A pair of black ribbons

Like most of my friends, who lived in our small town in the hills, I studied from kindergarten to higher secondary in the same school. 14 years in the same school and then straight to university.

I used to love our school uniform. The school required girls to have their hair done up in two braids, with black ribbons to keep the braids in place.

At the beginning of each school year my mom would buy us each a pair of black ribbons, nice shiny ones. It was an unspoken rule that we had to keep these ribbons carefully, so that they would last the year.

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Sigh! That never happened, however much we tried. There was a constant battle with my siblings if any ribbon went missing.

Necessity being the mother of invention and all, if we lost a ribbon, we would cut the other ribbon in half. This helped for a while. The halves then became quarters sometimes, and when we reached the ‘quarter-size’ ribbon, we would cut the ribbon horizontally. We were innovators, the best ribbon innovators ever.

Our mom would watch us snip and cut, but would not say a word. We were expected to take care of our things and make them last.

However, when our ribbons completely vanished or when they shrunk to the size of threads, my mom would give us a brand new pair of ribbons. We never knew where she kept her stock. All that we knew was that my mom had a box secreted away in the kitchen, which had a supply of safety pins, hair pins, shiny black ribbons and rubber bands.

We took the new pairs with relief. We placed a lot of value on our possessions. Nothing was taken for granted, and we were taught to appreciate what we had. 

We learnt many valuable lessons, in addition to being superlative ribbon innovators!


At the nail spa

I admire women who have long nails that are well manicured. These women are always seen with the most perfect nail colour painted on; colours that blend so perfectly with their attire. How do they pull it off? Their nail paint never seems to chip off!

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As for me, I have never been able to grow my nails to any decent size. They seem to grow well enough, however there are many challenges that my nails seem to face. For starters, long nails and typing on the keyboard don’t go together. If there is a strategy for this I would love to know about it. Each time my nail length is satisfactory to lend itself to those glamorous looking manicures, at least one nail has an accident. I remember the time that I cut one of my nails off when I was chopping veggies. That did it for me! 

And it is crazy when just one nail from amongst ten beauties breaks. One has to start the process all over again.

So, I go for prolonged periods with my nails cut short, and the ‘no nail paint’ look. But then again, I have these bursts of enthusiasm when I see women with beautiful nails. Then I start…..

This is one of my ‘growing and painting my nails’ phases. This evening I have to attend an event, and decide to get an express manicure at the nail spa. They give me those huge rings with colour samples. I make my choice after careful deliberation. I have this strong ability to smudge or mess up the nail paint in ten minutes flat.

I pay in advance so that I don’t have to pull out money from my bag after the manicure.

I am well settled, and get ready to be pampered. There is a ‘Just for laughs’ show playing on the television. I shake with laughter. The lady politely tells me not to move my fingers. I try avoiding the TV. I observe the artificial flowers, the rows of fluffy towels stacked up and the hundreds of bottles of nail paint that look like bowling pins, waiting to be struck.

And then it starts. My cheek starts itching. I am unable to move. I mentally scratch my cheek but can’t do more. After the manicure is done they ask me to wait for 10 minutes for the paint to dry. The two ladies are having a conversation. My cheek continues to itch, and I rub my cheek on my shoulders.

The lady warns me to be careful for an hour. I manage to get home without too much problem. My nails look nice and polished. I feel like I have accomplished something. If I last till the event is over, I would consider it full value for the money I spent. 

Then again, it is very difficult to type on my phone with my nails. So, if there are any typos in this post, blame them on my nails.

Mom’s kitchen

The kids are back from school. The humidity is killing, and they look visibly relieved to be back in the cool confines of our home. I get started with preparations to make dosa, a South Indian delicacy that lends itself to many variants.

As I stir the batter and spread it on the tawa, my daughter comes in to the kitchen after her shower. She sniffs and says, “Hmmmm…this smells so good. It smells like grandma’s kitchen.”

I smile. As she eats the crisp, golden dosa with chutney powder, I am transported to my childhood home, and to my mom’s kitchen.

In many ways, the kitchen was the nerve centre of our home. It was rectangular in shape. The cooking range was at one end, while the dining table was at the other end. A square window lit the dining area from 11 am in the morning to mid-afternoon.

Our kitchen was colour coordinated. I remember a red phase and a blue phase. The dining table had an assortment of home-made pickles.

There was always a buzz in the kitchen. With a joint family, there was always something being prepared. We came home from school to the aroma of filter coffee, and dosas with sambhar, or bajjis or some other snack wafting through the air.

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I spent a lot of time doing Math at the dining table. The radio blared in the background as I tried to solve equations!

My mom would walk between the stove and the table at least a zillion times each day, always cheerful and busy. 

When  all of us sat down to have dinner, even after our plates were dry, we would linger on, either sharing how our day went, or singing or listening to my Dad sharing snippets from his day.

Televesion soaps had not invaded our lives then. We would all listen to the news on the radio, and then head back to our rooms to study or squabble with our siblings, or chit chat with our grandma and aunt.

Truly, the smells of my mom’s kitchen were delicious and filled with love, happiness and bonding.

Wardrobe Woes of an Indian Woman

One of the biggest challenges of being an Indian woman is the lack of wardrobe space. I know that women from around the world have this problem, however the wardrobe woes of an Indian woman are compounded by the fact that we are spoilt for choice in terms of the sheer variety of clothes we get to wear – from sarees, ghagra cholis, anarkalis, salwar kameezes, churidhars and skirts, to Western wear!

