The last drop


It is late on Sunday afternoon, and this day seems no different from any other in these pandemic times.

I have lots of work to do, and I find the thought of sitting at my work desk totally unappealing. I shift base. I am now on the recliner sofa in the living room; my legs comfortably stretched out, my back arched at an unhealthy angle and my laptop on my lap.

The balcony windows are open. The rays of the afternoon sun stream gloriously into the living room. My mind soars outside the balcony, away from my laptop and my work. It flies to the blue sky and the cotton-puff clouds, it flies with the birds and sways with the gently shimmering leaves. A sudden thud from somewhere brings me out of my reverie, and my mind crash-lands on the sofa, irritated by this sudden halt to its joyous afternoon sojourn.

I plead with my mind to cooperate; it agrees to focus, but on one condition. It demands a nice strong cup of filter coffee.

I readily agree. I hop to the kitchen. I return with a steel tumbler filled to its brim with strong South Indian filter coffee, perfectly frothed up, with a few drops of strong decoction lacing the bubbles on top.

South Indian filter coffee

I set the glass down, and settle back in. I take the first invigorating sip. My mind is fully with me now. Sharp and focussed, we work in harmony. Every now and then my mind prods me to take a sip.

Soon, my fingers are flying on the keyboard. I am nearly done. My left hand seeks the coffee glass. I realize that it is empty. I feel cheated. I peer inside and find only two or three drops.

I tip the glass back and wait for the excruciatingly slow journey of those delicious drops of coffee. They finally fall into my mouth. I relish them. I feel a deep sense of accomplishment.

I am now ready to take on more work!!

A special bond


The energy at home when the kids are around is palpable. And this manifests in many ways that only moms notice. Shoes in the exact angle they were taken off, left by the door. Bags, wallets, keys, and now masks as well! All these are clues to locate the kids when they disappear into their own rooms. And these bits and pieces of their presence breathe life into the walls of our home.

This last week, my son discovered that his sister had gone from one bedroom, which my son uses for his classes, to continue sleeping in another bedroom. Her bed was unmade as she literally sleep-walked to the other bedroom and plopped there!

My son stared at the unmade bed, grabbed my daughter’s quilt, bunched it up and walked purposefully towards the other bedroom.

When I asked him what he was going to do, he said, “I am going to throw this on her.” And I ran behind him trying to stop him from irritating his sister.

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And as I entered the room, I saw him gently putting the quilt around his sister and tucking her in.

My throat catches for a moment. I get back to work with a smile.

Dawn and Dusk


In these Covid times, the words dawn and dusk seem to have taken on a new meaning. Where before they were beautiful words to be found in poems and books, these days they have merely become mechanical cues to pinpoint the transition between days; days that seem to merge into each other.

However, even in these difficult times life does manage to bring some magic into our lives. Enter Dawn and Dusk!!

Dawn and Dusk are two little mynahs that have been visiting one of our dear friend’s home for the last eighteen months.

What began as a tentative entry into the kitchen from the window ledge has now grown into a deep friendship. Initially my friend would leave small pieces of fruit on the kitchen ledge. As they grew comfortable with my friend and his family, the mynahs would walk into the kitchen or living room, following them and awaiting their fruit treats.

Even to this day they visit twice, once at dawn and then again at dusk – to claim their grapes, bananas, dates, apples and cashewnuts. And that’s how they got their names.

My friends tell me that Dawn and Dusk usually come in and remind them if they find that their treats have not been refilled. At such times they wait patiently, without making any noise, seeming to completely understand if my friends are attending phone calls.

Somedays they bring a couple of friends with them, confident that their friends will also be treated with love and care!

What a beautiful friendship indeed! While all of us may not be stepping outdoors as often as we used to, Mother Nature has her own way of keeping us connected with her.

Friendship


It is late in the afternoon, and as I type away on my laptop, a gentle breeze causes my day curtains to billow.

From where I am seated, and through the open balcony doors, I see two mynahs seated on the ledge of the building next to ours.

Initially they are seated on opposite ends of the ledge, their faces turned away from each other. Have they just had a squabble?

Then, after a few minutes, one of them moves closer as if trying to talk to the other mynah. But, no, the second mynah will not have it. She turns away and starts walking away from her friend!  The friend moves closer, and the second mynah walks further away.

I so wish I could hear what they are saying. The first one is definitely trying to reason, but the second mynah is having none of it. She turns her beak up in the air and keeps taking small steps away from her pal.

But the first mynah is one persuasive bird. She does not give up, she keeps talking. Is she apologizing, is she explaining her point of view, is she telling the other mynah that she cares for her and that she will always be her friend despite their silly squabbles?

I sigh and wish that the other mynah would just say something. After a few minutes, the second mynah finally turns around. Yay!

They talk, and seem to sort out their differences. They fly away soon, their petty disagreement totally forgotten and forgiven.

I smile. I am happy. Sometimes all it takes is to put one’s pride aside and talk to the other person to make things right! After all, true friendship is precious and totally worth all this effort.

