Shopping, paranthas & peace


My sister and I are out shopping. There is no specific shopping list; we are willing to buy anything that grabs our attention. Read – ‘as many shops as we can visit in one afternoon’.

Our children are with their grandmom, and we don’t feel any guilt. We wave cheery byes to our children, who are oblivious to our departure. They are enjoying junk food, and reveling in the joy of being totally spoiled by their grandmom.

We drive down to one of our favourite malls. We drive each other nuts by trying on hundreds of clothes, doing catwalks for each other; all the while catching up on family gossip, children, motherhood and other silly things that sisters talk about.

We reach a point where our arms hurt from all that exertion. We buy 2% of what we tried, but the satisfaction is enormous.

We need coffee. We need something to eat. And then, we find this small restaurant that has a skylight, and has huge stone slabs and steps that serve as tables and chairs. Multi-coloured cushions languish on various stones. Trees give us company. We order hot aloo paranthas and coffee. As we wait for the food, we soak in this place, this slice of heaven. Where, unbeknowst to ourselves, we’ve stopped talking.

We are immersed in our own thoughts. Life seems so simple and so uncomplicated in this quadrangle. A lazy bird chirps above us. Ants are busily climbing the walls.

Our food arrives. We relish it in silence. We are loathe to leave this peace, but real life beckons. We step out into the world, where people are rushing, vehicles are moving – nobody stops or pauses even for a second.

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What’s cooking?


I am heading home from my evening walk. The sky is turning a deep blue. I see the silhouettes of birds flying back to their nests. Many birds are already home. There is a lot of chirping; the birds are obviously catching up with each other, after a long, tiring day.

As I enter our condominium, the street lights switch on. The lights in many homes are coming on too!

My muscles are tired from all that walking, and there is no more ‘brisk’ in my walk.

Picture courtesy – http://www.clipart-library.com

And as I cross from one building to another, the smells of dinner being cooked are everywhere! My stomach growls, my tongue waters.

Warm paranthas are being tossed on the tawa….yumm! Now, I smell cheese; now, mustard sputtering in oil. I can hear a pressure cooker letting off steam.

I make it home, both tired and famished. I only have one thought in my head – FOOD! I take a shower, and rush into the kitchen to warm my dinner.

The first mouthful is divine, and I savour it with eyes closed. I wolf down the rest. I am full. I stretch in contentment. Bliss!

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Chance meeting


We are in a cab, making our way across the city of Bengaluru in India.

As a mother, I have reached ‘that’ stage, where I am not given a choice to opt for a window seat in any vehicle. I am sandwiched between my kids. It is a pleasant day, and we have rolled down the windows.My husband sits in the front, lost in thought, and I suspect, also trying to catch a few winks.

There is heavy traffic, and our progress is stilted. The kids play a game of word building.

After a while, the congestion eases, and we start moving.

All of a sudden, an autorickshaw pulls up alongside our cab. The auto driver waves wildly at our cab driver, and shouts out a loud greeting.

Our cab driver is pepped-up now. He recognizes an old friend. And for the next hundred meters, the two vehicles drive in perfect synchronization.

Image courtesy – Clipart Panda

A time during which the two men exchange pleasantries and catch-up on each others’ lives. Their grins are infectious, their excitement palpable.

Our cabbie sits up straighter, and looks recharged.

Soon, the time comes for the two friends to part ways. One takes a left, the other takes a right. They say their goodbyes.

Our journey continues.

This makes me think. We meet many people who travel with us on this journey called life, who share our time, space, emotions and memories.

For reasons unknown, we do not meet most of these people ever again; but sometimes we do bump into someone we know from our past.

Life pauses for a bit for us to rewind and remember, and then moves on, taking us towards new experiences and people.

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The Vegetable Vendor


My husband’s parents live in a close-knit community of independent homes; where people have known each other for many decades.

The streets are always bustling with chit-chatting neighbours, children playing on the streets and vehicles weaving in and out. There always seems to be some excitement, amidst all this bustle.

Neighbourhood shops are a mere stone’s throw away, and one can pick up most anything from these self-contained shops that are tucked away all around the community.

What makes the atmosphere more vibrant are the street vendors, who have their regular ‘beat’ around the various streets.

Their calls, as they hawk their goods, are distinct. Each vendor arrives at a particular time – some on all days, some on alternate days, and some others on the weekends.

I am standing at the doorstep watching the goings-on in the street. The vegetable vendor arrives, parks his push cart outside our door, and calls out, “Tomatoes, beans, onions, potatoes…”.

The ladies saunter towards the cart, with their own bags. They carefully examine and pick and choose the veggies. The vendor’s eyes are hawk-like as he weighs, bargains, and closes multiple deals.

He throws in some coriander leaves, curry leaves and ginger for free, making every customer happy!

There is some personal banter – after all, he meets these people every day. Money and vegetables are exchanged. He takes a breather, someone brings him a cup of tea. He relishes it, while delicately balancing his cart.

