Cold spice

Many years ago, when my husband and I were at a loose end one Saturday, we decided to go out for an ice cream. My husband heavily recommended a small ice cream shop, whose specialty ice creams were all the rage.

We finally got there. It was a hot and humid day, so it was the perfect day for an ice cream.

The shop itself was small and unassuming. We sat down and reviewed the menu. Exotic ice cream flavour-names caught our eye. And as I scanned the menu, my husband laughed out aloud.

He said, “I know what you should have. The Green Chilli Ice cream.”

“Green Chilli Ice cream?” I repeated.

“You love spice and you want ice cream, so’s the perfect combo for you”, said my husband.

I gave in, still not convinced about the flavour. But well, the order was placed and we waited. I have to admit though, that I was a little excited to try it.

Our ice creams arrived. The scoop was a pale green.

I dug into it with the spoon. The cold hit my tongue first, following which the spice of the green chillies spread across my tongue, sharp and piercing, the cold no longer numbing the senses.

My husband looked at me expectantly.

“Hmmm, can’t really say anything, have to eat some more”, I said.

But five spoons later, I was still struggling with the ice cream.

I told my husband that cold spice is not really my thing, though I love spicy food.

Green chillies were never meant to be made into ice creams.

My husband had to eat both our portions, as I ordered another regular mango scoop.

Have you tried any interesting ice cream flavours?


Her Idol – A short story

Twenty years ago

Madhavi stood in line, patiently awaiting the arrival of her idol, the music sensation Arun Swamy. To say that she was crazy about his voice was an understatement. She followed his life by the minute, and had nearly five big books with newspaper clips and photographs of him. Her room was plastered with his photos, she had every single audio track he had ever sung. Her family members rolled their eyes and tried to shake her out of this adulation, but she was a true and loyal fan. She had seen him from a distance a couple of times, when she had badgered her parents to be taken to Arun’s live concerts.


Life had taken its own course, she had finished her post graduation in Mathematics and  listened to her inner voice to take up teaching. Marriage and children had happened. Arun was still there in her life, but now as a soft background track, that surfaced now and then, kindling all those sweet memories.

She had moved away from mainstream teaching to private tutoring. She was a fantastic teacher and soon came into the radar of the rich and famous, as the private tutor of choice for their children. She was picked up in the best cars, and travelled to the homes of the movers and shakers of society, coaching their children to take on the business empire of their parents.

Her fame spread, and one day she received a call from Arun Swamy’s office, saying that his wife wanted to talk to her.

Madhavi’s heart thudded with a teenage-like excitement. His wife told Madhavi that their son was getting consistently bad grades in Math and that he was taking his A Levels soon, and that they had heard about Madhavi…and could she help?

Madhavi was happy to oblige. Schedules and dates were agreed upon. Classes started at the Arun Swamy residence, but sadly for Madhavi there was no sign of her idol. He was never there at the times she visited. She smiled to herself at the irony of the situation.

Life went on in the same vein. The A Level exams got over. The private classes with Arun’s son were done. Madhavi got busy with other new classes.

Late in August that year, when Madhavi had just sat down to have her 4 pm coffee, the door bell chimed. When she opened the door, her idol stood before her, with his wife and son.

She was rendered speechless. She barely managed to splutter a welcome.

They had come with a bouquet and a gift. Then, for the first time she heard his melodious voice address her thus.

“Thank you for what you have done for our son. My wife tells me that but for you, our son may have failed his A Levels. A child’s Guru is the most important person in one’s life. We are deeply grateful”, he said.

They stayed back to have coffee, and left her with a heart bursting with happiness.

A Muggle Spell

Both my children are voracious readers, my son, more so.  Many years ago my daughter went through the Harry Potter phase, and our home echoed with Potter stories and spells.

My son is now going through the same phase. His Muggle world is filled with the many exciting possibilities of magic and spells.

He has fashioned a magic wand made out of paper, for himself. The gleam of joy in his eyes is priceless.

His sister threatens to tell him the plot much before he has read them, in the way only siblings can irritate each other.

