Akash the brave Bengal Tiger


It’s decluttering time in our home this month, and I shudder at the number of things we have managed to hoard since the last declutter. Each room presents a different challenge. The process can quickly become irritating if one realizes one’s inherent hoarding potential – something I seem to possess in abundance.

Having said that, decluttering is also a journey into the past. Pulling out old clothes, books, stationery, devices, cards and photographs is a pleasurable experience – if and only if one has the time and the inclination to take on this never-ending and challenging task.

But that’s not what this blog is about. During this journey towards a minimalistic life, I chanced upon an old stuffed toy – a beautiful, white Bengal Tiger.

Akash, the white tiger, entered our lives when our daughter turned one. He was her constant companion, resting on her shoulder or peeking from the crook of her arm. He was all important. He heard her secrets, and offered her comfort when she cried or when she hurt herself. He was always next to her pillow, watching over her.

Meet Akash the brave

As my daughter grew older, Akash’s role as protector and counsellor diminished. However, he still occupied pride of place on my daughter’s bookshelf. And he sits there to this day, faded with age and enjoying his retirement.

I pick him up to dust him. And it hits me then – my nest is partially empty. He reminds me of wonderful days spent with my daughter. He reminds me of the swift passage of time.

I hug him! Now, I am the one who seeks comfort from Akash the brave Bengal Tiger. And he plays his role to perfection.

My new e-book – Simple Sojourns


Dear friends,

Hope all of you are safe and well. I am sorry that I have not been very active on WordPress for the last two months. I have missed reading all your blogs. But I am happily back now and look forward to catching up on my reading.

I am also happy to share that my book, SIMPLE SOJOURNS – A collection of everyday stories from India, is now available on Amazon Kindle as an e-book. The paperback version will be available at a later date.

This book would not have been possible without all your encouragement for my blog all these years, which made me believe that I could actually write this book. Thank you all so much.

Nimi

A box from back home


It’s been almost two years since we’ve met our families back home. With the fantastic blessing that is technology, we have managed to keep-up our spirits through video calls with our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.

This afternoon, as I settled down to catch up on some work, the doorbell chimed. It was a courier delivery. The carton was big and fairly heavy.

I grew excited, because we’ve been eagerly awaiting this courier’s arrival from back home, lovingly despatched by my husband’s brother.

When my husband got home, we cut open the carton and for a moment there, the smell of home and our loved ones wafted through the air. It hit us then; how much we have missed visiting our family, a ritual we follow at least twice a year!

Soon, we delved into the box and took out its contents. In addition to the items we had ordered from back home, there were two gifts for me, a dress from my sister-in-law and a beautiful handwoven multi-purpose basket, made by her mother. I was in bliss.

The surprise letter in the basket

But the highlight was a handwritten letter from my sister-in-law, asking after us and giving us news from back home. I haven’t received a single letter in the last decade, after my Dad passed away. My Dad was an avid letter writer, and I have preserved every single letter that he has ever written to me.

There is something so beautiful about a handwritten letter. No email or phone message can ever make up for a surprise letter from back home. I feel so happy and so touched. I will treasure this letter.

Assorted glasses


This December is unlike any other. We are at home, on a staycation, enjoying lazing around and spending quality time with family. I have also been doing some decluttering around the house.

Today’s agenda is to clear out the crockery cupboard. I carefully take out each item and stack it on the kitchen counter, on the dining table, and on all other available flat surfaces.

Phew! What hoarders we are! The cupboard is like a hidden mystery cave, spewing out a never ending stream of plates and bowls and chafing dishes and glasses. I resolve not to buy crockery ever again (of course at least till I go shopping next!)

And I work mechanically, my mind busy elsewhere. Soon, it is time to put back the crockery into the cupboard. All plates and bowls are shining. They look happy.

And as I put back all the glasses, I realize that there are around fifteen glasses. However, only six of them belong to the same set. The other nine glasses are individual glasses of unique design, being the only ones remaining from their original sets.

Image courtesy – shutterstock.com

My immediate thought is, “…need to shop for a new set of water and juice glasses.” But then, I observe these nine unique glasses. Some are long, some are short, some are round, some are plain, but each one of them, along with their sets has been a part of our lives over the last two decades, and have been an integral part of our memories – the glass with lemon slices on it, the glass that looks like a globe, the plain looking glass which can hold so much water, the cut glass tumbler…each so special.

I think about how some of these glasses have survived over the years, while most of their family members did not. Some had cracks or got chipped, while some of them still remain intact.

