Monthly Archives: January 2015

Childhood Treasures

It is cleaning time at home. Today I attack the children’s room.  There is a box labeled ‘to be sorted later’, which has art and other school projects that the children have worked on, over the years.  The idea is to make a scrapbook (digital or physical) of these ‘great pieces of art’ that have been instrumental in moulding the children’s personalities.  Today, I decide to get started on this task with fervour.  Setting a deadline of three hours, within which to get a broad sorting done, I plunge into the task.
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Soon, I see the first drawing my daughter ever made of a small girl with curly hair.

I see a green parrot with a red beak.

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I see my son playing weather man, when he actually  made a weather report for the week, after studying the topic ‘weather’ at school. He predicted rain on Thursday!!

I see the world through their eyes, Dad & Mom stick figures with red hearts filled with such innocent and pure love.

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I see mom’s day cards with the pure and innocent love that only children can give unselfishly; I have been given a ‘ruby’, which is somehow more precious to my son than a ‘diamond’, as he has made a special mention of this fact.

I see their simple sketches of a  girl taking her dog out for a walk on a warm sunny day. I see three chickens hatching from Easter eggs.Slide14Slide2

I see their interpretation of a green meadow, with clumps of grass across the page.  I see rainbow coloured elephants and a happy rabbit bounding in a jungle with beautiful butterflies for company.

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I see a desert scene with camels and the Sphinx, I see walruses with two ‘tusksksk’ (not sure of the spelling here), I see ‘dizines’ of flowers and a ‘rangoli’ crafted out of paper.

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I see the repetition of a ‘mom’ & ‘dad’ pattern.

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I see three simple sketches of a hen, corn and the Sun, with labels.

I also see a multi-coloured rooster with an equally vibrant worm on a farm

rooster& a grass hopper in green grass.

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I see a Happy Diwali card and a perfectly juicy summery water-melon; I see a bird guarding her nest, a half-completed fire-spewing dragon, and simple sketches of lions.

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I try to go back in time to see what those afternoons or evenings were like, when the children expressed their creativity through these drawings.  Some I remember, most I don’t.  Did a story that they hear in school cause them to draw what they did? Where did these vibrant colours come from, where did these concepts come from?

When I show it them now, they laugh and giggle as they see each of their drawings.  My son says, “Did we really do that?  Was that actually my very first drawing?”

My daughter is very happy that I have saved all these.  The Easter Eggs were her pre-nursery project, nearly a decade ago.  How time has flown. I am so glad I saved these drawings, so glad I could share it with the children and show them how unique and creative both of them are, and encourage them to spend more time expressing their creativity.

Now, I am ready to scan these pictures.  As I pick up the drawings and move towards the scanner, a small paper flies out of the pile.  I stop to pick it up and then my eyes mist over.  It is a cut-out of my son’s palm…I presume that the topic assigned was, ‘Write a few things about hands’.

With all his innocence my son has written these three sentences about ‘hands’.

“Just like our fingerprints, we are different too.”

“Lend a helping hand for people who need it.”Presentation2

“Our hands are some of the body parts that help us bond with others.”

Needless to say, my 3 hours stretched to almost the whole afternoon and early evening.  I carry these new treasures to digitize them and relive my children’s childhoods.

                      nimi naren, 29 Jan 2015

The Inexorable Passage of Time

Call it what you may, but I have this compulsive urge to know the time at all hours of the day.  Our home has wall clocks and time pieces in every room, sometimes even two or three in a room.  These, of course, are in addition to the clocks on all the tablets, the smart phones and the set top boxes.

In addition to all these gently ‘tick-tocking’ clocks, our trip to Europe saw us bring back the famed ‘cuckoo-clock’.   As the initial excitement of watching the cuckoo peeping out of the little door to announce the time wore off, the cuckoo’s sounds became very important to me, to know what time it was, especially at night.

I have a special relationship with each clock in my house.  The one in the living room above the TV console has been set to run ten minutes ahead of actual time.  That’s the clock all of us follow for school, so we are ready by 8.00 a.m and then derive silly satisfaction from the fact that it is actually only 7.50 a.m. now. Somehow we’ve managed to cheat time and snatch back 10 whole minutes of our lives.