The little red flower


It is a bright and sunny day, after a week of dull rainy weather. I am cooling-off after my workout and head to my balcony. I allow the gentle morning breeze to tease my sweat-soaked curls, before it envelopes my neck and gifts me a few moments of pleasurable coolness.

The world below is already busy. Traffic is quite heavy and people are walking with purpose. Suddenly, I sense something flying past the balcony grill and on to the floor.

It is this beautiful flower! I quickly rush indoors to get my phone to click a picture.

And as it lies against the grey tiled floor, its beautiful red colour warms my heart. It reminds me of the beautiful hues of the red saree worn by a new Indian bride, it reminds of the deep red chillies that my mom would always sun- dry on our terrace when we were kids; it reminds me of the deep red spine of old books on our bookshelf, dog-eared and cherished; it reminds me of a perfect layer of raspberry jam on a slice of toast. It makes me smile.

This little flower has flown-in with the breeze, a simple gift that enlivens my day – bringing with it stories of its life experiences, and stories of how it was nurtured and cared-for by a loving pair of hands. Now it lies on my balcony, beautiful and poised, ready for whatever comes next.

Stolen pleasures


It is dinner time at home, and my husband and son are at the dinner table talking, laughing and eating.

I am sitting on the sofa, busy on my computer, my brows furrowed in concentration. I am skipping dinner tonight, as I overate this afternoon. My stomach still feels heavy, and I sigh as I continue to type away.

My husband is done with his dinner. It is now his favourite ‘dessert time’, and he brings back some jim-jam biscuits from the kitchen.

He settles down in the easy chair, and proceeds to devour them. I look at him; and then look at the jim-jams. My tongue, that traitor, waters. I turn my attention to my work. “No more disturbances”, I tell myself.

In just a few seconds, my husband comes over and shows me one of the jim-jam biscuits and exclaims, “Look at this biscuit, the raspberry jam is on the wrong side.”

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I say, “Oh, is it? Can I see it?” I turn the biscuit this way and that and pretend to examine it, as temptation battles with my guilt.

“Doesn’t matter really where the raspberry jam is, does it?” I say and quickly pop the biscuit into my mouth.

The yummy biscuit crumbles in my mouth, its flavour enhanced further by the delicious jam within. All the heaviness in my stomach vanishes. My guilt and resolve are nowhere to be seen.

My husband grumbles as he heads back to the kitchen to get another jim-jam. I smile and get back to work.

Timeless joy


I am quite sleepy, and decide to call it a night. I set the alarm on my phone for six thirty in the morning. Ah! the absolute joy of sleep – after what’s been a really long day! The cool sheets are soothing, and the soft hum of the aircon lulls me to sleep.

I am far away in a land unknown; a land that is inhabited by people that I don’t recognize. And as I am fully engaged in my dreams, my phone trills loudly. The trilling cuts like a saw through the soft layers of my sleep. I groan in irritation, is it morning already!!! “Not fair”, I mumble. It feels like I just went to sleep. I stretch out my hand to switch off the annoying alarm.

I open my eyes into thin slits to press ‘snooze’, but it’s only then that I realize that it is my daughter who is calling from a different time zone. My irritation vanishes; I am alert and fully awake now, and I pick up her call with a huge smile on my face.

She sounds so excited when she greets me! We exchange sweet pleasantries! And then she says, “Amma, I am in a quaint bookshop and I just found a collection of poems for you.”

She knows my love for books and poetry! I am very excited. She adds, “Guess what? This book was published in 1929. Can you believe that? 1929; it’s ninety-two years old!”

She quickly turns her phone’s camera towards the book. The book has a faded blue cover. Its pages are yellowed with age. My daughter points out to the first page. It has the name of the owner and the name of a college. Inside the book, at many places, one can see pencil annotations.

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I sigh in pleasure. My daughter reads out the names of the poems that are featured in the book. I recognize some of them.

I wonder how many people have read this book over these ninety-two years. The contents of the book have not changed, but the poets who wrote those poems are no longer here. The world has also gone through so many changes!

My daughter says that she has to go now. As I hang up, a sense of timelessness pervades me. Most things around us keep changing, but good books and poetry remain for all time, lighting up our lives with their beauty and profundity.

I go back to sleep with a sigh of pure contentment!

My invisible friend


Our neighbourhood is filled with high-rise condominiums, each separated from the other by lush greenery and by the various streets in the area. The only animals and birds we get to see are cute little dogs and cats, an abundance of pigeons, and some mynahs, orioles and parrots!

However, a few weeks ago, when I stood on our balcony sipping my morning cup of coffee, I heard the crowing of a rooster!

I was not sure if I had heard right! I waited, and there it was again. It made me smile. Where was this rooster? Was it a pet or a stray? I strained my neck to see if I could locate it, but there was no sign of the rooster.

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I completely forgot about the rooster after that morning. However, two weeks ago, I heard the rooster crowing again at two thirty one afternoon. I rushed to the balcony.

