Illustration conceptualised by G., drawn by J. with skills acquired in Class 1

Our latest English assignment gave us a thrill. It was so much better than boring precis writing or essays — we had to come up with a concept for a radio show and record it on tape! True, actually broadcasting it would have been more fun, but this was a huge step up from scribbling answers till our fingers ached.

‘Let your imagination run wild,’ said Vaani Ma’am, as she announced the assignment in class. ‘Be creative and put your different talents to good use!’ She was usually a good sport, and her encouragement was like a breath of fresh…


Notes from Bali — photo by G.

This blog is now four years old. After stints on Rediffblogs, Blogspot, and Wordpress over nearly a decade, I landed here on July 10, 2017, when I started writing about my trip to Bhutan. It was like a new beginning, as if the visit to the beautiful mountain country had helped me hit the reset button.

This also happens to be my hundredth post, and I write it with gratitude for all the people who shaped my writing and gave me things to think about. The last year-and-a-half has been difficult, with writing fodder hard to come by (since most…


A Singaporean shrine

One of my favourite things during my year in Singapore, more than a decade ago, was to wander through Chinatown. It was always a delightful sensory experience — stepping out of the metro station, I walked right into one of its narrow streets, packed with stalls and people. I wrote about it here in 2009, and while I probably don’t use the word ‘Orient’ any more, I still think about Chinatown as fondly as I did then.

Singapore, Chinatown in particular, was my introduction to Buddhism. While I had been to a solitary Buddhist temple in Hyderabad previously, I started…


The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan comes with a lovely cover and a misleading blurb. On the surface, it is about an all-women choir formed in the wake of its male members’ departure to fight in the Second World War. The initial scepticism is replaced by a quiet confidence as the women find their voice under the guidance of Primrose Trent, a cloaked wonder who encourages the girls and women of Chilbury to sing — for joy, for grief, for faith, for courage.

If only the story had continued in this vein! It rapidly turns towards intrigue, which is…


The lanes of our old home

R. texted me a couple of days ago to ask if I had ever gone back to learning music since school. Partners-in-crime in our school years, we were in the school choir together, and had a few Hindustani classical vocal lessons with Sruti Ma’am, who left for the US soon after. We adored her and were heartbroken when she left. We talked of how her grilling made sure that we still remembered the songs and few khyals we had learnt. We also spoke of our failed attempts to find her again.

Surprisingly — or perhaps not — R. and I…


That is all I ask of you. Take some time out for yourself. In the midst of worrying about your parents and grandparents, your children, oxygen tanks, ventilators, hospital beds, and vaccines, take time out to breathe. This uncertainty won’t go away in a day, so slow down and look out through the window.

We slipped and stumbled through last year, hoping we could just see this through somehow and get on with our lives. That is not the case, and we cannot afford to continue neglecting our mental health. In conversations with psychologists and psychiatrists last week, I have…


Sarita adjusted the pleats of her blue saree as she got out of the cab. She took a couple of steps forward and turned back hesitantly.

‘Would you mind waiting for me? I will be back in half-an-hour. I will pay you for your time, of course.’

The cab driver, happy at the prospect of being paid extra for waiting, agreed immediately. When people said they would be back in thirty minutes or an hour, they rarely meant it. The prospect of a good tip soothed him. …


Luxembourg Gardens, Paris. To be in the open again!

I miss travelling. (I know, I know, many of us do.)

When I had an opportunity to go to Delhi last month for a work trip, I was wild with excitement. There were hours to endure at the airport and on the plane, with multiple dabs of sanitiser and the face shield pressing on your forehead, but these seemed like minor inconveniences. …


A night race from a different time and place — Singapore 2009

Last evening, I watched my first full F1 race in several years (we did occasionally switch to the cricket, but those moments were brief). I hadn’t anticipated the start of a season with such eagerness in a long while. All this time, I kept following commentary on Twitter, where most of the teams engage in a lot of entertaining banter — especially the midfield teams, with all of whom I want to be friends. However, I didn’t sit down to watch a race. …


‘Yaad Piya ki Aaye’, written out by Manorma Ahuja

I first heard Yaad Piya ki Aaye on a winter evening at the 2013 Sawai Gandharva Festival in Pune, when Kaushiki Chakrabarty concluded her concert with this piece. This being my first time at Hindustani concerts, I wasn’t aware of the immense popularity of the composition. As she launched into its opening lines, a thrill of recognition and appreciation trembled through the audience. Seated on mats spread on the ground, Bhartiya baithak style as the festival calls it, it was perhaps the closest I ever got to a mehfil experience.

Over the years, through a few more Hindustani concerts, all…

Jaya Srinivasan

A woman from many places.

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