What is happiness?


What is happiness? Happiness is anything that gives you joy and peace. Happiness is inside each one of us and all around us in simple, everyday things…

To me, happiness is….

….watching a little puppy prancing around and greeting its mother

…..watching the ecstacy on a child’s face as his/her eyes track a bubble

……the bliss of that first gulp of water after a strenuous workout

…..that first spoon of a scoop of ice cream

image

……the aroma and taste of that first sip of my morning coffee

….diving into the pool on a hot day

…..writing my name on a creamy white new notebook

…..that moment after piping hot food is served on my plate, and before I eat that first mouthful

….cuddling my children in the morning

…..sitting in companionable silence with my spouse, reading a book

…..laughing at a silly joke

…..coffee with one of my dear friends

….that unique smell when the first drops of rain meet parched earth

…..having lots of things to do

……having nothing to do

…..watching a great film, munching popcorn

…..going on a long walk on a bright, sunny day

…..tucking into a good book, with a cup of coffee, with rain lashing outside.

….writing my blog

….writing my first book

Happiness is in the simplest things.

What are the simple things that make you happy? Would love to know.

Glass bangles


I love bangles, glass bangles, to be precise. If you stopped to listen to the breeze in any part of the Indian subcontinent, you would hear the melodious tinkle of glass bangles, worn by women across the country.

image

   
               Picture courtesy  http://www.geethafashion.weebly.com

In India, glass bangles are traditionally associated with most milestones in a woman’s life – engagement,  wedding and baby showers. After the wedding, most women wear a few glass bangles or at least metal ones everyday, as dictated by their culture and family traditions.

I love glass bangles for their rich colours and vibrant tones. Couple these with an elegant saree…and they look gorgeous.

In the south, many families host a small event called ‘Valaikaapu’ (The Bangle Ceremony), in a pregnant woman’s third trimester. Usually hosted by the girl’s parents, the day is filled with lots of fun, rituals and good food.

For this function, a few hundred glass bangles are bought. Women on both sides of the pregnant woman’s family adorn her with tinkling and beautiful glass bangles on both hands, usually odd-numbered. In addition, one thin gold and silver bangle each are put on each hand.  All women and girls, who attend the event, are gifted a few glass bangles. Usually there’s an assortment of colours to choose from.

The tinkling of the bangles is supposed to stimulate the baby’s senses. The bangles are usually removed, when labour sets in. 

These days, bangles are bought in bulk from shops, however, when I was a kid, a bangle-seller was called home. I still remember how excited we were when the bangle-seller came home with his huge bundle of glass bangles. We watched, as my grandmom and mom chose bangles for my aunt’s Valaikappu, and for all the women and little girls.

image

                     Picture courtesy     
             varietybangles.weebly.com

Last year, there was a wedding in the family, and I stocked up on my glass bangles; colour coordinated with every saree I wore to the various ceremonies.

Simple tinkling accessories, that signify so much and that bring so much joy!

Of chipmunks and genes…


I am trying to concentrate on the document in front of me, but the children’s voices float towards me, breaking my flow of thought. I try to get back to work, but their decibel levels continue to rise. I decide to give myself a break, and walk over to see what they are doing.

They seem to have learnt about this new application on the iPad that can be used to produce music. Both of them are rapping, the same silly phrases over and over again.

I tell them that this continuous repetition reminds me of a game we used to play as children, which involved the players saying, ” 1,2,3, Luck, Luck, Luck”, each time a player spotted a water body like a pond, a lake or a well. We played this mostly when we travelled.

My children hear me out and ask me to repeat the chant…1,2,3…! Unbeknownst to me, they record my voice on this app.

Very soon, they clutch their stomachs and roll on the floor. The reason? The app can render your voice as a Chipmunk, or as a Monster, or from a faraway place etc.

Their mom as a chipmunk truly tickles them. Tears roll down their cheeks as they picture their mom this way. I laugh because it is contagious, but don’t find the chipmunk-mom voice funny.

My son asks me, “Mom, don’t you find it funny?”

I say, “Not really. I find the way you laugh funny.”

