When the cuckoo stopped calling!


I wake up for a glass of water at night. My eyes strain to read the clock. After some squinting and straining, I finally know the time – it is 2.00 a.m.

I go back to bed, but sleep eludes me. Until recently, our faithful cuckoo clock called out the hours, throughout the day. One morning, however, one of the heavy pinecone weights came crashing down, and that was that!

The pendulum stopped, the cuckoo stopped. The clock stopped working, and there’s no way now to lie down and know the time.

We bought it on one of our trips to Europe, and we’ve been in love with it ever since – not only for its beauty and elegance, but also for the workmanship, and the genius behind putting something like this together!

All these years, the cuckoo clock has been a source of entertainment to kids, who have visited our home. They stare open-mouthed, as the cuckoo comes out of its little door to announce the hour!

In addition to the cuckoo, there’s a whole lot of activity going on in the clock. A woodcutter chops wood in tandem with the cuckoo. He is one busy man, working right through the day, his concentration absolute and his focus, unwavering. Then again, we have these beautiful couples, who dance right after the cuckoo has announced the time. They dance to merry music.

It is a perfect day in the cuckoo world. People are busy, people are enjoying life and also aware of the passage of time, and the importance of hardwork. The whole cuckoo clock is designed like a beautiful chalet in the mountains. There are tiny windows on the clock, and every time I look at them, I think of all the little folk inside, and what they are doing – allowing my imagination to create my own stories.

The weekend after the cuckoo clock gave up, my husband decided to open it up to see if he could fix it. And we were awestruck! So many tiny little parts, so many gears, so many music boxes…all working seamlessly together.

Our little cuckoo lay there, awaiting instructions. The dancing couples stood frozen. The woodcutter looked frustrated with all the pending work.

And we then saw two small pipes that were attached to two bellows, and realized that those pipes and bellows were what made the ‘cuckoo’ sound! Such tiny parts, such perfection!

My husband tried his best, but the clock did not wake up!

We have to try getting it serviced by a specialist! Maybe it will work, maybe it will not, but for now it is back on our wall, a mute spectator to the goings-on in our home.

As I type this post, I also think about other treasured possessions which we have all had, and then had to give up or lose, or leave behind – toys, bicycles, pens, books, clothes, furniture, kitchen utensils.

These objects weave themselves into our lives unobtrusively. Some have more significance than others, some have fallen prey to our fragile memories and faded into oblivion.

And suddenly, one fine day, we see a photograph or something similar and the memories come rushing back…and for a brief period we are transported and nostalgia takes over.

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A string of pearls


It is 3.45 p.m. in the afternoon. The sky is a dull grey. It has been raining incessantly. The clouds have been busy grumbling and rumbling all day.

The rain has trickled down to a drizzle now. So I open all the windows, and let-in the rain-cooled air.

I head to the kitchen to make my afternoon cup of coffee! As the decoction falls into the filter, I start heating the milk. As I wait, my eyes scan my snack cupboard – the glass jars contain various types of savouries, sweets and dry fruits.

I settle for a muthusaram, which translates to ‘a string of pearls’ and a few strands of ribbon pakoda’. The muthusaram is a spiral and looks like a chain with small pearls dotting its surface. The ribbon pakoda simply looks like a ribbon (pictures below).

Images courtesy – indiamart.com

These savouries are made of rice, gram flour, asaefoetida, salt and chilli powder in various proportions to suit the savoury being made.

They are crisp and delicious, and go perfectly well with coffee and tea.

When we were growing up, no snacks were ever bought from shops. Most everything was homemade.

The collective term in Tamil for all these savouries and sweets put together is called bhakshanam.

So, usually in July, when the long Indian festival season starts, many different types of bhakshanams are made to celebrate the occasion.

Coffee/tea time was never complete without these yummy home made snacks.

There are murukkus, thenkuzhals, ribbon pakodas, thattais, cheedais and many more.

The names have always interested me. Thenkuzhal translates to tubes of honey, though there is no honey at all in the savoury. They look like tubes though, maybe the honey part of the name comes from their colour.

Most South Indian homes have this device called a naazhi, which is the secret to most snacks that are from the region.

Every naazhi comes with a set of plates, which have patterns cut into them – stars, thin strips, clovers, small holes and many more.

The naazhi can be of a pressing type or a rotational type. Once the dough is prepared, and the oil is warm enough, the dough is loaded into the naazhi, and one can very easily create tasty ‘strings of pearls or tubes of honey!’

Image courtesy – indiamart.com

Lots of hardwork there!

But totally worth it if you ask me, especially like now, when I am sitting and munching on a ribbon pakoda and sipping hot filter coffee, watching the rain, and having deep thoughts about life, its meaning, and sometimes just staring into space with no thoughts at all!