Saturday, 30 November 2013

Thank God For Little Pleasures - XXI

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Faiz - A Translation

This past night your memory slowly wandered into my heart,
As the Spring slowly comes over a forlorn ruin,
As the breeze slowly treads through deserts,
As the sick, for no reason known, feel good.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Where Auburn Chinars Stand Tall - a poem

The leaves have begun to fall 
So drift gently towards the earth 
Where to us appear like knaves 
And dance upon wind's sad sails.
The colours in them, of mirth 
Of gold, like golden roads paved
Where auburn Chinars stand tall 
Overlooking the city's lost lakes.
From Dargah the tidings come
They carry a certain green leaf
Like a certain dream floating 
Hanging on to the last of hopes
Among the shades of glee
Green, and gold and autumn.
I write hope on the grey skies
With this fall's glowing red
For hope is the hue of Prayer
Which one day will be answered
And the birds that've been held for long
Will spread their wings and fly away
Like the leaves in this autumn's way.

(c) Rich Autumns

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Creamy Interlude

Kashmir gave Wazwan to the world. Kashmiris have tried with varying degree of success to replicate its complicated, time taking stews almost everywhere. There is also a secretly held belief that wazwan cannot be prepared anywhere other than Kashmir, that wazwan prepared anywhere else is phony and faux, and all that is bordering on dangerous fanaticism.
Traditional it is, but Kashmir is not generally resistive to culinary diversity. And if anything has been adapted into Kashmiri lifestyle better than the pointless pineapple-and-cherry-thing in wazwan it is the pastry cake! We are big about bakery anyway. There isn’t one decent bakery in Srinagar which hasn’t got its set of regulars. There are some bakeries which have become landmarks. There are some that have history running through them.
Two decades ago, in the terrible nineties, pineapple pastries were quite the vogue. No elite party was complete without them. The pastry itself was a simple affair – in fact, no more than a miniature layered cake – two layers of whipped cream between cake and a triangular piece of pineapple at the top. These pastries were the currency of social gatherings, being exchanged on every occasion deemed worthy. Every student passing out of class tenth would get at least a dozen of these from some close relative. Not-so-close relatives simply (and rather indifferently) turn up with a bundle of plain cakes. Every wedding would see a large round copper tray, majma, carrying pineapple pastries on saucers painstakingly placed by some aunt with a flower-like name. (Almost all families in Kashmir have at least one lady nicknamed Lily or Rosy for no special reason).
Towards the end of nineties, quite suddenly, the wazwan became more extravagant than was warranted, even dramatic – food servings increased to proportions they were not intended and the whole affair became messier and dearer. When the wasteful wave subsided, things came back to normal. The humble pineapple pastry too gained a few layers like an obese drunkard, wobbly at the top. Somebody, around that time, had the genius of adding a cherry too next to the pineapple wedge. And even though it did nothing to improve the taste and looked like an overlooked grammatical error the trend caught on. In the “Bakery” section, nineties were the time of cream rolls and cream puffs. Coconut macaroons and bite sized biscuits with a jam smeared centre. As the nineties rolled out, the pine apple pastry fell out of favour. Its richer patrons shifted to richer options – like the black forest which after much experimentation was perfected in a Srinagar bakery with the correct amount of shavings.
Like all things, pineapple pastries outlived their fanciful trend. Today the humble looking pastry sits next to its more glamorous successors. The bakers in Srinagar have been quick to introduce truffles and trifles and a whole range of products around walnuts. (In one case, there was also a carrot cake which didn’t quite serve the purpose of anything.) All this, while the greater debate still is: whether the price hike in girdah is justified!