My son then says, “I know for a fact that I have atleast one ‘Self-developed Gene’ that I don’t get from either you or Dad. It’s my ‘sense of humour gene’!”

I laugh now, totally tickled by what my son just said.

When I entered the kids’ room….


Monday morning, and I stand in the children’s room with a dazed look.

Two phenomena seem to have hit the room – a Science project, and a long weekend. Phew!

I survey the C.H.A.O.S. Where do I begin? This is going to take a while. My mind tempts me to run away. Maybe a cup of strong coffee later, this mess may actually not look as bad as it seems?

Maybe NOTHING. I start plodding through the remnants of scientific genius, discarded ideas, shreds of paper in every conceivable colour, blobs of glue that have bound many of these shreds together, twine, miles of twine, that have snaked their way under the study table and swivel chairs. I take a break.

I move to another part of the room.

“Ouch!” A small, colourful board pin has entered my heel. I gingerly remove it. More paper, and many dinosaur toys, all entangled in twine, velcro pieces now, stuck to felt paper, which is in turn stuck to Blu-tac.  There is a shower of pencil shavings as I move a few notebooks, treasures that have been waiting to greet me!

Under the dump that’s the bed, I find 3 pairs of scissors! The icing on the cake is a small bottle of black paint that has not been closed. Now I look part-leopard, part mom.

Some semblance of normalcy is returning to the room, but my BP is shooting up. As my hands sift through the mess, my mind conjures up dire punishments and threats.

The bedsheet seems to have been pulled away from the cot. I tug at it, and look under. There, I find something that makes me laugh out loud.

My son has made a make-shift hospital for one of his Ben10 toys there. The toy has a broken knee. He seems to have fixed it with Blu-tac, and an ice-cream stick for support, giving his toy a cool, dark place in which to recuperate.

This, I am loath to disturb.

The lost suitcase


My friend and I recently took a domestic flight in India, to attend the silver wedding anniversary celebrations of one of our very dear friends.

Each of us had checked-in a small suitcase. The flight was a short one, and before we knew it, we were at the luggage carousel, waiting for our bags to arrive.

Mine was one of the first few to arrive. Fifteen minutes later, my friend was still waiting for her bag. By then, most people had taken their bags and left the airport.

We barely noticed all this, as we chatted on. My friend had her eye on the carousel, but there was no sign of her suitcase.  It took us a while to realize that we were the only ones left and that there was only one black suitcase going around on the carousel. My friend was really worried and we started talking about how we would register a complaint. The more worrying part was that the clothes for the party were gone now.

As we walked towards the customer service counter, it suddenly hit my friend that the black suitcase was actually hers. She had started packing in a red suitcase , but had shifted to the black one later. But the image of the red suitcase had stayed with her!

So, looking sheepish, she ran and picked up her suitcase. We had a good laugh!

‘Petti kadai’ – the corner shop


Across Indian cities, towns, and villages, there are small shops called ‘petti-kadais’ known by the local language equivalent in each region.  The name loosely translates to the ‘box shop’, not because they sell boxes, but because they are shaped like boxes. Small, compact shops on every street.

The wonderful thing about these shops (thousands of which exist to this very day) is that they can cater to 99% of your daily shopping and convenience requirements.

image

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

From neatly stacked glass jars stocking all kinds of delicious candies and savouries, to veggies and fruit, to basic kitchen provisions, to stationery to shampoo satchets to washing soap to newpapers and magazines, these ‘petti kadais’ have it all.

When we were kids, most of our school assignments were incomplete without a visit to the neighbourhood ‘petti kadai’.

These shops were usually manned by a single person, who  could work magic, and produce any thing one required, from its recesses.

We often ran to the ‘petti kadais’ with our weekly pocket money, to buy poppins, cumin seed candy, lollipops and many other yummy treats.

These days the ‘petti kadais’ sell top-up for phone calling cards, offer door delivery services, and a wider-range of products.

Their ruthless and efficient use of space has to be seen to be believed!

My ‘Anjarai Petti’


I love to cook. I cook a lot of Indian, and a bit of Italian, Mexican and Chinese.

Most Indian dishes, especially the South Indian ones, use many different types of seeds – that are typically roasted, used for seasoning or ground into a paste with vegetables, to prepare chutneys or bases for different types of gravies.

