The leaves, like women, interchange…

Here’s one from Emily where she compares leaves to women. I love the tone of the poem and the choice of words.

The leaves, just like women, seal a pact of confidence while interchanging their views and secrets. Their intuition or foresight or their reasoning skills are not to be questioned. They are wise, shrewd and good at judging men and manners. Let us see what Emily has to say,

The leaves, like women, interchange
Sagacious confidence;
Somewhat of nods, and somewhat of
Portentous inference,

The parties in both cases
Enjoining secrecy, —
Inviolable compact
To notoriety.

The fairer sex is known (notorious) for their inability to keep secrets. Studies too assert that they would spill the beans in a duration of half an hour to 40 hours!

What can leaves do if the wind comes and eavesdrop and scatter the secrets, their views and judgmental opinions far and wide?!

NB I interpret Emily the way I understand her.

Hello Petite February…

Hello Petite February!

Please be Kind. Tread softly, smile bright and bring us blue skies, vibrant sunrises and crimson sunsets.


“Why what’s the matter,

That you have such a February face,

so full o frost, of storm and cloudiness?”

~ Much Ado About Nothing

We don’t want to see you as  Shakespeare thinks of you! Be cheerful!

Blue moon, a broken toe and some moon musings!

It is triple bonanza this time. A Super Blue Blood moon is out there in the sky! A rare celestial event. Reblogging at three year old blog of mine on the silvery orb.

House Sparrow


Blue Moon, as once in a blue moon!


That was a long wait for the rare celestial event called Blue Moon…Even though I knew that there’s nothing blue about it, the element of excitement was no less. This cosmic phenomenon took place on the 31st of July, but to my dismay a bunch of clouds got a bit too envious and hid the rising moon. I was quite fascinated by the various names given to the full moons by farmers and have been researching. In Cambodia it was a pleasure to marvel at the splendour of the full moons as the skies are vast and open. Here, in Saigon I got to see the blue moon late in the night.

The blue moon put high spirits in me …I was over the moon the next morning too!

A few days back I mentioned about July’s blue moon to my quick-witted…

View original post 1,788 more words

Lanterns and Magic!

The ancient town of Hoi An turns into a kaleidoscope as the sun sets. The streets shimmer and sparkle with myriad silk lanterns of different sizes and colours hanging all over. As Toru Dutt says “One might swoon drunken with beauty then, or gaze and gaze in amaze”. The variety of the vibrant lanterns is breathtakingly enchanting! A stroll around the lantern lit streets is a fascinating experience. When I found that The Daily Post weekly photo challenge theme of the week is ‘Variations on a Theme’, these mesmerizing lanterns came to my mind


Reflections on the Thu Bon River

The iconic Non La, the conical hat of Vietnam

Áo dài (the long silk dress), the conical hat nón lá, and don ganh tre/quang ganh (the bamboo shoulder pole with baskets on either side) are the symbols of quintessential Vietnam. Non la is an integral part of the daily life of Vietnamese people, especially the hard working women. It is most commonly used by farmers,vendors, fishermen and so on. The conical hat serves an ideal protection from the blazing sun and the unexpected rains of this region. These leaf hats add a romantic charm to the graceful traditional attire Ao Dai which highlights the beautiful figure of the Vietnamese women.

On a rainy day

An attempt to recreate the above photograph on canvas

For the love of non la, a few painting attempts by yours truly

The conical hats are made of palm leaves treated by proper processing methods and sewn together by the fibre from the bark of mok tree in the past (nowadays replaced by cotton or nylon thread), bamboo or rattan for the rim and a silk chin strap. The hats are hand made with great dexterity and precision. Leaves are left overnight in the open to become soft and then the sun dried flattened leaves are sewn on a conical frame of 16 to 18 bamboo rims. There are different types of hats. Non bai tho or poem hats are made in Hue, with verses inserted in the leaf layers. There are hats with paintings on them as well.

16 rimmed non la


Lost in the past
The legend behind the hat is that, once when a deluge affected the country a goddess descended from the heavens and protected the people from the fury of the rains by holding four broad leaves stitched together with bamboo sticks. The goddess taught the people how to grow crops. One day she went back to the heavens and the people made a temple in honour of her. They started making headwear out of broad leaves of the palm trees stitched together with bamboo sticks. This later became the iconic conical hats of Vietnam.

When you travel through Vietnam you wouldn’t miss these conical hats. Whether in cities like Saigon or any other rural areas, conical hats define this country. Every tourist who visits Vietnam carries home a non la.

