Another day has ended. I am stretched out on the recliner, staring at nothing in particular. My kids are nowhere in sight, while my husband is still busy at work.

A cool breeze enters from the balcony door and teases tendrils of hair onto my face. The sky is dark; dark grey clouds are hanging low. There is a deep rumbling of thunder from far away clouds that are at loggerheads with each other. Sparks fly and bright streaks of lightning illumine the firmament, now here, now gone. The rumbling goes on for sometime.

Finally, the clouds seem to have had enough. They let their emotions rain down on earth. Now, along with the breeze is the gentle sound of rain. Thin silver trains that can only be seen against the street lights. The falling rain is soothing. The clouds are spent. They are done with their day. The earth guzzles this welcome treat. The orchids on my balcony are nodding in merriment. The odd plop of a loud drop can be heard on and off.

Photo by Ilias Tsoutsoulis from Pexels

The rain’s music continues. There is the occasional rumble from high above, but down below all is well. The night has arrived with the rain, rejuvenating the earth, in a timeless dance that will repeat even we are all gone.

The magic of rain can never be explained, it can only be experienced. Whether it is the lashing Indian monsoon or a gentle evening drizzle or a continuous downpour at night, rain is love, rain is nostalgia, rain is hot coffee with samosas, rain is poignancy, rain is coziness, rain is music, rain is magic.


A pair of binoculars

It’s the weekend, and I finally decide to get down to some long overdue decluttering of a few cupboards at home. My strategy for decluttering varies greatly from that of my husband’s.

He offers to help, and I warn him that we have to work as a team. He agrees with a huge grin, for we both know where this is headed. I am an emotional declutterer, meaning I have deep attachments to old CDs, boxes, cables, stationery, clothes etc. My husband is ruthless when it comes to decluttering, and discards things without mercy. And within these two extreme boundaries, we get down to business.

I wallow in nostalgia when I see some old CDs, laptops, games consoles and books. My husband piles them in the donate or recycle pile. We then chance upon a box with old woollens. In this box is a green poncho which is over four decades old, a pair of baby-socks, a small hand knitted sweater, and other scarves and mufflers.

The green poncho, a bottle green one with a big green button, the baby socks and the sweater were all hand-knitted by my aunt, my Dad’s sister. The poncho was knitted for my sister, while the socks and tiny sweaters were gifts to my children from their great aunt.

I cannot bear to part with these treasures, for they have threads from my childhood and other family memories knitted into them. I take the box out, and look at all the items. My throat catches. Just for a bit there, I wish I could go back and watch my aunt poring over her knitting pattern book, or hold my newborn daughter cuddled up in her baby sweater, wearing the cute socks. I smile and sigh, as I clean the box and put back all the contents, and throw in a fragrance pouch!

And then we are back to the job at hand, sorting, piling and discarding. My husband takes out an old pair of binoculars, which his dad had bought for him – from the US – in the early eighties. My husband carefully takes the binoculars out, and as I watch him, he slips away for a few minutes, lost in the alleys of his childhood, remembering his dad and all the many moments with this pair of binoculars.

He wipes the case gently, and puts it back into the cupboard. The rest of the decluttering proceeds uneventfully.

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

Sometimes decluttering is therapeutic, not only in the way it helps reduce the clutter in our lives, but in also reminding us that there are certain objects in our lives that inexorably connect us to our pasts, and remind us of our beginnings, of unconditional love from our elders, and of being cherished and protected. A love that we feel secure in even to this day!

The Golden Tree

It is seven in the morning. There is no crazy rush to send the family out to work or school. I cherish the extra time by taking my cup of coffee to the balcony, to observe the world and ponder over life’s big questions.

My eyes take in the sights below – vehicles, morning joggers, the neat array of buildings, trees and birds. Then my eyes fall on this scene.

The rays of the early morning sun are falling exactly on this particular tree. The tree looks bright and golden, and seems to be reveling in the sun’s gaze.

The many other plants surrounding this golden tree are still in the dark, awaiting their turn patiently, as they wait for the sun to light up their day and their lives. There are some other plants that are in the shade of the building, and will never receive the sun’s rays on them directly.

Watching this scene makes me reflect. Just like these trees, even humans wait for their golden moment of fame, happiness or prosperity, and we come alive and bloom at such times, spilling forth our happiness.

Sometimes, we may have to wait for prolonged periods for those special moments, and during that long wait we end up losing faith in ourselves and our abilities. And then again, for some, such moments never happen.

But we still have to live out our lives, believing in ourselves, living every moment to the fullest, doing the best we can and hoping that the sun will peep into our lives one day!

