Author Archives: nimi naren

The Indian Crow

The sun is not visible today, but it’s heat can still be felt. I stand on my balcony, looking at the traffic at the junction.

My attention is diverted by a streak of bright yellow that is flitting between the branches of a tree. I realize that it is a beautiful oriole, busily going about his day. I keep watching the oriole for a while. My attention is then drawn to the pigeons – sitting on ledges, swooping down, taking a breather. There are so many of them.

Then I begin to wonder. There is not a crow in sight. In fact, I haven’t seen one in the neighbourhood in a long, long time.

I keep seeing mynas, sparrows, parrots and hornbills, but never a crow.

And suddenly I feel nostalgic. Nostalgic for my childhood, where the crow formed an integral part of our lives.

Image courtesy – Wikipedia

Where the crow featured as the hero in many of the stories told to us by our grandmom and aunts – intelligent in some stories, foolish in some stories, thirsty and intelligent in some others. But the crow’s presence in our lives could never be ignored.

Babies were fooled into swallowing uninterestimg vegetables and yummy rasam rice, when a crow swooped into their yards. Babies were mesmerised by this bird, whose caws in the gentle afternoon breeze sounded like lullabies.

When we were growing up, most Indian women would put out some cooked rice for the crows, on their window ledges or terraces, before serving food to the family.

The crows were so used to this that they would show up at the prescribed window ledge or terrace at the appointed hour. And, if for some reason there was a delay in the arrival of their food, the crows would caw loudly, causing the woman of the house to hurry up!

My aunt had names for the crows that visited her window ledge, and would talk to them everyday, and affectionately chide them if they cawed too loudly.

Such was the role that crows played in our childhood. The crow was truly one of our childhood heroes.

Just a speck

My husband and I are in a restaurant, on the 64th floor of a building. The restaurant boasts of a wonderful view of the city.

After we finish dinner, we go up to the rooftop viewing deck. The sky looks a hazy grey, with silver clouds floating about lazily. The moon keeps moving between layers of cloud – now here, now gone.

We stand transfixed. The whole city is throbbing with life and lights. The main roads and expressways are sheer golden streaks of light – ‘all-important’ arteries that connect everything.

The vehicles are like glow worms, crawling towards their destination. Far away is the ocean, where small boats and ferries bob about like shimmering jewels.

Life seems to be happening at a frenetic pace in the city. Everything seems to be moving. All the buildings are lit up, with signboards visible at many places.

Standing here, it seems like magic. I feel disconnected from reality. I feel like an observer from another world. From here, as I see the big picture, everyday worries and problems seem minuscule. Looking up at the sky, I am struck by its immensity. I imagine what space would look like, and what the planets would be doing now – revolving and rotating, I guess; in no hurry to finish, taking their time and doing what they are supposed to.

Peace and quiet above, constant movement and noise below. From where I stand, I enjoy both. I love the pulsating city, filled with interesting people, who have big dreams. I love the lights and the water. I love the sky and the clouds.

Very soon, an elevator will take me down, and I will join the sea of humanity below – becoming just another speck in the vast canvas of time.

But while I am still here, I soak it all in.

‘Creating’ memories

The days are flying, and there are days when time seems to have vanished between sunrise and sunset. I try to recall what I did or what I ate, but I am simply not able to remember. Where did the day go?

However, I can easily identify every single classmate of mine from old school photos. I can remember the lyrics to most of the songs we heard as children.

But now, when someone asks me to sing any new song, I can only remember the tune, and I make up my own lyrics on the fly, much to the embarrassment of my children.

Earlier this week, I was a participant in an event, where our group performed a medley of songs.

We had lots of fun preparing for the event. However, all of us had a problem with our memories and the lyrics. For the first few days we used papers and our phones.

But as with everything else, confidence comes only if we are word perfect. So we tried our best to do away with the papers and our phones.

But this presented another problem – this effort required absolute concentration, where we could not allow even a stray thought to intrude into our minds.

One stray thought and the lyrics just flew away, leaving us opening and closing our mouths like fish, trying desperately to get the lyrics back into our heads.

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

What happened to those memory chain games where a group of us sat and reeled off names of animals or fruits and added a new animal or fruit to the already long list?

These days, if I don’t remember to write things down, there is a 100% chance that they will be washed away from my memory, making sure to come back and haunt me in the future.

Once I make my lists, I need alarms on my phone as back up. What if I don’t remember to see the list?

And this is how it is now, my life, trying to ‘create’ memories of simple, everyday things.

Dolls and Dreams

I am obsessive about cleaning, and feel strange when I am not organizing or ‘re-cleaning’ things around the house.

Today, I attack the toy cupboard. Sadly though, the toy cupboard is only ‘that’ in name. Very few toys remain; the remaining space has been taken over by other stuff – odds and ends, this and that.

But it was not like this earlier. Every drawer in the toy cupboard was colour coded and sorted by type of toy, frequency of use, easy accessibility and other crazy things that only a mom with OCD would do!

At one point my daughter’s world was in various shades of pink, purple and silver. One drawer in the toy cupboard was dedicated to dolls, Barbie dolls to be specific. My daughter had around eight to ten Barbies.

Courtesy – Clipart Zone

I remember wonderful afternoons, when my daughter and her friends would play, cook, have tea, dress up their Barbies, and do all that little girls around the world did!

