Late night flight


Our flight is at 11.50 p.m. We leave home at 9 p.m. to avoid the heavy Friday evening traffic.

After check-in and immigration we walk around in the duty free area, looking at beautiful displays of cosmetics. There are chocolates, perfumes, books, bags and all kinds of stuff. Branded, every single item, branded.

Beautiful models stare at us from the posters, looking at our red and bleary eyes.

I look around me, am I the only sleepy one here? Lots of people seem to be walking energetically, laughing and talking.

We plod towards the departure gate for security checking and finally to board.

The flight is cold, I snuggle into the blanket. People are watching movies all around me, there is the ‘standard baby who cries’ through the night, probably with ear block.

Can’t rest my hand. Both my kids are sprawled on my lap, deep in nod land, as I struggle to move. Periodically I set them upright. I let my guard down and the two are back, jostling for the most comfortable position.

I nod off unbeknowst to myself. I wake up and realize that a mere 20 minutes have passed.

I am green with envy as I see the man across the aisle, fast asleep;  the woman in front of me is in splits as she watches a romcom, another man is working away on his laptop.

The stewardesses walk up and down the aisle, attending to passenger requests. I perk up a little bit when I look at the duty free magazine, lost in my mental shopping for a few minutes.

I need to stand up and stretch. No such luck.

Finally after what seems like eternity, we land…but it’s not over. Disembark and walk, hundreds of weary people plodding-on at this unearthly hour. Immigration done, and now at the luggage carousel.

The bags look tired too, as they slowly snake down. Brown bags, black suitcases, purple, whites, greens…no sign of our bags.

Finally, they arrive. We load them on the trolley and head to the taxi stand; another long wait before we reach our destination.

Bliss, the ability to stretch and bend. The joy of having a hot cup of aromatic coffee.

Back on land…till the next flight.

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Happiness in a Nutshell


In our home, we use a lot of freshly grated coconut in our cooking. When I was growing up, my parents used to buy about 4 – 5 big coconuts every Sunday from the vegetable market.

These were grated using something called an Aruvamanai, which looks like this.

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Image courtesy – flikr.com

The Aruvamanai was also used to chop vegetables. Even today many homes in India use this as the vegetable chopper of choice, for its simplicity and convenience.

So once the coconut shells were grated, my sisters and I had to take them to the backyard to stack them up neatly.

We have had some wonderful times with these coconut shells. We were given old metal spoons and asked to remove the fiber atop each shell. It was a test of patience and endurance. Once the shell was clear of fiber, we washed them and dried them in the Sun, after which we would take old rags and apply coconut oil to bring a shine to the shell.

We then used these around the garden for decoration. Sometimes, we painted these shells and used them to store our trinkets.

Each shell has three eyes (as they are called). Taking our Dad’s help, we broke these eyes and lo! had a penstand we could use.

Then again, we lived in a cold place so nothing cold was easily available. During winter, when temperatures fell below zero, we filled these coconut shells with water and carefully placed them in the soil in our garden, so they wouldn’t tip over.

At the first hint of dawn, and with the entire area blanketed in frost, we ran to check if the water in the shells had turned into ice. We felt like scientists watching this simple miracle of nature happen overnight. We played with the dome-shaped ice cubes till they melted.

Simple things like coconut shells gave us so much joy.

Kids and what they say


Children are so influenced by how we adults talk, the way we gesture, the way we modulate our voices and the way we behave.

It is fun to hear them unconsciously behave like their parents or older siblings by observing them on a daily basis.

One such funny incident comes to mind, as told to me by a friend.

We Indians are cricket crazy and when some exciting matches are being played, the whole family sits and follows the match closely. With lots of food and some full-throated yelling, it is no surprise that the young kids in the family also get caught up in all this excitement.

On one such day as my friend’s family sat and watched a rather exciting match, which had a nail-biting finish that saw India winning, a little boy in the family, who was all of 4 years old said, “I haven’t seen such a thrilling match in my entire life”.

Four years…a lifetime indeed! All the adults burst out laughing.

Exchanging Notes – A Short Story


Ted covered his ears with the blanket, as the clanking of pots and pans from the kitchen started. According to the WMS (Wife Mood Scale), the clanking pans indicated that she was very angry. The verbal assault would start soon.

He pulled his tired body out from the warm bed, and ambled to the bathroom to shower in peace, before he faced the tirade.

Breakfast was just two slices of bread with some cheese thrown in. They were struggling to make ends meet and his lassitude was not helping any.

His wife worked as a part time nanny and part time domestic help in a few houses, but with both of them in their sixties and no savings, things were not looking great.

He had arthritis and struggled with knee pain. So, he did not last too long in any job.

Today was Friday, and the local supermarket received goods from all its suppliers on Fridays, so extra hands to unload were always required. Ted usually managed to get there early and earn a few hours of pay from the unloading and wheeling.

His knees hurt as he walked to the supermarket. It took him a good twenty minutes to get there, but he was in good time and signed up for the day.

Around 11 a.m. they were given a tea break. As he went to the wash room and ambled to the vending machine, he saw someone waving in his direction. He walked over. The man was tall and thin, wearing faded jeans and a black t-shirt.

“What?” asked Ted.

“Need a quick favour. I am one of the truck drivers who’s brought in supplies. I need small change to buy cigarettes, could you get me change for $50 from the cashier. I will give you a pack of cigarettes in return. I would go myself, but I need to be here to supervise the unloading. Company rules, you know?” he said.

Ted hadn’t smoked in a long time. He suddenly ached for a smoke. The old woman had taken away all these simple pleasures from his life by keeping track of every single penny.

The truck driver gave him the $50. Ted nodded and walked towards the cash counter. He knew Jenny very well and winked at her as he joined the short queue. When he reached the counter, he asked her for change. She asked after his health and gave him five ten dollar notes.

He went back and gave it to the truck driver, who came back in a few minutes, thrust a cigarette pack in Ted’s hand and walked away.

Ted was very happy as he imagined how it would feel to smoke after such a long time.

In the evenings, usually peace reigned in Ted’s home, as the day’s tensions ebbed away and both husband and wife sat down in companionable silence, to watch the news and a couple of other programs that were available for free.

As they watched the local news, Ted’s heart nearly stopped, when he heard that the police had traced some counterfeit notes circulating in the town, and that they had hit upon the gang’s modus operandi –  they exchanged counterfeit notes for smaller change. The supermarket where Ted worked was mentioned. The report said that the police would soon start finger-printing workers at all these locations, to help them with the case.

Ted’s blood ran cold as he suddenly remembered that he had touched the note. There was another thing that had struck him as odd, when the driver had given him the $50 – he had been wearing a pair of gloves. Now it made complete sense.

Ted decided to be sick with unbearable knee pain for the next few days. Metal pots clanking in the kitchen and facing a 100 on the WMS was an infinitely better choice than spending time behind metal bars.

He braced himself.