearing a stolen melon. I went out, our eyes met, it leaped into a tree.

The monkey coolly picked insects from an extended leg, while all the crows in the area gathered to heckle it. I went back inside.

All became calm again. From the window I saw crows pecking at the melon, and no sight of the monkey. Order was restored.

Indian sounds are different from American ones: I heard a hissssss today from the pump; Lakshmi said it was a pusssss.

Our good new gardener has not been seen for two days. The cook says young men are too distractible:  they always want to go to the movies.

It may be 104 degrees outside, but on the other hand, it's mango season. Something is taken away; something is given.

Saw old movie Deedar. Blind hero regains sight, is rejected by beloved, blinds self again. I groan. My husband says: You don't understand that kind of love.

Days of unbearable heat suddenly broken by darkness, wind, thunder... the merest dribble of rain. Then back to our regular programming.

The monkey who crossed our garden last week is back. My neighbour prowls his garden with a stick in each hand, looking up, wondering what to do.

Spicy snacks frying, attar, vehicle exhausts, stirred together and baked in tropical heat. The perfume of urban India.

A man at the party said, In a cave in Uttaranchal a stalagmite/stalagtite will meet in 200 years; then the world will end.

I suppose it's only in Indian film songs that lovers vow to meet up with each other lifetime after lifetime.