The playlist connection


There was a time, many years ago, when my son would get back from school and start chattering non-stop. He would follow me around the house giving me a minute-by-minute update on his day, about what had happened in school and about who had said what and what his responses had been to the comments made by his friends. He would intersperse all those reports with some interesting facts about animals that he had heard about, read about or watched on TV. While I would laugh and enjoy his chatter, I would also chide him to stop talking and eat his snack.

How quickly times change. Now, when my son gets home from school he heads straight to his room. I am the one who seeks him out and follows him, pestering him with questions. I get nods, monosyllabic replies and some rolling eyes when my questions exceed a mere few.

My son inhabits a different world now; a world which has his friends, music, school work, food and all his other interests. However, my little boy does emerge from time to time, when he seeks me out to talk. I cherish these truly wonderful times, where I try to listen without trying to solve his problems (as difficult as that may seem), and without passing any judgement.

Yesterday, I was in the kitchen, prepping for lunch. I had my earphones connected to some melodious 80s music. I swayed to the rhythm while my hands chopped and diced. Soon, my son got back home from a class. He waved, walked into the kitchen, took my phone and changed the song to something from his playlist. He mouthed, “Listen to this”, and was gone.

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From a slow number the music switched to rock, and my whole body language changed. I felt energized and matched the chopping to the song’s beat. It made me smile. It also made me strangely happy that I had been given a peek into my son’s world!!

The way our children interact with us does change with time, and each phase is to be cherished!!

Grandmom’s treat


Gone are those days when summer holidays with cousins meant dinner in the backyard, near the well, which every home had. The area around the well usually had a cement floor, in one corner of which was a washing stone to wash clothes. Each home usually had a few coconut trees, and maybe some mango or neem trees.

Dinner with cousins was a fun time, when we would all sit in a semicircle around an aunt or grandma, who would have premixed sambar rice or curd rice in a huge vessel, which she would then pass into each of our cupped hands. We would each have a banana leaf with some vegetable or pickle or papads as accompaniment(s) to the main rice dish.

We would laugh, exchange jokes and talk animatedly as we gobbled up all the yummy food that was given to us.

Cut to the present. We are at my mom’s and my kids and all their cousins of various ages are excitedly making plans for dinner. They decide that dinner with cousins equals pizza. They are soon deeply engrossed in the wide variety of toppings and crust fillings – vociferously debating the merits and demerits of each. The order is finally placed, and soon all of them vanish into their virtual worlds.

My mom, who was busy with her chores when the pizza conversation happened, comes to know about the pizza plans only after she has made her aromatic rasam and has started prepping vegetables for dinner.

When the pizzas are delivered, my mom brings her rasam and leaves it on the table. She tells her grandchildren that they can have the rasam like a soup if they want.

The aroma of melted cheese, bell peppers, olives and all things pizza waft around our home. We sniff appreciatively. The kids go berserk. This is their version of our ‘childhood dinners by the well’ story. The topics of conversation are so different. They talk about memes and their favourite shows and references from these shows. But the camaraderie is the same.

Once the pizzas vanish, my son fills a small bowl with my mom’s rasam. He sits down on the couch and takes a sip. He smacks his lips and slurps the next spoon. “Wow, grandma, this is simply delicious”, he exclaims!!

This is cue enough for the other cousins. All of them fill cups of rasam and sit down to slurp noisily, relishing the taste and sharing silly jokes, while reveling in their grandmom’s love. My mom watches them, a smile playing on her face.

My sisters and I reminisce about the passage of time. As we walk down memory lane, our kids are busy creating their own memories for the future.

Couple goals


It is eight in the morning and I realize that I have slept-in. I get out of bed, wash up and walk lazily to the kitchen to wish my mom a good morning.

My mom greets me with a cheery good morning and makes frothy filter coffee for both of us. We head back to the living room to sit down, enjoy our coffee and have our first chat of the day; chats that can be silly or profound and chats that can easily slide into blissful and comfortable silences too!

