Chewing on the intestines of Paris

Here’s a riddle: if the Paris metro lines are the arteries of that great city, then what are its intestines?

paris-centre-mapAnswer – its sewers.

And the intestines of Paris are offered up to visitors just as many of its other attractions. For adults there is a modest fee and for EU children there is none, to descend under the Place de la Résistance in the heart of the great, buzzing metropolis with its treasure troves in abundance.


To my wonder and surprise, I find that, like in India, the profession of the sewage worker is often passed down from father to son. Not so surprising too, that the board is one of the last, because it conveys this bit of information along with the emotion that sums up the entire exhibition. Pride. The son takes up the profession of his father with pride. And Paris reveals the workings of its intestines with pride, and wishes its visitors to know that by making its intestines available for public consumption, so to speak, it is also giving its sewage workers visibility.IMG_3608

Some random thoughts go through my head….

The Delhi metro, the Mumbai local trains, and the Indian Railways are impressive arteries but the intestines of India fail, in some cases appallingly. In the most ‘modern’ of cities, sewage and drinking water pipes can get mixed up, and the consequence on human health is lethal.


I remember the ‘out castes’ – the ‘untouchables’, the ’Harijans’ by other names – who don’t smell so sweet. They are often unprotected and use the most primitive of gear. It is seen as a natural birth-right, or more accurately put, a natural birth wrong. So much so that even the central government hires the same castes to take care of unclean jobs. The latter get a salary, and the employer gets a work force. It is seen as a ‘win-win’. A permanent government job is something to be proud of – anywhere.


It is hard to think with pride about most Indian cities, when it comes to infrastructure. Everyone I know is reeling under the weight of living in them. One insight this Parisian tourist site does give, is the number of years, centuries even, that it took to get its intestines to work as efficiently as they do. Many Indian cities simply do not have that luxury – as they burst at the seams, exploding….

But… I don’t really have the time to digest or absorb much of these intestines …as nausea drives me towards the big metal door with steps leading upwards – back onto the boulevard, allowing me the luxury of air that doesn’t smell like shit.IMG_3600

link to website page of the intestines of Paris



Bungle and the Jungle

Bungle jook, bungle jook, bungle jook.

It’s like a mantra that repeats itself voicelessly. But who said this, when and where. I don’t quite know any more. All I know is that I was a child then. And Bungle Jook was a child’s rendering of Jungle Book.

Bungle Jook wakes up the long ago and makes my heart ache. Childhood and youth are gone. And jungles too.

These days, when I am not busy conflating nature with environment, then I am taking walks or going on bicycle rides around the man made lake, along man made tulip fields or the man made canal or in the man made polder, or the man made woods or the man made botanical gardens. All of these are available at a stone’s throw from my home, and I consider myself extremely fortunate that they are there. Not everyone on the planet can claim such a privilege. Jungle Book in 3D puts the sublime back on the agenda, if for a couple of hours only.

Then, in the days of Bungle Jook, eyes wide open against utter darkIMG_2730ness, riding on a scooter, listening to sounds that emanated from the thick foliage, knowing that a herd of elephants was crossing the road ahead in their search for food from the fields of villagers, I felt the adrenalin flowing freely. Now as I listen to the wind in the trees in the darkness of the woods, my only fear is that a man may just be lying in wait for someone like me, and I try to connect to the breath that flows in and out of me to keep calm and carry on. Then, when the toilet was a mud hut, I almost squatted on a cobra in the process of digesting a frog, now I trip over puddles with the reflection of the clouds in them. Then, the leeches were picked off ankles, toes, legs and stomach, thick with the blood they had feasted on, now I feel the irritation of nettles on my skin. Then, when a million butterflies in myriad colours presented themselves on the blue catwalk in front of my nose, now the duck with the flashy green neck waddles across my path on her way to the water’s edge. Then, when the hundred-member cicada choir added to the feeling that I was slowly and surely being electrocuted as I sweated through each day, now I tell myself it will pass when a gust of wind slaps my face and threatens to fling me backwards.


