Monthly Archives: July 2015

Morning madness

When my children and I step out of the house at 8.30 a.m. everyday, we look like every other family, all polite smiles and greetings.

If anyone had stepped in to our home, just ten minutes before this, they would have seen our ‘morning madness’.

It’s like a classic Maths problem. Family N has 35 minutes in which to get ready. Family N has 4 members. Each member needs to complete 6 tasks within the 35 minutes, and share resources. What is the most efficient way of doing this…?

I am still looking for answers to this one. Add a yelling mom to this combination (whom no one listens to anyway) and things get crazier.

Believe me, I have tried to be the type of mom who is calm and composed, who can smile and get things done, but….

So, this morning, it was business as usual and the usual yelling and squabbles were on. There was a hunt on for a school worksheet, the bathroom door was repeatedly knocked-on and…you get the drift.

In my sternest voice, I had issued a deadline to my son. When I went to check on him ten minutes later, I was on the boil. He was standing on the balcony, without a care in the world. His face was turned to the Sun, with a smile. He stretched like a cat and closed his eyes and looked up at the sky. He moved his neck from side to side, touched the hibiscus plant, stretched some more and watched the birds and trees.

The yell that was about to erupt from my throat stopped midway, as I saw his smile. He was at peace, and enjoying a few minutes of quiet with nature, a few minutes where he probably dreamt of nice things.

Who was I to take those precious joys away? I felt calm and walked away. Surprisingly, my son was ready on time.

What’s the rush? Maybe there’s a lesson in here somewhere that I have to learn.

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Early bird or Night Owl?

With certain things in our lives there are no ambiguities.  In one of my earlier blogs, I had written about Coffee vs. Tea. Most people are either coffee drinkers or tea drinkers. There are very few people, who would claim to fall in the common area of the Venn diagram between the two.

Similarly, I have noticed that people are either Morning people or Night people.
In my own family, there is a clear demarcation between the Night Owls and the Early Birds

Both these types exhibit distinctive traits. Early risers are chirpy, and so, so annoyingly productive, as the Sun moves across the sky. Their energy levels peak till lunch time, after which their battery slowly drains. By 8 pm, they are low on enthusiasm and are grouchy companions.

On the other hand, the Night Owls cannot open their eyes when the Sun looks into their windows. Alarms at their loudest, barely manage to cut through one leathery layer of sleep. Persistent and annoying alarms are a must. When the night owl wakes up, stay away till they have their caffeine-fix or whatever else it is that they need to jolt awake. These people mechanically perform their chores till about lunch time, after which they are fully awake.  Their enthusiasm starts peaking late in the afternoon, as they effortlessly finish their chores. By dinner, they are at their happiest best.

Most families have combinations of these two types and there are always family stories about members who have never seen a sunrise or about members who have never stayed up till midnight.

I am a loyal Night Owl Club member. Mornings are like midnight. How I wake up everyday baffles me. I love the quiet after everyone goes to sleep – catching up on work and my reading…can’t go to sleep without a book.

So what are you? A Night Owl or an Early Bird? Would love to know

A bird that ate too much & a flying car

My five cousins and I, stared at our aunt open mouthed. She was narrating one of our favourite lunchtime stories.

When we realized that she had paused, we automatically chewed what was in our mouths, and ate a few more mouthfuls. Another pause from our aunt meant that it was yucky vegetable time. But, we would have done anything to listen to her stories. She was an amazing storyteller.

One of our favourite stories was about this little sparrow, who had tasted some sweet porridge near a small hut. The sparrow couldn’t forget the taste of the porridge and was determined to have more.  The sparrow walked up bravely to the old granny, who lived in the hut, and asked her if she could make some for her. The granny gave the sparrow a list of things to gather, like rice and sugar and milk and clarified butter, after which she would make the said porridge.

The determined little sparrow, managed to gather all the ingredients, and gave them to the granny.  The granny  prepared the porridge in a big vessel, and kept it outside to cool. The little sparrow could not wait, and managed to gobble up the entire contents of the big vessel, before the granny could give it to her.

As the porridge was very hot, the sparrow scalded her beak and then drank up all the water from the pond nearby. Having eaten too much, the sparrow dragged herself to a barn nearby, and slept in the hay. A cow that happened to eat the hay, caused the sparrow to move, and the entire contents of her stomach came out, flooding the entire village. People and things floated.

The end.

