Monday, 21 March 2016

Climb Every Mountain: No Matter How Formidable!

The email from a fellow school Mom, also a good friend, came out of the blue. In it, she asked us if we were game to do what had been simmering on a back burner in my mind for the last few months. She was inviting a group of mothers to climb Mount Longonot, often known as a 'practice mountain' for those with higher ambitions of scaling Mount Kenya and eventually Mount Kilimanjaro.
Under normal circumstances I would have had to politely decline as the children are at home on Saturdays and my husband would be in office till lunch time. Leaving a tween who loves nothing better than bugging his sister and a teen who is buried in school work leading up to her final exams, alone at home all morning, would be not just asking but begging for trouble! But the beauty of the date she had chosen was such that my mother would have arrived in Nairobi by then and so I had the perfect t/w/een sitter and so my answer was a resounding yes!
It was another matter altogether that my mother arrived minus her luggage. Her suitcases landed at Nairobi airport thirty six hours after she did. Since it was a Friday evening, notorious for nightmarish traffic, it took my husband, mother and son a total of six whole hours to inch their way to the airport and come back with the luggage, which is the exact number of hours it takes Kenya Airways to fly from Mumbai to Nairobi...To cut a long story short, it was 12:30 am when they finally got back home and 1:00 am when I hit my bed, only to get up at 4:00 am to get ready to climb the mountain, on a mere three hours of sleep.
An hour and a half later ten of us ladies were in our children's school, as planned, ready to drive the sixty odd kilometres to Mount Longonot National Park, from where we would begin our ascent. An early morning drive through the Rift Valley was a beautiful and novel experience, as was actually watching the sun rise over the hills. Tickets bought, bag packs shouldered, we were ready to tackle Mount Longonot, a stratovolacano said to have last erupted in the 1860s. The name itself is derived from a Masai word olloonong'ot which means 'mountain of steep spurs' or 'steep ridges'. Just how steep, we would soon find out.
A few paces up the deceptively gentle slope brought us face to face with a herd of wild buffaloes and zebras, all of whom mercifully allowed us to continue our ascent without bothering to charge at us. Else we might have found ourselves scrambling up the mountain faster than we expected or wanted to! We soon split up into groups of threes and twos and set off at paces comfortable for us. As ours is an international school, ladies belonging to many nationalities and ethnicities marched up the mountain that glorious day. My son had been among the handful of students to have sumitted Longonot on a school trip way back when he was a nine year old, in fourth grade. That was just five months after the tragic attack on West Gate Mall and I had not volunteered to accompany his class, as at that point I did not feel I had the mental strength to climb an actual mountain. I had felt then that I needed to conserve my energy just to get through each day. But I was determined to do it that day!
As I steadily climbed upwards, I could feel the increasingly rarefied air burning in my lungs. The rather harsh sound of my own breath resonated in my ears. Some parts of the path were really steep while others were comparatively easy. Sharp acacia thorns stood ready to prick us if we swerved away from the little gullies that we were walking in by even an inch. How like life it seemed to me! We sail so smoothly through certain times in our lives and at others it seems as if every breath we take is painful... And yet the important thing is to soldier on at your own pace. I often explain metaphors to my students. That day, on the mountain, I felt as if I was living one!
The half way hut or "banda" offered some welcome rest and relief. A snack and some water later, we were ready to attempt the final stretch. Most people, we heard, make it only half way up before turning around to go down but we were determined to reach the speck that was the "summit banda". A steady and not too easy climb later we had done it! We were on the crater rim and a beautiful vista lay before us. Lake Naivasha, one of the Rift Valley lakes, glittered invitingly in the distance and a strong breeze helped to cool us off. When we turned around, we could see right into the thickly forested caldera of the crater. Three of us did half of the crater walk and climbed one of the peaks on it and then came back to the banda while the remaining ladies circumambulated the entire rim, even summitting the two remaining peaks. The mountain had aggravated an old knee injury for yet another mother and so she chose to await us in the banda.
By now the sun was beating down strongly and the summit was starting to get crowded. We took a last look at the magnificent view that we had climbed so high to see and then we began our descent. There's nothing easier then rushing pell mell down a mountain but there's nothing stupider either! And so we put our toes, knees and calf muscles to work to begin a controlled descent. Hoards of people and huge groups of school children were coming up and again, like in real life, sometimes we had to stand back and let others move up, while at other times we pushed our way through and let others take a back seat, else we might have found ourselves waiting beside the path for ever! While climbing up, it's often hard to see how far you have yet to go or how steep and treacherous the path actually is. By contrast, while coming down, you know exactly how much you have yet to conquer and it's amply clear what the path is like! Again, so true of different stages in our lives which is why, I feel, it is faith alone that often keeps us going , no matter if we can see the path or not, as the case may be.
Finally we were back to base and could relax and munch some well earned lunch! The adrenaline was still flowing and all of us were actually glowing from a sense of accomplishment. We had conquered a mountain just as we had set out to do, at an unearthly hour that morning...This would be a day that would always stand out in our memories, in which ever corner of the world we eventually find ourselves in.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Don't hesitate to chase your dream!

                                                      Mount Longonot From The Base

                                                           Aerial View Of The Caldera

                                           How It Got It's Name! P.C KWS website.

                                               Lake Naivasha As Seen From Longonot

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Tulip Time!

If, a few weeks ago it was daffodils, this morning it was the turn of the most gorgeous tulips I've ever seen. Since my husband and daughter are both away, I checked my phone for any messages from either of them, even as I was making lunch for my son, early this morning, to take to school. When I saw the pictures of these breathtakingly beautiful flowers, posted once again by my cousin from his garden in California, I was tempted to abandon rolling out a paratha mid way and pen a few lines. Obviously I couldn't let my son go hungry, but I could barely wait till his school bus had left our compound, so I could put pen to paper. The muse, especially when triggered by photos of flowers, as I've come to realize, can be very demanding...


