I've never known this feeling before, except perhaps at international airports. It came upon me like a wave on January 1st 2013 and hasn't subsided. Like burrowing into a rabbit hole and staying put. Hesitant, tremulous and yet feeling on the verge of something new. With Liz Lemon I said "Yes to life, yes to love, yes to staying in more!"

Liminality. That's what it is. From the Latin lÄ«men, meaning 'threshold'. A state of 'in between-ness', so to speak. To exist between states...between solid and liquid? What's that? Like jelly? Yes, no, maybe, ok. It's the feeling in between something and something else topped with a sound helping of the between-ness of  somewhere and somewhere else. Whaddyatalkinaboutgoddammit... Ok, this -

We are currently living in a fragile space between the city and the farm, between 58 St.Mark's Road and Infinite Souls. And now I damned well understand the meaning of liminality and airports have got nothing on this, baby.

Evenings we sit in the garden, lit by the fairy lights and stars, drinking and talking, remembering. By daylight we memorize precious views.

1. The one of Mrs.D'Mello's gabled roofs and her avocado tree
2. The one down our lane where Ramani used to sit, where Geeta watered her tulsi plant, where Mrs. George peered out at us from behind her curtains
3. The one of the bamboo through the alcove and our bedroom window
4. The one of the roof and beams above our studio and soundproof room
5. The one of the tiles of the attic roof that I can't think of without wanting to weep for the quantities of beauty and rapture that went down under those tiles
6. The one of Zui's pink attic wall with black roses stenciled on and Jimi Hendrix peering through his smoke
7. The one of the holy archways created by the Pink Cassia, the Eucalyptus and the Christmas tree
8. The one of Barny parking his Suvega and walking in the driveway "Hi Patta...I've got some whiskey for you from the Army Canteen."
9. The one of the Lovely Room with its blue and white stripes...through the kitchen French doors
10.The ones that only Kuki can see: of Mrs Doherty and her potted cactii, of Gunboard Jack and his motorbike, of the Vedamanikam's and their girls, of the rikshaw man who parked his rikshaw in the garden and in exchange drove Grandma Lil to Bowring Institute to play cards, of Powell Thatha's roasts hanging in the kitchen

The dogs rush around our legs saying to us "But we'll be there. We'll form the bridge between the old and the new. We'll love you as always, unconditionally, yadda yadda woof woof."

We'll be gone, dear home. September's round the corner. We've loved every pore of you. We loved you in the winter when you were at your beguiling best, dressed in Santa curtains and plum cake. We loved you as we lay hot and desiring electricity, afternoons of the summer load shedding. We even loved you at your worst, wet and flooded during the rains, walls damp, mildew filling cupboards and making a mockery of our books and paintings. We are melded to you. But we'll be gone. Would that you go peacefully too.

In the rains...
Pic credit: Lekha Naidu

A Series of Unrelated Events

The team from The Concerned for Working Children and the Saturday morning batch of Theatre Lab began shooting The Voice Bhootha On Saturday 2nd February 2013. They all drove in together with Prudence, the canine star of the show. By the time they arrived and Om declared that he was starving and Nagamma and Shankaramma managed to rustle up their unique variety of jungle eggs (scrambled with curry leaves and chillies) and toast and all the kids had eaten, kissed Prudence, fed her Mixed Fruit Jam, got sticky, got washed and then got into costume...it was 10am. Oh well.

The first sequence involved a bunch of shots in the fruit orchard with Kaya and Sharanya doing a scene around the trees. Om and Siddhanth were armed with Handycams and got busy documenting behind the scenes stuff. 10 takes later it was blisteringly hot and Yash declared, brightly and loudly, that he was bored. So I delivered him into the able babysitting hands of Thirpal who gave him a stick and got him to start whacking the huruli that was drying in the round rehearsal space.

Sonakshi and best buddy Prudence
Then there was Siddhanth who had to be shoved up a tree (push by Santosh, pull by Kutta) for his Bag-Snatching scene. The twins, Sanjana aka Dottyamma and Shivanka aka Juttamma, messed around in their matching skirts and beads while trying to retrieve the bag. The whole while Kritya whinged and whined that she wanted to be up the tree herself. Sonaskshi entertained herself with Prudence and the teenagers...well, they're unintelligible and communicate in grunts and giggles, essentially a 4 member law unto themselves... so we just ignored them.
Resting between shots
Learning Sign from the boys from Association of People with Disability
50% of the teenagers who grunt and giggle
By the evening we were a large crowd including two guys from Association of People with Disability who were there to teach the kids Sign Language, 5 members from the CWC team, Nikhil Bharadwaj who would play the Police Constable, 10 kids, Shankaramma, Thirpal and me. In this way day turned into night and night turned into Sunday and Kavya arrived with 10 more actors from CWC and a box of brownies. Thus our numbers grew...

