Author: Lily Swarn

Returning to the Roots: A Slice of Life in Picture-perfect Chandigarh

Chandigarh was Nehru’s vision for a replacement for Lahore as the capital of the newly halved Punjab after partition. It is was carved out by joining 50 villages. It has the unique status of being the capital of two states, Punjab and Haryana. It belongs to neither but is a union territory, governed by the union government. Designed […]

Ferozepur, a Frontier District of Punjab, Blends Memory, Martyrs and Music

Ferozepur, an ancient city on the banks of the Sutlej, is said to be built by Feroze Shah Tughlak in the 14th century. The old city is surrounded by ten gates. Each leads into a labyrinth of streets with a flavour of yore preserved in the dialect and food. The people are hospitable and warm and many of them […]

Expansive Salt Desert of Bhuj: A Blend of the Ancient and the Contemporary

Bhuj has a 4000-year- old history. It dates back to the Harappan culture. Khadir shows prehistoric archaeological finds of the Indus Valley Civilisation. It could be the most ancient civilisation of India. A Harappan inscription with letters written in it may be the oldest signboard ever written in the world. Dholavira is the name of the place that […]

Pearls, Palaces, Cuisine, Culture and Passion make Hyderabad the Gem of Deccan

Lily tells us about the beautiful city of Hyderabad that is built mostly around artificial lakes on a hilly terrain. The most prominent one being the Hussain Sagar Lake. The twin city of Secunderabad is across this lake and that is where we lived in the Cantonment, which was our home for seven wonderful years. Known as the […]

Music, Monuments, Culture and Style gives Lucknow its Nawabi Nazakat

The fragrance of kebabs wafts out of the very mention of Lucknow and the cultural bonanza it offers is the stuff dreams are made of. The city is synonymous with Nazakat and Nafasat. The name may well have been associated with Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s brother, according to some beliefs. Lucknow was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate, shifted to the […]

Rivers, Religion, History, Culture, Literature and Finesse Mingle in Allahabad

Brahma performed his first sacrifice at Prayag (Allahabad) after creating the world. It also finds mention during the Vedic period as Prayagraj, the king of all pilgrimages. It has a unique status in ancient Hindu scriptures due to the Triveni Sangam or confluence of the three rivers the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati here. History reveals […]

Happy Diwali Munni!

In this poignant verse, Lily tells us the story of Diwali. Here’s her take on the Festival of Lights, in the special feature on Diwali, for Different Truths. The beauteous city of Ayodhya  Iridescent with luminosity  Bathed in the holy haze of  Heavenly haloes  Welcoming with whoops of joy  The son  who went to the forest  […]

Meerut: Life in the Second Largest Cantonment Replete with History and Camaraderie

Meerut was the place where the first rumblings of rebellion against the British started in 1857. Soldiers of the Bengal Cavalry were given cartridges that were covered with paper, smeared with animal fat that had to be torn off with the teeth. When orders were given to fire the Enfield cartridges, 85 out of the 90 men refused. […]

Army Life in Dinjan: The Land of Fauna, Flora, Fear and Folklore

Dinjan, the Cantonment, was famous for its airfield. It was built by thousands of plantation labourers on an Assam tea plantation, in March 1942, due to the Japanese invasion of Burma. Just 45kms away from Dinjan is the large pulsating city of Dibrugarh. It is rich in flora and fauna. The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is situated in the […]

The Trial and Tribulations of Life of an Army Wife in Kathua District

Lily went in an auto-rickshaw to teach in Kathua town. The ride was long but she enjoyed the young vibrant faces of the college students. Militancy was rearing its monstrous head again and again. Ravishing Kashmiri beauties poured in from the higher reaches of the state with their frightened families. It was devastating to see their plight. The sing song […]

I met Goddess Durga as an Army Wife in Bengal and the Gorkha Regiment

The Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal were definitely very memorable as a perceptible aura of vivacity and verve presided over the holy and divine solemnity. Ladies dressed in their traditional attire of exquisite sarees with vermillion in their hair partings and a huge red dot, the bindi, on their intellectual foreheads made them look like goddesses to my wide […]

Invocation to Mahishasuramardini

Lily invokes the slayer of the buffalo-demon, Mahisasuramardani in this verse for the Durga Puja special feature, in Different Truths. O Cosmic energy incarnate Hail Shakti, Sati, Kali, Parvati Hail Tara, Amba, Basanti, Annapurna Multi-dimensional Goddess Worshipped since the dawn of being The Yajurveda knew you O ye! Part of the two fold personalisation Of the […]

A Slice of Army Life in the Serenity of Pune

In 1817, the third Anglo-Maratha war broke out between the British East India Company and the Marathas. The Peshwas were defeated in Khadkee, called Khirkee, by the British, and the city, then called Poona, was seized by the English. They built a Cantonment here, which still houses the Indian Army. The National Defence Academy is in Khadakvasla. It […]

Army Life in Tea Gardens: Where Elephant Herds Robbed and Leopards Prowled

From the deserts we moved to the eastern part of the vast Indian land. Each state has such diversity that one never ceases to be goggle eyed at the alluring span of culture. The clothes, the food, the climate and the vegetation, change every few miles. This one was a field posting in the tea gardens in Bagrakote, […]

