Life lessons from a dosa


Every person who knows to cook has a special dish that she or he can rustle up, without fretting too much about the end product – call it a signature dish if you like. And when one has people over for lunch or dinner, this signature dish will definitely feature in the menu.

But then, there is another side to this signature dish story. If you hail from South India, like I do, making dosas is something you are expected to know even in your sleep.

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There is nothing to beat a crispy, golden dosa that has been made to perfection, and then eaten with sambar and coconut chutney.

I do make perfect, golden dosas, crisp or soft, with ghee or cheese, or even the masala dosa, with its filling of potato masala. My friends love my dosas too!

But sometimes, especially when you have guests over for lunch or dinner, and your signature dish’s reputation precedes you, things can head south.

I have guests for brunch, and one of the items planned is the dosa. Dosas are best eaten hot. So, I set the flat pan on the stove, switch it on and mix the dosa batter with elan. I check for batter consistency, ensure that I have all that I need to get started. I do not realize this, but my flatpan has got over-heated as the flame is in full blast mode and not in simmer mode – a sure recipe for dosa disaster.

As I pour the batter with practised ease, in just ten seconds I realize that the dosa has stuck to the pan, and refuses to leave it. I use the spatula to prod it out, without making any sound. My guests are waiting in anticipation. I manage to get the mangled and burnt dosa out. Now, both the flatpan and I have to cool down.

I smile at the irony of it all. This dosa that we eat so often, and that my kids are heartily tired of …has let me down, and how!!!

Soon the flatpan cools and I am able to serve my dosas, though I still feel they could have turned out better.

But then, this is how things are in the bigger scheme of things as well. We work and perfect various skills, we plan meticulously to the minutest details, but then life throws many surprises our way, when we are unable to manifest our skills in the best way at the right time and at the right place.

But the idea is to keep trying, and enjoy the journey, and not be bogged down by the odd bad day!

Sisters


It is noon, and I am in a cab. My destination is twenty minutes away, and the first thing I do is pick up my phone and call one of my sisters. Her line is busy, and I call the other sister. She picks up my call, and we start chatting.

We exchange family stories, talk about her children, my children, work, life goals, health goals, wardrobes, new products, photos that we sent to each other, accessories, and then get back to more family trivia.

Soon, my cab reaches the destination, and I bid a cheery bye to my sister and get back to my own world; with a broad smile on my face and a spring in my step – for that’s what sisters do to you.

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You can laugh with them, cry with them, be annoyed with them or argue with them, for they will not judge you for any of it.

Last month, when we were out for dinner with my sister’s family, I eyed the beautiful handbag she was carrying and raved about it. “You can have it”, she said. And with no guilt whatsoever, I took the bag, gave back its contents in a small plastic bag, and became the proud owner of my sister’s handbag.

And that’s just one of the million reasons why sisters are special. You can call them at midnight to discuss even simple absurdities, and they will think nothing of it.

In our home, I have one wardrobe, and two extended wardrobes that belong to my sisters, and which I have unlimited access to. And they have the same access to mine.

A sister has shared all the silliness and giggly moments in your childhood with you. One of the fondest memories I have is of how my sister would come back from kindergarten (I had not yet started school then), and would always remember to bring a butter biscuit back for me, an extra biscuit that she had received for answering questions correctly in class.

A sister may squabble and annoy and drive you crazy within the four walls of your home, but to anyone who troubles you outside home, she is a force to be reckoned with.

A sister will tell you things about yourself that you may not like to hear; but then she will be the one you turn to when you have even the smallest problem, or when you just want to rant.

Sisters fill your life with sunshine, and are a 24 x 7 support hotline. They enrich your life, and make you laugh, make you cry, and argue with you.

But whenever I have a free moment, my first choice will always be to pick up the phone to call my sisters.

The little boy and his dad


The little boy, nine years old, had recently been admitted to one of the bigger schools in the city. It was in the late seventies, and the little boy had to walk around two kilometres from home to the bus stand, from where he had to switch two buses to get to school. The same process would repeat in reverse in the evening, when the little boy would walk home through the busy markets and shops and small lanes to get home.

