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.


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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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.

Sunny Bajaj – courtesy –

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.

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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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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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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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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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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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?

Monday morning surprise…

So, we had a long weekend. Three blissful days, where we lazed, met friends, skated, watched movies and ate lots of yummy food.

By yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, all of us had a serious case of the blues. As the evening drew to a close, each one of us prepared for the week ahead, and sighed at the classes, meetings and work and all the hundred other things that make up our week.

With all preparations done, we hit the bed with that heavy ‘tomorrow is a Monday’ heart.

This morning, as each of us rushed about the house, getting ourselves ready, we heard a screechy-chirping, very loud. We wondered about it, but went on with our chores. After some time, the sound persisted and got closer and louder.

My son, the animal enthusiast, and I, ran out to the balcony to see. And that’s when we saw them. A pair of beautiful hornbills, on the trees right next to our block. Each one was sitting on a different tree.



My son was just putting on his shirt and I told him, “Button up your shirt and then come to the balcony.”

He was so excited that he said, “But the hornbills can’t see me.” And here I was worrying about the neighbours.

They screeched-chirped loudly…and looked so majestic. I quickly took a few shots from my phone. Only one was clear, the other bird was turning away from us.

After a while, they flew away. We went back to our breakfast. The day suddenly seemed so exciting.

My son gave us a 5 minute talk about the hornbill, and we are all wiser now.

All the way to school, we talked about these birds.

Just a five minute visit and they helped us beat the blues and transformed our day.

We hope they will come back this evening.

What a difference!

It is really fun to watch the difference in the way my daughter and my son react to various situations.

Right from choosing what to wear, to the things they like, to the way they respond to people..they are so different!

My son just pulls out whichever T-shirt is right on top of the pile of clothes in his cupboard, even if it’s for a party or a family function. He says, “This is ok. I’m fine.”

On the other hand, my daughter agonizes over her clothes and accessories.

When my daughter calls a friend or receives a call, they exchange pleasantries, talk about TV shows and then warm-up to discuss the purpose of the call.

My son came up to me yesterday and asked if he could call his friend. I said yes.

As I watched, he called his friend. This is how the call went.

“Hi! I want to share a fact with you about dinosaurs.”

Then he rattled off some statistics about the Argentinosaurus (I think).

“Ok got to go. Bye”, he said and hung up.

The call took 30 seconds.

I asked him, “Was that all?”

“Yes mom”, he said.


Are you a collector?

I happened to read an article about a philatelist, who had bought a rare stamp for a whopping amount, to add to his collection.

I don’t remember the amount, but I do remember that my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets!!!

This got me thinking. Why did that philatelist pay so much for that stamp?

I pondered about this for a few days and then realized that it was not about the money as much as it was about the ‘why he collected’.

Then it struck me that we are all collectors. Most people I know collect something. I know friends who collect refrigerator magnets, bookmarks, handbags, watches, and many more.

In my own family, my Dad collected pens. He bought every pen with love and joy. He had many different ones.
After his death, I sobbed my heart out when I saw his collection of pens – because it was one of those important things that defined who he was – it was easy to pick out a gift for him. He was very happy when he received pens as gifts.

My uncle collects shoes – sports shoes, formal shoes, boots, slip-ons; and he cares for each one of them like his own babies.

I know a friend, who doesn’t throw away old perfume bottles.

As for me, I love empty notebooks. I can’t seem to have enough of them with me. I have a whole drawer filled with different types of notebooks. Some made of handmade paper, some with pure creamy pages, some odd-sized and odd-shaped…I can never have enough. Visiting stationery shops is in my list of top 10 things to do!


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So, back to the question. Why do most people collect something, and keep adding to their collection?

I asked myself this. After deep thought I realized that, to me, each time I open a new notebook to the first empty page, I feel hope and the thrill of writing. I want to fill these notebooks with writing – not necessarily fiction or stories, but even mundane things like ‘things to do’, ‘shopping lists’, ‘song lyrics’ and of course the book that I eventually want to write. These small notebooks fill me with joy.

I have seen the same joy in my Dad’s eyes when he searched for new pens to add to his collection. I see it in my son’s eyes when he collects fact books on animals.

The things we collect give us great happiness, from stamps to bookmarks to magnets to plants to coffee mugs to shoes to very expensive pieces of art, they give us repeated pleasure and happiness. To some extent, they define who we are! It is not about the money at all.

So, what do you collect and what does it mean to you? Would love to know.

An hour on the railway platform

On a recent holiday in India, we travelled by train a couple of times. Travelling by train in India is a fun experience, but the part I enjoyed the most, was the wait on the platform before our train arrived.

The railway platform is an ecosystem by itself. We had time to kill and so walked up and down.

‘Organized chaos’ is how I would describe it. People were everywhere. The bright lights made the place come alive. Red-shirted porters walked up and down, hawk-eyed, looking for prospective customers.

There was a cozy book stall (my favourite place) that sold books, lots of books and comics and magazines.
A book stall on the platform
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There was a stall selling hot milk, coffee, tea and almond milk. We tried the hot almond milk. Delicious!

Travellers in various stages of travel were milling about. Some ready to go home. Some just starting their journeys (you could make this out from their well-groomed apperance and compact luggage). Some waiting to catch a connecting train.

The cacophony of voices was periodically broken, when the PA system announced the arrival and departure of trains.

There were vendors with trays containing take-away food. Then, the men who sold tea with their trademark chant – “Chai, chai, chai, chai”, delicately balancing plastic cups and the tea urn, and moving deftly in that limited space.

We walked down further, and saw the glittering weighing machine with its dancing lights and spinning disc.

The glittering light weighing machine
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My husband and I smiled, as both of us remembered our respective childhoods – when checking one’s weight on the railway platform weighing scale, was a must-do activity.

The machine had a slot for a one rupee coin. Once we stood on the scale and put the coin into the slot, the lights would start flashing and a disc would start spinning. After about 30 seconds, the machine would spit out a small cardboard card, which had your weight on one side and a message on the other side.

I recently read an article that these machines were put in place during British times in India, when people did not have personal weighing scales in their homes.

We stood looking at the machine and remembering. No takers now. People just walked past the machine.

We called our children and ask them to get on the machine. Then my husband and I did the same. More for the thrill rather than to know our my weight. Four cardboard cards came out.


Cards that come out of the machine
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My daughter and son called out their messages and read out their weights. I only looked at the message-side of the card.

We walked back to where our coach number was listed. Just then the PA system announced the arrival of our train. The metal serpent slowly trundled in, off-loading weary travellers and inviting the new ones on board.