Being a Woman
It’s been months since Mr. A and I dusted the Cambodian mud off our shoes and got on with life. But memories of that wonderful holiday refuse to fade away. They reside in my heart and waft through my mind, infusing an otherwise normal day with a touch of magic. I’ve written about the temple at Bayon and how it mesmerised me. Angkor Wat too blew me away with its sheer magnitude and the untold stories locked away in the eyes of the Buddha. These are the places to where my mind escapes in times of stress. Not only the temples, but the stupa at Choeung Ek, build as a memorial to the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, forms a part of my quilt of memories.We also brought back some keepsakes from Cambodia which now serve as a reminder of our holiday; the beautiful apsara which greets us as we enter our apartment, the fridge magnets , the little ceramic elephant with a flower tucked behind one ear ( how cute is that !) and a few other knick knacks. But I find that there are a few more which have taken up permanent residence in my mind.Some people and some places have come back with me and made a place for themselves in my memory shelf.
Both Mr. A and I are obsessed with books, and so on one of our rambling walks in Phnom Penh, when we stumbled upon a book shop it was a delightful surprise. D’s Books (what a quaint name ), had neatly stacked shelves overflowing with books of all genres and languages. They also stocked second hand books with beautiful yellowed pages which had me inhaling deeply since its one of my favourite fragrances. Now, when I take a breather from my daily chores, I find my thoughts slipping into that cosy little shop.
The Old Market in Siem Reap is a maze chockfull of shops selling everything from exotic street food to elegant figurines. While wandering around in this wonderland, we chanced upon a small shop with a whole lot of Buddhas and apsaras stacked carefully and neatly. It looked like a good place to pick up some souvenirs and we ventured in. The stuff was really good, but more than the beautiful statues, the shy yet welcoming owner found a place in our hearts. He was extremely reserved, but his smile enveloped us. We bought more than we were planning to and just couldn’t resist capturing him on film. When I feel overwhelmed by certain events in life, I think of him and his quiet fortitude and I feel strengthened.
While walking down from the Kulen Temple in Siem Reap, we passed by a row of eateries with the local cuisine on display. The shopkeepers were idly chatting to each other and a group of children were running around. My husband who’s an avid photographer was building up a repertoire of faces for his portfolio and he was clicking away oblivious to everything else. All of them loved posing for him with their weather beaten faces and wondrous smiles. I was standing slightly away watching all this and suddenly I noticed a little girl holding a wriggling puppy. She was not smiling and had a very determined look on her face. She was standing rock still, hanging onto the puppy and looking at the camera but unfortunately, Mr. A remained unaware of her presence. After waiting patiently for some time, she had such a heartbroken expression that I just couldn’t keep quiet. I called out to him to take a pic of the lil model and he immediately trained his lens on her, but by this time the wriggly puppy had escaped. The lil one had decided to have her picture taken only with the puppy and she chased him down, caught him , and posed beautifully. After the photograph was taken, she didn’t linger a moment longer but went on with her life. There was a strange intensity to her gaze and this photograph reminds me of that amazing little girl. It remains one of my all time favourites.
The Café Central situated at one end of Pub Street, Siem Reap, was a favoured destination of ours and I can never forget the lazy afternoon we spent there gazing out at the world passing by. However, what pops up in my mind is the awesome pumpkin soup I had, with crusty bread. The beautiful, delicate flavours still come to mind, to tempt me on a rainy day.
Whenever I see a mention of the Lonely Planet, a smile involuntarily hovers on my lips. It’s because of this cheeky board we found outside an eatery in Pub Street. Whoever wrote this gets a huge round of applause from me 🙂
These are the keepsakes that have remained with me after my Cambodian trip. Each one is precious and I keep them safely in the recesses of my mind. I only hope that they withstand the ravages of time and age and remain as treasures which can be savoured again and again…….