But today is different. As we sit down, I exclaim loudly, “Amma, look the monkeys are back.”

We take our coffee cups and head to the balcony window and watch in silence. There are two monkeys, husband and wife perhaps, sharing the joys of a beautiful morning. They are seated on the balcony’s grill, facing away from us.

As we continue to watch, they gradually turn to face each other. As we watch they bend and touch their heads together. A beautiful moment, where no words are needed. Maybe they are sharing a beautiful secret, maybe they have just fallen in love, maybe they are reliving nostalgic memories……!

And in just a few minutes, one hugs the other rather protectively. The sun has slowly started its ascent across the sky, but our monkeys stay put for nearly an hour, enjoying the morning, enjoying each other’s company and revelling in their love for each other.

My mom and I look at each other and smile. What a lovely way to start the day!!

Mooo….


The curtains in my sister’s living room are billowing in the strong breeze and my niece comes running towards me, giggling at the sight. She buries her head in my lap and exclaims that the curtains are funny. Her smile and enthusiasm are infectious. I giggle too!

Just as quickly as she came to me, she now runs away to play with her toys. She is soon back with something hidden behind her back.

“See what I’ve got Pemma (mom’s older sister)”, she says. She slowly brings her hand in front to show me a cow puppet which she is wearing.

She asks me, “Do you know what this is?” I tell her that it’s a cow. “Good”, she says.

Wanting to impress my niece with my mimicry skills, I lower my voice and moo to her cow in my best voice, “Hello cow…moooo how are you?”

I ask her cow to reply. Pat comes the response, “Pemma, it’s just a puppet, it cannot talk”. Hmmm. I quickly change back to my normal voice, feeling silly and also grateful that I did not have an audience to watch my enthusiastic performance!!!

Three long years


It’s been three years since we travelled to meet our family. Three years where family emotions and bonds ran on the fuel of video calls and texts, spilling laughter and many tears along the way.

We are finally here, at home, reunited with parents and siblings, nieces and nephews.

We visit all the rooms in our home, reacquainting ourselves with the simple yet delightful pleasures of the smells, the shapes and the textures of its various nooks and corners.

There is a big void in my father-in-law’s room. It feels strange that he is no longer a part of our lives, regaling his grandchildren with humourous anecdotes and keeping them entertained with many stories. A small smile plays on his lips as he observes us now from the confines of a photo frame.

The aroma of shallot sambhar flirts with our nostrils, as super soft idlis get steamed in the kitchen. My husband steps out of the house and comes back in a few minutes with piping hot, golden and crisp medu vadas that have been fried to perfection. The vadas rest on a square piece of banana leaf and are accompanied by a generous helping of coconut chutney.

These vadas have been an integral part of our breakfast ritual over the years on all our trips back home, lovingly carried out by my father-in-law. As we tuck-in, we feel his presence and hear his voice asking us to eat more.

So much has changed over the last three years, yet some things don’t seem to have changed – giving us hope for the future while still connecting us to the wonderful memories of the past.

The Swing


The sun scorches and causes rivulets of sweat to cascade down my back. I pray for a cooling breeze to relieve the thick humidity that weaves its way all around me.

I am a lone, brave warrior on this interminable walk, constantly tapping my Fitbit to see the number of steps. As is always the case, progress is inversely proportional to the number of times I tap my watch! “Why can’t fitness ever be easy?” I mutter to myself, vowing to only check the watch after I reach the top of the small hillock that lies-in-wait just ahead.

I start the climb, a usually gentle slope, but one which appears to be Mt.Everest today because of the heat (and I laugh at the irony of using heat and Mt. Everest in the same sentence).

But I manage to huff and puff and conquer the hillock. The going gets easier after that. There are many trees and some much-needed respite from the sun’s rays, which seem like never-ending tentacles that chase me.

I finally reach my first pit stop, a place on the walking trail, where a beautiful meadow beckons, verdant and glowing in the late afternoon sun. There are many big bungalows tucked into the meadow, surrounded by trees and bushes. One can only see a bit of white wall amongst the trees, or hear a distant bark or the laughter of kids playing.

