Home garden


There is something so beautiful about having plants at home, especially when there is no space for a huge garden.

My husband’s mom talks about how green the area had been, when she and my father in law had moved into their new home after marriage. More than five decades have rolled by, and there are buildings everywhere. My mom-in-law loves and nurtures all her plants.

There are two beautiful Magnolia campaca trees at the entrance of the house. One of them yields fragrant, creamy-yellow flowers. Their trunks have grown with our home – spreading out branches, sprouting leaves, blooming flowers and watching over the goings-on in the neighbourhood.

There are many potted plants, hibiscus, sweet pea, star jasmine, creepers, tulasi, curry leaves, green chilli and coriander. As I walk around the compound, I enjoy the mid-morning breeze, as the clothes on the clotheslines flutter in unison.

The leaves of the hibiscus plant are a deep, shiny green. There is a beautiful bud, waiting for the right time to bloom.

Just above the hibiscus plant is the Ixora coccinea plant, a shrub commonly found in the region. The bright orangeish-red flowers are a treat to the eyes. I call them ‘drops of sunshine’.

One of the branches has two bud clusters that look identical. They look like sisters….sharing some childhood time, laughing merrily, gossiping with each other, and swaying in the breeze, little knowing that they may each bloom differently.

There is a strange peace that comes in watching the champak tree. The clear blue of the sky can be seen through its leaves, as a crow caws lazily in the background.

There is a joy in watering the plants, and watching the soil soak it all in.

There is peace. Everything is just as it should be.

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The King’s Game


My husband’s mom walks into the room, where my kids are sprawled out. She wears her reading glasses, and looks at what seems to be a small rectangular box in her hand. She passes it to my daughter, and says, “This was a puzzle that belonged to your Dad.”

My kids look excited, and look curiously at the small box from nearly four decades ago. They open the thin box to look inside.

The objective of the game is to bring the King down from his summer palace to his winter house. There is a sheet with instructions.

My husband’s eyes light up, when he sees this small box that contains some of his childhood memories; memories that come gushing out and bring a delighted smile to his face.

The kids move the puzzle pieces this way and that. They liken it to a game called Klotski that they play on their phones. They talk about how the mobile game has so many levels and challenges.

But, my husband and I are stuck in the past, where levels did not matter, where machines did not give you rewards and awards. We played the same games multiple times, and when we got bored, we would move to another similar game or puzzle, and then come back to this one. There was no need to charge any phone or laptop.

The kids soon move on from their fleeting interest in the puzzle box. However, my husband and I walk down memory lane, and many of its by-lanes, exchanging notes about all the games we played as kids.

Life was simple then, so simple in fact that happiness could be found within a small puzzle box; and where success could be had by merely moving a king from his summer palace to his winter home.

A whiff of nostalgia


My daughter and I are out shopping. The mall is crowded with shoppers, all of them on a mission.

My daughter’s list is both simple and complicated. Simple because her colour choices are limited to only black or blue. Complicated because we are scouring every shop looking for that particular top or dress that matches the image she has in her mind. Our time is limited, so we are walking down each aisle, our eyes piercingly intent on the task at hand.

After what seems like ages, my daughter pronounces herself satisfied; mainly because of the addition of a black hoodie to her collection.

On the way out of the mall, I quickly rush to pick up a lip liner and a compact from my favourite brand. And, as I wait in line to pay, my eyes are drawn to a red box that looks familiar. I go over to see it up close.

I was right! This was the first perfume that I had bought with my own money, nearly two decades ago. I had saved up to buy three things – this perfume, a camera and a hair dryer, all of which weresome of my treasured possessions then.

I pick up the tester bottle, and gently spray the perfume on my wrist. I inhale…just a whiff…and I am transported.

Courtesy – http://www.istockphotos.com

Transported to another time in my life, where there was no husband and kids, where life revolved around my career, parents and siblings.

A life that was filled with so many possibilities and fun. It was time spent with friends, and shopping. It was time spent wondering about the future. It was time spent on my red bike that took me everywhere. It was also a time of loss, when my grandmom died, and a time of joyous celebration when my niece was born the next year.

It was the threshold time before both marriage and motherhood; a time that was my own.

I smile and share some of these memories with my daughter. “When did I stop using this perfume”, I ask myself.

But that’s life for you – as it takes you on new journeys, other fragrances and experiences enrich you, making you forget the old and the sweet.

But, all it took was a whiff ….to bring it all back. My daughter sniffs appreciatively and asks if she can use it. I say yes.

And very soon, she will also embark on new journeys and create her own memories, which I hope are as fragrant as this perfume that’s wafting in the air.

Home and life hacks


We are at my mom’s home. My son calls out that he is unable to close the tap in the kitchen. My mom tells him that there is a small hack to solve this problem. She brings out a pair of tongs, idukki, and strikes the tap gently on the side. And lo! problem solved.

We all have these hacks in our homes – to close a window at a particular angle, to know how to balance some old pots and pans on the stove, to use blunt pencils in electric sockets, when there is just a two pin plug that needs to fit into a three pin socket.

We all become proficient at discovering such hacks that make our lives simple and easy, without having to call the handy man every time. Most moms are champions at this!

Many a time, we also know intuitively that we are coming down with a cold, an allergy or a stomach bug. Our bodies are finely attuned to such cues. Sometimes, we can preempt these incidents, and use home remedies or other hacks that work for us.

Courtesy – http://www.123RF.com

So also, we have life hacks. When our mind and intuition tell us about people, make us feel comfortable or uncomfortable, give us good vibes and make us feel positive. Most times, due to the crazily busy lives we lead, we don’t stop to listen to these life hacks. Our minds are so full of thoughts and plans that we miss these cues.

