Music & Lemon Bee hoon


Yesterday, I happened to hear a song from a new Bollywood film, and was hooked!  I played it repeatedly, and needless to say, the song stayed with me through the day and into the night.

This morning, as my husband sat down to have his breakfast of Lemon Bee hoon, the song lodged itself in my brain again.  I told my husband about the song, and played it for him.

Morning craziness being what it is, I soon got busy with my chores and went looking for the ten-odd things that go missing every morning – read socks, notebooks and paper ….sigh!

When I got back to the table, I asked my husband (about the Lemon bee hoon), “Did you like it?’

And he replied, “It’s okay. Nothing great about it.” (about the song).

“Is it really that bad, does it lack salt or should I add more lemon?” I asked, feeling quite deflated.

My husband’s eyes widened in surprise, when he realized that we had been talking about different things.

“Oh…did you ask about the Bee hoon? It’s very good!” he said.

I smiled.

The same song has come roaring back into my head again.  This one will play itself out in my head till the next song gets in.  And till then, this song will always remind me of Lemon Bee hoon.

My grandmother’s gym


I grew up in a joint family, and all of us at home have great memories of the fun times we had with our grand mom. She usually sat up late with us, when we tried to conquer our books, and crammed for tests.  She was very active right into her eighties.

The concept of working out and exercising were alien to her.  For their generation, there was enough equipment in the kitchen to help burn those extra calories.

Indian women in those times did all their dry and wet grinding, pounding and crushing of grains and other food items and masalas at home, using a few devices – in our language these are called ‘Aatukkal‘ (grinding stone), Ammikkal (loosely means rolling/crushing stone), ‘Ural & Ulakai‘ (pounding stone and rod) and ‘Sevai Naazhi‘ (rice vermicelli maker).

Indian cooking involves a lot of blending, and grinding of spices and ingredients for nearly every dish, so my grand mom’s and to a certain extent, my mom’s generation, used these devices.  I still remember the ones we had at home.

The Aatukkal and Ammikkal were made of solid granite stone, polished and carved to the shape required.  The pestles weighed around 2 or 3 kg each.  So, working these for an hour for wet grinding and 20 minutes for the blending of spices, took care of their daily strength training requirements.

Image courtesy - www.indianfoodguides.com

The Aattukal or Grinding Stone used for preparing wet rice batter for salted pancakes

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    The Ammikkal used for crushing and blending. Picture courtesy – http://www.dsource.in

The Naazhi (rice vermicelli maker), required a twisting movement and force to turn the handle, to squeeze the steamed rice dough into beautiful vermicelli string hoppers.  They did this multiple times to make enough for all of us at home.

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          The Sevai Naazhi or the rice vermicelli maker – picture courtesy http://www.subbuskitchen.com

The Ural and Ulakai (the pounding rod and vessel) were usually used to pound wheat and other grains to prepare whole-grain flour.  Two women stood at opposite ends and pounded in a rhythmic manner, passing the rod to the other in turns, chit chatting and singing at times.

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       The Ural and Ulakai – the pounding rod and the vessel – image courtesy – http://www.olx.in

Now we have mixer-grinders, wet grinders, ready-made vermicelli and flour.  And then, we go work out in the gym.

Our ancestors were wiser, they got their work and workout done in one shot.  After all, they had the luxury of a home-gym.

Of pine forests, high jump and dreams


During our recent holiday, when we were outside the local Botanical Gardens, a lady came to us, selling painted pine cones.

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Image courtesy http://www.indiantourisdestiny.com

The pine cones triggered a wonderful memory from my childhood.

There was a beautiful pine forest near our little township. We could get there, by walk, in ten minutes.

My friends and I, went there sometimes to collect pine cones and play in the soft, fallen pine needles.

We would also take fresh pine needles off the tree, and braid them, as they were in threes.We have had many hours of fun there.

Then again, in the eighties we watched the Seoul Olympics on television. We watched the track and field events, and discussed them with fervour, with our friends.

Very inspired by the athletes, and sensing potential Olympians in each one of us, we built a high jump pit.

We got two eucalyptus wooden poles that we stood on each side. We hammered nails at various heights, on both poles, and found a thin wooden stick that we used to jump over.

We had lots of fun high-jumping, hearing the applause in our minds.  There was however, one small problem. We had to be careful when we fell on the other side. Though there was grass cover, we still ended up bruising ourselves at times.

The pine forest saved our Olympic dreams. We carried many bags to the forest, and brought back dried pine needles.

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

We built our own pad to cushion our falls.

What glorious days those were!

Knocked on the head


This morning, I was cleaning the bath, and the shelves above it that hold  shower gels, soaps and shampoos. While I was at it, the shower curtain rod gave way and fell on my head!

I shouted out, more from the sudden shock rather than from any pain, though there was a little bit of pain.

My son heard me shouting and came running inside.