I inhale huge gulps of air and watch the meadow. The only sounds today are from the constant chirping of birds. As my eyes take it all in, I smile in delight when I find that a lovely little swing has been affixed to one of the trees near the meadow.

A simple wooden plank with strong ropes on either side, tied securely to a thick branch.

The swing makes me smile. It brings back memories of similar swings from my childhood, especially the one that my friends and I had fixed on a neighbour’s peach tree. We would spend hours taking turns to swing, without a care in the world.

We were an impatient brood and could barely wait for the peaches to ripen. We would pluck them when they were still raw, feeling the fuzzy peach skin and enjoying its unripened flavours only because of the company of friends. Everything was an adventure.

The swing was where we gathered during summer holidays, spending time doing nothing, just as holidays were meant to be enjoyed. No summer classes or homework. Just pure unadulterated fun.

The swing perfectly captured our free and happy childhood, flying high into the air, placing your trust on loyal friends who sent you skyward with that perfect momentum, spending just a few seconds suspended under a cornflower blue sky, free as birds that roam the skies and coming back down to collapse into a bundle of exhilarated giggles. Truly precious times indeed!

I come back to the present and look at the swing. I imagine kids spending lazy hours on this swing, dreaming, flying and chattering away.

Memories that will come back to them when they are older – of halcyon afternoons spent on a wooden swing under a blue sky, of innocent friendships and silly secrets. Memories that will make them smile. Just as I am now.

A lovely walk


The evening sun casts long shadows on the ground as I make my way up the walking trail. A gentle evening breeze gives me company.

As the trail winds away from the road, the hum of traffic is replaced by the sound of birds tweeting and the rustling of trees.

There are huge homesteads that are hidden from view, but I can see a wall or a window or a porch sometimes. I take deep, long breaths and continue walking.

A sudden movement in one of the trees catches my eye. I smile in delight. It is a beautiful white cockatoo.

I walk carefully, trying not to scare it away. The cockatoo is oblivious to me. He is busy pecking away at what seems to be a small fruit from the tree.

I position myself to take some pictures. After a few minutes, he hops down two branches and poses for me. His white plumage looks beautiful against the foliage. His eyes seem to look directly into mine.

Mr. Cockatoo

He soon realizes that he’s done posing for me. He disappears into the higher reaches of the tree. I can’t see him anymore, but I suddenly hear the flutter of wings. I presume that he has flown away, back to his home in the forest nearby.

I finish my walk, and as I head back the crickets are already gossiping about their long day. I wonder if the cockatoo is back home and if he’s talking to his spouse about the crazy lady who stalked him to take pictures. I can imagine both of them sharing a good laugh.

I get back home, excited at having seen the cockatoo. And as we sit down to eat dinner, I tell my husband about the cockatoo too!!

The bigger half


I open the beautiful gift box, not knowing what to expect. My eyes light up in sheer delight and my face breaks into a big smile.

Inside the gift box are two smaller, rectangular boxes. One box is filled to the brim with a South Indian savoury called ‘mixture’ and the second box is filled with perfectly golden yellow boondi laddus, a sweet delicacy.

The gift is from the mother of one of my dear friends. My friend’s mom has made them for me. I feel so happy and touched to have received such a special gift. I thank my friend’s mom, and carefully store the boxes in the kitchen cupboard.

Boondi laddus were an integral part of my growing up years. My mom would always prepare this sweet during Deepavali, or to mark the various milestones in our lives. Memories of perfectly fried golden boondis come rushing into my mind now and make me nostalgic.

Later in the day, when I head to the kitchen to have my afternoon cup of coffee, I find my husband pottering around the kitchen. He grins and asks me where I have put away the ‘mixture’ and the boondi laddus.

I show him where they are. Soon, we tuck into yummy spoonfuls of crunchy ‘mixture’ with our coffee.