On this particular day, the boy woke up with a bad throat; he could feel the onset of a cold. His father felt his forehead, and it felt warmer than usual. Maybe the boy would develop a fever later in the day, thought the father.

The father wanted the boy to take the day off from school and rest at home. But the boy refused, and set off on his two kilometre walk to the bus stand.

Courtesy – Clipartwiki

As the father sat at his desk in office, he worried about his son, and if he was ok. He mulled over this during his breaks and lunch time. After lunch, he quickly came to a decision. He applied for some time off from work and quickly rushed to the bus stand, where his son would arrive at around 3 pm.

He hired a bicycle from a bike rental shop, and waited. Soon, his son got off the bus, his face pale and drawn. The father rushed to greet him. The boy’s face lit up in surprise and joy, when he saw his dad.

The father took him to the bicycle, and off they went. The little boy held on to his father. His fever raged, but his happiness knew no bounds.

The father had a peaceful look on his face, there was a hint of a smile there, as he took his little boy home and tucked him into bed.

And now, the little boy is in his late forties, and recollects this incident as one of his most enduring memories of his Dad, who is no more. He strongly feels the joy and love that he felt on that day, many decades ago, when his father took time off from work to take him home on a bicycle.

Watching the rain….


I received this photo on our family group yesterday – a picture of my little niece and her grandmother watching the heavy rain through the window.

A baby and her grandma, who are seven decades apart, and are looking out the window. My niece is watching the rain, transfixed by the play of the street lights on the falling sheets of rain. Her grandmother derives joy from watching her granddaughter, reveling in her widening eyes, her cooing and her babbling at the rain.

One is beginning this journey called life, where rain will mean splashing fun, paper boats, samosas and hot chocolate. For the other, who has seen life, the rain evokes so many memories of the past, of being a child, of being a teen, a married woman, a mother and now a grandmother. She has seen rainy days and ‘rainy days’ in this long journey called life.

Time seems to stand still, only the lashing rain can be heard. Just like everything else in nature, rainfall is part of the changing seasons; this is also true of our lives, change is happening all around us.

Life flies past in the blink of any eye, but then again, life also stops for a brief beautiful moment like this, when time and age become irrelevant, when only pure love exists.

When the wind carries a tune…..


It is late in the afternoon, and I type away furiously on my keyboard, my eyebrows furrowed in concentration. After a few minutes, I stretch my neck and back. My eyes fall on a musical windmill that we have in our living room. For the first few weeks after buying it, we would often wind it and enjoy its music, but now it just sits snugly, a mute spectator to our lives.

I get up and wind the windmill. As the blades of the windmill turn slowly, nice tinkling music plays. I am immediately transported to a cold, windy day in Delft, Netherlands, to a pottery workshop we visited. I still remember how our teeth chattered, and how we huddled with the kids to manage the cold. One little musical windmill was all it took to transport me to that beautiful vacation.

We all have these songs and tunes in our lives that evoke strong memories and deep nostalgia. There are some old songs from the 70s, which bring back my Dad’s voice, and my childhood, with such clarity.

There are songs that my husband and I share, which are truly special to us – for they symbolize some sweet, some poignant and many fun moments in our marriage.

Then again, there are the songs with the kids. Nursery rhymes, lullabies, movie tracks of their favourite animated movies and now their favourite bands and albums, songs which float about in our home, creating impressions and memories in our brains, like old records. These songs with the children are the melodious threads that bind all of us, and that fill our home with love and rhythm.

Then there are the songs with our friends, back when we were in high school and belted out popular numbers of the time. There were only cassette players then, no smartphones or mp3 tracks. We couldn’t share music files, but we sure shared time with friends and sang to our hearts’ content.