Different types of hats

A few clicks from different parts of Vietnam

Behold her single in the field yon solitary Highland lass! (From Da lat, the Central Highlands)

The hands that create (from the pottery village Hoi An)

 A salt field worker

Fruit sellers

Like the conical hats don ganh tre or the bamboo shoulder baskets are also a symbol of Vietnamese women. A set of quang ganh / don ganh tre consist of a bamboo pole with two flat baskets made of rattan, bamboo and ropes hung on either side. They balance the heavy baskets on bamboo poles on their shoulders with amazing ease. Even though it is seemingly effortless, balancing the pole on the shoulders is no easy task. Wherever you go you see the women, old or young, carrying these poles on their shoulders selling fruits, tender coconuts or noodle soup. These images are strong metaphors of the balancing act of life, the strength of the womenfolk here. Hats off to these industrious women; their grit and energy are admirable.

An early morning at the fishing village in Mui ne

The wait for the fresh catch of the day

Non la, especially those of of men with the broad-rimmed higher cones in the centre has a striking similarity to thoppikkuda, the traditional headgear of farmers in Kerala. The broad rimmed thoppikuda is made of palm leaves and men and women used to wear different shapes. I remember the comparatively big ‘umbrellas’ made of palm leaves that can cover the whole body of the women folk as they work bending in the paddy fields. Those umbrellas that almost resembled curved roofs were called ‘kundan kuda‘ . These were made from the leaves of corypha umbraculifera or Tailpot Palm/ kudappana . Those have vanished completely from the villages. I was elated when I came across an interesting article which says that our village Anakkara was the place where the thoppikudas were largely produced! That ancient art of traditional umbrella making is fast fading from Kerala. Palm leaf Thoppikudas are replaced by plastic ones.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Courtesy Sudinam newspsper
Published On:Jun 13, 2014 | 12:47
തൊപ്പിക്കുടകളും ഓര്‍മ്മയിലേക്ക്”
പഴമയുടെ പ്രതീകമായിരുന്ന തൊപ്പിക്കുടകള്‍ നാടുനീങ്ങി. ഒരു കാലത്ത് നാട്ടിന്‍ പുറങ്ങളില്‍ തൊപ്പിക്കൂടകള്‍ സര്‍വ സാധാരണമായിരുന്നു. പാലക്കാട് ജില്ലയിലെ ആനക്കര തൊപ്പിക്കുട നിര്‍മ്മാണത്തിന് പ്രസിദ്ധമായിരുന്നു. കഴിഞ്ഞ കാലം വരെ തൊപ്പിക്കുട നിര്‍മ്മാണം നടന്നിരുന്നു. പഴയ തലമുറയില്‍പ്പെട്ട പലരും മണ്‍മറഞ്ഞതോടെ തൊപ്പിക്കുട നിര്‍മ്മാണവും ഇവര്‍ക്കൊപ്പം പോയി മറിഞ്ഞു. പണ്ട് കാലങ്ങളില്‍ കാര്‍ഷിക ജോലികളില്‍ ഏര്‍പ്പെടുന്ന തൊഴിലാളികള്‍ തൊപ്പിക്കുടകളും പാടത്ത് പണിയെടുക്കുന്ന കര്‍ഷകതൊഴിലാളികളായ സ്ത്രീകള്‍ കുണ്ടന്‍കുടകളുമാണ് ധരിക്കാറ്.. പനയോല, മുള എന്നിവ ഉപയോഗിച്ചാണ് കുട നിര്‍മ്മിച്ചിരുന്നത്….
മുണ്ട്രക്കോട്, പടിഞ്ഞാറങ്ങാടി, മുതൂര്‍ എന്നിവിടങ്ങളിലാണ് നേരത്തെ കുടനിര്‍മ്മാണം നടന്നിരുന്നത്. കുണ്ടന്‍കുടയും തൊപ്പികുടകളും നാടുനീങ്ങിയതോടെ ഇപ്പോള്‍ പ്ലാസ്റ്റിക് ഷീറ്റുകളും തൊപ്പികളുമാണ് ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നത്.

[Thoppikudas, a symbol of antiquity, have become extinct. Anakkara in Palakkad district was well known for mass production of thoppikkuda. Most of the artisans skilled at this art are departed and the art too died with them. These umbrellas were made of palm leaves and bamboo and were used by farmers.]

