Sunday, February 7, 2016


(Published in the Community Voices Section of the Philly Inquirer in Sept 1999)

I was at the Fernbank Science museum in Atlanta recently, looking at an exquisite collection of seashells from oceans around the world, when on a pedestal proudly seated, I spied this gorgeous little shell from the shores of the Indian Ocean. It was one among many other gems from the same region, and as I looked at it, a tight lump of unexpected tears lodged in my throat.
It sat there in all its fragility, perhaps a little drier than it would have been in the salty Indian waters, its pink a little less glowing, but it still brought its unique charm to the assortment around it.
There I am! The thought was as unexpected as the tears. That is how I see myself, the difference being that I was transplanted by my own volition. But I imagined in it, and in me, the longing for the "Indian waters" still remains, and the special luster from wallowing in it is definitely lacking.
Having lived in the United States for about seven years, I naturally consider this country as a second home - one that I have allowed to change me in certain ways over time. I have never regretted my choice to come here. It is a privilege to be able to experience and compare two widely different cultures and to have the freedom to choose the aspects of each.
My mind has opened up to several ideas that I would never have encountered in the sheltered Indian environment. My interests and inspirations have expanded. I feel much less tied down by insignificant constraints, much more free to fly. This, undoubtedly, is the land of infinite possibilities.
Contradictory as it may seem, living in America also has opened several very precious Indian doors to me, making it easier to be the kind of Indian that I want to be. As graduate students, we worked in voluntary charitable organizations to raise several thousand dollars each year, to support the needy back home.
My exposure to Indian culture has reached higher levels in this country. Never in my wildest dreams while in India did I imagine that I would one day dine with musical legends like Hariprasad Chaurasia and Sivkumar Sharma, but it happened here.
Still, sometimes on rainy days, while I'm curled up in the quiet privacy of my "luxuriously" carpeted, air-conditioned, odor-free living room in Philadelphia with its view of the green lawns, my nostrils ache with longing for the musky odors of the Indian monsoon falling on the dirt-covered driveway and dusty palm fronds outside our noisy apartment back home.
That feeling of being incomplete is a friendly cloud that hovers around me like a shadow. It's the feeling of being a visitor in somebody else's manicured garden. It dims over time, but never quite goes away. Something as simple as the jasmine-like scent of honeysuckle on a jog though the park or an Indian soap opera (which I have never watched while in India) playing on the TV in the International Student Office on the university campus regularly triggers unexpected tears, much like the involuntary reaction to an onion! It is like a very private, stolen, cherished moment that leaves me feeling good.
I am a confusing mixture of emotions, values and priorities. I think most Indians who have moved away are. Or maybe it is something that descends on us after the childlike part of us has come full circle and found a comfortable routine after most of the exciting new experiences aren't new anymore. Then the heart longs for what it has left behind, for its first love, for everything Indian. And in its pounding will echo the ancient rhythms of the Indian Ocean.
Bindu Viswanathan
Ambler PA, 1999

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Art Shop on Fine Art America

Several of you had asked about the foster kittens from my previous post - thank you for your concern. Soon as they turned 8 weeks old, the kittens were put up for adoption, and I'm happy to say that they have all found good homes.

I finally compiled some of my photographs and paintings and have set up a shop on Fine Art America. Please click on the link and visit my shop. If you would like to, you can buy prints and greeting cards of the art work there. Even if you don't plan to buy any, if you like any of the pieces, please leave me a comment or "recommend" the piece, so that it will increase the views of my work. Thank you!

If any of your friends are looking for this kind of art, could you also please recommend them to my shop? Thanks. :)

We had a short spring here in Austin, with hardly any bluebonnets. I look back at my post from last April and am amazed at how beautiful it was. There has been little rain this year, and hardly any color. The heat of summer is setting in now. I hope you had a colorful spring, and have a wonderful summer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fostering furry babies

It has been a long time since my past post ... am back with a resolution to be more regular. One thing (or rather five!) that has been taking center stage at home is this litter of five kittens that we have been fostering for a month now. Austin Pets Alive rescues dogs and cats, including those in line for euthanasia at the shelter, and tries to get them adopted over time. In order to make room for more animals, they send little baby animals to fosters who care for them until they are old enough to be spayed/neutered and offered for adoption.

These babies came to us when they were 2 weeks old. Three black kittens, all female, and two tuxedo kittens, one male and one female. All five of the same litter.

At two weeks they had to be bottle fed every couple of hours. They all lived in our cat carrier, sleeping in a tight bundle of arms, legs, tails and whiskers over a heated pad and towels. They would start squealing as soon as we entered the room, and would tumble out of the carrier, groping wildly for the bottle.

Once they finished eating, they had to be "stimulated", since they didn't know how to go to the bathroom on their own. Small wet wipes wiping their rear would feel like mom licking them to teach them how to do it, and all of them would deposit the required treasures on cue.