There are many more such – kitchen and cooking songs that flow with the chopping and the stirring and the boiling and the frying; workout music and the peppy beats to push myself to walk everyday, and of course, songs in the shower! And now, as I cruise through the forties, meditation music has been added to this collection.

And so, the next time the wind gently blows your way and brings with it some beautiful melody from your past, stop and relive those wonderful memories – for in those musical notes lie the very stories of our lives – of those halcyon days of our youth, of times with our friends, of some moments that transformed us from within; of music that made us new parents, of music that made us parents of teens, and of music that defines who we are!

A Ramble…


The evening sun burns with a sudden fervour,

A last burst before it glides away for the day.

The hustle and bustle of a weekend are all around me,

As I go plod, plod, plod on the winding way.

Sweat rivulets flow down my face and neck,

The gentle breeze brings some joyous respite.

The city’s drone slowly dies away,

As I go plod, plod, plod seeking some quiet.

The blue flash of a focussed kingfisher,

And the contortionist routines of the squirrel.

The crisp chatter of two raucous mynas follow,

As I go thud, thud, thud on my ramble.

The rich dark brown soil,

Receiving dried leaves worn and frail.

Ready to absorb and recreate life,

As I go huff, puff, huff up the trail.

The wind swishing through the branches,

A golden apricot poodle bounding up the hill.

A pause, a break to replenish with water,

As I go glug, glug, glug and have my fill.

A bunch of bright red flowers on a branch,

Drooping down as if the tree has overflowed.

A pitstop that brings a smile and some joy,

As I go jog, jog, jog down the winding road.

Today’s workout goals have been met,

But a walk is more than burning a calorie.

There are simple joys to be had at every step,

As I stamp, stamp them into my memory.

A sister reminisces…


It is late in the afternoon, and my mom and I are stretched out on the couch in our living room. My mother is visiting, and we use this time to catch up, sharing things that we miss out on, when we talk on the phone.

Our conversation meanders through the lanes and bylanes of our lives, and we find ourselves reminiscing about the past.

My mom walks further down memory lane, and smiles wistfully, as she fondly remembers her childhood, especially her three brothers, two older and one younger.

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She shares pages from that time in her life, when she was a young girl with long braids and colourful ribbons.

Her older brothers would come home from college or work, and call out to my mom to help park their bicycles inside the compound. This was one of the highlights of her day. From her height, the cycles appeared enormous, and she would step on one pedal and push the bicycles inside.

My mom recalls how she was tasked with the job of picking up a Tamil weekly magazine from the small shop at the end of their street. This magazine was eagerly awaited every week, and all the siblings devoured it with fervour. My mom knew that once the magazine went to her brothers, she would not get to read it for a couple of days at least. So, right after she picked up the magazine, she would sit in the verandah of her neighbour’s home, and quickly read her favourite sections, which included jokes and a short story series. And only then would she pass on the magazine to her brothers!

Later, when she joined the National Cadet Corps, and had to leave for training early every morning, the eldest of her brothers would buy a take away masala dosa for her to eat after training, just so that his sister would not be burdened with the task of carrying a lunch box. The masala dosa was usually packed in a banana leaf, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, which she could easily throw away.

My mom’s eyes mist over as she recalls this – a simple gesture from her brother to make his sister’s life easy.

The other brother, my mom recalls, would give her a crisp ten rupee note every morning, when she left for college. Come rain or shine, the money would always be there on his table, even if her brother was not in town.

When my maternal grandmother was pushing my mom to get married early, as was the norm in those days, my mom was strongly supported by her brothers in her desire to pursue her education in university.

As for the younger brother, who was much younger to my mom, he was her pet, and she fondly recalls how she carried him with her wherever she went, when he was a baby!

Both her older brothers are no more, and she closes her eyes, recalling their love and unconditional support.

For just a few moments there, my mom became a little girl in pigtails again, feeling secure, indulged and loved by this special love that brothers and sisters share.

We Indians celebrate this deep and special bond today, where the sister ties a rakhi on her brother’s wrist, and he in turn promises to love and protect her.