So, a few days ago, my husband and I had to be away for the whole day. The kids were happy at their grampa’s.

Just so that the two did not end up troubling their grandparents too much, I asked my daughter to take care of her brother and generally ensure that they did not fight over anything and nothing.

My daughter smiled.

My son said, “No mom, you don’t know what she’s like when you make her the boss.”

My husband and I were in splits, as my son whipped out his paper wand and said, “I need a spell for protection – PROTEGO.

When it rained – A short story

Tanya was cooped up in office the whole day. She was a new entrant to the corporate world, and in her enthusiasm to learn, she usually ended up leaving work late.

Today, as she came down to the foyer, the sound of heavy rain hit her ears. The lobby was deserted, and she wondered what to do.

Calling a cab was futile, as the phone lines were usually jammed. Her studio apartment was a 3 km walk from her office. She usually walked it down, but with no umbrella, she was at a loss.

The rain showed no sign of abating; and left with no choice, she decided to make a dash for it.

As she ran-walked her way out, huge drops fell on her, causing her to shiver. She walked briskly. When she was a few hundred metres into her walk, she walked past another young lady, who was walking with an umbrella. As she crossed the lady, she called out to Tanya.

“Hello, why don’t you join me, seeing as we are headed in the same direction”, said the lady.

Tanya smiled and joined the lady, Veena, as they walked, making small talk. The lady told her that she worked in a private bank. Tanya told the lady that she visited the bank frequently, as she had an account there.

A little conversation, punctuated by sloshing shoes and heavy rain, as the two ladies walked on.

The wind played truant as it kept flipping the umbrella inside out. And that’s when Tanya saw it.

When Veena’s hand moved from the umbrella’s handle to flip the umbrella back down, Tanya saw the umbrella, HER umbrella, with the red and blue striped nail polish on its handle, for easy identification.

She must have left it in the bank on one of her trips there, but the nerve of this lady to use it.

The dynamics under the umbrella changed. Tanya’s conversation petered out with anger and disappointment. She was not sure what she felt.

Veena noticed this sudden cooling and lapsed into silence, wondering what had happened.

Soon, they reached Veena’s apartment complex.

Veena said, “So, Tanya. I will be off. Why don’t you take this umbrella with you. This is not mine anyway. The security guard at the office gave it to me saying that it had been lying in the office for over a month, and that no one had claimed it.”

Tanya looked surprised as she took the umbrella. Veena waved bye and walked away.

Tanya walked home with a heavy heart.

A bathroom singer is born

My son has recently discovered that he has a voice, and that it sounds better when it is echoing off the walls of the bathroom!

So, he goes in for his bath and we get treated to a good ten minutes of non-stop singing.

He starts off with One Direction, then moves to Bollywood.

“Owww!” he yells. Looks like he has stubbed his toe. The ‘Owww’ transforms into a Michael Jackson number. We are all gathered outside listening to him, smiling in enjoyment.

There is a cuckoo that says coo, coo in rhythmic intervals from a tree in the garden. This gives him scope for a new composition of his own.

“Coo, coo, I am singing. Oh Cuckoo ….”, he sings.

Suddenly, he hops genres and is belting out old forgotten nursery rhymes.

We thoroughly enjoy his performance. Suddenly, the shower stops. We hear the latch turning. We flow away like water, to our respective chores.

My son comes out,  humming softly to himself.

Realization – A short story

It was raining outside, but the sounds in Jaya’s head drowned out everything else, to the point that she was barely aware of her surroundings. Her fingers absent mindedly plucked at the frayed embroidery on the table cloth.

There was a dull ache in her heart as she replayed her son’s words on the phone.

“Mom, we can’t have you stay with us…you know we are struggling to make ends meet”, he’d said.

The words had stung, and how. She had always believed that their simple but happy family life would last forever, but her husband’s death had kind of pulled the carpet from under her feet. She had come to realize that their finances were in very bad shape and that there was very little left as savings. There was the monthly pension, of course!