They also had to be weighed to make sure they were growing at the correct rate. This was easier said than done. They refused to sit in the container, and would fall out as soon as we placed them on the scale. What worked in the end was a small cardboard box into which we would pack the kitten for a few seconds while we weighed them. They all weighed around 200-250 gms when they arrived.

Now they are close to 950 gms, and are boisterous little rascals. They live in the bathroom upstairs, and are constantly at work, demolishing what they can of what ever is in there. They come out to another room several times a day to play, and flit about with extremely short attention spans, play-fighting, chewing everything in sight, and running around at top speed.

Don't be fooled by these innocent little faces. They are naughty little devils that will entertain you for hours together, as long as you keep your arms and legs out of line or their razor sharp claws will slice you open. :)

This is Annie, the runt of the litter. She was always a fussy eater, and needs special attention because she doesn't believe in wasting time eating. She is super active though, and if there is a tussle going on, she is sure to be in the center of it.

Andy is the lone boy in this litter, and has a hard time keeping up with his five bratty sisters. He is growing bigger now, and is also very active and playful. He is always ready for a cuddle though, and will lie on his side quietly if you start to pet him.

Amelia is the only long-haired kitten in this litter, and is adorable and soft. She is extemely playful, and it's hard to put her down because she is so easy to fall in love with. She goes on and on like an energizer bunny, but when she's tired, she will lie down and fall asleep in the middle of the action.

Allie is the other tuxedo kitten. She has the prettiest pink lips ever, so we call her sweet lips. She is a little scared of loud noises and sudden movements, but has to keep up with her rowdy siblings to survive. She is the prettiest kitten in this litter, and is sure to find a family soon.

Addie is a little quieter than her siblings and loves to be cuddled, and will attach herself to you if she knows you might pet her.

We are hoping these sweet kittens find adoptive families soon and go to good, loving homes. But for now, they are our therapy kittens, for just a few minutes sitting with them drains away all the stress of the day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Peacocks in Austin's Rescue Zoo

I don't usually like to go to zoos, but the Austin zoo is an exception. That is because it is a rescue zoo and sanctuary.

Last weekend while we were there, I was totally captivated by the peacocks and peahens that wander about freely within the zoo, hopping in and out of other enclosures at will.

I have seen several peacocks in India and here in the US, but I am always still awed by the extreme ostentatiousness of their plumage. How complex the combination of colors are! I wonder if they know how striking their appearance is.

They must be pretty used to the attention they get, because they pretty much ignored me as I stalked them with my camera.

As the sun started to go down, many of them suddenly launched into this cacophony of screams and calls ...

... and fanned out their feathers as they walked about with heads held high.

Of course, the lady looked pretty unimpressed. I wish she hadn't been sitting against those trees, or I could've got a better picture of her.

I had a collection of peacock feathers as a kid in India, and remember well how soft and silky the shiny feathers are.

The weather is turning warm here, but the wildflowers still linger. Spring has taken its time here this year. Wishing you a colorful week, until next time ...

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's wildflower season in Austin!

It's been almost three months since my last post, and I've been trying to get motivated to start blogging again. And spring in Austin brought me the motivation I was looking for! It's been a very wet winter here, with lots and lots of rain. Maybe as a result, the roadsides are completely bursting with color now - it's wildflower season in Austin!

Carpeting the grassy slopes on the sides of the road is the Texas state flower - the blue bonnet. Dotting the fresh green foliage everywhere are its striking blue petals with pearl-like white tips. To add to the splash of color, there is the bright orange Texas paintbrush - its flower is actually small and yellow, but more prominent are its flame-orange bracts.

This highway runs outside our subdivision and I've been seeing this vision along the roadside all week as I've driven by. Today, finally, I took my camera, got off the road and took some pictures.

Sitting amongst the flowers, I noticed hundreds of tinier flowers, in yellow, magenta and pink, in addition to the blue bonnets and paintbrush that are visible from a distance. The fragrance there was out of this world. I really didn't want to leave.

Spring is so fleeting in Austin ... all this will melt away soon and the dreaded Texas heat will soon be in place. I guess such is life ... But for now, I am breathing deeply and savoring this beautiful season in Austin.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Walk in Austin

I do believe I live in one of the prettiest parts of Texas. For just a street away from ours is a greenbelt that extends for miles and miles into the center of Austin. This greenbelt was the main attraction that convinced us that we were choosing the correct house to live in. And it has certainly not disappointed.

A short walk from home brings us to a little stream that often completely dries up during hot summer months. So most of the time we can skip over the rocks and cross over into the greenbelt and start our hike. It has been raining heavily in Austin this winter though, and so the little stream is now a swelling river! We could still have waded across, but we took a longer, drier route into the greenbelt some days ago.

A short distance down the trail there is a "waterfall". There is never much water here, and though the pool below the fall has always had at least a little water, it's usually dry enough to sit on the rocks above and watch the pool. So imagine our surprise when we saw this pretty waterfall that completely stopped us from crossing!