I ask him if I can click a picture. He happily agrees. He smiles. His veggies look happy too!

He is on his way soon, to the next street on his beat.

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Beckoning Backwaters – Travel Diary


My friends and I are on a houseboat in the Vembanad Backwaters of Kerala, India.  Truly, God’s own country.

We lounge on the deck, soaking in the serenity, the lush greenery and the rippling waters, as our boat glides in silence.  A silence that is only punctuated by cawing crows, flitting butterflies and rustling reeds.  Water plants float in merriment, in celebration of all that wonderful beauty.  We are awed by this experience, as we keenly observe the lives of the people, who have made the backwaters their home.  Our raucous laughter and incessant chatter are sucked away by the beautiful silence, where we do not exist any more.

Later in the day, we board a small wooden boat, which takes us through the villages in the backwaters.  Life is happening all around us, everyday life – a woman is cleaning fish in preparation for dinner, three little girls are waving out to us in sheer joy, an old man is sitting on the bank, fishing, as he ponders over the mysteries of life.  Small fish and water snakes give us company, as our boat cuts through the waters.  Kingfishers sit on electric cables, waiting for just the right moment to swoop down.

Coconut trees flirt with the water,  some of them arching down to the water’s surface for a good gossip.  We wave out to people on other houseboats, and a sense of camaraderie prevails, at having enjoyed something exquisitely beautiful.

There is a sense of timelessness, as we sip strong tea and munch on ‘pazzha pori’ a local delicacy.

We feel distanced – from our everyday lives and from the mundane.  We feel content, we feel complete.  Life was meant to be lived like this, in the company of nature – rippling water, singing birds, swaying reeds and majestic coconut trees. Where a sense of completeness prevails, where solitude is the best company, where there are hundreds of thoughts as we took it all in, and then no thoughts at all……just bliss.

Sharing some pictures!

 

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Mysore Pak every 365 days


It is that time of the year again. Deepavali. The festival of lights.

I have been busy all morning, melting ghee, sifting flour, and preparing sugar syrup of just the right consistency. Stirring the mixture with my right hand, and then with the left, not pausing even for a minute.

When the ghee (clarified butter) meets the sugar and the flour, the aroma that wafts around the house defies description. It makes my kids come running into the kitchen, and causes them to hop about in excitement.

Just after my wedding, my mother gifted me two, big, stainless steel trays. I bring out these trays every year, during Deepavali, for the specific purpose of making Mysore Pak.

The trays are greased and ready to receive the mixture that I am stirring. As I stir, I realize that 365 days have flown by in the blink of an eye.

A year that was packed with activities, school projects, dinners and lunches with friends, work, daily chores, meeting loved ones, shopping. A year that was just like every other year – filled with a mix of rainy days, sunny days and windy days!

The mixture is slowly thickening. I realize that my children have grown taller, and that some of the children I know from their kindergarten days have now gone to University.

This is a ritual, this Mysore Pak, a family tradition, which my children will hopefully carry forward one day.

The mixture thickens, and I feel the drag as I stir. I pour the mixture into the trays. In a few minutes, I cut the mixture into square pieces.

Time seems to be flying, but now and then, it stops, maybe once in 365 days, for us to mark some event or festival or milestone, to tell us to stop and enjoy these simple moments.

To bite into a perfect Mysore Pak that melts in the mouth. To know that we have another 365 days coming up, to do the best we can and utilize our time wisely and focus on what’s important.

Happy Deepavali!

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Vibrant traditions


My husband and I are walking down a crowded street in Bengaluru, India. It is late in the afternoon, and the sun’s rays form net-like patterns on the pavement and the road.

Hundreds of small shops line both sides of the street. The shopkeepers and street hawkers are doing brisk business.

We need to stock up on cotton wicks (for our lamps), incense sticks, and a few other items. There are four shops that cater to our needs. They are all adjacent to each other, for they know that if we do not get what we want from the first shop, we will head to the next.

All four shopkeepers nod, and welcome us enthusiastically. We stop at the first shop. As I place my order, I am transfixed by the display of turmeric powder and kumkum (the red powder used for the Bindis that Indian women wear on their foreheads).

Art and Science are both at work here. The shopkeeper has painstakingly created mounds of these powders, by compacting them. They look so vibrant and colourful. The shopkeeper has planned this with precision. Just the right amount of powder to maintain the balance and prevent it from collapsing all around.

I ask him if I can take pictures. He obliges. I ask him, how he manages to take out powder from these mounds, if a customer wants to buy some!

He shows me how; I watch with bated breath. He does it with the ease of a seasoned professional. This is his turf and he smiles at my surprised look.

He packs our wicks and incense sticks. Deep from the recesses of his shop, a little boy comes running out. Presumably his son.

Family businesses that have been around for generations, carrying on the traditions of their forefathers. Selling simple, everyday things with so much creativity and beauty.

