When panda eyes are worth it!


The arms of the clock in our living room are inching towards 6 p.m. And that’s our deadline to leave home for the airport.

I am a spinning top, as I check and double check the gas, lights, fans, aircons, windows, doors and the hundred other things that one needs to do. I also know that the moment I board the taxi, paranoia will hijack my rational thinking process, and will force me to keep asking myself if I had switched off the lights in the bathroom before locking the door, and many such things!

It takes a while for the paranoia to be replaced by a sense of calm. We soon reach the airport, unload our suitcases, check-in and head towards our boarding gate.

We go through baggage screening and security checks. Finally, we can all sit and relax. Each of us is busy, sucked into our smartphone screens or the pages of a book.

People are walking up and down, babies are crying and it is business as usual, the scene similar to the one at every boarding gate.

Suddenly, a voice on the intercom announces that our flight has been delayed by an hour and a half; and that we have to board the flight from another gate.

Many many groans and whines and grimaces later, all of us move at a snail’s pace to the new boarding gate. We repeat baggage screening and security, and wait.

Image courtesy – iStockphotos.com

The flight is uneventful. I drift in and out of sleep, aching to stretch my body.

Soon the pilot announces that there is air traffic congestion, and that our landing would be delayed. Sigh!!!!

When we finally land, we realize that three other flights have also landed at the same time. The queue for immigration snakes beyond the dividers used to guide the queue.

We walk, bleary eyed, in an S-shape, right and left. The line is moving, albeit slowly. I watch people. Some are glued to their phones, some are staring ahead at some point directly in front of them, some are having animated conversations about the merits and demerits of a particular model of smartphone. A small boy drags a small suitcase with a cartoon character on it.

As we move left, we meet the same people again, as they move right. We do this so many times that these people start looking familiar. At some point, the little boy with the suitcase lets out a rebellious wail. He sits on his suitcase and refuses to move. He has had enough of this late night adventure!!! His dad lifts him up and places him on his shoulder. The boy smiles, his old irritation forgotten, so quickly replaced by another new adventure.

And, finally we are at the carousel, where our bags are already on the belt, moving lazily at this unearthly hour. We haul them on to our trolleys, and walk out to the taxi stand.

Our eyes close involuntarily as the taxi leaves the airport, taking us to meet our loved ones.

As we drink cups of hot filter coffee, and catch up with family, we concur that all the pain and panda eyes were totally worth it!

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A simple filter


I am home by 7 pm most evenings, when my family envelops me and becomes my world – where my routine revolves around school work, dinner and banter.

But over the last few days, I have been out later than usual, and have been in the central business district on some errand or the other.

Daylight is breathtakingly beautiful, twilight and the star-studded sky are both stunning, but man-made skyscrapers glittering like jewels at night, their backs tall and proud, astound me. I am enticed by this shimmering spectacle of buildings, their reflections bouncing and gently undulating in the water in the bayfront.

Joggers are pounding the pavement, people are heading home from work, tourists are caught up in the magic, and their cameras go click, click, click.

Christmas decorations are everywhere. Twinkling baubles of red and green, silver and blue. There is magic and hope in the air.

The world is alive and bustling. I am so caught up in all the bustle. Cars are like streamers on the road; and people are walking, talking into their phones.

There is a lone bicycle parked on the pavement. The benches are wet, testimony to the heavy rain that lashed all afternoon.

I keep taking pictures. I click this one.

I change the filter on my phone camera to black and white, and click again. The scene transforms into something even more magical.

There is only black and white. The same scene, but so different. I keep looking at the colour image and then the black and white.

While the colour image is vibrant and lively, the black and white image is somehow simpler and clearer.

And, as I head back, I liken these two images to our life. Sometimes it is so difficult to cut through all the noise and colour in our lives, to clearly see what matters.

Maybe we just need a simple filter to see things clearly in black and white, cut out all the things that do not matter and focus on the things that really do!

The silly moments in our lives


When I switched on the television earlier this week, a song from an old Indian movie was playing. I smiled. The movie had a scene, where one of the main characters challenges some of other characters to touch their elbows with their noses.

I remember how all of us at home transformed into contortionists, and spent some time trying this out. We looked really silly, and had a hearty laugh afterwards.

Our lives abound with such moments.

My son specializes in creating huge soap bubbles with the palms of his hands. He works hard at this skill, and it gives him a lot of joy each time he creates a bigger bubble.

Both my husband and I have the ability to raise our eyebrows in quick succession. Our kids have not inherited this ability. So, on those rare lazy Sunday afternoons, when we spend time doing nothing as a family, we show off these skills.