“Do roosters crow in the afternoon”, I wondered? I began doubting myself; were my ears playing tricks on me? I rushed my son to the balcony to validate my findings. But the rooster never crowed again that day.

This Saturday, I heard the rooster crowing at seven in the morning. I pulled my son to the balcony. We stood there waiting – me, wanting to establish that I was not merely hearing sounds in my head; and my son, looking irritated. After about five minutes, the rooster crowed again. I turned at lightning speed to look at my son.

“Did you hear that?” I asked, bubbling with excitement. With a deadpan expression, my son replied, “Yup, I heard it too,” and he walked indoors. I stretched and strained to see if I could spot the rooster, but he remained elusive.

Over the last three days, the rooster has been crowing more often, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. Each time I hear the rooster, I smile. I feel good.

Crowing roosters were an integral part of my childhood, and also featured in many storybooks that we read as children. A rooster’s crowing heralded the beginning of a new day, where a golden sun rose on a perfectly blue sky to light up the world. It meant a day filled with hope and promise.

And that is how I feel each time I hear my invisible rooster friend. He makes me nostalgic for those days when life was simple. He also fills me with hope of better days to come.

Three safety-pins


I am cleaning the drawers of my dressing table, a long overdue task. And as I clean, I find my safety-pin box, containing many glittering steel safety- pins in various sizes.

Image courtesy – ClipartKey

Back in my childhood, safety-pins were precious resources that provided quick-fix solutions to many everyday problems – to fix a sudden tear in your clothes or to fix a broken sandal or to fix broken chains or beads. Moms and aunts usually had at least one or two safety-pins on the chains that most of them wore around their necks. All one had to do was ask; and out would come those precious pins that could solve all kinds of problems. But one of the most important uses of safety-pins for Indian women is when we have to wear sarees.

Most of us probably wore our first sarees for our high school graduation ceremonies. There was great joy in choosing the right saree, in getting the perfect blouse stitched and in buying the right accessories to go with it.

And as our moms helped us drape the sarees, we stood with three safety-pins in our palms. We waited to pass them to our moms, as they sat down to perfect each pleat of the saree and to pin them together neatly. The safety-pins were not visible after the saree was draped, but gave us that much needed assurance that we could carry ourselves well!

When we got back from school after the graduation – our hearts filled with precious memories, fun and some tears – our moms waited to receive us, and warned us to carefully remove the safety-pins first and put them away, before we changed back into our home clothes.

And on countless important occasions thereafter – from festivals and family functions to our own engagements and weddings – we draped ourslves in gorgeous sarees, with strings of jasmine in our hair, and huge jhumkas dangling from our ears. The sarees made us feel poised, graceful and elegant – silently supported as they were by three simple, safety pins.

I come back to the here and the now. The safety-pins have been lying in the box for ages. Can’t wait for life to get back to normal. Can’t wait to bring out my sarees and my glittering safety pins!

On a walk with Dad


One of my most enduring memories of my childhood is going on walks with my Dad – sometimes to the milk booth to pick up packets of milk, or to take the bus into town or to go to the post office or the temple.

My sister and I would each hold one of his hands; and we would then set off. Just as the road from our home sloped upwards, sweet little singing birds would call out merrily from the electric lines or from the bushes and trees.

My Dad would mimic the birds’ songs and the birds would call back again, and my Dad would respond. My sister and I would also try to mimic the sounds.

And as we walked under a perfectly blue sky, with cotton puff clouds floating about lazily, we would badger our Dad with all kinds of questions; questions that he always answered patiently.

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We would laugh, talk, skip and come back home – rejuvenated by yet another beautiful and memorable walk with Dad.

As we grew older, the walks stopped – we were busy being teenagers; but the conversations with Dad continued at the dinner table, long after dinner.

Conversations that were interspersed with good natured teasing, sibling fights and of course lots of music. We would all often break into song, and my Dad would start drumming the beat on the dining table.

Long, beautiful evenings they were – times when we could discuss anything with our Dad, and be assured that he would always hear us out.

Later, when we moved away to our college dorms, he would write to each of us every week, giving us simple and beautiful updates of home. We would write back promptly, keeping him updated about our lives.

When we would go home for the holidays, he would be waiting for us at the bus station, hugging us and welcoming us back home – where mom would be waiting with a yummy home-cooked meal of sambhar rice, roasted potato curry and hot cups of filter coffee!

And as we started working and moved away to different cities, the letters continued, which were then gradually replaced by emails and text messages.

After marriage, my Dad had specific days and time slots to call each of us. Mine was on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. Lovely catch-up conversations; conversations that now included my husband and children. But I would call him whenever I felt like, to catch up or to ask him something.

After my Dad passed away, for many many months after, I would remember the 9 a.m. calls on Friday and yearn to hear his voice greeting me.

From simple walks to long talks, I remember and treasure all those precious moments with my Dad. Holding his hand and drawing comfort from his letters and calls. Knowing that he was always there for us – his little girls. Love you Dad!