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.


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!

‘Tis a brother-sister thing!

Today is Raksha Bandhan, a day that celebrates the special and deep bond between brothers and sisters. A day when sisters tie raakhis on their brothers’ wrists. A day when the brother promises to care for and protect his sister; and also gives her a gift.

A truly beautiful celebration indeed!

In our home, we celebrate this special bond every year. I have the raakhi and other paraphernalia required, ready for my children.

Image courtesy – Dreamstime.com

They stand in front of each other. My daughter picks up the raakhi and ties it on my son’s wrist. They don’t say much. They just high five each other, exchange a quick hug, and go their separate ways.

There is no talk about a gift.

It is business as usual, they are each back in their own world, where the other does not exist. When they do acknowledge each other, they tease each other ruthlessly, argue constantly or ignore each other.

I observe this.

The day has flown past, the sun has already set. My kids are talking animatedly. Very soon, my son comes to me and tells me that he is taking his sister to the mall nearby for a treat, and to buy her a gift.

And before I nod, the two of them are already at the door, arguing about something inconsequential, as all siblings do.

I smile. I walk back in.

Many years from now, when my kids move out of home and make their own lives, these bonds will deepen further.

But this bond, this love – will always be expressed this playfully, through silly arguments, high fives and awkward hugs!

‘Tis a brother sister thing, after all.

The Lily Pond

Most fairytales that have frogs or other water creatures in them always have lily pads, where the characters plot the next moves, sing songs to each other, or watch the first drops of rain fall and roll around the pad!

As the hot, Saturday sun moves purposefully across the sky, I am sitting on a park bench. Stretching ahead of me is a huge lily pond, filled with lily pads and flowers.

At first glance, the water’s surface seems to be calm. On closer observation, I realize that the pond is teeming with action.

Cute little otters are popping in and out. Tiny turtles are swimming about, lazily, coming to the water’s edge now and then.

Water insects are busy amongst the reeds, and colourful butterflies flit about. It’s the weekend after all.

All around me, ‘water-colour artists’ are seated, capturing a slice of nature on a piece of paper. What each artist sees is different. As I walk around, each paper narrates a different story, coloured only by the artist’s imagination.

The big boughs of trees touch the water’s surface, engaged in a good gossip with the water plants. What are they talking about, I wonder! Cute pigeons join the conversation, bringing stories of far away places that their flights of fancy have taken them on!

The constant hum of traffic somehow fades away, as the lily pond works its magic on me. Buildings surround the pond – adding to, rather than detracting from the beauty.

A small slice of peace on a day that will soon get chaotic.

The sweet little girl…

It is evening. I am waiting for a friend by the poolside. A little girl of about four walks by. She looks at me, and I wave. She smiles and waves back.

After a few minutes, she comes over and shows me her hands. She is wearing four colourful bangles on each wrist. She gently jiggles her arms and tells me, “My grandma bought these for me.”

I tell her that the bangles are lovely.

She talks about a few other things that her grandma has bought for her.

Then, I ask her, “Do you have brothers or sisters?”

She suddenly looks confused. She furrows her eyebrows, and tries mouthing the answer.

She starts replying and stops. She still hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to say.

After a few minutes she announces confidently, “I am the sister.”

I nod.

She continues, “…… because I have a baby brother, I am the sister, and my baby brother is small and I love him.”

Image courtesy – clipartXtras

I smile at her innocence and love. She was trying to tell me that she had no sisters, but was a sister herself!

The 94th of July…

It is 6 a.m. in the morning, and I have just finished my first cup of filter coffee for the day.

One of the first things I do every morning is change the dates on the calendars at home. I love doing this. There is something so satisying about knowing that another day has begun – a day that is filled with hope and promise.

One of these calendars is made up of two square wooden blocks, one each for each of the date digits, and a small rectangular block for the month. I set the date manually on this calendar every morning.

This morning, when I go to change the date, I am surprised to see that the date has been set to the 94th of July. This makes me smile. The reason? My little nephew, who is staying with us this week.

When he wakes up, I ask him what the date is? He quickly rushes to the calendar, changes the blocks and says, “It is 43rd July.”

And this is how much fun it is….with my nephew around, there is a sudden energy in the house. For this six year old, every day is filled with possibilities. He creates a buzz when he flits from room to room.

Giggles are lurking in his throat, ever ready to spill out in torrents, accompanied by eyes that are glinting with mischief and curiosity.

All of us at home are constantly taking rides on all his toy vehicles, flying from the kitchen to the living room, fastening seat belts and readying ourselves to land.

We get quizzed about cars and aircraft, we run around playing hide and seek.

Even my kids, who are too big to play with toys, have now let themselves go. We find ourselves rejuvenated.

Through the eyes of my nephew, we look at things with curiosity and excitement – where fans are propellers, the sofas are trucks and where every activity is carried out with the sole objective of having fun.

And now, all of us gather to celebrate the birthday of a family member. The cake is ready to be cut, and we ready our phones to click pictures.

My nephew quickly runs to the cake… runs his fingers on the buttercream icing and puts a blob into his mouth, his eyes reflecting his delight. He is totally in the moment; his joy complete.

We look at him and feel infused by his enthusiasm, his energy and his spirit.

So much to learn. If only we could retain this curiosity and this zest for life, we would have so much fun every day.

Living in the moment and giving it your all….!

A dollar worth millions….

My son has just walked in from school. He drops his bag and other paraphernalia, and comes straight to share key snippets from his day with me.

He starts from the moment he reached school, and takes me on a journey through his day, where I get glimpses of his world.

He rushes through the ‘vanilla’ parts and cuts to the most important part of his day, which was a bazaar, where the children had to promote and sell products that they had brought to school. My son and his friend had taken stationery items and chocolates to sell.

My son’s eyes light up as he talks about how much he had enjoyed the whole project, and about how much money they had made.

And then, he rummages in his pocket and takes out a small white paper pouch. A really tiny one.

He opens it and shakes it gently. Something falls out of the pouch. He picks it up and gives it to me.

“This is for you, mom”, he says.

He has bought a pair of pretty green, stone earrings for me.

He adds, “I got them for a dollar!”

My throat catches, as I turn the earrings and admire them.

“They are exquisite”, I say.

“The green stones are the closest I could find to your birthstone, mom, but the green stones are surrounded by tiny white diamonds”, he finishes with enthusiasm.

I hug my son and thank him.

To me, this dollar is worth millions.

Truly priceless!