This beautiful greenbelt has a network of trails where one can easily get lost. So there is always another route that we can take if there's a problem with one of them. Instead of crossing over the fall as we usually do, we continued on this side of the stream and followed the trail further.

We were in the shade, but the setting sun lit up the trees across the stream from us, and their reflection in the still water was breathtaking.

We soon came to a second, more shallow waterfall where the water going over the smooth rock sheets was transparent as glass, then exploded like crystal as it fell on the rocks below.

We continued on the trail, and followed the sound of the water falling as it tripped over gnarled tree roots exposed by the force of the stream.

Further along, the setting sun lit up the foliage and its reflection marked the water like liquid gold.

We had by then walked for an hour and a half, following the stream, and the sound of the water falling.

It was getting dark, and so we stopped at this point where there was a deep, clear pool of water beneath us, and flat rocks along the stream. A perfect campsite ... and so close to home! Much as we wanted to continue along this endless trail, we decided to stop since it was rapidly getting dark. As we headed back home, we decided we would be back here to camp.

Three hours of walking in the crisp, cool air, listening to the gurgling sounds of water ... could there be anything more serene?

As this year ends and a new one begins, I wish for you (and for me) a world filled with peace, and serene, quiet moments of delightful contemplation. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goddess II

About a year ago I had posted a picture of a painting that I made of the Goddess Kali. She is a powerful and ferocious Goddess in Hinduism, and is worshiped as the destroyer of evil. Goddesses are usually displayed as beautiful, soft and feminine, but Kali is the embodiment of all that is powerful within us, and I like her portrayal as a warrior - one who will fight evil and destroy it.

My plan was to make a series of three Goddesses in this partial-Madhubani style. Kali was my first choice since her portrayal is so dramatic and interesting. She stands on her consort, Lord Shiva, holds in her hand the severed head of one of the villians she has killed, sits on a tigress and holds in her hands all sorts of weapons. Here's that painting again -

I recently finished the second Goddess painting, and chose Saraswati this time, the Goddess of learning. In complete contrast to Kali, Saraswati is serene and smiling, bestowing intelligence and wisdom on us. She is clad in white, and stands on a white lotus, with a peacock as her companion.

It was a lot more difficult to make this painting interesting ... I struggled with the colors, and though I initially wanted to go with a completely different color scheme, I ended up again in the realm of earth colors, which I seem to always gravitate towards ...

Here she is -

I haven't decided on the next Goddess for this series. Am currently distracted with pottery, as you saw in my previous post. So it might be another year before I produce the 3rd Goddess!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Experiments in Pottery - 1

I took a pottery class this semester, and we are almost done for the year. The last time I took a class in pottery, it was a fully wheel-thrown, short class. I was also working full-time, so couldn't spend much time practicing.

So I took a class again this semester. This time I mostly learned hand-building, and it was so much fun! Slab pots, coil pots, pinch pots and so on ...

I did try one on the wheel to see if I remembered anything from the previous class several years ago. The result was yet another lopsided pot that I glazed a bright blue. :)

One of my first attempts at making a slab pot was this mug. The glazing left some uncovered spots, and I'm not sure how to fix that. So I won't be drinking tea from it as I'd hoped, but it will make a nice cactus-holder!

This coil pot I made just a couple weeks ago, and I think this is the one that turned out closest to what I wanted to do with it, so I quite like it. I've not quite decided what I'll do with it. It was going to be a fruit holder, but now I'm not sure.

Before glazing -

Glazed and finished, waiting for an identity ...

I have a bunch more that I am finishing up. So parts 2 and 3 will feature more experiments. I'm still very unclear about glazing techniques, and need a lot more practice. So please feel free to give me suggestions and comments.

Take care!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Texas Capitol

Back to the blog world after more than a month ... thanks to those who sent me notes over this time asking if I was ok and saying I was missed. It was nice to know I have you as blog-friends. :)

It's just been very busy here with various activities. I'm back for now, and am looking forward to visiting my favourite blogs and seeing what you have been up to.

The photo club that I'm a member of is putting together an exhibit for the Austin Airport, which will go up in January. The theme for this exhibit is "Looking Up." For this I wanted to photograph the dome of the State Capitol from below, and so went over to the Capitol building several times. Once I got there I realized what an interesting place it is to photograph. I wandered around taking lots of pictures.

The dome is so beautiful seen from below! It took a lot of tries to get a perfectly symmetric picture of it, and this one was selected for the Airport exhibit.

Here is another angle - not symmetric, but with more depth.

The House of Representatives has a beautiful ceiling, with ornate carvings. This picture was also selected for the Airport exhibit.

Even the stairway is a great subject to photograph!

Walking outside, I turned around for one last shot, looking up, at the building against the blue sky.

In case I'm not able to post again before Thanksgiving, have a wonderful holiday, with your family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!