“What happened mom?” he asked.

When I told him that the curtain rod had hit my head, he looked worried.

Then he said, “Tell me quickly, what is two plus two.”

When I gave the correct answer, he  said, “Phew! You’re ok then. Don’t worry.”

There’s no place like home


So, after a month-long holiday we are back home – with huge suitcases and many, many bags of crazy shopping,  great memories and thousands of photographs.

We lug all the bags up the lift. When we finally turn the key in the lock, that wonderful smell of ‘home’ makes us close our eyes in bliss. Yay, we are home!

We are a little weary from all the travelling, eating, shopping and over eating. We are jet-lagged, and like electric bulbs going off, the children drop-off into nodland.

I open the windows and let fresh air breeze through the house. I take a few more deep breaths of ‘home’.

I smell my favourite cypress freshner, a little bit of the prayer incense and the fragrance of our home, that is so unique to it – made up of all the things that are in it and that make it what it is.

There’a a bit of ‘weary’ in me as I mull over all the things I will have to do, starting from cleaning the house and stocking-up on supplies, and changing the sheets and getting ready for school and holiday homework and the  hundreds of small things that will need doing.

This is the flip-side of the ‘being away the whole month’ coin.

And the unpacking! How could I forget that!

But, believe me, it feels great to be back, and to sit on the couch and dream about the holiday.

My eyes droop but I cannot indulge myself – here, at home, the buck stops with me.  I need a super-size caffeine shot to get me going. I make myself some extra-strong filter coffee. I amble back to the couch.

I relish every drop as long as I can, for I know that the moment the coffee mug gets empty, I’m on duty………till the next holiday.

But seriously, there’s no place like home.

The Blind Date – a short story


Mili was seething. Her friends had been setting her up on blind dates on and off. All of them were happily settled – or so they thought! They wanted Mili to settle down. And being a perfectionist, with a clear list of likes and dislikes, none of the men she met passed muster.

“Thanks, but no thanks!” she thought.

The reason for her anger was that her friend, Naomi, had asked her to dinner, as her husband’s (Naomi’s) business partner and friend, Vihaan, was visiting.

But at the last minute Naomi and her husband had asked her to meet Vihaan alone, as their son had to be rushed to hospital due to a severe wheezing condition. They told her that they had tried to reach Vihaan, but that his phone was unreachable.

She understood the situation, but was still mad. She would have preferred to stay back at home to catch up on some work or just watch some TV. Now this!

So, at 7.30 p.m. sharp, she was at the restaurant and was surprised to see that Vihaan was already seated at the table.

They introduced themselves and she passed on the message from Naomi. He looked slightly put off.

They ordered starters and something to drink. They discussed the weather, the latest movies, and their tastes in music. Soon, they discovered that they hailed from the same town and had studied in the same primary school.

They warmed to each other because of this shared history. They laughed more easily now. They even teased each other a little bit.

He loved the way she articulated her thoughts, with a wry sense of humour. She loved the fact that he was well-read and widely travelled.

After dinner, when they started dessert Vihaan stepped out for a call. And when he came back and hitched up his trousers to sit down, she saw that his socks were mismatched. There was a dark brown and a black.

All the positive vibes flew away. This was in her DISLIKES list…men who couldn’t take the time to pay attention to detail. She was ready to leave. It irritated her too much.

He had seen the shocked look on her face as he had sat down. When she looked away, he looked down at his socks.

“Damn that power cut”, he thought. It had happened just when he was leaving the hotel, and he had hoped that he had the right pair. Obviously not. He could sense her coolness.

“One of those obsessive types”, he thought.

They ate their dessert, in silence. He then asked for the cheque.

She said, “I would also like to share the bill. I insist.”

He tried to talk her out of it, but she seemed to be one of those stubborn types.

He paid the bill with his credit card and showed it to Mili.

She looked at it and said, “Just a minute.”

She took her handbag, which was hanging on the back of her chair. She opened it and furrowed her brows. She clucked in exasperation as she realized that her wallet was not in her bag. She had changed bags that evening, to complement her outfit.

She blushed a beetroot red as she told him that she could not find her wallet. It was mortifying.

She told him that she would transfer the cash to him. He told her that it was his treat to her.

As he walked her to her car, he said, “Next time you can treat me, and I will wear matching socks and hope that there’s no power cut.”

The shocked look on her face was priceless. He grinned and walked away into the night.

The Autorickshaw Ride


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Image courtesy – Wikipedia

For the uninitiated, a ride in an autorickshaw in India could end up being any one of the following things – playing a high-thrill video game with unexpected happenings, riding a roller-coaster, albeit slowly, or just a super-fun ride.

As for me, been there, done it and love it. It’s in the genes too. My children also love the autorickshaw.

So, we are heading out to meet family at the other end of the city. The kids protest when we mention the word taxi. So  ‘Autorickshaw’ it is. There are hundreds plying, but not one stops when we hail. Finally one stops for us.