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Krishnan, from our village Anakkara, probably one of those last few people who is skilled at this dying art says there is no demand for this signature headgear these days. He hasn’t made one for a very long time. His own thoppikkuda definitely has seen better days! I sincerely wish that inspired by the Vietnamese and the way they keep their tradional headwear alive, thoppikkudas would make a come back to Kerala.

A lane of yellow led the eye…

While clicking away the papaya tree outside, its beautiful leaves and the different birds that visit the tree, little did I know that the papaya leaves are going to play a major role in the coming days! Soon after my Kerala visit I was down with a bad dengue fever attack and to help to stabilise the platelet count, I was consuming papaya leaf juice. How strange are the designs of God! Every small action has a message hidden, a purpose behind it. This woman is obsessed with this tree, let her taste the bitter essence of it, thought He.

Friends who frequent the tree

Asian Koels- male and female

Indian parakeet

Green Barbet

The illness, a heartless intruder, brutally spoilt my new year, my daughter’s holiday and my desire to capture the first full moon of the year. While lying in a delirium I thought of meeting death and wished to feel normal again. I wanted to put an end to the solitude and bitterness born out of sickness and started reading Emily. Somehow the first poem that came to my mind was

I felt my life with both my hands
To see if it was there—
I held my spirit to the Glass,
To prove it possibler—

I turned my Being round and round
And paused at every pound
To ask the Owner’s name—
For doubt, that I should know the Sound—

I judged my features—jarred my hair—
I pushed my dimples by, and waited—
If they—twinkled back—
Conviction might, of me—

I told myself, “Take Courage, Friend—
That—was a former time—
But we might learn to like the Heaven,
As well as our Old Home!”

I don’t have any idea what Emily had in mind or what kind of crisis she was going through when she wrote the poem. What a brave imagination to say that ‘I felt my life with both my hands’ and what an immense relief to know that it is still there! I too held my spirits to the mirror and looked at the ‘born again’ me. ‘Fear knocked at the door, Faith answered and lo! no one was there’ was the feeling!

Then on my lane to recovery I thought of this image I clicked sometime ago at Hoi An village… A dark lane lit up by early morning light. I felt I could see the golden light at the end of a dark lane and that excited me. Then I chanced upon this poem of hers.

A lane of Yellow led the eye
Unto a Purple Wood
Whose soft inhabitants to be
Surpasses solitude
If Bird the silence contradict
Or flower presume to show
In that low summer of the West
Impossible to know –

Riding into the lane of yellow!
It gave me immense joy to ride to the yellow lane again from darkness and I would like to believe that the purple woods are still far away.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the deathbed whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

SONNET 73 Shakespeare

Shakespeare reflects on the approaching old age and compares that season to Autumn. That time of the year when the leaves turn yellow and fall off, when the singing birds leave the branches. It is the twilight of our day called Life. The fading light after sunset would soon be engulfed by darkness. The poet addresses a young man and tells that the fire in the poet is of dying embers. The young man should not waste time. One must remember ‘to love more strongly’ because we are going to depart everything. The tone of the sonnet is pensive; the brightness of Autumn is a harbinger of the impending darkness.

Autumn, the sound of the word and the concept, has been enticing to one who has never experienced the season. The season must be full of light and striking colours! Shades of yellow, orange and red; fire all around. My all time favourite Autumn poem is definitely Keats’ Ode To Autumn. Rich in imagery, soothing like a song from a flute, ‘To Autumn’ is a celebration of the season. No one would have so passionately depicted Autumn or personified her as Keats did. Autumn, bosom friend of the maturing sun is an advocate of abundance. She loads every vine and tree with fruits and gourds. Every line in the first stanza is pregnant and pulsates with plenitude and prosperity. Though sitting on the verge of the fast approaching cold and dreary Winter, Autumn celebrates every opportunity given to her. There is no time to brood over future. The passage of Time has filled her with exhaustion, yet she revels in the warmth created by herself. Transience of life does not affect Autumn here. Autumn rejoices in her own music…Spring and her music are far ahead, but Autumn has her own unique music.

I met Autumn during my recent visit to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The visuals depicted in the poem came to life in the pastoral scenes I encountered there; the resilience, the dedicated labour, the patience and an air of gaiety that I found there in the Highlands folks resonate with Keats’ Autumn. It was a delight compiling recent and old photos closely or distantly related to Keats’ Autumn and inserting them between stanzas of my favourite poem was even more joyful.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

As we travelled we passed through small farming villages where harvesting is over. Women folk were busy winnowing and piling up fresh hay. I chanced upon this farmer weary after the harvest, yet nonchalant, sitting on the stubbled field, smoking. I found Keats’ Autumn personified there!