There is an old-fashioned clock in our kitchen that needs to be wound every morning; the clock’s comforting tick-tock in the kitchen accompanying me as I bustle about.

The most recent addition to our clock collection is a pyramid-shaped talking clock, which announces the time once every hour. This clock is positioned next to my bed, just for me, to know the time at night. I wonder sometimes if my sub-conscious mind ‘times’ even my dreams.

Tick tock…go these clocks, the silent witnesses to our lives.  They hold the keys to our everyday milestones – breakfast time, school-going time, yoga time, me-time, lunch time, family time…..and many more.

Then there are the races we run against the clock.  Running late, forgetting things, looking at the watch and the clock and the phone, and secretly hoping that the one that shows the slowest time is the accurate one.

And the times when ‘time‘ makes its presence strongly felt – as alarms!  Alarms for exams, for classes, for baking, and for reminders about events that need to be scheduled for later.

And every single time, it is about ‘time’, that companion who lives with us, watching us with silent eyes, as we rush about our lives, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes excited and sometimes crazy.

All is known to ‘time’.

A Night on the ‘Mottai Maadi’ (Terrace)

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Recently, I visited the city of Chennai (formerly Madras), after nearly a decade. This city holds very fond memories for me and as the cab drove into the city from the airport I was amazed at how the city had changed and grown.

It was late in the evening when we drove towards the suburbs and here again, I was surprised to see that there were very few independent houses left, most of the landscape consisted only of apartment blocks.

Chennai houses are famous for their terraces or ‘mottai maadis‘ , which are used for drying vegetables for pickling, for sun-drying ‘vadams‘ (cousins of pappadums), for airing mattresses, for family gatherings during functions, and many more things.

But, for me,  the most pleasurable memory of these terraces  was when the entire family would go up to the terrace for nights-out under the stars.  Summers in the city were stifling, and temperatures could soar to above 40 degrees celsius.  Those were the days when we could not afford air-conditioners.

Preparations for such night-outs started just after sundown. A couple of us would go up to the terrace with a broom,  buckets & plastic mugs. We would first sweep the terrace & clear all the dry leaves that had fallen in. Most terraces had a tap connected to the overhead water tank. From this tap we would fill our buckets, and then with the mugs,  splash water all over the terrace. When the first mugs of water fell on the terrace, that distinct and aromatic smell of ‘parched-earth- guzzling-water’, would float our way. A few sniffs, and we would splash a few more rounds of water on the terrace. In about 30 minutes the terrace was dry and cool, the water having carried away the day’s heat.

After a relaxed dinner, the family would make its way up with straw mats, pillows and bed sheets. With a lot of giggling and fun,  the mats were rolled and beds readied. Stainless steel jugs of water and tumblers were kept in a corner.

The family would lie down and feel the gentle evening breeze from the Bay of Bengal whispering through each terrace, through the coconut trees & the neem trees that most houses had. The sounds of the city at night reached our ears – the distant sound of the electric train, the dull roar of traffic on the highway, music blaring from some temple in the neighbourhood, a crow that cawed when it was disturbed in its slumber….

And as the stars twinkled away, my Dad would sing his favourite sixties songs from old Bollywood movies, and we would all join him, our voices echoing through the night.

With the stars as night lamps and the cool lullaby of the breeze, one by one we would all drop off …..   the sounds of the city gently fading away.

The Math of Cricket

There was a hush at the dinner table.  The half-yearly school reports had been brought home for parental review. The two sisters of the three-sibling trio had acquitted themselves rather well in terms of overall performance. The quiet that prevailed at the table was because of Arun, the third sibling, whose teacher had requested that both parents meet with her, at the earliest, to discuss Arun’s abysmal performance in Math.

The silent eruption occurred after dinner. Dad was furious and all he had to say was, “Arun, there is a world beyond cricket and the sooner you realize it, the better. No playing cricket, watching cricket or cricket-talk in this house for a week.”

This was like a death sentence, because Arun lived and breathed cricket.

After all, he lived in cricket-mad India, where cricket is the pulse of a billion people, where cricket-talk is revered, and is considered appropriate for any occasion. How could a young boy escape its magic?