I liken this to our lives, where we continue to evolve through our various experiences – learning to face challenges in the best way we can, sometimes with a crack here and a chip there, sometimes falling down and getting shattered, only to pick ourselves up while continuing to plod on.

I may buy a new set of glass tumblers soon, but am loath to throw away this beautiful and assorted collection of survivors. I send them back into the cupboard with a silly grin on my face.

Bubbles of joy


We are heading over to a friend’s home for dinner. My friend is moving out to another part of town, and this is an impromptu plan just before they leave.

Dinner happens around packed cartons and pizza boxes. Laughter flows and echoes off empty walls, as we reminisce about the passage of time and about all the wonderful memories we’ve shared.

Soon it’s time to say bye. Just as we are about to leave, my daughter spots a roll of bubble wrap! And she glides towards it as if in a trance, and starts popping the bubbles. My friend laughs and asks her if she wants a small piece to take away. My daughter nods vigorously. My friend bends down and cuts out a small piece of bubble wrap. When she hands it over to my daughter and lifts her head, she finds that I have joined the queue for a bubble wrap takeaway too!

Image courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

My daughter and I grin at each other, as we say our byes and get into the lift. We start popping the bubbles, completely absorbed in this most satisfying of all tasks. We get back home. My son, who had stayed back at home, gets excited when he sees the bubble wrap, and begs for a chance to pop them.

But no, we are selfish girls when it comes to bubble wrap. We don’t want to share something so precious.

We settle down and pop, sometimes row by row, sometimes random patterns. We sigh in contentment. There is something so therapeutic about this. Soon, our bubble wraps look exhausted! We then move on to other things, completely rejuvenated.

Late in the night, when I go around checking the doors and turning off the lights, I see the two pieces of bubble wrap on the sofa. There is a small frisson of hope as I run my hands over them.

Aha, I find an unpopped one. Pop!!! The day finishes on a high note.

Hewwo!!!


What a year 2020 continues to be! Most of us have pretty much lived this year cooped up indoors; while feeling grateful for the gifts of technology and social media that have helped us stay connected with loved ones.

My role as a virtual aunt continues, as I watch and interact with my niece and nephew through video calls.

I was on a video call with my sister last night when my niece, who had gone downstairs with her dad, got back home after getting some fresh air.

My niece, who is 22 months old, recognized me and came over to talk to me, her Pemma (mom’s older sister).

And she gave me the brightest smile ever, and said, “Hewwo Pemma, Hewwo.”

Image courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

I blew kisses. And suddenly the screen turned black. After a few seconds, my niece appeared again, and I said, “Hewwo sweetie” …and the screen went black again.

I called out to my sister, and asked her to help my niece hold the phone properly. My sister told me that my niece knew perfectly well how to hold the phone, but the reason the screen was turning black was because each time I said hello or blew kisses at her, she was hugging me by giving the phone a hug.

Awwwwww….. “Bless you my little one.” Even virtual hugs can melt one’s heart.

Web of imagination


Many, many years ago, when my two-year old son had just started devouring picture books and peg puzzles, one of his favourite books was a peg puzzle book about farm animals. He would constantly take the animal pegs out and put them back in, calling out their names – cow, pig, horse, duck and so on.

Soon after, and when my son was still in love with the book, we visited my husband’s parents. Seeing how much my son loved the farm book, my father-in-law decided to take him to a nearby farm to show him the cows there. All of us went along!

My son kept jabbering away on our drive to the farm. When he finally saw the cows, he froze. His eyes were like saucers. He backed away at jetspeed saying, “These cows are soooooo big…my peg cow is small.”

Courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

Completely overwhelmed, he came running to me and asked to be lifted. When I carried him, he buried his head in my shoulder, trying to make sense of what he had seen and what he had believed was a cow till that point!!!

Only at that time did we realize that he had not yet seen a cow in real life. It took a while for him to process and correlate what he had seen.

Cut to yesterday. I was on a video call with my sister, and the moment we started talking, my niece wanted to tell me a story from a picture book she was reading.

She narrated the story of The Lion and the Mouse. She narrated each line with special effect sounds and voice modulation, her eyes and hands expressing what she couldn’t articulate in words. And then she said, “You know, Pemma, “The lion was caught by a hunter.”

She wanted to convey that the lion was trapped in the hunter’s net. And in her mind, the picture of the hunter’s net she had seen in her book looked like a spider’s web.

She finished her story with a flourish, “The lion was caught in the spider’s web, Pemma. Then the mouse helped the lion escape, and they lived happily ever after.”

