Sunday, 25 September 2011

Day 274- Rat!

30th August, Chilling!

O diary, the house has been ransacked! If we didn't know better, we would have thought a giant creature came and stomped through the house. From the droppings, Mama told me it was a rat. Maybe two. Right after she said that, we both gave a loud yelp and clung to each other, looking for a high place to stand. We were both trembling with fear and I felt sick in my stomach.

Looking at the devastation around the house, mainly just the ground floor, the rat must have been a huge one. Lion size even. In the living room, he managed to topple Mama's stack of embroidery and shifted the low table . He must have knocked over the food cover first before dragging the table, overturning it . Weirdly, the food on that table was left untouched. OM joked that the rat must have been enraged when he saw that the food was terrible, so he went on this crazy rampage . I didn't think that was funny. I was frightened out of my wits and worried to death! The kitchen was an even bigger mess but the rat also did not touch Kivachi's platter or Sindhi's persimmons.

But all our greens were gone. Not a single chilli or lady's finger was left for us, except for some stalks. He even ate every one of our cucumbers. We found two half eaten potatoes which he obviously did not enjoy. This must be the first vegan rat we have had the pleasure of meeting. Mama and I refused to go into the kitchen till OM checked and made sure that no rat was found. We were fretting so loudly out on the porch that Sindhi came over to see if someone had been murdered!

When she heard what happened, Sindhi went home and returned with a tray of purple brinjals. Take these, she said, they are not green so the rat won't want them. Mama was so touched that she gave Sindhi a  tight embrace, nearly choking her. Sindhi then passed us a head of cabbage which was obviously more than a week old and was beginning to brown. I looked at Mama and she looked at me and I was just thinking of saying something polite like we could use it for curry when Sindhi quickly explained that it was for the Rat! Green, see? That means rat's, she said, you have to give it something or it may start eating your green sari, lady. Only Sindhi giggled at her own joke. Mama and I both thought Sindhi could be right.

So we left the baskets of vegetables back in the kitchen and we  cleared up the mess. Mama put citronella scented cotton balls and a hundred moth balls all over the house. There were at least 10 traps laid too. 

Now, we wait....

4th September

Just a quick note, Diary, to let you know that the rat was caught this morning. The citronella balls worked only for one night. The rat came back the day after and ate more green vegetables that Mama had replaced. He did not touch the brinjals but he also did not want the cabbage. A very crafty rat, he sidestepped all the traps. Mama finally called the rat catchers who taped our traps down . Now you know why our traps did not work! The rat was caught after that. 

I did not dare look but I am very sure it was lion size. 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Day 262 & 266-Autumn Harvest

A harvest day in August, balmy

My dear Diary, 

What a big, big harvest day we had today. Surely, it must be the biggest I have seen. OM thinks so too for I heard him exclaimed :this must be our largest gathering in the last decade! Our crops were so plentiful that we could give baskets of them away. They were mainly potatoes, cucumbers, big fiery green chillis and some lady's fingers.

When we brought some of ours to Kivachi, she gave us this huge platter of her produce in return. There were so many varieties of vegetables that her platter was like a burst of fall colours. Pale pumpkins with blood red sweet potatoes, dusty small onions and tomatoes in  2 shades of green. She knew I love carrots so she gave us the really orange ones and although I really don't like mushrooms, Kivachi knew mama loves them so she dug out three precious ones for her. She even managed to grow some avocados which was really difficult in our region. She did not have many of them so she gave us just two but what a treat that was already! She also threw in some of her own potatoes, for some comparison, she said. Mine may be smaller than yours, she told OM, but I think they are just as tasty. OM snorted when he heard that and piled even more of our own potatoes into her baskets. You will want to throw away yours after you have tasted mine, he said. We all laughed at their exchange. Everyone knows Kivachi grows the best vegetables in the village, maybe even the best in the whole of Rajasthan!