The hopes she had pinned on her only son came to naught. Now, she planned to sell all the furniture and electrical appliances, and move to a home for Senior Citizens.

She sighed as she moved around the house reviewing what could be sold. The next two weeks flew by…all the furniture and appliances were sold.

Her son came to help her move into the Home. There was a wall between the mother and son, love frozen into a sudden strangeness and unfamiliarity.

Jaya soon aettled down in the Home. She passed her time reading, doing her shopping and doing yoga.

One afternoon, just after lunch, she got a call on her mobile.

“Hello. Is this Ms.Jaya Kumar?” asked a voice.

“Yes, this is she. Who’s calling?” asked Jaya.

“My name is Kevin Williams. I need to meet you regarding a very important matter concerning the furniture you just sold to ‘Woods n Carves’. I work there and need to talk to you”, the voice said.

Her curiosity piqued, she agreed to meet him at a local coffee shop later in the day.

As she sat at the cafe, she saw a short man, with a paunch, walking in. He looked around and walked to her table.

“Mrs.Kumar?” he asked.

She nodded and smiled.

They placed their order and she looked at him enquiringly.

“Mrs.Kumar, this is a very delicate matter and I hope you will keep it confidential”, he started.

She nodded.

“Hmmmm, you know the small dining table set you sold to us? I am incharge of the Repurposing Department, and all items that the shop buys comes under my purview. Before joining this organization, I was an antiques dealer. The table you sold is a very special piece, that can be traced back to the Mysore Royal Family. It is worth a few hundred thousand dollars at least.”

Jaya’s eyes nearly popped out. This seemed too good to be true.

The man continued, “I have thought of a way to help you. If you can buy back the furniture from us, I can help you find a good buyer for the antique piece and you should get a good price for it.”

Jaya pondered. Could she trust this man? Who was he anyway? Was he a fraud? Was he trying to make quick money, by getting her to buy back the furniture with a fake story?

Kevin watched the play of emotions on her face.

He said, “I know how this may appear to you, but believe me, you are sitting on a golden egg here and it is only fair that you reap the benefits. As for me, here’s my card, you can run a check on me.”

She flushed as she realized that he knew what she was thinking.

“Why don’t I talk to my son and call you in a few days?” she said.

That evening she called her son and told him about what had happened. His voice sounded animated and as he spoke, he ran a quick search on Google for Kevin Williams. His credentials were impeccable. There were many white papers on antique furniture to his credit.

“Mom, fix up a meeting with Kevin for this weekend. I will meet him with you”, said her son.

On Saturday, they met at the same coffee shop.

“I am glad you have considered my suggestion, so what I will do is tell my management that the owner wants to buy it back, shouldn’t be too much of a problem. They may ask for a 5% increase in the buyback price”, Kevin said.

Jaya and her son quickly conferred and agreed.

Jaya said, “Mr.Williams, you have been very kind, we would like to repay your kindness.”

Kevin said, “Ah..that, I will come to that in a minute. Now that you have agreed, I want to tell you that there are two potential buyers and the price range is between 800,000 to 1,000,000.”

Jaya and her son let out loud gasps.

Kevin continued, “As for me, I would like 40% of the total.”

Jaya and her son took some time to talk through this. They rationalized that 60% itself was great as opposed to nothing.

They agreed.

Very soon the agreement was signed. Her son put up the money to buyback the piece and the antique was sold.

Jaya’s bank account was swollen with money. She walked with more confidence, and a small smile on her face.

Life was more pleasurable now that she had this nest egg. She decided to continue staying at the Home.

A few days later her son and daughter-in-law called on her at the Home. They brought lots of snacks and gifts for her.

Her son said, “Mom, why don’t you move in with us? Things are looking better for us, so we would be thrilled to have you back with us.”

Jaya said, “You are my son and I can read you like a book; that money will come to you only after my death, and I plan to travel to a few places that I have dreamt about. I woke up to reality the day I moved here.”


The kids have their summer vacation, and are spending a couple of weeks with their paternal grandparents, in their ancestral home.