Mama Oriole

There once lived a beautiful bird couple Mrs & Mr. Golden Oriole. They had met, fallen in love and made their home in a rich tropical jungle that was lush with fruits and vegetation, where the sun played hide and seek with the fronds, where colourful butterflies chased each other all day, and where the beautiful sounds of heavy rainfall were often heard.

After the monsoon season, Mrs. Oriole had three beautiful eggs in her nest, and patiently cared for them and kept them warm. Mr.Oriole was puffed up with pride as a soon-to-be-dad, taking care of the missus and keeping her happy. Mrs.Oriole had many dreams for her three children. She had to be brought out of her reverie quite often!

And soon, there was chirping to be heard from their nest. Mrs.Oriole had now become Mama Oriole, as she would now be known, her own identity subsumed into her role as a mother. From dawn to dusk, the Orioles were busy nurturing and caring for their hatchlings, whom they named Orin, Orion and Oreo.

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

In a few days, as the chicks opened their eyes and got to know their parents and the world, Mama Oriole seemed rather anxious. She did not know if she was imagining it, but could sense that her little Oreo was different from her other two kids. She did not know how, but she knew. She kept a careful watch, her anxiety increasing as the days flew by. Soon, it was time to teach her babies to fly. And that is when she found that her Oreo had a problem with one of his wings, and could not use it as well as his other one.

In just a few days, Orin and Orion were able to fly and behaved just like other siblings, squabbling and fighting and teasing each other. Mama Oriole watched Oreo, who smiled but could not comprehend or interact with his siblings. He could fly, but only short distances. Her heart filled with pain. From then on, her life transformed. She dedicated herself to encouraging and motivating Oreo all she could. She spent extra time teaching him, coaching him and loving him. Her life, as she knew it had changed, as she put her needs, her friends and her social life on the backburner; for she had to raise her Oreo into a confident young bird, who could take on the world despite all his limitations.

On some afternoons, when she needed some time to think, and when Papa Oriole took over, she flew to the mountains, craving some peace and time to dwell on life and all its machinations.

She came back from such sojourns with renewed vigour, determined to do whatever it took to give Oreo a good chance at life. She identified that Oreo could whistle beautiful tunes. She encouraged him to practice, she constantly clapped and cheered and built Oreo’s confidence. She roped in Orin and Oreon to encourage their sibling, and to take him out and have fun with him.

Her day began and ended with Oreo. At night, when the crickets set up their chorus and the predators were on the prowl, and when her Oreo cuddled up to her, Mama Oriole experienced a love like no other. A mom’s love.

She was his mother, and he was her world, and she believed in him and loved him. She would always be there for him, no matter what.

Balcony musings

At 5.30 p.m. every evening, I stand on my balcony and observe the neighbourhood. The sky is blue with cotton puff clouds, and the gentle evening breeze teases the trees. But down below, there are fewer people and vehicles on the road. There is an unprecedented strangeness to everyday living.

Courtesy – Photo by Miles Rothoerl from Pexels

Mundanities like shopping for bread, toilet paper, groceries and other simple tasks – that one did unthinkingly earlier – have now taken on new avatars. From bigger life questions about career prospects, investments and children’s education, we are preoccupied with questions such as – When to go shop? How many masks do we have? Has everybody sanitized their hands? Do we have adequate food supplies to ensure that we don’t go out often?

How could things have changed so quickly? Not even two months back, the Covid situation was unfolding slowly. Who ever thought that it would crash land thus on all parts of the world! Has any place been spared, has any community been spared? Life has become all about numbers now. We keep reading and reviewing the spike in the number of cases, trying to make sense of terms such as flattening the curve, circuit-breakers and the number of deaths. We have transitioned into virtual living, connecting to work, school and friends through our devices.

The annals of history romanticize the wars of old, where soldiers went to the battlefield, and ruthlessly fought the enemy, understood his every move and used that knowledge to vanquish him. Those wars needed manpower, they needed men to go out and fight.

This is a bizarre war, where soldiers are required to stay at home. The enemy is stealthy and has crossed battle lines and infiltrated our camp. We know that this enemy strikes at the powerful, the famous, the old and the weak, without mercy. We can combat this only by fighting solo, from the battlefields of our living rooms, by not giving the enemy a chance to gain strength.

Let us stand on our balconies and observe the world, let us clap and cheer for those who have taken up this cause, so that we may all be safe. Let us thank the government, the hospitals and all front-line workers for doing all they can. Let us stand on our balconies and not step out. Let us watch the enemy lose strength and fade into oblivion.

Five minutes

I have to step outdoors for just five minutes to pick up something. Earlier, before I left the house, I would check the contents in my handbag to make sure I had everything I needed, and used to check my face in the mirror one last time before I left home.

