Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Sea Green Marble – A short story

Shiva’s two older brothers walked to school everyday. Shiva was the baby of the house and was usually walked to school by an adult, much to his dislike.

Finally, when he turned seven, his father declared that Shiva could walk to school by himself.

The excitement Shiva felt was indescribable. He had always wanted to stop and look at the stray cats and dogs that he met on the way. Sometimes, he wanted to pick up stones and pebbles from the road, but the adults tugged at his hand, and that was that.

Now, all that was about to change. He was given a little pocket money to spend every week, and his grandma usually gave him a couple of coins, when he ran errands for her.

The little boy got his first taste of independence. On the first day of his walking alone from school, he stopped at a small shop that had opened in the village square recently.

He went there and stood staring at all the glass jars, stacked to their necks with candies, savouries, sweets, chocolate and other wonderful things. Shiva’s mouth watered as he tried to make a choice.

The shop owner sat impassively, totally accustomed to children staring and eyeing the goods.

Shiva suddenly let out a gasp. He saw a jar, filled with the most beautiful glass marbles in the world. Shiva and his friends usually spent their weekends playing games with these glass beauties.

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        Courtesy – http://www.pinterest.com

There was one marble that Shiva stared at. It was a beautiful sea green with flecks of blue. It was a big marble and seemed to beckon to him.

“How much for the green marble?” he asked the shopkeeper.

“That’s five rupees,” said the shopkeeper.

Shiva’s shoulders fell as he realized that it would take him a while to collect that money. But his face suddenly looked determined. He would save up and buy that marble, come what may.

And from that day, every evening he stood and stared at the Sea Green Marble. The shopkeeper was used to the boy now as he did his Math on a piece of paper, positioning it on the lid of one of the glass jars.

Penny by penny the boy collected coins, inching closer and closer to realizing his dream. He hugged his little secret to himself, waiting to vanquish his friends when they played next.

The last few days were the worst. He kept asking his grandma for coins all the time, and she was less generous now. He prayed for the visit of an uncle or aunt, who would give him a few coins.

However, nothing like that happened and he had to go through that most difficult waiting period.

He was just 10p short of five rupees. And that evening, when he reached the shop, his heart nearly stopped beating. His Sea Green Marble was missing from the jar.

Tears and anger wrestled for control in that tiny heart. He looked at the shopkeeper accusingly. Hadn’t he seen Shiva every day, staring at that marble?
How could he?

“Who bought the Sea Green Marble?” he asked, in a quivering voice.

The shopkeeper went into the shop, and Shiva shouted out, “I am only 10p short. I would have been able to afford it next week.”

The shopkeeper came back with a small glass box in his hand and said, “Here is your Sea Green Marble. There was a boy who kept eyeing the same marble this week, so I kept it inside so that when you had the money, it would be yours.”

Shiva whooped and gave the shopkeeper a sudden hug.

“Thank you so much. I will come back soon, I promise”, said the little boy as he walked home with a spring in his step.

The shopkeeper waved and went inside his shop,  and carefully placed the glass container on a shelf.

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What’s in a name?

I recently read a joke in which there were two brothers, who had the same name ‘John’. One brother was a tourist bus operator, while the other was an undertaker. So, to avoid confusion, the people in the town called them ‘John – The Journey’ and ‘John – The Final Journey’ respectively.

This joke brought a smile to my face as it reminded me of the naming convention we follow in our community.

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             Courtesy – http://www.flickr.com

Unlike everywhere else, where there is a family name and all members of the household share the same family name, we follow a different system.

So, for example, if my name was Dev, and my father’s name was Kumar, and my grandfather’s name was Raja, then my name would be Dev Kumar, while my Dad’s name would be Kumar Raja. So, father and son don’t share the same surname.  But that’s how it is!

The other big naming convention we follow is that if the first child is a boy/girl then he/she automatically takes his/her Paternal Grandfather’s/Grandmother’s name. If the second child is also a boy then he gets the maternal grandfather’s name; likewise with a second girl.

But the real confusion lies in this scenario. My husband’s grandfather had six sons, each of these sons has a son.  Now, since all of them are firstborn sons, all of them have been given their paternal grandfather’s name.