We do this every summer. They love all the nooks and crannies in this house. The car garage, which is now used for storage,  is their play space as they play hopscotch or practice ‘rangoli’ (artistic designs that are drawn outside the home every morning).

My daughter has been given the entire garage to draw these rangolis. Dropping rice flour gradually on the floor, with uniformity, is an art, and with each passing day, she gets better.

My son finds great pleasure in playing with clothes pegs (the plastic ones which come in vibrant colours), and the measuring tape, which has spring action. He measures all kinds of things in the house.

Living in an apartment as we do, they are thrilled with the concept of an independent house with a yard and a garden, and a nice big terrace.

They run up to the terrace to dry clothes or red chillies and other things that need to be aired or sun-dried.

They read old-yellowed books that formed my husband’s childhood reading.

They sniff appreciatively when they smell their grandma’s cooking. Their grandparents spoil them, and some. They eat almonds and pistachios. They are treated to honey cakes and butter biscuits. They binge on yummy golden yellow mangoes and jackfruit.

They are very excited each time they hear street hawkers shouting out what they are selling.  In a few days, they know which vendor comes when. They watch as their grandmother picks and chooses vegetables and greens, fruits and flowers. They watch how the hawker pushes his mobile cart down the street and how he weighs the vegetables using a simple balance.

They go around the yard and see the old washing stone, used to wash clothes. They watch clothes fluttering on the clothesline and play hide and seek there.

They see the yard filled with dried leaves and fallen flowers every morning and participate enthusiastically in sweeping the yard.

They watch as the ‘Isthriwallah’ (the iron man), brings back neatly arranged piles of fresh, ironed clothes. They bury their noses to feel the warmth.

They seem to have expandable stomachs and are able to eat through the day. They accompany their grandparents on small walks to the local shops to buy odds and ends, and come back with treats.

It is nice to see them unwind and enjoy the simple joys and pure love that they can only get at their grandparents’!

The Wish – A Short Story


As the yellow studio lights fell on her, Avanti felt droplets of sweat forming on her upper lip and below her eyes.

She was minutes away from winning the ‘What’s your IQ?’ show. She had five more questions to answer. The make-up man patted her face dry and soon the cameras started rolling.

The quiz master asked the five questions and she got all of them right. She had won. Things were a blur as she was showered with glitter. The judges walked up to give her the prize money. The main sponsor was giving away a unique prize. She was asked to write down five wishes or dreams. The sponsor would endeavour to help her realize one of these five dreams.


Avanti clucked in diasapproval and looked at the handsome twenty-something man, who stood before her, giving his usual cheeky smile.

She worked at the Employment Bureau in her town.

The man said, “Do you have any updates for my job?”

She replied with barely concealed irritation, “Mr.D’Souza, we have your number. We will definitely call you if something comes up.”

But he stood there and said, “Will you come out with me for a cup of coffee? And the name’s Mark.”

She refused but he persisted.

He showed up there very often asking her out, sending cards and flowers.  She was quite irritated, as he never took her ‘no’ seriously.

One day, when she was already having a bad day, he showed up with a long stemmed red rose.

She was in a bad mood and threw the rose down, and said, “Do you know why I don’t like you? It’s because you are unemployed, and are just floating around without any purpose.”

He looked at her strangely and walked away. She walked away in a huff, and that was that.

That was the last time she saw him. He stopped coming to the Bureau. The flowers, cards and chocolates stopped.

She worried and brooded. Her womanly pride was hurt. Every morning, she looked for him, with no luck. Heart of hearts she felt that maybe she had started liking him a little. His phone was out of reach.

Life moved on. After about three years since she last saw him, she saw his photo splashed on all newspapers, and TV. He was hailed as the next big literary sensation. His books had become bestsellers.

She smiled to herself.


After the high of winning the quiz show, the sheen of fame was slowly wearing off. The sponsors had promised to call her within the month to let her know, which dream of hers they would help her realize.

She was back to the dull monotony of her job at the Bureau, all days the same.

After a month she received a call from the sponsor.

“Ma’am, we are making your Wish No:2 come true – A trip to the Amazon”.