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Arun minus his ‘cricket-aura‘ was a sorry sight and an unbearably grouchy companion. His two sisters gave him sympathetic looks. But Dad was Dad. One did not argue.

The meeting at school did not go well. The teacher’s overall feedback was that Arun was smart, but never focussed in class, never showed any interest and was always rattling away mindless statistics about cricket. She also added that he had not grasped even the basic concepts of averages and means, and mental arithmetic that the class was currently doing.

As with every child who has had bad reports, Arun promised his parents that he would do better.

The saddest week of Arun’s life finally came to an end. His excitement was palpable. He eyed his cricket bat hungrily, and looked forward to an India vs. Sri Lanka match that would be telecast later in the day. Somewhere in his head, there was a vague discomfort about school, but cricket caused them all to fade away.

It was dinner time, and Arun’s Dad decided to make it up to the boy by watching the India vs. Sri Lanka match with him.

And then, before his very eyes, he saw his son transform. As the game unfolded ball by ball, Arun rattled off statistics, computing them on the fly – the required run-rate, batting average, probability theory….! Problems in Math that had seemed out of Arun’s grasp in school, the concepts of averages and mental arithmetic that his teacher had wailed about, were being demonstrated right before his eyes. Hope!

He stood up and gave Arun an impromptu hug, much to the boy’s amazement.

He said, “I am not worried about your Math, I am confident that you will get there. Maybe if you look at every problem that the teacher sets you, as something related to cricket? Maybe that will help.”

“Yes, Dad,” said Arun as he stood up to practice one of his batting strokes.

A Bride’s Journal

Journal entry #1

The  date for my wedding has been fixed. In two months, I will move to my husband’s house.

Sid is a nice guy, in as much as I could glean from the three meetings we have had.  After all we have known each other only for the last week, five days to be precise.

Am I freaking out? You bet I am.

Journal entry #2

My parents and brother (who has no choice) have had their thoughts programmed to only one word, you guessed right, my wedding. The intensity overwhelms me….my two aunts are visiting us next week. Should I take on an extra project so I can come home late from work? Worth pursuing.

Journal entry #3

Not sure if the term ‘arranged marriage’ talks about the craziness involved in the arrangements. Flowers, catering, shopping for my trousseau, jewelry, invitations, menu choices, make up, hair dos, I am unable to leave the house without my parents thrusting a few samples of ‘this or that’ for me to choose from.

Journal entry #4

Today, Sid called me at work to ask if we could have lunch together.

Was I excited?  Yes, a  bit…hmmmm….actually,  a lot!!!

Journal entry #5

The lunch was good…yeah more than good. He has a great sense of humour. We captured our first selfie. We kinda look nice together. He gave me a chocolate…

Journal entry #6

The craziness at home continues….things seem to get finalized one moment…and new checklists are being made the very next.

Today we went shopping for my trousseau (read my family of four, plus my four aunts and their spouses, my two cousins, a brood of nieces and nephews) plus Sid’s family, his two cousins, three aunts and their spouses.  Thankfully pets were not allowed in the shops.

Observation #1
30 odd people screaming their choices is embarrassing

Observation #2
Getting a reservation for so many people in a restaurant is a challenge at such short notice……

Journal entry #7

The bride, that’s me, is ready with her sarees and jewellery.  Sid & I call each other frequently – the family indulges me….Once we get off the phone we are on chat mode on our phones. We are both doing a crash course on understanding each other after all….

Journal entry #8

Did I tell you that in India it is not only the couple that marries, even the families marry? So I am now being introduced to Sid’s  first cousins, second cousins, great uncles thrice removed, to the aunt who is a great singer, to the aunt who is a style icon and to the uncle who was just two steps away from making it to the Indian cricket team, among others

Sid has also met my great grand mom, my third cousin who happens to be related to Sid’s family, my  first cousins, the three bad boys of our family, the talented singer aunt, the dancing sensation aunt, the rangoli cousin and the chef-in-the-making aunt.

Our families have outdone each other….huge resource pools of talent!!!

Journal entry #9

Sid and I sneak away for a midnight drive and an icecream. ‘Twas wonderful.

