Thursday, October 27, 2005

A picnic

A couple of wks back , we went on a picnic to the area around Mt fuji. Now this was a very iffy affair. We did not know till the previous night , whether or not we were going at all. So , In order to not built up my hopes and then see them dashed, I'd refrained from asking my parents about the specifics of this picnic. I will expound later on why that idea has its merits. Now since I had not asked , I was not told and thus specific details like names of places would be missing. However If you do stick around you'll find my version of a travelogue and get a glimpse into how I view this world of mine.
For this picnic we had to again get up at the unearthly hour of 5:30 AM . Why do all picnics begin so darned early. We were at the embassy at 6:30 AM. Some people wisely arrived at IST (Indian stretchable time) , but we were off by 7:30 AM . GRRRRRR
Our first stop was at Shizuka. Really have no idea why we stopped here, as we had b'fast in the bus. I think we made pitstops for the oldies of the "gotta go" generation. And then we started again and stopped not till we reached the end of the road.... or so . I'd love to think. Our next stop was after we crossed into the fuji city, past hakone and all and finally got to the feet of Mt fuji. The fall colors are changing. The weather forecast said it would be rainy. I wished, they'd get it wrong for once. They did not . but what do u know. It rained only while we were in the bus. And it stopped raining each time we needed to step out. That I must say was terrific.

Notice the awesome variation in shades. We hung around
here for a while and I went justifiably nuts with my camera. There was everything a shutterbug like me could hope for and more. There were changing fall colors . There were the clouds that had descended to kiss the tree tops and then the awesome shades of blue. I've never seen the sky in Tokyo so full of color. I was in heaven and the best thing about is that I did not even have to die for it!!!

The crazy, in my own world gal, that I am , I just wondered by myself clicking away to glory. But all good things must
come to an end and so did this Pit-stop!! It went downhill from here. Dont worry, I don't mean that the day took a turn for worse , rather that this was the highest point altitude wise. We climbed down from this point onwards.
Lunch was at a restaurant-cum-bbq place. It was a potluck kind of arrangement, as we had all taken something or the other. I could have taken pics of the food, but you know how it is at Indian do's with any food involved. The food goes so fast that you can take pics of other people eating it if you wanna forego it. :)
So after lunch, while every one danced, I wandered around and took pics. This horse chestnut
and the wildflowers particularly caught my attention. They are in the wilderness and the flowers especially brought back memories of J.N.U where things just bloom. No siree. No fancy landscaping, just natural beauty in its wild abundance.
I am going to take a break from the pics and tell a funny story. My dad's assistant's daughter is a few months old. An amazingly quite child, I've not seen her cry. I've seen her only on two occasions and this picnic was the second one. Both times, I've noticed, that any body and everybody can hold her and she stays quiet. This is good for her parents cus on occasions like these they can let their hair down and really enjoy without worrying abt the little one. Some body or the other is holding her and they know she is safe. So on this day, Adi as she is called, was dressed in a gazillion layers of clothes. It was past lunchtime , and by the time , I got a turn to hold her, she looked positively miserable. So I asked a lady standing near me, If it would be ok to take some of her clothes off. She agreed and actually took her jacket off. So when I gave Adi back to her mom, I had to tell her, who had the jacket too. Adi's mom removed a few layers then but I noticed after a bit the layers were back on . Some more time later, Adi'd mom was looking for another piece of clothing. Apparently some one removed it off Adi and forgot to tell the mom.
Okie , back on track. So after lunch and when every one had their fill of the mandatory bhangra, we started again. Since my sense of direction is missing , I will not hazard a guess to where we were going. We did seem to be going down but we did take a longer time than we had taken going up so we did meander. This is when I had the opportunity to take pics of Mt Fuji. These pics were taken while we were in the bus. It was frustrating as I did not even have the window seat, and I felt like I was imposing on my neighbour. On top of that , each time I felt I could get a shot, something like a tree or
a building came in between before the actual shot could be taken. And by the time I got a clear shot again, the camera would switch off . ARRRGGHH . They say that , in a year, there are barely 15-20 days when Fuji San is clearly visible. I guess, I am going to have to make some more attempts in order to get the cliched picture of a bullet train with the FujiSan in the background.
Oh well , we were heading towards our next destination. This was a vineyard and we were going wine tasting. Yay Hic Yay. We could have gone grape picking but some thing got lost in translation. Am hoping we can do it some other time. Before we got to the actual wine tasting though, we were given a tour of the winery. We were taken through the intricacies of wine making and little known trivia of whats done with the grapes once the wine is out. Did you know the grape skin and seed remnants are dried and powdered and used as fertilizer. The whole place reeked and the elderly ladies made faces that were a sight. I still wish to live or else I'd taken the pics and posted those too :) These barrels that you see in the pics are french. Our tour guide assured us that allthough the barrels were of french origin, the wines were indeed being made on those very premises. Could not help sneaking my camera in through the fence and taking pics of the grapes. Must say this was the best I could do .
Some cosmos were growing on the premises. These are wildflowers too but currently in season and look really pretty.
And now to my story on why one must not ask too much in order to avoid disappointment. Now another embassy member had not taken that suggestion and had told his preschooler that we'd be climbing a mountain. Then this gentleman sat with us on the bus. He was really patient. I am sure he was used to it but my family was really caught unawares. So this kid who had been really quiet in the morning, asked his dad, when they'd climb the mountain. In a while. Now this kid aint dumb, he can make out that we are going down. He can see the mountains approach and recede. He knows we are not about to climb any, but man was he tenacious. From the time we finished lunch to the time we reached the embassy, this kid did not let up. It was one question again and again with varied responses from his dad. A birthcontrol commecial swimming in mah head to the fury that I am sure was brewing in my dad's head (Am I glad no one in my family reads mah blogs), am sure we covered the entire gamut of emotions. Thus ended another day of my interesting stay in Japan.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A fruity trip down the memory lane