                                                         Picture Credits: V Modak, U.S.A
                Tulip Time

Who's in the corner nodding her head?
Oh, it's a tulip painted with a streak of red!
If I were a bee,
I can clearly see,
Why a tulip would fascinate me...

God picked up a brush and dabbed on red,
On a pepper mint white canvas in the tulip bed.
I look at the tulips and see the advent of spring,
Warm summer days soon they will bring.
A glance at them dispels my gloom,
All's well with the world, as long as these beauties bloom.

These tulips bring the Dutch Keukenhof Gardens to mind,
Where, seven million tulip bulbs one can find.
They will soon spur a home body like me,
To pack my bags and go and see,
Acres and acres of tulip fields,
Evidence of what God's creation yields.

My relationship with tulips is really old,
On a pretty pink dress, my Mom had embroidered a tulip bold.
That cross stitched red tulip still stands out in my mind,
The pleasure that flower brought me is, today, so hard to find.
But these pictures took me back to the days of yore,
And left me craving for so many more!

The Art Of Apologizing.

Finally at the end of a busy week, I have time to sit down and share the parenting article that was published on the parenting blog last week. My mother has flown down from India so I've mostly been busy eating the many goodies that came with her. Thanks to family and friends who have a soft spot for me, I am assured of gaining a couple of kilos, while gorging on many home made delicacies they have sent for us. So I've been busy walking the extra calories off too! Then we've had International Day at school with food from the world over, a lunch with some of the moms I have volunteered to help with language skills and a cofffee morning with fellow school moms. My daughter is away on her Senior trip to the coast, sponsored by the school and my husband is travelling for work, so we are eating their share of the goodies as well... But enough of my rambling. Let me share my article. Many of you may have read it directly through the parenting site. If yes, please feel free to skip clicking on the link. I've attended a dietics and nutrition workshop and I've climbed a mountain and I've penned a little poem so I'll have new material to share soon.

Last week when my son came home from school, he related an incident to me. He, at the age of twelve, still relates 'everything' to me, unlike my daughter who at the age of seventeen, is very selective about what she tells me, especially if it concerns her friends, as there's only so much my very 'Indian' sensibilities can take!
Here's the link for the rest of it.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Of Dainty Daffodils And Flower Inspired Travel Yearnings

I know I've mentioned earlier that we have a family group on What's App and it has inspired me a few times in the past to write and I have faithfully recorded here whenever a particular post was triggered off by something that I had read or seen on my phone, either on the maternal family group or elsewhere. Yes,more and more Indians seem to be spending half their waking hours on Whats App!
The best thing about a family group is that you know most of the people there very well and it's a comfortably familiar, familial environment. Many of those folks have known your parents since before you were born and of course, landed up in hospital to see you when you were born and many of them visited your kids when they were freshly minted too! You've been visiting them in their homes for years and more importantly you share strong genetic bonds with many of them and so a common love for certain things seems to run in your blood! In our case, it's the love of ice cream and the beauty of flowers. NO, I'm not even going to start off on the I of ice cream because then I will crave some really hard and there is no friendly neighbourhood grocer to go to in Nairobi, unlike in my home town, at this time of the night! So we have people on different continents posting perfect pictures of flowers that leave us hungry for more. Hungry for botanical beauties I mean, since we, on that group, are perpetually hungry for ice cream anyway....
A cousin of mine whom I address as Uncle V, as he is older than my Mom, (common in the large families of yore!), recently shared some pictures of dandy daffodils from his garden in California on our group. He also mentioned that they were blooming beneath his cherry tree. I was in a rush as it was early morning in Kenya, but couldn't resist penning a couple of lines, in a (poor?) parody of William Wordsworth's famous and timeless poem 'Daffodils'. When I checked my phone later, I found that a favourite aunt of mine had added a few more lines to my verse and so I added the last verse! It was as if we were chatting at home and completing each other's lines, so perfectly in tandem were we. So technology, at  certain times, does aid creativity! But these daffodils really invoked a deep desire in me to see them first hand, which was truly surprising, as I haven't had the urge to travel, (except to go home for our annual sojourn), for the last few years! Contrast this with the old me who used to actually tick off Indian states visited as a child and later, countries as an adult, from a list I had! Must be the age factor kicking in....!

                                                 Picture Credits:V. Modak, ditto venue credits!

Uncle V and Aunty M graciously gave permission to share their pictures and lines respectively. The first and last verses are mine and the lines in between are hers. She blogs at So here's our joint effort that actually spanned three continents as the Daffodils are growing in the United States and the poem was penned in Africa and Asia!

When I got up in the morning and switched on my phone,
A delicate daffodil stared at me from its Californian home.
An uncle on our family group had shared pictures of daffodils divine,
Proudly they stood in never ending line,
Contentedly basking in the Californian sunshine.
Beside the pool, beneath the cherry tree they bloom,
And then they gently flutter,
In the Californian zephyr.

Standing upright on their stiff green stalks,
Looking oh so elegant,
In their creamy white frocks.
Smiling up
At the sun so mellow,
Sweet are the flowers with their centres yellow!
To you and me they bring good cheer,
Gently swaying
In the soft, balmy, zephyr.

The flowers tempt me to my U.S visa use,
Surely entry into the U.S, to me, they can't refuse?
If I tell them I flew over ocean, vale and hill,
Just to see the dainty daffodil!

How I got An Impromptu Valentine Lunch

During my self allotted, strictly ten minutes only, of FaceBook time earlier this evening, I came across scores of pictures of couples, lib...