As I hung up, I thought about young kids, and their innocent and colourful imagination. And how at some point, reality takes over!!

Watching TV with a new friend


It is late in the evening. And small silver stars are glittering far away on a deep purple sky. The moon is a thin sliver behind translucent clouds that are floating gently across the sky to places unknown.

Our balcony window is wide open. A cool breeze blows into our living room, where all of us are seated or sprawled, watching a show on Netflix. There are two main characters in the show, and two factions have developed. My daughter is on one side, while my husband and I are on the other. We keep teasing our daughter, and she rolls her eyes in exasperation.

And…then, all of a sudden, my daughter points at the balcony floor. A lizard is on the ledge between the balcony floor and the living room. It seems to be watching the show too!

Photo by NSU MON from Pexels

I think out aloud, “Maybe the lizard has had a long day like me, and is taking a breather by watching TV”.

I ask my husband what he thinks. And pat comes the reply…”Nothing, it is just a lizard”, and he goes back to watching the show.” Men!!!!

My daughter chips in, “Hey lizard, please get your own subscription… it is better not to watch TV with these two people”, and points us out to the lizard.

All of us burst out laughing. Each of us reacted to the lizard in our own way, by projecting our emotions on the lizard. And that’s how we see the world most times, as a reflection of our own state of mind.

As I walk around the house, checking doors and turning off the lights, I wish the lizard a good night.

Virtual sands of time


It is the twilight hour. I stand on the balcony and observe the world outside. The world is slowly being enveloped in the dark purple of night. I turn around and look indoors. Warm yellow light fills our living room. My husband is on a work-related call, my son is finishing up his homework and my daughter is attending classes in her room.

The dining table is set for dinner. I wait patiently for all of them to log off from their virtual lives and log in to family time.

With all family members at home all the time, there is a false feeling that we are spending a lot of time with each other. In fact, we walk around the house leading our own lives, not engaging in quality family time.

I think back to the family holidays we took before the pandemic. Whenever we went to a beach, we would all imprint our footprints on partially wet sand, along with the date. A simple, cute memory of lovely times spent with family. There are many such pictures of our footprints on the sands of time. And just after we took those pictures, the waves would come and wash them away, and we would run back laughing.

How things have changed!

I head back in. All of us are done for the day. We head to the dining table to eat.

And just after dinner, and before everyone slinks away, I order a family hug. My teens react with incredulous looks and awkward smiles. They ask if a hug is really required. I insist. And the four of us gather around for a family hug. We fall into a beautiful silence. That hug, just 10 seconds long, rejuvenates all of us, though the kids will never admit it.

No footprints on the sands for now, but the hug will do quite nicely till then.

The yearly pickle ritual


It is 11 am in the morning; and as I type away on my keyboard, one corner of my eye is watching my phone for a call that I have been expecting from a friend.

This is not a regular ‘catch-up’ call. This call signifies a yearly ritual, when one my dearest friends buys special raw mangoes, makes the yummiest mango pickle, bottles it and then gifts it to all her dear friends.

So, today is that day..and just the thought of the pickle makes me salivate.

Soon, my screen lights up and I hop down joyfully to our lobby, where my friend passes the bag, waves a cheery goodbye, and drives away in a rush.

I hug the bag and walk home. Before I put the bottle into the refrigerator, I open the lid and inhale the aroma. Pure bliss!!

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

I look at the clock, an hour and a half to go for lunch. I get back to work. But like a child who has been given a gift or who has a happy secret, I keep smiling in anticipation.

As I try to focus on my work, my Dad visits my thoughts. Back in my childhood, whenever my Dad sat down to eat, and when the first hot serving of rice was on his plate, the first thing he would do was to add a little bit of ghee, and then add mango pickle or lime pickle to his rice and eat that as his first course. And if we were around, he would give us spoonfuls of hot pickle rice, and we would devour them with relish.

It is finally lunch time. As all of us sit down at the table, I heap hot, fluffy rice on my plate, add a little ghee, and add my friend’s mango pickle. I mix it, and take the first mouthful. Divine!!!

And for a minute there, I go back to my childhood kitchen, and feel my Dad’s presence. The years have flown by, but time seems to have gone back to the past for a brief sojourn.

I ask my kids if they want to taste the pickle rice. And they taste it and love it! No surprise there at all!!

I smile. The bigger things in life may keep changing, but there are some simple moments in life that are sheer magic, and that don’t change.

I bless and thank my friend for all her efforts and love each year.