I mentioned being in Islamabad yesterday. Most people know of Pakistan being a nation hostile to India and off course about their cricket rivalry. But, am sure most expat Indians would vouch for having a pleasant experience on meeting expat Pakistanis. I can do so again and again. I’ve met Pakistanis abroad too many times and am always reminded of a common history and a common culture, but never the rivalry. I guess its true that citizens of a country don't hold the same issues close to their hearts as their politicians.
Am not a political person, so, will not discuss that any more. And this blog is anyways about memories, pleasant memories of places I’ve been to.
Of course, I don't remember a lot of our stay at Pakistan, as I happened to be 3 yrs old when we went there. What I do remember however , are all the different plants or trees we had in our garden, or, ppl around us, had, in theirs. Islamabad happens to be a very fertile place and you don't have to be a green thumb for things to take root and yield their bounty. My parents took full advantage of this fact and planted seasonal vegetables in the rows around the garden. In one corner was the Papaya tree. To this day, I don't like papaya, but have fond memories of climbing up on the boundary wall and shaking down a papaya each time any one wanted one. Off course, the day my parents had planted the papayas, something interesting had happened. My bro, whom, some people also know as smartass, had just heard about the money plant. He had then seen mom and dad, put papaya plants in the soil. He put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5. So when mom and dad took a nap, bro dear put his plan in action. Out come the papaya saplings and in go the rupee notes. When mom and dad woke up, he rushed to tell em of his brilliant strategy for getting rich. Dad off course dug the notes out and replaced em with newer saplings. To this day , one of the notes survives in his file. Mom says that that's the shagun my bro’s future wife is getting. That, I must say, is a kickass introduction to the insanity that runs in my family.
So, back to the flora. One of our neighbors had a loquat tree in their garden. Man am I glad mom was friends with that lady. Most afternoons after school found us in her garden, me jumping around like a monkey, trying to get at the fruits, which were at that time green and tangy. I’ve always had a taste for sour things and I just loved the green loquats. Off course the ripe fruits are better and those are the ones that are commonly seen. I am saying commonly seen, but outside of Islamabad, Japan is the second place I’ve seen them growing like I remember from Islamabad. Japan happens to be the biggest producer of loquat, or Biwa, as they are known here.
While I was at New York, I saw loquats, once, at a hole in the wall store owned by an elderly Chinese gentleman. The moment he saw me make a beeline for loquats, I think we connected on some level. He could see I had just renewed contacts with a childhood acquaintance.
If I am writing about a fruit, can a recipe for it, be far behind? This time, however, the recipe isn’t mine, nor is the preparation. Lemme introduce you to Obachan. She is an amazing lady, I’ve met on the WWW and she makes these amazing things in her kitchen. Here are her experiments with loquats from her parents’ orchard. Do you see what I mean by memories here?
We have a loquat tree growing in campus here and I’ve taken pictures of it. It does not do justice to the picture I have in my mind of that loquat tree in a corner of a garden in Islamabad, but then, no picture does that.
When loquats were in season, here in Japan, I hogged those, as I am well aware, that once I leave this country, I may not see these again. What I also did is something out of my trust for nature. I am not a green thumb, but I took the loquat seeds and put them in the soil in a pot. Thankfully they took root and I now have three saplings. We would soon be leaving this accommodation. So mom and I took those saplings out of the pot and have put them in the soil in the backyard. I am hoping that a few yrs down the line some Indian kid can have the memories I have and cherish them for years. If some yrs down the line, I come across a blog like mine, I’ll know, my loquat tree is doing fine. Or is that too much of leap into the future?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A little bit of time travel