Fun, Frolic, Magic-n- Mystery Mingled like Splendorous Peacock Plumes at Alwar

The posting at Alwar excited Lily as she had heard of the daunting forts and quaint gullies and bazaars of the towns of Rajasthan, brimming forth textiles and crafts. Alwar was known as the Tiger Gate of Rajasthan. It was the erstwhile kingdom of Kuchhwaha Rajputs in the Royal colourful state of Rajasthan, midway between the national capital New […]

A Slice of Life of an Army Officer’s Wife in Deolali, a Picturesque Hill Resort

Lily tells us about Deolali Camp. It was a Class 1 Cantonment built in 1869 for the rest and recuperation of World War II troops. Situated on a plateau 2000 feet high, surrounded by the picturesque Sahyadri Range. It is a popular hill resort not too far from Mumbai. The salubrious climate of Deolali made it the perfect […]

From a Motor Mechanic to a Celebrated Poet: The Wondrous Journey of Gulzar

Sampooran Singh Kalra went on to become a much revered name in literary and film circles. Lily profiles the fascinating life and achievements of Gulzar, as he is better known. His rise to fame could put any Bollywood blockbuster to shame. Gulzar fell in love with the hazel eyed Raakhee. Before that his long and beautiful relationship with the gorgeous […]

Travails of a Lonesome Wedding Anniversary and Birth of Daughter in Primitive Settings

In all their youthful ignorance Lily and her husband decided to have their first baby in Dalhousie Cantonment. She gave birth to a daughter in a primitive setting. There was no oxygen and no medical equipment in case of an operation or an emergency. The midwife was a capable person, whose daughter she was teaching in the Sacred […]

My Enchanting Life as Young Bride and Young Mother in Picturesque Dalhousie

Lily recounts the intoxicating life of a young bride in beauteous Dalhousie – a picturesque hill town, built across five hills. It is dotted with Scottish and Victorian architecture. Beautiful churches and bungalows lend it a quaint old world charm. The gigantic snow laden Dhauladhar peaks stand guard like sentinels. She says that she could never forget her […]

An Arduous Road Trip of a Young Bride into Beauteous Sikkim!

  The first step into army life was a long, seemingly unending train journey to North Bengal, from where an arduous and treacherous road trip took us to the higher reaches of Sikkim. We travelled along the Teesta River and crossed the famous Tiger Bridge. The deafening roars of the majestic Teesta were frightening. Orange orchards along the route […]

A Teenage Crush to be an Army Officer’s Wife!

As a gawky school girl she gazed adoringly at cousins, who had returned home from the NDA. It was her teenage crush to marry a man in uniform. Lily candidly bares her heart about a teenage crush. When suitable matches were being searched, she told her parents that she would love to be married to an army man. […]

Cantonment Calling: Foot in the Mouth

There are some hard lessons to be learnt as an Army wife. Lily reveals tongue in cheek that her transformation from a fire brand student leader to a robot like creature, bereft of superior intellect, was not a long ride. There is a hierarchy that must be strictly observed amongst the women folk wedded to the uniform as well. […]

Life in Moments

Life is all about the simple joys in many moments that make it enchantingly beautiful. Lily, the quintessential Bohemian, the wandering gypsy drinking the ambrosia of life, seeks simple joys in nature; a ghazal or a Bryan Adams love song; the smile of her newborn daughter or the self-conscious ten-year son. It’s also in the glorious sunset in Sikkim and […]

Hey, Chai Anyone?

There was a message outside the Tea Board office in Kolkata. It said, “All time is tea time.” That’s right in India. We hear the chai vendors at all hours at the railway stations – even at the dead of the night. Lily shows the many ways tea is enjoyed. She tells us about the colonial hangover of […]

Golden Staircase

An enigmatic poem from Lily that weaves magic with potent metaphors. Threads of live electric currents Raw and potent Throbbing with charges Penetrating persistently Into magical realms of eternity Walking down the golden staircase of sunlight Befriending the barren earth Droplets of life force Fulfilling the thirst of a million Parched oceans Infusing miraculous shades […]

Father Time

Life braids laughter and sorrow. A poignant and soulful poem from Lily. Vivacious whoops of laughter Swept him off his feet Full throttle bliss overload Never augured good! Don’t laugh so much His mamma often chided You’ll have to cry as much He never heard ever So drunk on life was he! The tide it […]

A Shooting Star

An evocative poem from Lily that celebrates the bitter-sweet pathos of life. Jetting through space a star stopped in its tracks and played statue. It simply forgot to twinkle merrily It had selective amnesia! The star glimmered and shone with a luminous aura Bewitching the onlookers Slaves of its charismatic charm Bowed in adoring reverence […]

Playing with Pain

The saddest songs are the sweetest ones. Lily quotes Charlie Chaplin and says that the ability to play with pain is rare. In pain, we cry. In a sense of pain, we sing. The author tells us about the beauty of transcending pain. She ends with an enchanting Giddha song, in this winsome piece for Different Truths. “To […]

Another Time in Life

Lily describes the break of a day in this poignant verse. As the day breaks in another era in time As the cocks crow the rising of another sunshine As the birds unfurl their feathers and sing a merry song As the Rose spreads its blood in the pulsating throng I think of another time in […]

The Partition

The partition of India is a deep gash in our collective consciousness. Millions of people from West Punjab and East Bengal were rendered homeless. There were hunger, rape, loss of human dignity and property. There were mass murders. Women and children were not spared either. Trainloads of dead bodies crossed the borders. Lily recounts the experiences of her ancestors, […]