Wake up!

Parents from around the world have different parenting tricks up their sleeves. Tricks that have been honed to perfection, through repeated testing on their offspring.

One of the most successful parenting tricks is the one that gets kids out of bed in the morning. I have heard many stories about parents in the tropics, who would switch off the fan or the aircon, and then allow the intense humidity to engulf the sleeping- innocents and jolt them awake. Parents in cold climes would probably snatch the blanket to get the kids to wake up.

My Dad was a strict disciplinarian, and when we would hear his footsteps approaching, we would usually know that it was time to wake up. He would say ‘Wakey, wakey’, in a cheerful voice, and we would groan, ‘Morning Dad’ and wish that he would leave the room, so that we could sneak in some more shut eye.

Only when I became a mom of school-going children did I realize that every parent needs to have a strong ‘waking-the-kids-up-skill-set’ – an arsenal of various tricks – good and mean, cheerful and stern, loving and angry. And on any particular day, the parent has to use the best mix to goad the children out of bed.

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This morning, when it is time to wake the kids up, I decide on a cheerful morning wake up call. I decide to whistle like a bird, interspersed with wake up, wake up in the same tone. My daughter groans and buries herself into her pillow. My son is woken by this musical bird sound and looks really irritated. He says, “Mom, can you stop that sound, please? It is really loud.” And then my ever-considerate son looks at me with half open eyes, and feels maybe that he has hurt his mom, and says, “It was quite melodious actually, only that it was loud.” I laugh and give him a bear hug.

Without skipping a beat, he says, “What’s for breakfast mom? I am famished.” I head to the kitchen to start my work. Another day begins. It is business as usual.

Not that generous….

Most humans have different preoccupations for each decade of their lives. In the mid-forties one of the main things that my friends and I talk about is our health. From intermittent fasting and counting calories to maintaining diaries and charts, we are all busy. But sometimes, our resolve is put to the test.

My husband and I decide to go watch a movie. The show is at 9 pm, and we decide to leave home by 7 pm to run a few errands and then head to the movie hall.

We discuss dinner plans. My husband bravely announces that he will skip dinner, so that he can eat popcorn without any guilt. This irritates me, as I want to eat both – dinner and popcorn! Today is my cheat day and so I want to leverage it to the maximum.

My husband is unwavering in his resolve, till he sees the menu card. I manage to wolf down a huge dosa, while he eats another type of dosa. We feel guilty, but pronounce ourselves satisfied. He does some entering into his food calorie counter app. After running some errands we finally reach the movie hall.

Two regular tubs of salted popcorn please, I hear myself ask. I protect the popcorn and hug it close. The aroma is tantalizing. I move the flap and quickly pop two pieces into my mouth. My husband postulates that one should start eating only after the movies starts playing. I disagree. We take our seats. In just a few minutes, I open the tub of popcorn and start eating, savouring every bit.

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As I watch the titles roll in, one piece of popcorn bounces off my mouth and falls down. What a loss! I pick up the piece and put it into a piece of tissue from my bag. I promise myself to be careful, and not lose anymore popcorn. My husband has not started eating his popcorn yet. Strange, I think.

As the plot unfurls, I start feeling cold. The aircon is freezing. I pass my popcorn tub to my husband for safe-keeping, and pull out my stole from my handbag. I wrap it snugly around myself, and then turn to my husband. I am shocked. My husband is helping himself to my popcorn. I ask him to open his palm. There are three pieces. I ask him how many he has already eaten. Two he says with a huge grin, as he sees my face.

I take back my tub. I ask him to open his tub of popcorn. I carefully count out five pieces of popcorn from his and transfer them to mine. My husband’s shoulders are shaking in mirth. But he doesn’t get it. This is popcorn. I am generous, but not that generous. Calories or no calories, five pieces are five pieces. So there!

My Colander’s Day in the spotlight

It is mid-morning, and I am busy with preparations for an elaborate Sunday meal. My beautiful and loyal red colander is my constant companion on my many small sojourns to the sink, where I wash vegetables and drain soaked lentils. The colander has been with me for over twelve years now. But little did I know that my colander would serve a much bigger purpose.

Just the day after Christmas, all news channels were talking about the unique annular solar eclipse that was about to unfold across the sky later that day. Being in Asia, we were going to have a clear view of this rare cosmic occurence.

