Weekly Photo Challenge: Big (Bigger than everything)

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Ever had the feeling that life was sometimes over whelming? That the whole earth were full of  problems much bigger than what you could ever handle? That the pain and suffering in this world was unjustified? That the madness and terror perpetrated was beyond any conceivable meaning? The littleness and bitterness in people were crusty barnacles that you wish had never popped into your life? That the wild anxieties and the silent sighs had gone on far too long?

Perhaps…but Psalms 91 offers us something bigger than suffering and injustice and terror.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”


This is a picture of a church just a building away from where I stay. There are quite a number of churches around where I stay. Perhaps it’s because I walk past this big, sturdy building everyday, that I have a kind of kinship with it, reminding me of the big, sturdy refuge that God is, even in the stormiest gales. Have a blessed weekend.


Weekly Photo Challenge:Happy (The Bean of Happiness)

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This was to be a gallery of photos that make me happy (for the weekly photo challenge), but I couldn’t get all the ones I wanted, so I have settled on a write-up and one photo of one of the things that make me happiest. The photo above was taken at the local coffee shop that opened in my office complex a few months ago.

My earliest fascination with coffee started in a Lebanese Roastery, where we had landed because of my father’s quest for a release from the bondage of Instant Coffee.The ugly, black, thick amorphous powder had the most heavenly smell that ever permeated this earth.It was the drug that made everything alright with the world again. My father loved his coffee and has passed that on in huge dollops to my brother and me.

In my teenage years, I was enthralled by ancient Rome and their gods, and by extension, modern day Italy as well, and their notorious mobsters enshrined in the collective psyche of human kind by Marlon Brando. It was the last year of school, the year when every action was stamped with the legend “on the eve of going to college”. My first coffee was a cappuccino, albeit from a vending machine, Italian and “on the eve on going college”. It was a beautiful promise of the things to come.

Endless college days, carefree and aglow in the shade of the promise of everything, Four years of under graduate life gave me friends, freedom, a lifelong vocation, and the sure shot cure of splitting headaches, which I discovered at the Indian Coffee House on our University campus. The ICH was the last bastion where the “bearers” still wore elaborate turbans, starched white uniforms and made excellent coffee, not to mention at a price the perpetually broke under grad could afford. Don’t get fooled by the name though, ICH is a restaurant chain,and still offers the tastiest meals for the paisa.

Having adventurous and richer-than-you friends has it’s perks, and when they visit you, during the season when cafes was becoming all the rage, where else to take them except to most exotic one in South Bombay? As we sat there, on my first visit to a cafe, drinking bright hued liquids, gazing at a guitar in the corner, shifting from one corner to a more convenient one as the crowd dwindled, talking, talking, recklessly abandoning the passage of time and the shackle of the last train home. Another life realisation – If coffee was my Holy Grail, the coffee shop was my Jerusalem.

Several years later, Canada blew in, with it’s undergrounds streets, beautiful shop windows, snowy pavements, microscopic parks, even tinier dogs, audacious hairstyles and the friendliest people on earth that I had met. And perhaps with the most coffee shops per capita in the world. A country whose memories fail to erase themselves from that corner of my heart labeled pleasant. Mochas, Lattes, Espressos, Macchiatos found it’s way into everyday vocabulary, and visiting a coffee shop, some times alone, sometimes with a book, some times with a dear friend is a way of life Toronto taught me.

When I came to Chennai, I came full circle. Filter kaapi, that had opened the eyes of my father to the potent joy of the coffee bean, was now mine to enjoy. Traditional filter coffee is made with a device, which looks like 2 cups stacked, one over the other. Coffee powder and chicory is stacked into the upper cup and boiling water is poured over this, and the brewed coffee is allowed to slowly drip into the cup below. The resulting brew is potent and is traditionally consumed by adding milk with the preferred amount of sugar. South Indian coffee is typically served after pouring back and forth between the dabarah (a wide metal saucer with lipped walls) and the tumbler in huge arc-like motions of the hand. Along with cooling the hot coffee, this produces the landmark froth of the filter kaapi. You never really experience Chennai, till you drink coffee from the dabarah 🙂

My parents still stop at ICHs on their long drives. My uncle still stops at Tim Hortons on his long drives. My brother still loves his first ‘real’ job, at Mugg & Bean, and I still recklessly throw time to the wind and tell long, rambling, soul searching stories whenever I meet up with an old friend at a coffee shop.

“And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.”

Cloud Atlas – the map of humanity

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A zigzag across eras, a ringside seat of History. Cloud Atlas is an interesting read, where the author DImageavid Mitchell tries to birth a notion in the readers minds that “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme” through the six stories he paints on the canvas of Cloud Atlas.

The book begins with the Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, an American Notary aboard the ‘Prophetess’, circa 1850, on his return journey from New South Wales. Decades later, a publication of his journal is read with curiosity by the disinherited, penniless Robert Frobisher, a musical genius who flees England and his creditors, and goes to the Belgian backwaters. His life there is chronicled in a series of letters from Zedelghem to his scientist friend Rufus Sixsmith. Forty four years later, Louisa Rey, a reporter from a gossip magazine reads these letters, when Sixsmith leaves her a trail to a report that would expose a nuclear reactor in her town of Beunas Yerbas as a disaster waiting to happen. Stepping onto the 21st century,a publisher, Timothy Cavendish,  receives a package of a manuscript titled ‘Half Lives – The First Louisa Rey Mystery’, which he reads on the run as a series of events unfold in his life triggered by a publishing windfall. Many years into the future, a fabricant clone, Sonmi-451, watches the movie The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish as part of her life being an experimental study on achieving stable ascendancy in fabricants. As she nears the end of her life, Sonmi-451 is interviewed by an archivist who saves her rich experiences on an Orison for future ages. Far, far into the future, we meet Zachry,a Valleysman goatherd who worships the Sonmi and whose dwelling plays host to a woman of the advanced Precient tribe for a while.

Now the book folds, as Zachry spies an Orison among the Precients belongings and learns of the Sonmi of the past, hears of the folly of humankind across the centuries and realises the abominable consequences of the decisions of his ancestors  are his to inherit and live out. We are then hurtled back through each of the eras, till we end up with Adam Ewing closing his story on the shores of Honolulu. The author builds sweeping panoramas. The neo language in the era after the Fall was tough trekking, but the distinctive language and ambitions of each era brought alive a world in 3D. Yet  universal hope and fear links each story, and the searing hunger for “peace, not a hiatus betwixt wars but millennia of imperishable peace.” Each of the characters have a coming-of-age deed, each era, a seemingly insurmountable evil. David Mitchell calls out colonialism, conservatism, capitalism, consumerism, evangelism and many other isms that seek to obliterate the fundamental ethic “All men are created equal”.

Why undermine the dominance of our race, our gunships, our heritage & our legacy? Why fight the “natural” (oh, weaselly word!) order of things?
Why? Because of this: – one fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
Adam Ewing comes of age too, and ends the tale with “A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living.” The author brings out the injustice, the despair, the turning of the heart. But, is this enough? Isn’t it easier to think like Isaac Sachs? “Isaac Sachs’s tragic flaw,” analyzes Isaac Sachs, slumped in the bay window across from Luisa Rey two hours later, “is this. Too cowardly to be a warrior, but not enough of a coward to lie down and roll over like a good doggy.”

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience – George Bernard Shaw