Sometimes, when we all happen to be near the mirror at the same time, we make faces at the mirror! A family of silly faces.

Courtesy – shutterstock.com

Even as kids we did many silly things. I remember how, after petty squabbles with our friends, the word in our language to announce to them that you were no longer friends was kai, which translates to vegetable.

To become friends again, all we had to do was to show a thumbs-up sign and say pazham, which means fruit.

So, great friendships were broken and sealed merely by saying the words vegetable and fruit.

Life was that simple.

During our childhood, our Dad made rhythmic beat sounds with his mouth, when we sang songs. Only when my kids entered their teens did I realize that what my Dad did was called Beat Boxing. But at that time, it was merely some silly fun we shared as a family.

Even today, when we take selfies, we all make silly faces at the camera, capturing those beautiful memories digitally.

Every family has its own version of silly. Silly times are fun for the whole family – to showcase skills that would never be used in the ‘serious’ parts of our lives.

And that’s why these silly moments are important. Because we can let our guard down, act silly, and take ourselves less seriously for those few moments!

Change


It was a Friday evening, a few evenings ago, and my kids were home, ensconced in their rooms. I walked around the house, clearing and putting away stuff, room by room. I suddenly looked out of the window, and was stopped in my tracks.

The late evening sky was a breathtaking sight. Trees were silhouetted against a canvas of pinkish-orange; a shade that defied description. I felt transported to another world. Time seemed to stand still. How did I miss this, all these days? Did this magic happen everyday? I was sure it did.

Sometimes work pressure and chores take over your life; where there is simply no choice except to run this race and get things done.

Cut to a few days later, another Friday evening. Mother Nature gets busy, she is racing too. She has no time to show case her verdant beauty. The skies open up and heavy rain lashes all through the week. Rumbling thunder and lightning take turns to make announcements.

I watch this spectacle from my bedroom window. Lashing rain that splatters forcefully on the windows; raindrops who seem to surrender all their energy to the window and slide weakly down the glass in thin streams, joining their brethren in rapidly forming puddles.

I realize that nature has her busy and calm periods, her emotional and peaceful moments too!

Soon, my husband walks in; a spring in his step simply because it is the weekend. He asks if we can go out for dinner?

I am game. The kids…..they want to order-in and do their own thing. The rain has stopped, and the rays of the late evening sun are draped across the sky.

So, it is just us in the restaurant, the kids have ordered pizza at home. We laugh incredulously. There was a time just after marriage when we went out like this, then came the phase when we stayed home and ordered-in for ourselves and cooked healthy meals for the kids at home.

Then came the phase, when we went exploring the world with our kids, from insects to animals to the sky to toys to the movies; when we took them to restaurants and helped them try new foods. We learnt more about them, their preferences and their behaviour and likened it to ourselves and genetics.

Then, now, this! Where the kids are ordering-in and we are out. We talk about this and laugh, we also know deep inside that this will be the norm a few years from now. We talk about our day and the conversation veers back to the children. We laugh and joke about it, but that’s the truth. Because that’s what gives us meaning and purpose.

When we walk out, the skies have opened up again. There is a steady downpour, and lightning streaks illuminate the sky in bursts – now here, now there.

The wipers in the car work overtime to give us a clear view, but the raindrops continue to fall relentlessly.

Everything is constantly changing, the rain, the sun, the children, their parents…..!

We head back home. The evening quickly flies away.

My pedometer shows 10500 steps, but when the clock strikes twelve, even that will change and will be reset to zero.

Another day will begin, filled with hope, possibilities and more changes.

A stolen moment….


When the Indian Festival season starts, days and nights blend into each other; into a seamless round of parties, dinners and fun. The vibrant hues of the Indian saree light-up the landscape. There are shimmering sequins, and silk, visits to the nail spa and hair salon; and all this while preparing the hundred odd things that one needs for the festival season.

I am no exception, as I flit in and out of the house, draping sarees for every occasion. There is definitely magic in the air, people are happy and in high spirits. There is hope, there is a promise of another wonderful year ahead.

And in all this wonderful excitement, I have just dropped my son to his class, and head to a mall nearby, to run some errands.

I move with purpose, ticking off each item on my list. Somewhere, on those winding shop alleys, fresh coffee is being brewed. I ignore it and carry on with my work.

On the way back, I simply cannot resist. I do a takeaway and walk out of the mall. The mall is located on the waterfront.

I look at the water. There are many kayaks. Many teams are practicing – counting or chanting rhythmically.

I need this moment to myself, to do nothing, just till I finish my coffee. To absorb this peace of watching without acting, just enjoying my coffee and its aroma.