We should’ve figured this one out but ..well. How can the four of us fit in comfortably? There was a time when we could, but the kids have grown vertically and we, parents have grown horizontally!

Both the children want to enjoy the wind, so both ends are taken. Hubby dear and I squeeze in, in the middle. Two of us rest on the seat, two move forward. Much like stuffing an already full bag, we are in, but very excited.

The auto-driver starts and we are off.  We have an hour-long trip. The fun part is that the auto is open on both sides and each of us take-in what we want. My son counts stray dogs and the occassional cow, my daughter looks at hoardings, I watch people, my husband, not sure, as I can’t turn my neck to see.

About ten minutes into our ride, the sky is filling up with grey clouds. Where were they hiding? There is a sudden cooling effect to the breeze. Very soon the rain drops are plopping, big, grey ones.

As the auto driver rides on impassively, the frequency of rain drops increases. Plop plop plop….they fall faster and faster.

The kids whoop in joy. And suddenly all hell breaks loose. The rain comes crashing down in a heavy downpour. The auto moves on with an unruffled captain at the helm.

Usually autos have tarpaulins to cover the sides, when it rains. This one has none. So the rain visits us inside the auto. We squeal as the cold makes contact with skin. Both kids are drenched. My stole offers some cover to the four of us. It is total fun, as we resign ourselves. Water hits the roof and sprays our faces. We wait for these moments.

Outside, on the roads, traffic is thinning out. The roads look deserted. People are seeking cover under bus shelters and the ledges of buildings.

In one bus shelter, a cow stands with other people, waiting out the rain.

People from moving buses look down on us. I look up at them – all so serious and deep in thought.

Children of a primary school are being stood in line for dispersal. They look adorable in their bright-coloured raincoats.

A young couple stands under the shade of a huge tree, oblivious to the world.

The auto-driver looks focused as he weaves through the traffic at the junction. He would win any video game hands down, as he deftly manoeuvres the vehicle right and left, through any small gap. Our bodies sway with the movements.

The trees look green and fresh in the rain. There is a lady, with a huge, red umbrella, walking at a leisurely pace – everyone else is scrambling for cover.

As the rain peters out, we finally reach our destination. We are soaked but very happy.

We get treated to hot coffee, mugs of hot chocolate and pakoras! Perfect finish.

Love thy neighbour – A short story


Vini’s mobile vibrated on the coffee table. She ran to pick it up. It was her friend Savita, who told her that she was sending her son, with the registration form for a summer camp for their daughters. Savita had picked it up earlier that day. Vini told her that she was at home and that Savita’s son could come to drop it off.

After waiting for nearly two hours, Vini had to step out. So she called Savita to ask when her son would drop off the form.

Savita sounded puzzled and said, “He dropped it off right after we spoke Vini. Wait let me ask him.”

Finally they discovered that instead of knocking on Door No :1600, her son had knocked on Door No: 1606, Vini’s neighbour’s house. Since nobody had opened the door, he had slid it under the door.

Vini laughed and hung up, but the real challenge was now. Next door to her, in 1606, there lived a disgruntled man in his late sixties.

He lived alone and had rebuffed Vini each time she had smiled or tried to strike up a conversation. He kept to himself mostly. He ticked off her kids if they talked loudly in the lobby.

She would have let the form go, but for the fact that Savita had paid $50 for it.

The old man lived by the clock and usually left home at 5 p.m. for his evening walk.

She hadn’t seen him in a while though and wondered what would happen.

At 4.45 p.m. she kept her door slightly open so she could hear him. She waited and waited, with no luck.

She could not meet him that whole week, and with just three days left to submit the form she was getting desperate.

Two evenings before the form was due, she heard his door opening. She dashed like a bolt of lightning, to claim the form, not caring if Mr.Grump would snub her again.

But coming out of his door was a little girl of about 6. Her cute pigtails bobbed up and down, as she smiled at Vini and called out, “Grampa are you coming? The lift’s here.”

Vini almost gasped when she saw the old man. His frowning face was smiling, he was humming a tune and there was a spring in his step.

He saw Vini and said, “Hello there. This is my granddaughter Tanya. My daughter’s visiting me after ten years.”

He shook his head in disbelief and smiled.

Vini smiled at this change. She asked him about the envelope.

“Oh that? Sorry..I thought it was one of those marketing mailers that keep showing up, so I trashed it. There was no name on the envelope, if I remember. Sorry, once again. Got to be off now. See you around,” said the man as he walked into the elevator with his granddaughter.

Vini stared at the closed door and didn’t know what to think.

Another $50 would have to go. She sighed but her heart felt good that the old man had found some happiness. Maybe that’s all he had wanted – some love and some family time. Maybe he had been terribly lonely.

The lost $50 was definitely worth it!