The Place Of The Gathering Of The Crows

My only company this early in the morning was the dog that kept barking at me when I stepped out on to the street. I promptly retreated back into the compound.The dog’s compadres on the nearby streets also joined in the noise making. They might have been passing messages to each other. The only other person who was up was the owner of the store across the road. She will soon start washing out her store front, a ritual that she has probably been doing for most of the years of her life. The Kolam will be the final step in the process that gets her store ready for the day’s business.

I never really overcame the jet lag of the trip completely. I am up very early in the morning with almost no exception. But it is OK. I try to make up for the early start with a nap during the day. The early start for the day gives me an opportunity to clean out the house before the rest of the neighborhood comes alive. Chennai dust is special. You just have to wait a couple of days for a layer of the dark stuff to collect on any untouched surface. The dust is relentless. It is fine enough to enter the house through the screens covering the doors and windows. You find yourself cleaning the place regularly. And then there are the fallen leaves that need to be swept up from the yard every other day.

Early mornings also give me the opportunity to go up to the terrace – before the sun is up.

The crows are the most common birds that you will see in these parts.Crows are said to be very social animals. I sometimes see them gathering in large numbers on the cellphone towers that are close by.I have noticed that some of these birds clean and preen themselves excessively in the mornings.

This is a White-throated Kingfisher that visited the yard,
and this is probably a Shikra.

There was surprise guest in this picture I took at the time of the sunset. I do not know what it is.

I was talking to a friend over the phone while in the house when the rain began. I heard the sound of a loud thunderclap. The power went out. I lost my phone connection. Pretty soon it was coming down in buckets. The rains did not last too long but it was enough to cause the street to flood. Here are a couple of shots taken from the front gate of the house after it stopped raining.

Today is another hot and sunny day. That is what you usually expect in Chennai!

A Sunrise In Chennai – The City Awakens

It is a strange thing that is happening to my body. Over a week has passed since my trip across the globe and I am still fighting the effects of jet lag. My avoidance of afternoon naps to enable nights of longer sleep duration have not panned out so far. I end up waking up a few hours before the sun is up, much before the sounds of the street begin to pick up, even earlier than the wake up calls of the birds. But this state of affairs did also offer an opportunity. I was awake early enough to be able to go up to the third floor terrace of the house to greet the sunrise and the dawning of the new day. Armed with information about the expected time of sunrise in Chennai, I ascended the stairs to the top of the house yesterday just before the dawn was due.

This first picture of the bright light in the skies turned out to be a show well before the actual sunrise. The colors in the sky disappeared very quickly.

Store fronts began to open and set up on the street. This is a little cafe.

This is a little store front right across the road.The banana leaves you see in the picture will probably be used for packing food that is sold. Later in the morning, the owner will wash the store front and complete the Kolam, the auspicious floor design on the ground in front of the home that is a tradition of South India.The milk packets for sale have already arrived are in the yellow crate.

Another false sunrise appeared in the sky shortly after the first one. It was brighter still than the first burst of light, and could be seen in a slightly different direction from that first light show. This time the light appeared over a building next to the terrace I was standing on.

This is the way the sky looked when you turned away from the sunrise phenomenon.

The color in the sky in the direction of the sunrise lost its intensity fairly quickly after the second burst of color.

The next distinct indication of the continuation of the sunrise was the light of the sun falling directly on a building that lay across from the rising sun.

It was a peaceful scene. Birds could be seen flying high across the sky in little groups. They seemed to have a sense of purpose. They flew in straight lines from one edge of the horizon to the other. From below me, on the street, arose the sounds of an awakening city.

But I still could not see the sun. It was hidden by the building in front of me. I could see the faint flare of light, somewhat like an aura, at the level of the building as the process continued.

The picture below shows the final phase of the whole transformation.

I departed the terrace at this point. My experience of the magic of this sunrise was now complete.

बारिश, மழை

It rained once again the next day. Nighttime had fallen. We were watching TV in the living room when it began. Without any warning, the wind began to pick up. The screen door to the verandah began to move in the breeze, gently making contact again and again with the door frame – moving to its own rhythm. You might laugh at me when I say this, but there was the smell of rain in the air. I knew it was coming. Within a matter of minutes, I began to hear the sound of the rain hitting the branches of the trees. It soon became a continuous sound, getting louder and louder and filling the air.

I went out to the verandah to experience the sweet rain more fully. I walked up to the front gate. The water collecting on the road in front of the house was illuminated by the reflected light of the street lamps. The bright lights of the store fronts across the road almost shone in the rain. Vehicles splashed their way through the water, spinning up a light spray with their wheels. A few people made they way on foot carrying umbrellas. Others waited out the rain in front of the stores. I settled into a comfortable cane chair in the verandah to immerse myself in the sound of the rain. I closed my eyes. I fell into a gentle and soothing sleep.