That voice within us that can help us lead better lives – simple things like learning to switch off the tap in the mind, which allows the flow of so many unwanted and irrelevant thoughts, to learn to be mindful, and to focus on things that truly matter.

When panda eyes are worth it!


The arms of the clock in our living room are inching towards 6 p.m. And that’s our deadline to leave home for the airport.

I am a spinning top, as I check and double check the gas, lights, fans, aircons, windows, doors and the hundred other things that one needs to do. I also know that the moment I board the taxi, paranoia will hijack my rational thinking process, and will force me to keep asking myself if I had switched off the lights in the bathroom before locking the door, and many such things!

It takes a while for the paranoia to be replaced by a sense of calm. We soon reach the airport, unload our suitcases, check-in and head towards our boarding gate.

We go through baggage screening and security checks. Finally, we can all sit and relax. Each of us is busy, sucked into our smartphone screens or the pages of a book.

People are walking up and down, babies are crying and it is business as usual, the scene similar to the one at every boarding gate.

Suddenly, a voice on the intercom announces that our flight has been delayed by an hour and a half; and that we have to board the flight from another gate.

Many many groans and whines and grimaces later, all of us move at a snail’s pace to the new boarding gate. We repeat baggage screening and security, and wait.

Image courtesy – iStockphotos.com

The flight is uneventful. I drift in and out of sleep, aching to stretch my body.

Soon the pilot announces that there is air traffic congestion, and that our landing would be delayed. Sigh!!!!

When we finally land, we realize that three other flights have also landed at the same time. The queue for immigration snakes beyond the dividers used to guide the queue.

We walk, bleary eyed, in an S-shape, right and left. The line is moving, albeit slowly. I watch people. Some are glued to their phones, some are staring ahead at some point directly in front of them, some are having animated conversations about the merits and demerits of a particular model of smartphone. A small boy drags a small suitcase with a cartoon character on it.

As we move left, we meet the same people again, as they move right. We do this so many times that these people start looking familiar. At some point, the little boy with the suitcase lets out a rebellious wail. He sits on his suitcase and refuses to move. He has had enough of this late night adventure!!! His dad lifts him up and places him on his shoulder. The boy smiles, his old irritation forgotten, so quickly replaced by another new adventure.

And, finally we are at the carousel, where our bags are already on the belt, moving lazily at this unearthly hour. We haul them on to our trolleys, and walk out to the taxi stand.

Our eyes close involuntarily as the taxi leaves the airport, taking us to meet our loved ones.

As we drink cups of hot filter coffee, and catch up with family, we concur that all the pain and panda eyes were totally worth it!

A simple filter


I am home by 7 pm most evenings, when my family envelops me and becomes my world – where my routine revolves around school work, dinner and banter.

But over the last few days, I have been out later than usual, and have been in the central business district on some errand or the other.

Daylight is breathtakingly beautiful, twilight and the star-studded sky are both stunning, but man-made skyscrapers glittering like jewels at night, their backs tall and proud, astound me. I am enticed by this shimmering spectacle of buildings, their reflections bouncing and gently undulating in the water in the bayfront.

Joggers are pounding the pavement, people are heading home from work, tourists are caught up in the magic, and their cameras go click, click, click.

Christmas decorations are everywhere. Twinkling baubles of red and green, silver and blue. There is magic and hope in the air.

The world is alive and bustling. I am so caught up in all the bustle. Cars are like streamers on the road; and people are walking, talking into their phones.

There is a lone bicycle parked on the pavement. The benches are wet, testimony to the heavy rain that lashed all afternoon.

I keep taking pictures. I click this one.

I change the filter on my phone camera to black and white, and click again. The scene transforms into something even more magical.

There is only black and white. The same scene, but so different. I keep looking at the colour image and then the black and white.

While the colour image is vibrant and lively, the black and white image is somehow simpler and clearer.

And, as I head back, I liken these two images to our life. Sometimes it is so difficult to cut through all the noise and colour in our lives, to clearly see what matters.

Maybe we just need a simple filter to see things clearly in black and white, cut out all the things that do not matter and focus on the things that really do!

The silly moments in our lives


When I switched on the television earlier this week, a song from an old Indian movie was playing. I smiled. The movie had a scene, where one of the main characters challenges some of other characters to touch their elbows with their noses.

I remember how all of us at home transformed into contortionists, and spent some time trying this out. We looked really silly, and had a hearty laugh afterwards.

Our lives abound with such moments.

My son specializes in creating huge soap bubbles with the palms of his hands. He works hard at this skill, and it gives him a lot of joy each time he creates a bigger bubble.

Both my husband and I have the ability to raise our eyebrows in quick succession. Our kids have not inherited this ability. So, on those rare lazy Sunday afternoons, when we spend time doing nothing as a family, we show off these skills.

Sometimes, when we all happen to be near the mirror at the same time, we make faces at the mirror! A family of silly faces.

Courtesy – shutterstock.com

Even as kids we did many silly things. I remember how, after petty squabbles with our friends, the word in our language to announce to them that you were no longer friends was kai, which translates to vegetable.

To become friends again, all we had to do was to show a thumbs-up sign and say pazham, which means fruit.

So, great friendships were broken and sealed merely by saying the words vegetable and fruit.

Life was that simple.

During our childhood, our Dad made rhythmic beat sounds with his mouth, when we sang songs. Only when my kids entered their teens did I realize that what my Dad did was called Beat Boxing. But at that time, it was merely some silly fun we shared as a family.

Even today, when we take selfies, we all make silly faces at the camera, capturing those beautiful memories digitally.

Every family has its own version of silly. Silly times are fun for the whole family – to showcase skills that would never be used in the ‘serious’ parts of our lives.

And that’s why these silly moments are important. Because we can let our guard down, act silly, and take ourselves less seriously for those few moments!