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.

Image courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

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.

The long wait


The golden rays of the sun stream into the house on this cold, winter morning. She goes around the house with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. She checks all the rooms and ensures that the fresh linen sheets are tucked-in perfectly. She pauses in front of her daughter’s room. Her eyes mist over.

Had two years really flown by?

But she quickly snaps out of her reverie, and walks to the dining table. She checks all the dishes and smiles when see sees the extra place setting. She hugs herself in excitement.

In just a few minutes, her husband calls to tell her that they would reach in a few minutes. She opens the main door and waits. Soon, there is a flurry of movement and the loud babble of excited voices all around.

Her eyes search and stop, not on her daughter’s face, but on the little baby she holds in her arms. Her heart melts as she sees her grandson for the first time.

She is overcome by emotion, as she carries her grandson and immerses her face in his soft and cuddly baby skin. What a long wait it had been! The pandemic had made all of them miss out on so much. But the important thing was that they were here now. She would make the most of it.

After a grand family lunch and lots of laughter and a few tears, her daughter and son-in-law head to their bedroom to catch a few winks. She spends the afternoon playing with her adorable grandson.

And she suddenly remembers. She opens the bedroom cupboard to take out an old stuffed Teddy bear that had belonged to her daughter. She also pulls out a knitted sweater that her daughter had worn as a baby. She had washed and kept them ready a few days ago.

She gently eases the sweater over her grandson’s head. He looks at her with his big eyes, and time stops for a moment, for he looks exactly like her daughter had done at that age.

Wearing her daughter’s sweater!

He picks up the Teddy bear and holds an animated conversation with it. The Teddy bear seems to have lost an eye, but listens to the babbling of her grandson in rapt attention. The wise old bear seems to understand every word!

The wise old Teddy bear!

She draws both her grandson and the Teddy bear into a big embrace. She is content today, as the memories of the past meld seamlessly with the present – when time seems to have both stopped and moved on at the same time.

The Green Fairy Princess


It is late in the evening and I ping my daughter. She usually takes time to respond, and I get back to my work. My daughter calls back in just a few seconds. And as we start chatting, she tells me that her cousins are calling her and that she would add me to that call too!

And very soon it becomes an aunts and nieces call, with family members from different times zones catching up on a lazy weekend evening. As with all family calls, there is light-hearted bantering and the exchange of silly family jokes.

While we are thus productively engaged, my younger sister signals us to keep quiet. As we wonder why, she switches her camera to the other side.

All our faces break out into delighted smiles, as my sister’s camera follows my little niece, who is walking purposefully towards the sofa, bedecked in a pair of green fairy wings and a green tiara.

She is totally oblivious to all of us, as she walks over to the sofa and settles down to be a fairy princess with the many other princesses on her favourite TV show. We continue watching her, while slowly getting back to our conversation.

She is our own little green fairy princess, with her new wings that are ready to take her to magical lands, where everything is possible and where dreams come true! Love you little fairy princess.

Mom – Things to do – #…..


My daughter lives in a different time zone these days. What this means is that – as a mom – I have a new item added to my things to do list! If I told you what the task is, you would laugh and say, “But that’s so easy.”

I agree. The task is that I have to wake my daughter up on the days she tells me to. Simple right? Just before she sleeps she drops a message on our family group, asking us to give her a wake up call.

So, as a good mom, I set an alarm on my phone with reminders to back it up. At the appointed hour, and when my alarm goes off, I promptly call my daughter.

Photo by Krivec Ales from Pexels

The phone rings for a while and then I hear my daughter’s voice from the deep recesses of her blanket. “Hi, mom”, she says.

And then there is silence. The video of my daughter’s phone faces the ceiling and I talk to the ceiling. “Are you awake?” There’s a small grunt (or did I just imagine that!)

I keep talking and virtually prod her to wake up. After a while, I give up and hang up in irritation. And the same pattern repeats a few times each week.

The next time my daughter calls me, I express my frustration at talking to her ceiling. I also ask her what the point is of trying to wake her up in this fashion. I ask her why she can’t set her own alarm and wake up to it?

Pat comes the reply, “But mom, when you call me you are an interactive alarm. You talk and prod me awake, but my phone alarm can easily be dismissed and doesn’t nag me. Please mom…”

I laugh. Hmmm…Mom the interactive alarm indeed!

Jewel in the sky


It is eight in the evening. I am putting away clothes in the various cupboards. I inhale the fragrance of fabric softener in the freshly washed clothes and lose myself for a minute.

A flashing light catches my eye. I realize that it is a video wall from a building nearby. Each time a video plays, the lights get reflected on the building next to ours.

Just like the video, my mind constantly switches from one thought to another, dwelling on the various mundanities that swamp our lives each day.

I press my nose to the window and watch the world outside. My gaze travels to the traffic at the junction – I see shining lights, silhouettes of people and the shadows of trees. My mind’s chatter continues – hopping from tomorrow’s menu to work to family, and to many other things.

My gaze shifts towards the sky. And there, shining between two buildings – on a deep, deep blue sky – is the planet Venus. Like a solitaire diamond suspended in space.

I continue to gaze at this beautiful jewel. Venus is far, far away and can see the Earth and so many other worlds that are beyond my comprehension. The thoughts in my mind seep away, and I am enveloped by a feeling of peace and timelessness.

The sounds from the traffic below fade, as my mind travels to the unknown – where everyday troubles seem so tiny in comparison, where the concept of hours, days and weeks seem inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things.

Venus will set soon, and in just a few hours the sun will rise on a blue sky, bringing with it the promise of another day. However, the minutiae of our lives will exert their sway on us all over again.

But just for these few glorious minutes I cut myself loose from the here and the now, and suspend myself in another realm where I peek into the magic of the universe, and ponder over its mysteries. Everything else can wait.