Our Gifts And Our Baggage

Sometimes we do not even understand the nature of the gifts and the baggage we carry with us. It is possible that we do not even know that we are carrying gifts and baggage. How does one remain open-minded enough to get an adequate understanding about this? How can we build up relationships without understanding the nature of what we are carrying, something whose nature can change even within the context of the relationship itself?

How can I best use my gifts to relieve other people of the burdens of their baggage? Do I even understand the gifts and the burdens of the others in my relationships properly and adequately? It is still a work in progress.

One More Ride

Yesterday’s bike ride could end up being the last bike ride of the year. I am leaving on a long trip. Any long trip can be a bit of an adventure, and this one certainly falls into that category. You let go of the guardrails of your usual routines, you plan as much as you can, and then you take a chance and step out into the less known. Inshallah!

The trip that I am about to make has come together at the last minute, and thinking about its logistics has shifted my balance a little bit. There are particular challenges because of current circumstances.

I forced myself to go out for this ride. I needed to do something that was a part of my usual routine, a routine that had been disrupted even last week by the almost daily singing I had been doing at the fair. I needed to get the endorphins going. Biking has become that activity in the more recent past.

It was a warm and muggy morning when I headed out, but I got it done – covered the usual 30 miles on the towpath! Now, onward!

Here are pictures from the last couple of rides.

The inspiration for the title of this blog came from a song our chorus sings. Here is a version that I found online.

A Break From The Fair

Our chorus has been singing at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair for many years. We stroll around the fairgrounds singing to people in different locations and settings. This year we committed as a group to being at the fair every day. I am singing on six of the nine days of the fair. I resume today after a one-day break yesterday.

It has been a mixed experience so far, but mostly fun. Summer evenings in the Washington, DC, area are quite hot and humid, and the instability in the air often leads to heavy thunderstorms that can prevent us from strolling around outside. We could end up in some indoor location or the other where one has to wear a mask all the time. Also, it can be quite noisy all around you when you are trying to sing outdoors. All in all, we do not have the best conditions for practicing the craft. But when the four sections of the chorus happen to sync up perfectly in song, it can be musical magic regardless of where you happen to be.

Our activities at the fair take place at a time of the evening when one is forced to consider having one’s dinner at the fair itself. It is mostly carnival food that is available. It is probably not very good for my system, but it can also be quite tasty. The going fare is stuff like funnel cake, cotton candy, popcorn, deep-fried Oreos, hot dogs, ice-cream, etc… For more filling food, one can find places with hamburgers, pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, sausages, etc… And you can get a bonus with a large serving of cheese and/or bacon on something that is already not good for your heart. (The Texas-style hamburger was recommended to us!) Or perhaps you like cheese sandwiches by themselves from the The Big Cheese! The crepe food truck seems to be an exception to the usual fair food. I will visit it today. I did have a Gyro on Tuesday. Yum! You can forget about vegetables at the fair. I have not yet come across a place where you can get a salad.

One cannot forget that this is ultimately an agricultural fair. Farmers come from all across the region, even neighboring states, to show and tell – and to buy and sell. There are all kind of animals, including cows, goats, sheep, pigs, etc.., in the different buildings. You cannot avoid the smell if you are wandering in this section of the fair. And watch where you step! There are events held in small arenas where the animals are the stars of the show. You can probably buy a cow if you were so inclined!

The carnival section of the fair, with its loud noise and bright lights, and its rides and shows, is probably the part of the fair that draws in many of the young people to the fair. We mostly stay away from this section!

There is even a blacksmith in action near one of the entrances. A glass blowing company does demonstrations with their full setup in another location. Local vineyards, and distillers of other spirits, also make a showing, as do political and religious organizations.

In the end, this is also a community gathering. There are competitions for arts and crafts, and for even different kinds of foods – mainly baked goods. There is an old-timers building where you can even see contraptions from the local farms from times past.

Unfortunately, this year’s fair has been less crowded than usual – so far. This is probably due to the coronavirus, and perhaps also due to the weather. This is not a good situation for the vendors. One hopes that the last few days of the fair brings an improvement to the situation.

This year I noticed that more people than usual at the fair seem to remember us from our presence in past years. And some people actually do look forward to hearing us sing for them. That is cool!

Singing In The Time Of Covid

Everybody in our chorus is vaccinated. We try to be more careful than usual when performing, and especially if we are forced to be indoors.

We are singing at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair all week. We stroll around the fair grounds and sing to people. Conditions for singing are not ideal, but it is a lot of fun in its own way!

We are Harmony Express, a barbershop style mixed a cappela chorus.

Note that it is impossible to blow a pitch pipe with your mask on!😀