My husband then opens the laddu box. He asks me, “Do you want one?” I ask him if he would share a laddu with me? He agrees, albeit reluctantly, as he wants to eat one whole laddu all by himself. He takes one out and breaks it into two.

He asks me which piece I want. I say, “The bigger half.” He says, “How can there be a bigger half? You mean the bigger piece, don’t you?”

I have no time to answer, as I have already popped the laddu into my mouth, and relish the feeling of the crumbling boondi, the raisins and the cashewnuts. My husband’s expression mirrors mine. The laddus are simply delicious!

We look at each other and smile. “Another one?” we say in unison. We look like guilty children as we pop another one into our mouths!!

The first soup


My son comes into the kitchen with his usual refrain, “Is there anything interesting to eat?” I point at the fruit basket, the biscuit tin and at some jars with Indian savouries. “So boring”, he says.

And like a predator he walks around the kitchen, scouring every cupboard and the refrigerator for ‘interesting food’.

His eyes fall on some packets of instant soup. His eyes light-up and he asks “Could I have some soup?”

I am busy preparing lunch and ask him to be patient. But he nags me. I give in when he says he will make the soup himself; his first attempt at cooking anything in the kitchen. I have no problem with that.

He stands next to me and reads the instructions multiple times. He hires me to be his assistant and asks me for measuring cups and ladles. I sigh and agree, albeit reluctantly.

With his phone next to him, he stirs the soup as if it were a magic potion while following instructions perfectly. “Continue stirring till the soup comes to a boil and then keep on simmer for 2 minutes”, he reads out aloud.

He constantly asks me to check the soup’s consistency. When I pronounce that it looks ready to be served, he looks at the instructions and realizes he has 30 seconds left. He continues stirring with his eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

Finally, he switches off the gas and transfers the soup into three soup bowls. My husband and I have the first spoonfuls.

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And before we can say anything, our son announces, “It’s perfect”, with his eyes closed and his head turned upward, as if he had made the soup from scratch. His smile of satisfaction is priceless. “I am happy”, he announces.

My husband and I nod in agreement. More than the taste of the soup, we enjoyed watching our son go through the process, and his apparent delight. He has now taken on the role of ‘instant soup maker’ at home!!

Scissor, Paper, Stone


My husband and I are seated in a restaurant. As we await our food, my husband reads the news while I attempt to complete a game of Kakuro that I had begun earlier. My stomach growls in hunger, as my mind feebly attempts to fill-in the various numbers in the fast blurring grid.

Suddenly a sweet and shrill voice sings, “Scissor, paper, stone”. I look up and see a little girl of about seven, who is seated across the aisle with her family. Her voice is so musical and brings a smile to every face. But the girl is oblivious to all the attention. She is engrossed in playing the game with her little brother. The siblings play with one hand and keep score with the other hand. The game progresses at a rapid pace – amicably at times and with some typical squabbling at other times.

Soon, the kids stop playing and start eating. They ask their parents for chocolate milkshake! I notice that they have been told to share a glass of milkshake. Each sibling has been given a straw.

Photo by Anastasia Ilina-Makarova from Pexels

I am curious now. If my kids had been in a similar situation they would have argued about how they would split the milkshake.

The sister, who is the older of the siblings, seems to be in command. She measures with her finger, and makes a few lines on the outside of the glass where water drops have condensed. Then she tells her brother to drink the milkshake. When the level reaches the first line, she asks him to stop. It is her turn now. They take turns to drink, as the sister carefully monitors the situation.

I am in awe of her ingenuity and at how efficiently she seems to have managed the process of sharing! The kids go back to playing their game and I go back to grappling with those elusive numbers.

I suddenly yearn for those times with my children when they were younger; when they would play such games and kick each other under the table at restaurants, or laugh at the silliest of jokes and make weird faces at each other. The years seem to have flown past. But for a short while there, we had an opportunity to relive the past.

And as our food finally arrives, the siblings and their parents leave the restaurant. I laugh when I see that their tiny fingers are still keeping the scores for their Scissor, paper, stone game.