My kids were at home, and there was a great sense of excitement, when we discovered that the sun was going to be directly above our building during the eclipse. Using a selfie-stick and some smart manouevering, I managed to continuously click pictures. Just as we inched closer to peak-eclipse time, big fluffy clouds played hide and seek with the sun. And after all the excitement, what if we could not see the eclipse unfolding at all? Hmmm. We scoured the internet for ideas; one website talked about using a colander to study the shadows made my the colander on the ground.

We kicked into action. Our unsuspecting colander, after a morning of hard work, had just gone into its cupboard to catch a few winks. We placed the colander atop two sticks, and our experiment was ready.

The colander’s shadow was clear and dark on the tiled floor. And as the eclipse progressed, it grew fainter, and at one point almost disappeared. Luckily, the naughty clouds parted at the most important time and we could capture the miracle on the phone as well. We could also see the ring of fire.

It was an amazing experience. We had witnessed something so beautiful and amazing. What was even more exciting was the fact that mankind could predict that such an event was going to occur. Truly, both the marvels of science and the magic of the universe were in evidence. We pronounced ourselves fully satisfied and content.

Cut to the here and now, my colander is back to its duties, not realizing what an important role it played in bringing some magic into our lives. I smile and continue with my cooking.

Two mysterious clocks

The holidays are here, and all of us are staying up late every night, and sleeping-in each morning, totally oblivious to the rising sun or the chirping birds or the gentle morning breeze.

So, you can imagine our shock when we woke up yesterday morning to find that our bedroom clock had fallen and shattered on the floor! There was glass everywhere. Even as we cleaned the shards, we puzzled over how it could have fallen, and how none of us heard even a small tinkle. My kids came up with weird theories, and we all had a hearty laugh.

Later yesterday, my husband and I went to the supermarket to buy a wall clock for the bedroom. After the usual evaluation of designs, and suitability to the decor, we picked a wooden clock with block numbers and distressed paint. My husband was not entirely convinced about the distressed paint, but I convinced him that the look was in.

Once we got back home, we affixed a battery and mounted the clock on the wall. It looked rather nice. When I read the time this morning, I realized that the clock was showing 2.20, but soon forgot about it as I got busy in the kitchen.

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Later in the day, my husband called me and told me that the clock was going backwards. He had noticed that the clock was showing the wrong time and had reset it, only to realize that the clock was moving backwards.

It was oddly unsettling to see that the clock was moving back in time. When it was mid afternoon, our clock had travelled back to 9 am. I tried to remember what I was doing at 9 am.

I couldn’t exactly remember, I only had this realization that ‘that’ moment in time was gone, it would never ever come back, even if I tried to turn back the clock.

I suddenly felt very wise, and passed on this wisdom to my children, asking them to make the best use of the here and the now. They laughed and muttered that mom’s in one of her philosophical moods. They hugged me and walked away.

But this clock gave me pause, to value my time and to value each day, for I can wind back the clock, but never time itself.

Every new experience

The evening sky is painted an orange shade that defies description. Spun gold? Gold cotton candy? Faraway buildings and trees are silhouetted against this backdrop. Most birds are already tucked into their cosy nests. There is a lull, as day winds down and shakes hands with twilight. The evening sky never looks the same, each evening is different. I stand on the balcony and soak-in the peace.

My kids barge into my reverie. It is the weekend and they want to order-in pizza. I agree, and soon, with a few clicks, the order is placed. In just under forty-five minutes, the familiar square cardboard box is delivered, accompanied by that mouth-watering aroma that every pizza-lover relishes. Hmmm!

But what has become such a regular part of our lives now, was once a new experience for me. When we were kids most meals were home cooked. We rarely ate out. My mom made yummy Indian food, sweets and savouries at home, and we looked forward to all the treats she cooked for us.

When I left for university, I fondly remembered and yearned for my mom’s food. By the time I started working, most meals were eaten out, with friends and colleagues. And that was the time I ate my first-ever pizza. A new outlet had opened in the city close to my place of work, and all of us went over.

And that’s when I smelt a pizza for the first time, that unique melding of cheese, bell peppers, olives, pineapples and other veggies. My favourite part was adding the chilli flakes on top for that extra burst of flavour. We loved the pizza even more because of the experience of trying something for the first time.