5 more days to go…

Journal entry #10

We are married. I get to show off my new dresses at the many family lunches (on both sides) that we are invited to almost every day.

We are on an eating orgy here. I applaud and over eat at his cousins’, he does the same for dinners on my side. We are extravagant in our compliments….everyone is happy.

Journal entry #11

We are back from our magical honeymoon.

Entering the phase called ‘digitally yours’… repeatedly looking at the wedding albums, uploading videos and pics & enjoying all the gifts.

Journal entry #12

The calm is restored…it is just the two of us now…starting our life together, bit by bit. Planning the move to our own apartment

Fully focused on transforming the apartment into ‘home’.

Journal entry #13

We had our first guests over for dinner. Received two invites in return. Our social life starts….

Journal entry #14

We had our first argument….I was right, of course…!  We are well & truly married.

Forward Ho!

For the umpteenth time today my phone pings indicating that I have 20 messages. Except for two of these messages, 18 texts comprise jokes, videos showcasing the unique talents of people, lectures given by people at University graduations, quotes by famous people & general messages with good mornings or have a nice day. Most messages have 5 smileys on an average.

I read some, skim through some and reserve the videos for later, when I will have the time to sit and watch them.

I suddenly wonder how the information super city looks – with all these messages bustling about, rushing from one phone to the next, bits and bytes flying through space and ending up as cohesive jokes on one’s phone.

I imagine rooms in this high-tech city where smileys are manufactured and sent to various mobiles and computers on a conveyor belt. 70 smileys and 20 winkies to that phone please…

I can imagine a harried robot supervisor, ensuring that likes, shares, forwards and sends are working smoothly.

I imagine certain jokes being forwarded over and over again…spinning on an elliptical belt in space with an algorithm that says visit every mobile once in 45 days. These come with a recycling feature. You delete them and they reappear on the belt only to enter another phone….

I can see a huge spinning gallery of pictures categorized into profile pics, holiday pics, year 2015 pics etc flying on a carousel, being sucked into various phones and mobiles.

This super city never sleeps. Come night or day, rain or shine, people’s texts, jokes, videos, tips for better living, stories that resonate with our beliefs, and many more, continue to be delivered seamlessly.

They bring small bursts of joy, wholesome laughter at times, mild exasperation if they are repeats and an automatic irresistible urge to forward them!! Forward ho!

An Unforgettable Train Journey

We reach the station in typical Bollywood climax style…with barely 10 minutes to spare. We’ve been looking forward to this 36 hour train journey, on the Rajdhani Express, from Delhi to Bangalore for a long long time. Water bottles, Tinkles & some magazines, and we are good to go. My husband and I have hyped it up a bit for the kids, loaded as we are with memories of our long train journeys as children.
The typical last minute chaos of the station fades away as the train slowly trundles out…..bringing into focus another ecosystem, the inside of the train.
I watch with interest, as people settle down. Strangely, most people are intently focused on their smart phones. Nobody talks or acknowledges their neighbours. So very different from when I was a child. Nobody has the ubiquitous junk food plastic bag from home filled with ‘thattais’, ‘murukkus’ and chips. I smile at this change…as I remember boarding the train and a mere five minutes into the journey the crunchy munching would start. People would talk loudly, share their food and a sense of camaraderie would prevail.
I look up to see what my children are making of this journey. They are very excited…each of them has made the berth their home and invite the other to visit. They do not seem to miss their electronic gadgets at all. They play noughts and crosses & ice cream soda on & off. They relish every meal…and wait for the next one. They like the excitement of cooping themselves inside their berths with the curtains and peeping out now & then to talk to us.
I look out of the window, small towns and villages breeze past. Dots on a map, now here, now gone…the enormity & beauty of our country hit me, as the long serpent chugs away relentlessly. Flashes of people, animals, level crossings …..life goes on outside at a steady pace. From within, they seem to happen in fast forward. I dream about everything and nothing, feeling philosophical and sleepy at the same time. I enjoy every moment, more so, because the children are having a great time.
I yearn for tamarind rice and idlis soaked in milagai podi, curd rice & pickle, another flash from memory.
Before we know it we are in Bengaluru, back to the real world!