While I cooked this morning, I realized that my kitchen needed an overhaul, too much clutter. I decided to make a list of things I really need, and the ones that I’d like to retire or store for future use.

My crazy brain then hyperlinked to another question – What are the things that I could not part with in my kitchen ?

I have a couple of things that I absolutely love. One is my humble coffee filter (I would die without it). The other is my Anjarai Petti (meaning box with five compartments).

This round box is used to store all the seeds I use in my cooking. Most Indian women have some form of the Anjarai Petti or other, to store spices or seeds or masala powders. Call it a spice rack or a seasoning rack.

I would be lost without this in my kitchen. As the name suggests, the box may have started off with five compartments, but most boxes these days have seven compartments. There are steel ones, wooden ones, and plastic ones.

Mine is a stainless steel one, which I use to store black gram, mustard seeds, pepper corn, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. The box comes with a small spoon.

Here’s my Anjarai Petti, my ‘must-have’ kitchen resource.

image

It’s easy and convenient, as most South Indian dishes start with sputtering mustard in oil and adding other seeds, before other things are added.

Do you have a ‘must-have’ kitchen list? I would love to know.

A metal trunk and a table cloth


After my siblings and I left home to pursue our dreams, my mom put away the things that each of us treasured, in three huge metal trunks, one for each of us.

They clanged and made loud noises each time they were opened, allowing us a peek into our past and the things that meant a lot to each of us.

Just before I got married, my mom asked me if I wanted to take the trunk with me. I was attached to the trunk and decided to take it to my new home. I still have it,  a big blue one.

But before my wedding, I cleared the trunk. What fun it was, it had yellowed books by Enid Blyton, a tennis ball that I got free with a chocolate drink, hundreds of stickers, my slam books from high school and university, a book where I copied my favourite quotes, pressed dry flowers from our garden, a few beads and pebbles, and a table cloth from our craft class in school.

We had a compulsory craft class from Grades 6 through 8. Each year, we were expected to complete two projects. We learnt how to make plastic wire bags, a green parrot lampshade, embroidered handkerchiefs, a table cloth and many others.

The tablecloth was white in colour;  we had to draw floral patterns at the four corners and in the middle. Then using all the stitches we had learnt, we had to embroider the cloth.

My mom was very happy with the final product and displayed it proudly at home, for everyone to see.

As with everything else, newer, better things took precedence and the table cloth faded from memory, till it resurfaced when I cleared the trunk. I still have it with me. Here are the pictures.

image

image

image

image

image

A tablecloth with memories of our childhood trapped in its stitches, of pretty flowers and picnic baskets, of butterflies on a meadow, of carefree school days gossiping with friends as we sewed on….

Power nap on a Sunday afternoon = Bliss


We all lead such busy lives, running from one appointment to the other, trying to tick-off items on that never-ending Things-to-do List, then kids and chores, and cooking and what not.

Sometimes, by Monday afternoon, I start wishing for the weekend, though if you ask me, those are crazier!

So, now and then, it is nice to have those few minutes of shut eye that happen involuntarily.

There are some great power nappers in my family, who can fall asleep while sitting on the couch. It is fun to watch them drop off as they read the newspaper or a book, their heads lolling slightly, as their mind takes them into nodland.

It’s also fun to watch people on the MRT, late in the evening, trying their best to keep awake and not fall on their neighbour’s shoulder.

My favourite such moments are on a Sunday afternoon, after a heavy lunch when I tuck into a lovely book. Five pages into it and my eyes seek closure, from the craziness of the week; they feel my need to forget the worries and stresses, and transport me to another world for 20 minutes.

It’s only when you wake up that you realize that you’ve been away, recharging your batteries.

I did that this afternoon, and what bliss it was, with a very funny dream thrown into the package.

‘A dream where I was the driver of a nursery school bus. My duties also involved standing at the door of the bus with a big steel tray. Each time a child had to board the bus, I had to ask the child to board the steel tray and only then put them on the bus.’

Totally crazy dream…but what a refreshing nap. I am ready to take on the week but before that…

“I need my coffee.”

Have a great week!