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It was something new, something shared, something exciting, a new type of food, a slice of another culture. And we were never the same again. We had changed.

And that is true of all the new things we try in life. Some are great experiences, while some don’t go at all well; but each one of them changes us in subtle ways.

My kids are happy, and predictably disappear into their rooms. As I close the lid on the pizza box and clean up, night has fallen, and a few stars are twinkling high up in the firmament. The sky has also changed.

Life lessons from a dosa

Every person who knows to cook has a special dish that she or he can rustle up, without fretting too much about the end product – call it a signature dish if you like. And when one has people over for lunch or dinner, this signature dish will definitely feature in the menu.

But then, there is another side to this signature dish story. If you hail from South India, like I do, making dosas is something you are expected to know even in your sleep.

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There is nothing to beat a crispy, golden dosa that has been made to perfection, and then eaten with sambar and coconut chutney.

I do make perfect, golden dosas, crisp or soft, with ghee or cheese, or even the masala dosa, with its filling of potato masala. My friends love my dosas too!

But sometimes, especially when you have guests over for lunch or dinner, and your signature dish’s reputation precedes you, things can head south.

I have guests for brunch, and one of the items planned is the dosa. Dosas are best eaten hot. So, I set the flat pan on the stove, switch it on and mix the dosa batter with elan. I check for batter consistency, ensure that I have all that I need to get started. I do not realize this, but my flatpan has got over-heated as the flame is in full blast mode and not in simmer mode – a sure recipe for dosa disaster.

As I pour the batter with practised ease, in just ten seconds I realize that the dosa has stuck to the pan, and refuses to leave it. I use the spatula to prod it out, without making any sound. My guests are waiting in anticipation. I manage to get the mangled and burnt dosa out. Now, both the flatpan and I have to cool down.

I smile at the irony of it all. This dosa that we eat so often, and that my kids are heartily tired of …has let me down, and how!!!

Soon the flatpan cools and I am able to serve my dosas, though I still feel they could have turned out better.

But then, this is how things are in the bigger scheme of things as well. We work and perfect various skills, we plan meticulously to the minutest details, but then life throws many surprises our way, when we are unable to manifest our skills in the best way at the right time and at the right place.

But the idea is to keep trying, and enjoy the journey, and not be bogged down by the odd bad day!


It is noon, and I am in a cab. My destination is twenty minutes away, and the first thing I do is pick up my phone and call one of my sisters. Her line is busy, and I call the other sister. She picks up my call, and we start chatting.

We exchange family stories, talk about her children, my children, work, life goals, health goals, wardrobes, new products, photos that we sent to each other, accessories, and then get back to more family trivia.

Soon, my cab reaches the destination, and I bid a cheery bye to my sister and get back to my own world; with a broad smile on my face and a spring in my step – for that’s what sisters do to you.

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You can laugh with them, cry with them, be annoyed with them or argue with them, for they will not judge you for any of it.

Last month, when we were out for dinner with my sister’s family, I eyed the beautiful handbag she was carrying and raved about it. “You can have it”, she said. And with no guilt whatsoever, I took the bag, gave back its contents in a small plastic bag, and became the proud owner of my sister’s handbag.

And that’s just one of the million reasons why sisters are special. You can call them at midnight to discuss even simple absurdities, and they will think nothing of it.

In our home, I have one wardrobe, and two extended wardrobes that belong to my sisters, and which I have unlimited access to. And they have the same access to mine.

A sister has shared all the silliness and giggly moments in your childhood with you. One of the fondest memories I have is of how my sister would come back from kindergarten (I had not yet started school then), and would always remember to bring a butter biscuit back for me, an extra biscuit that she had received for answering questions correctly in class.

A sister may squabble and annoy and drive you crazy within the four walls of your home, but to anyone who troubles you outside home, she is a force to be reckoned with.

A sister will tell you things about yourself that you may not like to hear; but then she will be the one you turn to when you have even the smallest problem, or when you just want to rant.

Sisters fill your life with sunshine, and are a 24 x 7 support hotline. They enrich your life, and make you laugh, make you cry, and argue with you.

But whenever I have a free moment, my first choice will always be to pick up the phone to call my sisters.