Before we knew it, my husband and I were attending our daughter’s interview for admission to school. They wanted to meet the child and talk to her.

My husband and I sat on either side of our daughter, who was at her cheerful best. The teacher spoke to her.

Teacher : Why do you want to come to school?

Daughter: To study….

Teacher: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Daughter: (after deep thought) I want to be a Barbie doll.

All of us burst out laughing.

As with everything else, the Barbie phase came to an end, in bits and pieces.

It began when she stopped playing with the dolls, sometimes. Then came the phase, when she would take them out sometimes, or when a friend still wanted to play. Then came the phase of packing them up, but not willing to part with them. And then the day, when she gave them away.

The dolls were replaced by badge makers, loom bands, beading kits, and lots of art and craft projects.

Pinks and purples have now been replaced by black, silver, and more black and silver.

How time has flown!

Bread and Breakfast

This Monday morning, we all had a serious case of the blues. We dragged our feet from room to room, bracing ourselves for the week ahead.

I went into the kitchen to get started on breakfast. When I opened the packet of bread, the first slice that I took out had a hole – that was in the shape of a bird’s head – right in the middle of the slice.

This was so strange that I called out to my kids. They came running to see what the excitement was! The blues vanished, as we debated how the bread slice turned out this way, when all the other slices were perfect.

We discussed various theories and what possible bird it could be, and then finally popped it into the toaster. Just a little bit of breakfast excitement and laughter to beat the blues.

This brought back memories of my childhood, and breakfast times at home.

When we were growing up, my parents had this rule – ‘No skipping breakfast, ever.’

When we grew into teenagers ‘who knew everything’, we tried our best to slip away without breakfast, but our parents had antennae and tentacles that caught us every single time.

I remember fun times when we ran around the dining table trying to slip away, but our Dad was at the main door and mom was at the back door. We could only leave after we had had our milk, and idli or dosa or upma or bread. We frowned and grimaced, and left home, still wolfing down remnants of our breakfast.

When I left home for college, there was no one to remind me that I had to eat breakfast, but then by mid-morning my stomach would rumble and I would remember mom and her yummy dishes. But these thoughts were soon forgotten as there were so many things to see, to learn and to do.

Corporate life was no different – I would only eat a late lunch. It took a few years for the wisdom behind having a wholesome breakfast to sink in. And by that time, I had become a mother.

The cycle started again, now it was I who was running behind my daughter, and later behind my son, trying to build ‘breakfast wisdom’ from their formative years.

But History repeats itself. Now my teen tries to slip away unnoticed, if I am not breathing down her neck.

“I’m running late, mom.”

This is her constant refrain. So, I do the ‘door blocking annoying mom act’.

But if I am any example, maybe life will come a full circle again.

Fragrant pit stops

Last week, I had to rush quite early in the day to the supermarket for some supplies. Except for a few stores, most still had their shutters down. Even the escalators were asleep.

As my feet thud thudded down the escalator steps, the mouth watering smells of fresh baking came wafting up to greet me.

I stopped to inhale. Divine. Heavenly. As I went past the bakery, the baker waved out through the glass wall. I waved back and walked with a sudden spring in my step.

This morning, as I sat enjoying my coffee, the breeze brought the smell of incense sticks to me. It felt so soothing.

There are so many wonderful smells that greet us, but we have become oblivious to them, tangled as we are in the web of our busy schedules.

However, let it not be said that we have become oblivious to all smells. We do grimace when we smell something bad. We are ready to flap our hands and wave those smells away.

But do we ever stop to enjoy the lovely fragrances and smells that surround us?

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

The smell of freshly brewed coffee, the way the ground smells after the first drops of rain, the smell of freshly washed and sun-dried linen, the heavenly smells of spices blending as you walk past a neighbour’s home during dinner time (and when you try to guess what they are cooking), the smell of fresh grass, the smell of the breeze, the sudden joy of smelling a frangipani flower when you walk in the tropics, the smell of a baby, the smells of home…so many wonderful smells.

I vow to myself that I will try to stop and enjoy these simple pleasures more often.

The Great Wall and Time

The sun’s heat is scorching. We walk at a steady pace, completely awed. 

We are at the Great Wall of China.

 Before we reach the starting point, our guide briefs us about the Wall and its history, and loads us with many interesting nuggets of information.  We agree on a time to meet, and proceed on our long walk.

The valleys on either side watch us in silence, as we walk, stop and marvel. How was this feat even possible!

At every turn, the wall winds up and down into the rugged terrain, an off-white line that stretches away into places that the eye cannot see. 

We feel humbled.  We walk up steps, climb down others, pausing for breath, pausing to take pictures, wondering, only wondering.

We can picture the soldiers at their viewing decks, and the invading armies. 

My son and I sit down, as we wait for the others. There is a deep silence. Except from two crows that caw on and off, all is quiet.  Our hats give us some semblance of protection as the sun’s hot rays reflect off the stones.

I look up at the clear blue sky and smile. A merry little jet is whizzing importantly across the sky, leaving behind a fluff of white lace. 

Time seems suspended between history and the future. 

The Wall is unchanging, a witness to thousands of years of history, culture and human development.  The jet is too busy to stop, it is after all, busy carrying people to appointments and meetings.

The word ‘time’ as I know it seems pointless, as I sit on the Great Wall, knowing that even after we are all gone, this architectural wonder will still remain.