Then in the time of Bungle Jook, I didn’t know, that many years later, I would be walking in a glass box in the botanical garden, my glasses misty from the moisture generated by a machine. A man, in uniform, would open a little cupboard, and take out one butterfly after another, to place each gently on the branch of flowering plants. I would peep into the cupboard to see eggs, larvae and pupae. In the mean time, the butterfly would fall off the branch. As if it has forgotten how to stand or fly. The man would pull up his trousers and place himself on the ledge to look for the butterfly, then he would pick it up and put it very carefully, back on the branch, holding on to the wings until he feels sure the butterfly has found its feet. He would tell me that the butterflies have come from Costa Rica.IMG_2722

They didn’t fly in. They were flow in, in the belly of another sort of bird.



The course you are on…

Make it your own

And don’t foret to make someone happy on the way.

Here’s how I did it. I made parthas for family and friends


some atta (whole wheat flour)

a pinch of salt

some water to bring the flour to the right consistency to knead it

mustard or sunflower oil for the flour mixture

some sunflower oil to fry the parathas

and optional – fenugreek leaves and carom seeds added to the mixture

Knead all the ingredients well. Make small portions

Flatten each in the palm of the hand and fold  into a triangular shape. Roll one out. Spread a little oil in a iron frying pan and fry it, turning over periodically until it looks fully cooked.

Do the same with each one of the portions individually, adding a little oil to the pan each time until all the flour has been used up

Eat hot – by itself or as an accompaniment to lentils, yoghurt, vegetables or meat.

Eet smakelijk

(Un)holy Cow!


There’s no else one around in this idyllic place. I see my orange covered knee against the blue of the sky and the clouds float gently by. When I have had my fill of gazing up at the sky, I lie in the tree and observe it’s skin. Sshshshsh-the wind rustles through the leaves. Holy cow who is that in a car rupturing my meditations with a big RRRRRRR. This is a place for mooooos and chirpy chirp and baa…baa…. and sshshshshsh. It’s a man in the driver’s seat with a map. I ask him what’s up. He says he’s looking for his lost cows. He’s the farmer who owns the farm that spreads out before me, where deer duck in the wheat fields when they see me approach with my camera. Thirteen of his cows have wandered off and cannot be found. It’s summer and they are not expected to stay in a barn. Anyway, the barn is a cinema house these days. In the winter it’s a storage shed. And the cows in winter? Where do they live? Oh, they’re slaughtered by then. These unholy wayward cows were transported in a big van from the north of Sweden for the farmer who bought them. They’re summer cows who roam the open meadows eating up the grass and weeds that otherwise threaten this idyllic landscape. They protect the open meadows and get fat in return. In October, they will be meat. The farmer gets a subsidy from the EU (barely enough, he says) to let them wander and chew and moo.

I could, I suppose offer to let some folks ‘back home’ in India know about this. There’s every chance they would kindly offer to adopt these unholy cows when they are eventually found. Like they offered to adopt the ones who got mad cow disease. Flying mad cow cows a few thousand miles to convert them from unholy to holy cows and place them in palliative care till the end of their (sad) days.

Barn Yarns

My lady calls me a cathedral standing before the crowd of fifteen people who are seated on the benches before her. They’re huddled in blankets. Some of them smile. The summer light has a way of filtering in and making magic inside me. The stacks of hay make for the balcony places where a farmer, after a hard day’s work lies, his wide brimmed hat catching my attention. Behind my lady is a white screen. Welcome she says to the fantastic film festival in this space like a cathedral. The screen lights up and the film starts.

I must be a cathedral that wants to be a cinema house that was once a barn.

In my lady’s grandfather’s time, I housed the cows. I was a resting place and a production place. I was a quiet place and a busy place. I was a place where life was created and calves learned to stand. I was a place where milk flowed. I was a shelter from the cold, and the sun. I embraced the life I held and the master made sure I was whole and complete.

Then the cows and bulls left one by one and I never saw them again. No new ones came. I was a silent place. The snow fell on me in winter and in the summer, the light streamed in and the hay lay in quiet solitude. The rain fell. My roof had holes and I became bitter and quiet. I stood alone. The aroma of cows and bulls and all they produce has left me.

Then, at the end of one summer, there came a couple of cars and campers with people in them. I was happy to hear them. But they left leaving their machines behind. Once more, there was silence. In September, someone climbed up and fixed the holes.

I stood almost a year alone and quiet. Puzzled.

Then they came again, the people when the weather turned warm and took out their machines. I was a silent cathedral celebrating the summer light.

A couple of months later the same cars and campers as well as some new ones were parked in …and so the years went by. No one said a word.

Now my lady claims that actually I am a cathedral who wants to be a cinema house who was once a barn.