“Such an exquisite form of unblemished beauty, I have never known, or seen, or experienced in my life before. I am hovering around this beautiful Kunda flower saturated with dew, like a bee at dawn, neither able to enjoy it, nor abandon it. “

“ज्याच्या कान्तींत कसलाहीं उणेपणा नाही अशा या आपण होऊन चालून आलेल्या सौंदर्याचा मी पूर्वी कधी स्वीकार केला होता कीं नव्हता याचा निर्णय करतां येत नसल्यामुळे, उष:काली दंवबिंदूंनी निथळणार्या कुन्दपुष्पाचा भ्रमर आस्वाद घेऊ शकत नाही, त्याप्रमाणे या सौंदर्याचा स्वीकार करण्याचाहि मला धीर होत नाही, आणी त्याचा अव्हेर करण्याचंहि सामर्थ्य माझ्या ठिकाणी नाही.”

~ अभिज्ञानशाकुन्तलम् Abhijñānaśākuntalam, a Sanskrit play by the ancient Indian poet Kālidāsa.

The Festival of Navaratri

The October heat in the afternoons is on the rise. The village woman grinds freshly plucked henna leaves from the garden into a smooth paste. I am full of curiosity & wonder, as she takes my hands into hers. She lovingly envelops the tips of my fingers, and my toes with the thick green paste of henna. Its perfect consistency is achieved by adding to it the juice of a few lemons from her garden. She is gifted at weaving conversations. She keeps me patiently engaged with colourful folklores around henna, and it’s magical benefits upon the well-being of a woman. I receive her love. I receive her joy. I receive her blessing.

To allow the henna to reveal its gifts, I am forced to halt all activity. Unable to dance, or to read, or to paint, or to listen to music, I surrender to laying down upon the floor beneath me. She directs me to rest at a spot on the floor where a wonderful breeze blows directly upon me, speeding the drying up of the henna paste. Unable to move, I recollect and hum to myself beautiful padams – dance compositions. It is a joy to sing aloud to the vast spaciousness around me. I have forgotten the pleasure of leisurely laying on the ground, just staring aimlessly at the ceiling. A childlike playful excitement bubbles through my body. I can sense the light orange of the henna darken into a deeper red, with the slow passage of time. The aroma is giddying and delightful. A few hours later, the leaves dry upon my skin. She helps take it all off with a wide & content smile. The darkened orangish-red colour is to her satisfaction. Her joy is contagious. I am overflowing with love and deep gratitude for our sisterhood. I am waiting for dawn to dance in celebration of the joy that henna awakens in me.

Wishing all of you a blessed, joyful and nurturing Navaratri in celebration of the Mother Nature and all Her beautiful forms. 🙏🏽

Resting in stillness. Watching pigeons in flight. Listening to the melodies of the sensuous ocean waves. Bobbing wooden boats carry curious explorers into the Arabian Sea. There is such heightened poetry in these pregnant monsoon skies !

Photo Courtesy: Kamakshi Kaarthikeyan

At the doorway into our home, in the slanting, cool, morning light, she lures me and halts me in my footsteps with her delicate, ivory beauty. Bending down to kiss her soft petals with the tip of my nose, I leisurely inhale her sweet perfume.

At twilight, I step out into our garden, and glance back at her. Her tender petals are wilting with the fading evening light. I sit next to her in sisterhood, observing her frailty. Her fragrance grows stronger, as she surrenders to her dying.