Category Archives: Travel

Going away – a visit to NIAS

Our team at work went for an offsite to NIAS in Wassenaar. I wrote a small feature on the outing. I am sharing a snippet (the one which Purab made me read out again):

Autumn is an extraordinary season. The trees laden with orange, brown and red, shed their leaves. Ripe with the experiences of the entire year, this purging of excess is liberating. Autumn prepares for winter a time of silence and rest. Lest we forget, in this stationary season much work is done. Below the surface, life prepares, and waits. The reflective black waters of the fountain in the Persian Rose garden is stirred, from these ripples emerge messages, onwards we must proceed.

Read more: click here

The pictures are that of NIAS and the area around the building taken on my iPhone 5s.

Unpacking Salzburg Global Seminar

My trip to Salzburg to participate in the Salzburg Global Seminar’s twelfth session “Defining America: New Writing, New Voices, New Directions” at the beautiful Schloss Leopoldskron comprised of many profound moments of learning. At our Graduation Dinner in St. Stephen’s College, way back in 1999, my happy batch-mate Siddarth Correya had said that his learning in college had been as much outside the classroom as inside. The Schloss provided me with the atmosphere I was hopelessly nostalgic about post leaving College Campus. You learn during the sessions, from what is said, but you learn as much from just being there, and from what is still left unsaid.

It has taken me awhile to unpack. Between laundry and reams of notes, I find stories, I catch myself smiling. At the Schloss, the rooms overlook the sprawling lawns, fountains, the lake, the mountains, sunshine, inside the discussion focused on the nuances of authorship, or, the symbolism of a wet sari in a Bollywood film. The generous meals were sprinkled with conversations: the political air of Malaysia, traveling from Calcutta to Berhampur, the paintings that denote seasons, is there music playing? The range of speakers and topics were mind-boggling. The mind danced. And, the refrain I kept returning to, what does this mean for American Literature and the ghazal?

But, let’s just set aside my emotionally charged pen, (erm keys), talking hard facts, this Seminar belongs to the rare breed where seamless structure and efficiently managed logistics magnificently merges with informal atmosphere. It is an intensive program and an immersive one; you are dipped in and saturated. And you leave knowing that your thoughts have been tweaked.

As I slowly return to reading and writing, I feel I have greatly benefitted from the experience for three reasons. Firstly, because it has managed to refuel my faith in this field – sigh, campus life, also there is so much work still to be done. I know, I do hear the dismal talk about the state of academics and funding, but, by golly there is so much research still to be done, and this field is so deliciously dynamic. Secondly, in the library, at the Schloss I found ghazals I had not read before. I carried back these gems with me to use in my studies, along with lots of notes that I will try to incorporate into my research. Lastly, bierstube. That’s all I can say!

Enjoy the pictures! You might notice a picture of a cactus that has flowered. While I away our resident prickles decided to shine in neglect.

More about the seminar: The seminar was hosted by the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA).

It had attendees from 26 countries that included novelists, critics, Ph.D. candidates, academics, editors, professors, and performers. The speakers and discussion groups sought the definition of ‘new’ and aspects of it in American literature.

Seminar website: click here (spot me in the picture – black and white outfit, approximately in the middle row).

Edited to add: official pictures <— click

Drover’s Dog, Amsterdam

We went over to the Australian cafe Drover’s Dog for breakfast with our friends. It has a nice laid-back vibe. I could see myself reading the papers in a corner sipping a mug of coffee, the place is great to meet folks as well – warm wood interiors, soft and natural light and lots of vases with flowers. It is a bit noisy on the weekends.

The menu is not run of the mill and has a few interesting options e.g. corn fritters that came with a perfectly poached egg and chili jam. I appreciated that on asking for a glass of water they offered a pitcher of water with herbs and lemon. Small gesture that makes a big difference.

The service is friendly. Children were quite welcome.

We reached a consensus that we ought to give this place: 4 stars (out of 5)
Location: Heemstedestraat 25, Amsterdam Oud-Zuid.

Leaves – A Ghazal

It is August. Soon we will be in Autumn – Fall. I like the manner in which fall as a word rolls inside the mouth, in the end making the tongue meet the roof of your mouth.

For that reason and a few other.

Leaves – A Ghazal

What eats you from inside gradually leaves
They place your body covered lovingly with leaves

In winter they told me that these trees have color
That nature undresses seductively dropping leaves

I waited and watched nothing ever came of it
You closed the door quietly when you leave

My shirt, my trousers, bits and pieces of me
Gathered now in a dust pan, your gaze sweepingly leaves

Change happens when you aren’t watching
From the door the old lazy wretch of a dog reluctantly leaves

I painted the chairs yellow to match your mind
A sleepy head watches the sun finally leave

Meditation has made Das still
When someone says go away, she happily leaves

Read “The Last Leaf” a short story by O Henry: click here
Apoorva’s ghazal “Never Again”: click here

Flowers and the bees

The joys of Amstel Park, where Bambi and I often spend hours. He hates the bees and loves the flowers, how ironical, how can one exist without the other. In the park they have a toy train that goes inside what we like to call “the deep dark woods” (a nod to Julia Donaldson). We have not spotted any Gruffalos yet, however, we have spotted butterflies, cows, sheep, goats, llamas, emus, turkeys, hens, roosters, peacocks and peahens, pigs, ponies, birds, rabbits, buffalos, and bees, lots of bees, and some mosquitoes.