Thanks to Lakshmi's good harvest blessings, our luck just kept getting better. When we went over to our new neighbour, Sindhi and gifted her with a sack of our potatoes, she gave us a present too. Way better than our potatoes, it was a basket worth of luscious, juicy persimmons. We found out to our great delight that Sindhi too is a gifted farmer. Mama is saving those persimmons which she is treating like gold for the harvest festival. I just can't wait to sink my teeth into one of those yummy fruits and have persimmon juice running down my chin! Hmmmmmm...

I just love harvest time. The kitchen is always full. Full of fruits and vegetables, fishes from the river, sacks of grains.

Even the old crate in the corner is never empty. For now it is filled with Kivachi's best coconuts, ready to be grated for Mama's famous curries .

Harvest time is a time when our home is filled with the rewards of our hard work and the gifts of good neighbours. Papa says this is the time we can really count our blessings and if that is so, then I think we are well and truly blessed. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Day 274- My Garden Of Neglected Things

We have a display cabinet that used to showcase pretty merchandise in a lifestyle store. It was offered to me when the store ceased business and would have gone to the garbage disposal man if I had said no. I simply could not allow that. Standing tall and clumsy in a corner of the walkway to the kitchen, holding mainly my art supplies and carelessly chucked materials, it was probably the least loved piece of furniture in my home. In fact, my housemate still hates it.

He calls it the chunky piece of junk and has been bugging me to throw it out. 

On the top shelf of this cabinet stood a dozen or so empty glass bottles. One or two of them have been there since 2006 when the cabinet first arrived. Over the years I have amassed a small collection of these bottles, some added after boozing with my girlfriends but most after nursing a couple of broken or lonely or confused hearts. Now these bottles, unlike the cabinet, were completely useless and not even particularly pretty. I kept them anyway, to serve as reminders, I thought. Truth is I can longer remember the occasions they were associated with.

So there they remained, on that top shelf , collecting dust and faded memories.

Stashed deep inside another cupboard, hidden in dirty plastic bags were bunches and bunches of plastic plants. The bulk of them were bought when I first started making miniatures, meaning these plastic plants and the plastic bags they came with were at least two years old, some even three. I wanted them for my Maharaja's palace, my tribal house, my firefly park.

Alas, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind 
because none of these plants were used in any of my projects. 

So 2 weeks ago, in between rusting gardening tools for the kurinji flowers and dirtying light-bulb bottles for the window sills of my tribal house , I decided it was time I clear some of those cobwebs.

I started the process by throwing away some of these things. There were not many of them because I kept thinking up excuses why they should stay. Like this metal woven cylinder that I could not even identify. I know though that it was an engine part of my old car, a vintage Alfa Romeo that has long gone to the scrap yard. Look at how they weaved those metal strips. What is it, do you know?

Then there were the broken branches and a couple of fallen fruits. I could not bear to throw them away when they looked so sweet on Flora's scallop shell.

And I just have to keep these tin cans for tea. They were from two mooncake festivals ago and I still remember why we got them, how it happened, what was said and who I was with.

You must have guessed by now that I was trying to create a tropical garden with a motley collection of neglected things, souvenirs from my past, presents for the present.

Tribal bowls from Africa, a trip I made more than 10 years ago. 

A wooden bottle canteen from the same trip.

And Win's present, a loud red box which he had bought from the salvation army thrift store. 
My brother knows me well.

It is fall now.

My favourite time of the year.

For the 1st time in my life, I see these glorious leaves in ways I have never seen before.

So I used them in my garden, as a canvas to pay tribute to the autumn colours and my friends.

Now if you ever visit, my garden in a display shelf is just around this corner.

Open the left most window of this walkway,

you'll see a garden with a great big tree.

Look through the same window from out there,

you'll find my garden with the bottled trees.
This garden is nowhere close to the other, not by a million miles,
but at least, with it, I can pretend I am a gardener.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Day 276-Home In A Handbasket

31st August, Bedtime 

Dear Diary,

I weaved you a home today, one that is just big enough to hold you snugly with a wee bit of room left to fit Dollie so that she can keep you company. 