I settle down on the steps near the waterfront. Two sweet mynas are hopping about near me. They look quizzically at me. They are not daunted by my presence. They allow me to take pictures. After a while, they go into the bushes, and start pecking at the soil with their bright yellow beaks.

A beautiful morning – a bright and sunny day full of promise, clouds floating, kayaks gliding on the water, two smart mynas for company and coffee to top it all off.

This moment was mine..just to be, just to let go and to not think.

Soon, it is time to head back and join the main artery of everyday life; back to celebrating the festival season with friends and family – back to the fun and laughter!

Happy Deepavali to you all!

Tailor made


Earlier today, I chanced upon some black and white photos from my childhood. The pictures made me smile. My sister and I are wearing identical frocks in most of those pictures.

That was how it was back then. We would go to a garment shop, and choose running lengths of fabric. We would head to the tailor shop afterwards, for our measurements to be taken. The tailor would make identical clothes for my siblings and me, only the sizes were different.

The tailor’s shop was located in the crowded market in our town. It was a small shop that had a narrow entrance. The shop had shelves along all its walls, running from the floor to the ceiling. One could barely see the shelves, crammed as they were with customer orders.

I always wondered how the tailor was able to remember, when each order was due. Deep within the recesses of the shop were the sewing machines, all of them busy all the time, with men or women bent intently on a frock or a blouse or a shirt.

The main tailor, usually had a pencil tucked behind his ear, and a measuring tape slung around his neck. He measured, noted, gave instructions to his staff and managed the whole pipeline.

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

While, during non-festival times, the tailor usually delivered our orders promptly, it was not so during festivals, especially Deepavali.

The fabric buying took place at least a month and a half before Deepavali. We would rush to the tailor to place our orders. And even at that early date, the tailor would lament about the pipeline, and about how difficult it was going to be to deliver our clothes early.

And then the negotiations on the delivery date would commence – between my parents and the tailor. We would come home with a receipt for collection and an acceptable date for pick-up.

Just a fortnight before our due date, whenever we visited the market, we would drop-in at the tailor shop to give him a gentle reminder. There were no mobiles or text messages to do the job. The tailor would nod and wave vigorously each time – to reassure us that he had not forgotten us.

Our dad would usually pick up the tailored clothes on his way back from work. After dinner, we would get a peek at our new clothes. They were packed away and stored carefully till Deepavali.

The years just flew by, and then came the era of off-the shelf clothes, and our visits to the tailor dwindled.

However, after marriage, we Indian woman still go to the tailor to get out saree blouses stitched – ‘tailor made’ exclusively for us!

Love in a jackfruit seed


I love my work table, and the organized clutter on it. It is where I feel at peace, where I write, and where I keep all the documents and to do lists that I am juggling with, at any given moment.

On my table is also a small rectangular tray, in which I store stickers, post-its, drawings and small gifts from my children.

In this box is a jackfruit seed, its coat a little loose now. This jackfruit seed was gifted to me by my daughter, about four years ago. She drew eyes, a nose and a mouth. The eyes were on all sides, so that any side you turned the seed, a pair of eyes stared back at you.

I still remember that afternoon. We had just come back from the supermarket with two boxes of jackfruit.

We usually cut open the fruit, preserve the seeds and add them to a lentil based gravy. The seed becomes tender upon cooking, and adds a nice flavour to the dish.

My daughter took away one of the seeds for the gift she was to make for me.

As she observed the seed, I told her stories from my childhood. We lived in a small town in the hills, and it was quite cold for eight out of twelve months in a year.

We had a small cast iron stove called a kumutti aduppu that looked like this.

Image courtesy – Pinterest

This stove had many uses. My grandma would load it with coal and light it up. One had to keep fanning the coal to keep the fire going.

On rainy days, when clothes (especially baby clothes) needed to dry, a basket was placed over the kumutti’s embers, and small baby frocks and shirts would dry on them.

Small pieces of fragrant resin called benzoin resin, sambrani, were thrown into the coal embers. The resin emitted a lovely fragrance, considered to be therapeutic.

On the weekends, when all of us had our traditional oil baths, the sambrani would be thrown into the kumutti, and a basket placed over it. The fragrant smoke would seep out through the cracks in the basket, and dry our wet hair and infuse it with fragrance.

We would also throw in jackfruit seeds into the kumutti, and allow them to roast. Our grandma would take them out carefully, cool them and give them to us to eat.

Truly beautiful memories.

I come back to the here and now. My daughter walks in and sees the jackfruit seed.

“Mom, can’t believe you still have this.”

I smile.

I have many such gifts from the kids, each with its own allied memories, and lots of love.