So, when we meet for family functions and weddings, we have a lot of confusion, as each time someone calls out to one of the grandsons, six voices respond.

To make it easier on the family, we now prefix their names with their professions or the city or town they hail from. So we have

a tycoon Raj
a watch Raj
a pilot Raj
a banker Raj
a Mumbai Raj
a newspaper Raj

Despite having all these nicknames, we still end up being confused.

There is another twist to this naming story. One of my cousins has maternal and paternal grandfathers, who have the same name. My cousin has two sons, so the first one has been named after the paternal grandfather,  and the second son after the maternal grandfather. Since both granddads have the same name, both sons have the same name (of course they have different suffixes to their names).

One can never say, “What’s in a name?”

There’s so much in a name and lots of fun to go with it.

Overflowing bookshelves

Most days, we allow our lives to flow along, performing everyday chores and keeping our appointments.  Then again, some days, we wake up with a sense of purpose, where we plough through tasks and chores methodically, and feel a strong sense of achievement at the end of the day.

Yesterday, was such a day for me.  I woke up with a clear sense of purpose.  The list of tasks was long, but manageable. So, I wrote it out on my notepad.  I  decided to work my way down the list, not for a moment doubting my strong will power or its ability to drive me to task completion. Enough said.

The first chore on my list was – ‘Clean the two bookshelves’.  See, I had it clearly stated – half the battle won.  Each of these  bookshelves has four racks. Each of these eight racks is crammed with books, and more books.  The books, poor souls, have no breathing space.  I  wanted to give them some respite from being smothered by words!

I first took down all the books from the shelves.  And then, the fun started.  I dusted each one, and sorted them into piles – Must have, Can go, Not sure!  But each time I sorted a book, I flipped through its pages, and sat down cross-legged, just to jog my memory. Aha, the sheer pleasure of reading, surrounded by books.  Soon, I was nose deep in Ayn Rand and R.K.Narayan, Hilary Mantel and Amitav Ghosh.  Time tip-toed around me, giving me complete ownership of those moments of bliss.  I made a mug of coffee for myself (after all, how can reading ever be complete without coffee!).

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The children have their term break, so when they saw me busy with the books, they sifted through their own, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Lord of the Rings, Amelia Jane, Jungle Book, Noddy, Malory Towers and many, many comics.  They refused to part with any of their books.  They suddenly wanted to re-read all of them.

So, to cut a long story short, all books went back to their shelves, clean and comfortable.  I hope they love being in our bookshelves as much as we love having them with us.

I shelved my chores and settled down to read.

Grandma’s home remedy

I am down with a cold, blocked nose, watery eyes and a gnawing headache.  I have to live with this one, I guess, medication or no medication. The power of my sneezes can definitely get some mechanical device going. They are so powerful that they shake me, and the chair I am sitting on.  I make myself some hot ‘rasam‘, an Indian soup that soothes the throat.

As I steam-inhale for the n-th time, my memories rush back to my childhood.  We grew up in a joint family, and when anyone was down with a cold or fever, my Grandma usually had a home remedy handy. The age-old wisdom was that the body had to fight off germs by itself, and you only went to a doctor if you did not recover in a week’s time.

The home remedy for the common cold was a drink called ‘kashaayam‘.  Colds being what they are, leave a family only after doing the rounds of all its members.  So when the season of sneezing and sniffing started in the family, my Grandma would start her preparations for ‘kashaayam‘.

Pepper, sugar candy, honey, ginger, cumin seeds and ‘tulsi’ leaves (holy basil leaves) are ground and boiled in hot water to prepare this decoction.  

The smells that wafted through the house when the ‘kashaayam‘ was being made were tantalizing enough.  But the dulling of the senses during a cold caused that illusion, I guess.

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Courtesy – http://www.anudinam.org

I remember the first time I had this brew.  I was actually looking forward to it as all the adults seemed to drink it, when they had colds.  I was given a small glass of the dark brown liquid and asked to sip it slowly and not to take in more than one sip at a time.

I took my first sip.  The assault on my senses was overpowering, the drink stung my throat and set my eyes, ears, nose and throat on fire.  I sputtered and coughed, but my Grandma insisted that I finish it, promising me all kinds of treats.  I took another tentative sip, this was not so bad as my whole body was, anyway, already on fire.  With watering eyes and stinging throat, I completed the ‘kashaayam‘.