'Wherefore art thou Romeo...'
The PC's hat and stick

Shooting the "Waiting for a Bus" scene
Setting up for the roadside scene
Waiting for the bus...
Police Constable Nikhil Bhardwaj
Still waiting...
Kutta prepares...(just before he heads off to the Kumbh Mela)

Ashwathi directs

PC Nikhil chats with Santosh and Ashwathi...

...and rescues Ridhi 
Marching forward...
....the Child Brigade arrives
Best Friends Forever
Hanging out in costume
More hanging out...
Stick Insect
Prudence in costume
Consider this....

About 10 days ago, three elephants graced our farm. This in itself is not unusual, especially now, in the dry, dry season. But this time they had wandered right up to our cottage and there was dung besides the pond. Thirpal said there were probably two cows and a calf and that they came by at 12 midnight. I have no idea how he knows this for sure as he falls asleep by 7.30pm and is terrified of stepping out of his cottage alone, but still.
Bamboo Flowers
Photo Credit: Bakki Kudva
Photo Credit: Bakki Kudva
Elephant dung near the pond...
The day after the kids left I was walking around the farm with Viju chikki, Vidu chikki, Arun Uncle and Bakki Uncle when we came upon something unusual hanging from the bamboo. At first we thought it was a nest of some sort. Wasps or gnats perhaps. But on closer examination we found it was efflorescence - the bamboo was in flower. I had a vague memory that this was a very rare occurrence resulting in bamboo rice and meant something, but what, I had no idea. Perhaps elephants like the smell of bamboo rice the way the bears come for the sickly scent of borum and jackfruit?

Google to the rescue and sure enough. Bamboo only flowers under very rare circumstances, usually at the end of their life cycle and when there are climatic or soil changes that trigger the efflorescence. Thus both in India and China. bamboo flower is seen as a curse, an indication of bad days ahead. The logic for this is that bamboo, food of the elephant, dies on flowering, causing the subsequent starvation of elephant populations. Also, the bamboo rice attracts in droves the elephant's vahana, the rat, and this leads to the destruction of the farmer's crop.

Check out Shalini's wonderful article on Bamboo Rice and cooking with it in Coorg...


Talking about food (I've written about this before) can only only only bring to mind my three chikkis: Sowju, Viju and Vidu. Amma and her three sisters talk about food all the time and this weekend we had the truly spectacular pleasure of having all of them and their respective husbands stay with us at the farm. I told you our numbers just kept growing, much to Nags and Shanks delight. The idea of my chikkammas as well as Amma being at the farm simultaneously was causing them to spaz at regular intervals. Of course lots of food was cooked, could you possibly expect anything else?! From Amma's superb Prawn Biriyani to the unbelievably simple delights of wood roasted sweet potato and melting butter under a starry sky. But the meal that had everyone gobsmacked was cooked by Nags and Shanks for Tuesday's lunch:
  • Massaopu
  • Ragi Muddhe
  • Gongura pachdi
  • Alugadde pallya
The gongura is grown on the farm (in honour of Kuki's love of Andhra food) and Thirpal brought in a tender bunch of leaves, delicate and edible raw. Shanks cooked these down with red tamarind from the kitchen tree, but I missed the other ingredients. This much I do know, the raw chopped onion added at the end just nailed the pachdi.

I love massopu and muddhe. Nags makes it so uncomplicated, just mashing down cooked barke soppu and togri with tamarind and tomato, and seasoning it with crushed garlic, green chillies, curry leaves and mustard seed. Yum yum yum, I swear to God, and all grown locally. 

Amma's Fab Prawn Biriyani

1kg cleaned and de-veined fresh prawns
1kg Basmati rice
1/2 cup oil
4 inches of cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods
8 cloves
4 bay leaves
6 medium onions sliced
1/2 cup fresh, made-from-scratch ginger and garlic paste
6 chopped tomatoes
8 sliced green chillies
1 small bunch chopped coriander leaves
1 small bunch chopped mint leaves
salt to taste

Fry the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and onions till the onions are cooked and fragrant. Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook till the raw smell vanishes. Add the green chillies, tomatoes, coriander and mint. Stir for a minute or so. Then add the prawns, rice and salt and cover with enough water to cook. I calculate it at approximately 1 and 1/2 cup of water per cup of rice. Put it on a low flame till just cooked and turn it off.

You can garnish it with a mixture of more fried onions/coriander/mint.

Serve it a simple grated cucumber raita.