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A Pigeon’s Point of View


Most afternoons, when a gentle breeze sways the curtains, and the sun shines high above, I have company.

Pigeons visit my balcony, and sit on the railings. If the house is quiet, and I remain perfectly still, the pigeons sometimes brave it into the living room, walk around, and then disappear in a flutter of wings.

This afternoon, there is a pigeon on the railing. He looks at me, and seems to peer into the living room.

Image courtesy – Wikipedia

I try to guess what he sees. Does he see the laptop on my table, and wonder what that strange noise of typing is? Does he see the bits of furniture we have lovingly collected – beautiful bits of wood that once stood as majestic trees.

Does he see the porcelain birds on my TV console? What does he make of them? Does he wonder why they remain static?

Does he hear the music that is playing on my laptop? Does it sound anything like the song birds he knows?

What does he make of the huge coffee mug, from which wisps of steam are rising up and vanishing? Does he think about evaporation, about the sun’s heat and about all the water bodies that are drying up ?

When he sees the rotating fan, does he compare it to the wind whipping through the trees, and the joy he feels when he swoops down on a sunny day!

Does he see the water jug? Does he wonder why the water is contained?

I smile, and watch him. He looks wise, as he ponders over the mysteries of my home. I look at my home through new eyes.

He hangs on for some more time, and then flies away. He joins two other pigeon friends on a neighbour’s window ledge.

As I head back in, I wonder if he is sharing his thoughts with his friends.

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Shopping Basket Philosophy


I am standing in line at the billing counter in the supermarket. I have left my phone behind at home, and feel that I am missing an integral part of myself.

With nothing to swipe or refresh or read, I look around; my eyes taking in the bright displays, and the stacks of biscuits and chocolates and bottled water and potato wafers and moisturizers and tissues and cream bottles.

My eyes take in the contents of the shopping basket of the person standing in line before me – it has canned drinks, potato wafers and a loaf of bread. My brain immediately arrives at the conclusion that this person is young, maybe a student, looking forward to an evening filled with some school work, fun, watching TV or going out with friends. I am envious!

My eyes travel across the aisle to the adjacent billing counter. I see the contents of another shopping bag. Baby food, a good dose of veggies, eggs, bread and milk.

Young mother!

Then I look at my own shopping bag. Vegetables and more vegetables, band-aid, bread, tissues, milk, biscuits, snacks, cleaning supplies, pasta, wraps…! Hmmm, a mother stocking up and trying to avoid another trip to the super market soon!

Image Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

When I was a kid, the only equation that I had with the shopping baskets my parents carried was to keep track of the little paper bag of candies or chocolates, which my parents bought for us every week. Everything else in the bag was irrelevant.

I see it now with my kids. They keep a hawk-like watch on what they have bought, sometimes totally oblivious to everything else.

The contents of our shopping basket reflect the stage of life we are in. Each shopping basket has a story to tell!

For example, why has the lady behind me loaded three baskets with fruit? I start speculating – is she going to make jam or fruit preserve or juice? Has she bought them to gift someone or is it for a celebration of some sort!!!

I look at her, she smiles and nods.

I move up the line. Very soon, I checkout, pick up my bags and head homeward – back to my children, and the realities of school assignments and deadlines, cleaning and planning.

My shopping basket theory takes a back seat, as I empty my bags, and grapple with everyday issues of putting away the shopping, and planning what to cook tomorrow!

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Rose Nectar Vanilla Delight


The sun has set on a wonderful nine days of festivities, after the Indian festival of Navrathri. All the wonderful anticipation, pre-festival, has now been replaced by exhaustion; but of a very beautiful and fulfilling kind.

The nine days seem to have just flown by, in a colourful whirl of saree draping, accessorising, having guests over and visiting the homes of friends, eating the yummiest of foods, and posing for and taking the most vibrant pictures to trap all those wonderful memories.

Phew!

Right now, I am sitting on the couch, with my afternoon coffee. I lazily flip through the hundreds of pictures. The smiles are contagious – I smile, I laugh; as I remember all the fun we had.

One photo in particular makes me smile. Just before the festival started, I was scouring the internet for dessert recipes. My criteria was that it had to be simple to prepare and good to taste.

I finally found what I wanted. It was rose milk shake with a vanilla icecream float! I tried it out at home, before I had my friends over.

My children were the guinea pigs. They had their first cup, and kept asking for more.

That decided it!

Later in the day, my son said, “Mom, I think you have invented a drink that is sensational. I feel it deserves a new name.”

I said, “But, it is an old recipe…!”

Son: But this is super-special because ‘you’ made it. Let us name it Rose Nectar Vanilla Delight!”

Me: Wow..is it as good as all that?

Son: I bet your friends will love it too!

And that is how it turned out. Armed with my son’s love, I served the Rose Nectar Vanilla Delight to all my friends, all of whom loved it!

And, as we wind down after Navrathri, and look forward to Deepavali, my son’s love and words warm my heart, and give me the confidence to try something new!

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