All of us loved this story, and asked for it to be narrated at every meal time. And our dear aunt never disappointed.

When my kids were young, I told them many bedtime stories, this one was one of the first ones I told them. I laughed with them and relived the joys of my childhood.

Just a couple of months ago, my son asked me if I could tell him a bedtime story, though he admitted he was too big for bedtime tales now, but would I still do it?

So there I went, narrating the same story of the bird that over-ate.  My daughter joined in too, and all of us had a good laugh; but this time it was at the story’s absurdity. But we enjoyed it all the same.

Cut to this Sunday. My daughter and son, spent the morning skating. We bumped into one of our good friends there, whose son, aged five, was also skating.

We drove back home together, in our car,  and my daughter spun a story to the little boy, about how our car had a flying button that could make our car fly over a traffic-jam!  The little boy’s eyes opened wide in amazement.

“Can you make the car fly, please, please?” he asked.

“The button works only on weekdays when traffic is heavy”, replied my daughter.

The little boy continued to look amazed and I could see his mind imagining a flying car. He discussed it with his mother.

The wonder in his eyes hit me. The kind of wonder that comes with innocence, when anything can happen and where anything is possible – from flying cars, to sparrows that can cause floods.

I realized how time has flown; my children have crossed that stage of make-believe,  and have now started spinning tales for younger kids, and seem to enjoy their open-eyed wonder.

I smile.

Popcorn flavoured friendship

My husband and I love movies. We don’t watch too much television, but ask us about movies and we can engage you in delightful conversation.

One of my dear friends, and her husband, also share our love for movies, and the four of us watch most movies together.

We eagerly await the release of some movies and plan ahead, then again, there are those impromptu plans when we are at a loose end.

We truly enjoy our time together driving to the cinema complex, talking about all kinds of things from world politics to music to movies to each others’ lives and of course our children!

We buy tubs of popcorn, coffee, iced lemon tea and watch the movie –  laughing sometimes, crying sometimes and sometimes sighing with boredom.
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Picture courtesy – http://www.healthline.com

On our drive back we dissect the movie, a pleasurable task, and relive all the wonderful parts in the movie.

The associated memories are also fun – like the time we went for a late night show and I fell down at the entrance and had to be carried to the car, the time when we waited with a lot of anticipation for a movie’s release and only got tickets to the 11.50 p.m. show and then slept through the movie because it was so boring, like the time we all went down a slide in the cinema complex that had been put up to promote another film……so many great memories.

The camaraderie we share is priceless. We have been going to the movies together for over 8 years now and the kind of bonding we have is so special.

Truly there are different flavours to friendship and this one is truly special – it is Popcorn flavoured. My favourite!

My first salary and a red scooter

I still remember the day my first salary was credited into my bank account.  I remember the joy with which I went to withdraw the money.  I had just passed out of University and this was my first job.

That one credit to my account, opened a magical door of dreams, where I spent hours dreaming about the things I would buy with my money.

I remember saving up for a scooter, a hair-dryer and a Kodak camera that used film rolls (no digital ones were available then).

I saved up for months, and bought my first scooter, a shiny red Sunny Bajaj (as the brand was called).  The scooter gave me mobility and freedom. It gave me wonderful hours zooming around the city.  It meant movies with friends on Saturday afternoons, it took me everywhere, to client meetings, to pick up my mom from the railway station, to take my niece for an ice-cream treat.

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Sunny Bajaj – courtesy – http://www.Wikipedia.org

It had a nice carrier below the seat, where I could store a lot of stuff, from the books that I borrowed from a library that was close to my place of work, to my lunch-box, to my water bottle and other papers that I had to work on.

It gave me good mileage and never, ever broke down.  Weekend mornings, saw me with a pail, brush, soap and cloth, washing my Sunny till it shone and gleamed.  It was my pride and joy.

I felt so proud, when I saw it standing bright and clean in the parking lot, and often mentally compared it to the other bikes there.

It was one of the first things that I bought in the early days of my career, and one of the things that I loved the most in my life.

Years have flown by, many jobs, role changes, and graduating from a scooter to cars, but those first moments of joy and exhilaration that I felt on my Sunny can never be equalled, that feeling of independence, that feeling of having reached a point in life after years of hard work; and  that bubbling happiness, when I rode my Sunny and the wind whipped across my face and made me smile.