I got out of the house today morning and had just turned the corner when I saw this young lady get on her bike and on her way. Still smiling to myself and selecting the music for the day, on my ipod, I was walking along in my own world when I saw in the distance, a little gal on her bike, looking very distressed. She was calling for the young lady , who was soon going to be just a dot on the yonder horizon. As I approached the gal , I could make out the lil tears that would soon start on their way. I asked the lil gal if she was alright. "No," was the answer. "Do you need help?"
"Yes," said the lil gal. I helped her get back on the bike, made sure she could reach the pedals and asked her if she was alright then. Was relieved when she replied in the affirmative and soon we were both on our respective ways.
That got me thinking, had it been my mom, she would have not been on a bike in the first place and would not have raced ahead of me in the second place. But then, back when I was the little gal's age, there's no way in heck , I'd have talked to a stranger and accepted help. Really can't say who was better, my mom then or the young lady today. I did not dwell too long on that question as I was reminded of another incident when I was that small. This was in Islamabad. School was some distance away from our place and despite the fact that we had walked the distance on a few occasions, a school bus ferried us back and forth everyday. This particular day, however, I'd woken up late ( never been a morning person) and missed the bus. Dad could have dropped me to school but then , he has never been in favor of doing so. So what does Ms Baggins decide? She decided , she'll walk......and walk she did. I got to school , but not in time. The assembly had started and was about to get over. Walked over to my teacher and told her how I'd missed the bus and then walked to school. What do you know! She wasn't angry , as I was expecting her to be. Instead she was pleased I was brave enough to walk the distance on my own. This fact was announced in the assembly and the kids were asked to clap for Ms baggins.
A little about why my teacher could have thought me to be brave. I guess, It is not expected of 5 yr olds to be venturing too much away from their homes on their own. And in the minds of the Indian expat community in Islamabad, it was not exactly an idyllic situation. All though it was not a full out hostile scenario as it is today, there were isolated incidents that kept one fearful at worst and careful at best.
So, a day that started on a nice note with a little bit of meandering down memory lanes, thrown in . Ms baggins can only ask for it to end well too.