But now, before I leave, I check my mask, and if I have worn it the right way, and check if I have a bottle of sanitizer in my bag.

The street is deserted, I can see the odd person here and there. There is a strange silence. I half walk, half trot, constantly checking my mask. I meet a friend, who is also wearing a mask. We wave at each other, but cannot see each other’s smile, though we know we are both smiling. Our eyes make brief contact, but we don’t stop but greet each other and keep walking in opposite directions. We shake our heads in disbelief at this surreal situation.

On my way back, I am stopped by a flash of green, streaking across a blue sky. It is the most beautiful parrot, in such a beautiful shade of green. Its red, curved beak is silhouetted against the sky. It perches on a flame of the forest tree, at once merging with the green leaves. The bright reddish-orange flowers enhance the green.

I feel a rush of delight, at this unexpected treat, a small and beautiful moment in time. Where, for a moment I forget the world, and what’s happening.

As the parrot turns its head this way and that against cotton-puff clouds on a blue sky, I feel hopeful, I feel charged. Things will get better. There will be many such wonderful days for all of us again. And at that time, such simple moments will be valued more…we will never take anything for granted!

The Family Fingerprint

In many Bollywood movies of the seventies and eighties, there was a recurring theme of children or twins, who were separated in childhood, and who were then reunited at the end of the film. Many situations in the film usually brought about this reunification, however, one of the main factors that helped in bringing the family back together was a ‘family song’. When the said children in the movie became adults, and attended a party or wedding, one sibling entertained people at the party by singing the family song…and the other sibling, who was also at the party, completed the lyrics and thus, the family was reunited.

In our home, there is this one song that all of us love, and I often joke that if one of us is ever lost, the others would have to sing this song, and we would all be reunited, just like in those movies of old.

This got me thinking. Just like this song, every family unit has its own family fingerprint.

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

The family fingerprint is a crisscross of emotions, behaviour patterns, feelings and likes and dislikes that characterize each family. Every family has early risers and late-nighters, coffee lovers and tea lovers, bookworms and movie lovers, obsessive cleaners and clutterers. The family fingerprint also has strong threads of unconditional love, hugs and prayers that support all these idiosyncrasies.

If one were to code all these details, each family would have its own distinct biometric pattern. A bundle of quirks that bind us together in inexorable ways. That special identity, which alone gives us the strength to go out and face the world.

And right now, as we stay at home and spend more time together, this family fingerprint only gets quirkier. Another phase, so much to learn.

The new normal

Just like people all over the world, our family is also trying to adapt to this new norm of staying at home. Thus far, we each had our own lives, our own routines, our own meetings, assignments and to do lists. We met at breakfast or scrambled for the bathroom or went around the house shouting and squabbling or teasing, looking for last minute things before leaving home to meet the challenges of our everyday lives.

Now, in this new world that we inhabit, there is no crazy rush in the mornings. By 9 am we have all drifted away to our own rooms and work tables to exist in a virtual world, where online lessons and meetings rule our days.

I tread silently through the house and navigate the kitchen like I am a spy. But then, the inevitable happens. A steel plate crashes to the floor and….the ting ting ting reverberates across the house and enters the virtual world that my family inhabits.

My son pops out and hisses…my husband says shhhhhh. I mouth a sorry…and get back to my work. As I pass through each door, I hear long conversations happening and periods of silence. I gently open the door to signal that lunch is ready.

At lunch time the virtual dwellers come alive in the real world and we have animated discussions about food, and discuss how the Covid situation is unfolding. Thirty minutes later everyone is back to their rooms, their minds travelling to new realms, as their bodies swivel in the chairs.

It is time for coffee. When I enter my husband’s room, his chair is twisted at an odd angle. Without realizing that my husband is on a call, I walk in and hand him his cup of coffee, only to realize that my hand is visible on a video call, with 16 people watching. I am mortified, and make a quick exit.

Courtesy – shutterstock.com

Later, I ask my husband why he was sitting at such a weird angle that I couldn’t see his screen. Then he says, “If I sit straight, all our suitcases on the cupboard are visible on the call…so I had to twist so that the background was the wall.” Aha…another new thing to think about.

All these days, we brought home bits of our lives from the outside into our homes. Now, in this new world, we unknowingly share bits of our lives and homes with the outside world. We become conscious when family members are around. We worry about Wifi and charged devices.

Finally after 6 pm, the virtual world begins winding down. The family troops into the kitchen in search of chips, chocolate, ice-cream. They raid the fridge and complain – “Is there nothing interesting to eat?” Dinner time is somehow different as we seem to be talking more. After dinner, we have time for a quick family board game.

The sky is dark, the stars are out. We pray for all those suffering. We pray for a solution. We pray and call it a night.