She was a little disappointed but sounded cheerful and thanked the sponsor.

She then asked, “Were you able to speak to Mr.Mark D’Souza about my wanting to spend a few hours talking to him?”

“Yes ma’am, as that was your first wish, that’s where we started. Mr.D’Souza sends his regrets but has promised that he will send you a copy of his latest book, autographed by him”, said the sponsor.

Her trip to the Amazon was fantastic but there was a niggling worry about Mark that wouldn’t leave her.

She constantly thought about him and their past. Did he remember her? She could only wonder.

One day, finally, Mark’s latest book of short stories, reached her. She eagerly opened it to see his message.

She was disappointed to see that it was simply signed – ‘Dear Avanti, Wishing you the very best, Mark.’

She looked through the book and her heart stopped, when she saw a short story titled – ‘The lady at the Employment Bureau’.

She did not have the courage to read it.

Sound bites from the past

Memories come in various shapes and sizes – mostly as our own mental images, as experiences, as smells, as music, as sounds, as moments of happiness, and many other emotions that help us recollect a particular incident with amazing clarity.

I spent this week clearing hundreds of old audio cassettes, which we have somehow not had the heart to throw – though most of the songs are available on the Internet these days.

As I sorted through them, so many wonderful memories came rushing back. There were cassettes containing dance tracks that I had performed in school and university. I remember my mom taking them to a recording studio to get them edited to the required length. There were cassettes of all the hits that we used to sing, of our favourite bands. The tapes must have got worn out by all the playing.

There was an audio cassette labelled ‘Family’. I played it on my small cassette player. The familiar whoosh sound started. Somebody seems to have recorded our family on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Silly jokes, some singing, some teasing…and then my Dad’s voice. I choked as I heard his voice. How much I missed those days.

There were cassettes of our music lessons..many of them arranged by date. Then, lots of movie audio tracks.

I retained only the ‘Family’ and music lessons cassettes. All the rest, I threw away. Before I threw them, I showed my children the cassettes, explained how they worked and showed them how the tape was spooled inside.

As the spools in them rotated all those years ago, our lives happened!

When the lady went shopping…

The mail has brought good news. Points that I have meticulously gathered on my credit card have borne fruit in the form of shopping vouchers…Yay!!!

I am out at 10.30 a.m. to buy out the entire mall with these vouchers. There’s a feeling of dizzy happiness as I contemplate, make lists and eliminate choices in my head.

When I finally get to the mall, I head straight to the clothes section. What a riot of colours and designs. I start with a few tops, go to the trial room, try them on – I like only one out of the seven. I go back again, come back with one more batch from two other brands. None of them seem to look nice on me.

But I am determined. I go for the third round. I am not adventurous now, I bring back a mixed batch of my regulars and the ‘ohhh I wish I could wear that’ clothes.

One of the dresses from the ‘ohhh I wish..’ category seems to have been designed with me in mind. I gasp in joy and excitement. I dream of parties to which I will wear this outfit, I dream about clutches and footwear, accessories and hairdos.  I have decided on this piece. I look at the price tag; my eyes pop out as I realize that it costs double the value of my vouchers.

I am unhappy. I want a friend, who will egg me on to buy this dress and fight my hyper-active guilty conscience. I want coffee…..

I go back for round four. My hair is a mess and my arms are aching from all the trial room excursions. 

Round four is the sober me – all the excitement has fizzled out.  My goal is to get full value for the vouchers in my handbag. I focus on my regular brands and head to the cosmetics section, and ask for my regular lipstick.

The sales lady says, “That’s an old model, we now have this dual matte and gloss lipstick. This is all the rage now.”

Oh! Am I out of touch? I buy the dual lipstick, to be in the ‘now’!

Three tops and one lipstick, and I have exhausted the voucher amount.

Four long hours- that started off with promise and hope and colours and designs – have ended on a sober note.

Vouchers spent, nothing has  changed, three new additions to my collection, and I STILL HAVE NOTHING SUITABLE TO WEAR.