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Even though I could not meet Keats’ gleaner balancing a load on her head crossing the brook, I witnessed an even more powerful sight. A very young fragile looking mother who belongs to the ethnic minority group with her two children crossing a brook on an old motorbike. An example of admirable grit and strength!

What would it look like, the last oozings from a cider press?

Thus Autumn is filled with bounty, hope and her own music. There is no room for gloom.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Thou hast thy music too

Of the two Autumn poems of Emily Dickinson I’m inclined to this one. So crisp and clean.

The morns are meeker than they were—
The nuts are getting brown—
The berry’s cheek is plumper—
The Rose is out of town.

The Maple wears a gayer scarf—
The field a scarlet gown—
Lest I should be old fashioned
I’ll put a trinket on

Her ‘The name-of it-is Autumn/ The hue-of it-is Blood’ is a a little too fierce for me.

Autumn represents the later years of life and as poets suggest it indeed is a time of jubilation. Grow and glow beautiful as the autumnal leaves do as you stand at the threshold to enter old age. Fill your Life with light and bright colours. It is a good idea to be bold, passionate and chivalrous. They say, Autumn is the second Spring.

There is a harmony

In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,

Which through the summer is not heard or seen,

As if it could not be, as if it had not been!~ Shelley



A morning recollection…

‘Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster child, her inmate man,
Forget the glories he hath known
And that imperial palace whence he came.”

~William Wordsworth


I’ll tell you how the Sun rose…

Whenever the sky is all set for a gorgeous sunrise or a show of similar grandeur, an inner voice whispers and I absolutely trust my intuition. So when I woke up in the wee hours of the morning for reasons unknown to see the orange-pink streamers scattered over the sky, I knew that it is a clear announcement of a splendid drama to be staged at dawn. I ventured out, and a mesmerising sunrise was waiting out there…How can I resist sharing this beautiful one from Emily!

I’ll tell you how the Sun rose –
A Ribbon at a time –
The Steeples swam in Amethyst –
The news, like Squirrels, ran –



The Hills untied their Bonnets –
The Bobolinks – begun –
Then I said softly to myself –
‘That must have been the Sun!’



I stood there entranced looking at the frills of clouds raising, admiring the Sun who dipped the buildings and the Saigon river in liquid gold! The city line swam in amber, not amethyst though. I had the little Fan tails around me to replace Emily’s bobolinks.

Autumn and Winter are known and felt through poems, stories and pictures for a person like me, who has lived all her life in tropical zone. While standing at the riverside I visualised how the hills would have untied their bonnets! Snow from the mountain tops melting away at sunrise could not have been painted better.

But how he set – I know not –
There seemed a purple stile
Which little Yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while –
Till when they reached the other side,
A Dominie in Gray –
Put gently up the evening Bars –
And led the flock away –

Surprisingly,  in this poem Emily is ignorant of how the sun sets. The same Emily who gave us sunset in a cup, who talked about the sunset washed land, who painted the housewife in the west busy with many coloured brooms sweeping, missed the setting sun here.

I have experienced a similar disappointment recently.  October sunsets are generally stunning in Saigon, but this year every single sunset was swallowed by a mean, grave looking cloud! Every evening there were preparations for a gala sunset but a dull grey cloud  as vast as the sky would come from nowhere and hide the sun.

Despite the touch of dismay, the brilliant imagery in the second half brings a broad smile to me. I visualised bouncy school children climbing up the stile and their warden in a grey attire hurrying to put the bars and sending them back to their respective rooms. How well I can relate to these lines! There was no compromise on discipline during my hostel life; the good old warden sisters were particular that all of us were inside the building premises before nightfall. No mischief was allowed. The Carmelite nuns of my alma mater Mercy College, gliding in their flawless white habits like good shepherds guided and admonished us without fail. Beautiful memories of hostel life that I cherish even now.  Mischievous children should be promptly supervised hence all the scattered golden bouncy clouds were gathered by their watchful warden clergy in his grey habit and were put behind the bars. And Emily missed the Sun setting.

‘There seemed a purple stile
Which little Yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while –’



“But how he set- I know not-“


P.S~I interpret Emily, the way I understand her.