Add to this equation the simple fact that there are hundreds of types of stunning sarees from different parts of the country to choose from; sarees that are vibrant and rich in their texture, material, designs and hues. These sarees are ‘must haves’ to ring in the hundreds of festivals we celebrate.  Throw in accessories and all the other types of clothes – both Indian and Western, and you can begin to understand our problem.

So, this morning my dear husband calls me to express his annoyance about how he has very little space for his ‘few’ (he stresses this for effect) striped, checked and plain shirts in various shades of grey, blue, white and ‘pale’. There are a few splashes of colour from his T shirts that offer some visual relief.

I go over to inspect. I try to look sympathetic but fail miserably. Instead, I feel guilty. I have encroached into two racks in his wardrobe, my ‘better’ bags and clutches rest there in comfort, while a few new sarees nestle in the other rack. I honestly tried to fit them into my wardrobe, but the sarees kept falling out!

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He rolls his eyes in exasperation. Wardrobe space is like prime real estate! But how else can I organize my wardrobe with all the clothes and accessories? “Some kind of encroachment is inevitable”, I justify.

 These things do get aggravated when I go shopping during the holiday season. My hubby looks firm. My mind wants to offer to remove some of my stuff, but my heart worries about where I can find space.

He says, “You should start purging the old stuff.”

But that’s the point. Sarees, especially the silks, get better with time. I do not reply.

He is in a hurry. He says, “Do something about this.”

I nod meekly. My wardrobe woes continue.

What should I write about?

It has been a crazy month, so crazy that I couldn’t post much. Between my various projects and chores, blog ideas flowed and short story plots craved for attention. But I couldn’t give any of them expression. Things are still quite crazy here, but I had some time today, and decided that I would blog come what may!

So then, as I recline on my couch, I wonder what I should write about. It is a lazy Saturday afternoon. The kids are out, my husband is out. I look out from the balcony and start wondering…

Should I write about this beautiful orange flower or the way it contrasts with the deep brown of the soil, should I write about the cornflower blue sky or the merry cotton clouds, should I write about the chirping birds or about the cooing pigeons, should I write about the silence at home without the kids or the energy that will flow through the house when they are back, should I write about seeing the joy on the face of Michael Phelps as he won his fourth gold medal at the Rio Olympics or about how Olympic viewers jump and wave when they know the camera is on them! What should I write about?
Should I write about the aroma of fresh coffee from my coffee filter or about how lazy I feel to walk to the kitchen, should I write about the books I am reading these days or the absolute lack of time to read them at the pace that I want, should I write about the busy ants scurrying about my balcony or about the moth that has not budged from its place on the balcony wall for more than an hour. What should I write about?

Should I write about the busy traffic intersection where everything seems to be in a rush, or about the man in the park below who is just recuperating from surgery, should I write about the freshly washed linen fluttering in my neighbour’s house or about the wind swishing through the trees. What should I write about?

As I sit and mull over all this, I realize that life is happening all around me -little insects, flowers, birds, trees, people, vehicles – everybody is busy.

Life goes on….

The ‘Let them be’ Box

I confess. I have Obsessive Compulsive Cleanliness Disorder (OCCD). I have this insane urge to fix wrinkles in bedsheets, correct tilts in wall pictures, and swipe at imaginary dust.  You get the drift.

However, as a mom, I have this one space, a box, which is the antithesis of ‘clean’. This box is what I call a ‘Let them be’ box. 

As any mom with school-going children knows, creating school projects overnight can be daunting. Not that schools don’t give parents enough time; just that I tend to put it off till the last minute. And if it were not for my ‘Let them be’ Box, my poor kids would never submit stuff on time.

Courtesy – http://www.canstockphoto.com

So this ‘Let them be’ Box is a treasure house of miscellany. From colourful buttons to cake boards, from twine to used gift-wrap paper, from thermocol beads to bubble-wrap, from old erasers to aluminium foil, from colourful threads to craft paper, this box has it all.
When it comes to the rest of the house, I clean and recycle ruthlessly; however when it comes to this ‘Let them be’ Box, I am a hoarder. I can never get myself to throw any stuff, always sure that it will come in handy for some project or the other. So I just ‘Let them be’,  and this box of clutter has been my saviour on more than one occasion.

Do you have a box or space like this at home? Would love to know.

Twinkling dot

Sleep, night sky, airplanes, flights, stewards, beauty, mysteries of nature

It is that hour when your day has wound down and trickled to that place where tomorrow’s thoughts have not yet encroached; the hour when your body stretches out on the bed in anticipation of ‘beautiful’ sleep – that particular time when you are in harmony with both yourself and the world.

I am in that state now, and as a gentle breeze comes in through the window, I stare at the night sky from my bed. The sky is a deep, deep purple.

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As I watch, and think of nothing in particular, a star twinkles at me. But very quickly I realize that it is not a star but an airplane making its twinkling journey across the sky.

My thoughts take me into the flight – many people settling down for a nap, or flight owls who can’t sleep, some so engrossed in the movies they are watching, the stewardesses going about their duties.

Lying here as I am, I find it difficult to comprehend that this twinkling, moving star is carrying human lives to some far-off place where loved ones wait in eager anticipation. There is so much happening, so far away.

I am awed at the marvels of Science, about how people can fly. I  am equally awed by the spectacle of the beautiful night sky. Both the ‘known’ and the ‘unknown’ amaze me.

Very soon the tiny twinkle moves away from my line of sight, and the night whispers. My eyes close involuntarily into a world of peace and quiet.