I did not ever want to sell it, but life had to go on. After many, many years, I passed it on to my sister, extracting all kinds of promises from her on caring for my dear Sunny.  True to form, my Sunny served her for many years too.  My daughter, who was two then,  also got to go on a ride with her aunt on my Sunny. Many memories, lots of love there!

So tell me, what things did you buy with your first salary? Would love to know.

Innocence – A short story

Malaika was a little girl, aged five. She lived with her parents and little sister, Sarika, in a beautiful cottage on Fern Hill.  Sarika had just turned three. Malaika was in kindergarten in a school nearby.

Malaika loved Sarika to bits, and Sarika, for her part, followed her sister around and idolized her. Except for school time, the two were inseparable.

Malaika loved her school, her teacher – Ms.Beal, her lessons and her classmates. However, the highlight of every school day was the mid-morning snack break.

Just before the bell rang for snack time, the delicious smell of butter biscuits would waft through the classroom. Malaika’s tongue watered as the food cart was wheeled into the classroom.

Each child was given a nice warm glass of milk and two butter biscuits with it.  Malaika loved the biscuits and the milk.

The best part was yet to come. A few butter biscuits were always left over in the packet, so at the end of the morning, just before school dispersed, Ms.Beal asked questions. The first student to answer each question correctly, was rewarded with a biscuit.

Most days, Malaika managed to answer at least two questions before her classmates did, and took the butter biscuits home to share with her sister, Sarika.

But today, her luck had deserted her. She was not the first to answer even a single question. Tears ran down her sweet face, as she imagined the disappointment on Sarika’s face. What could she tell her? A cloud of worry descended on her face.

The teacher noticed that something was wrong. She asked Malaika to wait. All her classmates left the classroom.

“What’s wrong my dear?”asked the teacher.

Malaika told her that she was very sad that her sister would be disappointed about the butter biscuits.

The teacher smiled and said, “Guess what, I have a couple on my table, you can take those for your sister, ok?”

Malaika said, “Ms.Beal, could you ask me two questions. Please give me the biscuits after I answer them.”

Malaika answered both and took home – two semi-powdered biscuits that were filled with love and happiness, to her little sister.

When Sarika saw her elder sister, she shouted, “Butter biki, butter biki, give me.”

Malaika said, “Wait…I have brought them. I never forget, you know that.”

A string of jasmine flowers

We Indians love wearing strings of flowers in our hair, when we dress in our traditional saris.  If we braid our hair, then the string of flowers is pinned on top and let to flow down with the braid, if we are doing up our hair in a chignon, then the string is artistically positioned around the chignon or under it.

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    Image courtesy – http://www.boisdejasmin.com

The most commonly used flower to adorn the hair is the jasmine.  The heavenly smell of the small and beautiful jasmine flower has to be experienced!

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Image courtesy – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com

Most cities and towns in India, especially in the South, have flower markets, which sell all kinds of flowers, both for hair adornment, for decoration, for gifting and for weddings (which is really big business in India).

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Image courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

Jasmine strings are sold in small stalls or by women, who have big baskets with many rolls of these fresh flowers, beautifully strung together.  The strings are sold by a traditional measure, called the ‘muzham‘, which means the length of the flower-seller’s arm from the finger to her elbow.

So, when we buy flowers, we ask for 2 muzhams or 3 muzhams, and it is fun to watch the flower-seller, measure the string the required number of times on her hand and then cut it.

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Image courtesy – http://www.cruisingunderpower.fastmail.net

On closer observation, most of these women have another basket with unstrung flowers.  They string these flowers together on long strings of fiber from the banana plant.  These strings are pliable, but also strong.  Watching these women stringing the flowers is a lot of fun.  Their hands deftly place the stalks of the flower on one side of the string and rapidly turn the string around the stalk, and so on till a long string of jasmine flowers is ready.

During my childhood, it was expected that we knew how to string flowers together.  My grandma was my teacher – she would take a few loose flowers and then show me how it was done.  It took a while to learn the skill, as the flowers would fall away, if the string was not bound properly.  With time, we learnt and could string flowers together.

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Image courtesy – http://www.chennaifocus.in

These holidays, my mother suggested to my daughter that she learn how to string flowers together.  My daughter clucked her tongue in exasperation, as the flowers kept falling out.  But I’m sure she will learn.

When I was growing up, I used to wonder if there was any use in learning these things, but now I realize that I want my daughter to learn these things too, which form an integral part of our culture and tradition.  And they look so beautiful and smell heavenly, so why not?