Sunday, November 05, 2006

Even as we ready for Fall in our own distinct ways, Emma Mitts and Mayor Daley are ready with their whopping Fall token to Chicagoland - something that’s been in the making for three prolonged years - the city’s first Wal Mart store. This newsy nugget has seemingly taken the city by storm - and amid all the hoopla it has stirred up, one particular feature made me beam. The store has a ‘green roof’ - one half of its roof houses a shrubbery, and it also has sensors fitted in, to check whether it would emit less heat than the ‘brown’ ones. Of course, the green is on the brink of tanning out and ceding to Fall for now, but hopefully, it will come abloom next Spring.

And then, some swashbucklers are flexing their muscles to partake in the Chicago Marathon next month. Grant Park, and its winding roads will be set ablaze like never before, and several charities stand to benefit by this mega-event as well. Indolent onlookers are in for a treat too - live music along the course, and sports legends within arm’s reach to garner autographs from. Plus, with the tiniest quirk of luck, a chance to be photographed, and featured as witnesses to a race on the fastest marathon course in the world. While I belong in neither category, I’d much rather donate to a charity from the comfort of my own home, and if I wanted to attend an open-air concert, I’d much rather take the back stands at Millennium Park (it makes wading my way through an ocean of stragglers easier, in case of diaper or tantrum emergencies). Besides, I think I run marathons every single day - I’m sure sprinting from room to messy room a gazillion times a day qualifies. What’s more, Pooh Bear, Pluto, Eeyore, Barbie, all their kin who squeal and jiggle on mere inadvertent contact, and all the learning tables with their protruding sharp corners that have desensitized my feet, count as jumbo hurdles.

Every Fall, Chicagoans carry out the same drill - as if they were chronically destined to, or it were a perfunctory action. They go apple picking, wine tasting, and fall color watching in the Wisconsin/ Michigan/ Upper Peninsula region, and come back refreshed. On occasion, one hears of escapades in the Indiana Amish Country, but nowhere beyond. And I have often wondered what Illinois has to offer, and why no one ever speaks of it. I caught a few alluring ads on the telly, for “Enjoy Illinois,” a state tourism and department of commerce initiative, which offers an array of fascinating Falloween getaways. But given my family’s love for highly impulsive, last-minute jaunts, I decided to acquiesce and make the most of it, rather than cringe at the thought of being unable to plan a holiday in advance, like the saner lot does. (So, I thought to myself, if there’s a mention somewhere of biking on trails, I’m in). And as it turns out, there are not only biking trails, they’re tucked in woodlands. There are sandstone canyons for hikers, canoe-able wetlands, stunning bluffs, and some really spectacular scenic drives. To me, all this sounds rather exotic, and I think the grand old Amazon cruise, and the African Safaris can surely wait. I have a rather magnificent homestead to discover and enjoy first, albeit impetuously.

While Fall and the holiday season generally usher in an aura of merriment and effervescence, the indigenous festive spirit is not to be disregarded - Dusshera and Diwali sure do light up our homes, and bellies. If one has to keep up with this fervor and generally be in the know, one has to visit Devon Avenue. It’s like treading the Magnificent Mile just to bask in the glitz of the festival lights. It’s the same old drill again - we scurry up to Devon, spend the first half hour looking for parking space, and another half hour locating the stores we’ve been to a dozen times over, and shop (and on occasion, haggle, too) for clothes and sweets. I don’t know what it is about sweets during this time - but we invariably stock up on the laddus and pedhas from Sukhadia’s every year, and gorge on them for weeks, as if it were a ritual. And then there are temple cafeterias, and potlucks - so largely, all this festivity revolves around food. Then again, potlucks need no rhyme or reason really, they’re even organized to sit around, eat, and mull over a reason for an ensuing one. So by the end of the year, we’re all richer by a few pounds, and extra cholesterol; which don’t burn till summer arrives and the beaches (and beachwear) beckon.

Mile after magnificent mile to tread,
oaks, cedars and maples blushing red,
orchards, orangeries and vineyards beckon,
from Dandia to Halloween - ‘tis the season
to bring out the silks, wool; (and bake halwas ‘n gingerbread).


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