After about an hour or so, I could feel my blocked nose clearing, and throat feeling better.  My Grandma came to inspect.

“You’re looking better”, she said. “Maybe another round of ‘kashaayam‘ should do the trick.  I remember how frantically I looked for places to hide. Anything to avoid that horrible concoction again.

Now however, I would give anything if someone sat me down and pampered me with this dark brew.

Of little girls and little boys

A couple of days ago, when I was at my son’s school to pick him up after school, I met a very sweet girl, who was part of my group in a community project last summer. 

The girl and my son study in the same class.

When she saw me at school, she came running to me and hugged me. She said, “I miss you a lot.”

“I miss you too,” I said, hugging her. “Why don’t you come home some time? You can play with my son. You know each other, right?”

Pat came the reply, “Play with him? No…no, he is a boy.”

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

I smiled.

Then she said, “You have a daughter right? I will come and play with her.”

“But she’s much older,” I said.

“Oh, that’s ok. But I can’t play with boys,” she said, with that typical grimace that little girls have when they talk about boys.

I came home and told my son about meeting his classmate.

“I can’t believe you asked her to come home TO PLAY WITH ME. Mom, how could you?”

Hmmm…!

My Dad’s Transistor-Radio

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Picture courtesy  
             http://www.radiomuseum.org

One of my Dad’s most prized possessions was his transistor radio. It was grey in colour and was encased in a black, vinyl cover.

Till we were teenagers, there was no television at home, and a lot of entertainment happened only through this radio.

From 6 am in the morning, till we left for school at 8.15 am, the music and voices from the radio accompanied our morning routine. We could hear a lot of static sometimes.

As my mom braided my sisters’ and my hair, we sang along with the advertising jingles – some that I hum to this very day. Certain announcements served as cues for us to get ready. If we heard certain announcements, it sometimes meant that we were running late (these were the ones we only heard on the weekend).

At night, after homework and dinner, as we wound down, we would listen to some lovely songs on the radio.

The radio was also our greatest companion during Indian cricket matches, where all of us listened to ball by ball updates of the match. 

The radio stimulated our visualization skills, as we were free to picture what we wanted.

There were even more exciting moments with the radio, when the famous Halley’s Comet could be seen from Earth (somewhere in the eighties if I am not wrong).  My Dad woke all of us up in the wee hours of the morning. It was quite cold. And with the radio commentary for company, we walked in our garden, looking up at a clear sky, glittering with a million stars.

We did not see the comet, but had a lot of fun trying to look for it. A wonderful early morning adventure, after which my mom treated us to hot mugs of  chocolate.

My Dad was a good singer, and on most Sundays, we woke up to his deep voice humming along with the radio.

The morning and late evening news capsules were an integral part of our day. During these two capsules, we were expected to maintain silence. After the news, my Dad usually gave us an overview of key happenings.

I still have very fond memories of our good old Radio Transistor.

When your pinch pinches you….

I am going to narrate two, true stories about ‘pinches’.

The first one happened last week. I was out shopping, and in one of the roadside shops, I saw my friend. Her back was turned away from me.  She is a very dear friend, and I was so happy to see her, and so what did I do?

I quietly pinched her arm and shouted a loud greeting. Imagine my shock when she turned around and I realized that it was someone else.

The lady who turned around was red in  the face (from the friendly pinch, me thinks). I apologised profusely, and repeatedly. To say that I was mortified is an understatement.

The second incident was narrated to me by a friend.  My friend and her daughter were in the mall. My friend’s daughter, 7 years old, was being a real brat and throwing a tantrum in the mall; a tantrum that involved some full throated crying and stomping of feet.

My friend was at her wits’ end. She issued many threats. In the end she said in her mother tongue, “I am going to pinch you if you don’t behave.”

In our mother tongue the word for pinch is pronounced as ‘killu” . So my friend’s daughter bawled loudly and said in a mixture of English and her mother tongue, “Don’t kill me, don’t kill me…”!

My friend turned red with embarrassment as people looked at her strangely.

Two stories that pinched!