Two old friends kept safely together in a handbasket and going wherever I go. Mama need never nag me again for leaving you or Dollie lying around the house, always asking if anyone has seen either one of you.

It was not easy weaving this handbasket (2 handled and 8 ribbed). Until this one, I have only been weaving single handle, 6 ribbed frame baskets.

Making the handles was really tricky and I did such a messy job trying to lock the 8 spokes to the main frame. I nearly threw this basket away because the handle and rim binding was so ugly. 

It was Mama who came to the rescue. She brought out two white paper flowers that she bought from JJ market 2 years ago and showed  me how to stain the flowers with coffee to give them a rustic feel. She then told me to fasten those flowers with some gum onto the ugly binding so that we could hide the untidy weaves. 

It didn't turn out too badly. Although it is still far from perfect, at least it is no longer ugly. 

And it is really nice knowing that you both are safe and close when I am sleeping. Now let me kiss you both goodnight and place you back in your home. I will see you both in the morning. 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Day 274-275-Heaven In A Wild Flower

28th August, Late Evening

Dear Diary,

Last night, after a very silent dinner, Papa took me aside and told me to prepare for a trip to the hills early in the morning. We were to set off before dawn and we, meaning I, was not to tell anyone, especially Mama. Papa then sent me off to pack a basket of gardening tools and to bring another empty one for our trip. 

Our day started so early, I was still bleary eyed and woozy as I stumbled closely behind Papa, mostly in the dark. I was therefore totally unprepared for what was before me as we approached the hills. 

My dear Diary, I wish you have eyes so you can see it for yourself this magical, most beautiful garden that God has created for us.  A whole mountain covered in blue! When we got closer, we had a chance to examine these flowers up close and they really were quite magnificent. According to Papa, these flowers were called kurinji and that they bloomed only once in 12 years.

Papa told me that he had never missed a trip to the hills every time the kurinji bloomed. His first trip was with his own father and it was so special that he wanted each of his child's first experience with the kurinji mountain to be with him. I have no words to describe the beauty of what I saw. I just know that when I turn 21, I will be back there, when the kurinji next flower. Hopefully, I will have learnt enough words by then.

Both of us spent some time harvesting enough kurinji to fill the empty basket I was carrying. Papa planned to plant these in our garden. A peace offering to Mama, he said. 

Papa taught me how to pick the ones that could flower again without having to wait twelve years for the next bloom. With careful tending, our kurinji may very well grace our porch again when I turn 10 next year. 

Mama was out at the neighbour's when we got back so we quickly went to work, going without lunch. Papa let me use the blue spade which he said had been in the family for three generations. I was so proud I worked harder than usual. 

We made very good progress at first and finished the 1st part of the garden fairly quickly. This was where I spent the most time in, mainly with vegetables. I think this is going to be my favourite spot from now on.

The later part did not go quite as smoothly. I think the blazing sun and our hunger slowed us down because before we could finish, Mama had returned.

Oh my, you should have heard Mama! She made both Papa and I jumped out of our skins with her screams. Screams of delight, of course. I think her tears were streaming down her face when she ran to hug us. She kept saying "So beautiful, so wonderful, you brought the miracle kurinji home! I cannot believe it, I cannot believe beautiful, so wonderful.." and on and on.

And then she asked if we had eaten and when we shook our heads, she hurried us into the house so she could prepare some lunch for us. She hushed us when we told her we had not finished with the planting.

As Mama prepared the food, I slipped out to watch our garden again. 

And as I walked back and peeped through our kitchen window, I thought I saw Mama hugging Papa and kissing him. It was hard to see through the broken blinds. But I definitely heard her say to him " I am so lucky I have you." 

I don't think they will be quarrelling about bottles for a while. 

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